1. Ken Blanchard of South Dakota also concludes, for good reasons, that Lincoln is far more important than Darwin. And he likes Darwin.
2. The best argument I’ve read in a long time for the pernicious character of not only Dawinism but Darwin himself is the first chapter of the Calvinist novelist/essayist Marilynne Robinson’s THE DEATH OF ADAM. I’ll say more about that soon. Robinson reminds us of the important--maybe decisive--role Calvinism played in abolishing slavery in our country, and she displays for our admiration the Christian egalitarianism of antebellum upper Midwest. We Straussians and we Catholics probably don’t give the Calvinists the credit they deserve. We actually probably shouldn’t today; I don’t think they had that much to do with the big event of July 4th.
3. Have a great Independence Day!
(1) Robinson's review of Dawkin's The God Delusion is brilliant, on par with the Darwin essay. I'll track this down and get it to you.
(2) I have to quibble with your remark on Calvinist's and the Declaration. A study of the classic statements of Calvinist resistance theory, from Bk IV of the Institutes through the work of the Marian exiles up to colonial America, would reveal in both content and form some rather remarkable similarities between them and the Declaration. There was a reason all those heirs to the Puritans signed onto the Revolution. And its not because they all became Lockeans in the 18th century. Yes, Jefferson's authorship of the Declaration is important to consider, but so is the way its main themes would resonate with other (perhaps even more prevalent) traditions of thought found in the colonies.
But still I'm glad to see the Calvinists getting some kind words.
Matt, Great to hear from you. I really, really need to see the review of Dawkins. 2. I will agree with you that the break from Calvin to Locke is not as radical as SOME say. 3. But one HUGE difference between REAL LOCKEANS and REAL CALVINISTS has to do with the biggest weakness in M. Robinson's thought, which is her excessive hostility to some abstraction called capitalism. I agree with her that Weber is wrong--real Calvinists, such as MR and Carey McWilliams--are anti-Lockeans/capitalists, while still being egalitarian "functionalists." 4. Also irritating is MR's excessive consdescension toward evangelicals, "fundamentalists," etc.
5 The most intriguing part of her thought is a possible revision of Tocqueville: The sophisticated antebellum Middle West (Oberlin etc.) was actually more idealistic/aristocratic (in a way) that the South. 5. That means that the two forms of American idealism--the Puritans and the (Southern) Stoics--exhausted themselves in the Civil War. That was certainly good for Locke in America, as well as for a secular Darwinian progressivism.
Peter, I concur about MR's excessive hostility to capitalism. I'll find out in due course, but I would surmise we read her in very similar ways, finding many of the same faults. Your comments make me all the more excited for your paper.
As for the sophisticated antebellum Middle West, have you seen her essay in Harpers -- maybe its a month or two old? Its on the colleges founded in the Mid West by those of New England extraction. Its in the same issue as Wendell Berry's latest screed...
Will send it to you, too.