Capitalism has become synonymous with ‘greed’. Children and students are being taught to be subjective and tribal rather than objective and self-reflective. They are being taught not to think at all but to rely on ‘consensus’. This is taking us back to pre-Enlightenment group-think. Worrying though this trend is, there is an entirely logical explanation for it: Charles Darwin. It is distasteful to humans to imagine that ‘chance mutation’, ‘competition for fixed resources’ and capricious ‘nature’ have secured the survival of the few at the expense of the many - hence the West’s crisis of confidence and the dangerous attraction of a Marxist redistributive regime.

Happily, Charles Darwin’s “struggle for survival” and “natural selection” ideas have been eclipsed by genetic research and its stunning, genetic-engineering technologies. It turns out that mutation is not governed merely by ‘chance’ (life-forms switch their genes on and off and tweak them), resources are not in short supply (complex ecosystems generate sources of energy) and individual organisms (together with their commensals), rather than ‘nature’, drive evolution.

The text books confidently tell students that relationships between organisms are either competitive or cooperative. Children are told competing is bad, sharing is good. There is a third - and crucial - relationship that exists at every level, from single cell, tissue, life-form to ecosystem: a relationship based on ‘trading’ the products of metabolism. Such recycling, of course, is neither cooperative nor competitive. In nature, as in human economies, Adam Smith’s ‘invisible hand’ ensures ‘division of labour’. Rather than conclude that the evolution of Homo sapiens - a creature with free-will - is an aberration, the result of chance mutation, struggle for survival and ‘natural selection’, we need to re-examine the source of this intellectual error without invoking religious explanations. The problem of speciation, that Darwin bravely tackled but admitted at the end of his influential book, never to have solved, can be clarified by reverse-engineering from the human condition.

The West’s crisis of confidence in human efficacy and its depressing policy of ‘managed decline’ has encouraged the emergence of aspiring totalitarians who are currently demanding “a global solution to a global problem”. They wish to ‘save the planet’ - at the expense of humans, if necessary. Sadly, the ‘green agenda’ has all the trappings of that ancient, mystical, worship of nature: Pantheism.

Prof. Christine Wheeler McNulty