Melanie Phillips is the prominent British journalist whose memoir, Guardian Angel: My Journey from Leftism to Sanity, captures the essence of her stance. It’s this: she is pro-sanity. So it is terrific to see her turning her attention to Yale computer scientist David Gelernter and his apostasy from Darwinism:
Darwinism, said Gelernter, had passed beyond a scientific argument. Although his Yale colleagues had treated him in a courteous and collegiate manner, people took their life in their hands to question Darwinian evolution.
“They will destroy you if you challenge it,” he said. There was nothing approaching free speech on this topic. “It’s a sort of bitter, fundamental, angry, outraged, violent rejection, which comes nowhere near scientific or intellectual discussion.”
Gelernter’s conclusions about Darwinism have derived principally from his analysis of the statistical probability of the evolution of new species. Yet anyone who queries Darwinism is immediately labeled “anti-science” and accused of being a religious nut.
Indeed, the pushback against Gelernter’s apostasy has included the observation that he is a religious Jew. Apparently, the only reason he could possibly have come to this “denialist” conclusion, says one pro-evolution website, is that he views science through “Old Testament goggles.”
In fact, a belief that’s unchallengeable has the characteristic of religious faith. That’s why Gelernter calls Darwinism a religion.
Phillips draws a helpful parallel between intolerant leftism, in command of our culture now, and the evolutionism that similarly will tolerate no challenges. The parallel is not by chance. It’s a case of shared roots.
As Phillips points out, the Left’s ideology is at bottom a rejection of Christianity, which means that it’s fundamentally a rejection of the Hebrew Bible as well with its “[i]deas such as an orderly and rational universe structured on a linear concept of time.” These ideas happen to be what we recognize today as hallmarks of sanity.
Seething with Anger
Modern Darwinists, unlike some other leftists, haven’t as yet resorted to violence against opponents. Yet their talk seethes with anger. Ask Darwinian biologist P.Z. Myers about a rational person such as William Lane Craig, who has very effectively debated a range of the smartest atheists. Seething, Professor Myers will tell you that instead of debating Craig and other “creationists,” “I should be spitting in their face, throwing them out of the lecture hall, and presenting the honest truth to the audience, because creationists won’t.” (Craig is not a “creationist,” in any fair definition, but leave that aside.) It’s no doubt a fantasy on the part of Myers, said to be a mild individual in person, but it is a violent fantasy nevertheless.
Would Myers also wish he could spit in David Gelernter’s face and physically assault him by throwing him out of the lecture hall? And if not, why not?
A Mad World
Like all utopians, the left believe their ideas are unchallengeable because they supposedly stand for virtue itself. All who oppose them are therefore not just wrong but evil. So heretics like Gelernter must be stamped out because no quarter can ever be given to any challenge to secularism.
What secular liberals don’t understand is that in attacking the Jewish concepts at the core of the Christian West, they are not merely repudiating their own supposed ideals of tolerance and rationality, but are sawing off the branch on which they themselves are sitting.
It’s a mad world where sane talk like this is remotely “controversial,” and where thinking critically about a dubious scientific theory is, at least in a career context, to “take your life in your hands.” Please, may we have more pro-sanity journalists?
Photo: Melanie Phillips, via her website (screen shot, cropped).