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Darwin as Epicurean: An Interview with Benjamin Wiker

Gary Deddo

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Gary Deddo: Darwinism is usually associated with biology and the debate over evolution. What happened that led you to see the connection between moral issues and Darwinism?

Benjamin Wiker (BW): Well, that's a rather long story, but most immediately, it was reading Darwin's Descent of Man, which is less well known than his Origin of the Species, but should always be read with the Origin.

In the Origin, Darwin set forth his famous arguments concerning the power of natural selection to create all biological forms, but he was very careful not to mention how it all applied to human beings. In the Descent, which came out about a decade later, Darwin did apply his arguments about natural selection directly to human beings. It is only then that we see that Darwin's evolutionary account had direct and immediate implications for morality.

Morality, according to Darwin, is just one more evolved trait caused by the mechanism of natural selection. I should say that in the plural--moralities--to be accurate. Many different moralities arise--or better, evolve--among human beings at different times and places, no one of them ultimately better than any other (any more than a certain length of finch beak is better or worse than another). Although Darwin tried to assert that evolution was somehow aiming at a kind of morality of sympathy, his efforts were undercut by his own argument. Evolution is absolutely non-teleological. It can't aim at anything.

Benjamin Wiker is a lecturer in theology and science at Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio. His new book "Moral Darwinism: How We Became Hedonists" was published by InterVarsity Press in July. Wiker was interviewed about the book by InterVarsity Press editor Gary Deddo.

Read the entire article on the Touchstone Magazine website.



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