Doug Phillips on Evolution and Feminism

I just read the following quote by Doug Phillips of Vision Forum:

Evolution says the struggle of the survival of the fittest, there are no differences between men and women, there is no charity, there is no deference, and in an evolutionary world feminism reaches its height and we see no distinctions. The result is babies are killed en masse, women are treated like chattel and men no longer take on their masculine role as defenders.

This quote is so out there that I have decided to dissect it. Please join me!

Evolution says the struggle of the survival of the fittest…

Actually, evolution says that the traits that are most successful are most likely to be passed on. In other words, a physically stronger man is more likely to have more children than a physically weaker man, thus passing on his genes for being physically stronger. Sure, you could summarize that as “the survival of the fittest,” but that’s sort of simplistic.

…there are no differences between men and women…

Actually, “evolution” does not “say” that at all. There clearly are biological differences between men and women, biological differences that have evolved over time. Also, what’s with evolution “saying” things anyway? Evolution is a theory that describes the evidence we see in the physical world, nothing more, nothing less.

…there is no charity…

Um. No. This does not flow from evolution at all. In fact, I’m pretty sure many scientists have argued that altruism is an evolved trait, because doing good things for those around us has traditionally meant doing good things for our relatives or closely related tribe, and thus helping to pass on our shared genes. A cooperative tribesman, after all, would be more likely to have offspring – and make it more likely for his siblings, etc, to have offspring – than an uncooperative, argumentative, lone tribesman would.

…there is no deference…

What? First evolution means “struggle of the survival of the fittest” and now it means “there is no deference”? That just makes no sense. There is nothing about the theory of evolution that states that there should be no such thing as deference, and in fact, we see social hierarchies in essentially every human civilization we know of, thus arguing that the existence of deference is very definitely not against the theory of evolution.

…and in an evolutionary world feminism reaches its height and we see no distinctions.

Again, what? If evolution means feminism, then why the heck has essentially every human civilization been patriarchal?

What Phillips means by an “evolutionary world” is “a world in which people accept the theory of evolution.” According to Phillips, accepting the theory of evolution means believing that “there are no differences between men and women, there is no charity, there is no deference.” However, as I have pointed out, evolution does not rule out any of those things, and actually, the evolutionary process has led to differences between men and women, charity, and deference. More importantly, evolution does not say anything about whether there should be differences between men and women, whether there should be charity, or whether there should be deference. Evolution is not a worldview that tells people how to act. Rather, it is a theory explaining the physical evidence we have. But Phillips does not appear to understand that.

Even understanding this, the above quotation snippit still makes no sense. When the theory of evolution first became well-known and accepted in the West, society was still very patriarchal and remained so for several generations (and to some extent remains so today). Societal acceptance of the theory of evolution did not in any way lead to feminism, nor is there any reason it should have. After all, there are even some atheists who argue based on their incorrect understanding of evolution that men are superior to women – more rational, smarter, etc. I only wish accepting the theory of evolution meant that feminism would “reach its height” and that we would “see no distinctions”!

The result is babies are killed en masse…

He means abortion, of course, and is apparently unaware that abortion was performed thousands upon thousands of years before anyone knew about evolution.

…women are treated like chattel…

Again, you have to understand what Phillips means. He doesn’t mean that “evolution” results in women being treated as chattel – he doesn’t believe evolution ever occurred, after all – but rather that “societal acceptance of the theory of evolution” results in women being treated as chattel. You know what? I’m pretty sure that women were chattel in many if not most societies for thousands upon thousands of years before society knew about evolution. And today? Today women are not treated as chattel, at least not in the West. Today women are finally treated as equal human beings (for the most part), not as chattel.

…and men no longer take on their masculine role as defenders.

Ah ha. See, the only way to make sense of the “women treated as chattel” bit is to combine it with this and understand a bit of where Phillips is coming from. It works like this:

Women are weaker than men. Men are stronger. Men are supposed to protect women. Every woman should have a male protector, whether that be her father, husband, brother, or son. Without a male protector, women are thrown to the winds because, after all, they are weaker and therefore cannot help but be preyed on by men, who are stronger.

If you “pretend” that men and women are equal, and remove women from the protection of their male relatives, the result is that women will be grossly taken advantage of and “treated like chattel.” Only by placing women under the authority of male relatives, who fulfill “their masculine role as defenders,” can women be protected from being treated “like” chattel. Because…well…then they will be chattel.

And now my brain is twisted into a pretzel. My concluding thoughts are simply that Doug Phillips sure doesn’t have a lot of respect for women, since he sees them as always weak and in need of male protection, and that he doesn’t actually understand what evolution is and isn’t about or does or does not predict, and that he is seriously confused when he argues that our modern secular world is based on “an evolutionary worldview” that somehow endorses everything about how evolution proceeds (i.e. survival of the fittest). And yet…there are a lot of people who listen raptly to Phillips and believe everything he says.

Please feel free to add any additional perspective you might have on this quote, as I’m sure I missed some things!

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About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.