A new biography of Jack London has just appeared and is garnering lots of reviews. But it does not reveal who "London's God" was. Are your kids picking up his evolutionist religion in literature class?
From Saving Leonardo:
Jack London was the best-known representative of literary naturalism, a movement that fleshed out in fiction the tenets of philosophical naturalism. These were novelists and playwrights who portrayed humans as biological organisms with no real freedom, determined by their genetic heritage and social environment....
Largely self-taught, London acquired his education by devouring books in the public library. There he came upon the works of Herbert Spencer, a British philosopher who was the most influential popularizer of evolution in nineteenth-century America. Immediately the young writer underwent what one historian calls “a conversion experience.” In Spencer, he found evolution projected onto a large screen, applied not only to biology but also to sociology, art, literature, commerce -- evolution expanded into a complete worldview. It was Spencer who coined the phrase “survival of the fittest” (Charles Darwin borrowed it from him). And he saw the process at work everywhere, not only in nature but also in human society. Spencer, more than anyone else in the nineteenth century, brought evolution to America.
And London, more than anyone else, integrated an evolutionary worldview into American fiction. Through Spencer he discovered Darwin, whose works he read so thoroughly that he could quote entire passages by heart. He embraced other materialist thinkers as well, such as Karl Marx and Friedrich Nietzsche. Yet it was Spencer who remained his “god,” the deity to whom “he would remain faithful for the rest of his life.”
The way he served his god was by writing stories expressing Spencer’s evolutionary worldview. In “The Law of Life,” an old Eskimo named Koskoosh is abandoned by the tribe and left to die in the falling snow. Weak, blind, and waiting for the wolves that will inevitably devour him, he reconciles himself to his fate by musing that, in the evolutionary scheme of things, the individual does not really matter anyway. Nature assigns the organism only one task: to reproduce so the species will survive. After that, if it dies, “what did it matter after all? Was it not the law of life?”
The story pounds home the naturalistic theme that humans have no higher purpose beyond sheer biological existence.
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Books like these are taught in the classroom as simply "the classics." It's up to us to make sure our own children are equipped as critical thinkers to recognize and wrestle with the worldview themes that are being taught -- not just in words, where they're easier to recognize, but also through plot, characterization, and story line.