Friday, May 31, 2013

The Evolution of Darwinian Liberalism

I will be travelling in South America in June and early July--a week in the Machu Picchu area of Peru, two weeks in the Galapagos Islands, and a week in the Amazonian area of eastern Ecuador. 

For the second week in the Galapagos, I will be participating in the conference on "Evolution, the Human Sciences, and Liberty" sponsored by the Mont Pelerin Society.  My paper is on "The Evolution of Darwinian Liberalism."  Much of the material in this paper comes from various posts on this blog.  Here's a summary statement of my argument:

Liberalism depends on the idea that social life is a largely spontaneous order that emerges unintentionally from the interactions of individuals pursuing their individual ends.  Darwinian evolutionary science sustains this liberal idea in five ways.

First, Darwinian science confirms the empirical moral anthropology of liberalism by explaining the spontaneous evolution of human morality through the coevolution of human nature, human culture, and human reason, without any need to appeal to a transcendental moral cosmology of metaphysical moral law beyond the human mind.

Second,  Darwinian science confirms the liberal principle of self-ownership at the center of a circle of expanding care for oneself, for one’s property, and for other individuals, by explaining how the human nervous system has evolved to serve this circle of care as adapted for human beings as the remarkably smart social mammals that they are.

Third, Darwinian science supports the liberal understanding of how social order arises from the natural human “propensity to truck, barter, and exchange,” by explaining how exchange and specialization arose early in human evolution and then progressively expanded into the global networks of trade and communication that sustain the growing prosperity and population of the modern world.

Fourth, Darwinian science supports the liberal belief that the largely unintended order of society requires some limited governmental regulation by explaining the evolutionary history of government and of the evolved human propensity for egalitarian hierarchy that balances individual liberty and political authority.

Fifth, Darwinian science supports the liberal idea that the spontaneous ordering of society requires limiting violence by explaining the evolutionary history of declining violence and the liberal peace..

In all of these ways, we see how the publication of Darwin’s theory of evolution in 1859 made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled liberal.

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