Monday, February 18, 2008

Social Darwinism

Researchers at Stanford University have done a study they claim proves that evolution not only can weed out unsuccessful genes, but also can operate on societies to weed out unsuccessful memes:

Deborah S. Rogers, a research fellow at Stanford, said their findings demonstrate that "some cultural choices work while others clearly do not."

"Unfortunately, people have learned how to avoid natural selection in the short term through unsustainable approaches such as inequity and excess consumption. But this is not going to work in the long term," she said. "We need to begin aligning our culture with the powerful forces of nature and natural selection instead of against them."
The intellectual leap between those two paragraphs could not be further. Time and again, the countries that allow "inequity and excess consumption" greatly outperform those that repress them by force. The free market works. I'm afraid that Ms. Rogers comes to the table without the proper scientific attitude. Reality simply is; the job of science is to observe it, not try to prove the biases of the researcher.

I guess I should just be happy that "Social Darwinism" is no longer assumed to be evil.


  1. Deborah S. Rogers, a research fellow at Stanford: "We need to begin aligning our culture..."

    Definite signs of a policy adviser -- not a scientist. As a policy adviser myself, I believe that we need to find more useful jobs for people who mis-represent themselves as "researchers", even if they *do* have a cushy gig at Stanford.

  2. "Insensibly, they twist facts to support their theory, rather than posing theory after evidence."

    ...Sherlock Holmes

  3. Unfortunately, Darwinism may not lead us into that bright future that we might imagine. Survival of the fittest seems to have produced as many herd animals as predators. Which evolutionary path do you suppose might suit your temprement the best?
    Perhaps intelligence really is an abberation. I guess we will find out in November.
    Best all~Svin

  4. You all should read Jonah Goldberg's "Liberal Fascism." This woman's statement is exactly the sort of exemplar of the fascist mentality he talks about. (When I say "fascist" I use the term not in the standard leftist form meaning "that which I disagree with," but in the more precise form of a specific philosophical and political viewpoint.)

  5. Svin, I think the problem is that natural selection has produced genes reasonably-well adapted to a hunting/gathering, tribal society. With the advent of agriculture about ten millenia ago, we were no longer operating in that millieu. We have evolved socially in that span far more than genetically. The proverbial Frozen Caveman's genome would probably be difficult to pick out of a 'lineup' containing a half-dozen samples from living humans.

    As I said, it's really remarkable that "cultural evolution" can even be discussed in academia today. Now that people like Ms. Rogers, and the legendary Paul Erlich are willing to discuss the idea that certain social practices can be better than others, and thereby produce more successful societies, we might be able to persuade them to explain why it is that their preferred social structures are invariably the less-successful variety.


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