Something always puzzled me about a number of learned evolutionists and their followers:  They tend to be leftist in their politics.  Why?  I wondered why they hadn’t thought through
the ramifications of evolutionary theory, the spontaneity of it, the lack of
planning, its anti-teleological aspect, and the possibility of progress without
a mastermind.  I also wondered why they
never considered the strong implications offered by evolutionary theory for the
nature of human beings and their societies, and the resulting implications for
political philosophy and ideology.


I’m not the only one with such thoughts.  A philosopher named Larry Arnhart has devoted his scholarly career to the carefully thought out linkages
between biological evolution and cultural evolution.  By so doing, he has determined that conservative
thought naturally flows out of biological evolutionary thought. 


Leftism, by contrast, more closely resembles religious thought.  Not by assuming the existence of God or gods or the supernatural, but by assuming
that if things exist and persist in the human realm, they must be carefully
planned by some sort of central authority.


Is it possible for non-believers to develop a strong, consilient, conservative evolutionary philosophy?  I believe so.  We can start here at Atheist Nexus, building
it with a great deal of help from Arnhart.


Larry Arnhart writes one of the best blogs in the observable universe, IMHO.


Here is his summary of his beliefs:


“The Left has traditionally assumed that human nature is so malleable, so perfectible, that it can be shaped in almost any direction. Conservatives object, arguing that
social order arises not from rational planning but from the spontaneous order
of instincts and habits. Darwinian biology sustains conservative social thought
by showing how the human capacity for spontaneous order arises from social
instincts and a moral sense shaped by natural selection in human evolutionary


He is the author of a book with the same name, “Darwinian Conservatism,” published in 2005.  Here are the names of the chapters:


Chapter 1: Three Sources of Ordered Liberty 
Chapter 2: The Moral Sense 
Chapter 3: Men, Women, and Children 
Chapter 4: Property 
Chapter 5: Limited Government 
Chapter 6: Religion 
Chapter 7: Intelligent Design 
Chapter 8: Emergence 
Chapter 9: Social Darwinism 
Chapter 10: Biotechnology 


He uses his blog as a means of publishing a number of learned essays on evolutionary theory and political conservatism (in the American sense of the word, not in the European
sense of conserving aristocracy and clericism). 
Here is a portion of one:


“Most people assume that one big problem with Darwinian science is that it denies that life has any meaning or purpose. After all, to find
meaning--to see our lives as part of some enchanting cosmic drama--don't we
have to look to some religious or transcendent vision of the world that goes
beyond the materialism of Darwinian science? If we are just animals produced by
a natural evolutionary process that doesn't care for or about us, and if like
all other animals, we live for only a moment and then die, how can human
life--how can
 my life--matter? Unlike
other animals, it's not enough for us that we exist, we need some reason for
our existence. Otherwise, what's the point? (That's the question raised in a
good scene in the new George Clooney movie
 Up in the Air, where a
bridegroom gets cold feet just before his marriage because he foresees his
whole future life played out without there being any point to it all.)

Owen Flanagan thinks we can find meaning in a
Darwinian world. In his book
Really Hard Problem: Meaning in a Material World
Press, 2007), Flanagan argues that Darwinian naturalism--with its fundamental
conclusion that we are animals in a purely material world--allows us to find a
natural meaning to our lives without any resort to supernatural mystification.

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Replies to This Discussion

Not sure I agree entirely.

In America, the right-wing is VERY conservative and religious - whereas the left is much less so.

Power hungry American dictators like Regan, Bush Snr. and Bush Jnr. have all being bible-punching freakoids.

Course, I'm likely to be proven wrong... ;-)
America has never had anything remotely close to a dictator. Any American who actually believes that has no experience whatsoever with real tyranny. And unless you travel widely or read widely, you as an American will have no experience at all outside of freedom.

Calling a president a dictator is merely name-calling by political opponents (opponents in the 18th century even called Washington such names).

Conservative Americans are all over the map on questions of religion. Of course religious believers are also all over the map on questions of politics. You have only to think of radical leftist religious believers such as the Berrigan brothers to realize that.
You are right, Bush et al. were not dictators. They did, however, greatly abuse their presidential powers and got away with it do to a compliant Congress and a corrupt Court. However, I don't see people like Bush as a conservative in any way except as a social conservative. His spending, foreign escapades, and stampeding of the Constitution are generally things conservatives recoil in horror from...with good reason.
Bush was a full-fledge conservative on foreign policy and military matters. Nobody messes with America and gets away with it. Nobody.

Of course, you realize this is off-topic.
Bush was a full-fledge conservative on foreign policy and military matters. Nobody messes with America and gets away with it. Nobody.

Except for Osama bin Laden. And what exactly did Iraq do to "mess" with us? See, that's the thing. If you define foreign policy conservatism as "not letting people get away with messing with the USA" then Bush was a failure as a conservative. If you claim they were conservative in their actions, then I'd say that conservatism is wholly immoral.
but that may be the bible not conservative thought the religion may just be messing up conservative thought. like leftist religious people have unintentionally given rise to right wing bible nuts.
I think that you are not taking a pure biological approach to evolution, rather you are taking a more philosophical view. If you take a biological look at evolution it is neither left nor right.
What a purely biological approach provides is a means of defining human nature that is far more stable than leftists would argue for. Once we have a solid universal explanation of what humans do and how humans react to varying events emotionally and rationally, we are half-way to developing a much more solid basis for political philosophy.

Lots of work will be needed in neuroscience and a number of other fields to get us there.
American-style conservatism upholds the sentiments expressed in the Declaration of Independence. It guarantees the right to PURSUE happiness, or in more straightforward language, to personally take actions that will lead to your own happiness. It guarantees NO ONE happiness. That would be seriously misleading.

Limited government is crucial. Consider the fact that government, by its very nature, is the necessary monopoly on the most deadly power a society has. If you do not limit government, you automatically create tyranny.

Now, back to the topic. Why is American conservatism so compatible with notions of evolutionary development. Because like evolution, American conservatism mandates widespread decision-making powers within the society. Lines of descent affect one another in biological evolution, but don't control one another. Just so in cultural evolution. As a free society develops, people affect each other greatly but do not control one another. Contrast and compare with the slave societies of Nazism and Communism. You'll get the picture.
Limited government is crucial. Consider the fact that government, by its very nature, is the necessary monopoly on the most deadly power a society has. If you do not limit government, you automatically create tyranny.

It looks like you are using two different definitions of limited here. The first is to say that government must be kept as small as possible, while the second definition talks about an unlimited control over our lives by invoking tyranny. By that definition you are arguing we must keep the government from becoming a tyranny or else we will create tyranny. While true, it does nothing to inform us of what kind of government we should have. By using it to argue for a conservative government, you are being disingenuous. A liberal government would not necessarily lead to tyranny any faster than a conservative one, and from my experience just the opposite.
This would all be fine if Conservatism & Leftism were just on paper. In practice in the US these terms have come to mean something all together different. In my opinion, when you start labeling your thinking process as leftist or conservative You are doing yourself a disservice. As to why evolutionists lean left, I think Liberal thought as we know it is corollated closely with humanism. Stangely enough despite the harsh reality of natural selection, my progression (& I dare say many peoples) was Darwin to Athiesm to Humanism. Although not direct results of each other it feels like the right answer to me. Again, just my humble opinions.
By definition, the term "conservative" means to adhere to tradition and to resist change. he overlap between Christianity and right wing politics is no coincidence.

Conservatives resisted the idea of the Sun being the ceneter of our solar system.

Conservatives resisted the Civil Rights movement.

Conservatives voted to put Socrates to death.

Conservatives resisted exploration of alternative fuels.

Conservatives resisted the American Revolution.

Conservatives resisted the theory of evolution.

Conservatives resisted the idea that germs are related to infection.

Conservatives resisted the vote for women.

Resisting change for change sake makes sense. But, that is not what conservatism is about. Conservatism is resistance to change of any kind (other than changing back to the "good ole days").

Every positive modern advancement has historically been made in spite of conservatism.




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