Theistic Evolution and Atavism Explanations
By Dan Klein
The Prager U video Evolution: Bacteria to Beethoven presents two challenges to Beethoven-from-small-variations. It implicitly suggests God-guided evolution, a version of theistic evolution. In another longer conversation the speaker Stephen Meyer of the Discovery Institute engages others.
A God-guided evolution would still be a story of transmutation of species over millions of years, and thus would sustain Hayekian atavism explanations for divergencies in political proclivity, modes of political activism, and attitudes about fairness to political adversaries. To get acquainted with the atavism thesis, read “Econ 101 Morality: The Amiable, the Mundane, and the Market,” by J.R. Clark and Dwight Lee and their citations to Hayek, Paul Rubin, Larry Arnhart, and others.
Clark and Lee bring the atavism thesis to the issue of resistance to economic understanding. Jon Murphy took their advice, applied it to his own classroom teaching, and writes of the success that flowed from explaining to students our natural resistance to economic insights.
For some years now I’ve puzzled over how little attention people give to atavism explanations, even though promulgated by the great Friedrich Hayek. Treatments of Hayek sometimes pay scant attention to that element of his thought, which I think is right up there with his more-touted contributions. In fact, I think the more-touted contributions should be appreciated in light of the atavism thesis.
Perhaps a reluctance has flowed from concern that atavism explanations would not sit well with theistic auditors. If so, the video might represent an overcoming of such reluctance. If there’s no conflict between evolution and theism, then there’s no conflict between atavism explanations and theism. Indeed, atavism explanations represent an interpretation of the idea of fallen man in need of redemption.
There are other reasons for reluctance, but it’s nice to overcome diffidence from apprehensions over theism.
Personally, I’m agnostic and don’t have a strong opinion about the idea that evolution is guided by God. The video challenges the idea that, once the ball got rolling, God has played no role. I’m open to the idea that God has played a role along the way, just as I’m open to the theistic interpretation of the simpler story, that God got the ball rolling and sat back.
In either theistic account, we have transmutation of species and an interesting interpretation of fallen man, with “the fall” being man genetically evolved for the simple society of the small band subsequently finding himself in very different social worlds and often systematically foolish—atavistically—in politics.