On Suffering and Waste

We were talking about Darwinism and morality, among other things. Here is George C. Williams in Plan and Purpose in Nature as quoted by Richard Dawkins in the title essay of A Devil’s Chaplain:

With what other than condemnation is a person with any moral sense supposed to respond to a system in which the ultimate purpose in life is to be better than your neighbour at getting genes into future generations,…in which that message is always ‘exploit your environment, including your friends and relatives, so as to maximise your genes’ success…?

Dawkins then quotes George Bernard Shaw doubting evolution because he didn’t like its cruelty, H.G. Wells rejoicing in the cruelty, and Julian Huxley trying to derive some kind of ethics from it, then quotes Julian Huxley’s grandfather T.H. Huxley getting it right in his lecture ‘Evolution and Ethics’:

Let us understand, once for all, that the ethical progress of society depends, not on imitating the cosmic process, still less in running away from it, but in combating it.

And then Dawkins says what he thinks of the matter, and what he says would doubtless suprise the many people who think all evolutionary thinkers and especially Dawkins conflate is with ought:

As an academic scientist I am a passionate Darwinian…But at the same time as I support Darwinism as a scientist, I am a passionate anti-Darwinian when it comes to politics and how we should conduct our human affairs…I have always held true to the closing words of my first book, ‘We, alone on earth, can rebel agains the tyranny of the selfish replicators.’

So. This is part of the picture. People at Twisty Sticks have, it seems to me, been taking it as axiomatic that everyone who believes natural selection has had some influence on human nature has some sort of ruthless right-wing agenda, but that just is not true.

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