Some quotes from an article in the Sydney Morning Herald by Professor Tom Frame titled “Questions Darwinism cannot answer”. (Monday 9 Feb 09)
“A dedicated Darwinian would welcome imperialism, genocide, mass deportation, ethnic cleansing, eugenics, euthanasia, forced sterilisations and infanticide.”
“The problem I face is weariness with science-based dialogue partners like Richard Dawkins. It surprises me he is not chided for his innate scientific conservatism and metaphysical complacency. He won’t take his depiction of Darwinism to logical conclusions. A dedicated Darwinian would welcome imperialism, genocide, mass deportation, ethnic cleansing, eugenics, euthanasia, forced sterilisations and infanticide. Publicly, he advocates none of them.
Even his much-publicised atheism lacks commitment and courage. It is a cultural preference rather than a philosophical conviction. Nietzsche and Camus believed the death of God would be revolutionary and terrifying. Jean-Paul Sartre said "atheism is a cruel and long-range affair". All that Dawkins can offer is a revival of old-fashioned secular humanism, whose hopes and aspirations are summarised in John Lennon’s insipid 1971 composition Imagine.
Sustained consideration of Darwinian theory has raised a number of new questions for me. When does design become domination? Why did God create human beings as objects of divine favour, "a little lower than angels" (Psalm 8, verse 5), lay a good life out before them in which they could live in harmony with the creator and other creatures, and then include within them the capacity, even propensity, to behave otherwise?”
“I find the materialist atheism of some rational sceptics harder to accept than theistic belief, and cannot make sense of my life in this world without believing in God and providence. Crudely naturalistic science leaves no room for poetic truth, refuses to honour any spiritual element in physical things and cannot accept the existence of a human soul.
Such science is also inhibited from asking whether life has any meaning, as this would require stepping outside the processes that led its practitioners to the point of questioning. Evolution might account for the story of life’s beginnings and progress, but it cannot explain its origin nor cast any light on its destiny.”
Tom Frame is Professor of Theology at Charles Sturt University. This is an edited extract from his new book, Evolution in the Antipodes.
While Desmond and Moore are busy trying to prove that Darwin was ‘really’ concerned about racism and the treatment of our fellows, Professor Frame says “A dedicated Darwinian would welcome imperialism, genocide, mass deportation, ethnic cleansing, eugenics, euthanasia, forced sterilisations and infanticide”.
We should wait for the dedicated Darwinians to provide their answer to that.
But Professor Frame is right in one respect.
There is a real problem with what “Naturalists” leave out of the representations of life which they craft, and much of what they leave out (and which is evident in forms of representations from First Peoples around the world) can be briefly glossed as “the sum total of existential factors”.
It is what they exclude which is part of the problem. There is far more to life than what the Naturalists – with their strict and self-effacing cultural code – allow in their depictions.
One of the challenges for post-modern conceptual craftspeople is to fashion new forms of representation which allow us all to live full lives – full, that is, in terms of existential factors.
Not full in the sense of a return to the obsolete world views promoted by monotheists of whatever kind, but in particular those working within the mega-control trips of established religions.
While Professor Tom gives voice to this major deficiency in naturalism, it is very telling that he says that “… cannot make sense of my life in this world without believing in God and providence.”
Just what kind of sense is he making? We are all busy making sense. It helps us deal with our reality. But there must be room for non-sense as well. Attempts to fix life so there is no space for non-sense inevitably become debased.
What kind of sense? Is it the sense we require to be able to be here in the eternal now – and to hope to get a glimmer of life as life – or the kind of sense which requires the grand master narratives of the kind which lead to the sacrificial slaughter (or otherwise) of those whose lives are considered of lesser or no value because they do not comply with the master narrative specifications?
Restoring balance to our means of representation, in order to minimise such risks, is crucially important for our sanity as part of the larger community of life.
The following from Jean-Francois Lyotard seems to resonate at this juncture. Writing about totalitarianism and the the role of languages of legitimation, he says:
“I would argue that, at least in the framework of a reflection on totalitarianism, there are two primary procedures of language which come to mask the logical aporia of authorisation (or fill the ontological gap) that such a reflection would disclose. Both of these procedures make recourse to narration; that is, on the surface at least, they both dispense this absence, spreading the theoretical problem along the diachronic axis. But that is the only thing they have in common. For while one procedure directs this dispersion upstream, towards an origin, the other directs it downstream, towards an end. In very simple terms (which you’ll have to excuse), one of these narrations shapes those mythic narratives which are essential to traditional communities, while the other shapes the narratives of emancipation (which I called metanarratives in The Post Modern Condition).” (J-F Lyotard “The Postmodern Explained to Children 1992:52-53)
Unpacking that paragraph, in relation to the Naturalism of Darwin a al Desmond and Moore, and the position of Professor Frame et al, may require far more genius than is available from this writer alone.
And where, i wonder, does the myth of the eternal return (documented by Eliade) fit in (or not fit in) to Lyotard’s framework for reflection?