Saturday, May 05, 2007

NEW YORK TIMES Article on Darwinian Conservatism

Today's New York Times has a front page article by Patricia Cohen on Darwinian Conservatism, which can be found here. Cohen is the "Arts and Ideas" editor for the Times, and one of their best writers. Her article is well-written and accurate.

She attended the AEI debate on Darwinian conservatism, and much of her article picks out points from that debate. But she has also been reading widely to see how this debate has played out among conservatives.

The AEI debate was generally quite good, and it's worth the time to watch the AEI webcast of the whole debate including the question and answer period. But I must say that I was disappointed in George Gilder, whose remarks were scattered and vapid. As far as I could tell, the only substantive point he suggested was the irreducibility of information. Otherwise, he was in a fog.


Anonymous said...

Well, you made the New York Times. Now you'll get lots of attention. Your number one priority will be convincing people that you're not a Nazi.

Good luck. I've always wanted to be a conservative but the anti-science bent of the movement repelled me, just as the liberal orthodoxy of the social sciences (human nature does not exist) replled me. I hope you are successful in your attempt to fuse Darwinism and conservatism.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Arnhart,
You will be better able to cross the divide if you stop refering to "Darwinism". The theory of gravity is not called "Newtonism".
Go over to the Physics Dept. at NIU and ask someone how gravity works. Now go over to the Biology Dept. and ask someone how natural selection works. Ithink you find the answers illuminating.
Sincerely, P.C.Chapman

Anonymous said...

"Victorian-era social Darwinists like Herbert Spencer adopted evolutionary theory to justify colonialism and imperialism, opposition to labor unions and the withdrawal of aid to the sick and needy. "

I don't know if Spencer linked is opposition to welfare to his views on evolution, but he certainly did believe that people should help the poor and sick, contrary to what this implies.

Anonymous said...

Brian Leiter comments on the debate and your blog at his "Leiter Reports" site.

Anonymous said...

I have received, in a New York newspaper, rather a good squib, showing that I have proved "might is right," and therefore that Napoleon is right, and every cheating tradesman is also right.

Larry Arnhart said...


Brian Leiter's blog post is typical of the many responses I have received from the NEW YORK TIMES article. Leiter suggests that I am an "ignorant ideologue." But he provides no evidence that he has actually read anything I have written.

To lay out the evidence and arguments for Darwinian conservatism, I have written two books and over 110 posts on this blog. Many of those posts have been detailed responses to the well-informed and intelligent critiques of my position--such as the books by Carson Holloway and John West. But how am I supposed to respond to people who offer criticisms that show no knowledge of what I have written?

Brad Stiritz said...

Hi Larry,

Thanks for taking part in the AEI debate; I just finished listening to it. As a quick point of reference, I happen to be a strict Darwinist, but, in a deeply personal and non-denominal way, a spiritual & metaphysical creature as well.

One comment you made during the Q&A session was a little puzzling to me: you posited that Platonism and Darwinism are antithetical. I'm sorry, I don't quite get this.

For example, considering Roger Penrose's modern take on Platonism at the end of "Shadows of the Mind", or Richard Dawkins' positing of the "meme" in his book "The Selfish Gene", wouldn't these two writers possibly find compatibility between Darwinistic / Materialistic and Platonic conceptualizations of reality?

Any comments appreciated,



Brad Stiritz

PithLord said...

Leiter's more substantive law review article attacking the use of evolutionary psychology in legal theory is here. He and his co-author seem to be channeling Lewontin. I'd be interested in your comments.

Kent Guida said...

Great job at AEI.
However, I was distressed by Derbyshire and Guilder's apparent lack of familiarity with your writings.
Is it not possible to find commentators and interlocutors who will take the time to read your books?
Guilder's contribution was, as you say, mostly incoherent, but he could have at least acknowledged and dealt with your discussion about how information cannot be reduced to material causes -- the one coherent idea he voiced. But clearly, he had not read DNR.
And Derbyshire, whom I like as a writer, makes a point of touting his lack of interest in philosophy, and this was clearly in evidence. His comments were relevant for someone approaching the problem, but not particularly relevant after reading your work.
I suppose one should be grateful for any forum, but isn't the first rule of civilized discourse to refrain from commenting on books one has not read?

O'Brien said...

Brian Leiter's blog post is typical of the many responses I have received from the NEW YORK TIMES article. Leiter suggests that I am an "ignorant ideologue." But he provides no evidence that he has actually read anything I have written.

Leiter is a self-important ass; pay him no heed.