2. The Evolution Controversy

 
 
Theism/Atheism: 
The God Debates 

  

Section 2.3.2




 
World History 
And The Eonic Effect

Civilization, Darwinism, And Theories of Evolution
4th Edition
The Book
By  John Landon

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 CHAPTERS:
 

 

 
 

 

2. The Evolution Controversy  
      2.1 The Legacy of Darwinism  
         2.1.1 Debates and Darwin Trials 
         2.1.2 Evolution and Ethics
         2.1.3 The Metaphysics of Evolution
         2.1.4 Is There A Science Of History? 
      2.2 Beyond Natural Selection 
         2.2.1 The Limits of Observation  
         2.2.2 Random Evolution: Climbing Mt. Improbable?
         2.2.3 Punctuated Equilibrium
         2.2.4 Natural Selection and The Oedipus Paradox  
NOTES  
      2.3 Visions of A Ghostseer  
         2.3.1 Wallace's Second Opinion  
         2.3.2 Theism/Atheism: The 'God' Debates  
         2.3.3 Critique of Evolutionary Economy  
         2.3.4 The Evolution of Evolution  
         2.3.5 The Science of Freedom  

Next: 
 3. Descent Of Man Revisited 


        
        

     
  
        

    World History And The Eonic Effect: Fourth Edition

   2.3.2 The God Debates

 

The confusion of Darwin debate springs in part the attempt to use the evolutionary question as a battleground for beliefs in theism or atheism. Our brief discussion of Kant warns us of the intractable character of such debate, and the futility of this strategy on both sides. This polarization has become explicit in the crystallization of the so-called Intelligent Design movement next to the so-called New Atheists attempting, it seems, to make fundamentalist Darwinism a metaphysical foundationalism. In general, the context of the obsessive Western theism/atheism dialectic  makes real evolutionary discourse almost impossible. The world has been held hostage to this closed debate long enough.  

Richard Dawkins  in his The God Delusion, along with Daniel Dennett in Breaking the Spell,  have produced the symmetrical antithesis to the exploitation of the design argument in what comes close to claims for the legitimation of atheism in the assumptions of Darwinian natural selection. We can suggest that this is a mood, more than a philosophy, as the derailed freight-train of mechanized religion proceeds with dead momentum past all the implications of Enlightenment critique, threatening the attempted cultural renewal of modernity. But Darwinism is a poor candidate for meeting this trend. Religionists should take note of the inexorable dialectical reaction to stale theologies in the ferocity of ‘New Age’ passages beyond the religions of antiquity.[i]

In fairness to Darwinian thinking, it must be said that it was crippled at the start by the social context of secularization and traditionalism, and the inability of human thought to find plausible understandings of complexity in fields rendered over dogmatically to the transcendental. A secular view of man and history was actually developing more cogently prior to Darwin , whose theory handed resurgent fundamentalists an obvious way to challenge the scientific worldview.

Modern thought, even if secular, tends to assume that, in the ambiguity of the term ‘design’, the non-random  is evidence of a ‘designer’, in the concealed anthropomorphism of divinized projections of the ‘human will’. But there can be no such assumption of anything, for the term ‘will’ is another creature betwixt the one and the two. The sense of design is ancient, and one whose context, and primordial beauty, has been lost, because its impulse is that of wonder and its real form that of a question, now turned into a hidden assumption, that the nouns of divinity are already defined. In fact they swiftly became historical dogmas bound in dangerous social or political contexts, and mean desperately different things to different people using rival nouns, all assumed to share a common denominator. The question is, if there is evidence of natural or historical design, what does it mean? The Israelites were remarkable for seeing the evidence for Big History in their ‘little history’, a sense of design. We must move to recast their insights as ‘eonic data’, bound up in the ‘general sequence’ effect of ‘eonic evolution’.

The real issue is not so much divinity but ‘will ’, the intangible issue of agency, both human—or other. This term leads to its own confusions and is perhaps even more problematical than ‘design’, but its consideration can be more illuminating. Having cited Kant, we may note that the cousin philosopher Schopenhauer  was an ‘intellectually fulfilled atheist’, to use the phrase of Richard Dawkins, who saw what would amount to clear ‘design’ as will in historical and evolutionary terms. Schopenhauer’s views are idiosyncratic and crypto-metaphysical in their own way, with a view of ‘will’ we won’t use (nor any others), but his streamlined Kantianism gives an implicit idea of evolution that is non-theistic. Coming a generation after Kant, newly cognizant of the emerging thinking on evolution in such a figure as Lamarck, he seems to have sensed at once the arising dilemma, despite the problems with his unhistorical viewpoint.[ii]

We should note that the term ‘will’ is acutely ambiguous. Man is confronted with the inability to observe his own ‘self’, yet the idea of will is part of his nature. To formulate a theory of natural selection for this latent aspect of man requires explaining how something latent that does not normally interact with the environment can arise at all. But the point here is simply that we can proceed, not on the basis of what we think we know, but on the basis of what we do not. May we suspect that theories of evolution default on the mysteries of the noumenal  and attempt the unknowable as phenomenal illusion? We must, yet cannot, extrapolate, or even define, an element of ‘will’. It is possibly the case that complete theories of evolution are not possible for the human mind, the successes of physics being a special case. The problem is that man is a tadpole on a shore, still evolving as a passive organism to a creature worthy of the title homo sapiens sapiens. Thus, it would seem, there is as yet no such species as ‘man’.

The terms ‘God, soul, mind, life, will, design, providence, consciousness, sacred, spiritual, transcendence’ prowl like semantic wild beasts near any discussion of history. The term ‘secular’ might soon join them. If you detect historical directionality the bingo button of ‘providence’ is pushed, and discourse effectively terminated. But terms of divinity especially create a great confusion in the study of history and evolution, because they are never defined, and are close matches by verbal association for a spectrum of unconscious archetypes and doctrines enjoined as a duty to believe, mixed with rituals of prayer whose assumptions are legitimated by histories known to be bogus. The term ‘god’ is a dangerous instrument, the more so as it is given the license of the ‘sacred’. Its exploitation is rife. If we specify a noun of divinity, we must demand the same constructivist demonstration as that asked of any other historical generalization. This stance is itself traditional, pointing to the quest for ‘real god’ beyond ‘god talk’, or the search for the ninety-ninth name of ‘god’.

The abuse of the terms of divinity by monotheists is so slovenly that their use becomes impossible, full stop, and we must simply terminate the use of a term like ‘god’ for our discussion. Human culture is essentially deprived of the honest use of such terms as ‘god’. We should be wary of any negation of such an incoherent discourse as ‘atheism’. Spiritual empires claim exclusive rights over the usage of such terms, and manipulate credulity for purposes of social domination.

We cannot arbitrarily exclude arguments by design, but we can demand new terminology, and precise definitions. We will make this our one inviolable rule. Thus, it is almost impossible to use the term ‘god’ without prejudice in relation to differing religion s and our study will completely disallow it in any (theoretical) context. This is not an atheistic stance since the discussion is mostly meaningless, and it does allow fresh terms and definitions. Our position here is neither theistic, atheistic, or agnostic. These terms buttonhole all discussion.

 In general, the demonstration of periodized patterns in the data emerging from the development of historical knowledge presumes the access and vivid presentation of accurate, up-to-date, non-mythological, information in a large number of fields, a difficult requirement requiring new ways to organize historical knowledge and awareness. The terms of discussion must be ‘historical cash’, facts. On these terms the immense complexities of Biblical Criticism  block our easy understanding of the historicity of the whole of the Old and New Testaments, and are a warning that no inference of cosmological design can be transferred to an historical one. And yet, ironically the era of the Prophets is of great interest in terms of our historical structure, and takes on new life in its naturalistic eonic context. We will see that this era fits better into quite a different sort of eonic design! But the first difficulty here is once again, what are the facts? [iii]

If we suspect a macrohistorical aspect to cultural evolution , then we suspect at once the perceptions of religion  confused with perceptions of evolution  by primitive men. This fact goes a long way toward explaining the religious conflicts surrounding evolutionary thinking. The first principles of religion  were, perhaps, the tenets of the jungle theologian, as a response to auditory input in the silence of a great forest, ‘If it moves, it’s alive, whether creature, wind or spirit’. The rest follows from the differentiations of ‘winds’ and ‘spirits’, abutting in the reductions of science, as the mass and the force, beside the philosopher, with his first Idea. The forest philosopher, the wild man of India , is the bridge of this past and future, alert in the jungle of thought to No Idea.

 Confusions of Nietzsche One of the pitfalls of twentieth century thought is the confusing influence of Nietzsche . With Lange’s History of Materialism and in a play on the noumenal  in Schopenhauer, Nietzsche proceeds to a Kantian decadence in an externalization of the will that is a poor continuation of a basic breakthrough. We can see already that Nietzsche’s views on history are wildly off the mark. If there is no direction to history, that is one thing. If we find there is, Nietzsche is plainly wrong, and might simply be a reactionary, the onset of the Rightist Terror, quite terrifying indeed, wherein he is a bit player, rapidly changing gears as his suspicions arise. Nietzsche is the first Darwin casualty, and strangely blind in his failure to see the place of equalization in world history. Nietzsche’s views are, of course, very complex, and it is also true he was a cogent critic of Darwinian natural selection. His challenge to Kantian foundationalism is ambiguous, and he triggers an immense subsequent confusion.

There is ample place in our account for the descant of this philosopher, but we should note his late appearance in a counter-revolutionary dialectic. But Nietzsche is so mesmerizing that we fail to see he is simply misleading on some very basic points. Is this the naïve myth of Romantic genius who will penetrate the ultimate? Why should we replace the Kantian thing-in-itself with the spurious ‘will to power’? It’s a bad deal, and quite vulgar. Perhaps the ‘will to power’ is an exoteric booby trap for his fans among the last men.

What a pity a man of such talents could not have registered eonic data and not gone off in a wrong direction. Nietzsche seems to suffer the strange vanity of thinking our downtrodden Mass Man, the bourgeois atomic individual, heretofore sans-culottes, should lament the aristocratic derelicts of the Hyperborean age, or the arrivistes of capital accumulation. Are these really expected to be our cosmic esthetes? As to the latter, Marxists should feel pity at this degraded homo-morph, as a ‘working class type’, plying his investments unwittingly for the common good.

To oppose the trend toward equality seems like a Darwinian secret vice, and is contradicted by the clear evolutionary significance of equalization and integration as evolutionary trends. Disequalization, by and large, is simply ‘counter-evolutionary’, although we see the full dynamic in the dilemma of local transformation of the global whole in the part. To indict the hayseeds of the Neolithic Revolution flooding into industrial societies is a pointless gesture. In a few generations they are transformed.

In any case, the fiction that aristocratic societies have some monopoly on the noble and the artistic is contradicted by the facts, among them the appearance of the very greatest art among the discoverers of the idea of freedom , the Classical Greeks, just as democracy was struggling to be born, in concert with the all-too-brief appearance of the genre of Greek tragedy. The sudden waning of tragedy, cogently spotted by Nietzsche, has another better explanation in the eonic effect. This era of the greatest art is associated with an historical transition in the center of our eonic pattern and contrasts directly with the later derivative Roman literature in the breakdown of the Republic. This Rightist nonsense was always surprising from a man like Nietzsche. Modern democratic society, even so-called, has outperformed every aristocratic society that ever existed. It is the latter that are the deadweight of history, not the energized masses of modernism.[iv]   

 

    Notes

   Web:  chap2_3_2.htm

 

[i] Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion ( New York : Houghton-Mifflin, 2006).

[ii] Arthur Schopenhauer, World as Will and Representation (New York: Dover, 1969).

[iii] R. L. Fox, The Unauthorized Version (New York: Knopf, 1992), Burton Mack, Who Wrote the New Testament (NY: Harper Collins, 1995), Richard Friedman, Who Wrote the Bible? (New York: Summit Books, 1987), Robert Price, Deconstructing Jesus ( Amherst , New York : Prometheus, 2000).

[iv] Nietzsche and Modern German Thought (New York: Routledge: 1991), Keith Ansell-Pearson (ed.), George Stack, “Kant, Lange, and Nietzsche: critique of knowledge”, Steven E. Aschheim, The Nietzsche Legacy in Germany 1890-1990 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994), Michael Gillespie, Nihilism Before Nietzsche (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995), Jean-Marie Schaeffer, Art of the Modern Age (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000), James Porter, The Invention of Dionysus (Standford: Standford University Press, 2000), Gregory Moore, Nietzsche, Biology and Metaphor (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002), Peter Levine, Nietzsche and the Modern Crisis of the Humanities (Albany, New York: State University of New York Press, 1995), Keith Ansell-Pearson, An Introduction to Nietzsche as Political Thinker (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1994), Abir Taha, Nietzsche, The Prophet of Nazism: The Cult Of The Superman (Bloomington, Indiana: Authorhouse, 2005).

 

 
 


 

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Last modified: 09/21/2010