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Darwinian Dissonance?
Internet Infidels ^ | Timeless | Paul A. Dernavich

Posted on 11/06/2003 7:34:45 PM PST by Heartlander


Darwinian Dissonance?

Paul A. Dernavich

It is safe to say that the creation/evolution debate will not be resolved anytime soon, and why should it?  With the recent squabbles in states throughout America, and the Dawkinses and Dembskis trading haymakers with each other, things are only getting interesting.  Although I am merely a ringside observer, I am here to blow the whistle on some apparent foul play which I have observed. It is up to you to determine whether any of the participants should be disqualified. 

Let's go to the videotape...

Simply put, the language used by many of today's prominent Darwin defenders, at least as it appears in the popular press, is inherently self-defeating, as if they had a collective case of cognitive dissonance.  They routinely describe non-human processes as if they were actual people. No sooner do they finish arguing that the universe could not possibly have an Intelligent Designer, that they proceed to comment on how the universe is so seemingly intelligently designed. No sooner do they discredit evidence for a grand, cosmic plan, that they reveal their anticipation towards what the next phase of it will be. Let me give you examples.

Dr. Massimo Pigliucci, in his Secular Web critique of Intelligent Design theory ( "Design Yes, Intelligent No" ), utilizes several phrases whose "scientific" definitions, I assume, are sufficiently esoteric enough to obscure the fact that, as concepts, they defy common sense.  He describes the natural world as being a result of "non-conscious" creativity, "non-intelligent design," and "chaotic self-organizing phenomena."  If these terms mean something very specific to evolutionary biologists, it cannot be anything that is inferred by the actual words themselves.  For the very notion of design cannot be thought of in any other terms than that of a conscious being with an intent, a scheme, a protocol, a plan, or an intellect.  Each of the 21 definitions  of "design" in Webster's pertain to a living subject, human by implication.   This is not to say that random arrangements of things cannot be fantastically complex; but if they are not purposefully complex then the word "design" is incorrect.   And "chaotic self-organizing" is a cluster of words similar to "triangular circles": an excessively clever term to describe something that can't possibly exist.

Other examples abound.  A 1999 Time magazine cover story described human evolution like it was General Motors, replacing the "clunkers" with "new and improved" models: but doing it, of course, "blindly and randomly." [1] Spare me, please, from blind and random "improvements."  In the most recent Free Inquiry (the magazine of the Council for Secular Humanism), a scholar writes that both "Christians and humanists agree on one thing: that humans are the most valuable form of life on the planet," and that we are "the crown of earthly creation." [2] That is precisely the one thing that a secular humanist cannot call us: the crown of earthly creation. And valuable? Valuable to whom, and on what basis?  Another term which receives heavy usage is "success," as in a "successful" species of lizard.  But in order for anything to be a success, it must have had some prior goal or standard to fulfill.  If we cannot confirm a purpose for which life is supposed to have originated, how can we say anything is a success?  What if chickens were supposed to fly?  What if beavers were supposed to build A-frames?  Naturalistically speaking, anything is successful if it exists.  Even a pebble is successful at being a pebble.

Finally, Robert Wright, in a New Yorker piece which dope-slaps Stephen Jay Gould for being an unwitting ally to creationists, proves himself to be a pretty solid creationist in his own right, as he goes on to refer to natural selection as a "tireless engineer" with a "remarkable knack for invention," even comparing it to a brain, indicative of a higher purpose, which stacks the evolutionary deck and responds to positive feedback.[3]  Maybe evolution is a focus group!?  Whether it is by ignorance, defiance or the limits of our language, these Darwin defenders liberally use terms which are not available to them, given their presuppositions.  One cannot deny the cake, and then proceed to eat from it!

It brings up the problem I have always had with the term "natural selection."  We all know what it means, and I can't dispute it's validity as a model for the differentiation of species.  As a word couplet, though, it is a grammatical gargoyle, like the term "cybersex."  If you were asked to describe what sex is, it probably wouldn't sound like what happens when a lonely data-entry intern in Baltimore starts typing his fantasies on a flat screen which, thanks to thousands of miles of fiber-optic cable, is then read by someone in Spokane. That situation has nothing to with the purposes or processes of sex, as either God or nature intended it. The modifier is not true to its object.  Although the word "cyber-" is intended as a kind of adjective, it comes dangerously close to totally redefining the word which it is only supposed to modify.  Contrarily, one could have a blue book or a brown book, but in either case it is still a book.  One could make a hasty selection or a careful selection; it is still a selection. But natural?  A selection is a choice, and only a conscious being that can process information can really make a choice, or even input information into a system which will later result in a choice.  However, when the drying of a swamp puts a salamander out of existence, that is an occurrence.  We are comfortable with "natural selection" as a phrase, because it conjures up images of Mother Nature, or some cosmic Gepetto tinkering with his toys.  As a technical term, it is a misleading oxymoron.

I know what this proves.  It proves absolutely nothing.  This is innocent embellishment, lazy usage, or a validation of Chomskyesque theories about the inadequacy of language. One could say that a critique based on language is aimed at the most inconsequential part of any argument, like saying that Kierkegaard would have been more compelling if he had typed in New Times Roman.  However, a more careful consideration will reveal that exactly the opposite is true, at least in this case. The words used by modern-day Darwinists are not a sidelight, they are symptomatic of a fissure in the structure of their thought.  I believe that when someone wrongly calls the evolutionary process a purposeful "design," it is not because of sloppy writing, but because of intentional and thoughtful writing.  It is because that is the only idea that will work.  It is the only word that will work.  It is because there is something brilliant, something awesome, and something significant about our world, and our instinct is to want to know who gets credit for it.  The impulse is innate and proper.  It is  the decision to give credit to an abstract and unauthored "process" which is out of sync.

Let me make the point in a more obvious way.  Here are two written accounts:

A. Two similar clusters of matter came into physical contact with each other at a single point in space and time.  One cluster dominated, remaining intact; while the other began to break down into its component elements.

B. A 26-year old man lost his life today in a violent and racially motivated attack, according to Thompson County police.  Reginald K. Carter was at his desk when, according to eyewitness reports, Zachariah Jones, a new employee at the Clark Center, entered the building apparently carrying an illegally-obtained handgun.  According to several eyewitnesses, Jones immediately walked into Carter's cubicle and shouted that "his kind should be eliminated from the earth," before shooting him several times at point-blank range.

If asked where these two fictitious excerpts came from, most would say that A was from a textbook or scientific journal, and probably describes events observed under a microscope or in a laboratory.  B would be a typical example of newspaper journalism.  Most people would say that, of course, they are not talking about the same thing. But could they be?  Well, to the materialist, the answer is certainly negative. To those who don't take their Darwinism decaffeinated, who embrace it as a philosophy which excludes any non-natural explanations for life's origins, the answer is absolutely.  B perhaps wins on style points, but the content is the same.  Any outrage or emotion felt upon reading the second excerpt would be a culturally conditioned response, but not a proof that there had been anything "wrong" that had happened.  In this view, A is probably the most responsible account.  Nature, with its fittest members leading the way, marches on. I think I would be correct in stating that many would disagree with, or be offended by, that analysis.  What I am not really sure of, and would like explained to me, is why?  What is in view is not so much of a Missing Link, as much as a Missing Leap: the leap from the physical to the metaphysical.  Taken as a starting point, I have no problem with quantitative assessments.  They establish a baseline of knowledge for us. 

But what about life?   Life is an elusive concept that cannot be quantitatively assessed.  As Stanley Jaki writes in his most recent book. [4] Moreover, long before one takes up the evolution of life, one is faced with a question of metaphysics whenever one registers life.  Life is not seen with physical eyes alone unless those eyes are supplemented with the vision of the mind.  No biologist contemptuous of metaphysics can claim, if he is consistent, that he has observed life, let alone its evolution. We then start to have an aesthetic appreciation for the beauty and ingenuity of these life forms, and it is not long before we get around to talking about abstract concepts such as rights, justice, and equality, and assigning some species - namely, us - some kind of moral responsibilities for them, none of which can be measured according to scientific methods.

I think it is safely assumed by all parties that, although we have some physical and behavioral characteristics in common, humans are significantly more intelligent and sophisticated than our mammal friends, and possessed of a vastly different consciousness. For whatever reason, we are unique enough to make us "special." The problem is that the physical sciences cannot explain how, much less why, this consciousness emerged. And a bigger problem is the strangeness of our consciousness: abstract self-doubt, philosophical curiosity, existential despair. How does an intense awareness of my accidental existence better equip me for battle?  Why do we consider compassion for the sick to be a good thing when it can only give us a disadvantage in our vicious eat-or-be-eaten world?  Why would these traits emerge so late in the game, when one would think evolution would be turning us into refined, high-tech battle machines? We cannot acquire a transcendent or "higher" purpose through evolution, any more than a sine wave can develop separation anxiety. And yet many who swear by the powers of Darwin and empiricism also cling, hypocritically, to a quite unproven assumption that the human race is somehow set apart, created for a glorious destiny. Just as determinists argue undeterministically, scientists believe unscientifically. The most serious offenders in this category have to be the various minds behind the Humanist Manifesto, who roundly reject the metaphysical even as they affirm it, by assumption, in their grand prescriptions for humanity.  This is called talking out of two sides of the mouth.  Now, biologically speaking, developing this trait would be a great way for an organism to gain a tactical advantage in the struggle for survival.  Unfortunately, it also opens the creature up for easy attack in life's intellectual jungles. These contradictory assumptions met each other vividly in the theater of mainstream culture last year, during the pop radio reign of "Bad Touch," the Bloodhound Gang song. You know the song: it was the one with the refrain of "You and me, baby, ain't nothing but mammals / So let's do it like they do on the Discovery Channel."  It was pure Darwinism for the dance floor and became an instant dorm room classic, despite (or most likely, because of) the fact that it was too explicit for the kitsch it aspired to.  The party music stopped, however, upon arrival of Thornhill and Palmer's  The Natural History of Rape, the book that investigated whether rape was a genetically determined trait that enabled humans to climb the evolutionary ladder. The book's research was as swiftly refuted as The Bell Curve's.  However, the white-hot center of controversy surrounding this book was not the research, but the inferences that might have been made from it: the fear that rape could be rationalized, or even accepted, on a biological basis.  The science may have been bad, but the logic is faultless.  Why can't a chameleon's color change, a bat's sonar, and a man's sexual coercion all be examples of successful evolutionary "design"?  Given the absence of any empirical alternative to social Darwinism, the nonconsensual Discovery Channel bump-and-grind is a pretty educated approach to sexual ethics.  I repeat: one cannot deny the cake, and then proceed to eat from it.

That, then, is why the language is confused: because the ideas are confused, because the mind is confused.  To the extent that our Darwinians and humanists seek answers to humanity's dilemmas using the natural sciences, they are absolutely on the right track.  To the extent that they reject the idea of a divine or supernatural creator using the natural sciences, they are not only overstepping the boundaries of their field, but they are plainly contradicted by their language, their goals, and their lives.  G.K. Chesterton, writing a century ago, astutely observed this dichotomy in the modern mind when he said that "the man of this school goes first to a political meeting, where he complains that savages are treated as if they were beasts; then he takes his hat and umbrella and goes on to a scientific meeting, where he proves that they practically are beasts." [5] It is precisely this incongruity which remains unaccounted for today.  This incongruity was raised to heights both humorous and sublime by noted Harvard biologist E. O. Wilson, writing an essay for the Atlantic Monthly called "The Biological Basis of Morality."  In it, Wilson outlines the argument for his suspicion that morals, ethics, and belief in the supernatural can all be written off to purely materially-originating, evolutionary-guided brain circuitry, and that's that.   In the light of this, he suggests in his conclusion that evolutionary history be "retold as poetry, " because it is more intrinsically grand than any religious epic.[6]  But if moral reasoning is just a lot of brain matter in motion, where does that leave appreciation for poetry? And seeing that poetry has a definite beginning and an end, as well as an author and a purpose, isn't the evolutionary epic the very last thing that could be told as poetry? Besides, who could possibly come up with a rhyme for lepidoptera?  If life is a drama, then it needs a Bard; and we need to learn to acknowledge our cosmic Bard, just like Alonso in the final act of The Tempest:

This is as strange a maze as e'er men trod,
And there is in this business more than nature
Was ever conduct of.  Some oracle
Must rectify our knowledge.

1. Michael D. Lemonick and Andrea Dorfman, "Up From the Apes," Time Magazine 154 no. 8, August 13, 1999.

2. Theodore Schick, Jr., "When Humanists Meet E.T.," Free Inquiry 20 no.3, Summer 2000, pp. 36-7.

3. Robert Wright, "The Accidental Creationist," The New Yorker, Dec. 30,
1999, pp. 56-65.

4. Stanley Jaki, The Limits of a Limitless Science, (Wilmington, DE: ISI Books, 2000, p. 97).

5. G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy, (NY: Image Books, 1990, pp 41-2).

6. E.O. Wilson, "The Biological Basis of Morality," The Atlantic Monthly 281 no. 4, April 1998, pp. 53-70.

 


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Philosophy; Technical
KEYWORDS: crevolist
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This is from Internet Infidels – an atheistic site.

Although the majority of the views from this website do not represent my views in any fashion, I can relate to this ‘one’ article.

I respect the fact that they actually put it on their website.

1 posted on 11/06/2003 7:34:45 PM PST by Heartlander
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To: Alamo-Girl; Phaedrus; betty boop; scripter; AndrewC
FYI - Ping 'Thingy'
2 posted on 11/06/2003 8:12:59 PM PST by Heartlander
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To: *crevo_list; VadeRetro; jennyp; Junior; longshadow; RadioAstronomer; Scully; Piltdown_Woman
H E A R T M A R K E R

3 posted on 11/06/2003 8:51:21 PM PST by Heartlander
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To: Heartlander
read later
4 posted on 11/06/2003 8:54:02 PM PST by LiteKeeper
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To: Heartlander
Pretty.
5 posted on 11/06/2003 8:54:45 PM PST by js1138
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To: Heartlander
Great catch! A very interesting article, especially coming from that particular website. Thank you for the heads up!
6 posted on 11/06/2003 8:54:57 PM PST by Alamo-Girl
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To: js1138
Hey, you’re not coming on to me buddy?! ; )- LOL!
7 posted on 11/06/2003 9:27:17 PM PST by Heartlander
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To: Heartlander
Thanks for the ping. I'll have to read this tomorrow.
8 posted on 11/06/2003 9:43:06 PM PST by scripter (Thousands have left the homosexual lifestyle)
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To: Heartlander
<yawn>

The article shows the same tired misunderstanding of where morality & consciousness come from that many creationists here do.

I may be a collection of atoms, but this collection is organized in a self-sustaining way, that is able to perceive itself and understand the world around it, and understands cause vs. effect & past vs. future, and wants very much to remain a self-sustaining totality.

It's this totality which defines "me". And all talk of morality concerns this totality and what is necessary to sustain it. The fact that a forest is made up of lots of trees doesn't mean a forest is "just a big tree".

9 posted on 11/06/2003 10:56:22 PM PST by jennyp (http://crevo.bestmessageboard.com)
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To: Heartlander
Pretty weak. Language is limited and sometimes people use metaphors.
10 posted on 11/06/2003 10:58:36 PM PST by MattAMiller
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To: Heartlander
I dislike arguments from semantics. "She said 'design.'" (A lot of people do that without meaning it in the ID sense.) "He said 'sudden' and 'saltation.'" (He could intend a punctuated-equilibrium 20,000-year sort of "sudden.") "That could be taken to mean the species is planning its mutations." (But the speaker probably didn't intend for you to do that.)

Most people use anthropomorphic, analogy-rich language, as it tends to be more understandable overall than the dry-as-dust technical jargon of some papers. Geologically "sudden" is different from "suddenly one day." A scientist talking about the "design" of an organ may not necessarily think it was designed by Zeus, as "design" may just be shorthand for "the way it has evolved to work."

11 posted on 11/07/2003 6:48:34 AM PST by VadeRetro
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To: Heartlander; betty boop
What a delicious article!

... today's prominent Darwin defenders ... a collective case of cognitive dissonance ... Dr. Massimo Pigliucci ... describes the natural world as being a result of "non-conscious" creativity, "non-intelligent design," and "chaotic self-organizing phenomena." If these terms mean something very specific to evolutionary biologists, it cannot be anything that is inferred by the actual words themselves. For the very notion of design cannot be thought of in any other terms than that of a conscious being with an intent, a scheme, a protocol, a plan, or an intellect. Each of the 21 definitions of "design" in Webster's pertain to a living subject, human by implication. This is not to say that random arrangements of things cannot be fantastically complex; but if they are not purposefully complex then the word "design" is incorrect ... And "chaotic self-organizing" is a cluster of words similar to "triangular circles": an excessively clever term to describe something that can't possibly exist ... Spare me, please, from blind and random "improvements." ... in order for anything to be a success, it must have had some prior goal or standard to fulfill ... Naturalistically speaking, anything is successful if it exists. Even a pebble is successful at being a pebble ... Robert Wright ... goes on to refer to natural selection as a "tireless engineer" with a "remarkable knack for invention," even comparing it to a brain, indicative of a higher purpose, which stacks the evolutionary deck and responds to positive feedback ... Whether it is by ignorance, defiance or the limits of our language, these Darwin defenders liberally use terms which are not available to them, given their presuppositions .. the problem I have always had with the term "natural selection." We all know what it means, and I can't dispute it's validity as a model for the differentiation of species. As a word couplet, though, it is a grammatical gargoyle, like the term "cybersex." ... One could make a hasty selection or a careful selection; it is still a selection. But natural? A selection is a choice ... As a technical term, it is a misleading oxymoron ... The words used by modern-day Darwinists are not a sidelight, they are symptomatic of a fissure in the structure of their thought. I believe that when someone wrongly calls the evolutionary process a purposeful "design," it is not because of sloppy writing, but because of intentional and thoughtful writing. It is because that is the only idea that will work. It is the only word that will work. It is because there is something brilliant, something awesome, and something significant about our world, and our instinct is to want to know who gets credit for it. The impulse is innate and proper. It is the decision to give credit to an abstract and unauthored "process" which is out of sync ... Life is an elusive concept that cannot be quantitatively assessed. As Stanley Jaki writes in his most recent book ... Moreover, long before one takes up the evolution of life, one is faced with a question of metaphysics whenever one registers life. Life is not seen with physical eyes alone unless those eyes are supplemented with the vision of the mind. No biologist contemptuous of metaphysics can claim, if he is consistent, that he has observed life, let alone its evolution. We then start to have an aesthetic appreciation for the beauty and ingenuity of these life forms, and it is not long before we get around to talking about abstract concepts such as rights, justice, and equality, and assigning some species - namely, us - some kind of moral responsibilities for them, none of which can be measured according to scientific methods.

That, then, is why the language is confused: because the ideas are confused, because the mind is confused. To the extent that our Darwinians and humanists seek answers to humanity's dilemmas using the natural sciences, they are absolutely on the right track. To the extent that they reject the idea of a divine or supernatural creator using the natural sciences, they are not only overstepping the boundaries of their field, but they are plainly contradicted by their language, their goals, and their lives.

Or, to put it another way: The emperor has no clothes.

12 posted on 11/07/2003 8:35:27 AM PST by Phaedrus
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To: Heartlander
The Evols don't want to talk about it.
13 posted on 11/07/2003 10:22:11 AM PST by Phaedrus
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To: Phaedrus; Heartlander; Alamo-Girl
Whether it is by ignorance, defiance or the limits of our language, these Darwin defenders liberally use terms which are not available to them, given their presuppositions. One cannot deny the cake, and then proceed to eat from it!

Yet it's amazing how many try to do just that.

Great article, P! thanks for pinging me to it; and thanks Heartlander, for posting it!

14 posted on 11/07/2003 10:38:42 AM PST by betty boop (God used beautiful mathematics in creating the world. -- Paul Dirac)
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To: Heartlander
We then start to have an aesthetic appreciation for the beauty and ingenuity of these life forms, and it is not long before we get around to talking about abstract concepts such as rights, justice, and equality, and assigning some species - namely, us - some kind of moral responsibilities for them, none of which can be measured according to scientific methods.

So much for objectivism.

15 posted on 11/07/2003 11:00:44 AM PST by r9etb
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To: betty boop; Phaedrus
Great catch, Phaedrus! Thanks for the heads up, betty boop!
16 posted on 11/07/2003 11:25:31 AM PST by Alamo-Girl
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To: Heartlander
The party music stopped, however, upon arrival of Thornhill and Palmer's The Natural History of Rape, the book that investigated whether rape was a genetically determined trait that enabled humans to climb the evolutionary ladder.

One can go down to the nearest duck pond to observe the role of rape in duck society. Not only will you see female ducks being raped by maverick males, you will also see the female raped again by her own mate -- probably to allow for a fair race between competing sperm.

17 posted on 11/07/2003 11:34:42 AM PST by r9etb
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To: Heartlander
Besides, who could possibly come up with a rhyme for lepidoptera?

Ahem....

Since men cannot be lepidoptera
We must make do with helicoptera
And lacking lovely, powdered wings
We do the job with metal things

(Modest bow to thunderous applause.)

18 posted on 11/07/2003 11:38:51 AM PST by r9etb
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PatrickHenry lurks ...
19 posted on 11/07/2003 1:44:09 PM PST by PatrickHenry (Everything good that I have done, I have done at the command of my voices.)
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To: r9etb
When you get your picture on a stamp, I'll buy it.
20 posted on 11/07/2003 1:51:25 PM PST by js1138
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To: jennyp; VadeRetro
One has to wonder why creos are gushing over an article published on a sectarian website that obviously supports Darwin. Could it be that they have misread the meaning and intent of the article?

Inquiring minds want to know.
21 posted on 11/07/2003 1:56:27 PM PST by js1138
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To: js1138
Pretty.

Yes. P L A C E M A R K E R

22 posted on 11/07/2003 2:00:44 PM PST by PatrickHenry (Everything good that I have done, I have done at the command of my voices.)
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To: js1138
Could it be that they have misread the meaning and intent of the article?

You've just described a good chunk of their total arsenal.

23 posted on 11/07/2003 2:16:03 PM PST by VadeRetro
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To: js1138
One has to wonder why creos are gushing over an article published on a sectarian website that obviously supports Darwin. Could it be that they have misread the meaning and intent of the article?

I don't know that I fit into that precise and neat little "creo" box, you've defined, but I'll take a shot at it.

Dernavich is not talking about evolution per se, but instead the moral implications of a God-free, evolution-driven universe. He's pointing out that the usual presuppositions concerning rights and morality are not scientifically or logically supportable. His conclusion is actually rather simple: if you want morality, you need something supernatural to provide it.

jennyp: Your comment has is really just making a case for a utilitarian approach to morality -- it boils down to a percieved optimization of survival chances, but does not make any judgement about the possibility different approaches, which might allow an individual to attempt to optimize his chances using different rules. Put another way, you've assumed that your desire to remain alive is a moral requirement on me -- even if it suits my purposes to kill you.

24 posted on 11/07/2003 2:22:49 PM PST by r9etb
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To: r9etb
jennyp: Your comment has is really just making a case for a utilitarian approach to morality -- it boils down to a percieved optimization of survival chances, but does not make any judgement about the possibility different approaches, which might allow an individual to attempt to optimize his chances using different rules. Put another way, you've assumed that your desire to remain alive is a moral requirement on me -- even if it suits my purposes to kill you.
I say it has to place the same moral requirement on you. A "morality" is a set of principles to guide one's behavior. It can't be considered a moral code if its goals are defeated when it's applied consistently as a principle. A moral code that says it's OK to kill someone any time it'll give you some kind of immediate gain - if applied consistently as a code - would destroy civilization. By any reasonable standard that moral code must be a failure.
25 posted on 11/07/2003 3:53:15 PM PST by jennyp (http://crevo.bestmessageboard.com)
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To: js1138
One ‘should’ wonder why the neo-dawinists’ aren’t gushing over an article published on a sectarian website that does not ‘mindlessly’ support Darwin. Could it be that they have read the meaning and intent of the article from ‘their universe’ which is without meaning or intent and void of intelligence?

Inquiring minds want to know what mindless happenstance allows the appearance of inquiry?

26 posted on 11/07/2003 4:05:14 PM PST by Heartlander
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To: jennyp
Survival of the fittest? Moral code?
27 posted on 11/07/2003 4:47:07 PM PST by Heartlander
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To: Heartlander; jennyp
Yes, and if man is just an evolved animal, where did this moral code come from? How many other animals demonstrate it? What good is it?
28 posted on 11/07/2003 5:01:58 PM PST by Markofhumanfeet
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To: Markofhumanfeet
You are correct. But why stop at ‘evolved animal’? Take it all the way to the source.
A mindless chemical process from a mindless universal algorithm.

Now apply it to the our founding government and laws:

We hold no truths to be self-evident, that all men are evolved equal, that they are endowed by their mindless chemical process from a mindless universal algorithm with certain unalienable illusions, that among these are life, and the pursuit of happenstance. That to secure these illusions, governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the happenstance of the governed.
-from the declaration of mindless dependency

29 posted on 11/07/2003 5:54:20 PM PST by Heartlander
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To: Markofhumanfeet
Actually, we can apply this to our very existence:
…. and on the 3.43558ish billionth day, nature accidentally puked forth chemicals and looked upon it and said, “this is neither good or bad, it’s just chemicals, and I shall form these chemicals in no specific image and without intelligence”.

Then plants, insects, fish, and man evolved from this puke without intelligence, each according to its inane kind.


Although this story is allegorical in nature, the lack of meaning should provide the appearance of a lesson to us all…
30 posted on 11/07/2003 6:14:48 PM PST by Heartlander
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To: Heartlander
Because it's really badly written?

To me it appears to a complaint about sloppy writers giving ammunition to the opposition. To you it appears to be a source of ammunition. As science, it is irrelevant, because it isn't discussing science. It's discussing science writing.
31 posted on 11/07/2003 7:29:41 PM PST by js1138
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To: js1138
As science, it is irrelevant, because it isn't discussing science. It's discussing science writing.

I don't think so. He's writing about assumptions and their logical consequences. It's more a treatise on the basis of morality than anything else.

32 posted on 11/07/2003 7:40:03 PM PST by r9etb
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To: r9etb
I suppose aI was misled by the opening line:

Simply put, the language used by many of today's prominent Darwin defenders, at least as it appears in the popular press, is inherently self-defeating...

I'll have to give it another readthrough.

33 posted on 11/07/2003 7:53:11 PM PST by js1138
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To: jennyp
I say it has to place the same moral requirement on you.

I hope you see that your comment is filled with unwarranted assumptions. I'll sketch them out, and perhaps you can think through the details for yourself.

A "morality" is a set of principles to guide one's behavior. It can't be considered a moral code if its goals are defeated when it's applied consistently as a principle.

You're assuming that a "moral code" is consistent and unchanging; i.e., it has more to it than doing "whatever works for now." Given that your approach is observably not the case in nature, why must we assume it to be always true for humans?

A moral code that says it's OK to kill someone any time it'll give you some kind of immediate gain

You've gone too far when you say "any time". I think you'd agree that there are certainly times when killing a person will provide both short- and long-term gains. This might be self-defense, or it may be a palace coup which allows me to take the throne, followed by my long and happy reign. By what standard could you claim that my actions were either justified or wrong?

- if applied consistently as a code - would destroy civilization.

You're assuming that "civilization" is a moral good. From a utilitarian perspective, I suppose it is. But the boundaries of "civilization" are very broad, and within it lie long-lived and successfuls cultures such as Egypt, Rome, and many others, which thrived on the judicious application of deadly force.

By any reasonable standard that moral code must be a failure.

Before I'd agree with this, you'd first need to define a "reasonable standard." Any reasonable standard you provide, must be able to explain why humans are not subject to the rules that govern the rest of nature, including our relationship with other species (which we kill for any number of self-serving reasons).

34 posted on 11/07/2003 7:56:02 PM PST by r9etb
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To: r9etb
A "morality" is a set of principles to guide one's behavior. It can't be considered a moral code if its goals are defeated when it's applied consistently as a principle.

You're assuming that a "moral code" is consistent and unchanging; i.e., it has more to it than doing "whatever works for now." Given that your approach is observably not the case in nature, why must we assume it to be always true for humans?

Well, we're the ones who are able to think in terms of principles. I don't think you could even talk about a "code" of behavior for a cat, for example. A cat doesn't seem to think about the future at all, so they could never decide on a principle to follow. (An instinct doesn't count.)

I think a "code" has to be consistent by definition. Why else would we even care about this? We hope, presumably, that society adopts & keeps to a moral code that's close to our moral codes. (Which I assume are similar to each other in many ways since we're both Freepers.) A moral code is inherently a set of principles.

A moral code that says it's OK to kill someone any time it'll give you some kind of immediate gain

You've gone too far when you say "any time". I think you'd agree that there are certainly times when killing a person will provide both short- and long-term gains. This might be self-defense, or it may be a palace coup which allows me to take the throne, followed by my long and happy reign. By what standard could you claim that my actions were either justified or wrong?

I meant in the sense of killing an innocent person, as in murder. Killing in self-defense is certainly justifiable when the threat warrants it.

As a person who doesn't have the temperament to be a queen - by birth or by coup - I see the institution of government purely as a tool we commoners use to secure our rights & keep the barbarians at bay. So I can see the justification for a coup, if it overthrows a dictator in favor of something more representative. (For example: Chile.) It doesn't provide me with an automatic, precise answer to the question of borderline-justifiable coups, but I suspect neither would the Bible, for instance. We do still have to draw upon experience (history) as well as theory & speculation. Didn't the frequent palace coups in Imperial Rome help speed up the downfall of that society?

I see the trend towards modern democracies & the kinds of societies that nurture them as an evolution towards systems that are successful because they do their jobs of promoting freedom & security well - and are self-sustaining because they're harder to overthrow because they have the support of an informed populace.

I hope that's somewhat clear. I'm getting over a cold, so I'm not sure myself at the moment. :-)

35 posted on 11/08/2003 12:22:38 AM PST by jennyp (http://crevo.bestmessageboard.com)
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To: Heartlander
Survival of the fittest? Moral code?

:-) You're getting it.

36 posted on 11/08/2003 12:24:34 AM PST by jennyp (http://crevo.bestmessageboard.com)
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To: Heartlander
Although this story is allegorical in nature, the lack of meaning should provide the appearance of a lesson to us all…
But why do you need to have someone else inject meaning (which I take to be synonymous with "purpose") into your life? If you decide what your life's meaning will be for yourself, is that only the appearance of meaning?

Here's an analogy: If my parents wanted me to be a(mother|doctor|lawyer|golddigger|nun|etc.) when I grew up, and I turned out to be none of those, am I betraying my "true" purpose in life? Or do I get to decide my own purpose? I say the "meaning" or "purpose" of my life is inherently something that comes from within me, and is not a substance that's injected (or imposed) from someone else. Blame free will for that.

37 posted on 11/08/2003 1:00:01 AM PST by jennyp (http://crevo.bestmessageboard.com)
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To: r9etb
Since men cannot be lepidoptera
We must make do with helicoptera
And lacking lovely, powdered wings
We do the job with metal things

WOW! Kudos!

38 posted on 11/08/2003 1:08:45 AM PST by Aracelis
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To: Heartlander
They are in denial -- can you spell w-o-r-d-p-l-a-y?
39 posted on 11/08/2003 6:37:26 AM PST by Phaedrus
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To: r9etb
He's writing about assumptions and their logical consequences.

Which is fine, as far as it goes. "If X were true, the consequences would be bad" is a reasonable assertion that may or may not be supported by the evidence in some particular case, but when you follow that assertion up with "...therefore, X is false", that's clearly invalid reasoning. I can't help but notice that the author has not chosen to make his defense of God and morality against the advances of say, atheism, which is, after all, a direct denial of the existence of God and any morality being derived from Him. Instead, the author makes his defense of the existence of God and the morality thereof against Darwinism and evolutionary theory, a theory which is, strictly speaking, entirely silent on the existence of God or of morality from God. One wonders why he felt it necessary to implicate evolution at all in a defense of theistic morality, unless he has himself subscribed to the canard that evolution and God's morality are mutually exclusive, and now wishes to sell that same bill of goods to others.

40 posted on 11/08/2003 7:32:27 AM PST by general_re ("I am Torgo. I take care of the place while the Master is away.")
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To: general_re
One wonders why he felt it necessary to implicate evolution at all in a defense of theistic morality...

Because he's a confused luddite on a "holy war" against science.

41 posted on 11/08/2003 11:35:32 AM PST by balrog666 (Humor is a universal language.)
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To: jennyp
First off: I'm enjoying this little head-to-head with you. I hope you're over your cold soon.

Well, we're the ones who are able to think in terms of principles. I don't think you could even talk about a "code" of behavior for a cat, for example. A cat doesn't seem to think about the future at all, so they could never decide on a principle to follow. (An instinct doesn't count.)

The author's point is, there's no way for you to prove that you're not just making those principles up. And you're merely assuming that "thinking about the future" is somehow morally important. Sure, it's a useful survival technique; in fact, we see bears, squirrels, bees, and ants acting on those principles every summer and fall. And yet those are animals which use violence and force....

I think a "code" has to be consistent by definition. Why else would we even care about this? We hope, presumably, that society adopts & keeps to a moral code that's close to our moral codes. (Which I assume are similar to each other in many ways since we're both Freepers.) A moral code is inherently a set of principles.

I suppose so -- but again you're assuming a whole raft of things. You surely recognize that "Might Makes Right" is a logically consistent moral code in its own right; is fully in line with "survival of the fittest" (and hence empirically observable); and has worked effectively for individual humans, which precisely what an evolution-based morality should do. The fact that we are (rightly, IMHO) horrified by such behavior has no bearing on whether or not it's moral, in any scientifically provable sense of the term.

Perhaps you recall that story a year or so ago, where a genetic study found that "Might Makes Right" practitioner Ghengis Khan's family tree extended across -- was it millions? -- of living humans. Surely that's a moral triumph, if you want to define morality in terms of scientifically-observable evolutionary behavior.

It's quite true that you and I share the same sort of moral code. Unfortunately, the precepts of that code actually run counter to what we can easily observe in nature and history (Ghengis Khan again). From a purely materialistic perspective, it means that, at best, ours would be a relative morality, and that there are other moral choices besides our own.

Our shared morality would probably label Ghengis Khan as an evil man. But to make the charge stick, we'd have to be able to point to a set of absolute standards, and absolute consequences for breaking them. But Ghengis Khan died old, rich, happy, and left behind an enormous family tree -- on what rational, empirical basis would you call him evil, when he was so obviously successful?

I meant in the sense of killing an innocent person, as in murder. Killing in self-defense is certainly justifiable when the threat warrants it.

Ghengis Khan made a living by killing innocent people, and was very well rewarded for it. Was he wrong?

It doesn't provide me with an automatic, precise answer to the question of borderline-justifiable coups, but I suspect neither would the Bible, for instance.

When you bring the Bible into this discussion, you bring in God, and His will. God's will is, in fact, a logical necessity for the sort of moral code we espouse. Lacking God, we lack any reason to condemn Ghengis Khan; indeed, we can only admire him.

We do still have to draw upon experience (history) as well as theory & speculation. Didn't the frequent palace coups in Imperial Rome help speed up the downfall of that society?

I think the frequent coups were more a symptom than a cause. Both the Roman people and their rulers had fallen into a decadence driven by a desire for "the comfortable and fun," rather than the difficult and often painful martial virtues which had made Rome great in the first place. On that note, it's interesting that libertarianism tends to encourage and defend the sorts of behavior characteristic of declining Rome -- it's why I'm not a libertarian.

I see the trend towards modern democracies & the kinds of societies that nurture them as an evolution towards systems that are successful because they do their jobs of promoting freedom & security well - and are self-sustaining because they're harder to overthrow because they have the support of an informed populace.

I think the trend toward democracy comes as a result of the success of it in Western culture -- it's attractive because it's successful. But it's important to note how very narrow is the margin between liberty and chaos, on one side; or between liberty and tyranny on the other. The only way that balance is kept, is if the people in the society are profoundly moral; and, what's more, moral in the Judeo-Christian sense of the term.

Thus, we see chaos in African "democracies," because the people have no foundation. And we saw tyranny in Kaiser- and Fuhrer-led Germany, because the Germans were instilled with a love for it.

And that's really the key: we're where we are because of the supernatural (specifically, Christian beliefs), not because of some set of mysterious physical laws that are not observable anywhere in nature.

42 posted on 11/08/2003 12:38:48 PM PST by r9etb
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To: general_re
One wonders why he felt it necessary to implicate evolution at all in a defense of theistic morality, unless he has himself subscribed to the canard that evolution and God's morality are mutually exclusive, and now wishes to sell that same bill of goods to others.

I think his point is that there are atheists out there making claims that they cannot logically defend, without invoking the very God they claim does not exist.

The reason evolution comes into it, is because once you've dispensed with God, there's nothing but evolution (or something like it) left. If a materialist is going to make moral claims, the unpleasant fact is that evolution runs counter to what is held (in Western society, anyway) to be right and wrong.

43 posted on 11/08/2003 12:42:10 PM PST by r9etb
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To: Piltdown_Woman
WOW! Kudos!

(blushing)

44 posted on 11/08/2003 12:42:55 PM PST by r9etb
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To: r9etb
A bow in your direction for a set of clear and consistent posts.

Christian virtures, hard work, honesty and the Golden Rule, underlie Western Civilization and make democracy possible. To the extent that the virtues fail, democracy fails.

Layered upon Christian virtues is, ideally, a system of laws that is just and equally applicable to all within which property rights are respected, even sanctified.

As our mores have failed, the have-nots and those who would exploit democracy have voted to take from the haves, the laws are increasingly unequally applied (group rights, discrimination against white males etc.) and respect for property has declined (asset forfeiture laws).

Hans-Herman Hoppe has explored this in some depth in Democracy: The God That Failed.

I also agree with you with regard to Libertarianism.

45 posted on 11/08/2003 2:55:46 PM PST by Phaedrus
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To: Heartlander
grammatical gargoyle

Our protean pleasure, and a special boon for those who are a touch above the rest and know how to play.

46 posted on 11/08/2003 4:06:42 PM PST by cornelis (the reasonable man, at least, always acts for a purpose - Aristotle)
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To: r9etb
I think his point is that there are atheists out there making claims that they cannot logically defend, without invoking the very God they claim does not exist.

Then the article really ought to be addressing atheism, shouldn't it?

If a materialist is going to make moral claims, the unpleasant fact is that evolution runs counter to what is held (in Western society, anyway) to be right and wrong.

I realize that's a fairly common assessment, but the reality is that, like all scientific theories, evolutionary theory is descriptive, not prescriptive. It is entirely silent on the matter of how we should live our lives, or should behave towards others, or should function as a society. It simply doesn't involve such constructs, any more than the theory of gravity does. And anyone who claims that the theory of evolution, in and of itself, either justifies or proscribes some behavior is committing a category error of the first degree, just the same as they would be if they used the theory of gravity to justify some action. The theory of gravity tells you what will happen if you throw a baby out a window, but that does not mean that it is therefore okay to throw babies out of windows.

47 posted on 11/08/2003 4:19:13 PM PST by general_re ("I am Torgo. I take care of the place while the Master is away.")
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To: general_re
It is entirely silent

Until interrupted by speech.

48 posted on 11/08/2003 4:27:01 PM PST by cornelis
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To: cornelis
Truly a boon vs. boondoggle.
49 posted on 11/08/2003 4:29:11 PM PST by Heartlander
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To: cornelis
I can crush your skull with a plain old shovel. Does that make shovels innately evil?
50 posted on 11/08/2003 4:37:17 PM PST by general_re ("I am Torgo. I take care of the place while the Master is away.")
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