by Denyse O'Leary
(Australian philosopher David Stove (1927-1994), not a religious man and no defender of any type of creationism, wrote a book Darwinian Fairytales (Avebury Press, 1995), part of the Avebury Series in Philosophy, that shows clearly why the principal neo-Darwinian concepts of kin selection and inclusive fitness simply do not conform to the available evidence - certainly not for humans, and probably not for many other life forms. This series of blogs briefly introduces some key topics covered in the 11 chapters of the book, with some other links, as available. This is a brief comment on Chapter 11 of 11, "Errors of Heredity or The Irrelevance of Darwinism to Human Life.")
In the eleventh and last chapter, Stove addresses the fact that, from a Darwinian perspective, humans must be a biological error. "A biological error, or error of heredity, is an organism which does not have as many descendants as it could have. or a characteristic of an organism witch prevents it having as many descendants as it otherwise could." (p. 212)
Now, he reasons, among plants or cockroaches, there is no biological error. They do not fail to have as many descendants as they can. Yet humans routinely do so, for a number of reasons, ranging from natural or voluntary celibacy through lifestyle choices that reduce fertility through heroic self-sacrifice.
Stove quotes major Darwinians on human biological errors: Darlington on celibacy, Wilson on failing to kill your enemies, Dawkins on adoption, and Fisher on heroic self-sacrifice. Stove is particularly hard on Fisher, who remarks, amazingly,
The hero is one fitted constitutionally to encounter danger; he therefore exercises a certain inevitable authority in hazardous enterprises, for men will only readily follow one who gives them some hope of success. Hazardous enterprises, however, are not a necessity save for the men who, as enemies or leaders, make them so, and the high esteem in which tradition surrounds certain forms of definite imprudence cannot be ascribed to any just appreciation of the chances of success. (pp. 215–16)
In Fisher's world, there is no need for self-sacrifice, not even on 9-11. But heroes do apparently insist on coming along and making trouble. I wonder what he would have made of the two young men who jumped into the pit of the Toronto subway in 2005, to pull out an older woman who had fainted? In what sense can we say that their "hazardous enterprise" was unnecessary? Dangerous, yes, and not at all likely to improve their chances of leaving descendants. Transit officials perform their duty, of course, when they counsel riders against such heroism. But very few of us would admire the young men more for taking the officials' advice.
As Stove points out, Fisher is living in a different mental space from most human beings on this point. Most of us, even if we accept religious teachings against artificial contraception, have never attempted to maximize the number of our descendants.
Now, Stove's key point - and if you grew up with Darwinism, you may miss it at first - is that humans cannot, by definition, be biological errors. A state of existence can neither be true nor false. It simply is or isn't. If human behavior is not what the Darwinians make it out to be, the reason is that the Darwinians are wrong.
But, he notes, that is not what Darwinians conclude. Rather,
"Wherever Darwinism is in error, Darwinians simply call the organisms in question or their characteristics, an error! Wherever there is manifestly something wrong with their theory they say that there is something wrong with the organisms. ..." (p 220)
Or, they simply deny the facts and assert a contrary propositions. For example, a respected sociobiologist, R.D. ALexander, wrote in 1979, " ... we are programmed to use all our effort, and in fact to use our lives, in reproduction." (p. 221)
This is one of those statements which are so breathtakingly false, that initially their only effect on the reader or hearer is to produce stupefaction. One can at best only gasp out something like, "Well, in that case, the programme isn't working and never has worked."
Of course, another possibility would be for the Darwinian to exempt humans from his discussion of natural selection, as - whatever may be the case with other life forms - his theory definitely does not describe the behavior of humans. But that is precisely what he would never want to do. The principle Darwinian project has always been to include include humans in the grand theory.
I hope it will be clear to the reader that my account of Stove's critique of the Darwinist account of human nature (and many points of animal nature) leaves out much very informative material, incisive arguments, and entertaining digressions that readers can enjoy at their leisure.
One thing his account certainly clarifies for me is why Darwinists today need to entrench their theory in school systems, contrary to public opinion. They must get students to accept it implicitly and uncritically, because it will not withstand common-sense criticism such as Stove supplies. The child must learn that Darwinism is absolutely true and accepted by all scientists before he learns that most adults do not embrace parenthood nearly as readily as a child assumes - before he learns, for example, about the rapidly growing demographic crisis of low birth rates . That way, he won't be tempted to blurt out embarrassing questions in biology class, with the devil to pay later.
On the other hand ... the willingness to think clearly cannot be so easily suppressed as the Darwinist supposes. In the end, Stoves main achievement in Darwinian Fairytales is to show that the theory was always conceptually flawed in important ways. Its status as an ideology is its best protection.
(Note: This is the first of 12 posts, working backwards to the Preface. I will replace this note with links to the other chapters, for reader convenience.)
Toronto-based Canadian journalist Denyse O'Leary (www.designorchance.com) is the author of the multiple award-winning By Design or by Chance? (Augsburg Fortress 2004), an overview of the intelligent design controversy. She was named CBA Canada's Recommended Author of the Year in 2005 and is co-author, with Montreal neuroscientist Mario Beauregard, of the forthcoming The Spiritual Brain (Harper 2007).
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