1. In an interesting and impressive essay on the subject, Gregory Radick argues for what he calls the “inseparability thesis,” the thesis that the contingent conditions that drive the development of an argument are inseparable from that theory. So the Malthusian connection to Darwin's theory of natural selection is intrinsic to it. Logically, the argument is very convincing, and in certain particular senses it has to be right. On the other hand, it is simply historical fact that many thinkers have in fact dissociated natural selection from Malthus. The undoubtedly correct reading of this is that in some important ways, these uses of natural selection are not truly Darwinian. But my point is that many of these thinkers claimed to be Darwinian nevertheless. Moreover, there is another problem. Radick rightly points out that as modern evolutionary theorists now understand the theory, “selection occurs whether or not resources are scarce. All that matters is that there are differences of fitness within a population.” The question for this book is whether the new understanding of natural selection could be called Darwinian. I would argue here—and much of this book is based on this view—that in any useful sense, it remains Darwinian, even if modified. It accepts the idea of natural selection and simply replaces the notion of Malthusian “struggle” with the notion of fitness differential, which remains based on a Malthusian model, though the emphasis on direct struggle is diminished. So while I understand and credit the argument of the constitutive nature of those contingent forces I emphasize, I insist that history changes the terms and complicates the issue. Much that may not be constitutive Darwinism has historically made its claim to be Darwinian. See “Is the Theory of Natural Selection Independent of Its History?” in The Cambridge Companion to Darwin, ed. Jonathan Hodge and Gregory Radick (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 143–67. See esp., 157–59.
2. Charles Taylor, “Modes of Secularism,” in Secularism and Its Critics, ed., Rajeev Bhargava (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1998), 53. In this important essay Taylor distinguishes several modes of secularism; he is concerned to work out ways in which fundamental and divergent religious beliefs may function within a politically coherent and peaceful polity. He argues that only a secularism that functions without the need of some fundamental “commonly held foundation” can any longer be expected to work. His conclusion is that to survive, secularism must function according to what he calls “overlapping consensus”; such a secularism, he asserts, and I entirely agree, is absolutely essential to the survival of modern democratic states: “either the civilized coexistence of diverse groups, or new forms of savagery. It is in this sense that secularism is not optional in the modern age” (48).
1. William Hurrell Mallock, Is Life Worth Living? (London: Chatto and Windus, 1879), 17.