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Where mellow elides to shallow? Andy Crouch looks at Brooks’ “The Social Animal”

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In “Common Grace and Amazing Grace: A Review of David Brooks’s ‘The Social Animal,’” Andy Crouch finds that “Brooks’s portrait of human flourishing lacks the essential elements of rescue and redemption” (Christianity Today, 7/11/2011):

Then there is Erica’s brief fling with adultery, her only real moral failure. Erica’s indiscretion could have been a catalyst of self-discovery and transformation, but in Brooks’s story of upper-middle-class well-adjustment, it’s a mere speed bump on the road to a warm, if not passionate, “companionate marriage.” Certainly infidelity, like premarital sex, is not always a Category 5 emotional hurricane, especially for those with abundant social capital. Yet one senses no real indignation. What else would you expect from social animals, after all? Radical commitment just isn’t in our nature. Brooks doesn’t seem to consider whether the social arrangements that make us human might require precisely such radical commitments. Instead, he sets the moral bar comfortably low, right about where most NPR listeners could comfortably clear it on the first try.

He’s certainly kinder to the evolutionary psychology novel than P.Z. Myers was (“My gosh, PZ (Darwin foulmouth) Myers and I agree about something”), but then Crouch considers it “comic sociology.” John Gray offers a much darker (and certainly more insightful) assessment (“It doesn’t matter whether you like David Brooks’ “Social Animal”; your moral and intellectual superiors do.”)

Hat tip: Stephanie West Allen at Brains on Purpose

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