This is amazing. We never thought we’d live long enough to see it, but we found someone else who understands and agrees with what we’re talking about. And to add to our astonishment — it’s a journalist!
In London’s Daily Telegraph we read I’m not a socialist for the same reason I’m not a creationist: because Darwin was obviously right. It’s by Tom Chivers, the Telegraph’s assistant comment editor.
Adding to our amazement, his column is adorned with portraits of both Charles Darwin and Adam Smith, as is our own humble blog. Verily, this is an unexpected pleasure. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:
Funny thing. Every time I write about evolution, and why it is obviously the only viable explanation for the complexity of life on Earth, people underneath rant on about socialism. “Atheists should never be allowed around young minds, because they have been poisoned by socialism, the religion of evil”, one says under my most recent piece, about creationists. Which is weird on many levels, but the key one is that I’m not a socialist. This is largely because I know that Charles Darwin was right.
Splendid beginning! Let’s see if Chivers can keep going at that level. He follows with a long paragraph describing natural selection, ending it with:
It is the most powerful tool for building complexity in the world, and it is completely unplanned, with every creature within it acting only in its own genetic interests.
He’s doing well. Let’s read on:
But while, as my angry commenter in the first paragraph shows, a lot of people on the Right are deeply uncomfortable with the fact of evolution by natural selection, some people on the Left dislike the work of Darwin’s counterpart in economics, Adam Smith. This is ironic, given that Smith was one of Darwin’s chief inspirations.
Yes, yes — he gets it! Your humble Curmudgeon has been saying such things for a long time, always to an almost empty auditorium (see Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand and Charles Darwin’s Natural Selection.) Chivers continues with an example of the unplanned global activities required to make shirts and says:
What drives this? It’s Darwinism, pure and simple. The only difference is that instead of competing for calories and mates, they are competing for money and customers. A cotton-grower who is able to sell better quality or lower price cotton will be able to take over more of the market than his rivals; rival cotton-growers will adapt or die, and his methods or competing ones will spread throughout the population of cotton-growers. The same for dye-makers, collar-lining-makers, nylon producers, heavy machinery manufacturers. … No one plans anything, no one need make a single act of generosity to help their fellow man, but amazingly, the situation continually gets better.
Then he discusses the inevitable objections:
This is not to say that this Darwinian approach to supply and demand – also known as the free market – is perfect. It self-evidently isn’t. For a start, it’s wildly unfair; in the shirt example above, worldwide, millions can’t afford shirts at all, while others could have theirs hand-made out of £50 notes if they choose.
It’s the same in biological evolution, of course. It would be in the interest of every tree in the forest to be only three feet tall. But if one of them grows to four feet, it gets more sunlight than the rest, and will have more offspring, so four-footers will take over the forest.
But the key difference between biological evolution and the free markets is that the free market has taxes, and monopoly commissions, and laws of fair trading, and all the other tools of government that can be used to stop runaway Darwinism.
Then it [government] has to sit back and let Darwin’s market work its wonders. It may not be perfect, but to pretend that we can build a better society without making use of human selfishness is daft. As Ronald Bailey said: “Intelligent design is to evolutionary biology what socialism is to free-market economics.”
That’s the end of Chivers’ column, and Bailey’s remark is a good one with which to end it. We mentioned Bailey’s remark four years ago here: From Reason: Evolution Debate at FreedomFest 2008.
So where does that leave us? It leaves your humble Curmudgeon still in the wilderness, but at least we’ve found another who seems to think as we do. Tom Chivers, you’re a good man.
[Addendum: as we post this, Chivers' column has attracted 292 comments, many of them critical. We're not surprised.]
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