Monday, October 12, 2009

Darwinism and Religion in Canada: My Lecture at the University of Regina

Last Friday, I lectured at the University of Regina in Canada on "Does Darwin Subvert or Support Morality?" The lecture was sponsored by the Departments of Philosophy and Classics and Political Science. The funding for the lecture was provided by Shadia Drury as holder of the Canada Research Chair in Social Justice at the University of Regina.

The lecture was attended by about 70 students and faculty from many different departments. Everyone seemed seriously engaged in the topic, as indicated by the fact that everyone stayed attentive for two hours or more of lecturing and discussion.

The religious objections to Darwinian science are more common in the United States than in Canada, and generally I find that Canadian academics think this is a distinctly American debate that has no resonance in a predominantly secular country like Canada. But I noticed that some of the students who spoke with me after the lecture were serious religious believers who were looking for ways to reconcile their religious beliefs with Darwinism, and they were pleased that I was open to that possibility. I suspect that religious belief is taken far more seriously by many Canadians than Canadian academics are willing to admit.

I also noticed this in some of my dinner-table conversation with faculty members. We were discussing some of the most prominent Canadian academics, and some of them expressed shock that one of the most influential academics in Canada--Charles Taylor--was a Catholic who has argued for the importance of religious belief and warned about the dangers of "secularization." Taylor's recent book A Secular Age seems to be part of a "return to religion" movement sweeping across large areas of academic life in Europe and Canada.

Shadia Drury is one of those fearful of the influence of academics like Taylor, who give too much importance to religious belief as an expression of multicultural freedom.

Shadia is open to some of my arguments for using Darwinian science to support the idea of natural right or natural law as rooted in evolved human nature. But she is uncomfortable with my claim that war is a natural desire, because she fears this gives too much encouragement to a militaristic view of the world that is dangerous. This is related to her condemnation of the Straussians for supporting what she regards as an unduly aggressive view of American foreign policy.

On my way to Regina, I finished reading Peter Minowitz's new book Straussophobia: Defending Leo Strauss and Straussians against Shadia Drury and Other Accusers. It's a comprehensive and detailed defense of Strauss and the Straussians against critics like Drury. Shadia told me that she hasn't yet seen the book. It would be helpful to have her write a response to Minowitz's book as well as the book by the Zuckerts--The Truth About Leo Strauss.


expeedee said...

I am a fairly new reader of this blog, which I find so fascinating because it addresses issues at the very core of our humanity and issues that cycle in my mind so often.

A friend and a neighbor of mine and I have had some pretty deep discussions about these issues over a glass of wine. He is a devout Roman Catholic, a father of 10 children and a conservative in every respect. He is very intelligent, is opposed to most of the reforms of the Second Vatican Council and is dismissive of evolution.

On the other hand I am a materialist in every sense, a reductionist at heart, a student of neo-Darwinism, and a reluctant atheist. But like my neighbor, I am also a conservative and an anti-egalitarian.

Even though we both differ in our views of religion, I admit to seeing many more dangers in a secular society because I find it hard to find morality in a neo-Darwinian view of humanity. So even though we differ, we both agree that Darwinism and liberalism is an oxymoron, and even though there has been considerable criticism for linking atheism and Darwinism to the abuses of Nazism or Communism, we both agree that there may be a germ of truth in the theory.

I have not been reading this blog long enough to understand whether my views are parallel to yours, but at least you can see the reasons for my interests.

Anonymous said...

For those who think that God and Darwin can coexist apparently do not understand Neo-Darwinian evolution. They are mutually exclusive. All you Canadians need to brush up on your sciences.

expeedee said...

In his book The Robot's Rebellion, Keith Stanovich at least recognizes the fatuous wisdom of the Christian right in rejecting Darwinism. It seems that Stanovich understands the implications of such dangerous ideas.

Liberalism and religion have at least one thing in common: they're faith-based ideologies.