1. The thought Locke=Nature and Darwin=History described above is almost completely backwards. Locke=Freedom From Nature (and implicitly history) and Darwin=Nature is much closer to the truth. That’s why Darwinian Larry can use Darwin, with some initial plausibility, to oppose History (by which he really means Locke/Hegel/Heidegger or Christianity or any claim that we’re free from nature).

2. So from this perspective, nothing is more un-American than Darwinism. Locke and Christianity agree that the human person is free from nature and “the city.” Locke and the Christians disagree on whether or not that freedom is social/relational and on whether that freedom is for knowing and loving the personal Creator. But they agree that human freedom—personal or individual freedom—is different in kind from anything possessed by the other species. Our goal of securing one’s own personal being against natural indifference, our goal of not being merely species or city or even family fodder, isn’t shared with the other animals. Unlike the dolphins, we’re, among other things, technological beings; the dolphins have no desire to and so are incapable of rebelling  against who they are as natural beings. That means, among other things, the future of the dolphin is in our hands, but not ours in the dolphins’. Anyone with eyes to see knows that we’re the species that screws up an otherwise orderly nature. Nature is, so to speak, indifferent to the future of the dolphin. But nature would cheer if we were to disappear. There are no dolphin environmentalists; there are no dolphin radical ecologists who take the side of nature against their own species. Unlike the dolphins, we’re also capable of believing in a personal God and personal salvation. And we can’t help but be obsessed with our personal significance or importance as not merely a part of nature or some group.

3. So Darwinian Larry pretty well ignores Locke’s teaching on property or man’s inventive transformation of virtually worthless natural materials. For him (and E.O. Wilson sometimes), we’re much more like the bees and ants than Hobbes and Locke think. For Darwin, we find our purpose and happiness by following natural instinct, either blindly or after some deliberation. Nature is a welcoming environment, our home; our perceptions of alienation are mistaken. Living according to nature, for all species, is more about happiness than misery. The false modern alternative is the mistakenly anti-natural pursuit of happiness that ends only in death. Our true natural goal is not the deliberate or methodical avoidance of death but living a complete life, a life where we accomplish fully our desirable natural duties. There’s no reason to fear death, because death is simply not-being. We won’t be around to know whether death is good or bad, and it’s unnatural to sweat it, at least too much. A Darwinian, is at one level, an Epicurean. But that doesn’t explain why we alone about the species are so anxious about not-being or miserably experience our own being as so contingent and ephemeral.

4. It’s actually really hard for us to be Epicureans or to live beyond hope and fear or to be free from illusions about our cosmic significance. So the high-level Darwinian is a large distance from living according to moral sense or social instinct. For Darwin himself, the happiness of the philosopher is much more intense than the happiness of the peasant. The pleasures of the intellect and imagination are so much more enjoyable than anything else members of our species experience that Darwin said that the sum total of happiness of the philosopher is much greater than that of the peasant (or dolphin or chimp), even if mixed with some distinctively human misery. It’s this Epicurean side of Darwin/Arnhart that reveals the real self-help program of affirming a comprehensive, impersonal, scientific explanation of everything. Darwin contradicts himself when he writes about the perfection of the human species or the intolerability of the thought that our species is destined to disappear. In any case, the genuinely intolerable thought that science tries to make tolerable is that particular human beings mysteriously come into being and disappear all the time. No animal consciously devotes itself to species perpetuation.

5. Darwinian Larry isn’t against religion, but he says it must be judged according to nature. Religion is good for its social utility; it’s bad if it opposes itself to what’s required for the species’ perpetuation and biological flourishing. So the famous story about God asking Abraham to sacrifice his son is immoral, and there’s other cruel stuff in the Old Testament too. Larry prudently stays away from criticizing the New Testament. There God really does allow his own Son to be sacrificed, and there’s the pernicious teaching that it’s possible for us, like the God-man, to live for an existence beyond this merely biological one. The model man of the New Testament engages in no reproductive behavior, and love becomes primarily love of God, a love that detaches us from our natural, primary group loyalties. Eros points us beyond anything sexual or even physical. Larry, like Strauss, is clearly enough anti-Christian above all; he’s against the illusory freedom from nature that morphed into Lockeanism, Kantianism, Hegelianism, and Heideggerianism.

6. So Larry also finds to be unreasonably unnatural the Christian view of marriage as to death do you part. It’s reasonable, as Locke says too, to stay together only until the kids are raised. And Larry’s indifferent on the monogamy vs. polygamy issue. Both are very good for reproduction and raising. But the truth is what really seems to be bad for reproductive behavior in our time is discrediting the “sacred” character of marriage and its reduction by Locke in one way and Darwin in another to a merely utilitarian union. It turns out that couples break up way before the kids are raised all the time these days. And nobody, certainly not the law, does anything about that. Not only that, it turns out that people more and more choose deliberately a childless marriage. What would Darwin say about contraception or excessively safe sex or sex detached from the natural events of birth and death? What would he say about the reduction of sexual morality to safe sex or the consensual use of condoms? What would he say about healthy people living in prosperous environments consciously choosing not to be replaced? And what would he say about the shameless proliferation of single moms? It could be all this unnatural behavior is making people more unhappy than ever. But why has nature, so to speak, allowed them so consciously and willfully to choose it?

7. If you really think about it, a genuine Darwinian would agree with the Christians that Darwin shouldn’t be taught in our schools as the whole truth and nothing but. It’s our observant, Christian Darwin-deniers who are living pretty much as Darwin would describe and recommend. The future of the species in our country is more and more in their hands.

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Articles by Peter Lawler

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