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), a series of essays that forms 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 the topics covered in the 11 chapters of the book, with some other links, as available. This is a brief comment on Chapter 1 of 11, "Darwinism's Dilemma". As the Acknowledgments briefly relate, David Stove died in 1994, leaving the complete manuscript of Darwinian Fairytales, which was the concern of the last three years of his life.
Stove starts out by pointing out a fact that should be obvious, but, in a culture like ours, is not:
If Darwin's theory of evolution were true, there would be in every species, a constant and ruthless competition to survive: a competition in which only a few in any generation can be winners. But it is perfectly obvious that human life is not like that, however it may be with other species. (P.1)
Speaking for myself, I grew up with the alleged population bomb,
which is hardly the outcome to expect from "constant and ruthless competition to survive", or as Darwin's bulldog, T.H. Huxley, called it, "a continual free fight."
The population bomb was, we were assured in the 1970s, exploding mightily in far-off nations, not in our own chilly part of the world, which few of the desperate bomb people seemed anxious to move to - on account of our wretched climate, possibly? I used to wonder how people who supposedly hardly had room to stand could be picky about a few piles of snow, slush, and ice.
Okay, a few zillions of piles, but even so ...
Anyway, Stove talks about the sheer foolishness of the anthropology of T.H. Huxley, known as
Darwin's bulldog. For one thing, he points out, if Huxley's prehistoric savage was locked in a constant, desperate struggle and wanted only to eat and survive, he could eat his wife and child before another man did:
They are first class protein, after all, and intraspecific Darwinian competition is principally competition for the means of subsistence, isn't it? Besides, wives and children are 'easy meat', compared with most of the protein that goes around even at the best of times.
We can see here how the much later "selfish gene" thesis got started, and all the foolishness that followed in its wake. From the mid twentieth century onward, it became necessary to neoDarwinists. They needed to explain why people did not simply devour their own families, if the struggle for survival is as fierce as they insist.
Yes, people fight. We fight about land, nationality, ethnicity, politics, religion, theology, royalty, language, honor, shame, morality, girls/boys, guns, and gold. But few actual struggles offer life itself as the prize. And, Stove argues, that was probably always true for humans.
It's not hard to see why. A guy can go on living even if he doesn't get the guns or the gold. As for the girls, well, it is no secret that many girls prefer the guy who loses the fight. He's easier to keep at home, where (in the girl's view) he belongs anyway, spending quality time with his children. And many guys can live quite happily without being an alpha male. In other words Huxley was not able to show that known human history has ever really been a Darwinian struggle. Besides, Stove points out, many organisms, such as flies and pine trees, cannot really fight anyway. (p. 4)
It is also worth noting that many life forms subsist in environments where there is no significant struggle with competitors for survival. One thinks of a deer who accidentally consumes a worm in a windfall apple, one among tons lying around under the trees. If natural selection plays a role in the fate of the worm or the windfall, as oppose to the deer, survival of the fittest is probably not the best way of explaining it.
It is not clear in any case why struggle should be as important to Darwin's thesis as Darwinians such as Huxley have made it out to be. As Stove notes, "If you and I are competing for survival, and for ten days in a row you are able to get food while I cannot, then I starve to death and you win this competition, whatever may have been difference between us which enabled you to win."
In other words, in natural selection, time and chance may be doing most of the heavy lifting, rather than struggle as such. But the Darwinists very much preferred the narrative of struggle.
Huxley should not have needed Darwinism to tell him - since any intelligent child of eight could have told him - that in 'a continual free fight of each against all' there would soon be no children, no women, and hence no men. In other words, that the human race could not possibly exist now , unless cooperation had always been stronger than competition, both between women and their children, and between men and the children and women whom they protect and provide for.
So what to do now? If Darwinian natural selection depends on survival of the fittest and the continual free fight, how to account for co-operation? The Darwinians hit on the idea that any appearance of co-operation or altruism in human life must be a sham.
This cultural decision, made early on, predicted many developments in Darwinian theory down to the present day, and helps explain why it is so controversial. Early on, the "Darwinian Hard Men", as Stove calls them, produced a huge bulk of literature arguing that such institutions as charity hospitals and unemployment checks are both impossible and undesirable recent developments. They seemed not to notice the contradiction between "impossible" and "undesirable." Commenting on Spencer's outrage against government denials of individual freedom in The Man versus the State (1884), he notes, "The evils which Spencer inveighs against are real, indeed. But they happen also to be one which, if his own view of man were true, could not possibly exist." (7)
Stove goes on to talk about the fundamental inconsistency that riddled early Darwinism's account of the human population: The Darwinists were worried that less fit people, according to their own definitions of fitness, were outbreeding more fit people. (p. 8) The difficulty is that, on a Darwinian account of life, that makes no sense. Everyone who actually breeds must be more fit by definition than everyone who does not.
As I pointed out in By Design or by Chance?, the sociopathic street child may be better fitted to survive, in Darwin's sense, than the sheltered piano prodigy. Indeed, if the street child later produces eight children he doesn't support, of whom only three survive to adulthood and go on to produce more children, he is a much bigger Darwinian success than a piano prodigy, who is much celebrated but dies childless. Yet, as Stove perceives, there is no evidence that Darwin or his supporters could accept the state of affairs that their theory predicts. Far from it, Darwin said,
... if the prudent avoid marriage, while the reckless marry, the inferior members tend to supplant the better members of society. Man, like every other animal, has no doubt advanced to his present high condition through a struggle for existence consequent on his rapid multiplication; and if he is to advance still higher, it is to be feared that he must remain subject to severe struggle. (p. 10)
Do you see the hopeless inconsistency here? Of course you do. The results of natural selection were selecting a group that Darwin and his aristicratic associates had not meant their theory to favor - the vulgar.
Stove notes that most people who accept Darwinism today do so without grappling with this difficulty. He calls them the "Soft Men," noting
The Soft Man is certainly the most appealing of the three ways out of Darwinism's dilemma, if we agree to call it such a way at all. Utter helplessness almost always has something very appealing about it, and intellectual helplessness is no exception to this rule.
(The other ways are the Cave Man (exporting the dilemma back to an alleged neolithic time when different conditions are supposed to have prevailed) and the Hard Man (that's just the away it is; get used to it, sugar.))
So Darwin was clearly wrong about human life. But where did he go wrong? On to "Chapter 2: Where Darwin First Went Wrong About Man."
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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