Skip to comments.The Delusion of Darwinian Natural Law
Posted on 12/27/2003 12:44:51 AM PST by bdeaner
The Delusion of Darwinian Natural Law
In a short, inconspicuous paragraph in the conclusion to the first edition of On the Origin of Species, Darwin speculates that "in the distant future psychology will be based on a new foundation, that of the necessary acquirement of each mental power and capacity by gradation." One hundred and forty years later, Darwin's eerie prediction about the revolutionary effect of his work on human beings' self-understanding seems all too prophetic. After a century of dissemination, the once-novel theory of evolution is widely accepted as established scientific fact. Given the quasi-religious hold of evolutionary theory over the modern mind, it is not surprising that it should serve as the spiritual inspiration for developments within the field of psychology. First popularized in the 1970s by Harvard's Edward O. Wilson, evolutionary psychology, originally called sociobiology, interprets all human behavior in light of the evolutionary process. Evolutionary psychology aims to be a comprehensive science, explaining the origins and ends of every human behavior and institution.
Not wanting to be left behind, a number of conservative thinkers have let themselves be caught up in this movement. Conservatism initially identified evolution exclusively with Darwinian materialism and, therefore, viewed it as a fundamental threat to human dignity. But, recently, conservatives such as James Q. Wilson, Francis Fukuyama, and Charles Murray have used evolutionary psychology to show that morality is rooted in human biology. Fukuyama's The Great Disruption goes so far as to claim that "a great deal of social behavior is not learned but part of the genetic inheritance of man and his great ape forbears." Drawing on categories borrowed from evolutionary psychology, Fukuyama argues that human beings are drawn to the kind of moral order provided by traditional rules of trust and honesty.
Evolution's most ambitious and vocal conservative advocate, however, is political scientist Larry Arnhart. But where Wilson and Fukuyama speak of evolution generally, Arnhart appeals directly to Darwin himself. In Darwinian Natural Right: The Biological Ethics of Human Nature, Arnhart argues that conservative thought has fundamentally misunderstood Darwin. For Arnhart, Darwin is not a biological materialist but a modern disciple of Aristotle. Properly understood, Darwinism proves that morality is rooted in human biology. Indeed, Arnhart claims that Darwinism can identify twenty biological desires that are common to all human societies. The fulfillment or frustration of these desires provides universal standards for judging the morality of human social behavior. Darwinian natural right consists of the "right" to have these biological desires satisfied. Arnhart recently argued in the conservative religious journal First Things that both secular and religious conservatives currently "need Charles Darwin." By "adopting a Darwinian view of human nature," both groups would be able to give a rational, non-sectarian response to the prevailing dogma of moral relativism. For Arnhart, the attraction of Darwinism is essentially practical: It provides a "scientific"not "metaphysical" or "sectarian"basis for "conservative moral and political thought."
One has to question, however, the wisdom of evaluating any account of human nature primarily in terms of its political utility. But this does explain why, on every critical point, Arnhart lets his political concerns shape his theoretical defense of Darwinism. Consequently, Arnhart never really confronts conservatism's original charge that Darwinism reduces human beings to clever, biologically determined animals. But he does present natural lawyers with an intriguing and, by no means, inconsequential choice: Should they embrace Darwinism and give natural law conclusions the air of "scientific legitimacy," or should they continue to defend an unfashionable but richer account of human nature that transcends human biology?
The Biology of Morality
Essential to the Darwinian defense of morality is the belief that social behaviors are "biologically rooted" in human nature. Darwinians such as Arnhart start from the premise that human beings are "hard-wired" for specific species-preserving behaviors. Darwinism explains all human societies, ranging from families to political communities, as unintended byproducts of the evolutionary process. Social behaviors and institutions came into existence as evolutionary responses to "species-threatening" changes in man's environment. Friendships, marriages, families, and even political communities, all of which are commonly seen as vital features of a meaningful human life, have their origins outside of the moral universe. Every society came into existence in a world where "species-survival" and "species-extinction," not good and evil, were the fundamental human categories. Darwinism views sociality and morality as part of man's genetic inheritancethe adaptive means through which the species perpetuates itself. Contrary to popular belief, morality is really instrumental to the larger goal of individual and collective preservation.
Darwin's thesis that all species, including the human species, possess a biological drive for self-preservation is not novel. Arnhart, for example, frequently observes that Saint Thomas Aquinas, the natural law's classical exponent par excellence, makes a similar claim. And as Arnhart likes to note, Aquinas even once described natural right as "that which nature has taught to all animals." Aquinas's strongest statement on this matter, however, occurs in the context of a wider discussion of natural law. Aquinas there states that the natural law's second inclination, which man shares with all animals, directs him to preserve the species. But as Arnhart shows, Darwin extends this insight substantially further than Aquinas does. In contrast to Aquinas, Darwin believes that those behaviors that are necessary for the survival of the species gradually become woven into human biology itself. Over time, human beings eventually come to view behaviors that are necessary for survival as both meaningful and moral.
The Darwinian defense of morality characteristically points to the end of the family as illustrative of how morality is rooted in human biology. Arnhart himself traces the family back to the strong sexual drive of young men. Rooted in their "biological nature," this drive plays an important role in the preservation of the species, yet it also fulfills "the natural desire for conjugal bonding." Once properly channeled (Arnhart conspicuously never explains how or why this occurs), the sexual drive allows for the kind of bonding that naturally occurs within the family. The preservation of the family and, ultimately, of the species itself are the result of the "biological drive for sexual mating." Scrutinized from the Darwinian perspective, the biological desire for conjugal bonding is revealed to perform the necessary task of stabilizing society.
While Darwinism can defend the family as a natural institution, it is not a genuinely moral or spiritual defense. Wedded to biological materialism, Darwinism necessarily reduces the good to the usefulfinally viewing the family as instrumental to evolution's larger goal of the preservation of society. While family life undoubtedly helps stabilize society, this clearly is not the only thing that is good about it. Arnhart's recognition of natural desires for "conjugal and familial bonding" shows that he is aware of this fact. But the logic of his position ultimately requires him to view the family in terms of its preservation of society.
The Morality of Biology
But is this really compatible with conservatism? Is it really possible to understand family life solely in terms of its role in the preservation of society? Setting aside for the moment any sacramental notion of marriage(not mere conjugal bonding) and family life, Darwinism would have one believe that a husband's self-conscious love for his wife or the personal sacrifices that parents willingly make for their children are byproducts of a primordial desire to perpetuate the species. Viewed from the perspective of human beings' lived experience, Darwinism's appreciation of the family is even more dehumanizing than modernity's view of marriage as simply a contractual arrangement.
Part of the reason for this flattening of the human horizon is Darwinism's systematic identification of the good with the flourishing of the species rather than with the self-conscious individual. There is then something fundamentally incoherent about the effort to defend the intrinsic goodness of morality on the basis of Darwinism. This incoherence, however, explains a number of oddities about the Darwinian defense of morality. The most obvious of these is its creative effort to present Darwin as a teacher of "evolution." As surprising as it sounds, Darwin never uses this term in The Origin of Species. Rather, he speaks of "descent with modification." The difference between these terms is not merely semantic. Darwin realized that evolution is a teleological term. To say that something evolved is to say that it has evolved toward something. Evolution implies the kind of purposeful change by which something unfolds according to a prearranged planprecisely the understanding of evolution that the Roman Catholic Church claims is not necessarily inimical to Christianity. While often popularly misunderstood, what the Catholic Church consistently has opposed, from Pius XII's nuanced 1950 encyclical Humani Generis to John Paul II's recent statements, is not the idea of evolution per se but, rather, those materialist theories that reduce psychic humanity to biological animality.
Darwin, however, eschews such teleological thinkinggoing so far as to note in his manuscript not to use "hierarchical" terms such as higher and lower. For him, nature is intrinsically mechanistic. Change results from "natural selection," the process by which species adapt to environmental changes by weeding out variations that jeopardize their survival. Far from acting towards an end, nature responds to external forces of chance and necessity. It is not difficult to see why Darwinians such as Arnhart try to gloss over the harshness of this teaching. By drawing attention to the fact that nature is a blind and continuous process, they effectively undermine their political defense of the intrinsic goodness of morality.
Darwinism's teaching on perpetual modification points to another problem with the idea of Darwinian natural law. For Darwin, the process of modification is, in principle, continuous. Contrary to what they may wish to believe, human beings are not the end of the evolutionary process. The Darwinian defense of natural morality, therefore, is not to be taken too literally. Lacking the fixity of any genuine end, the goods supported by natural law are useful only over long periods of time. Like nature itself, they are transitionally good. This explains why Arnhart places so much emphasis on biology, since it offers the only real source of "temporary fixity" in the world.
Natural Law and the Humanization of Biology
What is most striking about the Darwinian defense of morality is that it argues for one of the positions that natural law traditionally has argued against. Natural law historically has opposed any simplistic identification of the natural with the biological. Contrary to Darwinism's identification of the natural with the instinctual, natural law associates the natural with the reasonable. It seeks to humanize and transcend the realm of biology by incorporating it into the realm of reasonto view the low in light of the high, not vice versa. Whereas materialist Darwinians see human nature culminating in the biological instinct to perpetuate the species, Aquinas thinks that man's natural inclination directs him to seek the truth about God and to live in society. Rather than insisting that he be completely at home in the biological world, natural law realizes that his natural desire for transcendence ensures that man can only be ambiguously at home in the world. Psychically different from other creatures, the rational creature (not merely the calculating, species-preserving animal) somehow embodies all of the aspirations of the evolved biological world.
This natural desire to know does not negate the desire to perpetuate the species but, in fact, can explain why such perpetuation is desirable. Part of the attraction of natural law thinking, therefore, lies in its ability to show that human beings are not slaves to their instincts but, rather, that they possess the psychic freedom to make sense of these instincts. Over and against Darwinism's biological determinism, natural law theory is grounded in the all-too-human experience of wrestling with matters of conscienceof trying to do what one ought to do and not merely what one instinctively wants to do. Rejecting the reality of such an inner life, Darwinian-based defenses of morality are necessarily self-defeating. They replace relativism's belief that nothing can legitimately make a claim on the human soul with materialism's belief that human beings are biologically incapable of caring about their souls.
Near the end of his essay in First Things, Arnhart celebrates the remarkable recent advances of science in the areas of neurobiology and genetics. In light of these advances, Arnhart warns that "if conservatism is to remain intellectually vital, [it] will need to show that [its] position is compatible with this new science of human nature." But what does Arnhart think Darwinism has to say to these new sciences? If there really are no natural limits on human beings, if nature really is in a constant slow state of flux, how can a Darwinian, even a morally serious Darwinian, oppose something such as the "new science" of human cloning? A self-conscious Darwinian such as E. O. Wilson realizes that cloning is simply the next stage of human "modification." Faithful to the spirit of his Darwinism, Wilson looks forward to the day when cloning or "volitional evolution" will allow scientists to alter "not just the anatomy and intelligence of the species but also the emotions and creative drive that compose the very core of human nature." Less consistent Darwinians such as Arnhart choose to remain blissfully unaware of this fact. Consequently, they fail to recognize that what they offer is not so much up-to-date moral guidance as the ultimate moral justification for the "brave new world."
There you have it! Liberalism, in a Darwinian-mutated nutshell.
In nature, the old and weak are generally left to die. In most human cultures, we care for the old and weak. While this could ostensibly lead to a weakening of the genetic "stock," with a few exceptions, like that idiot at Princeton (Singer?), we look upon it as a good thing.
Truly? In what way?
For my own part, I see nothing in the theory of evolution that precludes (or even detracts from) belief in the Almighty. Indeed, it doesn't even seem at all odd that the Good Lord's creations should change over time. That in itself implies an intelligent design capable of successfully adapting to any number of conditions not present at its original creation.
My Brother is a Quantum/Nuclear Physicist, PHD.( (Studied under Edward Teller)After nearly 20 years of intense research he kept coming to the same conclusion: This Universe was created with a design-genius that cannot be disputed. Einstein, also came to that same conclusion.
Entropy and the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics makes a better model for how the Universe is assembled than does Evolution. There are countless holes and missing links in the THEORY of Evolution that Evolutionists continually avoid. These are serious discrepancies that threaten Evolutionist credibility. Yet, somehow it remains unchallenged and when it is challenged, it is not given due notariety.
My Brother and I believe that there is a God who created us. One thing for certain, it wasn't Carles Darwin.
Evolution doesn't say jack squat about how the Universe is assembled; it's about how speciation occured on one little corner of that Universe.
And I haven't the foggies idea of what you mean by "entropy and the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics" in this context.
You are aware that in no way, shape or form does evolution "contradict" the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics, don't you? And anyone who says otherwise is a moron.
But experiments can be used to confirm it.
For example, using the evolutionary idea that orangutangs, chimps, and people have a common ancestor, and that chimps and people have a more recent one than either does with orangutangs, one deduces that
If a transposon, pseudogene, etc is found in the genome of both chimps and orangutangs, then it will also be found in people.
Same idea: if a pseudogene, etc is found in both whales and cows, it will also be found in hippos.
To the best of my knowledge, every time this sort of prediction has been tested, it has turned out to be a true prediction. Any theory that aims to replace the ToE must be capable of making these predictions, at least.
If you are curious, which you aren't, look it up yourself.
It would have been more polite to simply post a link or a synopsis of whatever argument you found persuasive. I wouldn't want to critique something you're not claiming.
Since the theory is making true predictions, I rather suspect that the information-theoretical critique has an error in it.
By whom?? The "Creation Science Institute".
"DNA Double Helix: Its Existence Alone Defeats any Theory of Evolution"
"The scientific reality of the DNA double helix can single-handedly defeat any theory that assumes life arose from non-life through materialistic forces. Evolution theory has convinced many people that the design in our world is merely "apparent" -- just the result of random, natural processes. However, with the discovery, mapping and sequencing of the DNA molecule, we now understand that organic life is based on vastly complex information code, and such information cannot be created or interpreted without a Master Designer at the cosmic keyboard."
From their "about" (http://www.dna-double-helix.net/common/aboutus.asp) page, it appears so.
Now, SCIENCE says:
"This highly interdisciplinary book discusses the phenomenon of life, including its origin and evolution (and also human cultural evolution), against the background of thermodynamics, statistical mechanics, and information theory. Among the central themes is the seeming contradiction between the second law of thermodynamics and the high degree of order and complexity produced by living systems. This paradox has its resolution in the information content of the Gibbs free energy that enters the biosphere from outside sources, as the author shows. The role of information in human cultural evolution is another focus of the book. One of the final chapters discusses the merging of information technology and biotechnology into a new discipline bio-information technology."
So it appears the "information theory" does NOT "refute evolution".
The time is over when biologists needed no mathematics and formal logic.
In fact there is a theoretical way out of this biologist's dilemma, although I don't think that theory I refer to holds water, since the creator of the original theory (Julian Schwinger) has shown mathematically to his own satisfaction that the more "modern" theory is in error due to over simplification. Has something to do with the importance to quantum theory of the electromagnetic fields surrounding elementary particles. I can go no further here, no training.
Too tired to go on, need rest, and in fact am rapidly reaching my safe depth!!! More a historian type than a physicist!!
One would expect that "SCIENCE" should be interested in the question of whether one would expect the "outside sources" that it knows about [a Creator being deliberately excluded] to possess the requisite GFE.
Uh, "Science" IS interested in the question. That's what the book is all about.
Thus far, existing natural processes are sufficient to explain the data about life and evolution--"biblical creationists" claims to the contrary notwithstanding.
Unfortunately, there are way too many people working to dilute the stock in other ways. Like the safety requirement that snack dispensers be tip-proof (fastened to a wall or something). Hey, if someone is dumb enough to try to shake out a freebie and winds up tipping the thing over and killing himself, it would benefit the gene pool to prevent his reproductive contributions, but NOOOOO, we have to protect him.
Another is (and I know there will be some howls out there) motorcycle helmets. I oppose mandatory motorcycle helmet laws. I think that if someone wants to forgo the protection, and incurs serious injury because of that decision, then maybe the human gene pool is a little better off.
You can idolize whatever morality and whatever standards of superiority you fancy.
But nothing you fancy counts to nature unless it contributes to the survival of your kind.
People attribute far too much to this one theory, and if someone wants to twist that theory for sociopolitical ends, that doesn't necessarily reflect on the theory's validity.
No one has yet offered a valid basis for the phenomenon of speciation other than Darwin's Theory of Evolution, except to say "God did it". OK, fair enough, but that's religion, not science, and can't be proved.
But only on the following two conditions:
1. If he has health insurance, he should only have it by virtue of paying a higher premium, else you and I would be paying higher premiums to protect his like from their idiocy.
2. And if he has no insurance, society should withhold medical treatment if he can't pay for it himself.
Now, does all that sound more practical than having helmet laws?
Of course, if we got about only by walking, we wouldn't have such problems--but that's another story, and a theoretical one at that.
Such instances can be explained by the action of natural selection on behavior--be that behavior inherited or learned or both.
The only cases where self-sacrifice is anti-survival, is where that self-sacrifice does not promote the passing of your genes to ensuing generations.
What if the person I save isn't one of my children, and I die before I have had children myself? Then I have sacrificed myself saving another and have not passed on my genes to the next generation. A very moral and selfless decision, but one that is anti-survival for myself and my descendents.
What you have to remember is that the Theory of Evolution is a mechanistic explanation for a natural phenomenon. It isn't a be all and end all explanation for everything that happens, especially when you put culture and intellect into the mix. You also have to remember that there was a lot that Darwin didn't know back in the 1850s, like genetics.
BTW, you're mention of agriculture is a good one, because it proves that evolution does take place, in this case from artificial selection via selective breeding. It's not so preposterous to suppose that such a thing can happen in nature, too.
| Did you ever think
you'd see a sexy babe on
a chess magazine?!
Eh? You have that all mixed up.
Thermodynamics is derivative from computational information theory, not the other way around. Since biological evolution is derivative from well-understood systems theory in mathematics, any "refutation" of it is going to be pretty damn thin.
That said, it does not mean that evolution has anything to do with the earth's biological systems. It almost certainly has some role, but there are a lot of other mechanisms provided for in systems theory that will generate the same result. By analogy, rolling on wheels is a perfectly valid method of going down a road, but one need not assume that a deer rolls down a road on wheels as well. That a deer does not use wheels does not invalidate the original wheeled model as a valid mechanism for going down a road.
It's more complex than that, even.
1. If you saved more than one person, and those people were relatives, that would be helping some of your genes to survive.
One can calculate how many relatives (relatives share some of your genes) of what relation you would need to save by dying, to be a probable net gain for the propagation of your genes.
2. If you save one person, is that person important to the survival of your relatives, who share many of your genes?
Also, it may be that we are programmed to save strangers who just look like us, as the more that people resemble us, the greater the chances they share some of our genes.
We may also be programmed to save the children of non-relatives, because if members of a tribe were willing to die to save each other, that could enhance the survival of all families in the tribe--not so much because one child is always worth the sacrifice of one adult, but rather as a way to discourage predation by other tribes and by animals.
3. Otherwise, there is no evolutionary advantage. Anyone prone to sacrificing themselves for no evolutionary advantage would pass fewer of their genes along, including any genes that may have influenced such unfit behavior.
Cheer up, however, if you are a social conservative, because evolutionary biology may well serve to give traditional American family and cultural values a rational, scientific basis--a basis strong enough to defeat liberal arguments and to defeat the commie idea that men and women are fungible.
(Though there are some evolutionary biologists who are blind to the value of such things as an inherent desire for religion being a fit evolutionary adaptation, too.)
I don't think this is correct---thermodynamics seriously pre-dated "computational information theory".
He means that "computational information theory" has superseded thermodynamics as the fundamental explanation of the physics, that thermodynamics can be derived from CIT.
I said it was derivative, I did not say the mathematics was formalized before the formulation of classical thermodynamics. The difference is that before the mathematics, thermodynamics was essentially axiomatic empiricism because it was not grounded in anything else. Now we know that all members of a certain broad class of systems will exhibit "laws of thermodynamics" mathematically. The point being that this property of our universe can be derived mathematically without any empirical model of thermodynamics.
Quite a few systems are derived empirically before they are strictly formalized mathematically; evolution and Occam's Razor are both examples of this. The important difference is that these things were unproven conjecture prior to the successful mathematical formulization, and some such conjectures fail to hold true when they finally are formalized in mathematics.
Thermodynamics pre-mathematics was a much weaker concept than thermodynamics post-mathematics.
A Priori? It has a precise meaning, which can be illustrated by a couple of examples: All mammals except the great apes, humans, guinea pigs, and [some] fruit bats produce ascorbic acid (aka Vitamin C). One of the genes necessary for this is called LGGLO. See also here and hereThis is considered a pseudogene in people and the (other) great apes because it's missing exactly one base pair. Otherwise it matches other mammalian versions of the same gene, just like hemoglobin or cytochrome C, etc. etc.
In the guinea pig, OTOH, it's considered a pseudogene because it's missing two exons. See here
IOW, a pseudogene is something that would be instantly recognizable as a regular gene, except it doesn't work.
What that seems to mean, once the curtain is yanked away to show the man behind it, is "we have no idea what this could do beyond negating the operation of a gene that we do [partially] understand."
It may evolve into something useful someday. Who can say? But what we do know is that in the guinea pig there is *no messenger RNA* produced; and in apes and people there is some, but it sure doesn't make vitamin C.
Perhaps you could find something useful that it does; no-one else has. But that wouldn't change the *fact* that if just one base pair were added to it, we wouldn't need vitamin C.
For an example of the strange stuff that 'frame shift' mutations like the one we have can cause, see here"
The point being, why do people and apes inherit the exact same mutation from their parents, who got it from their parents, ...?
Are you going to argue that the *exact same* mutation *just happened* to occur *only* in species that standard biology *already considered closely related* !? This is something you can actually calculate odds for. (they're quite small)
Given our present level of knowledge, the simplest explanation is that the mutation occurred once, in the common ancestor of people, chimps, et al. Just like in the common ancestor of whales, cows, hippos etc.; or grizzlies, brown bears, polar... you get the picture. This same pattern repeats over and over in the living world.
Until the planet gets hits with a meteor.
To say it "cannot be created" is both Proving the Negative and Hypothesis Contrary to Fact. It cannot be Proven it "cannot" be done since you can't prove something can't be. The other thing is the "cosmic keyboard." This is supposed to be science? What do these words mean? This whole sentence Begs the Question of what it says. It means nothing.
There are only moral implications if you ascribe to God Himself the same myopic failings of humanity. Let's look at the logical consequence of the school of thought that insists God must be at the helm steering.
By claiming that God Almighty must be at the helm steering, one is insisting that the Creator didn't have enough omniscience to accurately account for adverse conditions before they occurred and thus must compensate for these deficits in design by manual intervention.
I cannot assent to that view. The first sign of intelligent design is how well the design copes with non-optimal environments. And since I believe in God's omniscience, it only follows that when He created the Heavens and the Earth, His creation had those evolutionary potentials for adapation built-in. QED.
Thus, if there are any profound moral implications, it is on the side of those who conceive of Almighty God as having more more scope of vision than humanity itself.