Darwin's Conservatives: The Misguided Quest

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While conservatives are presumed to be critical of Darwin’s theory, many on the right, such as George Will, James Q. Wilson, and Larry Arnhart, have mounted a vigorous defense of Darwinism. As Discovery Institute's John West explains in his book, Darwin's Conservatives: The Misguided Quest, their attempts to reconcile conservatism and Darwinian biology misunderstand both.

In this small but incisive book, Dr. West addresses how Darwin’s theory, contrary to its conservative champions, manifestly does not reinforce the teachings of conservatism. According to West, Darwinism promotes moral relativism rather than traditional morality. It fosters utopianism rather than limited government. It is corrosive, rather than supportive, of both free will and religious belief. Finally, and most importantly, Darwinian evolution is in tension with the scientific evidence, and conservatism cannot hope to strengthen itself by relying on Darwinism’s increasingly shaky empirical foundations.  This book issues a challenge to conservatives they cannot afford to ignore. According to Prof. J. Budziszewski of the University of Texas, Austin, hails the book for “showing clearly that Darwinism is not a source of conservative insight into human nature, but only a source of confusion.”

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Darwin's Conservatives is concise, precise and convincing. ...”—Phillip E. Johnson author of Darwin on Trial

“John West rolls through the arguments for a pro-Darwin conservatism like an Abrams tank leveling a street barricade: methodically and irresistibly. If there are any conservative Darwinists left after this rout, it’s only because they won’t stand and fight.”—George Gilder, author of Wealth & Poverty and Telecosm.

“No one can consider themselves fully acquainted with the issue of intelligent design without confronting the serious critique in this book.”—Steven Hayward, author of The Age of Reagan

 “Conservative pundits all too often have a blind spot for that outdated Victorian creation myth known as Darwinism... finally, here is a book that holds their feet to the fire and sets the record straight.”—Dr. William Dembski, author of The Design Revolution and The Design Inference

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780979014109
  • Publisher: Discovery Institute
  • Publication date: 11/28/2006
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 160
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.37 (d)

Meet the Author

Dr. John West is a Senior Fellow at the Seattle-based Discovery Institute, where he is Associate Director of Discovery's Center for Science & Culture and Vice President for Public Policy and Legal Affairs. Dr. West holds a Ph.D in Government from Claremont Graduate University and a B.A. in Communications from the University of Washington.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 14, 2006

    Clear and Convincing Argument Against Darwinian ¿Conservatism¿

    Darwin¿s Conservatives: The Misguided Quest is a concise response to claims that social, economic and political conservatism are ultimately grounded in neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory. Political scientist Dr. John G. West deftly details Darwinism¿s utter inability to provide a coherent basis for morality, the traditional family, free markets, and limited government. Crucial to West¿s book is a clear definition of the term ¿evolution.¿ He takes aim at a conservatism based upon a particular definition of ¿evolution¿ namely, the idea that all of life descended from a single common ancestor, and that all such life can be explained as the result of an unplanned and unguided process of natural selection operating upon random genetic mutation (and other random variations). This understanding of ¿evolution¿ is more precisely known as the theory of neo-Darwinian evolution. West debunks the claim that traditional morality can be grounded in neo-Darwinian theory. ¿Showing a biological basis for certain moral desires could conceivably reinforce traditional morality,¿ asserts West, ¿but only if we have reason to assume that those biological desires are somehow normative.¿ He goes on to write that many conservatives ¿fail to appreciate is how the Darwinian account of the origins of biological traits fundamentally undercuts their effort to treat our biological desires as normative.¿ Rather, Darwinism posits human nature itself is in a never-ending evolutionary process responding to environmental pressures. Moral principles develop simply because they promote survival in a given environment. ¿But once the conditions for survival change, so too do the dictates of morality.¿ A standout chapter on limited government shows the strong historic ties between ardent proponents of neo- Darwinian theory and eugenics. The chapter also briefly touches upon the manner in which socialists and later American progressives grounded their big-government ideals in extrapolations from Darwin¿s theory. Important is West¿s challenge to the falsehood that neo- Darwinian theory is scientifically unassailable. A growing number of scientists question the sufficiency of natural selection to account for all of life¿s diversity, complexity and intricacy. Furthermore, West gives a brief defense of the theory of intelligent design, the emerging scientific alternative to neo-Darwinian evolution. This book should be widely read among conservatives and anyone interested in the social, ethical, economic and political implications of neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory. I highly recommend it.

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