Charles Darwin, Conservative?

Alvaro Vargas Llosa in The New Republic:

602darwin Darwin's teachings have been caricatured and grossly distorted. Social Darwinism, which turned his biological theory into a sociopolitical one to justify eugenics, harmed his reputation. But Darwin was an early opponent of slavery and, precisely because he identified a common origin in nature, he did more than anybody to debunk the notion that different races belong to different species.

Herein should lie Darwin's appeal to the right: The English naturalist gave scientific validity to the revolutionary idea that order can be spontaneous, neither designed by nor beholden to an all-powerful authority. The struggle for existence that drives natural selection according to Darwin has nothing predetermined about it. In fact, he maintained that the presence of certain habits, values and institutions, including religion–themselves part of man's adaptation to the environment–can impact evolution. The instinct of sympathy, for instance, drives some stronger members of the human species to help weaker ones, thereby mitigating the struggle for existence.

It is fascinating that conservatives who advocate for a spontaneous order–the free market–in political economy and decry social engineering as a threat to progress and civilization should resent Darwin's overwhelming case for the idea that order can design itself. In an essay in the British publication The Spectator, the conservative science writer Matt Ridley reflects on the paradox that the left has claimed Darwin even though leftist political ideas contradict his basic teaching: “In the average European biology laboratory you will find fervent believers in the individualist, emergent, decentralized properties of genomes who prefer dirigiste determinism to bring order to the economy.”

More here.