There is an interesting new education project under construction at Binghamton University. According to The New York Times:
Yet a few scholars of thick dermis and pep-rally vigor believe that the cultural chasm can be bridged and the sciences and the humanities united into a powerful new discipline that would apply the strengths of both mindsets, the quantitative and qualitative, to a wide array of problems.
Now, we’re all for combining the sciences with the humanities. Clearly we should be developing well-rounded students. But what I fear is
that the Darwinian establishment fails to take its own ideas seriously.
For instance, take human moral concerns. We find these all throughout the literature of the Western canon. Yet what would a consistent Darwinist have to say when analyzing moral concerns in literary texts? Would she not treat them as Darwin treats moral notions in The Descent of Man? Would she not treat them as every bit as evolved to fit the environment as fingernails? Rather than pointing to any sort of truth, are not such concerns from, say, the 18th century passé at the most?
And thus I worry that instead of providing a unifying curriculum, such a project (if consistent with Darwinian principles) would reduce the humanities to irrelevancy. If the human person does not have a stable nature, what could the ancients possibly have to teach us about the present order? So…why study literature on its own terms? And what objective criterion could one use to judge books “good” or “bad”?
It reminds us of Margaret Sanger’s The Pivot of Civilization (see Benjamin Wiker’s discussion in 10 Books That Screwed Up the World, p. 131). Sanger uses Darwinian logic and language in her book of 1922, writing that stupid Irishmen were breeding like rabbits and the virtuous Scots were breeding more slowly–a situation clearly leading humanity to doom! (This, of course, leaves those of us with Irish and Scottish blood feeling extremely conflicted! But let that pass for now.)
But this should strike the reader as silly–and not just for the pseudo-scientific racism of it all. It is fundamentally inconsistent in the same way as the Binghamton project; for their Darwinian reductionism reduces objective value concerns to rubbish. If the Irish are outbreeding the Scots, doesn’t this show that the Irish are “better” in Darwinian terms?
In other words, Sanger uses Darwinism to destroy objective values (which forbids the undermining the sacredness of human life) and then uses objective values about what is “good” to argue for her eugenic fantasies.
In the same way–while we do not wish to impute anything like the scientific racism of Sanger to the Binghamton folks–we worry that in accepting Darwinism (and hence reductionism) the Binghamton project can have no true unification with the humanities, for it has undermined its value from the start. Lucky for those of us who want to see a unified curriculum that Darwinism’s pretensions to being good, objective science are tenuous at best.