Saturday, May 12, 2007

Mitt Romney's a Theistic Evolutionist

In defending Darwinian conservatism, I have tried to persuade religious conservatives that there is no necessary conflict between Darwinian science and religious belief. Although the science cannot judge the theological truth of any religious belief, it can judge the practical truth of religious traditions that support social order. And although the science cannot answer ultimate questions of First Cause as to the origin of nature or the origin of life, evolutionary science is compatible with a religious belief in God as the Creator of nature. In fact, many religious believers have become theistic evolutionists.

I am pleased, therefore, to see that Matt Romney identifies himself as a theistic evolutionist. In the first debate between the Republican presidential candidates, Romney was one of the seven who indicated that they accepted evolution as a true scientific theory. Now, in a NEW YORK TIMES interview, he has explained his position. He says: "I believe that God designed the universe and created the universe. And I believe evolution is most likely the process he used to create the human body. . . . I've never found a conflict between the science of evolution and the belief that God created the universe. He uses scientific tools to do his work."

When he says that God used evolution "to create the human body," he might be implying that the creation of the human soul requires something more--perhaps the "ontological leap" that Pope John Paul II spoke about in his 1996 endorsement of evolution.

It's clear that Mitt has been reading this blog, such as the posts that can be found here, here, here, here, here, and here.

By the way, a Darwinian would notice that Mitt has an obvious advantage over his competitors for the Republican presidential nomination--he is the tallest and best-looking of them all. As is the case for all primates, we expect dominant individuals to have the physical appearance of dominant men. In his profile of Mitt for National Review (April 30), Richard Lowry sees this: "It is impossible to be around Romney and not be impressed--by his obvious intelligence, by his fluid speaking style, by his accomplishments in business and government, by his appearance."

Being a short guy myself, it's hard for me to accept the fact that tall, dominant-looking men attract attention. But I'll have to accept it as part of the realism of my Darwinian conservatism. That's why I'm a college professor and not a Presidential candidate.


Anonymous said...

In 82% of twentieth-century cases, the tallest candidate won the US presidential election.

Keith Sutherland

Larry Arnhart said...


Yes, you're right.

Some years ago, Jim Schubert (a colleague of mine in the biopolitics program at Northern Illinois University)was in Romania when they had their first presidential election. Each of the 12 or more candidates was given equal television time for any advertising they wanted to do. Jim taped this for an experimental study of dominance displays. He showed the tape to people in parts of Europe and the United States. He asked them to rate the candidates for "electability." Amazingly, their rankings corresponded exactly to the electoral outcome in Romania. For Jim, this showed the importance of nonverbal displays in primate dominance contests.

I was reminded of this by the image of the 10 Republican presidential candidates standing on the stage at the Reagan Library auditorium.

Politics has a lot to do with "gut reactions" to the physical appearance of politicians. This is what Frans de Waal calls "chimpanzee politics."

Anonymous said...

Dear Larry,
We would do much better if you were running for President than the group we have. As a short person myself I always noticed that the Darwin was right but I also note that most of the smart people that I know are short. What does that say?
Mark Griffith

Larry Arnhart said...


Don't many of us seek the prestige of academic success to compensate for our physical deficiencies? The revenge of the nerds?

The natural desire for social status can be satisfied through a variety of culturally defined arenas of social ranking. Socrates was not as manly as Alcibiades. But Socrates could promote the philosophic life as superior to the life of an Alcibiades.

Anonymous said...

Dear Larry,
Great points! Yet, like in Aristotle’s Ethics I hope we made the right choice. The first 9 and third books seem to say the best life is available to all of us. Then the last 2/3 of book 10 indicates the best life is only available to some of us.