Ever since Darwin published his theory of evolution (Darwin, 1859), there has been a significant resistance against the idea of living matter existing without a cause, against humanity having no special status in the biological world. However, apart from certain people rejecting the theory directly and in its entirety, there is also a mechanism of transforming, of molding the theory of evolution to fit better with what we expect or want the world to be like.
These subtle but significant transformations allow for policies and political ideas operating under a guise of science and credibility, while actually providing nothing of the sort. Yet, their arguments are oddly compelling, often fooling scientists as much as anyone else. I’d like to argue that they are usually directed to a single objective: validation by hierarchy.
Validation by hierarchy is established by first creating for evolution a direction or future goal, then – optionally – by declaring the human species to be the current pinnacle of it, and finally by proposing policies that ‘help’ evolution, or arguing against those that ‘oppose’ it. All these ideas are deeply flawed and lead to dangerous assumptions about ‘inherent’ genetic hierarchies and the biological need to control genetics for the greater good of the species (Foucault, 1976), as well as the idea of the struggle for survival being an actual war, that killing others is somehow ‘good’ for your genes (Mbembe, 2003). However unpopular eugenic policies are, becoming ‘better’ is still deeply connected to our idea of what evolution ‘wants’.
But evolution does not ‘want’. Evolution is not about becoming ‘better’, it is the non-sentient process of survival of genes that are reproduced the most. Evolution has no goal and cannot be opposed or helped – it will simply always happen as long as life as we know it exists. To fight unwanted control over genetics effectively, it is important to realize that an assessment of which genes are ‘best’ is always a human one – it can never be dictated by the direction-less power of evolution.
Darwin, C. (1859) On the Origin of Species. 1. London: Murray.
Foucault, M. (1976) Lecture 17 March 1976, in: Society Must Be Defended. Lectures at the Collège de France 1975-1976, New York: Picador 2003, pp. 239-264.
Mbembe, A. (2003) Necropolitics, in: Public Culture, Vol. 15, No. 1, pp. 11-40