Post Author: Bill Pratt
Agnostic philosopher David Stove opens his book Darwinian Fairytales with the following:
If Darwin’s theory of evolution were true, there would be in every species a constant and ruthless competition to survive: a competition in which only a few in any generation can be winners. But it is perfectly obvious that human life is not like that, however it may be with other species.
Stove refers to this as “Darwinism’s Dilemma” and he notes that
the inconsistency is so very obvious that no Darwinian has ever been altogether unconscious of it. There have been, accordingly, very many attempts by Darwinians to wriggle out of the dilemma. But the inconsistency is just too simple and direct to be wriggled out of, and all these attempts are conspicuously unsuccessful. They are not uninstructive, though, or unamusing.
One way out this dilemma is what Stove calls the Cave Man way out. Here is the Cave Man explanation offered by some Darwinists:
You admit that human life is not now what it would be if Darwin’s theory were true, but also insist that it used to be like that. In the olden days (this story goes), human populations always did press relentlessly on their supply of food, and thereby brought about constant competition for survival among the too-numerous competitors, and hence natural selection of those organisms which were best fitted to succeed in the struggle for life. That is, human life was exactly as Darwin’s book had said that all life is.
But our species (the story goes on) escaped long ago from the brutal regime of natural selection. We developed a thousand forms of attachment, loyalty, cooperation, and unforced subordination, every one of them quite incompatible with a constant and merciless competition to survive.
We have now had for a very long time, at least locally, religions, moralities, laws or customs, respect for life and property, rules of inheritance, specialized social orders, distinctions of rank, and standing provisions for external defense, internal police, education and health. Even at our lowest ebb we still have ties of blood, and ties of marriage: two things which are quite as incompatible with a universal competition to survive as are, for example, a medical profession, a priesthood, or a state.
Does the Cave Man explanation work, though? Can we really believe that human beings formerly were at each other’s throats constantly in order to survive? And that somehow, while other species were unable to escape this competition, we did? And is this theory really compatible with Darwinism? Stove explains:
This Cave Man story, however implausible, is at any rate not inconsistent with itself. But the combination of it with Darwin’s theory of evolution is inconsistent. That theory is a universal generalization about all terrestrial species at any time. Hence, if the theory says something which is not true now of our species (or another), then it is not true. . . . In short, the Cave Man way out of Darwinism’s dilemma is in reality no way out at all: it is self-contradictory.
If Darwin’s theory of evolution is true, no species can ever escape from the process of natural selection. His theory is that two universal and permanent tendencies of all species of organisms-the tendency to increase in numbers up to the limit that the food supply allows, and the tendency to vary in a heritable way-are together sufficient to bring about in any species universal and permanent competition for survival, and therefore universal and permanent natural selection among the competitors.
In part 2 of this series, we will continue to look at Stove’s analysis of the Cave Man solution to Darwinism’s Dilemma. You’ll want to return, as Stove’s analysis is truly brilliant.