From a European perspective it is sometimes hard to see that there still seems to be a big debate in the US about how true the theory of evolution is. I usually ignored this debate as I though it is obvious to everyone who is intellectually honest that the opponents of evolution have no real arguments against this theory. I also do not consider this to be an important question on its one. If someone does not want to believe in evolution, what difference does it make? After all, no one is denying that we are all here now and that we have to deal with the realities surrounding us.
However, I am a passionate Libertarian. What attracts me to Libertarianism is not just the personal desire for freedom and the even more personal hatred of the state. I have always been attracted to the fact that Libertarians just get it right intellectually. There seems to be great intellectual genius in this movement. However, ever since I started reading American libertarian blogs like LewRockwell.com I have come across a number of highly intelligent and knowledgeable people who seem to have a problem with evolution. That made me think whether my position about evolution is really as well founded as I thought it would be. It also made me think that if I am right about evolution and they were wrong, how could they get it so wrong. Furthermore, if they get this issue wrong, what else might they get wrong?
Therefore, I had a look at the arguments against evolution. Having looked into it, I now have to say that I have yet to come across a single good argument against evolution. There simply does not seem to be one. The vast majority of arguments are pseudo arguments, clearly not motivated by the desire to understand the subject, but by a religious believe that evolution is evil and needs to be crushed. I only came across two arguments that were intellectually interesting and worth looking at. But at a closer look they both turned out to be wrong. And yet there seems to be a desire to argue against evolution even if there are no real arguments.
A good example of this is a recent article by Gary North with the title “Darwinism, Badges, and Guns”, which was also published on LewRockwell.com. Gary North is certainly a great thinker. A lot of what he writes is very much worth reading. However, in this article he is using the awfulness of the state education system to smear evolution. And it really is just that, a smear, no real arguments are presented. Evolution is attacked on the pure grounds that non-libertarians believe in it.
On the libertarian subject of the article he is of course mostly right. The only thing where he does not seem to be right is to assume it was a bad move to use the state education system to promote evolution. In the even more statist European education system, evolution is taught everywhere. The result is that the vast majority of Europeans believes in it. So if people in the US do not believe in it despite the fact that it is taught in public schools this must have a different reason.
Nevertheless, of course state schools are awful. Education is everything but neutral and the public education system is indoctrinating people with all kinds of false ideas. Of course if someone does not want to learn about evolution he should not be forced to do so. However, the subject of whether you should be forced to learn something is very different from whether an idea is true or not. You can also argue that it is a bad thing to force someone to believe that Santa Clause does not exist and I would agree. However, that is different from the question of does Santa Clause exist. Gary North argues that ‘Darwinism’ is relying on the force of the state. On an open market of ideas, North implies this theory would not have a chance. I think this is not what is happening. Evolution is not an idea born in the public education system. The public education system simply exists and children are forced to use it. As always in politics, as they do not have a good chance to escape it people then start fighting about who is controlling the monopoly. Intelligent design believers are no different than the advocates of evolution. There are statists on both sides that would gladly like to control everything. The political aspect has nothing to do with the ideas itself.
Gary North then argues that science itself is not neutral. However, that is not true either. Real science is absolutely neutral. Science is an open process in which historically the people with the best arguments and facts on their side have always prevailed. Science is only not neutral when politics gets involved, as we see for example in the case of global warming or economics. But even here the truth will probably prevail in the long run. Evolution has so far passed every test for more than 150 years. It has been verified by different scientific disciplines independently of each other. That is about as solid as a scientific theory can get. That it is still very much questioned on essentially no basis by the American public is only an argument against the intellectual discourse in America and not an argument against evolution.
One might now say that this is a bit unfair towards Gary North because he is not arguing against evolution, but against ‘Darwinism’, which according to him are two different things. Unfortunately, he has fallen for the propaganda of religious extremists. It has long been the strategy of these people to try to make it look like there is a fundamental opposition between science and religion and that, as a good Christian you cannot believe in evolution. At least in the US, they have long used the term Darwinism, to smear evolution. What Gary North refers to as Darwinism is really the philosophical view of naturalism and has nothing to do with the theory of evolution. Although people with a naturalist viewpoint mostly do believe in evolution, this viewpoint is not part of evolution. There is only one theory of evolution. People from different philosophical backgrounds can accept it. You can be a Christian like the Pope and believe in it and you can be an atheist naturalist and believe in it too. A significant number of evolutionist scientists are Christians.
This is true for every truly scientific theory. You can believe in the theory of gravity as a Christian, Muslim, Jew or Atheist. It does not matter who you believe is behind the forces of gravity. You can still except the theory that gravity is real and that it can be described scientifically.
There is no contradiction between science and different philosophical and religious viewpoints. That is, as the word beautifully describes “metaphysics”. Of course there are some limits to that. If you are a religious fundamentalist, who wants to dogmatically believe that everything your wholly texts say is true, then I am afraid science is ruing the party here and there. Dogmatism and reason do not go together very well. However, on this issue I clearly take sides in favour of reason. Nevertheless, within reason there is still plenty of room for all kinds of worldviews. Libertarians should not be against reason, just because some people want to teach it in government schools.