Just in time for “what to get for…? ”
Robert F. Shedinger, Professor of Religion at Luther College (Iowa) kindly writes to say,
I just finished reading Thomas Lessl’s book Rhetorical Darwinism (Baylor
2012). I highly recommend it.
Lessl makes a clear, and I think helpful, distinction between evolutionary science and the mythical ideology of evolutionism that becomes the foundation for scientism in the contemporary world. Lessl provides a fascinating analysis of T.H. Huxley as the real founder of evolutionism which accounts for why Huxley was such a strong supporter of Darwin even though he was skeptical of natural selection. Huxley was drawn to Darwin’s work because of its naturalistic/scientistic implications, not because of its scientific value.
Perhaps what is most interesting about Lessl’s book is the way he himself demonstrates the truthfulness of his own thesis. Lessl argues that evolutionism hides its mythical structure by connecting itself to evolutionary science. If the science is true, then evolutionism must be true as well. This, of course, could create the conditions whereby the findings of evolutionary science would be influenced by the attempt to keep the ideology of evolutionism in place. Lessl recognizes this by writing:
The allure of evolutionism tempts scientists to exaggerate the scope and meaning of evolutionary science, especially when concerns of scientific
identity are at stake.
But then Lessl undermines his own compelling thesis by writing:
I do not presume that the messages of evolutionary science are directly influenced by these identity concerns when they appear in the professional contexts of scientific communication, and so this proposition only pertains to the public communication of evolutionary ideas.
Given the allure of evolutionism and its basis in evolutionary science, how could the former not influence the latter, even in the peer-reviewed literature. There is abundant evidence that it does.
But the strength of evolutionism is demonstrated here in Lessl’s inability to bring himself to follow the natural implication of his own thesis! He constantly reiterates throughout the book that he is not trying to undermine evolutionary science and that he is not qualified (as a communication studies professor) to raise questions about the science.
Actually, he knows his integrity as a scholar would be questioned if he did raise such questions. He has fallen victim to the very existence of the rhetorical Darwinism that he so brilliantly analyzes!
The obvious question that any “communications studies professor” should raise is: Given what I see, how much of “the professional contexts of scientific communication” is marketable BS as well?
Look, the Simpsons (doh!) just published a paper. How does Lessl know things are any different in the upper reaches of the Members Only club?
View from News desk: If you don’t got suspicions, you got a problem.
But then, that guy Lessl needs his job, right?
Even a distinguished professor had HUGE problems at Baylor as a result of seeking to determine how much of “evolutionism” is just BS.
Maybe we can’t blame Guys Need Jobs for just not wanting to know.
Still, what we don’t know isn’t knowledge.
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