Evolutionary Investigations

A few notes on the relationships shared by evolutionary biology, religion, capitalism and the left.

1.1 Establishment evolutionary biology—lost in capitalist devotionals—uses the failures of its mortal enemies—say, creationist science—to defend itself against all other kinds of critiques. A category error.

1.1.1 “But you are giving aid and comfort to the enemy…” is a common refrain about such critiques, one that attempts to refute an argument solely by assigning guilt by syllogism: Creationism attempts to counter evolutionary biology. Therefore all attempts to critique evolutionary biology support creationism.

1.2 In other words, you’re with us, or against us. As in any war, however, evolutionary biology and religion are as much partners as enemies, rationalizing each other’s ethos in opposition, while sharing much in thought and practice.

1.2.1 The two sides cover a common cultural ground: origins, metaphysics, causality, legitimacy and control.

1.2.2 Evolutionary biology and religion share many epistemological points of departure, including logics held over the transitions of the Enlightenment. The traditions hide their philosophical commonalities behind a tactical opposition. Epistemologies, for one, are as much spatial as they are discipline-specific: Stephen Jay Gould remarked on Darwin never abandoning the English treatment of adaptation as the primary focus of natural history, a tradition extending as far back as Robert Boyle, through William Paley, the Bridgewater Treatises, Alfred Russel Wallace, R. A. Fisher and Richard Dawkins. As a result, Dawkins, the angry atheist, shares core precepts with the Anglican Church.

1.3 The cultural homologies and interlocking domains together produce instances of cross-legitimization, wherein each metaphysics covers the deficits of the other.

1.3.1 In the U.S. some capitalists use religion to naturalize science-based exploitation, expropriation and pollution (including against scientific critiques of such destruction). God is pressganged in the States as a neoclassical economist. “It is the height of hubris to think we could [destroy the planet]…God is not capricious. He’s given us a creation that is dynamically stable. We are not going to run out of anything,” says Minnesota State Representative Mike Beard (R-Shakopee).

1.4 The convergences are oft-surprising. The anti-capitalist left, for instance, subsumes many of evolutionary biology’s bourgeois assumptions, in an effort to defend materialism from religion’s attacks.

1.4.1 But many scientists don’t believe half of what the left accepts as scientific gospel.

1.4.2 In accepting wholesale what they believe are their opponent’s scientific assumptions communists—little ‘c’—demonstrate a failure of nerve.

1.4.3 As if capitalism—by corruption and convention–hasn’t folded much of the natural sciences as practiced today into its historical mission and foundational principia: “Science is the business right now. If the science works, the business works, and vice versa,” says biocapitalist Craig Venter (pictured). Venter also tellingly misquotes Richard Feynman, “What I cannot build, I do not understand.” As if science can exist only in its commodities.

1.5 Communists of the world, you have nothing to lose but your chains. There are, and have long been, alternatives.

1.5.1 We will see no rewards in waiting around for capitalism to delegitimize itself. Its version of science, backed by top dollar, both embodies and protects its conceptual failures (discussed here, here and here).

1.5.2 One can embrace materialism—and many of its advances—without accepting all the precepts of its present investigations.

1.5.3 A return to the fiercely independent scientific thinking practiced by the 19th century left, whose materialism anticipated the bourgeois revolt by a half-century, should aid science and humanity alike, if only by increasing variation in the ways problems are approached.

1.5.4 The scientific and political rewards from re-engaging long-marginalized dialectical biologies on their own terms are, however, likely to be far greater. The ecological and epidemiological problems of the world are as contingently complex as the attempts to cover them up in capital’s name.

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