Thursday, September 29, 2011

Natural Family Values in Darwinian Liberalism

One criticism of classical liberalism is that it ignores the importance of family life for social order, because the liberal reliance on the market for organizing social life must subvert the family. This criticism is mistaken, because it overlooks the importance of the family as one of the crucial institutions of the civil society required for a liberal order. A Darwinian liberalism explains the primacy of the family as serving the evolved functions of spousal attachment, parental care, and kinship bonding.

It is true, however, that classical liberals--or libertarians--have not given much explicit attention to family life. And yet, a few--such as Steven Horwitz--have begun to elaborate a classical liberal theory of the functions of the family as shaped by human evolutionary history. In doing that, they show how a Darwinian liberalism can support a conception of the family as an expression of evolutionary natural law.

Horwitz has sketched a Hayekian theory of the family in response to the claim of Geoffrey Hodgson that Hayekian liberalism must deny the importance of the family. Hodgson has written:

"Generally, if contract and trade are always the best way of organising matters, then many functions that are traditionally organised in a different manner should become commercialized . . . Pushed to the limit, market individualism implies the commercialization of sex and the abolition of the family. A consistent market individualist cannot be a devotee of 'family values' . . . They cannot in one breath argue that the market is the best way of ordering all socio-economic activities, and then deny it in another. If they cherish family values, then they have to recognise the practical and moral limits of the market imperatives and pecuniary exchange" (1999, p. 84).

Against this, Horwitz denies Hodgson's claim that Hayekians must assume that "the market is the best way of ordering all socio-economic activities." On the contrary, Horwitz shows, Hayek is clear that markets and other processes of spontaneous ordering are only effective for certain kinds of social activities. Hayek distinguishes "spontaneous orders" as "grown orders" from "organizations" as "made orders," and he makes it clear that any large society requires both kinds of ordering. "In any group of men of more than the smallest size," Hayek explains, collaboration will always rest both on spontaneous order as well as on deliberate organization," because "the family, the farm, the plant, the firm, the corporation and the various associations, and all the public institutions including government, are organizations which in turn are integrated into a more comprehensive spontaneous order" (1973, p. 46).

Spontaneous ordering works best for social coordination where the tasks are very complex and where they involve large numbers of people who interact anonymously. But deliberate organization works best for those tasks of social coordination that are simple enough and involve such a small number of people interacting face-to-face and sharing a common purpose that they can be planned out by deliberate design. The family is one of the social institutions that works best as a deliberate organization rather than as a spontaneous order.

It is important, then, Hayek explains, that we neither apply the rules of the market to family life nor apply the rules of family life to the market. "If we were to apply the unmodified, uncurbed, rules of the micro-cosmos (i.e., of the small band or troop, or of, say, our families) to the macro-cosmos (our wider civilization), as our instincts and sentimental yearnings often make us wish to do, we woud destroy it. Yet if we were always to apply the rules of the extended order to our more intimate groupings, we would crush them. So we must learn to live in two sorts of world at once" (1988, p. 18).

Family life serves at least three functions in satisfying our evolved natural desires for sexual mating, parental care, and familial bonding. Parental care provides for human offspring who have evolved needs for adult care to secure their existence, their nourishment, and their social education, which make possible their growth into healthy adults. Childless families satisfy the evolved human desires for spousal love and kinship ties.

As Horwitz indicates, Hayek's idea of "living in two worlds at once" points to the need for the family as an institution in which children can learn the moral rules for both the micro world of face-to-face interactions and the macro world of anonymous interactions in the extended spontaneous order of society.

The Hayekian insight is that families are best situated to do this because of their advantage in knowledge and incentives. The intimacy of the family allows parents to have a personal knowledge of each child's individual character and situation that allows parents to teach them their social lessons--by both explicit instruction and implicit example--in a manner that is suitable for the individual child. At the same time, parents (normally) have a love for their children that gives them the incentives to care for their children's rearing in a way that is specially designed for them. No extended order of spontaneous cooperation could provide either the knowledge or the incentives that arise within the intimate experience of families.

The reasons that justify private families--because parents have the most knowledge of their children and the strongest incentives to care properly for their children--are comparable to the reasons that justify private property, because private property owners have the knowledge and the incentives to care best for that property.

We might also notice that this special role of the family in transmitting social learning about how best to succeed in society could explain the great transformation that came with the Industrial Revolution. If we accept Gregory Clark's argument about the importance of an evolutionary process of "survival of the richest" by which families that taught their children the bourgeois virtues were more successful in England in the 18th century, which led to the Industrial Revolution, then we could explain this great transition into Hayek's Great Society as a product of an evolutionary transformation in family life.


Hayek, F. A., Law, Legislation, and Liberty, Vol. 1 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1973).

Hayek, The Fatal Conceit: The Errors of Socialism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988).

Horwitz, Steven, "The Functions of the Family in the Great Society," Cambridge Journal of Economics, 29 (2005): 669-684.

Some related posts and articles can be found here, here here, here, here, and here.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Testosterone and Thomistic Natural Law

As we have seen in some recent posts, Thomas Aquinas roots natural law--and particularly the natural law of marriage--in Aristotle's biology, which can be supported by modern Darwinian biology.

So, for example, Thomas explains the natural law of marriage as serving two natural ends--parental care and spousal love--that can be explained by comparing human beings with other animals that show parental care by both parents.  For many animals, he observes, the mother alone is sufficient to care for her offspring.  But for some animals, such as some species of birds, the mother needs the help of the father or others in caring for offspring, and this is especially true where the offspring are dependent on adult care for a long time during which they need not only nourishment but also social learning if they are to flourish as adults.  This is true for human beings, Aquinas argues, who are naturally inclined to be cooperative breeders, which is the natural foundation for human marriage and familial bonding.

If this is true, then we might expect that modern biological research can show the evolved neurophysiological basis for such natural inclinations to parental care.  Indeed, there is now extensive evidence that human parenting behavior is facilitated by complex neuroendocrinological mechanisms.  And yet, in some respects, the evidence for mother-child bonding is clearer than for father-child bonding.   In general, women show a stronger propensity for parental care than men.   This is true for most mammalian species.  But in contrast to our closest evolutionary relatives--the great apes--direct male care for children is prevalent in many human societies.  From this perspective, paternal care is a defining trait of the human species and thus a crucial factor in human evolution.

The hormonal basis for this is becoming ever clearer.  In Chapter 5 of Darwinian Natural Right, I surveyed some of the research indicating that oxytocin and vasopressin support parental care and pair-bonding in mammals.  Recently, there has been growing evidence for the importance of testosterone in mediating paternal care.

Lee Gettler and his colleagues have just published a new study showing how fluctuations in testosterone modulates male mating and parenting.  This article has received a lot of press coverage, including an article  in the New York Times.  In a commentary on the article, Peter Gray summarizes this study:

"They find that, in a community-based sample from the Philippines, men with higher testosterone level are more likely to marry than men with lower testosterone; that men who marry and become fathers experience declines in testosterone; and that men who provide more parental care have lower testosterone levels than fathers who provide less care.  This is not the first study that has investigated the social dimensions to male testosterone levels.  However, it represents perhaps the most rigorous study of its kind conducted on humans, and clearly demonstrates through a longitudinal design that fatherhood causes testosterone decreases in men."
High levels of testosterone make men more attractive to potential mates and make them more aggressive in competing with other men for mating opportunities.  Lower levels of testosterone are associated with marriage and child care.  Thus, fluctuations in levels of testosterone seem to mediate the tradeoffs between mating and parenting.

For Gettler, this supports his larger theory of human evolution based on a "metabolic model of direct male care."  Evolutionary theorists have noticed the shortened interbirth intervals that characterize modern humans as compared with the great apes.  Gettler argues that this was made possible by hominid males helping mothers by helping in the caring for the young, and thus lessening the costs of child care by mothers.  Sarah Blaffer Hrdy and others have argued that a distinctive feature of human evolution was "alloparenting"--people helping mothers with child-care and thus reducing the burden of maternal caregiving.  Gettler emphasizes the importance of direct paternal care for offspring as a crucial part of this alloparenting.  The connection of testosterone to male mating and parenting is one proximate mechanism that has emerged from the human evolution of sexual mating and parental care.

This illustrates how modern evolutionary biology can explain the biological roots of human mating and parenting as natural inclinations that constitute Thomistic natural law.

Lee Gettler, "Direct Male Care and Hominin Evolution: Why Male-Child Interaction is More than a Nice Social Idea," American Anthropologist, 112 (March 2010): 7-21.

Lee Gettler, Thomas W. McDade, Alan B. Feranil, and Christopher W. Kuzawa, "Longitudinal Evidnence that Fatherhood Decreases Testosterone in Human Males," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Early Edition, 2011.

Peter B. Gray, "The Descent of a Man's Testosterone," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Early Edition, 2011.

Some related posts can be found here, here, here, and here.

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Social Science of Happy Atheism

Against my claim that human beings show an evolved natural desire for religious understanding, some of my critics have argued that the modern history of increasingly secular societies shows that human beings have no natural need for religious belief. On the other side of this debate, some proponents of religion insist that religious belief is necessary both for individual happiness and social health.

The role of Darwinian science in this debate is complex. On the one hand, the evolutionary account of the origins of life, including human life, is seen by many people as supporting a purely secular understanding of life and the universe that supplants any religious understanding of divine creation. On the other hand, some evolutionary theorists argue that human beings have a naturally evolved propensity for religious belief that gives meaning to human life and sustains social cooperation. On the one hand, there are lots of theistic evolutionists, and Darwin himself spoke about the Creator as the First Cause of those natural laws that allow for evolution. On the other hand, public opinion surveys in the United States and around the world suggest that deeply religious believers are less likely to accept the truth of evolutionary science than are people who are not religious.

As I have indicated in some previous posts, Friedrich Nietzsche showed an ambivalence about the "death of God" that continues to run through the modern discussion of secularization and its consequences. In his middle writings, Nietzsche adopted Darwinian evolutionary thinking as a "joyful science" for "free spirits." But in his earlier and later writings, he yearned for a new religion that would give eternal meaning to the universe and thus save the modern world from the nihilistic consequences of modern secularism. A similar ambivalence is manifest in all the modern talk about how the inevitable triumph of scientific secularism brings with it a "disenchantment of the world."

This worry about the degrading effects of atheism is an old one. It's expressed in the Bible--in Psalms 14 and 53. In the New Jerusalem Bible, Psalm 14 reads:

The fool has said in his heart,
"There is no God."
Their deeds are corrupt and vile,
not one of them does right.

Yahweh looks down from heaven
at the children of Adam.
To see if a single one is wise,
a single one seeks God.

All have turned away,
all alike turned sour,
not one of them does right,
not a single one.

Are they not aware, all these evil-doers?
They are devouring my people,
this is the bread they eat,
and they never call to Yahweh.

They will be gripped with fear,
where there is no need for fear,
for God takes the side of the upright;
you may mock the plans of the poor,
but Yahweh is their refuge.

Who will bring from Zion salvation for Israel?
When Yahweh brings his people home,
what joy for Jacob, what happiness for Israel!

So is it true that those who believe there is no God are all foolishly corrupt and vile people who can do nothing good?

Phil Zuckerman--an atheistic sociologist--surveys the evidence from social science research supporting his claim that this is not true, because, in fact, atheists are happy, moral people, and societies with large numbers of atheists and people who are indifferent about religion can be healthy societies. Although he clearly wants to emphasize the evidence supporting his position, he does at least point to some of the evidence against his position.

In most countries around the world, Zuckerman indicates, the majority of people have some kind of religious belief. In a few countries--such as Japan and South Korea--some surveys indicate that a majority of the people have no religious belief. In the East, the state of religious belief is hard to determine, because some of the major religious traditions--such as Confucianism and Buddhism--show no belief in the God of the theistic traditions. In the West, many of the European countries show high levels of secularity, with 25 to 50 percent of the people reporting no religious belief. In the United States, religious belief is more prevalent, but even so, some surveys indicate that 5 to 19 percent of Americans have no religious belief. And in the United States, there is some evidence that religious belief has been declining in recent decades, especially among the young.

Older people tend to be more religious than younger people. Women tend to be more religious than men. Less educated people tend to be more religious than more educated people. Among natural scientists and university professors, rates of religious belief are much lower than for the general population.

If atheism were corrupting, as the Psalmist declares, one might expect that atheism would promote criminality. As Zuckerman indicates, that does not seem to be true. Murder rates are lower in more secular nations and higher in more religious nations. In the United States, the more religious regions of the country have higher rates of violent crime.

American religious believers seem to be more charitable than secular Americans as measured by charitable donations from their income. And yet the most secular countries in the West--the Scandinavian nations--contribute more aid (per capita) to poor countries.

Atheists seem to be capable of heroic altruism. For example, during the Holocaust, the more secular people were more inclined to rescue Jews.

The weakest part of Zuckerman's social scientific case for happy atheism concerns indicators of psychological well-being. Many studies report that religious believers report themselves as happier and less inclined to depression than secular people. Zuckerman tries to counter this by noting that the countries reporting the highest rates of general happiness tend to be highly secular.

The most dramatic indicator of unhappiness is suicide. Among Americans, devout religious believers have lower rates of suicide than secular people. Moreover, the countries with the highest rates of suicide include the more secular countries, particularly in Scandinavia.

The evidence for the influence of religious belief on family life is somewhat mixed. Some evidence indicates that religious believers have lower rates of divorce than is the case for secular people. But some studies contradict this. One difference in the style of family life is clear: religious individuals and religious nations tend to have high birth rates. And since children tend to follow the religious propensities of their parents, this difference in birth rates could lead to a future growth in religious belief as the believers out breed the atheists.

As Zuckerman indicates, one major problem running through all of these studies is that "correlation is not causation." The correlation of religious belief or atheism to various social indicators leaves us unclear as to exactly how or whether religion or atheism directly causes any particular outcome.

Despite all the difficulties in interpreting this research, we can conclude that the Bible is wrong about atheists. It is not true that "their deeds are corrupt and vile, not one of them does right."

Phil Zuckerman, Society without God: What the Least Religious Nations Can Tell Us about Contentment (New York University Press, 2008).

Zuckerman, "Atheism, Secularity, and Well-Being: How the Findings of Social Science Counter Negative Stereotypes and Assumptions," Sociology Compass 3/6 (2009): 949-971.

Some related posts can be found here, here, here, here, and here.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Thomas Aquinas and the Christian Uncle Tom Problem

Does Thomas Aquinas have a solution for the problem of the Christian Uncle Tom?  (This is a good question to raise on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attack.)

One of the common complaints about the political effects of Christianity is that it promotes an attitude of humble submission to authority, even when that authority is tyrannical. Christians are taught to love their enemies and to resist not evil rather than to avenge the evils inflicted on them. As a consequence, Machiavelli complained in the Discourses on Livy (II.2), Christianity makes the world weak. In their concern for supernatural redemption in the next life, Christians have no concern for resisting tyrants in this life, which provides the conditions for tyranny to prevail without resistance from those they exploit.

This problem is dramatized in Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin and in the debate provoked by her novel. I have been thinking about this as I have been reading chapters of a dissertation by Chris Thuot on Stowe's political thought. Just last night, some of us--faculty and students--were discussing this at the "Second Saturday Club," a group that meets at my house once a month during the school year.

First published in 1852, Uncle Tom's Cabin sold millions of copies in the United States, Great Britain, and around the world. It was commonly regarded as a powerful statement of abolitionist rhetoric. Emma Darwin recommended it to her relatives and friends. So she and Charles must have discussed it as contributing to the campaign against slavery that they supported. Proslavery leaders in the American South denounced the novel as false in presenting slavery as far more brutal than it truly was.

And yet even some of the abolitionist leaders--such as black abolitionist William Nell--criticized Stowe's depiction of Uncle Tom as humbly submitting to the tyranny of his enslavement. The novel indicates that Uncle Tom's "getting religion" made him a submissive slave (6). He tells Aunt Chloe to pray for the slaveholders. Although he knows that this is against "natur"--against the natural inclination feel anger towards exploitation--he teaches that to be a good Christian slave, one must allow the "grace" of Christian redemption to conquer one's "natur" (62). It is said that Tom has "a natural genius for religion" (195), which is expressed in his teaching his fellow slaves to passively endure their slavery and obediently serve their masters, with the promise that they will be rewarded by God in the afterlife. The prospect of heavenly reward will compensate them for their earthly suffering.

In the 1950s, the black novelist and essayist James Baldwin famously attacked Stowe's novel for what he regarded as a racist portrayal of black passivity.

This is why the term "Uncle Tom" has become a term of scorn for those who submit to their own exploitation.

But there is an alternative hero in Stowe's novel--George Harris--who is not a good Christian, because he wonders whether there is a God that would allow the slaves to suffer so, and he expresses human "natur" in using violence to resist his slave masters and escape to freedom in Canada, and eventually in going to Liberia. George Harris does not ask for eternal life, but only for earthly liberty, and he willing to die rather than live as a slave. George invokes the Declaration of Independence in his manly assertion of a spirited resistance to oppression (207). This spirited resistance to exploitation shows how "the man could not become a thing" (17-18), which was the position taken by black abolitionists like Frederick Douglass.

Unlike Uncle Tom, George Harris rejects Christianity. He tells his wife: "I an't a Christian like you, Eliza; my heart's full of bitterness; I can't trust in God. Why does he let things be so?" (23). Speaking to a white man who respects him, George observes: "I've seen things all my life that have made me feel that there can't be a God. You Christians don't know how these things look to us. There's a God for you, but is there any for us?" (124).

Stowe shows some ambivalence as to whether Christianity is defensible in its stance on slavery. She recognizes that the proslavery leaders could easily quote the Bible as supporting slavery. And yet she also believed that the general teaching of the Gospel had to deny the justice of slavery, and she hoped that the Christian teaching of humility and love manifested in Uncle Tom's martyrdom could move the hearts of white people to support the abolition of slavery. Still, she suggests that the violent revolutionary resistance to evil manifest in George Harris might be the only way to abolish slavery.

Under the influence of Alexander Kinmont's Twelve Lectures on the Natural History of Man (1839), Stowe believed that there were natural differences between the races that made blacks more naturally passive, obedient, and less prone to aggressive anger than whites, so that blacks were more naturally adapted for Christian morality. Oddly enough, this made blacks morally superior to whites, while also making them more adapted for slavery than whites were. She implies that George Harris was naturally inclined to a spirited resistance to his enslavement only because his father was white, and thus his mixed race birth gave him some mixture of Anglo-Saxon spiritedness.

There is some evidence, however, that Stowe began to change her mind shortly after the initial publication of Uncle Tom's Cabin. She wrote a foreword to Nell's The Colored Patriots of the American Revolution (1855). Nell commented not only on the black participation in the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, but also on the black resistance to slavery displayed by Denmark Vesey, David Walker, Nat Turner, and the Virginia maroons of the Great Dismal Swamp, who all showed the black history of revolutionary heroism.

In 1856, Stowe published her second novel--Dred, A Tale of the Great Dismal Swamp, in which she portrayed the heroism of a black revolutionary--Dred--who was the son of Denmark Vesey, and who led slaves in revolt from his hiding place in a large swamp. When Dred first appears in the novel (vol. 1, chap. 18), he quotes the Old Testament as favoring vengeance against oppressors and as contradicting the passive obedience taught by the New Testament. By contrast, another slave--Milly--teaches the same Christian passivity taught by Uncle Tom. But in this novel, the heroism of Dred suggests that Stowe is reconsidering her earlier depiction of Uncle Tom as the model of Christian heroism.

Speaking to another slave, Dred aggressively takes his stand:

"When a man licks his master's foot, his wife scorns him--serves him right. Take it meekly my boy! 'Servants, obey your masters.' (Ephesians 6:5) Take your master's old coats--take your wife when he's done with her--and bless God that brought you under the light of the Gospel! Go! You are a slave! But, as for me, . . . I am a free man! Free by this," holding out his rifle. "Free by the Lord of hosts, that numbereth the stars, and calleth them forth by their names. Go home--that's all I say to you! You sleep in a curtained bed.--I sleep on the ground, in the swamps! You eat the fat of the land. I have what the ravens bring me! But no man whips me! --no man touches my wife--no man says to me, 'Why do ye so?' Go! you are a slave!--I am free!" (199-200)

As I have indicated in some previous posts, Thomas Aquinas reads the Bible as supporting the natural moral emotions of spirited vengeance displayed by someone like Dred, and thus Aquinas corrects Jesus's teaching in the Sermon on the Mount in the light of natural law as rooted in the natural morality of human life.

Aquinas defends "vengeance" (vindicatio) as a virtue. Against the teaching that we are to always love our enemies and never resist evil, Aquinas insists that vengeance is a part of justice because it expresses a natural inclination shared with other animals to irascibility, a special inclination of nature to protect individuals against harm, and thus it is a "natural right" (ius naturale) (ST, I-II, q. 107, a. 2; II-II, q. 50, a. 4; q. 108, aa. 2-3).

Edward Westermarck's Darwinian theory of morality explains this by arguing that human moral emotions are rooted in the evolved dispositions of animals to feel anger towards those that threaten them. This naturally evolved animal inclination to ward off attacks is the deepest root of that sense of injustice that underlies all human morality.

Any question as to whether the black race was adapted for slavery by its natural passivity and lack of spiritness should have been settled by the courage of the black soldiers who fought in the American Civil War. Darwin was fascinated by this, and he was proud to meet Colonel Thomas Wentworth Higginson, who commanded the first federally authorized black regiment to fight in the South. Higginson visited Darwin twice in the 1870s, and on the second occasion, he spent the night at Down House. Higginson called Darwin "even a greater man than I had thought him."

Harriet Beecher Stowe, The Annotated Uncle Tom's Cabin, ed. Henry Louis Gates and Hollis Robbins (Norton, 2007).

Stowe, Dred, A Tale of the Great Dismal Swamp, ed. Robert Levine (Penguin Classics, 2000).

Some related posts can be found here, here, here, here, and here.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Darwin Does Not Love You

Although it's not as popular as the bumper sticker that reads "Jesus Loves You," one occasionally sees the contrasting bumper sticker--"Darwin Loves You."

A few yeas ago, George Levine took this as the title of a book--Darwin Loves You: Natural Selection and the Re-enchantment of the World. As the title suggests, Levine argued that contrary to the claim that Darwinian science contributes to the "disenchantment of the world" identified by Max Weber, Darwinism might actually promote the "re-enchantment of the world." After all, Levine indicated, Darwin shows a love of nature and a wonder evoked by nature's beautiful complexity and grand evolutionary history. So why shouldn't that love and wonder show us the way to a secular enchantment that has no need for a theistic religious view of this world as given a spiritual meaning by its transcendent Creator?

Now, Levine has edited a new book--The Joy of Secularism: 11 Essays for How We Live Now--which has been the basis for a good essay-review in The New Yorker by James Wood.

Levine argues for a Romantic Darwinism that would combine secular science with a sense of the sacredness of nature without any need for religious transcendence.

I need to think more about this. But my first reaction is that this kind of reasoning gives both too little and too much credit to revealed religion.

It gives too little credit to revealed religion, because it assumes that scientific reasoning has refuted the claims of revelation. I doubt this. Although there are many reasons to be skeptical about religious faith, I have never seen a rational demonstration that revelation must be false.

Moreover, I don't see in Darwin's writings any attempt to refute religious belief. I do see skepticism, especially towards the end of his life. But I also see that he never publicly proclaimed atheism, despite his skepticism. I also see in his writings a persistent effort to leave open the possibility of theistic evolution, the possibility that God as Creator might have employed natural evolution as the means for carrying out Creation.

What I see here is what I call the problem of ultimate explanation. All explanation must start with an unexplained, and unexplainable, ground of all explanation. For the Darwinian naturalist, nature itself--the laws of nature--are the unexplained ground of explanation. For the theist, God the Creator is the unexplained ground. I see no way around this ultimate choice, with no way for either side to refute the other. In a free society, both sides are available as people organize their lives around answers to this fundamental question of life.

But if Levine gives too little credit to religious belief, he also gives it too much credit. After all, the very quest for an enchanted world or sacred secularity is itself a religious quest, or a search for a surrogate religion. Nietzsche saw this when he warned that in the wake of the death of God, many people would be unable to shake off their longing for redemption, and they would seek religious emotions without the need for religious doctrines. He saw Romanticism as one manifestation of this, and he saw David Strauss's religious Darwinism as showing this tendency to want to turn scientific naturalism in a religious direction. Nietzsche himself embraced a Darwinian naturalism free from religious longings only in his middle works--Human, All Too Human, Daybreak, and The Gay Science. In his later writings, however, he relapsed into an atheistic religiosity because he could not free himself of his religious longings.

Levine and others seeking an enchanted secularism are like the later Nietzsche in trying to be good atheists while failing to give up their religious longings.

In accepting Weber's "disenchantment" story, Levine assumes that for human life to have "meaning," human purposes must have some resonance with cosmic purposes, and thus he praises Darwin for his "anthropomorphic" view of the universe, his projection of human purposes onto the cosmic order. He sees this as the alternative to the "anthropocentric" or "theocentric" view of theistic religion. But even Levine's romantic anthropomorphism--his imaginative response to nature as mindful rather than mindless--expresses a religious longing.

The alternative to this atheistic religiosity is to see that a purely human purposefulness that has no cosmic support can satisfy the Socratic or Darwinian skeptic. But because of the natural desire for religious understanding, very few human beings can live this kind of life. And nothing said by the scientific skeptic can refute the claims of the religious life.

Darwin loved his wife, his children, and his friends. But he doesn't love you. Darwin is no substitute for Jesus. Darwin and Darwinism are not going to redeem us from the limitations of this world and give us entrance into an ecstatic enchantment.

But Darwinian science can teach us that life has meaning in so far as life has purposes--human purposes. Human purposes arise from those twenty natural desires that constitute our evolved human nature.

That evolved human nature leaves us vulnerable to suffering and death, and it provides no transcendent promise of escaping from that vulnerability, except for those moved by the desire for religious understanding. But it does provide us with the possibility of human goods--human love, human striving, human wonder. For many of us, that's enough.

My earlier blog post on Darwin's understanding of love and death can be found here.

Earlier blog posts on Nietzsche's struggles with Darwinism and religion can be found here, here, here, and here.

One of my posts on the evolution of the desire for religious understanding can be found here.