Darwinian grandeur

Ch.1, §1: ‘Deserved Respect’ (pp.31–41), continued

Dawkins asserts that the

quasi-mystical response to nature and the universe … has no connection with supernatural belief

That is a claim that we’re going to be coming back to, and I’m going to be arguing that it is, to a significant degree, mistaken – but that’s a task for another time.

For now, another thought that struck me as I read this section, and specifically Darwin’s comments about the ‘grandeur in this view of life’. One question that intrigues me is about the genealogy of this sentiment. With the right kind of detailed and senstitive cultural and intellectual history, we could ask about the specific history that shaped and made possible this particular sentiment. Such sentiments are not timeless, ahistorical options, that would make sense to all people in all times and places; they are the products of specific history. (And, in Darwin’s case, I rather suspect that it his sentiment borrows quite deeply from the Christian culture in which Darwin was nurtured.)

Once again, I am not presenting this as an argument against Dawkins. I am not trying to claim that this means that Darwin was really religious in the sense Dawkins is concerned to deny. I am not trying to claim that the putative Christian roots of this experience (for which, after all, I have presented no evidence) are an argument for or against Christianity. It is simply that I think it worth noting the likely historical specificity of the kind of scientific ‘quasi-mysticism’ that Dawkins describes: I have a suspicion that this too might be of some importance later on.

Comments are closed.

Post Navigation