What Dewey learned from Darwin

At the CIRCE conference, Andrew Kern discussed John Dewey’s essay “The Influence of Darwin on Philosophy.” Dewey said that Darwin showed that all of Western thought up to that point is worthless. This is because Darwin exploded the concept of “species.” In effect, Darwin maintained that species do not exist, since one changes into another. For Dewey, this not only pertained to animal species, but to the very thought forms that depended on species as a logical category ever since Plato. If there are no species, Dewey concluded, there can be no essences, no absolutes, and no fixed truths. According to Dewey, thinking now has to do only with adapting to your environment.

And on this basis, Dewey invented progressive education.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Manxman

    Dewey influenced more than just education, and he was influenced by other thinkers than Darwin, in particular Nietzsche, Hegel & William James. I’m working my way through Jonah Goldberg’s excellent book, Liberal Fascism, and I’m amazed at how heavy-handed the progressives (precursors of today’s Liberals) were as they used fascist ideas & methods to accomplish their socialist agenda. I suspect many people have no idea what was going during this period of American history, and how it sowed the seeds for the mess we’re in today.

  • Manxman

    Dewey influenced more than just education, and he was influenced by other thinkers than Darwin, in particular Nietzsche, Hegel & William James. I’m working my way through Jonah Goldberg’s excellent book, Liberal Fascism, and I’m amazed at how heavy-handed the progressives (precursors of today’s Liberals) were as they used fascist ideas & methods to accomplish their socialist agenda. I suspect many people have no idea what was going during this period of American history, and how it sowed the seeds for the mess we’re in today.

  • Orianna Laun

    It is very telling that Dewey is one of the original signers of the first Humanist Manifesto. His ideas and the ideas of secular humanism are so persistent and ingrained into our education system, which in turn has deeply influenced our culture to make it the post-modern place it is today. Progressive indeed.

  • Orianna Laun

    It is very telling that Dewey is one of the original signers of the first Humanist Manifesto. His ideas and the ideas of secular humanism are so persistent and ingrained into our education system, which in turn has deeply influenced our culture to make it the post-modern place it is today. Progressive indeed.

  • http://viz.tumblr.com Tickletext

    Does anyone know the precise title of this essay? I Googled “The Influence of Darwin on Education” and found only this post. The closest I came was “The Influence of Darwin on Philosophy.”

  • http://viz.tumblr.com Tickletext

    Does anyone know the precise title of this essay? I Googled “The Influence of Darwin on Education” and found only this post. The closest I came was “The Influence of Darwin on Philosophy.”

  • Anon

    How do we get the synod to change its educational paradigm from the progressivist version taught in our colleges of education to one of the other models that work better, probably preferably classical or some modification of classical?

    How do we get our people to realize that the government schools effectively teach against the faith, and that is why we lose well over 80% of our youth when they go to college?

  • Anon

    How do we get the synod to change its educational paradigm from the progressivist version taught in our colleges of education to one of the other models that work better, probably preferably classical or some modification of classical?

    How do we get our people to realize that the government schools effectively teach against the faith, and that is why we lose well over 80% of our youth when they go to college?

  • Steve Rowe

    Hello Anon

    What do you mean by losing? Are you talking about kids who have left the LCMS or people who have left the church period (not just moved to other denominations)? If they have left the faith how much return once they have children and families? Of the 15 or kids I know from my old evenjelical Baptist youth group the overwhelming percentage are still in the faith. I can only think of 2 outright apostates. I can’t believe the LCMS is doing that bad in terms of retention.

    Peace

    Steve in Toronto

  • Steve Rowe

    Hello Anon

    What do you mean by losing? Are you talking about kids who have left the LCMS or people who have left the church period (not just moved to other denominations)? If they have left the faith how much return once they have children and families? Of the 15 or kids I know from my old evenjelical Baptist youth group the overwhelming percentage are still in the faith. I can only think of 2 outright apostates. I can’t believe the LCMS is doing that bad in terms of retention.

    Peace

    Steve in Toronto

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    Tickletext, I think I had the title wrong and that you have the correct title. I’ll change it. Thanks for catching the mistake.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    Tickletext, I think I had the title wrong and that you have the correct title. I’ll change it. Thanks for catching the mistake.

  • http:/scienceblogs.com/evolvingthoughts John S. Wilkins

    Darwin did not “explode” the concept of species, and he certainly believed they were real, if temporary, things. It was Lamarck who denied they existed because they changed. Dewey, in “The Influence of Darwin on Philosophy”, misunderstood both Darwin (as many people at the turn of the century did) and the history of the term “species”. The logical tradition of species and the biological had always been separate in the mind of logicians, and the idea that natural species were essentialistic is a creation of Whewell or Dewey, not the actual behavior and ideas of naturalists.

  • http:/scienceblogs.com/evolvingthoughts John S. Wilkins

    Darwin did not “explode” the concept of species, and he certainly believed they were real, if temporary, things. It was Lamarck who denied they existed because they changed. Dewey, in “The Influence of Darwin on Philosophy”, misunderstood both Darwin (as many people at the turn of the century did) and the history of the term “species”. The logical tradition of species and the biological had always been separate in the mind of logicians, and the idea that natural species were essentialistic is a creation of Whewell or Dewey, not the actual behavior and ideas of naturalists.

  • Anon

    Statistics I’ve seen indicate that 80% of evangelical youth fall away, and a higher percentage in the LCMS. We need to change catechesis and continue it after confirmation. That it isn’t merely ‘what -we- believe’ but that it is -true-, and such that they can defend the attacks on their faith from professors, MTV, etc. Frankly, the adults still in the synod don’t know much about the Lutheran beliefs.

  • Anon

    Statistics I’ve seen indicate that 80% of evangelical youth fall away, and a higher percentage in the LCMS. We need to change catechesis and continue it after confirmation. That it isn’t merely ‘what -we- believe’ but that it is -true-, and such that they can defend the attacks on their faith from professors, MTV, etc. Frankly, the adults still in the synod don’t know much about the Lutheran beliefs.

  • fw

    i have read that darwin could not have existed outside of the world of christian thought. what he proposed would have made no sense out side of the christian thought world. I also read that his ideas were really an extention of the thoughts of hobbes who was all about social evolution and the progress of progress and society and civilization. in england this looked like putting the irish at the bottom of the evolutionary scale making them into monkeys in political cartoons. anyone have any info or thoughts on this?

  • fw

    i have read that darwin could not have existed outside of the world of christian thought. what he proposed would have made no sense out side of the christian thought world. I also read that his ideas were really an extention of the thoughts of hobbes who was all about social evolution and the progress of progress and society and civilization. in england this looked like putting the irish at the bottom of the evolutionary scale making them into monkeys in political cartoons. anyone have any info or thoughts on this?

  • David

    Anon, you write “How do we get the synod to change its educational paradigm from the progressivist version taught in our colleges of education to one of the other models that work better, probably preferably classical or some modification of classical?” You might want to look up Lutheran Schools of America (http://www.lsaels.org) that is attempting to do the very thing you are requesting. Its focus is the K-12 but it is working with Bethany Lutheran College of the ELS.

  • David

    Anon, you write “How do we get the synod to change its educational paradigm from the progressivist version taught in our colleges of education to one of the other models that work better, probably preferably classical or some modification of classical?” You might want to look up Lutheran Schools of America (http://www.lsaels.org) that is attempting to do the very thing you are requesting. Its focus is the K-12 but it is working with Bethany Lutheran College of the ELS.

  • Anon

    David,
    Thank you. I fear Missouri is a tougher fight. The Seminex-sympathizers didn’t leave the university system in 73 like they ought to have. The university system trains the future. I used ‘trains’ for a reason – teaching is different.

  • Anon

    David,
    Thank you. I fear Missouri is a tougher fight. The Seminex-sympathizers didn’t leave the university system in 73 like they ought to have. The university system trains the future. I used ‘trains’ for a reason – teaching is different.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X