Barzun’s critique of the cult of evolutionary theory and the canonisation of Darwin himself is impressive but it is difficult to identify where Barzun stands on the scientific status of evolutionary theory and this is the least convincing part of his work. He appears to be dissatisfied with materialism and determinism without explaining whether he adhered to vitalism, or some form of mysticism or religion. This underlines the problem of pursuing such a wide-ranging research project without the assistance of co-workers, so his reach may have exceeded his grasp at some points. This is especially apparent when he attempted to locate his work in the context of twentieth century physics and biology, where he was operating too far from his base in history and cultural studies.
If surpluses are used in charity, or in cooperatives for human purposes such as home-building for the less affluent, life necessarily becomes simpler and the ideal of voluntary poverty cannot be far behind. The Christian doctrine of property becomes a reality, namely the retaining of a sufficiency of goods for an adequate life and the sharing of the remainder with the needy. In point of fact, millions of Christians, working for wages, actually live out this teaching on property. How else do we explain the world-wide network of the works of mercy supported by the small gifts of the many, Though there are Catholic millionaires, the masses of Catholics are rather the victims than the beneficiaries of corporations as they roam about the world seeking profits.