Survival Of The Fittest In The Marketplace, But Not For Life On Earth?
‘Survival of the fittest’ is often used to justify harsh business and other practices; but those who adopt this socio-economic position may also subscribe to ‘Creationist’ or ‘Intelligent Design’ notions about how life on earth has come about and diversified. This strange amalgum of beliefs arises from a lack of intellectual rigour which shows very clearly why Creationism should not become part of any serious school science curriculum.
It seems that Creationism is to be a feature of a new GCSE Biology curriculum in England. Whilst we have assurances that Creationism is not to be taught ‘as a subject’ I must admit to serious concerns about either Creationism or its close cousin, ‘Intelligent’ Design’ becoming part of the mainstream science curriculum.
General Studies can be a good place to discuss the ‘nature of science’ issues that arise from looking at Creationism or Intelligent Design, and maybe Religious Studies can offer perspectives on (non-)belief systems, but Science as a subject should probably not include subjects which are, quite simply, not subject to serious scientific scrutiny.
A conundrum of conflicting beliefs
One of the strangest things about the proponents of Intelligent Design and / or Creationism is that, for the most part, they have socio-economic beliefs which fit well within the Evolutionary Theory which they so strongly reject as an explanation of biological difference.
How can ‘survival of the fittest’ be seen to explain, and be acceptable, in terms of socio-political and economic / business affairs, but not biological ones?
Underlying this conundrum is perhaps a sense of preordination, that things are ‘given’ and cannot be changed on the whim of mere human beings; and this sense fits very helpfully into much of right-wing politics. But for those of us who respect the idea of science as a discipline and mode of knowledge, this is if anything completely the wrong way around.
Millennia to ‘change’ biology, but maybe minutes to change our own behaviour?
Living things change naturally over the millennia, ‘responding’ (i.e. surviving or not) to their contexts and inherent make up. This is a very long term and complex business.
On the other hand, human beings’ behaviour can, because we can perceive ourselves and reflect on what we do, change dramatically in the course of a single life time. ‘Intelligent Design’ is something we can all usefully engage in our own behaviour and outlook – not something which we need to dream up to ‘explain’ the amazing way in which the world as we know it has evolved over millions of years.
If survival of the fittest can be called upon by right wing thinkers to account for economic behaviour, they surely don’t have to devise other, quite undemonstrable, ‘explanations’ for the diversity of life on earth…. which leads me to wonder what less obvious reasons there may be for this strange conjunction of beliefs.