What does David Brooks really think about Darwinism?

Logan Paul Gage

It is a rare day that I would dispute Bruce Chapman’s reading of anything. But today is one such day. Disagreeing with Ambassador Chapman’s and Richard Kirk’s interpretations of David Brooks’ recent column “The Age of Darwin,” I (perhaps mistakenly) thought that Brooks was pointing out the irony of our supposedly post-modern intellectual culture which waxes eloquently about having no grand, unifying metanarrative and at the same time bows down to the Darwinian fairytale, to borrow David Stove’s phrase.
Writes Brooks:

…evolutionary theory reshapes psychology, dieting and literary criticism. Confident and exhilarated, evolutionary theorists believe they have a universal framework to explain human behavior.

Darwinism seems to explain everything!

The logic of evolution explains why people vie for status, form groups, fall in love and cherish their young.

I thought the obvious implication was that it therefore explains nothing. I thought this was a satire, a reductio ad absurdum on the Darwinists’ need to fit everything into this universal paradigm–as though 1859 was the year we discovered the true meaning of the world. We finally figured out that the true meaning of life is the perpetuation of genes–and in fact, come to think of it, the reason we think that the meaning of life is the perpetuation of genes is because this thought (meme, if you will) perpetuates our genes!
I’ve often wondered myself how long science, which depends upon a realist view of the world, can hold out against post-modernism’s variety-of-legitimate-interpretations viewpoint. I thought Brooks was subtly highlighting this contrast of worldviews. But upon rereading Brooks’ column, I realized that it may be read either way. Perhaps Mr. Brooks will clarify his viewpoint in a future column?

Logan Paul Gage

Logan Paul Gage is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Franciscan University of Steubenville. Dr. Gage received his B.A. in history, philosophy, and American studies from Whitworth College (2004) and his M.A. (2011) and Ph.D. (2014) in philosophy from Baylor University. His dissertation, written under the supervision of Trent Dougherty, was a defense of the phenomenal conception of evidence and conservative principles in epistemology.