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Sometimes the hollowness of contemporary conservatism gets me down. An earlier figure in the conservative tradition, Whittaker Chambers, began his journey up from Communism one morning when he was feeding his little daughter and he noticed her ear. Suddenly he felt the power and beauty in its evident design, and this transformed his whole view of reality.
Levin, in particular, chides conservatives who “accept the proposition that the claims of evolution are in direct competition with the claims of Biblical religion or traditional morality, when in fact each offers answers to a different set of questions altogether.” Levin’s announcement of the compatibility of Darwinism with “Biblical religion” would be news to Charles Darwin, whose private musings show how his biological theory eroded his own religious faith and whose book The Descent of Man outlined the radical implications of his theory for morality, sex, religion, and society.
Appeals to “unchanging human nature,” the “soul,” or traditional morality are tantamount to fairy tales in the Darwinian worldview. According to Darwinism, there is nothing unchanging about human nature; it continues to evolve, along with the conditions for survival. Likewise, a nonmaterial soul is sheer fantasy because (to cite the late Stephen Jay Gould) “matter is the ground of all existence; mind, spirit, and God as well, are just words that express the wondrous results of neuronal complexity.” Even morality is simply an unintended byproduct of the material struggle for survival. As leading Darwinists E. O. Wilson and Michael Ruse argue,
Morality…is merely an adaptation put in place to further our reproductive ends….In an important sense, ethics as we understand it is an illusion fobbed off on us by our genes to get us to cooperate.
Cohen is more willing than Levin to acknowledge that many of the unsavory implications of Darwinism stem from the theory’s core and even from Darwin himself. Cohen also points out that Darwinian biology offers no explanation for the origin of matter or “the source of nature’s fixed laws.” Yet in the end, he embraces the blind Darwinian mechanism of selection and mutation as the “likely” explanation for the emergence of man on the earth.