What interests me is the analysis of the relationship between Darwin's theories, and the rest of Western philosophy.
It is one thing to say that there is a conflict between evolutionary theory and the literal interpretation of Genesis. It is something else to say that evolutionary theory implies a purposeless universe.
But then, I think there is actually a big pay-off in purposelessness. I think it very much suits lassiez faire capitalism and philosophical individualism. The idea is that life is 'self-creating', that it bootstraps itself into existence 'for no particular reason' really is a very attractive philosophical principle. Life comes with no real obligation (other than the pursuit of happiness, I suppose.) Now this 'no particular reason' is itself presented as the scientifically-established basis for everything that has happened since the reaction started in the hallowed Warm Pond. There seems to be this easy acceptance that life is simply a biochemical reaction that started way back when, and then, the Principle of Adaptive Necessity kicks in, give us several billion years, voila. And at bottom, it happens for No Reason.
Now of course, the science advocates always complain that the religious advocates are irrational. But I am forming the view that this
is the viewpoint that is actually irrational. I think the thing which motivates it, the underlying rationale, is the denial that 'God did it.' If you can imagine a culture in which there hadn't been a preceding mythology of creation, then I wonder if Science would be so confident about this 'absence of cause' as a cause. Indeed I wonder if the 'absence of cause' is only brandished as the argument of choice because it is the 'scientific' - as opposed to the 'religious' - account of the matter.
In other words, evolutionary theory, as a philosophy, is defined by what it denies
. In this context, the absence of a cause is understood as a cause. We don't really need to grapple with the large idea of what might be understood as a 'first cause' or 'the ground of being', because, whatever it is that is behind it, it is not God. What is behind it, is the God that is not
. The denial of the sufficient cause of being, is now the cause of being. Whatever argument traditional philosophy and religion comes up with, we deny it. And there is a plentiful supply of such arguments to deny.
So, given that everything developed for no particular reason, where then does Reason find a foothold? Sure we find reasons for any particular thing. We can find reasons why the Galapagos finches developed differentiated beaks, to return to our theme. In fact, given anything that exists, reasons abound for it. But the larger questions of why anything is the way it is are now met by the universal solvent of adaptive necessity. 'It is, because it survived. And it survived, because it is'. This is the Universal Principle which now replaces Ratio, Logos, The First Cause, Prime Mover, Moral Law, and any number of other superannuated religious and philosophical concepts which presumably are now confined to the last remnants of pristine wilderness prior to the woodchippers moving in. And furthermore, this principle is sufficiently elastic and non-specific to surmount any empirical obstacle that might appear to threaten it. That is one of the beautiful things about Darwinian theory: given that we lack the one real means of testing any of its hypotheses - namely, some other life-bearing planet - then whatever happens can easily be accommodated by a nip here, a tuck there. Easy, really.
After all, what is the evidence that the Theory of Evolution is the most successful scientific theory in the history of the Universe?
'Why, that would be you', comes the answer.
And what more could you want?