Arguing on the internet is like competing in the Special Olympics. Even if you win, you’re still retarted
If I feel like winding myself up, I read comments posted on the forums of the Telegraph or the Mail. Something that bothers me frequently is when people apply their misunderstandings of the theory of evolution to justify racism, punitive economic policies and any kind of neo-conservative nonsense you can think of. I need to exorcise an overweight demon. Excuse me while I vent.
It starts with the idea is that you can apply Darwin’s principle of natural selection to civilised society. So far, so good. We’re a species like any other. The trouble is, those that characterise so-called Social Darwinism generally have two misconceptions of the theory of evolution.
The first is that natural selection is random. It isn’t. Something is random when it can’t be predicted with better accuracy than that predicted by statistics. Wait while I push my glasses up my nose.
The second fallacy is that evolution dictates that the strong survive, more politely known as the survival of the fittest – wrong. Dangerously wrong, as it’s this misunderstanding that is espoused by people who want to eradicate our infrastructure of social welfare, or argue that racist discrimination is justified because we have to look after ‘our own’.
It’s worth remembering that Darwin himself said ‘In the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.’
When people talk about ‘the strong’ or ‘the fittest’, most people immediately think of competition between individuals, as if we are contestants on an existential version of Gladiators. Whoever gets up the travelator first passes on their genes, and propagates their lineage.
The loser, and its entire lineage goes extinct. Except it’s not that simple. Again, Darwin – ‘It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.’
As someone fascinated by evolution and the beauty in nature that it shows us, it stings a little to think that these wonderful ideas of Darwin’s are misappropriated by bigots and embittered moralisers. Never more so than it is used as an apology for racism.
Race has no basic biological reality; the human species just don’t come packaged that way. I forget who said it, but ‘It is only the dullness of the eye that makes any two things seem alike’, and until our collective consciousness realises that the world is composed of individuals, progressive evolution is on pause.