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Darwin Matters

Marvin Olasky at Townhall.com has written an essay with this title.

Here are a few excerpts:

Woodrow Wilson started federal government expansion in 1912 by opposing the “Newtonian” view that the government should have an unchanging constitutional foundation, somewhat like “the law of gravitation.” He argued that government should be “accountable to Darwin, not to Newton. It is modified by its environment, necessitated by its tasks, shaped to its functions by the sheer pressure of life. . . . Living political constitutions must be Darwinian in structure and in practice.”

Evolutionary thinking influenced not only Social Darwinists but socialists like H.G. Wells who thought it was time to advance beyond competitive enterprise. (Karl Marx in Das Kapital called Darwin’s theory “epoch making” and told Friedrich Engels that On the Origin of Species “contains the basis in natural history for our view.”)

I debated Princeton’s Peter Singer in 2004 and had several conversations with him about his defense of infanticide. That year he said, “All we are doing is catching up with Darwin. He showed in the 19th century that we are simply animals. Humans had imagined we were a separate part of Creation, that there was some magical line between Us and Them. Darwin’s theory undermined the foundations of that entire Western way of thinking about the place of our species in the universe.”

We could run through many more areas. Daniel Dennett in Darwin’s Dangerous Idea hit it right: Darwin created a “universal acid” that eats through any “meaning coming from on high.”

Interestingly, Olasky is a former atheist and Marxist.

I can already hear the challenges from the secular left and Darwinists: “Gil, you’re a born-again evangelical Christian, you can’t possibly be objective in this debate.”

I have one retort: I’ve been on both sides and have experienced the real-life effects of both worldviews. One is constructive and the other is destructive, of almost everything that ultimately matters.

The worst part is that Darwinism epitomizes junk pseudo-science, presented as genuine scientific investigation, and has to a great extent succeeded in destroying the legitimacy of the scientific enterprise.

How ironic: In the name of defending “science,” Darwinists have made transparently absurd and indefensible claims, and have therefore done much damage to the integrity of science.

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18 Responses to Darwin Matters

  1. “Woodrow Wilson started federal government expansion in 1912 by opposing the “Newtonian” view that the government should have an unchanging constitutional foundation, somewhat like “the law of gravitation.”

    Sorry, are you arguing that our government should and does have an unchanging constitution?

    Shall we remind some commenters here they are 3/5 a person, or did the constitution evolve?

  2. I can already hear the challenges from the secular left and Darwinists: “Gil, you’re a born-again evangelical Christian, you can’t possibly be objective in this debate.”

    I have one retort: I’ve been on both sides and have experienced the real-life effects of both worldviews. One is constructive and the other is destructive, of almost everything that ultimately matters.

    This hardly seems the best response Gil. At the fundamental level, they are committing the genetic fallacy. The implication of their bigotry, highlighted by your proposed answer, would appear to be secondary.

    Christians should reject the “presumption of secularism” — e.g. that secularists are neutral and without bias. Both sides have a worldview, and neither enter these arguments as neutral parties.

    (Look up The presumption of atheism — Anthony Flew I think…)

  3. Shall we remind some commenters here they are 3/5 a person, or did the constitution evolve?

    According to Singer, a newborn infant human with a serious congenital defect counts as 0% of a person, and should be killed with impunity and no sense of guilt or remorse.

    How’s that for constitutional evolution?

  4. Sorry, are you arguing that our government should and does have an unchanging constitution?

    Huh? Why would there be a process to amend it then?

  5. Gil, forgive me, but I’m not sure when the constitution evolved to include infanticide.

    Glomming your least favorite philosopher onto Olasky’s curious interpretation of the Constitution doesn’t make him right. It is a non-sequitur to the highest degree.

    And your tone demonizes serious issues. The decision to provide only palliative care and not continue aggressive mechanical intervention (one I have had to make with my own family members) is not relegating that person to 0% humanity. Quite the opposite, I think.

  6. “Sorry, are you arguing that our government should and does have an unchanging constitution?

    Huh? Why would there be a process to amend it then?”

    Exactly. But somehow Marvin Olasky finds the notion of a living, evolving Constitution offensive.

  7. Exactly. But somehow Marvin Olasky finds the notion of a living, evolving Constitution offensive.

    Really? Where did you get that idea?

    I read the same OP as you. I think. Admittedly, I did not read his article.

  8. 8
    Elizabeth Liddle

    DrRec:

    The decision to provide only palliative care and not continue aggressive mechanical intervention (one I have had to make with my own family members) is not relegating that person to 0% humanity. Quite the opposite, I think.

    Me too.

  9. It’s one thing to be “modified by … environment, necessitated by … tasks, shaped to … functions by the sheer pressure of life.” But that is not necessarily Darwinism. In fact, in the case of government, or business, or really anything involving intelligence, that it is universally NOT Darwinian in nature. That would imply making random changes and then “see what sticks”. Roll the dice for every decision that can be made. That is not how humans operate, and also it’s not how life evolves. New environment leads to rapid, highly specific and well-suited changes. That is not Darwinism.

  10. I think you make the point for us evolutionists:

    “I can already hear the challenges from the secular left and Darwinists: “Gil, you’re a born-again evangelical Christian, you can’t possibly be objective in this debate.” I’ve been on both sides and have experienced the real-life effects of both worldviews. One is constructive and the other is destructive, of almost everything that ultimately matters.”

    By believing that one view is constructive and the other destructive – a view with which I and many others disagree – you are NOT being objective. You are imposing your own subjective thinking on the matter.

    Nor is there any evidence whatsoever that Darwin has “destroyed the legitimacy of the scientific enterprise”. In fact, science has bloomed enormously since the time of Darwin, not least the biological sciences. I’m afraid your comments are becoming further and further removed from any evidence-based objectove reality.

  11. But somehow Marvin Olasky finds the notion of a living, evolving Constitution offensive.

    From the OP:

    Woodrow Wilson started federal government expansion in 1912 by opposing the “Newtonian” view that the government should have an unchanging constitutional foundation, somewhat like “the law of gravitation.” He argued that government should be “accountable to Darwin, not to Newton. It [the government] is modified by its environment, necessitated by its tasks, shaped to its functions by the sheer pressure of life. . . . Living political constitutions must be Darwinian in structure and in practice.”

    He’s talking about the government not the Constitution.

  12. GilD:The worst part is that Darwinism epitomizes junk pseudo-science, presented as genuine scientific investigation, and has to a great extent succeeded in destroying the legitimacy of the scientific enterprise.

    Consider the absurdities-of-reasoning which now parade under the banner of ‘Science!‘ (such as “the multiverse”); it was the necessity to relax rigorous and critical reasoning, so as to allow Darwinism (and Freudianism) to be counted as ‘scientific’, which made possible the present parade of irrationalism tricked-out in ‘scientific’ garb.

  13. an unthinking “liberal”:Sorry, are you arguing that our government should and does have an unchanging constitution?

    The only *good* constitution is a *dead* constitution.

    an intellectually dishonest “liberal”:Shall we remind some commenters here they are 3/5 a person, or did the constitution evolve.

    What more need be said? This person is dishonest.

  14. What more need be said? This person is dishonest.

    Ah. I understand what you mean. Good point.

    Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.

    All other Persons. Dishonest indeed.

  15. are 3/5 a person, adding 3/5 of all other persons.

    Does this semantic game go to the heart of the argument? I suppose I should have skipped the 3/5 compromise, and gone straight to the fact that they were slaves, deprived of the liberties afforded the rest.

    So, is the Constitution unchanging, or is Wilson right?

    Illion: “The only *good* constitution is a *dead* constitution.”

    What are you advocating?

  16. Geeze, what’s with everyone trying to tick of black people this week?

    Also, Illion, I’m gonna have to agree with DrREC on this one buddy.

    Sorta.

    The process by wich the constitution is amended is hardly Darwinian.

    - Sonfaro

  17. So, is the Constitution unchanging, or is Wilson right?

    Why should anyone think Wilson was talking about the Constitution rather than the government?

    See the post @10.

    “The President is at liberty, both in law and in conscience, to be as big a man as he can. His capacity will set the limit; and if Congress is overborne by him, it will be no fault of the makers of the Constitution”

    “Government does now whatever experience permits or the times demand”

    President Wilson viewed the system of checks and balances built into the Constitution as “artificial” and “antiquated.

    http://www.discoverthenetworks.....sp?id=1224

    The story of big government in America begins in the Progressive Era, stretching from the 1880s through World War I. Enamored with 19th-century European historicist philosophy and unwilling to hold any truths as self-evident, American Progressives thought the natural right principles of the Constitution represented the greatest obstacle to political “progress” and “evolution.” In place of the Constitution, Progressivism proposed an administrative state whose purpose would be the unending quest of evolutionary “progress” and whose powers therefore would be unlimited.

    More than anyone, Woodrow Wilson advanced the new Progressive theory of human nature and human institutions and the corresponding Progressive critique of the principles of the American Founding and the Founders’ Constitution. Wilson, who was president of Princeton and of the American Political Science Association before becoming President of the United States, was the first Chief Executive to openly criticize the Constitution, once comparing it to “political witchcraft.” So hostile was he to the self evident truths of the Founding that in a 1911 address he remarked, “if you want to understand the real Declaration of Independence, do not repeat the preface.”

    http://www.claremont.org/publi.....detail.asp

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