[T]he evil world we live in is not a world which has been denied access to the science of Darwin and Marx and the theories and art of Wagner. Had their answers truly solved the riddle of the Sphinx, no obscurantism could subsist, for we are animated by--I will not say, the precise ideas of the three materialists--but surely by their deeper spirit, their faith in matter, their love of system, their abstract scientism, and their one-sided interpretation of Nature:Jacques Barzun, Darwin, Marx, Wagner: Critique of a Heritage, 1941, pp. 15-16Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object of which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of life ...This is not Mussolini speaking, but Darwin, and his voice re-echoes in our ears:War is not in contrast to peace, but simply another form of expression of the uninterrupted battle of nations and men. It is an expression of the highest and best in manhood.This is the comment of Dr. Robert Ley, head of the Nazi Labor Front, on the war of 1940.
I am not saying that Darwin would have accepted the results of his "philosophy of nature," nor am I seeking three individual scapegoats in the past to bear the burden of our present ills, but I do say that the ideas, the methods, the triumph of materialistic mechanism over the flexible and humane pragmatism of the Romantics has been a source of real woe in our day.
Sunday, April 20, 2008
Jacques Barzun on the relation of Darwinism and "woe in our day"
There are some people who seem to think the charge that Darwinism has some ideological connection with totalitarian regimes of the 20th century is an invention of Ben Stein. Here is Jacques Barzun, the legendary cultural historian, writing while these regimes were still in power: