Friday, February 13, 2009

malign conversion of the metaphors of Darwinism vs. Christianity

From Richard John Neuhaus in First Things...

The French may think that master narratives have had their day but in my view that only tells us they have lost the plot.” That is an incisive aside in an essay by the distinguished British sociologist David Martin in the Scottish Journal of Theology.

A master narrative of the Enlightenment is that religion recedes as science advances. It would be more plausible were it supported by the evidence, writes Martin. “In terms of cross-cultural comparison, countries at roughly the same level with regard to scientific advance have religious profiles pretty well across the complete range.” It is also the well-established case that natural scientists and people working at the edge of technological advances tend to be more religious than those in the humanities and social sciences. One problem is that, among academics in what Peter Berger calls the global faculty club, assumptions about secularization are driven by the intellectual history of ideas, with slight attention being paid to what persists in being the real world....

Religion’s connection to intolerance, violence, and other evils is a key part of the master narrative. “It happens that there is no continuing Enlightenment institution in secular contexts comparable to the Church in religious contexts to take the moral flack hurled at the corruptions of power....Christianity can be blamed for what happened when adopted as the faith of the Roman Empire, whereas Darwinism can innocently wash its hands of what happened when converted by capitalist society into Social Darwinism or deployed by Nietzsche. Yet the metaphors of Darwinism are decidedly more susceptible to malign conversion than the metaphors of Christianity.”


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