Evolution for the Hell of It


The American Prospect turns in a positive review of two recent books about evolutianary psychology/sociobiology, Steven Pinker's The Blank Slate and Paul H. Rubin's Darwinian Politics.

Concludes Melvin Konner:

It is one thing to say that our evolved human nature precludes a good life and a good society under either autocracy or libertarianism. It is quite another to try to cut the varied cloth of democracy much more finely using the relatively blunt instrument of what we know now about our evolved human nature. At the moment, I find John Rawls' theory of justice, which Rubin rejects, to be as consonant with what we know about the EEAs [environments of evolutionary adaptedness] as Jeremy Bentham's utilitarianism, which he embraces. But we still have a lot to learn.

Yet these are quibbles. Both these fine books help with a task that we all must begin to take seriously. Pinker and Rubin suggest that we are ready to overcome the fruitless nature-nurture battles, which have generated so much more heat than light, and do the hard work of incorporating advances in biology into our thinking about political and social life. I am not an optimist, but these two books are encouraging. Can it be that we have finally grown up?

Click here for Reason's recent interview with Pinker,