On Human Nature

by Roger Scruton, Princeton, £18.95

Ignore the knighthood, the professorships, the medals, the 40 or so elegantly argued books like this one. Sir Roger Scruton is an animal. He is driven by biological needs, territorial impulses, a reproductive imperative. Him, you, me; hedgehogs, chimpanzees, rutting stags: we are all part of one long but uninterrupted chain of being. Natura non facit saltus.

Of course, we humans may feel (and act) as if we are special, but we aren’t. Not really. All the things that set us apart can be explained as enhanced versions of characteristics found in the lower animals also.

Darwin was right, we are told: our moral sense is continuous with, not distinct from, the social instincts of other species. All our pleasures, high and low, are the residues of adaptive processes whereby organisms became hardwired to behave in ways that further the reproduction of their genes. Evolutionary psychologists replace our own descriptions of ourselves with neutral scientific accounts of the kind “that could be applied to a dog or a horse”.

All our pleasures, high and low, are the residues of adaptive processes whereby organisms became hardwired to behave in ways that further the reproduction of their genes.

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