Post Author: Bill Pratt
In part 1, we looked at agnostic philosopher David Stove’s explanation of “Darwinism’s Dilemma” in his book Darwinian Fairytales:
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 introduced the Cave Man way out of the dilemma whereby Darwinists claim that even though humans are not in a constant and ruthless competition for survival today, they were in the past. It is crucial to remember that Darwin claimed that within each species, conspecifics are at war with each other for survival. That struggle for survival is what drives natural selection.
Where we left off, Stove argued that “if Darwin’s theory of evolution is true, no species can ever escape from the process of natural selection.” Let’s pick up from there.
So the “modern” part of this way out of Darwin’s dilemma is inconsistent with Darwinism. But the Cave Man part of it is also utterly incredible in itself. It may be possible, for all I know, that a population of pines or cod should exist with no cooperative as distinct from competitive relations among its members. But no tribe of humans could possibly exist on those terms. Such a tribe could not even raise a second generation: the helplessness of the human young is too extreme and prolonged.
If we accept that cave men were all killing each other, how did our species escape this dire situation? Stove continues:
Even if such a tribe could somehow continue in existence, it is extremely difficult to imagine how our species, as we now know it to be, could ever have graduated from so very hard a school. We need to remember how severe the rule of natural selection is, and what it means to say that a species is subject to it. It means, among other things, that of all the rabbits, flies, cod, pines, etc., that are born, the enormous majority must suffer early death; and it means no less of our species.
How could we have escaped from this set up, supposing we once were in it? Please don’t say that a god came down, and pointed out to Darwinian Cave Men a better way; or that the Cave Men themselves got together and adopted a Social Contract (with a Department of Family Planning). Either of those explanations is logically possible, of course, but they are just too improbable to be worth talking about. Yet some explanation, of the same order of improbability, seems to be required, if we once allow ourselves to believe that though we are not subject now to natural selection, we used to be.
The Cave Man way out, despite its absurdity, is easily the most popular of the three ways of trying to get out of Darwinism’s dilemma. It has been progressively permeating popular thought for nearly one hundred and fifty years. By now it is enshrined in a thousand cartoons and comic-strips, and it is as immovable as Christmas. But we should not infer from this that it lacks high scientific authorities in its favor. Quite the contrary, Cave Man has been all along, and still is, the preferred way out of Darwinism’s dilemma among the learned, as well as among the vulgar.
Stove then calls to the stand Darwin’s most able defender, T. H. Huxley, as the foremost proponent of the Cave Man theory. We will look at what Huxley argued in part 3.