Apiece by Jan Hoffman in The New York Times recently went to work on the word “narcissism.” It noted that everyone and his brother is called a “narcissist” today, so that the word must lose its meaning. I am myself among the accused (though unnamed in the article). I have used the word often. I apply it to those who spend their lives admiring their own reflection and, by extension, to those who imagine the world revolves around them.
A certain amount of built-in self-regard is (need I say?) necessary to survival, but we are discussing behaviour that goes well beyond the requirement.
Hoffman thinks we shouldn’t say “narcissist” until an official mad-doctor has given his or her opinion in a court of law. I often use the word “credentialist” to describe people with fatuous ideas like that.
So I would reply: what if everyone and his brother is a narcissist? Including the average court-appointed shrink? Does that mean no one is a narcissist anymore? There are moments when logic should be applied, even to articles in The New York Times.
The word “narcissist” is not flattering, and cannot be made flattering, without some supplementary effort to turn human nature upside down.
Which doesn’t mean this hasn’t been tried. Indeed, the generation after our whole education system was twisted to make “self-esteem” the highest virtue prized, we have an epidemic of narcissism.
On another page of The New York Times, (why do I read this rag?) Olivia Judson, the house cheerleader for Darwinian evolution, was trying to retire the word “Darwinist.”
Her typically breathless argument was that we know so much more about evolutionary processes today than could be known in the age of Darwin that the term has become useless.
Genes, for instance. Darwin knew nothing whatever about the genetic processes later discovered by the Polish Catholic monk, Gregor Mendel—observations that would have wiped Darwinism clean out of biology were there not something else in Darwinism that people wanted to preserve.
Indeed, our “modern evolutionary synthesis” consists, in a candid view, of 100 parts of Mendel to zero parts of Darwin, and the whole idea of The Origin of Species—that new species could emerge from the gradual accumulation of small random mutations “selected” by an impersonal nature for their survival value alone—remains to this day utterly undemonstrable.
It moreover flies in the face of the observed evidence, which is for dramatic, sudden, yet extremely complex changes.
“Darwinism” survives not as a science, but as an ideal: to eliminate God from any consideration of how nature works. It is intrinsically no more nor less rational than using God as the sole explanation for every event in view. The words “Darwinism,” “Darwinian” or, as I prefer, “Darwinoid” correctly describe those who continue loyal to this ideal, in the face of everything we now know about evolutionary biology.
Alas, for its proponents, the word has become discredited, so that a new term, or euphemism, is needed to describe the same old thing, which is a very earnest, censorious, and fanatic atheism masquerading as empirical science. Or better yet, they think there should be no word for this, to make the irrational position impossible to attack on rational grounds.
Let me turn the tables on myself and consider the parallel term, “Creationist.” I am myself frequently tagged with this epithet, at which I subconsciously flinch (just as the Darwinoids on the other side flinch at “Darwinism”). The term implies that I subscribe to some literalist biblical “young earth” account of the biological history of the planet, in which God does everything without proximate causes.
I don’t believe that, or anything like that. Instead, I take every piece of empirical evidence for the earth’s age, and for the sequence of life-forms that have appeared on or near her surface, at face value. No position can possibly be “scientific” that rejects empirically-determined facts. On this, I would have thought, there could be universal agreement.
The Darwinoids have got me on my basic assumption, however: which is that, however the processes may work, mechanically, the creative hand of God is ultimately behind them.
This is the core insight of the religious mind, regardless of the subject matter. Conversely, the core insight of the atheist mind is the negative of that: the notion that behind every something is, ultimately, a nothing. The perspicacious reader will note that only one of those insights can be true, and that the third, “agnostic,” option is a logical chimera.
“There is order in the universe.” The reader, or any scientist, may accept or reject this assertion, which is consistent only with the religious point of view. If he accepts it, he will be expecting to find order everywhere he looks in nature. If he rejects it, he should expect to find disorder everywhere.
In this sense, a strict Creationist will find himself more confident and comfortable with any discovery of empirical science than a strict Darwinist.
For the latter is constantly confronting examples of order, that he must be at pains to explain away.