Democracy vs. evolution: a paradox at the heart of modern civilization

Mankind’s genius for illogic is a fascinating topic of modern research. We find something attractive about both horns of a paradox and fail to register that our beliefs are irreconcilably conflicted.

We believe in evolution and democracy. We believe in the individual’s right to self-fulfilment, but are concerned at the same time for the welfare of future generations. We celebrate equality, while our runaway technology magnifies the distance between the haves and have-nots, or rather, the cans and the can-nots, by leaps and bounds. Embracing both sides of these irreconcilable paradoxes, we are sinking into a quagmire.

We believe in evolution. Progressives proudly sport Darwin fish bumper stickers and ridicule the bumpkins who believe we are products of a divine Creator.

We believe in democracy – government by the people – which in turn posits the fundamental equality of all people. We fail, however, to grasp that both humans and human institutions are subject to evolution. Evolution rewards inequality – the survival of the fittest. Our attempts to embrace both sides of this dichotomy are killing us.

Democracy, because it treats all citizens as equals, has been forced into the position of positing that all people are in fact equal. The founding fathers certainly knew better. They constructed an elaborate structure to ensure that the common man’s voice and opinion were filtered through those of his betters via a system of republican government.
The tiered system of enfranchisement has been under attack since its inception. It is always to some politican’s benefit to bring in more voters, and the case can always be made that it is mean-spirited to exclude them. In the US the voting franchise was broadened to include men without property, then minorities, then women, then mere teenagers, and lately ex-convicts and illegal aliens. The right to vote has been similarly expanded in almost every world democracy.
Two things have invariably been true. First, there have always been capable people among the disenfranchised. But second, the average level of civic involvement of the voting public has gone down with each expansion. A few criminals and illegal aliens will be well-informed and civically involved voters – but not many.

Expansions cannot be reversed. Because policians must attract votes from every enfranchised group across the spectrum, they cannot offend any by pointing out obvious differences. Instead, they find it easier to regard unequal outcomes among individuals sexes and races as evidence of discrimination. Discrimination is the only politically acceptable explanation.

Democracy has also institutionalized altruism. On the principle that we are all equal, misfortunes are construed as naught but bad turns of fate which could befall any of us. No citizen must be allowed to suffer from hunger, ill health, unemployment or any other preventable condition. Certainly the children of such unfortunates are not to blame for their plight. It is the responsibility of a democratic society to support them, and to go out of its way to “level the playing field.” To question such altruism as unsustainable is called heartless. Voices that do are virulently suppressed.

On the other hand evolution, as defined by Darwin, is the survival of the fittest. It is the process whereby individual differences, about which Darwin went on a length, lead to the differential ability to leave surviving progeny. That is how evolution works. The individuals, the groups, the gene pools which are most successful are the ones which survive and leave progeny and the others become extinct. The fundamental premise is exactly the opposite of democracy: all people are different.

Genes and cultures coevolve. We nordic types developed altruistic behavior – and genes – because tribes that altruistically supported their members outcompeted others. Ditto the intelligent, hard-working and scholarly East Asians, and the verbally and financially adept Jews. Hundreds of human societies have come and gone over the five millennia of recorded human history. Every group bore more children than could survive. The strongest did survive, displacing the weaker. So it continued until the Industrial Revolution and beyond, and the rise of modern democracies. The World Wars of the twentieth century were clashes of titans, competitions between the most successful products of human evolution.

The horrific bloodshed of those wars gave mankind pause. Moreover, the communications and transportationtechnologies that these dominant peoples had created reduced the distances between peoples. Western people recoiled at the human price of strife among peoples – that another war could result in the anhiliation of all mankind. Now that they could more easily visit and communicate with others, they also developed an appreciation for the humanity of other peoples. The human brain is not very nuanced We reclassified the global “other” from “not like us – unfriendly” to “like us – friend,” from barbarian to equal. That rough computation is also wrong, the consequences of which are playing out today.
Evolution is working more than ever in today’s mating process. The best and brightest of both sexes are selected and thrown together in elite universities and technology companies. When they marry and bear children – if they do so – those childern stand to inherit brains enough to succeed in the technological society their parents are building.

Unfortunately, however, the elite become enamored of the things they can do with the money they make, and the very process of making it, to the exclusion of having children.

Technology means increases in productivity. Doing more work with fewer people. Those few are the ones who are able to read the instructions, communicate intelligently with each other, use computers and program computers. There is increasingly less use for people who do the same mindless job over and over – at the very time the birthrate is growing for precisely these people.

Childbearing has been left to the less capable strata of society. Since that feckless lot cannot be entrusted with the responsibility, bureaucrats ever on the lookout for justifications of their existence have taken over more and more responsibility for child rearing. The rising generation, less capable from birth, is conditioned to depend on government largess for everything in life. Democracy dictates that they be allowed to vote for that government, which of course they do. They vote themselves more and more of both handouts and government.
The conflict between the democratic dream of equality and the Darwinian observation that differences among people and peoples are natural, and that they enlarge themselves, is severe and irreconcilable.

F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote that “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” We are not even to first base. We refuse to recognize the paradox. It will bite us.