Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Thanking God for Darwin...:

And Darwin for God. That's pretty much what Harry Jaffa does in this article. When I graduated from Berklee College of Music, James Taylor was our featured speaker. One of the interesting lines in his speech was, "I thank God for music, and I thank music for God." Just substitute "Darwin" for "music" and I think Harry Jaffa is saying the same thing in this passage:

There is, for example, nothing in Darwinian theory that excludes the possibility that natural selection is the means by which God created the species. It may be an act of faith to believe this, but it is no less an act of faith to deny it. There is therefore nothing in the logic of evolution, strictly speaking, that places it in opposition to the Bible. Hence there never was any compelling reason for Biblical fundamentalists to oppose the teaching of evolution; nor is there reason now for Darwinian fundamentalists to oppose the teaching of intelligent design.

Jaffa/Claremont are known for their mighty attempts to reconcile Reason and Revelation (while the East Coast Straussians know that they are entirely irreconcilable; but that's a Truth that must be kept secret from the masses). But Jaffa's article is a bit much. It lends credence to the thought that the West Coast Straussians are really closet nihilists, like their East Coast brethren; they are just more secretive about it and want to continue the charade of publicly/textually defending the notion that Reason/Revelation are agreeable, that "ends" are grounded in Nature, that God exists, when secretly they know these things not to be the case.


Tom Van Dyke said...

Is that truly your analysis of the West Coast Straussians, Jon, that they sneak Strauss in under cover of congeniality to Revelation?

Or is it the other way around? ;-)

Jonathan said...

I hold it as a possibility that they are closet nihilists who believe that they must publicly posit, as a noble lie to keep the whole system of morality afloat, that Truth is found in Reason and/or Revelation.

Honestly, I don't know. I do believe that Strauss himself was a closet nihilist/atheist/materialist who adamantly believed that no true philosopher could believe in God.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Yes, I buy that. "We [philosophers] get paid to be atheists," he reputedly said once. And this author" makes Strauss quite the Nietzschean.

I find Aquinas standing atwart Strauss' project, and not just for his theism. Strauss cannot embrace "human rights," for instance, especially the notion of equality. Aquinas was a philosophical pioneer of them. Strauss abjures Thomas' natural law for "natural right."

Natural law and human rights were of course core to the founding of our liberal democracy.

Your thoughts, and my observations of the West Coast (Claremont) Straussians make me suspect that Strauss is indeed hijacked for Aquinas, for Thomism, for democracy.

Which to my mind, is a very good thing. God Bless America. ;-)

The Gay Species said...

Readers may want to peruse: Evolution: The Paradigm Shift

followed by a select bibliography.

Jonathan said...

Gay species. I'll check it out.

Tom: I'm no expert on Aquinas. I know most of what I know about him by having others explain to me what he wrote. However, I never before saw that case made that Aquinas's work really had anything to do with human rights or liberty and equality.

From what I understand, LOCKE was the pioneer of those theories.

Liberty, Equality, Property, unalienable rights, and conscience. It all goes back to Locke, which makes him the most important philosopher to both America in particular and liberal democracy in general.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Nope. No creator, no rights.

Aquinas, against the tide of antiquity 800 years ago, derived that we're all God's chillun. Creator. Rights.

I think Strauss was right about Locke: hedonism cloaked in religious garb. Locke didn't believe in a word of that religion stuff, or if he did, it has no effect on his formal philosophizin'.

Modernism, which is often confused with liberalism (and may be synonymous) starts with Hobbes, that the understanding of man's nature should be derived from the bottom up (in Hobbes, fear of death, in Locke, the pursuit of pleasure). The classicals see it the other way around in terms of virtue, man at his best and most excellent.

Aquinas was [surprise!] good with property rights, BTW, hundreds of years before Locke. Very interesting fellow, and even if you pitch the religion stuff, a better political philsopher than all of 'em. See, he wasn't some pie in the sky priest, but a keen observer (and in his Xtian way, forgiver) of human nature. An extremely practical fellow.

Since you axed. Remember, we're mostly agreeing here.

Jonathan said...

The problem, though, as I understand from Strauss and Bloom is that the entire notion of "rights" or "natural rights" is a modern (that is post-Hobbes) concept.

One could argue that Locke, as a non-religious fellow, needed to make certain rights "unalienable" that is non-negotiable or antecedent to majority rule. So he, out of necessity, tied them to "God."

From what I've read of Aquinas, I see a lot of "law" -- that is do this or don't do that -- but not "rights" or "liberty" in the picture. For that, one has to go to Hobbes and Locke.