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Designs on Us

Conservatives on Darwin vs. ID Published at National Review

The New Republic recently published a survey of conservative journalists on the question of “Intelligent Design” (ID), the controversial critique of Darwinian evolution which argues that living creatures did not arise by an unaided, purely material process of evolution through random genetic variation but rather through the design of an intelligence transcending the material universe. To my surprise, it turned out that almost all those surveyed, including several NR editors and contributors, were doubters not of Darwinism but of Intelligent Design.

I realize with some trepidation that I am treading on the views of many of my old NR friends and colleagues, notably John Derbyshire who has written eloquently on the subject, but herewith a dissent on behalf of doubting Darwin.

A majority of biologists reject ID. But a minority of scientists, who are no fools, suggests that it is Darwinism that fails to explain the complexity of organisms. I don’t intend to wade into the details of the debate, but rather to ask how a layman like me, or Derbyshire, can hope to venture a responsible opinion. The question is not merely theoretical. The teaching of Darwinian evolution in public schools is being challenged before local and state school boards across the country.

Some say that, for non-experts, the smartest thing would be to accede to the viewpoint of the majority of scientists. But wait. The point I want to draw out here is that Darwinism, in particular evolutionary psychology, itself undercuts the claim that ID may be safely dismissed.

Charles Darwin’s insight holds that people are simply animals and that, like all animals, we got to be the way we are because our ancestors beat out the evolutionary competition and survived to pass on their genes. Evolutionary psychology extends this idea. There are some behaviors that increase the chances that a given person will be able to pass on his genetic information. One, for instance, might be murder, often committed against rivals who give the appearance of seeking to diminish the odds of our raising viable offspring that will carry our DNA. A classic illustration is the crime of passion, where the angry husband shoots the sexual rival who has been having an affair with his wife.

From this perspective, a main evolutionary-psychological impulse that drives males in particular is the drive to fight off rivals. For rivals threaten to reduce our access to reproductive assets — namely, women — by lowering our status in a social hierarchy. In certain neighborhoods, all it takes is a disrespectful look or word, a “diss,” especially in front of women, to get a man killed.

In evolutionary psychology, as in common sense, it is apparent that males highly value whatever source of status or prestige they have managed to secure. We value status so much that some are willing to kill over it. Others are willing at least to wound, if only with words.

Continue Reading at National Review

David Klinghoffer

Senior Fellow and Editor, Evolution News
David Klinghoffer is a Senior Fellow at Discovery Institute and the editor of Evolution News & Science Today, the daily voice of Discovery Institute’s Center for Science & Culture, reporting on intelligent design, evolution, and the intersection of science and culture. Klinghoffer is also the author of six books, a former senior editor and literary editor at National Review magazine, and has written for the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Seattle Times, Commentary, and other publications. Born in Santa Monica, California, he graduated from Brown University in 1987 with an A.B. magna cum laude in comparative literature and religious studies. David lives near Seattle, Washington, with his wife and children.