Posted by: Kenn Hermann | February 27, 2006

Whose Story? Evolution as the ‘Story of Mankind’

economistThe December 24th 2005-January 6th 2006 issue of The Economist carried several major articles on “The Story of Mankind.” Ironically, what I found most instructive in this series was how much can be learned about the Evolutionists themselves by analyzing the ‘stories’ that they tell about the ‘evolution’ of mankind. When we dig below the surface of all of the heated rhetoric of the current debates surrounding ‘Design’ and ‘Evolution’ I suspect that the root of the controversy lies in the conflicting ‘stories’ all of us construct of Who we are. The stakes are high, indeed: Who are we? How did we get to where we are? What’s wrong with us? How can we be set right? Where are we going? The most volatile debates in ‘science’ are not and never have been about ‘science’ at all. They are about the Master paradigms, frameworks, worldviews, metanarratives — the stories — that we tell ourselves and others about Who we are. The ‘stories’ that Evolutionists construct, imagine, invent, or weave are no different.

Remember the ‘story’ that Walt Disney tells about Evolution in “Fantasia”? What is the ‘story’ that the American Museum of Natural History tells of Darwinism? What are the ‘stories’ that textbooks tell about the ‘rise’ of science, the ‘ascent’ of Man, or the ‘triumph’ of Global Capitalism?

We all tell ‘stories,’ from the ‘stories’ that advertisers create to lure us into Best Buy to the ‘stories’ that President Bush creates to justify the war in Iraq to the ‘stories’ that Liberals create to justify why Religion must be silenced in the Academy,… Then the question becomes: whose ‘stories’ will be allowed in the public square in a society in which rival ‘stories’ are jostling with one another for dominance as THE STORY?

Rather than try to summarize this complex ‘story’ in this brief blog, here are several very good sources to get you started on deepening your understanding of Evolution as ‘story.’

  • Misia Landau, Narratives of Human Evolution (Yale Univ. Press, 1991)
  • Gillian Beer, Darwin’s Plots: Evolutionary Narrative in Darwin, George Eliot, and Nineteenth-Century Fiction (Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1983)
  • everything by Mary Midgley — The Myths We Live By, Science as Salvation, Evolution as a Religion
  • Martin Rudwick, Scenes from Deep Time: Early Pictorial Representations of the Prehistoric World
  • Owen Barfield, Saving the Appearances

There are several intriguing ironies in this issue as well. The cover art depicts the amusing upward ‘evolution’ of ‘mankind’ to its ‘end’ in an elegant, beautiful, and stylish woman. There is a more sobering irony. It cannot be missed that The Economist chose to focus on “The Story of Mankind” at the very time that the Christian community was retelling its version of the ‘story of Mankind,’ the Story of the incarnation of the Messiah and the dramatic transformation that Event brought to the plotline of the Human Story.

Finally, all of this discussion of Evolution as Story should focus the Christian community on its Master Story. If we have a “story to tell to the Nations,” what is that Story? How does that Story answer the fundamental desires of the human heart that are addressed in all powerful and appealing Stories, whether told in academia or popular culture? Why does Our Story seem so puny, inconsequential, and even silly when compared to other Stories that vie for the imaginative lives of people?

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