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On Biology and Politics

On Biology and Politics

I. Human Nature

Debating human nature—the qualities and tendencies fundamental to being human—has kept theologians and philosophers busy for millennia. The arguments most often revolve around whether such traits are innate or acquired, humanly universal or specific to each culture. Even today, an obvious divide separates those who accept religious or non-materialist accounts of our nature from others who embrace the modern materialist idea that life came from matter, and consciousness from life, over the course of human evolution.

A further split is evident among materialists. One side (admittedly, a minority) insists that Darwinian theory is essential to understanding modern human emotions and social behaviour, while the other believes that cultural influences have long since supplanted the influence of any earlier evolved psychological tendencies. According to the latter, our species’ evolutionary history provides few (if any) insights into contemporary human thinking or behaviour.

Broad political factors are also at play here, with both the Left and the Right largely dismissive of the application of evolutionary theory to human affairs. On the Right, the distrust of Darwinism is strongly influenced by religious doctrine. In addition, many conservatives typically regard human nature…

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