I Was Wrong

by James Wallace Harris, Monday, May 8, 2017

Yesterday I wrote, “Are Republicans the Party of Darwin?” accusing conservatives of applying their understanding of Darwin’s observations on nature to justify the laws they were creating. Their laws always seem to back the strong against the weak. But I had a revelation in the middle of the night.

Everyone acts on their instincts, and those instincts are Darwinian by nature. Duh! Darwin’s theory is the most widely accepted explanation for our behavior. I was crediting Republicans for consciously using Darwin’s ideas in the formulation of their political philosophy, and this is where I’m wrong. It wasn’t a conscious decision. My essay was based on the irony that conservatives profess to be Christians but enact laws that reflect Darwin’s theory rather than Jesus’ teachings.

heaven and earth

My point being there’s no compassion in nature or Darwin’s observations about how nature works, and there’s no compassion in the laws Republicans want to support. You’d think people who follow a personal philosophy based on compassion would enact compassionate laws. This conflict of action and belief troubles me and I keep trying to figure out what causes it.

My revelation last night is everyone acts Darwinianly, despite what they profess philosophically. I am an atheist, but I give Christianity credit for inventing many compassionate philosophical concepts. I attribute those ideas to Jesus like we attribute other philosophical ideas to Plato or Aristotle, but I’m not sure they came from the man we historical think of as Jesus. Many of the ideas were developed by his followers and attributed to him in the first few centuries after his death.

Organized compassion for the weak is a relatively new idea in history. Limited forms of compassion have been around in evolutionary terms for a very long time, even in plants and lower animals, but to develop a religion, philosophy, or political system to protect the weak wholesale is relatively new.

I just think it’s ironic that the political party that claims to be the most Christian reflects it least in their laws, and the party that folks general assume is least Christian reflects compassion the most in their laws.

Our political divide really comes down to how much we want to support the common welfare over the freedom of the individual. The more socialistic we are, the more we want everyone to contribute to improving society, the less socialistic we are, the more we want to give the maximum freedom to individuals and ignore the suffering of the masses. Such socialism counters Darwin’s observations on animal behavior.

Thus Christianity is inherently anti-Darwinian. For twenty centuries it seemed like Christianity was catching on, especially in the Western world. But that’s probably an illusion. What really caught on was a belief in life after death via easy salvation. The idea of heaven on Earth hasn’t.

In other words, conservatives are Darwinian on Earth, but Christian in their hopes about an afterlife. Which might explain why liberals are more socialistic. Many of them doubt the afterlife, and thus they’d want to create heaven on Earth. The conservatives are more pragmatically Darwinian, they want all they can get while living, and then assume things will magically go great after they die despite what they do while living. Liberals evidently feel this is all there is so we better make the best of it.

This is a huge problem for liberals. To get more people to vote for social welfare might require convincing people to think less about an afterlife. In other words, the concept of heaven has corrupted people’s attitude towards Earth. This might also explain climate change deniers. They might unconsciously realize to think more about Earth means to think less about an afterlife.




13 thoughts on “I Was Wrong”

  1. You hit the nail on the head with this post! It’s really all about dying and the dreaded fear of non existence. So an afterlife mythology is created in almost all religions and this gives a “pass” in not caring too much about the earth and how we treat others who share the planet. It also lets us pit one against the other, so we, of each religion, can feel “right” and therefore safe. I do believe religion very much holds back progress towards a peaceful, considerate and kind world for all of humanity and all life in general. Way too much emphasis on what happens after death. If we don’t break this religious stranghold through education and a better fairer life for all, we are doomed to always have wars, worsening environment, more divisiveness and stress and depression.

    1. But Mary, do you think we can ever break the hold religion has on society. We seem to have been slowly moving towards a secular society, but the recent election has thrown us backward. The election of Donald Trump seems to have proved that a large portion of the population is not reachable through logic.

  2. James — love your posts, but please don’t blame Darwin for the Republicans! The “red in tooth and claw” was poet Tennyson’s take on the theory of evolution by natural selection, not Darwin’s, who also abhorred “social Darwinism,” a euphemism to keep the powerful from feeling guilty about exploiting the rest of us — and the planet.

    1. But isn’t that what the Republicans have done, used social Darwinism to justify their greed and lack of compassion?

      Mellisa, I’m not blaming Darwin for anything, he’s a hero of mine and I have a shelf full of books about him. In yesterday’s essay, I was wondering why conservatives would choose to embrace Darwinian ideas. But today I’m thinking their natural instinct is Darwinian at an unconscious level. Consciously they claim to be Christian, but that doesn’t wash.

      I’m afraid you and Bill think I’m tarnishing poor Darwin by associating them with Republicans. But if Darwin was right, and the consensus is he was, aren’t we all acting on impulses he saw in a variety of non-human animals? Darwin was worried about taking his observations to humans, but that eventually happened. If Darwin was alive today and studied conservatives like he did finches, wouldn’t he see similar behavioral patterns?

      The more I study, the more I feel humans aren’t special, aren’t God’s unique creation, but we’re just another animal. By that standard, we’re all explained by Darwin’s observations.

      For years I keep asking myself why conservatives are they way they are. I’m finding comfort in seeing their actions in Darwinian insight. Is their cruelty any different than the apparent cruelty we see in a lion killing to eat? I keep feeling depressed because they fail my philosophical idealism and even their own. Their cruelty of taking away health care from millions seems easier to understand when I realize they it’s not their conscious choice. It’s like a vegan expecting their dog to go vegan.

      I’ve always found existential comfort in Darwin and the theory of evolution. It’s not personal. We like to exempt people, and judge them harshly, and accuse them of personal crimes. But are they any different than other top level predators in the ecosystem?

      Wasn’t Christianity and the Enlightenment both attempts to make us into higher beings? That might be theoretically possible, but we’d have to step outside of our Darwinian nature. Because of the current political climate, I’m doubting that. I want to believe its possible. I see it happening in some people, but current evidence suggests it’s not happening at a social scale.

      1. Jim; Consider that Natural Selection has limited application to humans as most decisions are made by old men [mostly] who are past reproduction age. Humans are more dependent on their brain then lower animals, which are instinctively more adapted.

        If humans do not, collectively, start accepting scientifically, accepted facts, in all areas of endeavour, then we should let the INSECTS take over.

  3. I am busy as all get out at this time of the year but I cannot help but read every word of your article. I agree. I am always trying to understand how people can live in this country and make such harsh choices. One of the biggest fallacies is welfare. Jesus Christ! If you compare social welfare to corporate welfare….there is hardly a comparison. Money is thrown after the wealthy while feeding hungry children in schools is riddled with contempt by Republicans. They are indignant about it. WHY????? Any crumb of an answer is so deeply appreciate Jim!

  4. What do you think of the argument a lot of Christians make about compassion being a personal issue, not a government one? I get a lot of comments along these lines on my FB page. It seems the ‘conservative Christian’ mindset is that if we make government more responsive to the needs of its citizens, then people will stop looking to God – certainly not a bad thing in my opinion.

    By taxing the rich and creating better schools, better healthcare, and a stronger safety net, so the argument goes, we’d be perverting God’s will – he has obviously ‘blessed’ the rich and is trying to teach the lazy poor a lesson. Look at Mo Brooks’ comments a few days ago – good people don’t have pre-existing conditions.

    1. Don, I don’t buy that argument at all. I think it’s their rationalization to lower taxes. If God took care of people it would be more obvious – the opposite appears to be true. But then we don’t believe in God. We believe in people taking care of each other.

      I don’t believe the rich are blessed. I believe they are just the top predator in the economic environment. They have rigged the game so billionaires are sopping up all the lose cash in society.

      What it comes down to is taxes. Conservatives want to keep their money for themselves. Liberals want to tax more to create a better society. Basically, we’re moving towards civilization on the cheap. If Trump gets his tax cuts, we’ll be spending even less on our civilization. The old saying, “You get what you pay for” applies here. Trump’s campaign slogan should have been “Let the rich keep their money and let the rest go to the dogs.”

      1. I don’t buy that argument either. While much of the GOP claim to espouse Christian values, they are much more motivated by the words of Ayn Rand than of Jesus.

      2. Just thinking perhaps the lower and middle classes might buy into this divine will thing. I mean, they obviously don’t benefit from tax cuts for the rich, and would have MUCH better financial situations if progressives had their way. There are a lot of articles online about why the non-rich vote against what would benefit them economically. I believe that the upper classes use religion in a Machiavellian kind of way to manipulate people to do what they want – the plebes may be voting that way because they actually believe.

        1. In recent decades I’ve theorized that Moses and Aaron (or their creators) were men who invented religion to create a nation. In other words, I’ve wondered if men who wanted power but couldn’t get it through might used their minds to get it.

          In my previous two essays, I wrote about the Darwinian nature of Republicans. The first one considered conservatives intentionally borrowing from Darwin to justify their actions, but in the second essay, I decided everyone is Darwinian and billionaires are just top level predators.

          Religion isn’t natural. It had to be invented. So I wouldn’t put it past some of our ancestors of inventing religious practices to benefit their claim to power. I think in certain times political ambitious people use religion to forward their aims, and at other times, religious people use their religion to get make political gains.

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