Richard Dawkins Wants a “truly anti-Darwinian society”

Recent quotes from Richard Dawkins:

“Study your Darwinism for two reasons: because it explains why you’re here, and the second reason is, study your Darwinism in order to learn what to avoid in setting up society. What we need is a truly anti-Darwinian society. Anti-Darwinian in the sense that we don’t wish to live in a society where the weakest go to the wall, where the strongest suppress the weak, and even kill the weak.”

and

“I don’t care what’s against the evolution principle. I’m all for going against the evolution principle.”

Two questions.

1. Would Dawkins still feel the same had he not been raised in a Christian environment?

The need to stand up for the weak is one of the core messages preached by Jesus. In fact, this is one of the reasons Adolf Hitler once said, “You see, it’s been our misfortune to have the wrong religion. Why didn’t we have the religion of the Japanese, who regard sacrifice for the Fatherland as the highest good? The Mohammedan religion [Islam] too would have been more compatible to us than Christianity. Why did it have to be Christianity with its meekness and flabbiness?”

2. What is the cause of this “anti-Darwinian” impetus?

According to Dawkins, we exist as machines to propagate our genes. It is this gene-centric view of life that gives us our purpose, as explained by Dawkins:

In the scientific sense of “purpose” the purpose of life is to preserve and propagate the genes that program the embryonic development of living organisms.

According to evolutionary psychology, our brains and thinking have been shaped by Darwinian evolution. According to neuroscience, we have no free will and no true “self.”

So if our brains have been sculpted by Darwinian evolution to become machines that convert environmental stimuli into actions that enhance our propagation of genes (while creating the illusion “we” are making “choices”), where does this choice to “go against the evolution principle” come from?

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10 Responses to Richard Dawkins Wants a “truly anti-Darwinian society”

  1. Allallt says:

    Answer to question 1:
    We will never know what Dawkins would think should he have been a product of a different circumstance. But he was born in Kenya to non-religious parents, so I don’t think we can say he was brought up in a Christian world either.
    Do you think that, 5,000 years ago in a world before Jesus and Abraham, that people in other societies killed the meek and forced the feeble out? How do you assume that society propagates, if it behaves like that? And if it doesn’t behave like that, how do you assume they knew not to behave like that before a Christian environment?

    Answer to question 2:
    All pack animals exhibit what we would call, in this context, an ‘anti-Darwinian’ behaviour. We are more successful as a tribe, our gene propagate better in an environment of prosocial behaviour. You might want to actually read something on evolutionary psychology instead of jumping to what you think would be obvious conclusions: your hypothesis regarding evolutionary psychology (that people should prefer to live Darwinianally) is falsified by just about every stable society and tribe on the planet.

  2. Michael says:

    We will never know what Dawkins would think should he have been a product of a different circumstance. But he was born in Kenya to non-religious parents, so I don’t think we can say he was brought up in a Christian world either.

    Wrong. From Wiki:

    Dawkins describes his childhood as “a normal Anglican upbringing”.[17] He was a Christian until halfway through his teenage years,

    All pack animals exhibit what we would call, in this context, an ‘anti-Darwinian’ behaviour. We are more successful as a tribe, our gene propagate better in an environment of prosocial behaviour.

    So genes are responsible for the prosocial behavior. How is being more successful as a tribe, where our genes propagate better in an environment of prosocial behaviour, anti-Darwinian?

    You didn’t answer either question.

  3. Allallt says:

    Answer to question 1:
    “We will never know what Dawkins would think should he have been a product of a different circumstance.”
    For fun, let’s add me into the mix. I didn’t have a religious upbringing, but I also believe that Darwinian principles are the wrong ones to live by.

    Answer to question 2:
    The quote you share are a response to the question of whether homosexuality goes against Darwinian principles. The answer is unclear, but irrelevant to the question of how we should live.
    The behaviour Darwinian principles lead to are also irrelevant to other questions, ones of tolerance, for example. The prosocial behaviour is, in evolutionary terms, normally only inclusive of one’s own tribe. Such a limit should not exist.

  4. The original Mr. X says:

    “We will never know what Dawkins would think should he have been a product of a different circumstance. But he was born in Kenya to non-religious parents, so I don’t think we can say he was brought up in a Christian world either.”

    In addition to what Michael’s already said, people get influenced by the society they grow up in, even if their parents don’t do much to try and reinforce this influence. So, if you grow up in a culture where the morals are largely Judaeo-Christian in origin, you’re going to pick up a lot of these morals even if you don’t have anything in the way of religious indoctrination.

    “Do you think that, 5,000 years ago in a world before Jesus and Abraham, that people in other societies killed the meek and forced the feeble out?”

    Well I’m not sure about society as a whole systematically killing the meek, but in a lot of societies you were expected to avenge slights on your honour, if necessary by violence; which doesn’t exactly seem like a meek way of acting. As for forcing the feeble out, it was common practice in ancient Greece and Rome (and probably others as well, but Greece and Rome are the ancient civilisations I know most about) to kill or abandon newborn infants if the father thought they looked too sickly. Also Plato argued in his Republic that doctors should let people with chronic illnesses die off, to stop them being a burden on the rest of society, although I’m not sure how widely his advice was followed.

    Still, in answer to your question: quite often they did, yes.

    “All pack animals exhibit what we would call, in this context, an ‘anti-Darwinian’ behaviour. We are more successful as a tribe, our gene propagate better in an environment of prosocial behaviour.”

    Up to a point; but then see above point about infanticide. Do you have any evidence that the Spartans’ practice of exposing weak infants made their city less successful? Or does murdering newborns actually count as “pro-social” behaviour?

    “The prosocial behaviour is, in evolutionary terms, normally only inclusive of one’s own tribe. Such a limit should not exist.”

    Whoa, that’s quite a morally absolute claim you’ve got there. “Should not” according to which standards? And why should we all accept those standards?

  5. Michael says:

    For fun, let’s add me into the mix. I didn’t have a religious upbringing, but I also believe that Darwinian principles are the wrong ones to live by.

    I see. Rather than admit being wrong about Dawkins, you’d like to change the focus. Let’s add me into the mix for even more fun – I didn’t have a religious upbringing, but I also believe that Darwinian principles are the wrong ones to live by. Hmmm. Let’s apply some basic sociology – could it be that we got our values from our culture. I live in the USA, a culture that has been deeply influenced by the Judeo-Christian worldview. How about you?

    The quote you share are a response to the question of whether homosexuality goes against Darwinian principles. The answer is unclear, but irrelevant to the question of how we should live.
    The behaviour Darwinian principles lead to are also irrelevant to other questions, ones of tolerance, for example. The prosocial behaviour is, in evolutionary terms, normally only inclusive of one’s own tribe. Such a limit should not exist.

    Such hand-waving does not answer my question.

    According to evolutionary psychology, our brains and thinking have been shaped by Darwinian evolution. According to neuroscience, we have no free will and no true “self.” So if our brains have been sculpted by Darwinian evolution to become machines that convert environmental stimuli into actions that enhance our propagation of genes (while creating the illusion “we” are making “choices”), where does this choice to “go against the evolution principle” come from?

  6. Allallt says:

    Don’t judge my approach, this is how sociology works. We can’t actually go back in time and put baby Dawkins in another culture.
    I’m from the UK.
    Can you name a culture today that is (a) stable and (b) following Darwinian principles?

  7. Michael says:

    I don’t see any stable cultures today.

  8. Allallt says:

    Okay. Can you name a country following “survival of the fittest” Darwinianism?

    In the name of transparency, what ever your answer I am going to point to culture of other religions and cultures that aren’t Christian and ask about them. Why aren’t the Native Americans Darwinian? Or Eskimos and the Inuit? Or the Nordic cultures… or the Pagans that Christians used their might to overthrow (it that irony? I think it might be).

  9. Dhay says:

    Has anybody else noticed that in Michael’s second link, Richard Dawkins replies:

    Q. Can you give us an example of when you took a decision based on [your values and morals]?
    A. Every time I give to charity, or take care of another sentient being.

    Note: that’s not “another person”, but “another sentient being”; Sam Harris’ neo-Buddhist (traditional Buddhist, actually) emphasis on compassion for all sentient beings has become a meme which has now infected the mind of Richard Dawkins.

  10. Isaac says:

    ALLalt:

    “Do you think that, 5,000 years ago in a world before Jesus and Abraham, that people in other societies killed the meek and forced the feeble out?”

    YES! And I don’t think, I know.

    Here’s famous secularist and skeptic icon, Bertrand Russell, saying what historians know well:

    “Infanticide, which might seem contrary to human nature, was almost universal before the rise of Christianity…
    In antiquity, when male supremacy was unquestioned and Christian ethics were still unknown…a man who took [women] seriously was somewhat despised.”

    Some of the first unique symptoms of the spread of Christianity were the illegalization of exposure (tossing out unwanted babies), and the end of inhumane gladitorial contests. Following gradually thereafter: the concept of slavery being immoral (no abolitionist movements or writings exist prior), the spread of public hospitals and orphan-care, the concept of equal rights for women, etc.

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