Saturday, February 14, 2009

Darwin, Lincoln, And Modernity

From the Darwinian Conservatism blog:
It is a remarkable coincidence that Charles Darwin and Abraham Lincoln were born on the same day 200 years ago--February 12, 1809. In some previous posts, I have suggested that this should lead us to think about the points of contact between these two men.

Many books are now being published in connection either with the Lincoln bicentennial or the Darwin bicentennial. But one book combines the two--Adam Gopnik's Angels and Ages: A Short Book about Darwin, Lincoln, and Modern Life (Knopf, 2009). Gopnik is an award-winning writer for The New Yorker; and, as one might expect, this book is wonderfully written. A short excerpt from the book has been published in the February issue of Smithsonian magazine, which can be found online.

Gopnik's main theme is that Lincoln and Darwin were alike in helping to shape the "moral modernity" of "liberal civilization" as based on democratic politics and scientific reasoning--"science and democracy, an idea of objective knowledge arrived at by skepticism and of liberty available to all" (14, 18, 21). Gopnik uses the term "liberalism" in such a broad sense that it encompasses both the political "conservative" in American politics as well as the political "liberal" (18).

Continue reading.

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