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Darwin Loves You: Natural Selection and the Re-Enchantment of the World

By: George Levine

Princeton University Press

Paperback | Apr 2008 | #173596 | ISBN-13: 9780691136394
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NHBS Price: £22.99 $30/€26 approx
Hardback | Dec 2006 | #169711 | ISBN: 0691126631
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About this book

Without minimising or sentimentalising the harsh qualities of life governed by natural selection, and without deifying Darwin, this text makes a moving case for an enchanted secularism - a commitment to the value of the natural world and the human striving to understand it.

Jesus and Darwin do battle on car bumpers across America. Medallions of fish symbolizing Jesus are answered by ones of amphibians stamped "Darwin," and stickers proclaiming "Jesus Loves You" are countered by "Darwin Loves You." The bumper sticker debate might be trivial and the pronouncement that "Darwin Loves You" may seem merely ironic, but George Levine insists that the message contains an unintended truth. In fact, he argues, we can read it straight. Darwin, Levine shows, saw a world from which his theory had banished transcendence as still lovable and enchanted, and we can see it like that too--if we look at his writings and life in a new way.

Although Darwin could find sublimity even in ants or worms, the word "Darwinian" has largely been taken to signify a disenchanted world driven by chance and heartless competition. Countering the pervasive view that the facts of Darwin's world must lead to a disenchanting vision of it, Levine shows that Darwin's ideas and the language of his books offer an alternative form of enchantment, a world rich with meaning and value, and more wonderful and beautiful than ever before. Without minimizing or sentimentalizing the harsh qualities of life governed by natural selection, and without deifying Darwin, Levine makes a moving case for an enchanted secularism--a commitment to the value of the natural world and the human striving to understand it.

George Levine ... tries to vindicate Darwin for students of literature by emphasizing his modest 'sense of wonder,' the almost mystical awe at the sheer existence of life in the universe; Darwin disenchanted believers in Heaven, but he reenchanted lovers of Earth. Levine's book is one of the most appealing and subtle attempts to bridge biology and the humanities. -- Adam Gopnik The New Yorker Levine restores and celebrates Darwin's humanness, arguing for the vital important to modern democracy of a radically secular, ethical engagement with the engagement that is scientific and sympathetic. -- Angelique Richardson Times Literary Supplement Levine argues persuasively that an understanding of Darwinism can lead to a secular enchantment of the sort experienced by Darwin himself. Publishers Weekly George Levine's book Darwin Loves You confronts Weber's problem of the loss of enchantment head-on. Levine's thesis is that this all-too-common view of science in general and evolution in particular is dead wrong and that, in fact, Darwinian evolution provides a model for what he calls 'secular re-enchantment.'...The book is erudite and wonderfully interdisciplinary. -- Robert T. Pennock American Scientist Levine's readings of Darwin himself are infectiously enchanted ('Who else would have thought of playing the piano for worms?'), and emphasize the crucial point that Darwin's scientific achievement depended on his capacity for imaginative sympathy with other animals. -- Steven Poole The Guardian Levine's intelligently designed case for secular enchantment seeks to show that Darwin's theories, long reviled by literal creationists, can co-exist with a deep love of natural beauty that does not depend on divine creation. -- Kathy English Globe and Mail A considered, carefully worked and sensitive argument for Charles Darwin the man. -- Henry Nicholls Times Higher Education Supplement Darwin Loves You combines passion, subtlety, critical scrutiny and moral purpose... Levine is surely right to see hope for our own times in an avowedly Romantic Darwinism. ek Kohn," The Independent George Levine has written a fascinating book about the impact of Charles Darwin's ideas on Western culture and how they affect people's moral and spiritual values... This book, which represents an admirable attempt to humanize Darwinism, is welcome in today's climate... This book should appeal to the lay public concerned about the growing threat of fundamentalism. Choice Levine's Darwin is a dedicated and scrupulous observer who insisted on scientific clarity and rational precision whether studying finches, barnacles, worms, or human beings. Levine is inspired by the great naturalist's awe before the ordinary, which he characterizes as a kind of inverted sublimity. -- Steven G. Kellman San Antonio Current


Preface ix Acknowledgments xxv CHAPTER 1: Secular Re-enchantment 1 CHAPTER 2: The Disenchanting Darwin 45 CHAPTER 3: Using Darwin 73 CHAPTER 4: A Modern Use Sociobiology 93 CHAPTER 5: Darwin and Pain 129 Why Science Made Shakespeare Nauseating CHAPTER 6: "And if it be a pretty woman all the better" 169 Darwin and Sexual Selection CHAPTER 7: A Kinder, Gentler, Darwin 202 EPILOGUE: What Does It Mean? 252 Notes 275 Index 297

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George Levine is Professor Emeritus of English at Rutgers University. His books include "Darwin and the Novelists; Dying to Know: Narrative and Scientific Epistemology in Victorian England; The Realistic Imagination: English Fiction from Frankenstein to Lady Chatterley; The Boundaries of Fiction;" and a memoir about birdwatching, "Lifebirds".

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