Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Secular Progressives and Evolution

Secular progressives have a curious relationship with evolutionary theory. On the one hand, secular progressives despise anyone who doesn't accept modern evolutionary theory. (Just to be clear: I think it is the best theory on offer, although, of course, it will be superseded in time.)

On the other hand, they seem to reject many things that evolution has produced:

* Almost everyone known human society has something we can identify as a religion, so an evolutionary theorist ought to suspect this "religion thing" has some adaptive value: but secular progressives generally view it as barbarous nonsense.

* Almost every known society has been patriarchal, so one ought to suspect that, for humans, patriarchy has some adaptive value: but secular progressives hate patriarchy, and want to destroy it.

* Although the number of people involved has varied, almost every human society has evolved some sort of "marriage" institution that connects men with women, not men with men or women with women: yet secular progressives regard any suggestion that this might be "natural" as sheer bigotry.

* Not only most groups of humans throughout history, but many mammals physically discipline their offspring. But secular progressives view even mild physical discipline as "child abuse."

Just to be clear: nothing above should be taken as an argument that progressives are wrong, just that many of their views do not mesh well with their devotion to evolution as a shibboleth.


  1. Good points, though I think most would just say we have moved beyond them and what may have been useful for small bands of hunter gatherers is less adaptive to the modern world and is why justifications based on them seem so weak to modern ears.

  2. "…many of their views don't mesh well with their devotion to evolution…"


  3. As to the religion point, isn't secular progressivism really a form of non-theistic religion? It seems to function that way for its "believers," many of whom are found in liberal Protestant churches and liberal synagogues, which have systematically reinterpreted their religious narratives as symbols of sacralized progressive values..

    You don't mention another area in which otherwise Darwin-worshipping leftists find evolutionary theory strangely irrelevant - human intelligence.

    I would go further than saying many of progressive's views don't mesh well with their devotion to evolution. I would say that the entire progressive world view is incoherent. See also their disparagement of traditional Christianity and Judaism in the name of "enlightenment" at the same time that they defend another religion (guess which one) against something called "enlightenment fundamentalism."

  4. I agree with the basic idea here, but a couple of comments --

    I don't get the 'of course' in thinking evolution will be superseded. I can see evolution being fleshed out and a lot of detail added in and overlaid with a bunch of other processes and ideas, I can even see saying, well maybe it will be superseded (not really, but ok), but is it really obvious it will be superseded? I can certainly think of theories that in my opinion will very likely be superseded, but evolution would have to make my shortlist of ideas that it seems almost impossible that they ever will be. What makes you think 'of course' it will be superseded?

    Secondly, that debate over at Bob's the other day (about the Wifi photons & property rights) really sunk in to me the idea that the real problem here seems to be metaphysics & not all the stuff people generally talk about (taking the metaphysics for granted...) I hadn't realized just how utterly humanistic the idea of subjective valuation winds up being when people take this stuff to be 'ultimate reality'. But along those lines, if I really think about what science is and put it in the perspective of the classical Christian metaphysics, it seems that the natural sciences are almost forbidden from saying anything that might impinge on religion. It would have to be almost the most toothless 'enemy' you could imagine.

    So these Progressives and their evolution drum-beating really seem to be wasting their breath *unless their rivals implicitly buy into the Progressive materialist/immanentist metaphysics.*

    Which they seem to... and that's really the problem and the thing people ought to be arguing about. But as long as it remains subconscious, they won't. It's like a vicious cycle.



"If your approach to mathematics is mechanical not mystical, you're not going to go anywhere." -- Nassim Nicholas Taleb