“There was a type of enjoyment in overpowering and interpreting the world in the manner of Plato,” contended Friedrich Nietzsche, “different from the enjoyment offered by today’s physicists, or by the Darwinians and anti-teleologists who work in physiology, with their principle of the ‘smallest possible force’ and greatest possible stupidity”(Nietzsche 2002, 15-16)
Nietzsche’s rejection of Darwinism is scarcely discussed and often ignored in contemporary philosophy of science. This article concisely introduced two unpleasant implications of Darwinian paradigm which played a role in Nietzsche’s early critique of Darwin and his followers.
Order From Disorder: Death of Rationality
If Darwinian premises are true, “how”, asked Nietzsche, “can something originate in its opposite, for example rationality in irrationality, the sentient in the dead, logic in unlogic, disinterested contemplation in covetous desire, living for others in egoism, truth in error?”(Nietzsche 1996, 1)
Nietzsche’s question also flies over the contours of the horrid doubt that arose in Charles Darwin’s own inward conviction, as penned in his July 3rd 1881 letter to William Graham; “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.”
Following Nietzsche, the origin of rationality, sentient, and logic are not accounted for in a naturalistic Darwinism. Darwin’s rhetorical question: “Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey’s mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?” underlines a doubtful reliability of our rationality. (Plantinga 2012, Nagel 2012)
Conceived World of Darwinism: Death of Ethics
The existence of undeniable occurrences of human kindness, compassion, love and self-denial, according to Nietzsche, lacks their ontological foundation in bellum omnium contra omnes, a Darwinistic premises viz., “struggle for existence” and “survival of the fittest”. (Nietzsche 1995, 39-40)
Contemporary Darwinian philosophers, E. O. Wilson and Michael Ruse, concurs with Nietzsche that there is no ontological foundation of ethics in Darwinism. Ethics, they argued, “is an illusion fobbed off on us by our genes in order to get us to cooperate.”(Ruse & Wilson 1989, 51) An illusion that is biologically advantageous to aid human survival and reproduce.
This Nietzsche’s early critique of Darwinism applies to those individuals, who he tagged “our ape-genealogists”, who believed in undeniable existence of objective moral values and duties.
In short, Darwinian evolution, following Nietzsche, fails to account for the origin of our rationality, logic, order and occurrences of human kindness, compassion, love and self-denial. These where among some of the reasons Nietzsche viewed Darwin and his followers as people working in physiology of “greatest possible stupidity”.
Nagel, Thomas (2012) Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Nietzsche, Friedrich (1995) David Struss. Translated by Richard T. Gray in Unfashionable Observations. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
______________ (1996) Human, All Too Humane. Translated by R. J. Hollingdale. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
______________(2002) Beyond God and Evil. Translated by Judith Norman. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Plantinga, Alvin (2012) Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Ruse, Michael & Wilson, E. O (1989). The Evolution of Ethics. New Scientist 17, 108-28