National Review Has a Pro-Evolution Article

Your Curmudgeon has long been disturbed by the bizarre development in American politics that increasingly places acceptance of evolution in the Democrat party (which was the party of William Jennings Bryan), while creationist-style religion is now likely to find a home among Republicans. We’ve written about it before, but not lately, because our opinions upset some of our readers. See, e.g.: Creationism or Socialism: Which is Dumber?

But all may not be lost. National Review, founded by William F. Buckley Jr., has long been a leading magazine of conservative thought. To our delight — and amazement — they have a pro-evolution article in the latest issue. It’s titled Conservatives Shouldn’t Fear Evolutionary Theory. It was written by Razib Khan, a geneticist.

Khan doesn’t say anything that will be new to our readers, so we won’t give you very many excerpts, but the mere fact that this is appearing in the National Review gives your Curmudgeon reason to hope that the future may work out after all. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis, and occasional Curmudgeonly interjections that look [like this]:

As an evolutionary geneticist and a conservative, I take some interest in critiques of Darwinism. I have come to expect that every few years a new book by Michael Behe [Hee hee!], a professor of biochemistry at Lehigh University, will trigger commentary relaying his skepticism of evolutionary theory to the interested public. And this will result in vociferous rejoinders from evolutionary biologists.

The next paragraph is something we never thought we’d see in a conservative magazine. Khan says:

But evolutionary biology is nothing for conservatives to fear, because it is one of the crowning achievements of modern Western civilization. It should be viewed not as an acid gnawing at the bones of civilization, but as a jewel. The science built upon the rock of Charles Darwin’s ideas is a reflection of Western modernity’s commitment to truth as a fundamental value. And many Christians well-versed in evolutionary science find it entirely compatible with their religious beliefs.

By the way, the magazine has an active comments feature. To see it you have to click an icon just below the article’s title. We started reading them, but quickly stopped. They’re bad. Anyway, here’s another excerpt from the article:

Further, while evolutionary biology does not tell us what is good, the truth of the world around us can inform our efforts to seek the good — and in this sense, the political implications of evolutionary biology do not favor the Left. Today many on the Left reject the very idea of human nature, to the point of effectively being evolution deniers themselves. They assert that society and values can be restructured at will. That male and female are categories of the mind, rather than of nature. In rejecting evolution, a conservative gives up the most powerful rejoinder to these claims.

Okay, that’s enough. It’s a long article, and we recommend it, but there’s not much point in just copying stuff. So click over there and take a look. Hey — there may be hope for the Republican Party.

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41 responses to “National Review Has a Pro-Evolution Article

  1. If there was hope for the Republican Party in this matter, you would not have had to stop reading the comments.

  2. Michael Fugate

    That male and female are categories of the mind, rather than of nature. In rejecting evolution, a conservative gives up the most powerful rejoinder to these claims.

    This is Khan talking out of his nether regions. They are categories of both and they are a continuum not an either/or. Brains and genitalia develop at different rates and can thereby be under different influences. Not to mention, individuals who are intersex and testosterone insensitive. He might consider taking a developmental biology course. He also might consider studying the history of sexual expression and sexual orientation. Can’t be too enlightened if he is writing in National Review.

  3. Steve Gerrard

    “We started reading them, but quickly stopped. They’re bad.”

    For some reason, that warning encouraged me to take a look for myself. It’s as if you said something smells bad, and I immediately wanted to take a whiff. Ew, yeah, stinky.

  4. “evolutionary science find it entirely compatible with their religious beliefs.”
    Understands little, He does!

  5. The Discoveroids already have two items at their creationist blog about this. One is I Don’t “Fear” Evolution, which says:

    What’s worrisome to me about Khan’s article is its quasi-hagiographical tone: evolution, he writes, is “a crowning achievement of Western civilization.” The unspoken corollary: anyone who expresses skepticism about evolution is an enemy of civilization.

    What a coincidence. One of this humble blog’s very first posts was Discovery Institute: Enemies of the Enlightenment.

  6. paul collier

    “Your Curmudgeon has long been disturbed by the bizarre development in American politics that increasingly places acceptance of evolution in the Democrat party … while creationist-style religion is now likely to find a home among Republicans.”
    This is something that has only recently come to your attention? This hostility toward evolution by conservatives (forget the party affiliations) has been simmering and boiling since 1859. Why? because conservatives tend to be more religious than liberals and evolution is perceived by the religious to conflict with a strict reading of scripture (which of course it does). It is thought to challenge God, Bible, morality, social structure & hierarchy. All this is news to you?

  7. Theodore Lawry

    Conservatism in America has two branches, corporate and Christian. The first has money and a real world agenda, the second has votes and a wish list of items (prayer in schools, ban abortion, ban gays, ban evolution, women stay home, etc) about which the corporate conservatives care nothing. If anything they are pro abortion (in case their daughters get pregnant), pro-science (good for business) and definitely pro immigration (cheap labor.) And let’s not get started on health care, racism, guns, and who gets stuck with the tax bill.

    Basically, the corporate conservatives woo the Christian ones with lip service on their hot button issues. Then they treat those pledges as all politicians treat campaign promises once elected. But the Christians have wised up, which is why in 2016 they abandoned the corporate androids for Trump, something the pundits pretended not to understand.

    So I am not at all surprised that the conservative “ranks” who write the articles in National Review, are pro-evolution, while the “files,” who write in with comments, are the opposite. As Paul Collier said, “All this is new to you?”

  8. William F Buckley Jr ?? Conservative yankee elitist.

  9. Dave Luckett

    @Theodore Lawry:

    That is perhaps the most insightful short comment that I have ever read regarding American conservatism, and I’m as certain as I can be at this distance that it’s correct. Corporatism and religion, and they are far from compatible. But I would suggest that they are also not severed from each other, either, not even at the individual level, although the obvious incompatibilities between the two can only be explained at the individual level by cognitive dissonance. I cannot understand why this continues to work, though.

    For those incompatibilities are clear and serious – fundamental, I would have said. In fact, I would have said that they were impossible to accommodate within one political party, movement or even overall political stance – and I would have been totally wrong, for they are so accommodated. The corporatists and the religious conservatives should be at daggers drawn. Why not? What is holding them together that is more important to them than their obvious fundamental differences?

  10. Steve Gerrard

    “The corporatists and the religious conservatives should be at daggers drawn. Why not? What is holding them together that is more important to them than their obvious fundamental differences?”

    Winning elections.

  11. “Creationism or Socialism: Which is Dumber?”
    You know my answer, dear SC – the guy who

    1) knows zilch what socialism means (a lot – it’s about as broad as christianity) and hence doesn’t and/or refuses to understand that Bernie Sanders hardly has anything in common with Lenin;
    2a) maintains that socialism is incompatible with evolution theory, hence
    2b) makes the same mistake as Klinkleclapper (darwinism –> social darwinism –> socialism) and
    2c) refuses to even consider evidence like the social organization of argentinean ants (also the product of evolution), which is basically communism Soviet-style;
    3) relies on Intelligent Design (so his antipathy is rather selective) for the safety of his big fat wallet;
    4) calls poor people who try to defend themselves against the social-economical elite dumb (and thus betrays the values of Enlightenment he claims to defend).
    5) Instead is hardly is capable of decently defending is own socio-political views – because yes, social-conservatism is respectable.

    Indeed, that’s you. Because you’re smart enough to know better and have all the necessary information. And because dishonest, like all creacrappers, you are not.

  12. “To our delight — and amazement”
    That’s because you live in the USA. There are plenty of conservatives in The Netherlands who have no problem with evolution theory. Dutch Prime Minister is one of them.'s_Party_for_Freedom_and_Democracy

    Note that in Europe liberal means something making Free Enterprise as free as possible.

    “the political implications of evolutionary biology do not favor the Left.”
    Yeah. Because only conservatives understand the human race.

    “Today many on the Left reject the very idea of human nature.”
    Conservatives typically deny that humans are not only selfish, but also social. It’s this dual nature that’s both the cause of the immense success of Homo Sapiens (in evolutionary terms) and the problems that go with this species. Stressing one aspect over the other (the social aspect in communist countries, the selfish aspect in the USA) hence is suboptimal. Which is why the USA does so much worse on almost all social indices than all other western societies.
    Which is evidence you also prefer to neglect.

    “They assert that society and values can be restructured at will.”
    Indeed some socialists have this idea, but the vast majority of them have abandoned this idea in the early 1980’s. Thanks for confirming what I wrote about ignorance.

    “That male and female are categories of the mind, rather than of nature.”
    This conservative thinks that the human mind is not a product of nature! And our dear SC praises this rejection of science! So much for defending that Enlightenment value.
    Really, dear SC, you have lots and lots of work to do if you want to defend social-conservatism decently.

  13. @PaulC: “This is something that has only recently come to your attention?”
    No, from the beginning of this nice blog and hence previously long before. That’s unsurprising, because the Reps began to develop their antiscientific attitude around 1970. Until then most scientists supported that party. Our dear SC has written about the relation Reps-science several times before.

    “evolution is perceived by the religious to …..”
    Nonsense. First most religious folks in Europe accept evolution theory and in the second place our dear SC mentioned WJ Bryan, an important Dem of about 100 years ago and a staunch anti-evolutionist.

  14. Dave Luckett says: “The corporatists and the religious conservatives should be at daggers drawn. Why not? What is holding them together that is more important to them than their obvious fundamental differences?”

    The “corporatists” — by which I assume you mean those who favor free enterprise and oppose government ownership and control of the economy — have one very important thing in common with most religious people. They believe in freedom and individual rights. I’ve previously quoted what Jefferson wrote in Notes on the State of Virginia:

    The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.

    So it makes perfect sense — at least to me — for supporters of economic freedom and religious freedom to be in the same political party that wants to: (a) defend the country; and (b) otherwise keep the size and grasp of government under control. That was the Republican party when I first started voting.

    Unfortunately, we have the relatively recent phenomenon of creationists, theocrats, and other fanatics (who were mostly Southern Democrats) joining and in many states running the Republican party.

  15. He means corporatists in the sense of the Koch brothers. The money men who just want their policies implemented to make more money.

  16. I’m also a Repub also but hope for the party died with the likes Donald Trump, Alex Jones, Breitbart and Fox News. It has become the party of reactionaries and demagogues, where critical thinking need not apply and where white nationalist feelings are de rigueur.

  17. KeithB, you’re probably thinking of some kind of plutocracy. Propaganda notwithstanding, that doesn’t exist in the US. But there are people (not always business people) who would like to misuse government power for their own benefit, and sometimes lobbyists and politicians go astray.

  18. I was thinking William F. Buckley Jr. was pro-evolution in life, but a quick search found he wasn’t–I was thinking of George Will. Of course the actual intellectuals in the conservative ranks are more likely to not be creationists, but the rank-and-file wallow joyously in their own ignorance.
    Hambo, also uses this tiered system. Officially he seems against evolution including an article “Evidence Against Evolution”. Intellectually curious fundies will find fuel for their delusion such as the “orchard of life” (rather than the tree of life), and other non-scientific evolutionary restrictions such as “Loss Mutation”.

  19. Michael Fugate

    It does seem Khan is conveniently confusing definitions of nature – the old is/ought divide. He wants oughts to be found in evolution and biology. He wants an individual with XY chromosomes to be only a cis-gendered male. That is not how it works – biology is not that deterministic – essentialism doesn’t work. If one wants to campaign for human rights or unalienable rights or natural rights, whatever you want to call them, then one need understand that there is no one way to be human. Why give these rights to zygotes and then take them away from adults?

  20. Eddie Janssen

    Here is a typical reaction in the National Review:
    From a certain Zebrabelow:

    “I certainly do not fear evolutionary theory. It’s totally false. To characterize Charles Darwin’s idea as a rock is silly as well. In his day, it was common (and still is to the layperson) to assume that bacteria is simple and therefore given enough time the inorganic can become organic. Bacteria isn’t simple. Evolution is rather silly. 150 years looking for a missing links has yielded nothing. Darwin needed his buddy Lyell to formulate Uniformitarianism to make it work. It still fails all the time, so every 15 years or so, the age of the universe is doubled.
    If this theory was truth, there would be trillions of missing link fossils. There would be no polystrata fossils, or the myriad host of other issues.
    The conservative has nothing to fear from evolution. Correct.
    Evolution has a lot to fear from the layperson who asks questions and isn’t so stupid, and when it crumples, all the priests and priestesses will not be able to put it back together again. It’s sheer willpower and dogma holding it together.”

    GladiusLux is also very entertaining if you want to have some more fun.

  21. Theodore Lawry

    Dear Curmudgeon
    Support of religious freedom is indeed an important principle, but not a conservative one: liberals are all for it too, Furthermore religious freedom, by which I mean the right to worship as you please, is not an active issue in the USA today. Individuals may despise Jews or Muslims, but the government is not trying to restrict their religious freedom, and rightly so. But the religious issues which are alive in the US: prayer and evolution in the public schools, are being pushed by fundamentalists, who are not “conservatives” in the sense that you or I understand the term. These fundamentalist goals are an abuse of religious freedom, and you oppose them just as the liberals do, and for the same reasons.

    So it is wrong to suppose that the supporters of religious freedom and economic freedom would be in the same party. Everyone in the US, left and right, is in favor of religious freedom, except for fundamentalists who want to use governmental power to promote their views. That is why the alliance of corporate and Christian conservatives is very much a marriage of convenience. In the Christian conservative wish list: prayer in schools, banning abortion, ban gays, ban evolution, women stay home, etc is there anything that you or any principled conservative would support? Of course not, that’s why you’ve been doing your blog for all these years!

  22. I don’t understand why the question of sexual orientation in humans is so important for the understanding and acceptance of evolution. Even if one wants to accept the “from is to ought” pattern of arguing, to base an argument on the XYsystem of sex determination is confused, in so many ways. It seems to me that there is just yet another one of those cases where “such-and-such is repulsive to me” leads one to desperate searches for reasons that “such-and-such can’t be true”. (“From oughtn’t to isn’t”?)

  23. Michael Fugate

    No wonder the right loves the founders so much – when the founders claimed unalienable rights, they didn’t really mean it; they restricted those rights to individuals who were like them – not to all humans. Religious freedom to the right – doesn’t mean anything other than a dog whistle. Economic freedom to the right – doesn’t either. If it did they would allow workers to organize and bargain collectively. They would treat workers and consumers as humans and not commodities. They wouldn’t oppose labeling products. They wouldn’t externalize costs.

  24. Michael Fugate

    @TomS, I think it is essentialism. So many want predetermined roles in society (especially if it rigged in their favor) – whether it is class or gender. As the post-Gospel writer proclaimed we are all equal in Christ, but women are made to serve men and slaves to serve masters…

  25. Our dear SC wears blinkers: “Propaganda notwithstanding, that doesn’t exist in the US.”

    “A plutocracy …. is a society that is ruled or controlled by people of great wealth or income.”
    The USA senate is at least about half a plutocracy.

    “66 percent of senators are millionaires, as are 41 percent of House members.”

    According to Wikipedia

    last non-millionaire American president was Truman. Nice to learn that until fairly recently Democrat hero Kennedy was the richest of ’em all.
    This is somewhat but not that much better in The Netherlands. Here it’s the well-educated people that get elected.

    The cause of American half-plutocracy is simple. A political career usually is very expensive.

    European nations have much stricter rules. As a result big corporations can’t buy political influence like the Koch brothers do, heads of states don’t waste half of their terms on campaigning for the next elections and common people have a relatively better (though far from equal) chance to get elected. Even in Germany it’s easier to start a successfull new political party than in the USA. So much for the land of the free.
    But hey, leave it to our dear SC to mirror Klinkleclapper’s behaviour by calling inconvenient facts propaganda and equating presenting these facts “getting upset”.

  26. Joe Biden paraphrase:
    “I am one of the poorest senators. I make less than Bernie Sanders. When you make less money than a socialist, you are doing something wrong.”

  27. @FrankB
    And in the USA, education is for the rich. Aside from the recent scandals of outright bribery, rich kids get into the elite schools. And when in the elite schools, what rich kids do is to meet other rich kids, to make connectons in the business world. (I don’t have any information on this, but I dare to suggest that few billionaire kids study STEM or other intellectually challenging fields.)

  28. Michael Fugate

    The typical right wing view of who is great and what makes them so…

  29. The Times book review says in its headline, “what a staggering silly book this is”.
    I couldn’t find a complete list of the twelve Victorians that are mentioned, but dare I be so bold as to guess that Darwin is not among them.

  30. Michael Fugate

    Here’s all I found:
    Lord Palmerston (Henry John Temple)
    Robert Peel
    William Gladstone
    Benjamin Disraeli
    Charles Napier
    Charles Gordon
    WG Grace
    Albert Dicey
    Isambard Brunel
    Queen Victoria

    Apparently Arts figures Charles Dickens, George Eliot and John Ruskin didn’t make the cut. Likely no pure scientists either.

  31. “We started reading them, but quickly stopped. They’re bad.”

    What an astonishing understatement. According to the willfully ignorant in the comments section (nearly everyone) not a single missing link has ever been found since Darwin’s time. They must be looking under their beds for intermediates between dust bunnies and fairies.

  32. TomS:
    “…rich kids get into the elite schools. And when in the elite schools, what rich kids do is to meet other rich kids, to make connectons in the business world.”

    Perhaps. But I’m afraid you are working from a stereotype here. Many of the “most elite” schools have huge endowments that the schools use to bring in a diverse mix of very bright students from all walks of life.

    The danger in reinforcing that stereotype is that highly capable students without extreme mean$ might be dissuaded from even applying to those schools — even though they may receive scholarship grants that would give them a Harvard or Stanford education, say, for less than they would pay at their state university. I’m speaking from personal experience — such a scholarship made it possible for a child of this (now retired) public school teacher to attend and graduate from one of those “most elite” universities, and then go on to get a masters degree from another elite school. (It would have been a budget stretch for this teacher to pay for tuition at even a community junior college.)

    And rather than making business connections with a bunch of “rich kids”, he/she is now serving as an elementary school teacher, where he/she has received state recognition for having an outstanding influence on the students.

  33. @MichaelFugate
    One more name: Prince Albert
    Which brings us to 11.
    Brunuel was an engineer.

  34. @retiredsciguy
    Thank you. I hadn’t considered the stereotyping effect of what I wrote.I must be more careful.
    Of course, the elite colleges and universities educate many deserving (by which I mean people who are apt to make use of the education avaiable) people to a high standard. And they are making efforts to find such students.

  35. Unlike SC I do not have hope for Republicans. Everything I’ve been seeing tells me reasonable pro-science Republicans are the exception rather than the norm, starting with voters (Repubs less educated than Dems on average) going all the way up to government. Cult 45 isn’t going away.

  36. Michael Fugate

    Coming from the right – economic freedom is as limited as the founders’ “unalienable” rights were – if you rich you get the freedom, if not you get slavery

  37. @Michael Fugate
    Rather, slavery was based soley and expressly on racism. A free person of color would have to be careful in any case. And the Dred Scott opinion said that no African Americans could be citizens of the USA.
    And then there was the status of women.

  38. Michael Fugate

    Speaking of people who write for the National Review and other similar sites – now taking over all aspects of the Trump administration…

  39. Of you want to use racist dog whistles, it is of course your right. If not, please look up the origin of the phrase ‘Democrat Party’ and stop using it.

  40. X is exposed as alt-right by IDiots who are ….. alt-right.
    No matter how often our dear SC succeeds to disappoint, defenders of the Discotute never fail to do worse. Far worse.

  41. Eric Lipps

    This article points up a fundamental problem for the political right: the definition of “conservative.”

    By conventional definition, a conservative is one who wants to conserve existing institutions, norms and beliefs. The Republican Party’s version of conservatism, by contrast, openly boasts of “revolution,” and many of its members—particularly on the religious right—are flaming reactionaries who are perfectly willing to junk much of the modern world in favor of a romanticized version of a glorious past in which women stayed in the home, darkies knew their place and schools taught from the Bible and McGuffey’s Readers. Oh, and Mexicans stayed south of the border, and any Muslims who came her were very careful not to practice their faith too openly.

    I can’t speak for anyone else, but that’s not the sort of America I’d want to live in.