A Darwinian Left

A Darwinian Left

Cover of the first edition
Author Peter Singer
Country United States
Language English
Subject Human nature
Published 1999 (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
Media type Print (Hardcover)
Pages 70
ISBN 0-297-64336-3

A Darwinian Left: Politics, Evolution and Cooperation is a 1999 book by Peter Singer, in which Singer argues that the view of human nature provided by evolution (e.g., evolutionary psychology) is compatible with and should be incorporated into the ideological framework of the Left.


Singer believes that the Left will be better able to achieve its social and economic goals if it incorporates the more accurate view of human nature provided by evolution: "To be blind to the facts about human nature is to risk disaster". For example, Singer argues that the Left's view of human nature as highly malleable, which he identifies with Marxism and the standard social science model, is incorrect.

Singer argues that evolutionary psychology suggests that humans naturally tend to be self-interested. He further argues that the evidence that selfish tendencies are natural must not be taken as evidence that selfishness is right. He concludes that game theory (the mathematical study of strategy) and experiments in psychology offer hope that self-interested people will make short-term sacrifices for the good of others, if society provides the right conditions. Essentially Singer claims that although humans possess selfish, competitive tendencies naturally, they have a substantial capacity for cooperation that has also been selected for during human evolution.[1]


The philosopher Philip Kitcher has criticised the book's handling of sociobiology, saying that it contains "credulous retailing of sociobiological speculations" while noting that "much of this book is admirable in its clarity, directness, and grasp of central points".[2]


  1. Leigh Van Valen (June 20, 2000). "How the Left Got Darwin Wrong". Scientific American. Retrieved 25 May 2012.
  2. Kitcher, P. (2002). "Peter Singer, A Darwinian Left: Politics, Evolution, and Cooperation". Ethics. 112 (4): 861–863. doi:10.1086/339782.

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