Evolution And Eugenics (Can Science Give All The Answers?)
Last article, I talked about the idea of removing science from philosophy and just how nonsensical of an idea that is. However, I ended the article by hinting at another issue, one that can be equally as destructive, and that is the attempt to remove philosophy all together. While warning of a worldview only based on science has usually been reserved for the devoutly religious, G.K. Chesterton a century ago and Sohrab Ahmari today, even as an atheist I do recognize that danger can come from the rejection of philosophy.
The issue with many of these people is not that they are showing concern for the removal of philosophy, but that they are engaging in philosophical supremacy. After the Columbine High School Shooting, then House Majority Whip Tom DeLay wrote that it happened ”because our school systems teach our children that they are nothing but glorified apes who have evolutionized [sic] out of some primordial soup of mud.” Even if this was an accurate description of evolution (it’s not) and even if this specific view of evolution led to the Columbine Shooting (it didn’t) that would still not have an impact on if evolution is true. All it would mean is that it opens the door to questions that Tom DeLay is not comfortable with or which might cause him to have to shift his current worldview. This is not the fault of evolution, but the fault of Tom DeLay for not wanting to have to ask these tough questions.
The most common criticism of evolution from a moral standpoint is that it encourages some kind of evil civilization — usually based around either nihilism or eugenics. I’ll be focusing on the eugenics argument for the sake of this article, as well as using it as a jumping off point to discuss an issue I am worried about. The most famous example of the eugenics argument to my knowledge came from Ben Stein’s 2008 film Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, in which Stein spends a large period of time at a Holocaust Museum blaming evolution for the actions of the Nazis.
I’ll begin by saying that if the Nazis really did embrace the ideas of Darwin, someone should have really told the Nazis. This is the same government which banned all works that taught evolution or which they felt taught a framework similar to Darwin’s ideas. While the term eugenics was coined by Charles Darwin’s cousin Francis Galton, he was more using this in reference to the effects of evolution, as oppose to the government policy we currently think of it as. Galton believed that what \eugenics tries to impose on us would happen naturally, and never really gave a political opinion on the subject.
Galton never advocated for government policy because he understood his place as a scientist was to analyze the world around him, and then has philosophy interpret what he finds. The philosopher looks at ideas like “survival of the fittest” and decides what that means for society at large. The issue then becomes not the scientist, but the removal of the philosopher, or at least the philosopher becoming convinced his goal is to implement the ideas of the scientist and nothing else. (Of course, the ideas of the scientist have already been implemented into the universe we exist in, but that’s besides the point.)
The term “survival of the fittest” is quite possibly the most misused term in this regards, with many assuming it only refers to physical strength. In truth, it is in reference to qualities best suited for any particular environment, which can change depending on the situation. Therefore, trying to force evolution to produce a master race is utterly absurd. Even if we take random mutations making this rather unstable, the idea that there is a “master race” falls apart when you realize that what is the best for a situation is not only relative, but also constantly changing. What was the “master race” during the Ice Age is different from what a master race would be today, making any attempt to create one futile.
However, the idea of a master race is not based in science, it is based in philosophy. From this perspective, we see eugenics for what it truly is, an attempt to implement science as if the philosopher were a god. You see, the idea of a master race is determined by the philosopher, as such, he is not using philosophy to analyze science but using science to achieve philosophy — turning the previous process on its head. While this is not the same thing as removing science all together, this is still another form of philosophical arrogance that should be opposed if possible. The fact is, our definition of a master race is not brought force by scientists, but by philosophers who pretend to be scientists.