I have always felt that the evolution question is a part of the mix of radical social change. As a crypto-conservative ideology with a disguised social darminist twist darwinism has ended up in a mysterious collusion with neo-liberal economics. Consider the curious economic overtones of Dawkins’ ideological evolutionism: the selfish gene. Scientific evolutionary theory has provided the perfect cover for a form of economic sleight of hand doctrine. The left, from the era of sociobiology, now evolutionary psychology, has always said so, but too timidly and without challenging the Basic Dogma.
The left has despite the critique of sociobiology been stuck in darwinian fairy tales, this despite Marx’s initial skepticism, and later musing about the problems with natural selection. The brilliant insight of Marx has been shunted out of view, but should be brought back as a clear early victory for marxist exposes of ideology.
The situation is shifting even as we speak: the recent Royal Society conference on evolution, although almost abortive in its wistful invocation of paradigm change, brought the issue out in the open and even if we find that parlay inadequately compromised in its outcome the fact remains that criticizing darwinism is now in the mainstream and we need forthwith a ‘cash and carry’ versionof evolutionism that is postdarwinian.
It is not hard to provide a substitute: stand back from theory to an empirical stance toward the facts of evolution in deep time, showing restraint on the question of a full theoretical account. It is hard to believe such a simple alternative (already the case in practice whatever biologists say) has eluded scientists for so long. The reason suspiciously resembles the hold of ideological obsession on beliefs. In fact this empirical approach taking ‘evolution’ as an ‘historical subject’ has a related historical perspective (check out the perspective of World History and the Eonic Effect, often discussed here).
Beyond that simple reduction to an empirical history approach we might be emboldened toward an exploratory critique of science/scientism and consider that evolutionism has been so much trouble for good reason: the original framework of basic science is not adequate for resolving the evolutionary mystery.
But, whatever the case, the left should be taking up postdarwinism and this is in itself is so jarring to the status quo, in many versions, as to be a threshold revolutionary wake up call. If we examine the history of evolutionary thought we discover by and by an early radical version championing of evolution which lead to a leftist stance on darwinism, but we also see as with Lamarck a quite different radical view of evolution, one that actually prefigured long before Darwin (and Wallace) the real insight needed for an evolutionary theory: a process on different levels that was reduced by biological darwinians to a one level reductionism.
In any case there is nothing too difficult in creating a new paradigm, as long as we don’t presume as yet on a final theory. And this can assist efforts to evoke resistance to the concealed social darwinist project in motion from the conservative wing. Can we see in the attack on Obamacare a sly social darwinist survival of the fittest ideology with Ayn-Randian inunendos? You betcha…
A full theory of evolution requires a host of almost inceivably difficult questions, among them some insight into the mystery of human evolution. We can’t pretend that we have such a science, as yet. But the progress made in the two centuries since Lamarck has been remarkable enough to make us stand back and forgo cheap darwinian substitutes.