Re: Reviews of Darwin's Cathedral

Date: Wed Mar 12 2003 - 06:40:07 EST

  • Next message: George Murphy: "Re: Genealogies (was Re: personal revelations)"

    In a message dated 3/11/03 11:20:14 PM Eastern Standard Time,

    > There have been several recent postings extolling the virtues of David Sloan
    > Wilson's book "Darwin's Cathedral". I haven't had the opportunity to read
    > it, but I wanted to point out two recent reviews by people whose opinion I
    > respect. (My apologies if someone else has mentioned these already; I've
    > been too busy to read all the postings recently. Time constraints forced
    > me
    > to delete some unread.)

    I have read it - outlined it heavily and discussed it only yesterday with the
    evolutionary psychologist Kevin MacDonald, who knows Wilson, the evolutionary
    biologist and who has written a trilogy on the "evolutionary strategy of
    Judaism." I brought it up on this list because it accumulates anough
    information to support the proposition that religious belief and practice
    have survival value for populations that participate, it has an entire very
    positive chapter on Calvinism. The conclusion - religion is good for us.
    Religion is adaptive. Abandoning religion has disastrous consequences. I
    would think that though historians and zoologists are important for their
    perspective, may I humbly suggest that a critique of evolutionary biology
    might be beyond their purview. I am also a member of the Human Behavior and
    Evolution Society and had an opportunity to speak to Kevin MacDonald, John
    Tooby, Paul Hartung, Thomas Moore of Stanford (religious warfare), Anthony
    Hilton (Mennonites) on this very issue at the annual meeting at amherst in

    > In a recent American Scientist (2003, v. 91, no. 2, p. 174-6) historian Ron
    > Numbers and zoologist Karen Steudel Numbers offer comments under the title
    > "Religion Red in Tooth and Claw". Among other things, they said:

    Characterizing religion as red in tooth and claw is vaguely reminiscient of
    Marxist propaganda

    > "As far as we can tell, Wilson's "scientific" theoy possesses no predictive
    > value beyond the tautology that all religious "organisms" will be
    > culturally
    > adaptive. Historians of religion have beeen saying the same thing, in
    > different words, for generations."

    Yes, historians of religion have been absolutely correct, Jewish priestly
    scribes (think of Ezra) always knew this, Calvin knew it. Darwin knew it
    (1870s) Emile Durkheim knew it:

    “Durkheim became the dominantfigure in French sociology. He was responsible
    for the attempt to develop a ‘scientific’ state-supported system of morality
    based on collective conscience and organic solidarity. Leon Bourgeois,
    premier of France from 1895 to 1896, regarded Durkheim’s work as proof that
    Marxist class conflict could be avoided. In Durkheim’s analysis, class
    struggle was a temporary pathology, and organic solidarity, not revolution,
    was the predictable outcome of industrialization.”

    > and
    > "It should be obvious by now that we find Darwin's Cathedral unconvincing,
    > both biologically and historically. It is not so much that it's offensive
    > or
    > wrong as that it is irrelevant to a useful understanding of religion."


    > And in the journal Evolution (2003, v. 57, no.1, p. 200-202), H. Allen Orr
    > notes three kinds of problems and a number of errors of fact in the book
    > and
    > concludes with:
    > "In the end, you are, I suppose, free to believe that religion is a mere
    > byproduct of multilevel selection. But intellectual honesty demands that
    > you
    > ask why science isn't too."

    I don't see Wilson's distinciton between religion and science - religion
    which was ridiculed for the last half of the 20th century by the liberal
    intelligentsia is put on a par with science by Wilson. He writes:

    "We must think of religious thought as something that coexists with
    scientific thought, not as an inferior version of it."

    Coexisting entities are not byproducts of one another.

    > Karl
    > **************************
    > Karl V. Evans

    After my review of Darwin's Cathedral is submitted and hopefully published, I
    will offer it to the list. If it is not published, I will offer it to the
    list anyway, with a little less fanfare to be sure.


    This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.4 : Wed Mar 12 2003 - 06:40:42 EST