Malignant Demon, Atheism and Search For Truth

Critique“Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey’s mind,” rhetorically asked Charles Darwin, “if there are any convictions in such a mind?” (Darwin 1881) In Darwin’s July 3rd 1881 letter to William Graham, we encounter a problem of epistemological uncertainty of our cognitive faculties. Darwin believed that Graham had accurately portrayed his conviction that “the Universe [was] not the result of chance.” He further explained,

“But then with me the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy”(ibid.).

Darwin’s unpleasant doubt is the incarnation of the Cartesian malignant Demon. In evolutionary biology, Rene Descartes’ malignant demon took on flesh and dwelt among us. This malignant demon is an “exceedingly potent and deceitful” being that  “has employed all his artifice to deceive” us to believe that we are experiencing an external world while in actual reality we are experiencing “nothing better than the illusions of dreams” (Descartes 1901, 224). Deceitfulness and falseness came through malignant Demon. Continue reading

Nietzsche’s Rejection of Darwinian Evolution

Nietzsche Wikipedia

“The error of the Darwinist school has become a problem for me: ” wrote Friedrich Nietzsche, “how can one be so blind as to fail to see clearly here? … That the species represent progress is the most unreasonable assertion in the world:” (Nietzsche 2003, 258)

In a period of ten years, Nietzsche drifted from admiring Darwin and his company as “great names of England” to discourteously mocking and ridiculing them as “English psychologists” and “our ape-genealogists”. This article concisely introduced only two, among many, of Nietzsche’s cases against the theory of Darwinian evolution mostly when associated with Homo sapiens.

Case Against Darwinian Progressivity

Natural selection works, according to Charles Darwin, “solely by and for the good of each being, all corporeal and mental endowments will tend to progress towards perfection.”(Darwin 1909, 528) This idea of progressivity in Darwinian evolution did not only astounded Nietzsche but also its opposite seemed, according to Nietzsche’s survey of “great destinies of man”, to be true. He wrote,

What surprises me most when surveying the great destinies of man is always seeing before me the opposite of what Darwin and his school see or want to see today: selection in favor of the stronger, in favor of those who have come off better, the progress of the species. The very opposite is quite palpably the case: the elimination of the strokes of luck, the uselessness of the better-constituted types, the inevitable domination achieved by the average, even below-average types.(Nietzsche 2003, 258)

Unless our-ape-genealogists gave him reasons why Homo sapiens were an exception to Darwinian evolution, Nietzsche was persuaded that “the school of Darwin has everywhere deceived itself ”(2003, 259) In struggle for man’s existence, it is not the highest, the strongest, the fittest and the fortunate that survive but the lower and the weaker who “predominate through numbers, through prudence, [and] through cunning”.

Nietzsche argued that chance variation, contrary to Darwinian’s survival for the fittest, does not yield any benefit to the fittest. He observed that “nature is cruel towards its favourites, it spares and protects and loves les humbles ”(2003, 260)

Thus it is not the case that in struggle for existence the weak organism perishes while the strong survive. Chance seems to serve both the weak and the strong. Nietzsche asserted that, “one nowhere finds any example of unconscious selection (absolutely not). The most disparate individuals unite with one another, the extremes are submerged in the mass. Everything competes to preserve its type; creatures with exterior markings to protect them from danger do not lose them when they encounter conditions in which they live without danger” (Nietzsche 1968, 362)

Case Against Macroevolution of Creatures

“There are no transitional forms.-” contended Nietzsche. Darwinist asserts modification of organism as they struggle to adapt into their environment, food and climate. Nietzsche argued that this is not what we see in reality. “Every type has its limits;” he explained, “beyond these there is no evolution. Up to this point, absolute regularity”(1968, 363)

Nietzsche accepted a microevolution of creatures theory, but argued that one cannot move from microevolution to macroevolution. Example we can, by unnatural selection, breed dogs to form different breeds, but there is a limit and beyond these there is no evolution. Dogs after all remain dogs. It is for this reason we have no transitional forms.

Concisely, Nietzsche’s general view could be captured as: “man as a species is not progressing. Higher types are indeed attained, but they do not last. The level of the species is not raised […] man as a species does not represent any progress compared with any other animal. The whole animal and vegetable kingdom does not evolve from the lower to the higher – but all at the same time, in utter disorder, over and against each other”(ibid)

The two Nietzschean doubts I presented, as some of reasons Nietzsche rejected Darwinian evolution, mostly when applied to Homo sapiens, are (1) the falsehood of survival for the fittest and (2) the limits of evolution.

Previous: Nietzsche and Two Unpleasant Implications of Darwinism

Bibliography:

Darwin, Charles (1909). The Harvard Classics 11: Origin of the Species by Charles Darwin. (C. W. Eliot, Ed.) . New York: P.F. Collier & Son.

Nietzsche, Friedrich (1968) The Will to Power. A New Translation by Water Kaufmann and R. J. Hollingdale. Vintage Books. New York.

_________________________ (2003) Writings from the Late Notebooks. Translated by Kate Sturge. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.