Having looked briefly at some late-Victorian uses of Darwin, and having attempted to suggest the degree to which Darwin himself bears the responsibility for these enterprises, I want now to consider some very recent, clearly and explicitly “Darwinian” considerations of the same problem: sociobiology and its immediate and apparently more effective descendant, evolutionary psychology. Taking scientific explanation deep into the human psyche, these enterprises would seem the last word in disenchantment, and the furious debates over their validity suggest that there is much more at stake here than whether their arguments are truly Darwinian.
Whether the disagreements are political or scientific is often obscure. The simple version is this: as sociobiology and evolutionary psychology attempt to biologize all of human nature and behavior, they fall into the trap of (or are in fact exploited by) reactionary and racist ideology. The counterargument is that the “truth” of science is apolitical, and that unless one biologizes the human, one misses fundamental truths about humanity and succumbs to the fallacy that human behavior is determined by cultural rather than biological factors. My point, however, will not be to criticize these phenomena—however uneasy they make me, I am in no position to do more than take advantage of the many and serious critiques and expositions of the work already in place—but to think of them as, precisely, another and later use of Darwin, one that is distinctly descended from the late Victorian uses we have just considered, and that remains extremely controversial on political and moral as well as scientific grounds. In the course of the debates over these issues, Darwin evokes all the critical battles that might have been waged directly over interpretations of his writing: biological determinism, reductionism,