Darwinian Conservatism versus Metaphysical Conservatism - Intercollegiate Studies Institute

Darwinian Conservatism versus Metaphysical Conservatism

The debate over Darwinian conservatism reveals the conflict between metaphysical conservatism and evolutionary conservatism. Metaphysical conservatism views human social order as grounded in a transcendent realm of cosmic design. Evolutionary conservatism is empiricist in viewing human social order as grounded in common human experience as shaped by human nature, human custom, and human judgment. My aim is to explain how that conflict has arisen in the history of conservative thought, to indicate what is at stake between these opposing positions, and to defend the evolutionary side of this dispute. I conclude with a practical illustration of the moral implications of this debate as applied to the American moral controversy over slavery.

I have said that conservatives need Charles Darwin, because a Darwinian science of human evolution supports the conservative view of human imperfectibility and the conservative commitment to ordered liberty as rooted in natural desires, customary traditions, and prudential judgments. For a society of ordered liberty to succeed, I have argued elsewhere, it must satisfy the desires of human nature as shaped by genetic evolution; it must be sustained by the customs of human history as shaped by cultural evolution; and it must be promoted by the judgments of human reason as shaped by prudential deliberation.

There are at least twenty natural desires that constitute our evolved human nature. These natural desires include, for example, the desires for sexual mating, parental care, familial bonding, property, justice as reciprocity, religious understanding, and intellectual understanding. If the good is the desirable, then we can judge social practices by how well they satisfy the full range of these natural desires.

And yet the contingencies of cultural history and individual temperament are so variable that we need prudence to judge what is best for particular societies and particular individuals in specific circumstances. A Darwinian conservatism can generalize, however, that ordered liberty will always require the moral order of traditional morality, the social order of family life, the economic order of private property, and the political order of limited government. A Darwinian science of evolution shows how such a conception of ordered liberty conforms to the evolved nature of human beings.1

Some years ago, when I first summarized some of my reasoning for Darwinian conservatism in the journal First Things, Michael Behe—a biologist who defends “intelligent design theory” as an alternative to Darwinian science—responded by saying that “the notion that Darwinism supports conservatism is absurd.”2 Since then, many conservative critics have joined Behe in arguing that no evolutionary account of human nature can support a conservative view of human order because human beings need to have a supernatural or transcendent end, and they need religion to reveal that cosmic end. The Darwinian conservative assumes that we can fully understand human beings as products of natural evolution, so that we can base our moral and political reasoning on evolved human nature as we know it by common human experience. But many conservatives reject such a naturalistic view of human beings as a threat to any healthy cultural order: they believe such scientific naturalism cannot support a religiously grounded cosmic teleology in which human social order is judged by how well it conforms to the sacred order of the Creator. Such conservatives argue that the ultimate source of order must be found not in natural evolution but in supernatural design. Even if they concede the partial truth of Darwinian science, they look to the argument for design—that the irreducible complexity of life and the universe manifests some creative intelligence—as providing a teleological conception of cosmic purposefulness that sustains human cultural order.

This debate is between two kinds of conservatism. Darwinian conservatism is an evolutionary conservatism in which order emerges from a natural or immanent teleology that we can observe in ordinary human experience. The conservative critics of Darwinian conservatism espouse a metaphysical conservatism in which order depends on a supernatural design or cosmic teleology that transcends ordinary human experience. The immanent teleology of evolutionary conservatism is displayed in the striving of human beings to satisfy their evolved natural desires. The cosmic teleology of metaphysical conservatism assumes that human striving has no natural purposes at all if it is not aimed at the supernatural purposes of the intelligent designer or Creator. Metaphysical conservatism requires religious belief in a sacred order. Evolutionary conservatism rests on a skeptical doubt that such a sacred order is either knowable or reliable as a standard for human cultural order.

In the history of modern conservatism, the split between the metaphysical and the evolutionary positions was manifested in the differences between Russell Kirk and Friedrich Hayek. But this conflict can be traced back to the eighteenth-century origins of modern conservatism in Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France and in the writings of David Hume and Adam Smith. It can be traced even farther back in intellectual history to Plato and Cicero and the ancient debate over whether social order was properly rooted in religious metaphysics or skeptical naturalism. The debate today over Darwinian conservatism continues this enduring debate over the choice between intelligent design and natural evolution as sources of conservative order. The American controversy over slavery illustrates the moral implications of this debate.

Kirk and Hayek

Russell Kirk stated the metaphysical and religious version of conservatism in 1953 in his book The Conservative Mind. The first canon of conservative thought, he declared, was “belief that a divine intent rules society as well as conscience, forging an eternal chain of right and duty which links great and obscure, living and dead.” Consequently, “politics is the art of apprehending and applying the Justice which is above nature.” In later formulations of this first canon, Kirk spoke of the conservative belief in “a transcendent moral order.” In all of his formulations, he connected this principle to “Burke’s description of the state as a divinely ordained moral essence, a spiritual union of the dead, the living, and those yet unborn,” and he spoke of Burke’s view of history as “the unfolding of Design.” He mentioned various schools of thought opposed to conservative thinking, including “those scientific doctrines, Darwinism chief among them, which have done so much to undermine the first principles of a conservative order.”3 Here in Kirk we see the common fear of many conservatives that Darwinian science denies a conservative order by denying the religious belief in a transcendent order.

Since Hayek accepted Darwinian science but doubted the existence of God, this was one of his reasons for disagreeing with Kirk’s conservatism. This led Hayek to insist that he was not really a “conservative” at all, but rather a “liberal” in the classical tradition of Burke and the Old Whigs. He objected to the “obscurantism” of a conservative attitude that rejected Darwin’s theory of evolution as morally corrupting. He elaborated his view of Burkean liberalism as belonging to a British empiricist evolutionary tradition contrasted with a French rationalistic design tradition. In the evolutionary tradition of Hume, Smith, and Burke, Hayek explained, “it was shown that an evident order which was not the product of a designing human intelligence need not therefore be ascribed to the design of a higher, supernatural intelligence, but that there was a third possibility—the emergence of order as the result of adaptive evolution.” He then suggested that Darwin’s theory of biological evolution was derived from the theories of social evolution developed by the Scottish philosophers.4

Hayek described his classical liberalism as based on a philosophical skepticism. Rejecting the “mysticism” of the conservative, the classical liberal skeptic is willing “to face his ignorance and to admit how little we know, without claiming the authority of supernatural sources of knowledge where his reason fails him.” Still, “true liberalism has no quarrel with religion,” because classical liberals can be religious believers, and they respect religion as a “guardian of tradition” insofar as the natural or cultural evolution of religious belief has preserved beneficial moral habits.5

Burke, Smith, and Darwin

That both Kirk and Hayek saw themselves in the intellectual tradition of Burke suggests that the tension between them might be found in Burke. In fact, Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France—the founding text of modern conservatism—shows this tension between the metaphysical conservatism of religious belief and the evolutionary conservatism of skeptical naturalism. As Kirk saw, Burke does seem to have a metaphysical conception of transcendent moral order in which human society is bound up with the order of the universe. Burke writes of “the great primeval contract of eternal society, linking the lower with the higher natures, connecting the visible and invisible world, according to a fixed compact sanctioned by the inviolable oath which holds all physical and all moral natures, each in their appointed place.”6

Here we see the metaphysics of Burke—a religious metaphysics in which the moral and political order of human society is situated within a cosmic order designed by God to conform to His eternal purposes. This supports a cosmic teleology in which human morality is rooted in the eternal principles of right and wrong as woven into the structure of the universe by the Creator. Human morality, it seems, must be grounded in a religious metaphysics of cosmic design. Burke reinforces this conclusion when he cites Cicero’s restatement of Plato’s political theology of design (in Book X of Plato’s Laws): the authority of human laws must be founded on a religious belief in cosmic moral order as part of a divinely designed universe in which the good are rewarded and the bad punished.

But much of the argument of Burke’s Reflections works against such a metaphysical view of morality as dependent on the cosmic structure of the universe. Burke wrote his Reflections as a reply to a sermon in 1789 by Reverend Richard Price praising the French Revolution as a fulfillment of a world-historical tendency toward liberty. Two years earlier, Price had invoked the millennial prophecies of the Bible in forecasting that history was moving toward “the universal empire of reason and virtue.”7 This religious metaphysics of history manifested the Christian Platonism of Price’s moral philosophy. Arguing against the moral naturalism of Hume and the Scottish moral sense philosophers, Price rejected the idea that morality was rooted in moral sentiments, and he contended instead that moral knowledge was a rational activity of the mind in grasping the eternal and immutable metaphysical truths of God’s nature.8

Burke rejected Price’s appeal to the metaphysical abstractions of the “rights of man.” “In proportion as they are metaphysically true, they are morally and politically false.” Earlier in his life, Burke had expressed his skepticism about metaphysical causes in his Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful. He had explained that in looking for the “efficient cause” of sublimity and beauty, he did not pretend to explain the “ultimate cause,” because he was pursuing a purely empirical inquiry into sense experience. “That great chain of causes, which linking one to another even to the throne of God himself, can never be unraveled by any industry of ours. When we go but one step beyond the immediately sensible qualities of things, we go out of our depths. All we do after, is but a faint struggle, that shows we are in an element which does not belong to us.”9

This reliance on sense experience rather than metaphysical causes is also evident in Burke’s understanding of morality. Against Price’s metaphysical morality, Burke evoked those “natural feelings” and “moral sentiments” that show “the natural sense of right and wrong” and “the moral constitution of the heart” as the foundation of moral experience. In doing so, Burke indicated his agreement with Hume and Smith in their account of morality as grounded in the moral sentiments of human nature. When Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments was first published in 1759, Hume sent a copy to Burke. As Hume expected, Burke welcomed Smith’s argument. In his review of Smith’s book, Burke observed:

The author seeks for the foundation of the just, the fit, the proper, the decent, in our most common and most allowed passions; and making approbation and disapprobation the tests of virtue and vice, and showing that those are founded on sympathy, he raises from this simple truth, one of the most beautiful fabrics of moral theory, that has perhaps ever appeared.

Burke then quoted the entire first chapter of Smith’s book, entitled “Of Sympathy.”10

When Darwin developed his evolutionary theory of morality, he was guided by the moral philosophy of Smith and the other Scottish moral sense philosophers. In The Descent of Man, Darwin quoted Smith’s opening remarks about sympathy as the natural power of the human mind for sharing the feelings of others, which was the ground of moral experience. Darwin then showed how this natural human capacity and the moral sentiments could have evolved from social instincts and human reason. The moral sense is not the product of pure reason alone, but is rather a humanly unique capacity for moral judgment that combines social emotions and rational reflection. As social animals, human beings have evolved the cognitive capacity to reflect on present actions in the light of past experience and future expectations. Consequently, human beings can plan their actions to satisfy their social desires for living well with others. Darwin goes on to explain the evolution of morality through the complex interaction of moral sentiments, moral traditions, and moral judgments. “Ultimately,” Darwin concluded, “our moral sense or conscience becomes a highly complex sentiment—originating in the social instincts, largely guided by the approbation of our fellow-men, ruled by reason, self-interest, and in later times by deep religious feelings, and confirmed by instruction and habit.”11

Much of the reasoning for Darwinian conservatism turns on the intellectual links between Smith, Burke, and Darwin. While libertarian conservatives look to Smith as their intellectual founder, traditionalist conservatives look to Burke. The intellectual friendship between Smith and Burke shows the fundamental compatibility of libertarian and traditionalist thought. Darwin explained how the moral thought of Smith and Burke could be confirmed by an evolutionary science of morality. This continuity between Smith, Burke, and Darwin manifests the moral philosophy of conservatism as rooted in the evolved nature of human beings as moral animals. The recent work of conservative thinkers like James Q. Wilson in explaining the evolutionary science of the moral sense builds on this ground.

Metaphysics, Evolution, and Teleology

For metaphysical conservatives, the Darwinian view of morality as rooted in evolved human nature fails to provide a stable basis for moral order, which can come only from a metaphysical conception of moral order as based on a cosmic order of intelligent design. Richard Weaver insisted that a healthy cultural order required a “metaphysical dream of the world,” so that people could imagine their cultural life as a “metaphysical community” fulfilling a cosmic purpose. Weaver worried that Darwin’s theory of evolution denied this “metaphysical dream” of cosmic order by explaining human beings as products of a natural evolutionary process governed by material causes that were not directed to any cosmic purposes. Consequently, in the Darwinian view, human cultural order was deprived of any transcendent meaning because it could not be seen as serving the cosmic order of the Creator’s intelligently designed universe.12

Many other metaphysical conservatives have shared Weaver’s fear of the morally degrading consequences of Darwinian science in denying transcendent order. For example, Robert Kraynak has argued that cultural conservatives must reject Darwinian evolution because it denies “the ultimate purpose of the universe beyond the orderly movement of natural bodies.” And he has urged conservatives to look to “intelligent design theory” as an alternative to Darwinian science that supports a teleological conception of the universe and thus provides metaphysical support for moral order.13 Like Weaver and other metaphysical conservatives, Kraynak assumes that moral order is impossible without invoking a metaphysical order of cosmic purposefulness.

Carson Holloway, John West, Peter Lawler, J. Budziszewski, Francis Beckwith, and other conservative critics of my Darwinian conservatism show the same appeal to metaphysical standards of moral order. Holloway says that my Darwinian account of the moral sense cannot provide the proper ground for morality, because morality is impossible without some “religiously-informed cosmic teleology.”14 Similarly, West insists that moral order requires some “transcendent standard of morality,” a “permanent foundation for ethics,” or some source for morality in “irreducible and unchanging truths.”15 West never explains exactly what these “unchanging truths” are. Though he does often refer to “the Judeo-Christian tradition,” he never specifies precisely what he has in mind. Both Holloway and West speak of the biblical doctrine of man’s creation in the image of God as support for a transcendent standard of human equality and universal love.

Metaphysical conservatives like Holloway and West believe that morality is impossible without the cosmic purposefulness of the “Judeo-Christian tradition.” But which “tradition” is this—Judaism, Catholic Christianity, Protestant Christianity, Islam, Mormonism? Are they referring specifically to the Bible as the source of moral and political order? The English Puritan revolutionaries of the seventeenth century invoked biblical law in their attempt to establish the “kingdom of the saints,” and their metaphysical fanaticism had disastrous consequences. I assume that Holloway and West would reject this. But why? Doesn’t this show how dangerous it is to look to religious metaphysics for cosmic standards to revolutionize society? After all, Hume’s critical assessment of the Puritan republic in England provided the first statement of modern conservatism’s rejection of revolutionary politics as motivated by metaphysical ideology.

If we want moral and political order guided by “religiously-informed cosmic teleology,” how do we avoid theocratic extremism? Not long ago, the Intercollegiate Review published an article by Rémi Brague with the title “Are Non-Theocratic Regimes Possible?”16 His answer to the question was “No.” His reasoning was that in the history of the Western world, the ultimate standard for order was the law of God, and even in modern liberal democracies, the appeal to individual “conscience” implies that this is somehow the voice of God implanted in human beings. He suggested that moral and political order is impossible without the theocratic appeal to the law of God as the metaphysical standard for all human action.

This inclination of metaphysical conservatives toward theocracy was also evident recently in Dinesh D’Souza’s book The Enemy at Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11. D’Souza tried to persuade American conservatives that “conservatives must move closer to the traditional Muslims.” He claimed that the moral debate today is divided sharply between two positions. On one side, conservatives believe in a religious morality rooted in “an external moral order” and “external commands.” On the other side, liberals believe in a secular morality of the inner self—“the morality of self-fulfillment.” The liberals’ secular morality of self-fulfillment promotes moral corruption through hedonistic self-indulgence and materialism. Traditional Muslims believe that this liberal morality will destroy their religion and their way of life. American conservatives, D’Souza insisted, should admit that they are right. America really is morally corrupt insofar as liberal morality has prevailed in American life. American conservatives should join with fundamentalist Muslims in fighting against the corruption of such secular morality.17

For such conservatives who invoke the metaphysics of theocracy as the only ground of moral order, a Darwinian conservatism that roots moral order in natural sentiments, cultural traditions, and deliberate judgments must be rejected as insufficient. But shouldn’t conservatives be suspicious of theocratic metaphysics as fostering a dangerous fanaticism?

If we were to rely on a theocratic metaphysics as the source of order, how exactly would we determine the moral content of that metaphysics? Conservatives like West say that we should look to intelligent design theory. But how do we know that the intelligent designer is a reliable source of moral law? And how do we discern that moral law of the intelligent designer? Actually, West and other proponents of intelligent design insist that, in fact, we cannot know anything about the moral character of the intelligent designer. According to Michael Behe, we cannot know whether the intelligent designer is “a dope, a demon, or a deity.”18 Certainly, intelligent design theory cannot tell us whether the intelligent designer is the God of the Bible who gives a moral law. So it seems that access to the moral law of the “Judeo-Christian tradition” requires faith in certain traditions of revelation rather than reasoning from common human experience. Does this mean that moral and political order is possible only within religious communities that share the same faith tradition? Is this what Brague means by arguing for the necessity of theocracy?

I agree that religious belief is often important for morality. But this does not require that we appeal to theocratic metaphysics as the only source of moral order. We can see religious morality as emerging through the evolved moral order of human life as shaped by the moral sentiments of human nature, the moral traditions of human culture, and the moral judgments of human deliberation. Evolutionary conservatism can support such a moral order while avoiding the confusion and fanaticism that come from the “metaphysical dreams” of theocratic conservatism.

And while the evolutionary explanation of the moral sense cannot appeal to the cosmic teleology of the metaphysical conservatives, the evolutionary explanation does recognize the immanent teleology of living things. Cosmic teleology is the metaphysical conception of all of nature as an organic whole in which all beings serve a cosmic purpose set by an intelligent designer or Creator. By contrast, the immanent teleology of organic life is manifest in the goal-directed generation, structure, and activity of individual organisms. Even if evolution by natural selection is not purposeful, it produces organic beings that are purposeful. Plants and animals grow to maturity, and once grown, they act for ends set by the functional nature of the species.

As Leo Strauss saw, modern science seems to have refuted the ancient cosmic teleology by which natural right is understood as serving cosmic ends. But Strauss also saw that natural moral ends could be rooted in an immanent teleology of human nature. “For, however indifferent to moral distinctions the cosmic order may be thought to be, human nature, as distinguished from nature in general, may very well be the basis of such distinctions.” And so, if we can identify some “human desires and inclinations” as natural, we can then judge a human life as naturally good insofar as it is in accordance with those natural desires and inclinations.19 Darwinian science supports this rooting of moral order in the immanent teleology of human nature by showing how certain desires and inclinations express our evolved human nature. In this way, a Darwinian science of human nature sustains the tradition of Aristotelian natural right and Thomistic natural law. This allows us to judge the moral and intellectual virtues as naturally good insofar as they promote the flourishing of human nature by securing the fullest satisfaction of the natural desires and inclinations over the whole of life.

Slavery, the Bible, and the Moral Sense

The contrast between metaphysical conservatism and evolutionary conservatism is illustrated in how they differ in their understanding of the moral debate over slavery. I have argued that Darwinian conservatism can recognize the immorality of slavery as contrary to our evolved moral sense. Against this, my critics have argued that any moral condemnation of slavery must ultimately rest upon a religious metaphysics that sees slavery as contrary to God’s law.

Hume, Smith, and Darwin saw slavery as a violation of the moral sentiments—particularly, those sentiments that enforce justice as reciprocity. They saw that although human beings are naturally unequal in many respects, they are equal in those minimal emotional and intellectual capacities that sustain a moral sense and thus identify them as members of the human species. This understanding of equality requires not equality as identity but equality as reciprocity: although unequal in many ways, all normal human beings will resist exploitation and demand social cooperation based on reciprocal exchange. Slavery is a form of social parasitism. And since human slaves are not naturally adapted to their enslavement, they will resist their exploitation, and slaveholders will have to impose their rule over their slaves by force and fraud. In the effort to justify slavery, slaveholders will espouse a fraudulent ideology of paternalism that claims that the slaves are naturally benefited by their enslavement. Thus, proslavery ideology in the American South asserted that black slaves were physically, morally, and intellectually inferior to whites in their biological nature, and so these black slaves were happier when they were enslaved to white masters. One of the primary motivations for Darwin’s writing of The Descent of Man was to refute this ideology of scientific racism by showing that all the human races were members of the same human species with the same moral sense that condemned slavery as exploitation.

The critics of Darwinian conservatism insist, however, that a Darwinian account of morality cannot sustain a moral case against slavery, which requires a universal morality based upon the cosmic moral law of a religious metaphysics. According to Holloway, Darwinian natural right cannot support a moral condemnation of slavery, because Darwinian science lacks “a convincing justification for universal morality.”20 The same objection has come from philosophical theologians like C. Stephen Evans and John Hare. Evans and Hare are leading proponents of the divine command theory of morality, based on the idea that ultimately the only reliable standard of morality is God’s command. They criticize my evolutionary naturalism, because they believe a purely natural morality cannot work if unsustained by religious belief in God as the source of all moral standards. They claim that human beings would never have recognized the immorality of slavery if they had not learned from the Christian religious tradition that slavery violates God’s commandment of universal love as taught in the Bible. The teaching of Jesus that we should love our neighbors sustains a universal and disinterested love of all human beings equally, and all morality is rooted in this one divine command. The biblical teachings about the universal moral dignity of all human beings as created in God’s image and about the Golden Rule as the foundation of morality support this teaching of universal love.

The problem with this reasoning, however, is that the Bible seems to sanction slavery. Metaphysical conservatives like Richard Weaver admire the “older religiousness” in the American South before the Civil War, and they recognize that part of the Southern religion was faith in the Bible as supporting slavery. According to Weaver, slavery “is well recognized in the Old Testament, and it is not without endorsement in the New; indeed, a strict constructionist interpretation almost requires its defense.”21 Similarly, historian Mark Malvasi sees the antebellum South as the last bastion of the “Old Republic,” which was founded on “a genuinely Christian slavery.”22

Malvasi identifies the Reverend Frederick Ross’s Slavery Ordained of God, published in 1857, as one of the best statements of the biblical justification for slavery.23 Ross adhered to a divine command theory of morality. Ross insisted that to look to natural standards of right and wrong independently of God’s will is atheism. We know what is right and wrong only because, and to the extent that, we know whether God has declared it right or wrong. And for this, we must turn to the Bible as God’s revelation of His will. Therefore, we cannot know whether slavery is right or wrong except by seeing what the Bible teaches about God’s will as to slavery.

Ross noted that the Old Testament clearly sanctioned slavery. The ancient Israelites practiced it, and God commanded it. Similarly, in the New Testament, the Christians accepted slavery as practiced by the ancient Romans. Paul taught slaves to obey their masters, just as he taught children to obey their parents and wives to obey their husbands.

But what about the Biblical arguments of the abolitionists—arguments that appealed to the teachings about being created in God’s image, about universal love, and about the Golden Rule? Ross responded by showing that the Bible clearly taught that human beings are commanded to conform to relationships of authority in which some people are to submit to the authority of their superiors. Children must submit to parents. Wives must submit to husbands. Subjects must submit to government. Slaves must submit to masters. So the teaching of universal love must be interpreted in the light of these moral obligations to submit to authority. That we are all created in God’s image does not mean that we are all the same. Children need to submit to the authority of their parents because the circumstances of children make them dependent on parental care. Similarly, slaves need to submit to the authority of their masters because slaves depend upon direction from their masters. Such relationships of inferiors and superiors run throughout society, and they are sanctioned by God.

This dispute over the Bible’s handling of the slavery issue divided the Christian churches in America before and during the Civil War. Americans had looked to the Bible as the revelation of the sacred order of the universe that would resolve all moral disputes by the cosmic authority of God’s law. But in this greatest moral crisis in American history, the Bible failed to provide any clear answer in the dispute over slavery between North and South. As Abraham Lincoln observed in his Second Inaugural Address, “Both read the same Bible, and pray to the same God; and each invokes His aid against the other.”24

In such a situation, human beings must appeal to some natural moral sense like that espoused by Hume, Smith, and Darwin. Darwinian conservatives can explain this moral sense as rooted in evolved human nature and as shaped by moral sentiments, moral traditions, and practical judgments. Unlike the metaphysical conservatives, who claim that all social order must conform to some supernatural order of intelligent design or divine creation, evolutionary conservatives see social order as the product of ordinary human experience as guided by nature, custom, and prudence.

That’s why conservatives need Charles Darwin.



Larry Arnhart is distinguished research professor emeritus of political science at Northern Illinois University.




  1. I have elaborated my reasoning for Darwinian conservatism in three books—Darwinian Natural Right: The Biological Ethics of Human Nature (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1998) and Darwinian Conservatism (Exeter, UK: Imprint Academic, 2005) being the two earliest. In 2009 Imprint Academic published Darwinian Conservatism: A Disputed Question, edited by Kenneth Blanchard—an expanded edition of Darwinian Conservatism with critical commentary from seven authors and my response. I offer regular commentary on issues surrounding Darwinian conservatism at my blog, darwinianconservatism.blogspot.com.


  2. Larry Arnhart, Michael Behe, and William Dembski, “Conservatives, Darwin, and Design: An Exchange,” First Things, no. 107 (November 2000), 23–31.


  3. Russell Kirk, The Conservative Mind: From Burke to Santayana(Chicago: Henry Regnery Company, 1953), 7–10; Kirk, The Conservative Mind: From Burke to Eliot, 7th revised ed. (Washington, DC: Regnery Publishing, 1985), 8–11; Kirk, Introduction, in The Portable Conservative Reader, ed. Russell Kirk (New York: Penguin Books, 1982), xv.


  4. Friedrich A. Hayek, The Constitution of Liberty (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1960), 54–61.


  5. Ibid., 406–7; Hayek, The Fatal Conceit: The Errors of Socialism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988), 136–37.


  6. Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France, ed. J. C. D. Clark (Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press, 2001), 261.


  7. Richard Price, Political Writings, ed. D. O. Thomas (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 154, 156, 195.


  8. Richard Price, A Review of the Principal Questions in Morals, reprinted in D. D. Raphael, ed., British Moralists, 1650–1800 (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 1991), vol. 2, 131–34, 147–48, 157–59.


  9. Edmund Burke, A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origins of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful, ed. Adam Phillips (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990), Part 4, Section 1, 117–18.


  10. Edmund Burke’s review was published in the Annual Register, 2 (December 1759), 484–89.


  11. Charles Darwin, Charles Darwin’s Notebooks, 1836–1844, ed. Paul H. Barrett et al. (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1987), 537, 558, 563–64, 619–29; Darwin, The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex, 2nd ed., ed. by James Moore and Adrian Desmond (New York: Penguin Books, 2004), 120–72, 679–82.


  12. Richard M. Weaver, Ideas Have Consequences (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1948), 18–34; Weaver, Visions of Order: The Cultural Crisis of Our Time (Wilmington, DE: ISI Books, 1995), 137–45.


  13. Robert P. Kraynak, “Conservative Critics of Modernity: Can They Turn Back the Clock?” in Mark C. Henrie, ed., Arguing Conservatism: Four Decades of the Intercollegiate Review (Wilmington, DE: ISI Books, 2008), 63, 70–71.


  14. Carson Holloway, The Right Darwin? (Dallas: Spence Publishing, 2006), 185–89.


  15. John G. West, Darwin’s Conservatives: The Misguided Quest (Seattle: Discovery Institute Press, 2006), 21–23.


  16. Rémi Brague, “Are Non-Theocratic Regimes Possible?,” Intercollegiate Review, 41 (Spring 2006), 3–12.


  17. Dinesh D’Souza, The Enemy at Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11 (New York: Doubleday, 2007), 18–20, 287.


  18. Michael Behe, The Edge of Evolution: The Search for the Limits of Darwinism (New York: Free Press, 2007), 238.


  19. Leo Strauss, Natural Right and History (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1953), 7–8, 94–95.


  20. Holloway, The Right Darwin? 90–99, 185–87.


  21. Richard Weaver, The Southern Essays of Richard M. Weaver, ed. George M. Curtis and James J. Thompson (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1987), 150.


  22. Mark Malvasi, “The Old Republic and the Sectional Crisis,” Modern Age, 49 (Fall 2007), 463–75.


  23. Frederick A. Ross, Slavery Ordained of God (Philadelphia: J. P. Lippincott & Co., 1857).


  24. Abraham Lincoln, Speeches and Writings, (New York: Library of America, 1989), vol. 2, 687.


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