Reconciling Darwinian Biology With Conservative Social and Political Philosophy

This statement by Larry Arnhart is, in my view,  a satisfactory reconciliation of the Conservative thought of Edmund Burke, the father of modern conservative social and political philosophy, and the theory of evolution by natural selection formulated by Charles Darwin:

The Left has traditionally assumed that human nature is so malleable, so perfectible, that it can be shaped in almost any direction. Conservatives object, arguing that social order arises not from rational planning but from the spontaneous order of instincts and habits. Darwinian biology sustains conservative social thought by showing how the human capacity for spontaneous order arises from social instincts and a moral sense shaped by natural selection in human evolutionary history.

Compare professor Arnhart’s statement with this statement from Burke wherein he describes the emergence of spontaneous legal and political order:

From magna charta to the declaration of right, it has been the uniform policy of our constitution to claim and assert our liberties as an entailed inheritance derived to us from our forefathers, and to be transmitted to our posterity (Burke, Edmund.  Reflections on the Revolution in France. 1792: III 58).

Conservatives who compare Darwin to Marx or blame Darwin’s teaching  for modern social ills need to read these statements and tell us where Darwin is wrong.  They will have a hard time doing that because their Burkean arguments against central planning in social and economic affairs contradict their anti-Darwin arguments for “intelligent design” in the structures of life itself.

Of course, the contradiction and confusion in Leftist thinking about Darwinian evolution on the one hand and Leftist social and political ideology on the other is gargantuan and central compared to conservative muddling around the edges.  That’s because Leftism is an ideology not a philosophy.  Ideologies are closed systems immutable to evidence or rational argument.

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