The late Australian philosopher David Stove, for whose book of essays, Darwinian Fairytales, I have provided an introduction on line, also wrote a paper in which he identified ten false propositions of modern Darwinism (sometimes called neo-Darwinism), as applied to humans.
Most educated people nowadays, I believe, think of themselves as Darwinians. If they do, however, it can only be from ignorance: from not knowing enough about what Darwinism says. For Darwinism says many things, especially about our species, which are too obviously false to be believed by any educated person; or at least by an educated person who retains any capacity at all for critical thought on the subject of Darwinism.
I give below ten propositions which are all Darwinian beliefs in the sense just specified. Each of them is obviously false: either a direct falsity about our species or, where the proposition is a general one, obviously false in the case of our species, at least.
Now, keep in mind that Stove is an agnostic and no friend to religion, let alone creationism or intelligent design. He is simply explaining why Darwinism (and therefore evolutionary psychology) does a poor job of accounting for human behaviour.
His ten propositions start from the present day and work backward. You can go to the site to read most of his comments on them. I will provide only a brief summary in parentheses.
1. Dawkinsâ€™ selfish gene thesis: "The truth is, 'the total prostitution of all animal life, including Man and all his airs and graces, to the blind purposiveness of these minute virus-like substancesâ€™, genes. (Despite his denials, Dawkins' thesis in fact requires that genes be smarter than creatures equipped with actual brains, consciousness, and self-interest, a situation that certainly requires some explanation, and cannot simply be shuffled under the heading of "natural selection.")
2. "'â€¦it is, after all, to [a motherâ€™s] advantage that her child should be adopted' by another woman. This quotation is from Dawkins' The Selfish Gene, p. 110." (That is because she is free to spread her selfish genes further, but, of course, few mothers have ever thought that way, which makes Dawkins' thesis suspicious at best.)
3. "All communication is 'manipulation of signal-receiver by signal-sender.' This profound communication, though it might easily have come from any used-car salesman reflecting on life, was actually sent by Dawkins, (in The Extended Phenotype, (1982), p. 57)." (Do you honestly think that all the communication you have ever engaged in fits this description? If so, you must be vending some lulu lemons on Hell's biggest car lot.)
4. "Homosexuality in social animals is a form of sibling-altruism: that is, your homosexuality is a way of helping your brothers and sisters to raise more children. This very-believable proposition is maintained by Robert Trivers in his book Social Evolution, (1985), pp. 198-9. Professor Trivers is a leading light among ultra-Darwinians ... What is there to stop anyone believing such propositions? Only common sense: a thing entirely out of the question among sociobiologist." (Homosexuality usually inhibits passing on genes. The reasons for same-sex preference probably do not relate to passing on genes through natural selection.)
5. "In all social mammals, the altruism (or apparent altruism) of siblings towards one another is about as strong and common as the altruism (or apparent altruism) of parents towards their offspring." (This immediate and admitted consequence of neo-Darwinian theory was first advanced by Hamilton in 1964. In Darwinian Fairtytales Stove gives the example of the cock robin who - even if he knew that a rival cock on a nearby branch had been an egg in the same nest as himself, and a rival for pieces of worm - would hardly be in any position to show him much favor. Yes, the robin is a bird, not a mammal, but do mammals really behave differently? Do puppies stand back and let their siblings precede them to the feeding tray? For that matter, do identical twins usually share boyfriends?)
6. " 'â€¦no one is prepared to sacrifice his life for any single person, but everyone will sacrifice it for more than two brothers [or offspring], or four half-brothers, or eight first-cousins.' This is a quotation from the epoch-making article by Professor Hamilton to which I referred a moment ago."
7. "Every organism has as many descendants as it can. Compare Darwin, in The Origin of Species, p. 66: â€˜every single organic being around us may be said to be striving to the utmost to increase in numbersâ€™; and again, pp. 78-9, â€˜each organic being is striving to increase at a geometrical ratioâ€™. These page references are to the first edition of the Origin, (1859), but both of the passages just quoted are repeated in all of the five later editions of the book which were published in Darwinâ€™s lifetime. He also says the same thing in other places." (Stove asks, "Do you know of even one human being who ever had as many descendants as he or she could have had? And yet Darwinism says that every single one of us does. For there can clearly be no question of Darwinism making an exception of man, without openly contradicting itself. â€˜Every single organic beingâ€™, or â€˜each organic beingâ€™: this means you.")
(Note: Stove does not spend much time on theses 2 through 7, because - certainly with respect to human society - they are demonstrably false and anyone can think of objections to them. You can easily find such objections in your own neighborhood, as I can in mine. So let's move on to theses 8 through 10, which might possibly make some sense.)
8. "In every species, child-mortality - that is, the proportion of live births which die before reproductive age - is extremely high. Compare Darwin in the Origin, p. 61: â€˜of the many individuals of any species which are periodically born, but a small number can surviveâ€™; or p. 5, â€˜many more individuals of each species are born than can possibly surviveâ€™. Again, these passages, from the first edition, are both repeated unchanged in all the later editions of the Origin." This is a critical feature of Darwinism because it is a key part of the motor that drives natural selection. Stove comments,
In any case, as I said earlier, Darwinians cannot without contradicting themselves make an exception of man, or of any particular part of human history. Their theory, like Malthusâ€™s principle, is one which generalizes about all species, and all places and times, indifferently; while man is a species, the last 350 years are times, and European countries are places. And Darwinâ€™s assertion, that child-mortality is extremely high, is quite explicitly universal. For he said (as we saw) that â€˜of the many individuals of any species which are periodically born, but a small number can surviveâ€™, and that â€˜many more individuals of each species are born than can possibly surviveâ€™. Again, this means us.
(Stove notes that, only under exceptionally bad conditions would such a small number of children survive.Note: One suspects that elephants, whales, horses, cattle, deer, and other creatures given to singlet births also do not experience the loss of most births in a year (or two or three years, in the case of very large mammals). If they did, they would go extinct. Even given that their luck is probably better in many cases than Darwin estimated, another question remains: Do these creatures evolve more slowly, as a consequence of their slower rate of reproduction, than do creatures that lay thousands of eggs? Interesting question. In any event, in Darwinian Fairytales, Stove goes into detail about the disastrous consequences of Darwin's dependence on Malthus, the largely discredited early nineteenth century population expert.)
9. "The more privileged people are the more prolific: if one class in a society is less exposed than another to the misery due to food-shortage, disease, and war, then the members of the more fortunate class will have (on the average) more children than the members of the other class. That this proposition is false, or rather, is the exact reverse of the truth, is not just obvious. It is notorious, and even proverbial." (Indeed, Stove argues that "... the more privileged class is the less prolific. To this rule, as far as I know, there is not a single exception." But the actual situation in human society is exactly the opposite of what Darwin - and Malthus, from whom Darwin took key ideas - had to insist was true.)
A later Darwinian and eugenist, R. A. Fisher, discussed the relation between privilege and fertility at length, in his important book, The Genetical Theory of Natural Selection, (1930). But he can hardly be said to have made the falsity of proposition 9 any less of an embarrassment for Darwinism. ... His explanation ... is that civilized countries have always practised what he calls â€˜the social promotion of infertilityâ€™. That is, people are enabled to succeed better in civilized life, the fewer children they have.
But this is evidently just a re-phrasing of the problem, rather than a solution of it. The question, for a Darwinian such as Fisher, is how there can be, consistently with Darwinism, such a thing as the social promotion of infertility? ...
Fisherâ€™s constant description of the fertility-rates in civilized countries as â€˜invertedâ€™, deserves a word to itself. It is a perfect example of an amazingly-arrogant habit of Darwinians, (of which I have collected many examples in my forthcoming book Darwinian Fairytales). This is the habit, when some biological fact inconsistent with Darwinism comes to light, of blaming the fact, instead of blaming their theory. Any such fact Darwinians call a â€˜biological error' an â€˜error of heredityâ€™, a â€˜misfireâ€™, or some thing of that kind: as though the organism in question had gone wrong, when all that has actually happened, of course, is that Darwinism has gone wrong.
10. "If variations which are useful to their possessors in the struggle for life â€˜do occur, can we doubt (remembering that many more individuals are born than can possibly survive), that individuals having any advantage, however slight, over others, would have the best chance of surviving and of procreating their kind? On the other hand, we may feel sure that any variation in the least degree injurious would be rigidly destroyed.â€™ This is from The Origin of Species, pp. 80-81. Exactly the same words occur in all the editions." (Stove comments that "the proposition is (saving Darwinâ€™s reverence) ridiculous", and quickly cites ten characteristics that are obviously injurious to their possessors in Darwinian terms that are not even remotely being wiped out, including abortion, preference for spending time with animals, and sexual asceticism.)
It would not be difficult to compile another list of ten obvious Darwinian falsities; or another one after that, either. But on that scale, the thing would be tiresome both to read and to write. Anyway it ought not to be necessary: ten obvious Darwinian falsities should be enough to make the point. The point, namely, that if most educated people now think they are Darwinians, it is only because they have no idea of the multiplied absurdities which belief in Darwinism requires.
By the way, when you hear about controversies in the media about "teaching evolution," keep in mind that "evolution," in the context, always means Darwinism. Yes, it is true. The nonsense cited above is the allegedly unassailable fortress of Darwinism. Most of the people carrying on about how important Darwinism is supposed to be to science - it is fair to say - actually do not know what Darwinism really says.
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