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Thursday, January 07, 2021

Darwinism as the Root Problem of Modernity | Culture & Ethics - Discovery Institute

Editor’s note: The following, second in a three-part series, is adapted from an essay in National Review and is republished here with permission. Professor Aeschliman is the author of The Restoration of Man: C.S. Lewis and the Continuing Case Against Scientism (Discovery Institute Press). Find the full series here.

Shaw and Chesterton believed that the acceptance of Darwinism made it impossible to resist social Darwinism, plutocracy, imperialism, racialism, and militarism, argues author: M.D. Aeschliman - Evolution News.

Photo: G. K. Chesterton, via Wikimedia Commons.

Oscar Wilde (1854–1900), a witty Dublin Protestant-atheist Irishman like George Bernard Shaw, but of a very different class, stamp, and implication, wrote that natural science, “by revealing to us the absolute mechanism of all action, [frees] us from the self-imposed and trammeling burden of moral responsibility.” Wilde’s resultant, post-Christian aesthetic immoralism shocked and mocked the “earnestness” of late Victorian Britain in witty prose and plays, including the satirical wit (and homosexual implication) of The Importance of Being Earnest (1895). Both Shaw and G. K. Chesterton had an intimation that Wilde’s witty persiflage actually disguised deep decadence, an argument made brilliantly several decades later by the American Jewish moralists Philip Rieff (“The Impossible Culture: Wilde as a Modern Prophet,” 1982–83, reprinted in The Feeling Intellect, 1990) and Daniel Bell (The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism, 1976; “Beyond Modernism, Beyond Self,” 1977). From Wilde came the Bloomsbury aesthetes and, we may say, nearly the whole world of the modern arts.

Yet both Shaw and Chesterton were themselves noted wits (both sometimes even accused of being paradox-mongering buffoons), and in fact Shaw shared much of the iconoclasm of his countryman Wilde, becoming a self-described feminist, Nietzschean, Ibsenite, and Wagnerite. But for Chesterton one of Shaw’s great achievements was his deep, abiding hatred of aestheticism — Shaw even insisted that the Puritan evangelist John Bunyan (The Pilgrim’s Progress) was a greater writer than Shakespeare, and frequently, unaccountably, made orthodox statements, such as “There is a soul hidden in every dogma” and “Conscience is the most powerful of the instincts, and the love of God the most powerful of all passions.” Along with T. S. Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral (1935) and Robert Bolt’s A Man for All Seasons (1960), Shaw’s play St. Joan (1924) is one of the wisest, wittiest, and most sympathetic dramatic depictions of Christian religious belief in the last hundred years.

Both Shaw and Chesterton believed that the root problem of modernity was Darwinism, the acceptance of which made it impossible to resist its moral corollary, social Darwinism, and therefore plutocracy, amoral capitalism, imperialism, racialism, and militarism. Shaw wrote in the preface to Man and Superman (1903): “If the wicked flourish and the fittest survive, Nature must be the god of rascals.”...

Chesterton’s brief study of 1909 and its even briefer 1935 sequel were thus profoundly apt in assessing Shaw’s greatness and his folly. He saw that Shaw was really no democrat, that his admirable public spirit had in it something cold, abstract, theoretical, and even Platonist in the sense of Plato as an elitist authoritarian; whereas Chesterton himself was truly a kind of democrat, actually liking “the common man” and assuming that human beings across time had come to certain conventions, traditions, and sentiments that usually had in them some important truth. (This idea profoundly influenced the Chestertonian William F. Buckley Jr.)

Friday, “Shaw, Scientism, and Darwinism.” 


Source: Discovery Institute