November 11, 2002
FOR THE HOMOCENTRIC UNIVERSE:"Vegetables Don't Have a History": A conversation with historian John Lukacs. (interview by Donald A. Yerxa and Karl W. Giberson, Jul/Aug 2000, Books & Culture)
Giberson: You give the Christian doctrine of Original Sin a central place in your work and world-view. How do you react to recent developments wherein evolutionary psychology has intruded into the theological space occupied by the doctrine of Original Sin? Theorists in this field are suggesting that our sinful nature is really our "selfish nature" as evolution preferentially preserved behaviors that tended to secure the passage of one's genes into the next generation.
Lukacs: I am an anti-Darwinian, and one of the reasons for this is that I believe that the only evolution is the evolution of consciousness. There is an increasing intrusion of mind into matter. I have been much influenced by the work of Owen Barfield. He was a friend of C. S. Lewis, and Barfield and I became good friends. Barfield reminded me that mind precedes matter. And I believe that mind actually creates matter.
Darwinism itself was part of the evolution of consciousness. It was part of the religion of progress. It didn't take a particularly great mind to see that there is more in common between men and apes than men and minnows. To make this into an entire system of progress was actually predictable. Darwin was very much a man of his time. Yet, even if you are not a Christian, you must believe that no matter how small, there is a fundamental difference between human beings and all other living beings. If you don't believe this, then out goes all morality. Why is incest wrong? Why is cannibalism wrong?
Let me make a daring claim. Our very view of reality, of the universe, is nothing else but a part of history. Our view of the universe is nothing more and nothing less than our view of the universe. We are not just part of the universe outside of us. We have invented the universe. We are in the center of it.
This goes against the modern scientific view. When the view of the modern universe began to arise in the sixteenth century, which in a way displaced the earth from the center of the universe, man smiled at the older, geocentric view. We shouldn't be so smug. Now at the end of an age we have all sorts of absurd and ridiculous ideas: black holes and big bangs. I am not a prophet, but I am reasonably certain that 300 or 400 years from now our descendants will not only smile but laugh at the views of the universe that were so current at the end of the twentieth century. I say this not to elevate the historians and reduce the prestige of astrophysicists. Just do not forget that we are historical beings. Everything we know about the universe is our mental creation. We are not separated from it. We cannot live but forward and think but backward. And the essential thing—and this is not arguable—is that history is bigger than science, because it is science that is part of the history of mankind.
There's much that we disagree with Mr. Lukacs about--especially his anti-anti-communism--but this kind of skepticism is certainly appealing. Posted by Orrin Judd at November 11, 2002 9:01 AM