Suppose you were on a prime-time quiz show and were asked: "What
did Charles Darwin see as the prime motivating force in human
evolution? (1) survival of the fittest, (2) natural selection, (3)
the 'selfish gene,' (4) the moral sense."
Most likely you wouldn't make it to No. 4 before pushing the
button. But alas, your run would end there, because the answer is
"the moral sense," according to a rather astonishing and provocative
new book by psychologist, system scientist, and evolution theorist
In "Darwin's Lost Theory of Love," written after a decade of
research into evolutionary theory and scientific foundations for
morality, Dr. Loye presents the dramatic story of the pioneer
scientist seeking to pull together near the end of his life his
ideas on the "second half" or "completion" of his theory of
Here the concern is human evolution, which Darwin explored in
"The Descent of Man," a dense book Loye says has been largely
ignored over the past 100 years. His monumental "The Origin of
Darwin speaks of 'an ennobling belief in God' as important for
Species" focuses on pre-human evolution, and undergirds all
subsequent evolutionary theory.
Delving deeply into "Descent," Loye finds Darwin not only
exploring the origins of morality and conscience but reaching the
conclusion that in human evolution, they are "by far the most
important." Darwin says he "perhaps attributed too much to the
action of natural selection or survival of the fittest."
For Loye the discovery is galvanizing because it provides hope
for developing a more complete and useful theory of evolution for
the 21st century, one that goes beyond the neo-Darwinist focus on
selfishness as the driving force of human nature and provides a
scientific grounding for moral action. It opens the way, he adds, to
drawing a link between science and spirituality. "Here is the
granddaddy of them all, confirming that what your heart tells you is
right is really right," Loye says in an interview. "Darwin is
saying: Yes, we're selfish, but there is also this other motivation
system, this other thrust that is oriented to others and to doing
good for others."
Biology and morality
From his observations of the animal and human worlds, Darwin sees
the "social instincts," rooted in biology, as the foundation of
morality. Loye details Darwin's perceptions of the development of
sympathy and caring, use of language and reasoning about experience,
community influence and the power of habit, the capacity for choice,
and the moral qualities leading to what we call the golden rule,
which appears in almost all cultures.
Although an agnostic, Loye says, Darwin speaks of "an ennobling
belief in God" as important for human evolution. Darwin specifically
denies that "the foundation of the most noble part of our nature"
lies "in the base principle of selfishness."
This flies in the face of the prevailing evolution paradigm,
however, a form of neo-Darwinism in which sociobiologists are
vigorously pushing the idea that even altruism must be understood as
motivated strictly by selfishness. Loye's book will not win any
plaudits from that camp.
"The sociobiologists and evolutionary psychologists will probably
hate it," says Bruce Weber, professor of biochemistry at California
State University at Fullerton, who teaches a course covering the
range of views on evolution. But "it will be well received by anyone
familiar with systems theory, or trying to look at human action in
an interdisciplinary framework."
Loye himself is part of a 15-year-old international scientific
endeavor called the General Evolution Research Group (GERG), in
which researchers from many disciplines are working toward a general
evolution theory that would go beyond biology to find related
concepts in many fields (i. …