Tuesday, February 24, 2009

the lost darwin

The Darwin Project | The most popular Darwinian of his time, paleontologist Stephen J.Gould, repeatedly noted the relation of survival of the fittest Darwinism to the wars of the 20th century and the rise of Hitler and the Nazis in Germany. Indeed, a close look at the survival of the fittest/selfish genes syndrome reveals that among the ills of humanity this is the mindset of fascism wherever it rises. Foreshadowing global financial meltdown, American billionaire George Soros, management scientists, and economists decried the devastation of this mindset in industry.

I had an electronic copy of Descent that made possible a computerized word search. So into the FIND slot I entered the first phrase that came to mind: survival of the fittest.

Thereafter I found what nowhere in the world today, in celebrations staged by the well-educated and the wealthy on every continent, is even being mentioned.

Only twice in that whole book of 475 fine print pages did this universally prevailing tag for Darwin's theory of evolution appear. And once was to apologize for ever using the term!

What about the other prevailing tag for Darwin today: the idea of “selfish genes”? Or more broadly, that along with “survival of the fittest,” at the core the other prime driver for our species on this planet is selfishness—which sociobiologists and evolutionary psychologists tell us even drives our naive illusion of a transcendent altruism.

Selfishness, Darwin tells us, is a “base principle,” which accounts for the “low morality of savages.”

What then might be the polar opposite for selfishness? Why not try the word “moral”?

Of moral sensitivity I found he wrote 92 times—versus 6 entries in the Index.

Of competition, he wrote 12 times; of cooperation—called mutuality or mutual aid in Darwin's time—27 times. To make a long story short, I went on to discover the enormous difference it makes if you approach Descent not with a mind shuttered by what is an old and by now considerably updated paradigm for biology, but expanded with the multidisciplinary perspective of modern evolutionary systems science.