I here present a number of theses, each of which deserves an independent argument in support of it, but which I think are both true and defensible:
(1) The resistance to Darwinism as expressed by creationism and by intelligent design largely arises from treating “Darwinism” as a scapegoat for the social ills produced by capitalism. It has become commonplace among creationist and other anti-Darwinists to blame Darwinism for any and all of the following: eugenics, acceptance of homosexuality, sexual promiscuity, genocide, school shootings, abortion, and decline of ecclesiastical authority.
(2) Though the obsession with sexuality and anxiety about the ambiguity of embodiment are standard-fare among the religious far-right, my interest here lies in what it is about contemporary presentations of Darwinism that make it such a tempting target for these anxieties.
(3) This scapegoating is due to both (a) a tendency towards imaginative free associations rather than careful attention to the material forces operating in society, esp. recently, and (b) how contemporary popularizers of Darwinism resort to capitalist metaphors in presenting their ideas, e.g. Dawkins’ “selfish gene”.
(4) More fundamentally, contemporary Darwinists, especially in light of Monod’s Chance and Necessity, conflate the theory of evolution with a materialistic metaphysics that is basically Epicurean in origin. (As Monod’s very title, Chance and Necessity, attests.) Previous philosophers who accepted Darwin’s theory of evolution, such as John Dewey (Experience and Nature, “The Influence of Darwinism on Philosophy” and Hans Jonas (The Phenomenon of Life), did not make this mistake.
(5) And it is a mistake, for two reasons. Firstly, Darwin himself was no Epicurean; he was of the conviction that the universe is not the result of chance and necessity alone, although he was cautious enough to acknowledge that this conviction is vulnerable to skeptical objections grounded in evolutionary considerations (“Darwin’s Doubt,” as Alvin Plantinga calls it). Secondly, and far more importantly, if Darwin were an Epicurean materialist, it still would not matter. The theory of that random and inheritable variation and natural selection explain much of natural history would be rationally acceptable, just as Newton’s laws of physics are rationally acceptable independently of his theological metaphysics. More generally: neither the content of a scientific theory nor the criteria for its acceptability depend upon the implicit or explicit metaphysical commitments of its principle architect, because the criteria for its acceptability depends how the community of inquirers responds to empirical reality.
(6) This conflation between Darwin’s theory and Epicurean metaphysics is directly tied to how Darwinism is turned into the scapegoat for capitalism, because
(7) Capitalism derives its legitimacy from turning Epicurean metaphysics into its dominant ideology, just as the medieval European societal order derived its legitimacy from turning Aristotelian metaphysics into its dominant ideology (though the resurgence of Stoicism also played a prominent role, e.g. in the Scottish Enlightenment).
(8) The period during which Epicurean metaphysics was co-opted into the ideology of capitalism is called “the Scientific Revolution”, and for most of the 17th and 18th centuries, philosophers and scientists (insofar as that distinction can be drawn during this period) wrestled with Epicurean (and also Stoic) metaphysics, much as Aquinas had wrestled with Aristotelian metaphysics.
(9) The result, in each case, was the transformation of metaphysical theory into cultural-political ideology. Aquinas’ synthesis of Aristotle and Catholicism transformed Aristotle’s metaphysics (with minor additions and corrections) into the dominant instrument of cultural-political legitimization within the Church and the cultures it influences, just as Descartes, Locke, Bacon, Hobbes, and Spinoza transformed Epicurean metaphysics (with minor additions and corrections) into the dominant instrument of cultural-political legitimization within techno-scientific capitalism and the cultures it influences.
(10) Thus, where anti-Darwinists refer to Darwinism as materialism, or employ the rhetoric of “chance and necessity” in their criticisms of Darwinism, they are endorsing the ‘Epicureanization’ of Darwinism that Monod, Dawkins, and others performed as part of establishing the scientific credentials of the theory for the popular imagination.
(11) This, in turn, cements the association between Darwinism and capitalism to such a degree that the social forces unleashed by modern and post-modern capitalism – such as decline of traditional privileges centered on gender, race, and sexual orientation; the rise of narcissism; the secularization of Western culture; the increasing alienation of individuals from each other; environmental destruction – are attributed to Darwinism rather than to capitalism. A scientific theory takes the blame for a mode of social organization.