Friday, December 2, 2011

Darwin and … Adam ?

The quarrel between the theses of Natural Selection, on the one hand, and Christianity, on the other, is largely local -- centered in the US -- and (not so much theological as) sociological :  Michelle Bachmann voters, to put it bluntly.   These conjure up dioramas in which Man and Dinosaur walk side by side, and in which geology has no room to be a phenomenon, let alone a science  -- it is just an embarrassment.   One of the many merits of the Historical Church, is that it puts a lid on the boiling-over brains of the Boeotians.
Yet more substantiely, the Roman Catholic Church has explicitly proclaimed its nihil obstat  to the basic doctrines of Darwin, as stated in his great work of 1859, The Origin of Species.   It does beg to differ -- as well it might -- with tawdry overreachings and web-spinnings, such as bedevil any fashionable science,  such as physics (stuff happened in the cosmos therefore God does not exist) or even mathematics (the pop versions of chaos theory, and, once-upon-a-time, topology).    Non-Christian thinkers such as Berwick and Berlinski  dissent as well.

Now -- you might imagine that the Holy See has been backed into this position  by an onslaught of fact.  But as a matter of history, the Historical Church has been more a custodian of Wissenschaft  than its preventer:  it simply moves with more deliberate speed than the latest Tweet.   Doubtless you are darkly thinking of Galileo;  this deserves an essay to itself;  but let us note that, in a quite secular context, scientists have been ostracized by their fellows -- most recently in the case of the latest winner of the Nobel Prize in chemistry.
And now witness this:  a thick pamphlet or thin book, called Original Thin, by Dr. Keith Massey.  Ostensibly  its subject is the “paleo diet”:   but if that were all it was, it would receive no mention here, before my distinguished readership, which lies awake  o’ nights, tossing and moaning over the Riemann Hypothesis.   Diet be d*mned -- lean beef and red wine are all ever a man needed, from base matter (and -- refreshingly, from a diet book -- Dr. Massey basically agrees).   What is remarkable about this work of scholarship, is that it does not grudgingly admit Darwinism -- but embraces it  as did the hands of our ancestors  the shinbone of the saber-tooth, to wield as a weapon.   And wields it in tandem  with Biblical and Classical scholarship of the highest order.   It is quite a dance -- a most delicate dialectic.

And so -- entirely independently of any interest you may or may not have, as regards dieting -- I do recommend this book, as an intellectual adventure, and as a rare cultural signpost.   

~  Posthumous Endorsement ~
"Were I alive today, and in the mood for a mystery,
this is what I should be reading: "
(My name is Charles Darwin, and I approved this message.)
~         ~

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