Rarely have I been so thoroughly misconstrued

A while back, Larry Arnhart wrote an article claiming that evolution supported libertarianism. I was invited to write a reaction essay, which I did, and I argued that evolution supported diversity, and that it was silly and inappropriate to claim it for a single narrow human political movement.

I’d suggest that my criticisms must have stung, because Arnhart has now written a rebuttal to my rebuttal, except that he seems to comprehend neither what I said nor the basics of evolution, so I think everything I wrote sailed right past him on a cloud of confusion. Especially since his response was to accuse me of being a creationist.

Stop laughing. He’s serious. He repeats this bizarre claim several times.

But I was surprised when I saw his argument that evolutionary science cannot explain morality and politics at all. He conceded that Charles Darwin himself was a classical liberal. But he insisted that this had nothing at all to do with his evolutionary science, because science cannot explain the moral life of human beings, which is completely unconstrained by natural evolution.

When, of course, my essay said nothing of the kind. I said that Darwin’s personal political preferences did not privilege his favored views as somehow having the blessing of four billion years of evolution, because there have been many contributors to evolutionary theory — and I named Kropotkin, Dobzhansky, Lewontin, and Crick — with different views. Nowhere do I claim that biology makes no contribution to morality and politics, or that our moral history has been unconstrained by evolution. There’s a difference between saying, “your political philosophy is not the ultimate goal of evolution” and “your political philosophy is independent of history, experience, and biology”. I said the former, not the latter.

It gets crazier. Apparently, now I’m in the pocket of the Pope.

Pope John Paul II agreed with Wallace in his claim (in a 1996 statement) that evolution could account for the human body but not for the human soul as expresed in morality, politics, and religion. To explain that, John Paul insisted, we needed an “ontological leap”–some kind of miraculous transformation that could not be explained by science.

Oddly enough, it seems, Myers agrees with Wallace and Pope John Paul about this “ontological leap,” because Myers seems to believe that human beings have moral and intellectual powers that are expressed in political life that are completely unconstrained by evolutionary nature. As he says: “To suggest that the science of evolution supports a specific view of the narrowly human domain of politics is meaningless. Evolutionary theory supports the existence of ants and eagles, lichens and redwood trees, and finding an evolutionary basis for any human activity is trivial.”

No, there was no magic leap. Our natures are not independent of our biological properties. I’m saying that libertarianism is as much a necessary outcome of evolution as petticoats. That does not imply that petticoats are independent of biology.

Ah, libertarians. They’re the crazy, deaf, bellowing uncle of the great family of political perspectives.