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Terry Eagleton: Leave Darwinism to earthworms and mildly intelligent badgers


In “Who needs Darwin? (22 June 2011), a New Statesman review of George Levine’s The Joy of Secularism: 11 Essays for How We Live Now, Terry Eagleton gets it mostly right about Darwinism’s take on religion:

None of these writers points out that if Christianity is true, then it is all up with us. We would then have to face the deeply disagreeable truth that the only authentic life is one that springs from a self-dispossession so extreme that it is probably beyond our power. Instead, the volume chatters away about spirits and Darwinian earthworms, animal empathy and the sources of morality.

But earthworms is precisely what the Darwinists have got. And the humble earthworm still believes Darwinism. Or maybe not.

Kitcher asks himself why people should need to be united by a belief in some “transcendental entity” (his use of both terms is inaccurate) rather than by their mutual sympathies. “What exactly,” he enquires, “does the invocation of some supernatural being add?” A Christian might reply that it adds the obligations to give up everything one has, including one’s life, if necessary, for the sake of others. And this, to say the least, is highly inconvenient. Anyone, even a mildly intelligent badger, can entertain “mutual sympathies”. The Christian paradigm of love, by contrast, is the love of strangers and enemies, not of those we find agreeable. Civilised notions such as mutual sympathy, more’s the pity, won’t deliver us the world we need.

Bulls eye!


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