Friday, August 02, 2013

Debating Darwinian Liberalism (6): From Darwin to Hitler?

In their contributions to Dilley's book, John West and Richard Weikart repeat what they have already written elsewhere about the supposedly clear path "from Darwin to Hitler" (the title of one of Weikart's books). 

I have responded to them many times.  My responses to West can be found here, here, here, here, here, and here.  My responses to Weikart can be found here, here, and here.  In their contributions to Dilley's book, they are silent about my responses.

The Fall 2010 issue of The Intercollegiate Review has articles by me ("Darwinian Conservatism Versus Metaphysical Conservatism") and West ("Darwin, Scientism, and the Misguided Quest for Darwinian Conservatism").  That issue is available online.  I responded to that article by West here and here.

There is a strange contradiction in Weikart's chapter.  First he criticizes Darwin for being a cultural relativist who has no moral standards for judging some cultures as better than others.  Then he criticizes Darwin for ranking "civilized" people as better than "savage" people because of the "immorality of savages" in their practice of torture, infanticide, and mistreatment of women.

Consider this paragraph:
"Darwin denied the universality of morality in yet another way.  He did not believe that the constant warfare among tribes counted against his view of human social instincts, since 'social instincts never extend to all the individuals of the same species' (Darwin 1871, vol. 1, 84-85; see also 72).  Darwin gave examples of so-called 'savages' practicing morality within their tribes, but exulting in killing, robbing, and otherwise harming those outside their society (Darwin 1871, vol. 1, 93-94).  Among civilized people, he thought, moral sentiments had extended to wider groups, and he expressed the hope that they would continue to expand, ultimately including all humanity.  However, he recognized that moral sentiments had not yet become universal" (201).
So is Weikart condemning Darwin here?  Is he saying that Darwin was wrong for condemning savage xenophobia and praising humanitarian universalism, even while recognizing how difficult it is to achieve such humanitarian morality?

Weikart endorses "the Judeo-Christian conception of the sanctity of human life" (198).  But wouldn't the Darwinian point to the tribal brutality of the Old Testament and parts of the New Testament as showing a savage immorality that needs to be tamed by a more liberal morality?  Would Weikart disagree?

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