This chapter and the next are about the idea that the further you go into Darwinism, the more you risk losing in the way of cherished hopes and ideals. This chapter is about the question as it arises on the evolutionary psychology boundary; the materialist boundary is discussed in the next.
It is widely believed that evolutionary psychology, in seeing our characteristics as deep in our genetic makeup, provides a justification for political and social attitudes of a conservative kind. The chapter analyses this assumption, once again taking sex and traditional attitudes to women as an illustration, and once again concluding that the assumption is mistaken. Although the difference between the gene-machine and blank-paper views may have some implications for the details of aims and methods, broader political and social ideals are not affected.
The first part of the chapter is concerned largely with the recapitulation and development of philosophical techniques introduced earlier in the book: practical decision making against uncertainty, disentangling claims about people from claims about issues, and applying the use of argument structures to the analysis of texts. The broader discussion of evolutionary psychology and political ideals comes in the second half of the chapter ('Ethics and the natural order'), where it is argued that claims about the poltical implications of evolutionary psychology depend on importing into Darwinian materialism presuppositions drawn from traditional, incompatible views of the world.
So far in this book the arguments seem to have shown that far less than is often thought turns on the question of which degree of Darwinism is closest to the truth. The differences between them seem to have no significant implications for our understanding of our capacity for freedom and responsibility, or altruism and the possibility of moral progress.
In this chapter, however, we come to questions that go beyond what to think about ourselves, to questions that are more directly concerned with what we do and how we lead our lives. And here there must be various questions whose answers depend on what the truth about the world is.These different degrees of Darwinism give different accounts of what the world is like; and since getting through life and achieving our aims is a matter of (broadly speaking) manipulating the world, what we believe about the way the world works potentially affects everything we aspire to and everything we do.
This may suggest that there is no longer any point in analysing conditionals. It is pointless to tell people that if this view of the world is true they should act one way in their efforts to pursue their aims, but if that one is true they should do something else. They want to know what to do, and for this it seems essential to go beyond the conditionals and look at the evidence.