Saturday, July 07, 2018

Darwin and the Declaration of Independence in Australia

In two weeks, I will be leaving for a trip to Australia and New Zealand.  My first stop will be Brisbane, where I will be on a panel on "Darwin and the Declaration of Independence," at the convention of the International Political Science Association.  The other members of the panel are Kenneth Blanchard (Northern State University), Jason Jividen (Saint Vincent College), and Marlene Sokolon (Concordia University, Montreal).

My paper for the panel is "The Darwinian Science of the Declaration of Independence."  This paper includes a lot of material from posts on this blog.  Here's a few excerpts from the Introduction, followed by the Table of Contents.

Political science could become a true science by becoming a biopolitical science of political animals.  This science would be both Aristotelian and Darwinian.  It would be Aristotelian in fulfilling Aristotle's original understanding of political science as the biological study of the political life of human beings and other political animals.  It would be Darwinian in employing Charles Darwin's evolutionary theory as well as modern advances in Darwinian biology to explain political behavior as shaped by genetic evolution, cultural evolution, and individual judgment.

The fundamental framework for biopolitical science is the theoretical analysis of political behavior as conforming to a nested hierarchy of three levels of evolutionary deep history--the universal history of each species of political animals, the cultural history of each group of political animals within the species, and the individual history of animals within the group.  So, for example, Jane Goodall's study of the chimpanzees of Gombe in Tanzania and Frans de Waal's study of the chimpanzees in the Arnhem Zoo in the Netherlands show these three levels of chimpanzee political science.  They see some patterns of chimpanzee political behavior that have evolved as part of the universal history of the species--such as male dominance hierarchies--which will arise in all chimpanzee groups.  But they also see distinctive social traditions in each group of chimpanzees that have arisen in their cultural history--such as patterns of making and using tools among the Gombe chimps not seen among the Arnhem chimps.  And they also see unique individuals in each group with individually distinct personalities and styles of behavior arising from inborn temperament and a life history of social experiences.

Similarly, for a biopolitical science of human politics, we must understand the universal history of the human species, the cultural history of human groups within the species, and the individual history of human agents within the groups.  To illustrate how this might be done, I have shown how a biopolitical science could deepen our understanding of one of the crucial turns in American political history--Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation of January 1, 1863.  We can understand this as an event in the natural history of cooperation in the human species, in the cultural history of slavery in America, and in the individual history of Lincoln as a political actor in the American Civil War.

Now, in this paper, I will illustrate how this same Darwinian biopolitical framework applies to the study of the Declaration of Independence as an event in the natural history of human politics, in the cultural history of the American political founding, and in the individual history of Thomas Jefferson and the others who signed the Declaration.

This must seem strange to many people, because it is often claimed that a Darwinian science of human evolution denies the political theory of natural rights in the Declaration of Independence by denying the Declaration's appeal to God as the Creator who has endowed human beings with unalienable rights.  Darwin seemed to deny this when he wrote: "Man in his arrogance thinks himself a great work, worthy of the interposition of a deity, more humble, and I believe true, to consider him created from animals."  If human beings have been "created from animals," it might seem that they have not been specially created by God in His image and thus endowed with that moral dignity that sets them apart from other animals.  I will have to answer this objection that the Darwinian denial of the creationist political theology of the Declaration of Independence is a general denial of the idea of natural human rights.

I will organize my Darwinian analysis of the Declaration into four sections that correspond to the four parts of the document.  The first part is the first sentence, which states the purpose of the document--to show "a decent respect to the opinions of mankind" by making an argument that justifies the American colonists in declaring their independence from Great Britain.  The second part of the Declaration is the famous statement of those truths held to be self-evident that show how the right to revolution is rooted in the universal history of the human species, and this assertion of the natural right to revolution can be understood as the major premise of the Declaration's syllogism.

The third part of the document is the long list of grievances against the King that have arisen in the cultural history of the American colonists under British rule, and this claim that the "history of repeated injuries and usurpation" shows a design to establish tyranny over the Americans can be understood as the minor premise in the Declaration's syllogism.

Finally, the fourth part of the document is the statement of the 56 individual signatories--"We, therefore, the representatives of the United States"--who exercise their individual judgment in drawing the conclusion of the syllogism: "that these colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent states."

Thus, the justifying argument promised in the first sentence is laid out in the document as a syllogism:

Major premise:  The natural history of humanity shows that human beings have a natural right to overthrow tyrannical governments.

Minor premise:  The cultural history of the American colonies shows that the British King intends to exercise tyranny over the colonies.

Conclusion:  The 56 individuals signing the Declaration can exercise their prudential judgment, acting as representatives of the American people, to affirm the conclusion that the American colonies have a right to revolt in separating from British rule.

The structure of this syllogism corresponds to the three levels of deep evolutionary history in Darwinian biopolitical science: the natural history of the political species, the cultural history of a political group within the species, and the individual history of political agents within the group.



    2.1  Symbolic Evolution
    2.2  Nature's God

    3.1  The State of Nature
           3.1.1  The Equal Liberty of Hunter-Gatherers
           3.1.2  Self-Ownership
           3.1.3  The Natural Law of Reputation and Punishment
           3.1.4  War and Peace in the State of Nature
    3.2  Governments Instituted by Consent of the Governed
    3.3  Revolution
           3.3.1  The History of Revolutionary Resistance
           3.3.2  Might Makes Right

     4.1  Animal Culture
     4.2  The Factual Indictment
     4.3  Slavery

     5.1  Animal Personalities and Political Ambition
     5.2  The Love of Fame Among the Founding Brothers



Glenn said...

Hi Larry. I hope you make the paper available after the conference. I would like to read it.

John Barr said...

Wish I could be there, Larry. Hope it goes well.