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Saturday, May 15, 2010

New English Review: Darwinism as “grand and stupid prejudice”

In “Triumph of Maya,” New English Review (May 10), Mark Antony Signorelli addresses the poverty of current cultural Darwinism, critiquing it from a Hindu perspective:
When I speak here of Darwinism, I am not referring to the scientific theory of evolution as it is currently expounded, which is a matter for scientists to debate; I am referring to the apotheosis of that scientific theory into an all-explanatory, totalizing doctrine, with all sort of implications of a necessarily philosophical purport. This is the true Darwinism to which I refer,[iv] and which has spread like a pestilence through the corridors of Western academia. Of course, in this respect, Darwinism merely displays that positivism, or scientism, which is one of the grand and stupid prejudices of the modern mind, and arguably lies at the root of all the others. The belief that because science has explained some things well, it can explain all things well, and that therefore the only legitimate form of inquiry partakes of scientific methodology, pervades our era, though nobody now so much as pretends to offer a rational defense of such assumptions. On the occasion that such a defense was attempted, it was a crashing failure. The logical positivists, those masters of sterility, gathered amidst the pallor of early twentieth century decadence for the express purpose of restraining men’s thoughts, for all time, to the wholly material and observable. ... Clutching this blatantly self-refuting doctrine in their little withered fists, they warned men that henceforth there would be no more metaphysics. These were men who believed that prakriti (material) was all, and who wished to cajole their fellow man into the like conviction, yet their project ended in such a perfect and irremediable failure that their efforts remain as a kind of startling monument to the absurdity of philosophical presumption. And still, the ranks of the academic materialists are filled with haughty men convinced that the general position of the logical positivists, so nakedly erroneous, is a self-evident truth. We still routinely read the claim, made or insinuated by authors whom we are supposed to take seriously, that metaphysics is a passé and useless discipline, as though a complete and systematic explanation of the universe were possible without a metaphysics, any more than a satisfactory account of wages were possible without an economics, or an explanation of tragedy without a poetics. The Darwinians unreflective belief that scientific explanations alone are valid, then, is hardly unique to themselves, but one which they clearly caught from the linguists, psychologists, and anthropologists with whom they rub shoulders in the dining halls and faculty meetings of our desolate universities.
Funny thing, I just got done proofreading an academic article that exactly fits Signorelli’s description.

For one thing, the authors have an itch to argue away consciousness, a sure sign of trouble. This sort of nonsense is not harmless; it is part of a pattern which saw the campus become a very oppressive place over the years, as more and more academics have piled into social engineering, convinced that they are only manipulating wayward neurons. (This article by Crick and Koch will be one of the Nature of Nature essays in the forthcoming book of that name.)

Which reminds me, there is a Hindu-sponsored intelligent design book out there: Nature’s I. Q. is most interesting, and offers stunning photographs. It differs from the typical Western approach in focusing on behaviour rather than physical form, but makes similar points.

A friend praises the article as one of the few whose author actually knows something about classical, intellectual Hinduism.

Find out why there is an intelligent design controversy:

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