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Customer Review

on November 14, 2006
Darwin's Conservatives: The Misguided Quest is a concise response to claims that social, economic and political conservatism are ultimately grounded in neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory. Political scientist Dr. John G. West deftly details Darwinism's utter inability to provide a coherent basis for morality, the traditional family, free markets, and limited government.

Crucial to West's book is a clear definition of the term "evolution." He takes aim at a conservatism based upon a particular definition of "evolution"; namely, the idea that all of life descended from a single common ancestor, and that all such life can be explained as the result of an unplanned and unguided process of natural selection operating upon random genetic mutation (and other random variations). This understanding of "evolution" is more precisely known as the theory of neo-Darwinian evolution.

West debunks the claim that traditional morality can be grounded in neo-Darwinian theory. "Showing a biological basis for certain moral desires could conceivably reinforce traditional morality," asserts West, "but only if we have reason to assume that those biological desires are somehow normative." He goes on to write that many conservatives "fail to appreciate is how the Darwinian account of the origins of biological traits fundamentally undercuts their effort to treat our biological desires as normative." Rather, Darwinism posits human nature itself is in a never-ending evolutionary process responding to environmental pressures. Moral principles develop simply because they promote survival in a given environment. "But once the conditions for survival change, so too do the dictates of morality."

A standout chapter on limited government shows the strong historic ties between ardent proponents of neo-Darwinian theory and eugenics. The chapter also briefly touches upon the manner in which socialists and later American progressives grounded their big-government ideals in extrapolations from Darwin's theory.

Important is West's challenge to the falsehood that neo-Darwinian theory is scientifically unassailable. A growing number of scientists question the sufficiency of natural selection to account for all of life's diversity, complexity and intricacy. Furthermore, West gives a brief defense of the theory of intelligent design, the emerging scientific alternative to neo-Darwinian evolution.

This book should be widely read among conservatives and anyone interested in the social, ethical, economic and political implications of neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory. I highly recommend it.
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