Populist resistance to the concept of darwinism takes at least two forms: 1) skepticism, as seen in the writings of William Dembski and Michael Behe, and 2) moral opposition, as seen in Ben Stein’s movie “Expelled.” These two modes of attack often go hand-in-hand, but taken together they entail a contradiction. Before I launch into why this is, let me give some some brief definitions:
A summary of darwinism. Darwinism is improvement via natural selection. “Natural” in this context means non-teleological, undirected, blind, etc. “Selection” means that some things survive while others die.
A summary of the skeptical argument against darwinism. The skeptical argument emphasizes the “natural” aspect of natural selection. Natural processes are blind, lacking the foresight necessary to build the diversity and complexity of life.
A summary of the moral argument against darwinism. The moral argument emphasizes the “selection” aspect of natural selection. Darwinian evolution entails a morality of progress via the destruction of the weak, ultimately leading to a Holocaust situation.
So with that groundwork laid, consider these two scenarios: 1) A goat-herder selects the fattest goats to breed, and then slaughters the others. 2) A herd of wild goats gets thinned out during the winter, leaving only the most hardy to survive and mate. Both of these scenarios involve selection, but only scenario #2 involves non-teleological selection, a.k.a. natural selection, therefore only scenario #2 is a darwinian scenario.
Here are two more: 1) A person murders another person. 2) A person dies due to a congenital heart defect. The first scenario is teleological and therefore immoral, the second is non-teleological and therefore amoral. Because morality can’t exist independently of teleology, darwinism is by definition amoral. If a doctor had ended that person’s life because of the congenital heart defect, it would have ceased to be a darwinian scenario and become an immoral scenario. The two are mutually exclusive.
Okay, so back to the afore-mentioned contradiction. When someone wants to cast doubt on darwinism, they’ll emphasize the non-teleological nature of darwinism. Terms like “blind,” “mechanistic,” and “undirected” are used to great effect. “The blind laws of nature couldn’t have produced life,” etc. But when it comes to the moral implications of darwinism, this emphasis vanishes. Hitler planned to kill the Jews. Eugenics intends to kill the mentally challenged. Therein lies the contradiction: darwinism fails because it contains no telos, but darwinism fails because it contains telos. This is a disingenuous form of equivocation. It’s juggling premises to support a desired conclusion.
Let me drive the point home. Whether you know it or not, you, the reader of this essay, are very likely a proponent of social darwinism. You may think you’re opposed to social darwinism, but what you’re really opposed to are socialism and eugenics, which are forms of artificial selection. A government body chooses who lives and dies. A government body chooses how to distribute wealth. What’s the opposite of that? Natural, non-teleological selection. Laissez faire capitalism. Competition in the marketplace. Live and let live. Equal opportunity. In a nutshell, darwinism playing out in society. America is one big experiment in social darwinism, and its success speaks to the power and pervasiveness of the darwinian concept.