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Jacques Barzun critiques Darwinism (1941): “difficult not to fall down and adore the theory”

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Darwin, Marx, Wagner: Critique of a Heritage

Which friends are talking about:

To scientists and laymen alike, the appeal of natural selection was manifold. It had the persuasiveness of “small doses”; it was entirely automatic, doing away with both the religious will of a creator and the Lamarckian will of his creatures; it substituted a “true cause” for the “metaphysical” sort of explanation; lastly, natural selection was an exact parallel in nature to the kind of individual competition familiar to everyone in the social world of man. By joining the well-established notion of natural selection to the development theory which had been talked about for a hundred years, Darwin was felt to have solved the greatest problem of modern science. He had explained life, or almost. He had at any rate shown the primary animal basis of human progress and told “its law and cause.”
Darwin, Marx, Wagner, Jacques Barzun, p. 57

The small random variation would accumulate, and in course of time lead to partial or complete change of form. New species would arise bearing new and useful characteristics; for all changes, in order to be perpetuated, must be adaptive, that is to say, must be of help to the creature possessing them.

Such is Darwin’s “distinctive theory,” and its correspondence with the argument of the classical economists to prove that unlimited competition brings out the best and cheapest product is complete. Even now, after a century of criticism, the persuasive exposition of either theory leaves the mind paralyzed with enchantment. It is so simple, so neat, so like a well-designed machine,. Even better than a machine, in that it really provides for perpetual motion; the struggle for existence is constant, so is variation; improvement should therefore be endless. After its beauty had once been grasped it was difficult not to fall down and adore the theory. —Darwin, Marx, Wagner, Jacques Barzun, p. 58 – 59

Most evolutionary biologists and hair models have not even tried to resist.

Darwin’s merit was to have tackled all the facts which made other religions and philosophies bulge uncomfortably and to have given them spacious accommodations under a few simple laws. The most fundamental of these laws he received of course from the Newtonian tradition of matter and force; but by his application of them to living things there was no realm left outside as an exception. The scientific quest and the religious with, both striving for unity, were thus fulfilled at one stroke.

…This profound emotional and intellectual victory once gained, it would have taken a superman or a coward to retreat from it for so trifling a cause as lack of final proof. The scientific principle being sound, demonstrative proof would be sure to follow in due course….No one of any intellectual standing went back to Personal Creation. On the contrary, intelligent clerics and their flocks adapted Evolution to Revelation in exactly the same way that their grandfathers had adapted Gravitation to it. In the United States especially, the most fervent evolutionists were deists: Asa Gray, Joseph Leconte, Theodore Parker, John Fiske, young William James—none of these in welcoming evolution denied a supreme being. —Darwin, Marx, Wagner, Jacques Barzun, p. 65 – 66

As many BioLogians demonstrate, Darwinism can even be adapted to Jesus-hollering.

And what is mere lack of evidence, against so massive a force? Of what import is it that almost all the available evidence points in other directions?

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