Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Immorality of Amorality

You may be aware that I just completed a 6 part series on Charles Darwin’s book, “The Descent of Man.” And as you can imagine, our atheist friends did not enjoy the journey. 

Most of them predictably offered little more than hasty dismissals and denials. Naturally, as angry atheists are wont to do, there was no shortage of irrational name calling and ad hominem argumentation—like this little gem: 

More ineptness and lies from the lord of the flies. Does it never get old for you Steve Griffin to spread bullshit albeit better knowledge? 

How does one rationally respond to such imbecility? It puts me in mind of C.S. Lewis’ quip that if one cannot understand things written for grown-ups then one should not talk about them. Nevertheless, such playground banality is all too common with Darwin’s insolent, embarrassing stepchildren.  

But thankfully, there was an exception. The following is an excerpted, irenic and adult conversation, regarding morality, with one of my detractors. For clarity his words appear bold and italicized 

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“You are committing the ‘Is/Ought Fallacy.’ It's true that if you step off the top of a skyscraper that gravity will pull you to your death. This is a scientific fact, just like evolution. Does this mean that I ought to push you off the top of a building? Of course not. Your argument is fallacious. You are also committing a fallacy known as an ‘appeal to consequences.’ The potentially negative consequences of a belief have no bearing on whether or not it is true.” 

I am not committing the fallacies of which you speak. 

Darwin does not say these things (genocides, etc.) will--but shouldn't--happen. He says they will and should happen. He considers such natural selection (the "extermination of savage races") to be evolutionary progress. 

When you invoke the "is/ought" tension, you are speaking in moral, ethical categories. ("Ought" entails moral obligation.) Natural selection is and there's no moral imperative to say it ought not to be. 

"Is/ought" is only so much nonsense to Darwin's views on race and survival. 

Furthermore, Darwin anticipates no "negative consequences" for the human species in "weeding out" (to use his phrase, “The Descent of Man” p. 351) inferior races. And I never said Darwin's views are "true" or "false" based upon "consequences." 

I said "Ideas have consequences." This is the case with all ideas, both true and false. 

“Scientific theories do not have any necessary connection to moral beliefs. Based on Newtonian physics alone, genocide is also acceptable. You're committing a category error. Let's grant for the sake of argument that, based on his theory of evolution, Darwin concluded that we OUGHT to promote eugenics. So what? There is nothing intrinsic to evolution that leads to any moral position.” 

Friend, I've been as clear with you as I can, yet you do not understand me. I don't know why you persist to see a "category error" where there is none. Perhaps I am to blame. 

I agree with your insistence that there's no "necessary connection" between naturalistic evolution and moral beliefs. (Have I not said this? Haven't I repeatedly written to you that evolution knows no moral "ought/ought not" category?) 

Let's go further, shall we? If the naturalistic evolutionist is to think and reason, consistent within his own worldview, he has no moral basis or foundation to say of anything: This ought not to be. 

In other words, the naturalistic evolutionary worldview cannot say: Genocides are morally wrong and ought not take place. The naturalist has no moral category for "right" and "wrong." You are more than willing to admit this. 

This is why you say of genocide: "So what," and "Based on Newtonian physics alone, genocide is also acceptable." 

The fact is, based upon naturalistic evolution, genocide and eugenics are not considered to be morally wrong. Survival of the fittest! 

“The Bible also CAN and HAS been used to justify genocide and other atrocities. What do you think we should conclude about it?” 

This is unquestionably true. However, two very important things are to be said here. 

First, you are committing the classical tu quoque fallacy. That is, you are basically stamping your foot and proclaiming—“You too!” (At least we finally have a tacit admission that evolutionary ideology has played a principle part in eugenics and genocide.) 

Second, when the Bible is misused to support “atrocities,” Christians have within the Bible, within the orthodox Christian worldview, a moral framework with which to condemn “atrocities.” The Christian worldview has within it the capacity for moral judgment. 

And herein lies the fundamental difference. 

When the Bible is misused to “justify” any “atrocity,” the Christian can rightly use the Bible to condemn the “atrocity” as immoral. Christianity has a recognized, objective, authoritative moral foundation and ethical system. This moral foundation and ethical system is found within the Bible. 

But when someone—like Hitler—uses naturalistic evolutionary ideology to “justify genocide and other atrocities,” there is nothing within naturalistic evolutionary ideology to say such things are morally wrong.  

Naturalistic evolution has no moral foundation and thus no discernible ethical system. There are no “certain moral beliefs” within the system. Survival of the fittest! 

Perhaps you personally find “atrocities” distasteful. But you cannot consider them morally wrong. 

When it comes to genocide and eugenics, if you are to be consistent within your own naturalistic evolutionary worldview, the most you can say is: Stuff happens. “So what.”

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Darwin Files, pt. 6


That this negro [sic] should have attributed, whether rightly or wrongly, the fine appearance of his tribe to the long-continued elimination of the ugly women is not so surprising as it may at first appear; for I have elsewhere shewn [sic] that negroes fully appreciate the importance of selection in the breeding of their domestic animals (The Descent of Man, p. 579).  

We now examine Darwin’s amoral, utilitarian concept of human progress or betterment. 

Thomas Sowell, the Rose and Milton Friedman Senior Fellow for Public Policy at Stanford University, writes: 

The mid-nineteenth century sensation created by Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution had ramifications far beyond the field of biology. The idea of “survival of the fittest” among competing species was extended by others into competition among human beings, whether among different classes or different races. (Intellectuals and Race, p. 22) 

One such person to apply Darwin’s theories to man was Francis Galton, who coined the term eugenics. Galton defines eugenics thus, 

Eugenics is the study of agencies under social control that may improve or impair the racial qualities of future generations, whether physically or mentally . . . the science of improvement of the human race germ plasm through better breeding.

What would Darwin think of Galton and of using his ideas in such a manner? We needn’t speculate. Galton was Darwin’s half-cousin and Darwin says of him, 

We now know, through the admirable labours [sic] of Mr. Galton, that genius which implies a wonderfully complex combination of high faculties, tends to be inherited; and, on the other hand, it is too certain that insanity and deteriorated mental powers likewise run in families (p. 267). 

So one cannot rightly claim that Galton hijacked Darwin, taking him where he would not wish go. Darwin references Galton’s book, “Hereditary Genius” and agrees with him that “It is mental aptitude, quite as much as bodily structure, which appears to be inherited (p. 269). 

Consonant with later eugenicists, in the name of evolutionary progress, Darwin is certain that “civilized” societies are in a very real sense behaving to their own detriment or weakening. 

With savages, the weak in body or mind are soon eliminated; and those that survive commonly exhibit a vigorous state of health. We civilized men, on the other hand, do our utmost to check the process of elimination; we build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed, and the sick; we institute the poor-laws; and our medical men exert their utmost skill to save the life of every one to the last moment. There is reason to believe that vaccination has preserved thousands, who from a weak constitution would formerly have succumbed to small-pox. Thus the weak members of civilized societies propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man. It is surprising how soon a want of care, or care wrongly directed, leads to the degeneration of a domestic race; but excepting in the case of man himself, hardly any one is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed (p. 323). 

He does take small comfort in that, 

There appears to be at least one check in steady action, namely that the weaker and inferior members of society do not marry so freely as the sound; and this check might be indefinitely increased by the weak in body or mind refraining from marriage, though this is more to be hoped for than expected (p. 323-324). 

And, 

The more intelligent members within the same community will succeed better in the long run than the inferior, and leave a more numerous progeny, and this is a form of natural selection (p. 328). 

Darwin’s thoughts on procreation may strike us as cold and calculating, but nothing rivals his dispassionate views on human suffering. 

Savages are known to suffer severely from recurrent famines; they do not increase their food by artificial means; they rarely refrain from marriage, and generally marry whilst young. Consequently they must be subjected to occasional hard struggles for existence, and the favoured [sic] individuals will alone survive (p. 582).

Consider carefully his ruminations regarding infanticide. 

We have some reason to believe that infanticide practiced in the manner above explained [murdering baby girls], tends to make a male-producing race; but I am far from supposing that this practice in the case of man, or some analogous process with other species, has been the sole determining cause of an excess of males (p. 393). 

The ancestors of man would not be sufficiently advanced in intellect to look forward to distant contingencies; they would not foresee that the rearing of all their children, especially their female children, would make the struggle for life severer for the tribe. They would be governed more by their instincts and less by their reason. (p. 583). 

Wherever infanticide prevails the struggle for existence will be in so far less severe, and all the members of the tribe will have an almost equally good chance of rearing their few surviving children (p. 581). 

Thus infanticide is the product of reason, not instinct. Indeed. Notice, Darwin does not entertain the notion of morality in any of his remarks. His rationality is devoid of moral categories.  

Why? 

I think the answer is clear: Naturalistic evolution has no foundation or basis for morality. Hence, it lacks the capacity for ethical judgment. Survival of the fittest! There really is nothing more than this. 

In the third to last paragraph of his work we read, 

Man, like every other animal, has no doubt advanced to his present high condition through a struggle for existence . . . if he is to advance still higher, it is to be feared that he must remain subject to severe struggle. Otherwise he would sink into indolence, and the more gifted men would not be more successful in the battle of life than the less gifted. Hence our natural rate of increase, though leading to many and obvious evils, must not be greatly diminished by any means. There should be open competition for all men; and the most able should not be prevented by laws or customs from succeeding best and rearing the largest number of offspring (p. 596). 

Chilling words, these. No laws or customs should prevent the survival of the fittest. Think on this. And remember: Ideas have consequences.

Thus concludes “The Darwin Files.” Thank you for reading and thinking. 

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Charles Darwin, “The Descent of Man,” Great Books of the Western World, vol. 49 (Chicago, London, Toronto: William Benton, 1952)

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Darwin Files, pt. 5

The lengthy, second to last paragraph of Darwin’s “The Descent of Man” reads in part, 

There can hardly be a doubt that we are descended from barbarians. The astonishment which I felt on first seeing a party of Fuegians on a wild and broken shore will never be forgotten by me for the reflection at once rushed into my mind—such were our ancestors. These men were absolutely naked and bedaubed with paint, their long hair was tangled, their mouths frothed with excitement, and their expression was wild, startled, and distrustful. They possessed hardly any arts, and like wild animals lived on what they could catch; they had no government, and were merciless to everyone not of their own tribe. He who has seen a savage in his native land will not feel much shame, if forced to acknowledge that the blood of some more humble creature flows in his veins. For my own part I would as soon be descended from that heroic little monkey, who braved his dreaded enemy in order to save the life of his keeper, or from that old baboon, who descending from the mountains, carried away in triumph his young comrade from a crowd of astonished dogs—as from a savage who delights to torture his enemies, offers up bloody sacrifices, practices infanticide without remorse, treats his wives like slaves, knows no decency, and is haunted by the grossest superstitions (p. 596-597). 

“The pioneer of evolution was also the forerunner of multiculturalism,” said no one ever. Recall from last week that Darwin is quite comfortable in speaking of race in terms of “higher” and “lower.” To further elucidate this we read, 

It is an interesting fact that ancient races, in this and several other cases, more frequently present structures which resemble those of the lower animals than do the modern. One chief cause seems to be that the ancient races stand somewhat nearer in the long line of descent to their remote animal-like progenitors . . . this perforation is present in thirty-one percent of some human remains from ancient mounds in the Western United States, and in Florida. It frequently occurs in the negro [sic] (p. 264). 

The cause of ancient races approaching the lower animals in certain characters more frequently than do the modern races, appears to be, that the latter stand at a somewhat greater distance in the long line of descent from their early semi-human progenitors. . . . [T]races of the division may be detected in about two percent of adult skulls . . . it more frequently occurs in prognathous skulls, not of the Aryan race, than in others (p. 273). 

It is quite incredible that a man should through mere accident abnormally resemble certain apes in no less than seven of his muscles . . . Professor Schaaffhausen first drew attention to the relation apparently existing between a muscular frame and the strongly-pronounced supra-orbital ridges, which are so characteristic of the lower races of man (p. 275). 

Ideas have consequences. We now turn our attention to Darwin’s thoughts on race applied 

First, he observes, 

All that we know about savages, or may infer from their traditions and from old monuments, the history of which is quite forgotten by the present inhabitants, shew [sic] that from the remotest times successful tribes have supplanted other tribes. Relics of extinct or forgotten tribes have been discovered throughout the civilized regions of the earth, on the wild plains of America, and on the isolated islands in the Pacific Ocean. At the present day civilized nations are everywhere supplanting barbarous nations, excepting where the climate opposes a deadly barrier; and they succeed mainly, though not exclusively, through their arts, which are the products of the intellect. It is, therefore, highly probable that with man-kind the intellectual faculties have been mainly and gradually perfected through natural selection; and this conclusion is sufficient for our purpose (p. 320). 

Notice, there is no moral judgment concerning the “supplanting” of one people with another. Indeed, genocides do not properly belong in ethical categories at all. “Right” and “wrong” are non-factors, total non sequiturs.  

Rather, the inevitable extermination of “lower races” is the amoral, necessary, and desirable consequence of the inexorable progress known as natural selection. 

A tribe rich in the above qualities would spread and be victorious over other tribes: but in the course of time it would, judging from all past history, be in its turn overcome by some other tribe still more highly endowed. Thus the social and moral qualities would tend slowly to advance and be diffused throughout the world (p. 321). 

When civilized nations come into contact with barbarians the struggle is short, except where a deadly climate gives its aid to the native race . . . those who are most susceptible to its destructive influence [a new disease] are gradually weeded out . . . savages did not formerly waste away before the classical nations, as they now do before modern civilized nations; had they done so, the old moralists would have mused over the event; but there is no lament in any writer of that period over the perishing barbarians (p. 351). 

Second, Darwin predicts, 

At some future period, not very distant measured by centuries, the civilized races of man will almost certainly exterminate, and replace, the savage races throughout the world. At the same time the anthropomorphous apes, as Professor Schaaffhausen has remarked, will no doubt be exterminated. The break between man and his nearest allies will then be wider, for it will intervene between man in a more civilized state, as we may hope, even than the Caucasian, and some ape as low as a baboon, instead of as now between negro [sic] or Australian and the gorilla (p. 336). 

Note that it is Darwin’s “hope” that the future, dominant and genocidal “more civilized state” will rival even the Caucasian of his day. This is his hope. 

And now we play the overused—and oft misused—“Hitler card.” He too entertained visions of a superior, master race. 

Hitler emphasized again and again his belief that Nazism was a secular ideology founded on modern science. . . . “The dogma of Christianity gets worn away before the advances of science.” [Hitler] was particularly critical of what he saw as its [Christianity’s] violation of the law of natural selection and the survival of the fittest. “Taken to its logical extreme, Christianity would mean the systematic cultivation of human failure.” (Richard J. Evans, “The Third Reich at War,” New York: The Penguin Press, 2009, p. 547). 

I repeat: Ideas have consequences.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Darwin Files, pt. 4


We continue to observe Darwin’s views on race. Recall from last week that Darwin understands racial disparities to be self-evident or axiomatic, needing no substantiation. Racial differences are so great in Darwin’s mind that he is entirely sympathetic with those who view various races as distinct species. 

There is, however, no doubt that the various races, when carefully compared and measured, differ much from each other—as in the texture of hair, the relative proportions of all parts of the body, the capacity of the lungs, the form and capacity of the skull, and even in the convolutions of the brain. But it would be an endless task to specify the numerous points of difference. The races differ also in constitution, in acclimatization and in liability to certain diseases. Their mental characteristics are likewise very distinct; chiefly as it would appear in their emotional, but partly in their intellectual faculties (p. 343). 

If a naturalist who had never before seen a Negro, Hottentot, Australian, or Mongolian, were to compare them, he would at once perceive that they differed in a multitude of characters, some of slight and some of considerable importance. . . . they differed somewhat in bodily constitution and mental disposition. If he were then told that hundreds of similar specimens could be brought from the same countries, he would assuredly declare that they were as good species as many to which he had been in the habit affixing specific names. This conclusion would be greatly strengthened as soon as he had ascertained the same character for many centuries; and that negroes, apparently identical with existing negroes, had lived at least 4000 years ago (p. 343). 

A naturalist might feel himself fully justified in ranking the races of man as distinct species; for he has found that they are distinguished by many differences in structure, and constitution, some being of importance. These differences have also, remained nearly constant for very long periods of time (p. 345). 

In the final analysis, Darwin tentatively—very tentatively—decides that races may be thought of as sub-species, due to the fact that they have the capacity for “fusion.” 

The races of man are not sufficiently distinct to inhabit the same country without fusion; and the absence of fusion affords the usual and best test of specific distinctness. . . . This diversity of judgment does not prove that the races ought not to be ranked as species, but it shews [sic] that they graduate into each other, and that it is hardly possible to discover clear distinctive characters between them (p. 346). 

Some naturalists have lately employed the term “sub-species” to designate forms which possess many of the characteristics of true species, but which hardly deserve so high a rank. Now if we reflect on the weighty arguments above given, for raising the races of man to the dignity of species, and the insuperable difficulties on the other side in defining them, it seems that the term “sub-species” might here be used with propriety (p. 347). 

Those naturalists, on the other hand, who admit the principle of evolution . . . will feel no doubt that all the races of man are descended from a single primitive stock; whether or not they may think fit to designate the races as distinct species, for the sake of expressing their amount of difference (p. 347). 

So again, it is almost a matter of indifference whether the so-called races of man are thus designated, or are ranked as species or sub-species; but the latter term appears the more appropriate (p. 349-350). 

Darwin is quite comfortable in thinking of race in terms of “higher” and “lower.” He regards civilized races as superior to “savage” races (a common term in his day) in nearly every way. Thus racial differences are not merely differences of kind, but also of quality. 

The belief that there exists in man some close relation between the size of the brain and the development of the intellectual faculties is supported by the comparison of the skulls of savage and civilised [sic] races, of ancient and modern people, and by the analogy of the whole vertebrate series . . . the mean internal capacity of the skull in Europeans is 92.3 cubic inches; in American 87.5; in Asiatics 87.1; and in Australians only 81.9 cubic inches. . . . With savages, the average includes only the more capable individuals, who have been able to survive under extremely hard conditions of life (p. 281). 

No country in the world abounds in a greater degree with dangerous beasts than southern Africa . . . yet one of the puniest races, that of the bushmen, maintains itself in southern Africa (p. 286). 

Many savages are in the same condition as when first discovered several centuries ago. As Mr. Bagehot has remarked, we are apt to look at the progress as normal in human society, but history refutes this (p. 323). 

Those who constantly use certain sense-organs may have the cavities in which they are lodged somewhat increased in size, and their features consequently a little modified. With civilized nations, the reduced size of the jaws from lessened use . . . and the increased size of the brain from greater intellectual activity, have together produced a considerable effect on their general appearance when compared with savages (p. 359). 

How would Darwin view the multiculturalists of today who insist that all cultures are of similar value and worth and are to be esteemed and respected equally?  

The American aborigines, Negroes and Europeans are as different from each other in mind as any three races that can be named . . . (p. 348). 

Judging from the hideous ornaments, and the equally hideous music admired by most savages, it might be urged that their aesthetic faculty was not so highly developed as in certain animals, for instance as in birds (p. 302). 

Most savages are utterly indifferent to the sufferings of strangers, or even delight in witnessing them. . . . Many instances could be given of the noble fidelity of savages towards each other, but not to strangers; common experience justifies the maxim of the Spaniard, “Never, never trust an Indian.” (p. 315). 

Remember, Darwin’s racial views are based on his science not his society. He is revered as a scientist, the pioneer of evolution; and his racism is based in evolutionary constructs. This is the man Richard Dawkins hails as having explainedeverything we know about life. 

Even so, Darwin’s progeny—when confronted with the truth—find his views on race enormously embarrassing. Think of it: Darwin’s beneficiaries extol his discoveries as holding the key to “everything we know about life” and all the while they deny and dismiss his understanding of his own species.  

Talk about cognitive dissonance! They despise the man on whose shoulders they stand. 

Next week we will examine Darwin’s thoughts on race applied. Until then, thank you for reading and thinking. 

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Charles Darwin, “The Descent of Man,” Great Books of the Western World, vol. 49 (Chicago, London, Toronto: William Benton, 1952)