A century ago it was common for philosophers and scientists to apply evolutionary thinking to the great questions of human society. Unfortunately, the notion of “survival of the fittest” (the only dynamic most people associate with evolutionary theory) was used to justify a number of questionable political practices. In particular, the biological approach toward sociology became associated with the satanized Nazi party. After the global conniption fit that was World War II ended, all social thought grounded in anything like biology or evolutionary theory was swept up under the perjorative term “Social Darwinism” and pushed down the memory hole. In my opinion, this was a gigantic mistake for two reasons:
- There has been great progress in our understanding of the evolution of social interactions in the non-human world over the last 60 years, and we now know that social interactions of all sorts can evolve without any form of conscious choice. Understanding how the rest of nature puts societies together could help us figure out which of our social structures should be strengthened and which are doomed to fail.
- Divorcing social philosophy from biological reality reinforces the absurd idea that humans aren’t subject to the laws governing the rest of life, and absolves thinkers from both the left and the right of the need to ground their philosophy and policy in the realm of biological reality as opposed to the cloud-cuckoo-land of their righteous imaginations.
Of course, I think our society’s decision to go down that route can be explained evolutionarily — I’m sure I’ll write about it at some point. It’s my goal with this blog to explore politics, economics, and culture from the perspective of evolutionary biology and hopefully inject some scientific logic into the rhetorical fever swamp that is the blogsophere. Also, I hope to show the world of “normal people” that not all scientists are deluded left wing academic apparatchiks.
That, and I’ll review underground music from time to time.