David Brooks' Evolution Revelation
Logan Gage took the words right out of my mouth. I noticed some commentary on the David Brooks piece that I quoted in my last post, and thought that Brooks was being misunderstood. Gage had the same reaction, and posted it before I got around to it. I have some further observations.
I do not think that Brooks is endorsing the Darwinian cosmology. He seems to be merely commenting on an epiphany of sorts that he had while visiting a museum: even though many people think we live in a "post-modern" culture, many people have "willy nilly" adopted and "unconsciously submit to" a Darwinian meta-narrative. Here are the key sections:
Though it's dense and dry, it rekindled the University of Chicago flame that lingers in every graduate's soul and got me thinking all sorts of Big Thoughts. I also had the sensation - which I used to get during those sweeping old Western Civ courses - of seeing my own time from the outside, from the vantage point of some ancient spot.
And it occurred to me that while we postmoderns say we detest all-explaining narratives, in fact a newish grand narrative has crept upon us willy-nilly and is now all around. Once the Bible shaped all conversation, then Marx, then Freud, but today Darwin is everywhere.
. . .
Looking at contemporary America from here in Jerusalem and from the ancient past, it's clear we're not a postmodern society anymore. We have a grand narrative that explains behavior and gives shape to history. We have a central cosmology to embrace, argue with or unconsciously submit to.
I think that it is clear the Brooks does not think that any cosmology should be adopted as a result of willy nilly creep or unconscious submission. He is describing the situation, and saying that we should consciously embrace this cosmology or argue with it. Arguing with it is what many ID proponents are doing. It think that Brooks now recognizes that there are important issues here that need to be critically examined and debated. I agree.
One key point he is making is that evolution is more than a scientific theory. It is also a meta-narrative and a cosmology, which means that it has moved into the realm of metaphysics and is functioning like a religion. This is precisely the point that Michael Ruse, and many others, have made in the past. My post on Michael Ruse and his view that evolution in the form of "Evolutionism" must be considered a religion is here. Ruse says in part:
Popular evolution--evolutionism--offered a world picture, a story of origins, and a special place for humans in the scheme of things. At the same time, it delivered moral exhortations, prescribing what we ought to do if we want things to continue well (or to be redeemed and a decline reversed). These things hardly came by chance or in isolation. In asking about origins, evolutionism was answering a question posed by Christianity (and Judaism before this), and in focusing on the status and obligations of humans, evolutionism was trying deliberately to do better than Christianity.. . .
To use a phrase invented by Thomas Henry Huxley's biologist grandson, Julian Huxley, the evolutionists were truly in the business of providing a "religion without revelation"--and like all fanatics, they were intolerant of rivals.
I really hope you read the full quote. I closed my post with this:
This raises an important question: what exactly is conveyed to students when they learn about evolution in public school and when the evidence that undermines macroevolutionary theory is banned? Do students get pure science? Or does a little religious "evolutionism" seep in as well? If it does seep in, how does that affect the constitutionality of teaching it with no alternatives? How can public schools avoid establishing evolutionism as a state religion?Are kids learning just the scientific theory in class, or is the Darwinian cosmology being taught as well? If it is, this would violate the US Constitution.