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History, Evolution, and The Darwin Debate

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Reviews of MR’s Critique of Intelligent Design

January 29th, 2009 · No Comments

Steve Fuller has an amusing review of Critique of Intelligent Design, at Uncommon Descent.

In any case, I rather doubt that Marx and Engels would have had any reason to believe in a planned anything (revolution, economy, etc.), if their materialism entailed the level of chance entailed by, say, Gould’s replayed tape of natural history. In that respect, the book under review represents a very decadent form of Marxism – one that has been abstracted from any sense of purpose that it might have once had.

Decadent Marxism, poor fellows. Fuller’s point is on the mark: Marx’s universal history was a concealed teleological model (forever denied) of historical sequencing, witness Popper and Isaiah Berlin’s strictures against ‘historical inevitability’.
Meanwhile, here is
my Amazon review of the book:

The history of Marxism begins with the critique of ideology. However, for reasons historians of the left must make clear the Marxists of the Second Internationale became converts to Darwinism, despite the clear ideological character of that theory and its resemblance to the classical liberalism of the age. John Bellamy Foster himself, in his book Marx and Ecology depicts the moment when Marx himself challenged the theory of natural selection, based on a now forgotten theorist. This moment however should remind us that Marx’s first reaction to Darwinism, beyond the myths, was a direct insight into its ideological character, whatever else happened later.
This book then toes the ‘party line’ on Darwinism as it has been for much too long, as if the left were incapable of carrying out its task of ideological analysis of social/economic/biological theories.
Nonetheless this critique has an interesting history of the design argument, tracing the debate all the way back to the ancient Greeks. That context helps to put the current Darwin debate in context, but fails to consider that Marx’s macrohistorical theories were themselves a form of concealed non-theistic design argument latent in universal histories. (Check out Alan Megill’s Karl Marx, The Burden Of Reason, chapter 1, ‘Marx’s Rationalism’).
That the Marxist left should be so stuck on the Darwin question makes a mockery of its vaunted challenge to ideology.
The history of the design argument is a two-edged sword. Fundamentalists proposing Intelligent Design fail to convince us, but one of the original critics of the early Greek evolutionists was none other than Socrates, a reminder that the design argument, whatever its merits, has an honorable lineage, and, while it might fail to convince, is poorly refuted by the claims of Darwinists for natural selection.

The first chapter of Megill’s book is worth reading for its placement of Marx in the context of post-Hegelianism, but with the basic framework of universal history still in place.
Understood thus, Marx is a poor critic of Darwin, or of ID.

Meanwhile, a study of the eonic effect will show that those, like Epicurus, making the claims for the random are themselves part of the strictly non-random pattern of their own emergence in the Axial Age. So miuch for that.
Archaic Greece: The Clue

Tags: Booknotes · Evolution · The Eonic Effect

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