The Genius of Charles Darwin – Part 2 Darwinism’s Heart of Darkness
Part One can be read about here.
The second part of the Channel Four series covered how people have tried to use Darwinism in politics, society and economics (social Darwinism) and how altruism can be explained in terms of genes. In essence it was a brief summary of “The Selfish Gene” that Dawkins wrote over thirty years ago (and the 30th edition with revised notes and extra chapters is well worth checking out).
As Dawkins mentions he is against eugenics, and that the culmination of the movement in the Nazis was appalling. However, Hitler was no Darwinian – [a case rather shown by the fact that the Nazis banned his book] and the theory of natural selection that supports the fact of evolution does not reflect how human society should be run.
In economics some people attempt to talk about evolutionary economics. There seems an analogy to competition theory and natural selection – but in reality consumer sovereignty and other economic models on how firms operate are not exactly like evolution. It is more that people try to legitimize cut throat capitalism by saying it is a mirror of nature. Dawkins warns against trying to take such lessons from nature when it comes to how we treat one another.
Bishop Bonifes Adoyo is interviewed in Kenya, a stones throw from the place where Dawkins was born. He has ran a campaign to have the National Museum of Kenya not show its exhibit of Homo erectus fossils including the Turkana Boy found by Dr Leakey:
“Our doctrine is not that we evolved from apes, and we have grave concerns that the museum wants to enhance the prominence of something presented as fact which is just one theory.”
Bishop Adoyo said all the country’s churches would unite to force the museum to change its focus when it reopens after 18 months of renovations in June next year.
“We will write to them, we will call them, we will make sure our people know about this and we will see what we can do to make our voice known,” he said.
Then there are those that think the selfish gene means that people should be selfish, or inherently are. Which is to take a misleading understanding of Dawkins book title, which explains how altruism is passed on through genes which do this by treating us as vehicles (the gene eye view of evolution) and that in sexual selection this trait in people is chosen for reproductive purposes. Our notions of how society can be should not interfere with what can be observed and explained in nature. They are separate with Dawkins commenting:
“As a scientist I’m thrilled by natural selection, but as a human being I abhor it as a principle for organising society.”