Nancy Pearcey: Darwin's Dangerous Idea Invades the School Restroom
Nancy writes at Uncommon Descent:
The public has responded swiftly and strongly against the Obama administration’s demand that public schools admit transgender students into the showers, locker rooms, and sports teams of their choice. But to be successful, the response must also be informed. Where did transgender ideology come from, and how can we respond more effectively?
The answer may surprise you. If we dig deeply, we discover that the turning point, historically, was Darwin’s theory of evolution. It had a lasting impact in at least three ways.
Matter Does Not Matter
Let’s tease out its impact through the language of the transgender movement. California set the tone in 2007 when it changed its education code to define gender as “a person’s gender identity and gender related appearance and behavior whether or not stereotypically associated with the person’s assigned sex at birth.”
What’s the key word here? “Assigned.” As though a person’s sex at birth were purely arbitrary instead of a scientific, biological fact.
What such language implies is that biological facts do not matter. The law is being used to impose a worldview that denigrates the physical body as inconsequential, insignificant, and irrelevant to gender identity. It is a worldview that alienates people from their own bodies. As Anglican theologian Oliver O’Donovan writes, transgender ideology implies that “the body is an accident that has befallen the real me; the real me has a true sex” apart from my body.
Where did such a negative view of the body come from? From Darwin’s rejection of purpose and design in nature. Both classical Greek and Christian philosophy regarded the natural world as teleological – from the Greek telos, meaning purpose or goal. It is evident that eyes are for seeing and ears for hearing; fins are for swimming and wings for flying. The only reason molecules are arranged in those particular configurations is to achieve a purpose.
Because the human body is part of nature, it too was recognized as having a purpose. The sexual differentiation of male and female was not some cosmic accident. It showed that the human body is oriented toward opposite-sex pair-bonding for emotional attachment and procreation. Teleology is the basis for naturallaw ethics: It tells us how to fulfill our true nature, how to become fully human.
Darwin did not deny that nature appears to be designed for a purpose. But he wanted to reduce that appearance to an illusion, the result of a purposeless material process. The two elements of his theory, random variations sifted by the blind automatic forces of natural selection, were proposed expressly to eliminate plan or purpose.
As historian Jacques Barzun writes, “This denial of purpose is Darwin’s distinctive contention.”
The implication of the Darwinian worldview is that the biological differentiation of male and female is a cosmic accident. The body was reduced to raw material that can be manipulated and controlled to serve human needs and preferences – like any other natural resource. Gender identity is strictly in the mind, even to the point of overriding biological identity. Matter does not matter.
This was “Darwin’s dangerous idea,” says philosopher Daniel Dennett in a book by that title. He describes Darwinism as a “universal acid; it eats through just about every traditional concept and leaves in its wake a revolutionized world-view.”
Read all of Nancy's article.