Q. In “the Ancestor’s Tale” you mention the Welfare State as a challenge to Darwinism. How can one justify this challenge”
Dawkins: No self respecting person would want to live in a Society that operates according to Darwinian laws. I am an passionate Darwinist, when it involves explaining the development of life. However, I am a passionate anti-Darwinist when it involves the kind of society in which we want to live. A Darwinian State would be a Fascist state.
This quotation got picked up by First Things, and it made its way over to Dembski's blog, where contributor Barry A tries to make rhetorical hay out of it. After quoting a passage from one of his books where Dawkins appers to be saying that we all dance to the music of our genes, Barry claims that Dawkins contradicts himself:
In the last sentence Dawkins asserts that Darwinian determinism is absolute. It is, therefore, incoherent for him to suggest that we can “rise above” our biological nature. For if he is correct then we are nothing but material objects dancing to DNA’s tune, and it makes no sense to suggest that an object can rise above itself.
It is just here that O’Leary’s work in “The Spiritual Brain” comes into play. I can rise above my material body ONLY if an immaterial ”me” exists that is separate from, and superior to, my body.
I think I know what Dawkins meant to say: that belief in Darwinian evolution doesn't entail a belief in some form of crude social darwinism.
But still, he could have chosen his words a lot more carefully. I mean, what the heck is a "Darwinian State" anyway? A state where children face each other in gladiatorial games where the winners are allowed to reproduce? One where everybody gets IQ tests and the low scorers are culled? Nazi Germany? I don't know what a "Darwinian State" entails, and I don't know of anybody who wants one. I don't think it's a coherent or well-specified concept. Tell me what it is, and I will tell you if I like the idea.
Dawkins seems to be saying that belief in evolution is wholly compatible with the sort of European-style Social Democratic welfare state that, as a good left-leaning European intellectual he tends to favor. Which of course is true. But believing in evolution, or being an atheist who also believes in evolution, doesn't necessarily lead to any particular political agenda or economic theory. It is quite possible for somebody to be an atheist, and to believe in evolution, and be a Marxist, or a libertarian, or a Burkean conservative, or even a monarchist. Being an atheist is certainly incompatible with certain political positions -- Sharia law, Christian Reconstructionism, pretty much any other form of theocracy. But it is wholly compatible with a wide range of mutually-incompatible political belief systems.
Like it or not, Richard Dawkins is a big "name" atheist -- probably the most widely-known advocate of atheism on the stage today. He is also a science writer who has written a lot of popular stuff about evolution, and he's a big foil for the creationists. Given that position of notoriety, it is probably a mistake for him to make statements that the creationists can twist into some sort of concession. He can express whatever political views he wants, but he should probably avoid terms like "Darwinian state."