History, Evolution, and The Darwin Debate

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Evolution is NOT economics

December 12th, 2006 · No Comments

Panda’s Thumb is debating evolution and conservatism with Arnhart at Darwinian Conservatism.

There is a simple answer to Arnhart, and not only to him: Evolution is not economics. The figures of Adam Smith, Burke, Hayek give us no special insight into evolution, cultural or otherwise. Adam Smith was an economist, Burke a conservative propagandist given a free gift in the abuses of the French Revolution, and Hayek’s ideas on spontaneous order simply don’t add up to sound theory.
The confusion over Adam Smith’s economic thinking, as it seeps into Darwinism, has gone on so long everyone has forgotten the connection, exclaiming the resemblance as an insight.
A sorry state of affairs.

In Darwinian Conservatism, I identify the core ideas of conservatism as manifested in the political thought of five conservative thinkers–Adam Smith, Edmund Burke, Friedrich Hayek, Russell Kirk, and James Q. Wilson. While libertarians look to Smith, and traditionalists look to Burke, Burke’s praise for Smith’s two books–The Theory of Moral Sentiments and The Wealth of Nations–shows their fundamental agreement. Although Hayek and Kirk often criticized one another, their points of agreement were deeper than they were willing to admit. After all, both praised Burke and stressed the importance of cultural tradition in sustaining social order. Wilson might be seen as a traditionalist conservative insofar as he emphasizes the importance of moral character for social order. But he might also be seen as a libertarian conservative insofar as he shows how moral character is best nurtured through the spontaneous order of civil society. Moreover, Wilson indicates how the very possibility of moral order rests on the natural propensity of the human animal for developing a moral sense–a natural propensity that manifests human biological nature as shaped by Darwinian evolution.

Tags: Critique of Evolutionary Economy · Evolution

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