(By Charles Imboden)
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This paper outlines the orthodox theory of Darwinian evolution, natural selection, and selection types. The overemphasis on competition in the process of evolution, and the role of cooperation, mutualism, and (in a more general sense) symbiosis are discussed, utilizing the work of Peter Kropotkin, Lynn Margulis, and Stephen Jay Gould. The chaining of Darwinian evolution to a gradualist conception is debated through Gould’s theory of “punctuated equilibrium,” supported by Margulis’ “serial endosymbiotic theory (SET).” This transitions nicely into the theory of evolution as it manifests socially, most commonly as “social Darwinism,” based on the overemphasis of competition discussed above. The philosophical and economic antecedents that would influence Darwin’s conception in the natural sciences are discussed, with emphasis on Malthus and the historic critique of his thought by socialists. It is found that the perception of the natural and social worlds exist in dialectical tension, wherein “a warped view of ‘human nature’ and human society shapes, and is shaped by, a warped view of the natural world.” Reharmonizing the relationship between humanity and nature implies correcting these warped views. A brief outline for further investigation discusses a possible way to begin this work.
“Of course the speed of light is the same under socialism and capitalism, and the apple that was said to have fallen on the Master of the Mint in 1664 would have struck his Labor Party successor three-hundred years later with equal force. But whether the cause of tuberculosis is said to be a bacillus or the capitalist exploitation of workers, whether the death rate from cancer is best reduced by studying oncogenes or by seizing control of factories–these questions can be decided objectively only within the framework of certain sociopolitical assumptions. [Our argument] is not about the effect of science on society or the effect of society on science. Rather, it is meant to show how science and other aspects of social life interpenetrate and to show why scientists, whether they realize it or not, always choose sides” (Levins et al. 1989, p. 4-5). Continue reading