I have just finished reading Michael Bywater’s ‘Big Babies’. His theme is what he calls the ‘infantilisation’ of society. Business and government in the West conspire to keep us from truly growing up. We are kept in a ‘Mummyverse’ in which we are protected from dangers, our every need is provided for. We resort to tantrum behaviour to get what we feel is still lacking. Indeed, business constantly feeds us messages about what we still lack, creating an underlying sense of dissatisfaction, and then tells us how we could feel so much better if we had such-and such a product.
Bywater makes a compelling diagnosis. Dissatisfaction is real in our society, if not well acknowledged.
The book is intended to be entertaining as well as informative. It is funny in places, though crude in others.
My problem with his argument, if indeed it was intended ultimately to be taken seriously, was that I felt a strong sense of ‘so what’ about it. Let me explain.
Bywater has a pop at Christians (and other religions, since they are all basically the same, aren’t they?!). They are the ultimate Big Babies who are told what to do by a Book. He reserves special ire for those who promote Intelligent Design. Several times he speaks of life as a biological process of self replication (contra one advertising slogan, ‘After all, life is just a journey’). Thus we see that Bywater is a Darwinist.
Now the problem with any Darwinist making any kind of social comment is that, within his own intellectual framework, why should I or anyone care whether he is angry about Big Babies? Why should I listen to his 31 ways to avoid being a Big Baby? (Bywater recognises the irony of this closing chapter!) What exactly would be wrong, within the Darwinist worldview, of a world populated by Big Babies? Isn’t that just the way society has evolved? It’s like being angry that cats evolved whiskers. What’s wrong with that?
Well, nothing, if you are a true, consistent Darwinist. There is no rational basis within the evolutionary worldview on which to complain about Big Babies. It is what is.
Nevertheless, I share his pain at the infantilisation of society! Why? I know why I do – because I am a human being made in the image of God. I am made in a certain way, to relate, to love, to grow, to rule and bear God-given responsibility. Notice I say that, not just as a Christian, but as a human being. Therefore it is no surprise to me that fellow-human Bywater feels the same thing, and no doubt to a much greater degree since he felt the need to write a book about it! It would be no surprise to me that others who read it feel that it strikes a chord. But it only works because people fundamentally don’t believe that Darwinism is true.
There may be someone who says that I am being too po-faced serious about a book which is really intended to entertain. Well, perhaps. It was reasonably entertaining. But I think it is still worth asking the question why it is funny, why it strikes a chord, why the arguments makes sense. And the answer is not found in Bywater’s own view of the world.