The Most Evolved Guys in the Room

Here are quotes from some reviews of The Smartest Guys in the Room:

Skilling fostered a macho, social Darwinian atmosphere amongst the traders that was inherently cutthroat. The more we learn of the man’s Alpha male practices the more it becomes apparent that he suffered from a massive inferiority complex and overcompensated wildly. Skilling was an economical terrorist who felt that he was above the law and that money was his religion.

It’s not surprising to learn that Skilling’s favorite book was “The Selfish Gene,” a 1976 ultra-Darwinian tract that argues money is the only thing that matters. It certainly wasn’t personal responsibility or conscience for these guys.

While it’s shocking enough to see the complete moral vacuum at the center of Enron’s corporate philosophy, it is even more chilling to realize how tied in it is with the Bush administration, both on a personal and professional level. Looking at the bigger picture, Gibney demonstrates that in some ways this kind of capitalism run amok has become national policy. The only problem with Enron is that it got caught.

Richard Coniff is apparently embarrassed by the denigration of his hero Richard Dawkins by Jeffrey Skilling. He complains about Skilling’s “strange, Darwinian understanding” of unethical business practices, as depicted in the book and movie The Smartest Guys in the Room.

Coniff, it seems, doth protest too much. He claims to despise Skilling’s philosophy, saying that in actuality humans have evolved cooperative social structures that are more effective than individual selfishness and greed. However, competitive exclusion is absolutely congruent with the normal social situation in science. Those who adopt the wrong paradigm are losers. They don’t get grants, they don’t get tenure, they don’t get press, they don’t get respect. In the world of evolutionary science, the ultimate losers are the pre-Darwinites (and post-Darwinites are accused of being closet pre-Darwinites). Most evolutionists advocate censure and complete exclusion from intellectual discourse (not to mention jobs in education, science, or government) for anyone stupid enough to reject Darwinian rationalism.

Social Darwinism is widely despised by progressives now, but 100 years ago it was quite respectable among progressives, along with eugenics. It’s rather sad that evolutionists have so rudely abandoned their natural children for their adopted child, post-Soviet progressive idealism.

It doesn’t change anything, as far as the broader implications of Darwinism. If you want it as your philosophy of life, you can look to Hitler, Ayn Rand, and Jeff Skilling for role models of people who have taken it to its logical conclusion, rhetorically and practically.

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