The Terrible Simplicity of the Terrible Darwinian Simplifiers (2.14.09)
However, I am sympathetic to the person of faith who objects to being bullied by this kind of ham-handed, totalitarian scientistic ideology. The uncorrupted soul naturally recoils. As I mentioned a couple of days ago, I can well understand how a religious person might read just a few paragraphs of this book and dismiss it as "satanic," because in a very real sense, it is. It's very creepy to immerse oneself in this desolate, simplistic, and one-dimensional world that is so disproportionate to the dignity and majesty of the human soul. I will try to explain what I mean, even though I am not sure I will be able to successfully do so.
You needn't believe in the literal existence of satan in order to know that satan is a deceiver, and that the most dangerous deceivers are the terrible simplifiers -- i.e., Hitler, Stalin, and less radical but still extraordinarily dangerous demagogues such as Barack Obama (relax, troll, I am not comparing Obama to Hitler, even though his simplistically appealing radical agenda would destroy the United States as we know it). I forget who coined the term "terrible simplifiers," but I just googled it and came up with this relevant passage (on an unrelated topic) that gives a sense of what I'm talking about:
"The lack of a correspondence between abstraction and reality is all the more significant, since the real world is profoundly complex and contingent and an abstraction is inevitably simple. The terrible simplifiers who love abstractions cannot stand conditions and conventions muddling their perfect, clear theory. If life does not fit the theory, then it is life that has gone awry and must be made to fit. The terrible simplifiers are always perfectly willing, then, to embrace ideological crusades, violence and upheaval to better realise their 'principles'...."
The promise of violence always follows in the wake of the terrible simplifiers, but the violence to the soul actually occurs at the outset. The physical violence is a consequence of the rebarbarization that goes hand in hand with the simplification which sanctions the violence by encouraging man to be less than he is.
I am not accustomed to reading a book this simple and "mechanical." Although I breezed through hundreds of them in the course of writing my own, it's been awhile. Naturally, in order to complete chapters 1, 2, and 3 of One Cosmos, I had to familiarize myself with the latest findings in cosmology, theoretical biology, paleoanthropology, etc. My specific concern in writing those chapters, now that I think about it, was mainly one thing: origins. What is the origin of the cosmos? Of life? Of the human subject? If we could know these things, then there would be nothing we didn't know: existence, life and mind; or being, will, and interiority. What is the nature of these things? What do they imply about the cosmos?
In posing these questions, my view was much wider than the scientist, for I didn't just want to know how life arose, but what it means that a supposedly dead cosmos can spontaneously come to life. What does this say about the kind of cosmos we inhabit? Is it just a meaningless and trivial fact, or does it cause us to rethink what sort of cosmos this is from the ground up?
Irrespective of whether humans became human 45,000 years ago or 15,000 years ago or 6,000 years ago, what does it mean that our cosmos has an interior horizon -- this calm, reflective center in the midst of swirling creation -- in which it may contemplate its deepest truths? For I can understand how humans could change as a result of becoming better adapted to their changing environment. What I do not understand is what this has to do with our miraculous capacity for transcendence of everything, including ourselves.
Only man is built for transcendence. A man who fails to transcend himself sinks beneath himself. He is not a proper man, but a beast among beasts. What can it mean that the cosmos has produced a being who hangs halfway suspended between what he is and what he is to become, between is and ought, between our genetic blueprints and our transcendent blue prince? (Sorry -- couldn't resist the pun.) For there is no humanness in the absence of the ought. But here again, subverting this reality is behind the agenda of the materialists, for there can be no "ought" in a purely material world. Rather, there is only is. With this brutal reduction, man, whose roots are aloft, is severed from himself and condemned to a narrow ideological prison of his own making.
It is instructive that I can rapidly skim a book such as Before the Dawn in my spare time in a day or two, and fully understand it. There is nothing remotely difficult about it.
On the other hand, not only can one not skim, say, Meditations the Tarot or casually enter the spiritual cathedral of Meister Eckhart, but it takes a lifetime of preparation and "interior work" in order to appreciate them at all. They will be entirely opaque to the uninitiated, regardless of what they think they understand. Furthermore, any work of a true spiritual master is infused with a light and a force that facilitates a direct transformation and mysteriously keeps their words both fresh and inexhaustible, so that one may return to them time and again for new insights. At different times in your life and at different levels of spiritual maturity, they will speak to different parts of you. This is axiomatic: "When I was a child, I understood as a child."
Back to the terrible simplification of the modern Darwinian synthesis. This is it: Everything = Random Error + Environmental Feedback (E = RE + EF). Got it? That is all you need to know because that is all you can know -- although just how you can know it is a bit of a mystery, since it too must be reducible to RE + EF.
Nevertheless, it easily answers all questions. Religion? E = RE + EF. Human groups that engaged in it had more reproductive fitness, that's all. Language? E = RE + EF. Apes that spoke had more babies. Love? E = RE + EF. A trick of the genes. Just a way to get you to reproduce. Beauty? E = RE + EF. The creation of illusion in order to make the pursuit worthwhile. Intelligence? E = RE + EF. Intelligence implies progress, something which is strictly forbidden in the Darwinian view. Nothing is any more or less intelligent, only better adapted to its environment. Wisdom? Don't even go there. No, can't even go there.
E = RE + EF. Got it? Now that you've got it, please bear in mind that you are not permitted to have any other thoughts about reality, because this is the answer that exhausts all questions. It is the graveyard of curiosity, which is now rendered a pointless hindrance to your reproductive fitness. E = RE + EF! E = RE + EF! Are you deaf?! E = RE + EF!
Ironically, this satanic reductionism cannot avoid carrying a sacred ought of its own, as reflected in the anti-religious jihad of the obligatory atheists -- the simple Dennetts and simpler Harrises. Yes, The Gospel According to Darwin (Tail wiggle: Walt) insists that the good news of E = RE + EF should be celebrated on Darwin Day, February 12, the day our savior was born. For this is the day that the word -- the only word there actually is, E = RE + EF -- became flesh. Naturally, before that, the word existed -- it cannot not exist -- but no one knew it.
But why a celebration, unless it is a funeral, since E = RE + EF spells the end of our humanness?
Because it's built into our genes, silly. Celebration increases social solidarity and therefore reproductive fitness. In short, how else are these unappealing losers supposed to get a date on a Saturday night?
Tom Sowell notes that for the terrible environmental simplifiers of the left, their favorite argument is that there is no argument. Furthermore, you're a nazi if you don't accept the illogic.
How do atheists get dates, anyway?
The Love Song of Daniel Dennett:
Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
No, that would be stupid,
Even though Little Danny
As he is unfairly called by some
Because I had just gotten out of the water
Does find thee as hot as July,
At risk of sounding needlessly "poetic."
But in reality
Thou art neither lovely nor temperate
Nor anything else, really,
Since I am only attracted to thee because my genes
Hath created the beguiling illusion of thy beauty,
Making thee look worthwhile enough
That I might more ardently pursue thee
Until I get into thy bloomers,
Thus ensuring that my genes survive.
And when the illusion of thy beauty hath faded,
Which it inevitably will,
You know how that works,
I shall move onto a younger coed
With a more appealing hip-to-waste ratio,
Thus signifying her reproductive fitness
And reviving Little Danny's flagging spirits,
To put it delicately.
Happy Valentine's Day, my precious Darwin machine!