Steve Johnson current issue of Wired
Although allied politically with the religious right this band of Milton
are almost too attached to evolutionary theory. Darwin is constantly invoked
to justify the free market system. Rationa self-interest is an innate
that capitalism simply reflects ("greed is adaptive"). The only problem is
that in recent years evolutionary psychologists have shown again and again
that the instincts for altruism and social cooperation are a logical outcome
of selfish genes. Communal society is as much a part of of our genetic
inheritance as competition is, which means unfettered markets may be more an
invention of culture than an expession of our underlying biology.....
The current issue of Wired (not online) has a short piece by Steven Johnson
that is a revealing snapshot of the ideological football on all sides of the
political specturm: the football is the ye olde atrusim kludge of the
desperation scenario of the Darwin paradigm ("can't this theory be rigged to
 It is hard to grasp how anyone could think any of this constitutes science
as the nature/nurture pointlines are drawn in so many ways across different
subparty lines. Johnson has a list of the combinations, may this piece should
be reissued at idiot cards for talk show types.

The problem with this quote is that the stuff on altruism is all rot. The
points made about free market ideology and theory are absolutely on the ball.
But the invocation of the altruism group/kin selection research is almost a
worse mythology.

I am the most critical person possible on the abuse of Darwin for justifying
markets, but the issue is one of natural selection as such. We have no real
understanding on the basis of these tricks with population genetics of the
claims made for group selection (kin selection seems factored out here),
leastwise in a debate over natural selection, competiton and markets.  It
won't work. But the real issue is the fraudulent insistence that these
otherwise useful gedanken experiments constitute hard science, when they are
in fact extremely weak theories indeed.
"...have shown again and again..."??? When and where?
It is time this nonsense came to a full  halt on all sides.
If you use these population genetics models, you are a behaviourist. If you
are behaviourist, raise your right hand, and stick to you opinion and be
consistent. That means you don't believe in self, soul, real consciousness,
and any other of the 'mystical' notions every other civilization believed in
til Darwin came along and sank in the positivist quagmire. That means you
think ethical issues are meaningless, and that pure competion produced
ethical illusions, as in atruism.
This bogus theory, as David Stove points out in Darwinian Fairytales, was the
ingenious method of making a sterile theory seem to work.
There are probably no theories in the usual form that can explicate such
complexities as moral feeling. And the draft of population genetics into this
field ought at least be accompanied by the close tracking evidence any true
science would require.
The answer here, of course, is the factor of ideology. And a fear of
non-reductionist factors so tenacious in the context of the Darwin debate on
the part of hardwired scientists that the absurdity of the basic formulation
never sinks in.

If you are a behaviourist I would at least respect your opinion. But in
practice I will bet my buffalo nickel you aren't, and therefore in practice
you aren't a Darwinist. So don't get your arm twisted by these theoretical
myths. The age of religion suffered metaphysical religious myths. The age of
science is now prone to metaphysical science myths.
Can't you just snap out of it?  These theories are accidents waiting to
happen. Think of the Social Darwinist possibilities here, no?
You aren't a Darwinist, I have bet my nickel.

Mr. Johnson is the author of Emergence. He should look at the evolutionary
emergence visible in history, as the 'eonic emergence' of civilization.
Systems models won't make it here. But we do see the real emergentist factor
probably present in the earlier descent of man.

John Landon
Website for
World History and the Eonic Effect