Save us from historically tone deaf academics living in intellectual bubbles

By Lorenzo

The Evolution Institute wants to apply up to date Darwinism to politics. In their own words:

The Federalist Papers sought to convince the citizens of New York to adopt the newly written American Constitution. This would create a UNION (a word that they capitalized) capable of accomplishing more than any state alone and would showcase America’s Enlightenment experiment as an example for the rest of the world.

Today, that UNION is in such disarray that effectiveness of democracy itself is being doubted. Everyone knows the system is broken but no one seems to know how to do better.

Until now, and from an unexpected source: The current incarnation of Darwin’s theory of evolution.

So far so good. Lots of people are concerned about the level of polarisation and political alienation in US society.


Many people link evolution with Social Darwinism, the idea that competition is the law of nature and deserves to shape human society. This view misses the point that cooperation is often the fittest strategy. In The Descent of Man, Darwin described how we, as a social species, survived only in interdependent cooperative groups, not as individuals. He wrote: “Selfish and contentious people will not cohere, and without coherence, nothing can be effected.”

A science of society built on the biological necessity of cooperation can be called “socialism” in the truest sense of embodying our inalienable social nature. Hence, we call the toolkit of ideas outlined in these papers “Socialist Darwinism”. Historically, the Socialist Darwinian focus on cooperation actually preceded the Social Darwinist focus on competition, and the former fits the latest evolutionary science better.

How historically tone-deaf do you have to be, to offer the world another version of “scientific socialism“? Karl Marx explicitly thought he was applying Darwin to the social world. Look how well that worked out.

As economist Bryan Caplan correctly points out, the term socialism has become a provocative equivocation. Adopting the term utterly unnecessarily alienates large numbers of people, across a wide range of the political spectrum, from your project. In what sort of intellectual bubble do you have to be living to not even twig that you will be doing that? Or, if you do, not caring?

Historically tone deaf folk living in an intellectual bubble. What an awful start to what could be a worthy project.

[Cross-posted from Thinking Out Aloud.]


  1. I am Not Trampis
    Posted July 5, 2019 at 10:53 am | Permalink

    Marxism could only exist in theory where altruism exists everywhere.
    Unfortunately for Marx he obviously forgot his early education and original sin.
    People are selfish so marxism in theory has never made it to practice and never will.
    It has always been a way to authoritarianism.
    Hence no-one should take Marxism seriously.
    These days an increase in government is taken as socialism! that is how bad thim gs are in the Western World.

  2. Posted July 10, 2019 at 7:50 am | Permalink

    In biologist E O Wilson’s great quip, Marxism is a case of great idea, wrong species.

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