Intelligent Design

George Bernard Shaw to Henry James about Darwinism

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“In the name of human vitality WHERE is the charm in that useless, dispiriting, discouraging fatalism which broke out so horribly in the eighteen-sixties at the word of Darwin, and persuaded people in spite of their own teeth and claws that Man is the will-less slave and victim of his environment? What is the use of writing plays?—what is the use of anything?—if there is not a Will that finally molds chaos itself into a race of gods with heaven for an environment, and if that Will is not incarnated in man.…”

4 Replies to “George Bernard Shaw to Henry James about Darwinism

  1. 1
    Kibitz says:

    Yeah, yeah. Typical existential dilemma. It sure made Shaw cranky.

    For deeper reflections on the Will of man, try Schopenhauer or Nietzsche.

  2. 2
    Kural says:

    There’s lots more Shaw said. Interested?

  3. 3
    Kibitz says:

    EDIT: Actually, Nietzsche had some interesting views on Darwinism that IDers might find interesting. In fact, there is a whole section of Will to Power entitled “Anti-Darwin”. He rejects Darwinism on philisophical, rather than scientific grounds, because he believed it was too Christian. Yes. Nietzsche, being the ultimate anti-Christ, believed that Darwinian evolutionary ethics were too Christian.

    To explain: First off, Nietzsche believed that the essence of life itself was was the “will to power”, whereby organisms try to appropriate, injur, overpower, supress and impose themselves on eachother. Therefore, he was critical of Darwin (and, in fact, all other writers) who emphasized “social instincts” (e.g., “sympathy” or “parental affection”) as the origin of moral behavior. Darwin, and many other writers often argued that altruism existed in nature–that altruism was built in to the natural world as a major biological phenomenon. This conflicted with Nietzsche’s decidedly egoistic view of life.

    Nietzsche didn’t agree that natural selection could explain the evolution of life, because he only understood it as a force that adapts a species to its environment and conserves it. In his mind, the natural world would never work to conserve a species. (He wasn’t actually aware of Darwin’s emphasis on individual competition, which made his argument scientifically moot.) Anyway, Nietzsche instead believed that the concept of natural selection was unconsciously invented by naturalists who tended to project their idealistic moral convictions onto nature. Darwin, because he thought that altruism was based in nature, and was therefore the foundation of human morality, adhered to the Christian ideal of a “uniform,” “egalitarian,” “gregarious” human species. “Selection of species” was merely a generalization of that ideal and its symbolic projection in the field of natural history. Thus, as strange as it may seem, Nietzsche criticized the Darwinian view of nature for being “plebeian” and “Christian”.

    That was kind of rough. It’s hard to explain Nietzsche. He went crazy in Italy and lived out his later years as an invalid.

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    Gandalf says:

    “It’s hard to explain Nietzsche.” ? You did a pretty good job, in just the next three words.

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