Monday, January 09, 2006

Gruntled Center: Great Families vs. Social Darwinism

Gruntled Center: Great Families vs. Social Darwinism:
"On Lawn, at Opine Editorials, has a very gratifying appreciation of last week’s series on national greatness and the ecology of families. He or she called these comments “The Social Darwinism of Families.” This got me thinking about the ways in which my position is like social Darwinism – and in a crucial respect is the opposite of social Darwinism...."

Here are two interesting discussions of how sociobiological principles affect the ways families function in society. Follow both links (the one to the Gruntled Center and the one Gruntled is blogging about) and read the entire articles.

I was in graduate school when Sociobiology -- The New Synthesis by Edward O. Wilson was published in 1975. It was greeted by a quick and (in my opinion) vicious attack led mainly by two or three of his colleagues at Harvard. The controversy centered mainly around fears that trying to apply genetic and evolutionary principles to behavior evolution would lead to racism and other undesirable outcomes. These attacks, which seemed to confuse ideology with science, never gained much traction, and the field of sociobiology is a highly respected field today.

I prefer "sociobiology" to "social darwinism" because to me social darwinism is more of an attempt to use Darwin's theory to bolster a preconceived idea of how society should function.

In any event, the idea that altruistic behavior is in the best interests of the family (nuclear or extended) is one that has been studied for many years. A humorous comment I remember from 30 years ago is "I would willingly lay down my life for my brother -- or any eight of my cousins."

Gruntled closes with this:
"...Human beings lead the most satisfying lives not when they are crushing the competition, but when they are serving the greater good. And, counter-intuitively, serving the greater good is actually the best way to serve your own interests. The strong family lineages that endure and advance in wealth, power, and esteem tend to be those that serve the greater good. This is congruent with an evolutionary theory, but goes beyond what is normally understood as social Darwinism.

It is quite satisfying when a scientific/sociological understanding of what is good for strong families converges with what we believe as Reform Christians.

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