Darwin Loves You: Natural Selection and the Re-Enchantment of the World

By George Levine | Go to book overview

PREFACE

Some months ago, my son, knowing a great deal about the full range of my beliefs, sharing most of them, and aware that I was still fascinated by Darwin, gave me a bumper sticker that read, “Darwin Loves You.” My son is given to an irony and comic cynicism that I have always admired and partly feared, and I was a little uneasy about the obvious aggression that would be entailed in putting the sticker on my car. But there were reasons other than the aggressive and massive public push to religiosity that has so marked the early years of the twenty-first century in America that led me to paste the sticker on after all. I had come to realize that in a perhaps comic, at least ironic way, the bumper sticker was implying something true and important about Darwin that had attracted me to him in the first place and that had continued to attract me after twenty years of study.

It was that realization that led me to shift away from my original intentions in writing this book and to develop them in different directions. I had wanted to consider the strange cultural history of Darwin's scientific theory, the fact that it has been used as support for the most extraordinary variety of cultural, political, and ideological projects. Many who have taken opposed ideological and moral positions have considered themselves true Darwinians. Part of my point was (and remains central to the book as I finally have written it) to defend Darwin from some of the popular conceptions of Darwinism, in particular, from the view that his theory intrinsically entails both a radical denial of moral and aesthetic value (because it attempts to explain these phenomena naturalistically) and a simple sanctioning of the worst aspects of dog-eat-dog capitalism.

My overall point was to develop further the argument I have made elsewhere, that scientific and philosophical theories have no intrinsic connection with particular political or social positions. Conceding from the start that any philosophical or scientific idea

-ix-

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Darwin Loves You: Natural Selection and the Re-Enchantment of the World
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Acknowledgments xxv
  • Chapter 1 - Secular Re-Enchantment 1
  • Chapter 2 - The Disenchanting Darwin 45
  • Chapter 3 - Using Darwin 73
  • Chapter 4 - Amodern Use Sociobiology 93
  • Chapter 5 - Darwin and Pain: Why Science Made Shakespeare Nauseating 129
  • Chapter 6 - “and If It Be a Pretty Woman All the Better” Darwin and Sexual Selection 169
  • Chapter 7 - A Kinder, Gentler, Darwin 202
  • Epilogue: What Does It Mean? 252
  • Notes 275
  • Index 297
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