11 Mar

Hurrah for Thought for the Day!

Three cheers for Thought for the Day! You never thought you’d hear me say that, did you? Naturally, I’m not extending to the programme a universal enconium, but today’s talk, given by the former Chief Rabbit Jonathan Sachs was a model of what such things should be and a flash of light in the encircling gloom. Dr Sachs reported new findings to the effect that male birds do not, as Darwin preached, sing only as part of a show of sexual advertisement – in the attempt to find a lady bird and get their genes passed on – but to announce their presence and tell anyone listening they’re glad to be alive. And the lady birds do the singing too.

This is so refreshing for it pulls the rug from under the satanic hypothesis of genetic determinism, that reductionist notion that our whole sense of beauty, truth, value and love is nothing but the accidental and meaningless spin-off from ineluctable evolutionary theory.

While we’re at it, we should apply Dr Sachs’ antidote to those other two deterministic, reductionist monsters Freud and Marx. For Freud, we are little more than our unconscious motivation which we are powerless to influence – short of turning up on his couch for seven years’ worth of narcissistic blather and, of course, paying the psychoanalyst’s fees. For Marx, the motivations for all our human and political relationships are mere economics. The fact that Darwin, Marx and Freud have been for so long worshipped as our true – and perhaps only – teachers and prophets is the supreme intellectual tragedy of our time.

Satanic indeed. There is no better word to describe the dirt that these deterministic ideologists have done on human beings. For we are not entirely in the grip of unconscious motives, economic laws or selfish genes. There are first-order experiences of which we are all acutely and continuously conscious, and which are real: self-sacrifice, wit, humour, self-mockery, the power of music, poetry, fine painting. Beauty, Truth and Love – these three. And the greatest of these is love

Darwin, Freud, Marx?  Aw shucks, they’re just for the birds…