So reports the New York Times in their trademark he said/she said manner, when, of course, the article might have been more aptly titled, "A Split Emerges as Ignorant Ideologues Discuss Darwin," since ignorance of evolutionary biology is almost evenly divided between the two sides: on the one hand, the pathological liars from the Discovery [sic] Institute, the public relations arm of the "Intelligent Design" scam; on the other, Larry Arnhart, a professor of political science at Northern Illinois, and John Derbyshire, a pontificator at the National Review (who at least knows enough to know that "Intelligent Design" is bogus), who are championing a different intellectual muddle:
Darwin’s scientific theories about the evolution of species can be applied to today’s patterns of human behavior, and...natural selection can provide support for many bedrock conservative ideas, like traditional social roles for men and women, free-market capitalism and governmental checks and balances.
“I do indeed believe conservatives need Charles Darwin,” said Larry Arnhart, a professor of political science at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, who has spearheaded the cause. “The intellectual vitality of conservatism in the 21st century will depend on the success of conservatives in appealing to advances in the biology of human nature as confirming conservative thought."
This, of course, confirms an observation Michael Weisberg and I made in writing about the misuse and mispresentation of evolutionary biology by some law professors:
As Professor Jones himself has noted, “the favored perspective on the causes of human behavior often reflects ephemeral enthusiasms wafted on the politics of the moment” [footnote omitted]. That summarizes we suspect, in a nutshell, the current fascination with “law and evolutionary biology,” which permits the patina of “science” to be enlisted on behalf of various hobby horses of the right: people are “selfish,” law can’t change everything, nature puts limits on utopian aspirations, and the like. Perhaps all of these are true, but right now evolutionary biology offers no support to any of them. But “ephemerical enthusiasms wafted on the politics of the moment” have made the science irrelevant. We hope to remind people that the science is relevant, indeed, crucial, and that, so far, the needed science is not there.
Professor Arnhart, himself, maintains a blog devoted to his hobby horse, which even permits comments. Already someone has weighed in with a pertinent observation:
You will be better able to cross the divide if you stop refering to "Darwinism". The theory of gravity is not called "Newtonism". Go over to the Physics Dept. at NIU and ask someone how gravity works. Now go over to the Biology Dept. and ask someone how natural selection works. Ithink you will find the answers illuminating.
I invite some of the many philosophers of biology out there among the readership to venture over to Professor Arnhart's site to find out to what extent he has a scholarly interest in evolutionary biology and to what extent he is really an ignorant ideologue. Save a copy of your comments; if he doesn't post them, I'll post them here in due course. But perhaps we shall be pleasantly surprised?
UPDATE: A reader directs my attention to a useful short review of one of Professor Arnhart's books by philosopher of biology Roberta Millstein (UC Davis) from Ethics 110 (2000): 653. As Professor Millstein notes, Professor Arnhart makes two characteristic mistakes of the ideologically motivated in this realm: first, in assuming, without argument, that natural selection is "the primary force in evolutionary change"; and second, in ignoring that variation is both a necessary condition and consequence of natural selection, such that no one set of phenotypic traits can be deemed the "natural" ones. As she notes: these points "call into question the appropriateness of grounding his [natural right] theory in modern Darwininian biology."