Saturday, May 05, 2007

Darwin Among Republican Presidential Contenders

One third of the Republican presidential candidates, when asked in their recent debate whether they believed evolution, admitted that they don't buy it. The blogosphere has already said much about this, and today the NY Times picks up the story.

The NY Times includes this appalling quote by Larry Arnhart, a poli sci professor at Northern Illinois University:

"The intellectual vitality of conservatism in the 21st century will depend on the success of conservatives in appealing to advances in the biology of human nature as confirming conservative thought."

How convenient when science can confirm one's preconceived notions! That's exactly the opposite approach an intellectually honest person (not to mention someone who calls himself a scholar) should be taking, and it's not helpful for the intellectual vitality of any movement that embraces such an outlook.

This whole debate - whether evolution (not 'Darwinism' - evolution is much more than Darwinism) supports conservative thought - brings to mind something Richard Feynman said when discussing the philosophical implications of the Uncertainty Principle:

“In any case that I have ever seen of any of the philosophical ideas of the sciences dragged out into another field, it's completely distorted, a trivial shadow of its original idea, and it seems in some respects to be quite silly..." - and quite wrong, I should add.

(Feynman quote is from the audio recording of Feynman's second lecture on quantum mechanics in his Lectures on Physics.)

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