Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Social Darwinism - Part II

Modern robber barons followed by an army of subservient media, politicians, lawyers, chambers of commerce, professional associations, educators and religious leaders use this so-called Social Darwinism that Darwin never intended, to grow rich and fat or sadly, to just barely hold their own, by sucking the life out of everyone else, especially the poor who Jesus said you will have with you always, tho he meant the poor in spirit, the poorest in spirit being the blood suckers and their sycophants.

Look around, under stress the social Darwinist economic model has delivered the worst of all worlds, a system lacking in compassion during a crisis as schools, health care and social service are the first to be cut, yet unable to deliver the resilient wealth creation it promised.

The cachet of the cutthroat supports all the wrong incentives. It rewards unscrupulous behavior. It equates profits and real wealth, allowing many to survive or become rich without generating useful goods or services. For example, health insurance companies make obscene profits by denying care rather than providing it. It encourages quick fix, surfacey, short term thinking instead of long range in depth thinking; which in turn encourages the trend to dumbing down. It makes human beings into commodities, only “hands” without hearts and minds. It emphasizes quantitative approaches over qualitative, numbers over values. Because it’s more profitable in the short run to outsource to India, entire sectors of American engineering and computer science now lack home-grown expertise. This is cashing in our seed corn, our future, the basic R&D and trained professionals we will need, but cannot be quantified on a quarterly balance sheet.

The fact is that not only does this not work, it’s wrong – it’s not what Darwin found and it’s not what current science is finding. Social Darwinism fails in practice because it never succeeded as theory. When Darwin outlined the inexorable, cold and selfish mechanism of natural selection, he didn’t know enough to be comfortable applying it to human society. But now recent work in Biology and Social Science shows that natural selection in humans and indeed animals as well, favors traits like compassion and empathy, that in robust ape communities, for example, members diligently tend to their sick and wounded. Dog eat dog behavior poisons the trust and other traits and behaviors needed for success in complex human and animal societies.

Our system’s winner take all, zero sum adversarialism has reached a disastrous endpoint: suffocated by ideological polarization, fruitless partisan bickering, stifling parliamentary obstacles and the iron grip of moneyed interest, U.S. institutional paralysis makes us incapable of tackling the fine-grained nuances of the 21st century challenges facing our nation and the world – all because we’re using the wrong theory!

American commentators across the political spectrum misleadingly cast what’s going on in crude, outmoded, irrelevant liberal and conservative terms, as if it was all some kind of sports event; while the real, necessary discussion needs to be about our mistaken belief in Spencer’s interpretation of Darwin’s work. Unfortunately, because the powers that be own the commentators and benefit from Spencer’s version of Darwin, that discussion is not likely to happen.

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