A Curious Demonstration of How Darwinism is a Religion

A reader writes:

I saw you mentioned New York Polyphony in a recent post and I thought you might be interested in this.

I saw them live last year, and they were stellar! Very sensitive, articulate interpretations and a joy to hear. During the concert, they mentioned a commission they had coming up that piqued my interest: Missa Charles Darwin.

Here’s a link to the Ted Talk that they and the composer, Gregory Brown, participated in. It’s about 20 minutes in length:

It gets a little music-nerdy, but to me it was a fairly amusing example of “secularist takes something with sacred basis and attempts to make it ‘better’ without understanding why it was good in the first place.” I have no idea what Mr. Brown’s personal beliefs are and he doesn’t really go into it, but I certainly found his selection of texts, especially for the “Introit,” telling. He uses the word “evocative” to describe his selections which, in many forays into the modern art world, is a word I have found to mean, “I’m not completely sure I know what I want this to mean, but I’m pretty sure it might piss people off.” Not to mention that many of the things the composer was seeking – evolution, structure, sequencing – already *exists* in the structure of music in general, and has for centuries of western music. Interesting how post-modernism seems so eager to deconstruct and do away with old ways and seek new and better only to find themselves back with the same ideals they threw out, whether they know it or not.

That’s not to say I find this particularly infuriating or insulting….just typical of modern art in a shake-my-head-and-laugh sort of way. And, as with a lot of art in this vein, curiously lacking in beauty.

Need a palate-cleanser? Here’s one of my favorites of the modern choral rep. Arvo Part gets it:

The incorrigible human drive to worship tends to take almost anything–especially anything pertaining to fundamentals of existence like reproduction–and sacralize it. Modern secularist and atheists think they have evolved past this–thereby leaving them completely open to a resurgent paganism just as somebody with no antibodies is not thereby freed from ancient biological threats but is, instead, more in danger than ever. When you stop believing in God and Satan, they don’t thereby vanish. Darwinism has long since left the realm of the sciences and been turned into a variety of pagan cults. We are made to worship. The question, therefore, is never whether we will worship but only what.

Nor does it surprise me that in trying to come up with an aesthetic worshippers should invariably return to Christian forms. this is another example of what the insightful Jeffrey Overstreet calls the Inescapability of the Gospel.

All good art sooner or later reflects the gospel because the Blessed Trinity is the author of reality and all reality therefore bears His stamp.

  • Hezekiah Garrett

    Contra your reader, and in defense of post-modernists, so much of modernism is BS, that I am not surprised at all that people crippled by it, but trying to overcome it intentionally, have discovered little bits of the truth from the past.

    • http://www.likelierthings.com Jon W

      +1 to this comment.

  • Ash

    Copying, borrowing, adapting, and stealing is almost universal in the art world and in the world of ideas in general. The use of a typically religious style in a secular work of art is not a remarkable event. It happens in all directions. Every form of popular music and art is eventually adapted for religious purposes, whether it’s hip-hop or LOLcats. The composition you describe is just one more instance of this, not a sign that people are returning to a Christian aesthetic.

    I’m curious about your claim that “Darwinism has long since left the realm of the sciences and been turned into a variety of pagan cults.”. Could you name some of these cults and describe how “Darwinism” has left the realm of the sciences? I’m new to your blog, and I ask this because I’ve noticed you often fail to be specific in your claims. For instance, your claim in the post’s title you claim that Darwinism is a religion is very ambiguous. What do you mean, in this context, by “Darwinism” and “religion”? Often when I hear religious people say “atheism is a religion”, they seem to be trying to claim that the modes of thought that atheists use to arrive at atheism are identical to or at least no better than the modes of thought theists use to arrive at their religious beliefs. This usage is bound to if not intended to cause confusion, since what people identify with the word religion typically includes doctrines, practices, and institutional structure. If you described a religion by all the attributes people commonly associate with it, I don’t think many people would consider Darwinism to be one.

  • Faith

    I think when people say things like Darwinism is a religion or atheism is a religion, it means that the people extolling it do so in a way similar to the fervor an on fire with religion person would. I don’t know about where you live but where I am I see about an equal number of those Christian fish symbols on the back of cars vs. the Darwinian smartass version. Going into the children’s section of B&N I have noticed 3 or 4 picture books on Darwin! Yes, our 3 year olds need to know the TRUTH. There’s definitely an indoctrination going on in our culture. Same with atheism in general. Recently wasn’t there a request for atheist chaplains in the military? If that’s not treating atheism as a religion . . . .

    • http://www.likelierthings.com Jon W

      Going into the children’s section of B&N I have noticed 3 or 4 picture books on Darwin! Yes, our 3 year olds need to know the TRUTH. There’s definitely an indoctrination going on in our culture.

      Of course there is. And it’s good. This is how human beings impress upon their young people whatever is true and good. Darwinian evolution (in some form or other) is true and good, so we impress it upon our young people with solemnity and sacred icons. I just wish the sciencey people would stop claiming some sort of airy “pure rationality” for their positions and practices and start admitting that they have dark temples just like everyone else.

      • Hezekiah Garrett

        It’s good? How so? Please demonstrate?

        I do not dispute that it is. I just don’t see how you get from ‘is’ to ‘is good’.

  • Matt

    It didn’t even like how it sounded.

  • http://www.likelierthings.com Jon W

    BTW, that TED stuff is so well produced it’s almost off-putting. I feel like it’s the secular version of what it would be like to go into St. Peter’s during the reign of Alexander VI. The art, the music, the service: all of it at the peak of its natural goodness, and all of it ostensibly at the service of truth, but you wonder if it isn’t a lot of whitewashing.


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