The quotation of the week last week had to be that of Harvard professor Daniel E. Lieberman in an opinion piece for the New York Times.
Lieberman, a professor of human evolutionary biology, was among those who publicly defended New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's plan to ban the sale of sugared soft drinks in cups larger than 16 ounces.
And he did so using, of all things, evolution.
Now, we all know that humans have always needed -- or evolved to need -- carbohydrates for energy. So how could evolution argue for Mayor Bloomberg's ban on sugar, a pure carbohydrate?
"We have evolved," the professor concluded his piece, "to need coercion."
In order to understand both how silly and dangerous this comment is, one must first understand the role evolutionary explanations play in academic life -- and in left-wing life generally. The left has always sought single, non-values based explanations for human behavior. It was originally economics. Man is homo economicus, the creature whose behavior can be explained by economics.
Rather than dividing the world between good and evil, the left divided the world in terms of economics. Economic classes, not moral values, explain human behavior. Therefore, to cite a widespread example, poverty, not one's moral value system, or lack of it, causes crime.
Recently, however, the economic explanation for human behavior has lost some of its appeal. Even many liberal professors and editorial writers have had to grapple with the "surprising" fact that violent crime has declined, not increased, in the current recession.
In the words of "Scientific American," "Homo economicus is extinct."
But the biggest reason for the declining popularity of economic man is that science has displaced economics -- which is not widely regarded as a science -- as the left's real religion. Increasingly, therefore, something held to be indisputably scientific -- evolution -- is offered as the left's explanation for virtually everything.
Evolution explains love, altruism, morality, economic behavior, God, religion, intelligence. Indeed, it explains everything but music. For some reason, the evolutionists have not come up with an evolution-based explanation for why human beings react so powerfully to music. But surely they will.
Now, along comes Professor Lieberman, not merely to use evolution to explain human behavior but to justify coercive left-wing social policy.
Dennis Prager is a SRN radio show host, contributing columnist for Townhall.com and author of his newest book, “The Ten Commandments: Still the Best Moral Code.”
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