Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

Christian Darwinism: “Catholic Thing” reviewer loves David Brooks’s “Social Animal” and sees it as the Catholic view of man

arroba Email

When David Brooks’ Man: The Social Animal appeared, it was reviled by people as far apart otherwise as O’Leary and P.Z. Myers, for its Gadarene (and utterly tone deaf) slide into the fever swamps of evolutionary psychology.

These fetid bogs are usually inhabited by the Evolutionary Agony Aunt, the Darwinian brand marketer and the advocates of neurolaw (“your neurons fail, you’re in jail”). However, a review in thinkmag The Catholic Thing (“a forum for intelligent Catholic commentary”) not only heaps praise on the failed materialist novel but grabs it for Roman Catholicism.

Reviewer George J. Marlin offers Thomas Aquinas (complete with halo) to provide support for the descent, and offers

Although Brooks surveys the latest research on the human mind, he doesn’t teach Catholics anything all that new. What he does is confirm a lot of what generations of undergraduates were once taught about the human person at Catholic universities in their Thomistic philosophical psychology and ethics courses (it would be interesting to know how much this is still the case).

[ … ]

Brooks basically agrees that we have an intuitive moral sense and effectively explains how people can be taught to control irascible passions. It’s good that a columnist for The Times has surveyed recent scientific studies and reached that conclusion. But it’s best to recognize that his solid work, which some see as opening previously unexplored territory, is really a clearing of the way for a return to some of the oldest traditional truths.

Here’s a curious fact about Christian Darwinists: Normally, they are obsequious toward the materialist atheist view of life, insisting that Christians accommodate their view of man to them. They attack all who dissent, on whatever evidence, and are oblivious to active academic persecution of same.

However, when a materialist atheist like P.Z. Myers actually “gets it”, because of the sheer moral vacuity Brooks offer, they suddenly desert and insist there is something in evolutionary psychology after all.

Translation: They need evolutionary psychology as much as the agony aunt and the Darwinian brand marketer do – but far less than atheist P.Z. Myers does. Why?

And whatever reason why, if that doesn’t tell you everything you need to know about Catholic Christian Darwinism, I am afraid that there is nothing I can add.


And what strange times we live in!: Atheist/agnostic E. O.Wilson abandons of his evolutionary psychology “kin selection” theory for lack of evidence, while Christian Darwinists rush to embrace similar theories without any serious look at the evidence. Atheists and agnostics require higher standards of evidence than Christian Darwinism requires.

Denyse O’Leary is co-author of The Spiritual Brain.

nullasalus, the reviewer simply does not acknowledge that the evolutionary psychology (EP) Brooks depends on is what happens when Darwinism hits the social sciences. The basic idea is that we do what we do because our simian relatives and ancestors do what they do (or did). There is nothing anti-reductionist about EP. It is reductionism writ large and smashing down on every conceivable aspect of human nature. To accept it is not merely to accept evolution, but to accept Darwinism as evolution's key driver. There is no other way EP would even make sense. To reject it is to reject Darwinism as the key driver of evolution. See atheist Jerry Fodor'd "What Darwin Got Wrong." The reviewer takes refuge in a sort of fake Thomism, expressly to escape the scary obvious. O'Leary
I don't know. Reading what that reviewer has to say about the book, whatever common ground he's finding between it and Aquinas, it ain't "Darwinism". He's seeing anti-reductionism, anti-materialism and more in it, explicitly. I've not read the book, so I don't know how accurate he is in what he's taking away from the book. But the content of the review is just as far away from Darwinism (certainly PZ Myers flavor Darwinism) as you can get. nullasalus

Leave a Reply