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Darwin’s “Sacred” Cause: How Opposing Slavery Could Still Enslave

darwin-as-ape3Those who follow the Darwin industry are very familiar with Darwin: The Life of a Tormented Evolutionist by Adrian Desmond and James Moore. In that biography they were one of the few biographers to highlight young Charles’ Edinburgh years (October 1825 to April 1827) and show the powerful influences that experience had on the teenager. Here too in Desmond and Moore’s new Darwin’s Sacred Cause, Edinburgh becomes the substantive starting point. This is as it should be since the freethinkers he would be exposed to in the radical Plinian Society (a largely student-based group Darwin seemed to relish given his attendance at all but one of its 19 meetings during his stay there) would have a profund influence on his thinking for the rest of his life. Desmond and Moore correctly acknowledge this, observing that this period “helped condition his life’s work on the deepest social — and scientific — issues” (17). Indeed the Plinians would steep Charles in a radical materialism that the present biographers admit was “mirrored” in his work a decade later (35).

All well and good so far. But not quite.  This is a book with its own cause. From the outset the authors explain frankly that , “We show the humanitarian roots that nourished Darwin’s most controversial and contested work on human ancestry” (xviii). And those “humanitarian roots,” we are told again and  again throughout its 376 narrative pages was Darwin’s passionate and unwavering hatred of slavery.  “No one has appreciated the source of that moral fire that fuelled his strange, out-of-character obsession with human origins. Understand that,” they insist, “and Darwin can be radically reassessed” (xix).  And what is that reassessment?  The reader is not left waiting:  ”Ours is a book about a caring, compassionate man who was affected for life by the scream of a tortured slave” (xx).

At issue, of course, isn’t the horrific abomination of slavery nor Darwin’s abhorrence of it (this has long been known and acknowledged by historians) but rather the purported impact that Desmond and Moore claim his abolitionism had on his theory’s development and purpose.  In short, the question is, does the anti-slavery Darwin necessarily make for a “kinder, gentler” Darwin? An affirmative answer must rest upon two supports, one conceptual and the other factual. The remainder of this essay will examine both to answer this question.

 
One of the more interesting trajectories of this book is it anchoring in Darwin’s early Edinburgh years, a comparatively short period but one fraught with significance for Darwin.  In this starting point I fully concur with Desmond and Moore.  While many look to his voyage on the Beagle (December 1831 to October 1836) as introducing the young naturalist to the fullness of nature’s laboratory that would culminate in his theory of natural selection and a wholly naturalistic evolutionary theory, these authors point to the earlier Edinburgh experiences as establishing the seminal backdrop for all else that would follow.  They point out that Edinburgh was rife with discussions of race, cranial size, and phrenology.  Some attempted to demonstrate the validity of scientifc racism, others the opposite. All — or nearly all – were cast in materialistic terms. Desmond and Moore’s summary is quite accurate:

So this wasn’t the barren period Darwin in his biography would have us believe.  Issues of environmental versus anatomical determinism, and a self-animated versus a Creatively animated nature, were being thrashed out all around him, issues which would have repurcussions for generations, inside and outside Darwin’s own work.  Arguments about brain sizes, innate dispositions and racial categories were still raging, putting a consensus some way off.  Groups were competing to sway the students and Darwin was at the center of it. But the young innocent probably wasn’t so much embroiled as wide-eyed.  Still, many of these themes would later resurface in his own work on human racial descent (43).

During Darwin’s stay at Cambridge, he too was exposed to many ideas, not the least of which was a vocal but conflicted anti-slavery impluse.  Through it all, insist Desmond and Moore, Darwin “held fast with radically pliant ‘brotherbood’ science and shackle-breaking ideology in true Whig tradition” (57).  Indeed Darwin would, according to the authors, reject the measuring, weighting, calculating racial anthropologists (those self-important, confident phrenologists and physiognomists)  he had found in Edinburgh.  “No skull collecting would mark his science,” they insist.” He would find a very different way of approaching black and white, slave and free” (110).

It is important to keep this claim in mind since it is crucial to Desmond and Moore’s thesis that while he became a “secret materialist — happy to have brains secrete even religious notions as physiological byproducts” (132), he would eschew the scientific racism implicit (and more often than not explicit) in this radical materialism in favor of a wholly naturalistic theory confirming a common descent and botherhood of all mankind. They refer to it as generations of “brotherly common descents” (141).

How he accomplishes this forms a considerable part of Darwin’s Sacred Cause. Basically, by establishing common descent as a viable scientific paradigm, Darwin was able to settle the old monogenist/polygenist debate once and for all.  The monogenists viewed human development on earth as emanating from a common pair — this was, for some, most eloquently described in the opening chapters of Genesis.  But there were non-biblical monogenists as well.  Polygenists, however, believed in multiple origins for humanity.  As America headed towards Civil War, the polygenists held the upper hand.  The biblical monogenism of James Cowles Prichard (1786-1848) looked antiquated against the “scientific” racism of Josiah Clark Nott (1804-1873), George R. Gliddon (1809-1857), and others. Desmond and Moore describe in detail how Darwin sought to establish a viable counter to the polygenists with an explanation of human origins that was at once naturalistic and based upon a common descent.  In effect, a science of human oneness and brotherhood.  They describe how the publication of Darwin’s Origin in 1859 tipped the scales permanently in his favor, citing the example of Charles Loring Brace (1826-1890), an abolitionist firebrand who claimed to have read the book thirteen times.

All this is true.  Darwin was adamantly opposed to slavery, Darwin did end — eventually – the polgenists’ claim to scientific respectability.  But this alone would hardly warrant a book.  As mentioned before, historians have long known of Darwin’s consistent antipathy towards slavery.  As for his role in settling the monogenist/polygenist dispute, that too has long been known (n. 1). The essential problem with Desmond and Moore’s effort is their naive assumption that anti-slavery means egalitarian and humanitarian.  This is a conceptual problem that haunts the book throughout. There really is no reason to assume an immediate and direct relationship between the one and the other, and the example of Charles Loring Brace given above goes not only to this point but to demonstrate the selective treatment they give to this whole subject.  Charles Loring Brace was indeed a vocal opponent of slavery and also and ardent Darwinist. What Desmond and Moore do not say is that Brace viewed blacks as inherently inferior and was himself a vocal opponent of miscegenation.  In the words of historian George M. Fredrickson, Brace made “the Darwinian case for differentiation of the races by natural selection . . . [and] ended up with a view of racial differences which was far from egalitarian in its implications” (n. 2). Brace held out little hope for “the mullato” and finished up by declaring, “there is nothing in the gradual diminution and destruction of a savage or inferior race in contact with a more civilized and powerful which is ‘mysterious’ . . . . The first gifts of civilization are naturally fatal to a barbarous people . . . . (n. 3). Fredrickson quite accurately points out that “Brace’s pioneering effort to devolop a Darwinist ethnology in opposition to the American School, although animated to some degree by antislavery humanitarianism, had demonstrated that most of the hierarchical assumptions of the polygenists could be justified just as well, if not better, in Darwinian terms” (n. 4).

The example of Josiah Clark Nott underscores this point.  Desmond and Moore spend considerable time showing how the Alabamian’s rabid polygenism formed the basis for an extreme racism and justification for slavery; they fail to point out that in the end Nott was able to reconcile with Darwinism.  Nott recognized at once that he had been outdone by Darwin’s irreligious formulations.  Writing to Ephraim Squire in the summer of 1860, Nott quipped, “the man [Darwin] is clearly crazy, but it is a capital dig into the parson — it stirs up Creation and much good comes out of such thorough discuassions” (n. 5).  In the end, Nott came to accept Darwin’s theory of man’s common descent.  Indeed he claimed nothing of what he wrote on the race question was negated but simply refined, and who was not to say that even in Darwin’s world races might not be “permanent varieties” (n. 6).  The point, of course, isn’t whether or not any of this is true — it is obvious nonsense and most of Nott’s contemporaries recognized it as such – but whether Darwin’s defeat of polygenist theory and its replacement with his common descent really had any difference in the end toward establishing a science of brotherhood is doubtful.  Brace, Nott, and many others could enbrace common descent precisely because it suggested nothing close to racial brotherhood.

This poor conceptualization of anti-slavery and ipso facto humanitarianism is compounded by a misunderstanding of Darwin himself.  Desmond and Moore correctly point out the crucial impact that the Edinburgh freethinkers had upon him and his theory, but they are simply wrong in contending that he distanced himself from their emerging racial craniology.  Their denials notwithstanding, there were skulls in Darwin’s science.  In his Descent of Man (1871) Paul Boca’s crantiometry is referenced approvingly.  While Darwin was careful to avoid the implication that “the intellect of any two animals or of any two men can be accurately gauged by the cubic contents of their skulls,” he seemed to give accumulated aggregate craniometric data some evidentiary weight.  “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 skulls of savage and civilized races, of ancient and modern people, and by the analogy of the whole vertebrate series” (n. 7).  Citing the work of physician/craniologist Joseph Barnard Davis (1801-1881), Darwin noted that Europeans had a cranial capacity of 92.3, Americans 87.5, Asiatics 87.1, and Australians 81.9 cubic inches.  Clearly, if Darwin did in fact believe in a brotherhood of man it was a very unequal brotherhood.

Darwin’s “bullbog defender” Thomas Henry Huxley provides yet another example.  A devoted Darwinian, Huxley did not translate common descent into common equality.  Like Brace, Huxley was relieved to witness the end of America’s “peculiar institution.”  Writing at the end of the war that had raged for four years across the Atlantic, Huxley said, “But whatever the position of stable equilibrium into which the laws of social gravitation may bring the negro, all responsibility for the result will henceforward lie between nature and him. The white man may wash his hands of it, and the Caucasian conscience be void of reproach for evermore.  And this, if we look to the bottom of the matter, is the real justification for the abolition policy” (n. 8). Even Desmond and Moore must admit that Huxley “shared none of Darwin’s ‘man and brother’ sympathy” (275).

But how keen really was that “man and brother” sympathy for Darwin himself?  After well over 300 pages of explication designed to show how Darwin’s anti-slavery passion led to his “brotherly common descent” we find the crux of the matter:  “It was a humanitarianism that Darwin took pride in. His anti-slavery and anti-cruelty ethic was inviolate. Yet the incongruity of his class holding this ethic sacrosanct while disparaging the ‘lower’ classes (even as colonists displaced or exterminated them) [emphasis added] is impossible to comprehend by twenty-first century standards” (370).  Darwin was indeed a product of his class as any reading of his Descent will prove; in fact, it formed the very basis of his conception of man as a social animal (n. 9).  But it will take more than Desmond and Moore’s eight pages of dismissive discussion of Descent to see that.  Instead the quotation above would imply they’re trying get Darwin off the hook by pleading he was just a “man of his times” and failure to appreciate this dichotomy is mere presentism.  Frankly, it would have been incomprehensible for some in the nineteenth century as well — Thaddeus Stevens (1792-1868), Theodore Weld (1803-1895), William Lloyd Garrison (1805-1879), Wendell Phillips (1811-1884), John Marshall Harlan (1833-1911), and George Frisbie Hoar (1826-1904) found this kind of hypocracy repugnant.  Darwin’s work was supposed to be prescient, path-breaking, revolutionary.  But by book’s end Darwin looks pretty conventional, even compliantly if somewhat minimally racist himself.  Writing to former slave-holder Charles Kingsley, Darwin admits, “It is very true what you say about the higher races of men, when high enough, will have spread & exterminated whole nations.”  Desmond and Moore admit, “racial genocide was now normalized by natural selection and rationalized as nature’s way of producing ‘superior’ races. Darwin ended up calibrating human ‘rank’ no differently from the rest of his society.  After shunning talk of ‘high’ and ‘low’ in his youthful evolution books, he had ceased to be unique or interesting on the subject” (318).

So in the end we find Darwin’s “sacred” cause was, well, not all that sacred. His cause was less about slavery and more about common descent, which in the final analysis had nothing whatsoever to do with equality.  In fact, it could easily be argued Darwin cleared out the polygenists to give way to a new generation of racial discriminators and engineers.  Based upon Darwinian principles, Darwin’s fascination with breeder and domestic stocks, opened the door to manipulating human “stock,” of managing and even culling the “unfit.” Not that Darwin himself would have condoned that, but surely, Francis Galton (1822-1911), took the evolutionary ball handed him by his cousin and ran with it.  In the end, Darwin’s cause was hardly humanitarian and by no means sacred.  As the lampooning cartoon that opens this essay suggests, if Darwin proved that man is a mere animal related (however distantly) to his ape ancestors then, like the domestic pigeons he was so fond of studying and analogizing from, mankind was capable of being bred, manipulated, and “improved.”  That sort of biological historicism unleashed by Darwinian theory has exacted an enormous price.

Of course, this suggests a connection between Darwin and the more unseemly Social Darwism.  I have likely imposed upon the reader’s time long enough, but for those who would like to explore this in greater detail, Mike Hawkin’s Social Darwinism in European and American Thought, 1860-1945 (Cambridge UP, 1997) is highly recommended.  For now, I will simply say that Darwin’s Sacred Cause has proved not what its authors intended, but instead that passionate opposition to slavery could — indeed did – enslave this Victorian elitist who was shackled (if not by racism) by a theory that was crafted to support his own class and prejudice.  History is full of irony!

Notes

1. See Herbert H. Odum, “Generalizations on Race in Nineteenth-Century Physical Anthropology,” Isis 58.1 (Spring 1967): 4-18.

2. George M. Fredrickson, The Black Image in the White Mind: The Debate on Afro-American Character and Destiny, 1817-1914 (New York: Harper Torchbook, 1971), p. 234.

3. Quoted in Ibid., p. 235.

4. Ibid.

5. John S. Haller Jr., Outcasts from Evolution: Scientific Attitudes of Racial Inferiority, 1859-1900, 2nd ed. (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1995), p. 80.

6. Ibid.

7. Charles Darwin, Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex (1871; reprinted, New York: Barnes & Noble, 2004), p. 42.

8. Thomas Henry Huxley, “Emancipation — Black and White” (1865),  http://aleph0.clarku.edu/huxley/CE3/B&W.html accessed 2/15/09.

9.  Like his fellow Victorian imperialists, Darwin could view the extinction of indigenous peoples with an unsettling indifference. There is considerable evidence to support the view that Darwin saw struggle as product of culture and class more than race:  “When civilized nations come into contact with barbarians the sturggle is short, except where a deadly climate gives its aid to the native race. Of the causes which lead to the victory of civilized nations, some are plain and simple, others complex and obscure. We can see that the cultivation of the land will be fatal in many ways to savages, for they cannot, or will not, change their habits. . . . The grade of their civilization seems to be a most important element in the success of competing nations.” Descent, op. cit., p. 156.

Darwin always viewed indigenous peoples with the Eurocentric eyes of power and class, and he had thought this long before writing Descent. In The Voyage of the Beagle he wrote the following of the natives he encountered on Tierra del Fuego:

The perfect equality among the individuals composing the Fuegian tribes must for a long time retard their civilization. As we see those animals, whose instinct compels them to live in society and obey a chief, are most capable of improvement, so it is with the races of mankind. Whether we look at it as a cause or consequence, the more civilized always have the more artificial governments. For instance, the inhabitants of Otaheite, who, when first discovered, were governed by hereditary kings, had arrived at a far higher grade than another branch of the same people, the New Zealanders, — who, although benefited by being compelled to turn their attention to agriculture, were republicans in the most absolute sense. In Tierra del Fuego, until some chief shall arise with power sufficient to secure any acquired advantage, such as the domestication of animals, it seems scarcely possible that the political state of the country can be improved. At present, even a piece of cloth given to one is torn into shreds and distributed; and no one individual becomes richer than another. On the other hand, it is difficult to understand how a chief can arise till there is property of some sort by which he might manifest his superiority and increase his power.

I believe, in this extreme part of South America, man exists in a lower state of improvement than in any other part of the world. — Charles Darwin, The Voyage of the Beagle, 2nd ed. (1845; reprinted, New York: Tess Press, n.d.), pp. 214-215.

Basing Darwin’s humanitarianism on his abhorrence of slavery and a purported “brotherhood of man” largely misses the point. Historians have long known that Darwin’s racial classifications were based more upon levels of cultural attainment than ethnic groups. See, for example, Goria McConnaughey, “Darwin and Social Darwinism,” Osiris 9 (1950): 397-412.

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219 Responses to Darwin’s “Sacred” Cause: How Opposing Slavery Could Still Enslave

  1. “In fact, it could easily be argued Darwin cleared out the polygenists to give way to a new generation of racial discriminators and engineers.” Precisely.

    Quite honestly, I find the efforts to get the old Brit toff off the hook for racism embarrassing. Far from differing from his generation’s beliefs, Darwin wanted to provide solid support for them.

    And to the extent that anyone accepts the argument in Descent of Man, they accept a racist argument.

    Has anyone noticed how Darwinists carefully protect themselves from having the issue framed bluntly in those terms?

    Part of their technique is to confuse racism with support for slavery. Many racists have opposed slavery, as Darwin did. As a social institution, it created many evils. For example, young men could force slave women to have sex with them, and produce children that they did not regard – and were not expected to regard – with paternal care.

    That, by the way, as British sociologist Hilary Rose has pointed out, makes nonsense of Dawkins’s claims about selfish genes. Much Darwinist misrepresentation in key areas depends on people simply not knowing or not noticing certain well-established facts about human nature, because the institutions that reveal them – slavery, for example – are no longer current in their part of the world.

    Incidentally, this fact about the recognition (or otherwise) of paternity is not dependent on racial differences. Russian aristocrats ignored their children by serf women of the same race as themselves.

    Lastly, slavery was a race-based institution in the Southern States, but in other times and places, slaves and serfs were often of the same ethnic group as their masters. The link between slavery and racism – forged naturally in our minds because of that history – is incidental. It is also very convenient to those who would airbrush Darwin’s racism by pointing to his oopposition to slavery.

  2. O’Leary @ 1

    Quite honestly, I find the efforts to get the old Brit toff off the hook for racism embarrassing. Far from differing from his generation’s beliefs, Darwin wanted to provide solid support for them.

    And to the extent that anyone accepts the argument in Descent of Man, they accept a racist argument.

    Has anyone noticed how Darwinists carefully protect themselves from having the issue framed bluntly in those terms?

    Since no one is defending Darwin’s views on race perhaps you would be better advised to save your embarrassment for your Church’s history of occasional condonation of – and involvement in – slavery:

    In the fourth century, St. Augustine thought slavery could be beneficial to both slaves and masters; in 650 Pope Martin I forbade people to help slaves escape; in 1179 the Third Lateran Council decreed the enslavement of anyone helping the Saracens; in 1226 Pope Gregory IX incorporated slavery into the Corpus Iuris Canonici (Canon Law), where it remained until 1913; in the 13th century, St. Thomas Aquinas considered slavery to be in accordance with natural law and a consequence of original sin; in 1454 Pope Nicholas V’s bull Romanus Pontifex allowed the King of Portugal to enslave Saracens and pagans at war with Christians; in 1493, Pope Alexander VI gave the same right to the King of Spain in fighting native Americans; in 1548 Paul III allowed both clergy and laity to own slaves; in 1866 Pope Pius IX specifically declared that “slavery in itself, considered as such in its essential nature, is not at all contrary to the natural and divine law, and there can be several just titles of slavery, and these are referred to by approved theologians and commentators of the sacred canons. … It is not contrary to the natural and divine law for a slave to be sold, bought, exchanged or given.”

  3. Seversky, wasn’t Saint Augustine the person who advised Christians that when science disagreed with the plain reading of the Bible, that we should hold science to be correct? If so, I have no idea why we should care what he says since he was obviously one of the first, if not the first, religious figure to sell out their faith to get in good with materialist scientists.

  4. Seversky,

    Your comment seems pointless. This post is talking about unjustified, incorrect racist stereotypes by Darwin and how it relates to a skewed theory of evolution. What does bringing up Catholic Church history have to do with anything? The church was not founded on a racist agenda, but rather the life and death of the Son of God. Do mistakes and sin of church leaders and members over the centuries undermine its pillar (Jesus Christ)? No. It only proves the imperfection and sinful nature of mere humans.

    The point is, Darwinists are now at the level of worshipping a racist

  5. I have read this essay twice and I don’t understand its point. Few knowledgeable people dispute that, like almost every English man of his class at the time,:

    Darwin looks pretty conventional, even compliantly if somewhat minimally racist himself

    This is so standard for his class and period it is neither interesting nor embarrassing.

    It also widely accepted that

    * he was an abolitionist, not surprising given his family background.

    * his ideas have been used and abused by all sorts of unsavoury characters.

    All of which makes him sound like a a moral sort of chap who was more interested in science than politics.

    None of this is relevant to the truth of his science.

  6. Evolutionary biologists don’t “worship” Darwin at all. Not the ones I know anyway, and that includes the entire faculty of biology at Cornell. No, we admire him for his ideas and his work, and understand that he was, like everyone, a product of his time and social class. We use his ideas where they are productive (and they were so productive, they sparked the origin of the modern science of biology), and we reject those that are not, or that contradict what empirical research has shown to not conform to reality.

    No, it’s the folks who regularly post at this website who “worship” certain human beings. The fact that they do so without showing any critical faculties whatsoever (indeed, they believe that doing so would be blasphemy) indicates that, for them, “worshiping” someone is a legitimate, indeed morally required intellectual position.

    Personally, I find the idea of “worshiping” anyone to be the first step on the road to unmitigated evil.

  7. Evolutionary biologists don’t “worship” Darwin at all.

    Which, of course, explains the Darwin Day celebrations at colleges all across the nation.

    You don’t see Christians fetishizing a birthday anywhere near to this extent.

  8. Allen, I think you are basically an honest guy and a decent guy but don’t kid yourself. There are those who take as extreme as steps as they can against those who have the audacity to question Darwinian evolution.

  9. Allen_MacNeill

    “No, it’s the folks who regularly post at this website who “worship” certain human beings. The fact that they do so without showing any critical faculties whatsoever (indeed, they believe that doing so would be blasphemy)…”

    I was dead serious when I warned you against this sort of incendiary language. Stop, or I will stop you.

  10. Allen, mutual irritation can escalate even over the internet. It usually starts when one person questions another person’s level of education or reasoning capacity. You made several uncomplimentary references about tribune 7, and, sorry to say, I made a couple of snippy remarks at you, thought they were a bit more low key. Why don’t we just start over, because it is not too late to make peace.

    On matters of substance, I continue to hold that a design inference does not depend on analogies. I am prepared to debate that matter on substance with no distractions or personal references.

  11. Clive,

    Allen couldn’t be more happier if he was banned from this site. Allen is a professor at a major university and intellectually committed to behave within a certain standard. One that all of us here can tolerate. We actually give a good deal back to his blustering.

    He is actually a font of information and we would sorely be shorted if for some reason he was moderated or banned. He exaggerates but I have never found him to lie to us or to attack anyone personally except Denyse who I believe is quite capable of defending herself.

    If he remains we are all the better off. Because he is more often wrong than right and we actually benefit from his over reaching.

    I personally do not have a high opinion of Darwin but the constant repetition of attacks on him have nothing to say about his theory. That should be judged on its scientific merits and it is to that we should press Allen.

  12. Allen,

    Rather than resorting to judgments about people on this site when the themes attack Darwin as a person or his integrity or character, say something like the following::

    “Can’t you people leave Darwin alone. The constant drumbeat against the man’s character indicates that you have to attack him and not the science associated with him. It weakens your case. You look petty and foolish to those who are trying to convince.”

    However, your past protestations that Darwin’s ideas are dead somehow are not in sync with the celebrations that have taken place in various places because of the 200th anniversary of his birth and the fact that Cornell had a Darwin week. I asked if you protested such an event but you never answered. For a guy whose ideas are dead, he gets an amazing following.

  13. Since years I am familiar with posts and comments by Dr. Dembski, DaveScot, Trib7, Jerry, KF, DaveScot, Denyse O’Leary, Barry A. I even remember those days when SCordova, JAD, Joel Barofsky, Galapagos Finch and Botnik were arround.

    But who are you, Clive? According to the white background of your comments you are an UD official. Did I miss your inauguration?

  14. . You made several uncomplimentary references about tribune 7,

    Trbune7 is a big boy and he’s not upset. :-)

    And he doesn’t want to see Allen banned until Allen answers this question from the Darwin Reader: Darwin’s Racism thread:

    What new observations would be required to model how many advantageous mutations it would take for the original eukaryote to develop lungs, limb, spine etc. ?

    And it’s not a trick or a trap. He just made a claim there that has me curious.

  15. 200th anniversary of his birth and the fact that Cornell had a Darwin week.

    And Allen, what did Cornell do to celebrate Lincoln’s birthday? Again not a trick or a trap, just curious.

  16. sparc,

    I’m fairly quiet. But I do read the comments and comment myself on occasion. Maybe you did miss my inauguration, I really don’t know if you did or not.

  17. Sticking to the point I raised:

    Charles Darwin was a racist, like most Brit toffs of his generation.

    He was NOT the answer to racism; he was one of its significant examples.

    And his example was fruitful because he helped provide a basis for the false knowledge of eugenics.

    Why can’t Darwinists just admit this fact and get past it?

    I must hope that they do not actually agree with the thesis of his Descent of Man.

    But do they repudiate it? Where? How? I would be happy to publicize a genuine, serious repudiation.

    I mean, with details, not just some general anti-racism uplift. WHAT don’t they agree with about Descent of Man? Details, please.

  18. crater @ 3

    Seversky, wasn’t Saint Augustine the person who advised Christians that when science disagreed with the plain reading of the Bible, that we should hold science to be correct? If so, I have no idea why we should care what he says since he was obviously one of the first, if not the first, religious figure to sell out their faith to get in good with materialist scientists.

    You may be referring to this passage from a work titled De Genesi ad litteram libri duodecim (The Literal Meaning of Genesis):

    Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he hold to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods and on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion.

    Remember that, at the time Augustine was writing, science in the modern sense did not exist. If anything, he was warning against the sin of pride, that simply being Christian and being knowledgeable about the Bible does not entitle one to speak authoritatively about matters on which one is otherwise ignorant. Humility, in the sense of being honest about one’s own limitations, is a virtue whether Christian or not.

  19. It would not be racism for Western Europeans of that era to observe that they were more advanced than “aboriginal” peoples living in a hunter-gatherer state (that is the people that they were enslaving.) Rather it would be a self-evident statement of fact.
    For people of that era to tie it to the quite evident phyisological differences, though incorrect, would not be irrational. Furthermore, Europeans understood that they themselves descended from such a barbarian state of existence. It was this recognition that Darwin sought to exploit when making the appeal that they should consider they might be descended from an even more primitive state (for example apes):

    “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.”

    Darwin’s observations touching on eugenics seems to be more in the spirit of dispassionate intellectual observation, going where the evidence leads, etc. They does not seem to indicate someone with a social agenda, at all. Also eugenics is in reference to the sick and infirm and unfit, not to race as such. Darwin does by no means limits such observations to minority races. Also don’t his observations have the ring of self-evident truth? Isn’t it true that for example medicines that cure genetic diseases contribute greatly to the perpetuation of those diseases? By observing this, am I espousing mass murder?

    To set aside Darwin’s very vocal anti-slavery stance and say that doesn’t prove he wasn’t a racist, and them tie him to Hitler for example seems absurd. Also what counterexample can we point to from his own era who held what we would consider enlightened racial views.

    Also let’s slam Martin Luther for his remarks about Jews and Einstein for the atom bomb.

  20. uoflcard @ 3

    Your comment seems pointless. This post is talking about unjustified, incorrect racist stereotypes by Darwin and how it relates to a skewed theory of evolution. What does bringing up Catholic Church history have to do with anything? The church was not founded on a racist agenda, but rather the life and death of the Son of God. Do mistakes and sin of church leaders and members over the centuries undermine its pillar (Jesus Christ)? No. It only proves the imperfection and sinful nature of mere humans.

    Exactly my point.

    No, the “mistakes and sin of church leaders and members over the centuries” do not undermine the truth or value of the core teachings of Christianity.

    That being the case, what is so difficult about acknowledging that Darwin’s all-too-human failings and mistakes have no bearing on whether his account of evolution through natural selection is an accurate and productive theory?

    The point is, Darwinists are now at the level of worshipping a racist.

    What I find odd is that some believers seem incapable of understanding that there are some of us who have no need to worship – whatever that might mean – anything. They seem to assume that if another is not worshiping the Christian God they must needs be worshiping someone or something else.

    To me Darwin was a human being who, after many years of hard, plodding work produced what is now generally accepted as a seminal theory in biology. It was incomplete and imperfect but still became one of the foundations of a field which has, nonetheless, moved on a long way since then. As a scientist, his work and methods were exemplary but nothing to be worshiped let alone deified.

  21. Permit me to reiterate the point of the review. The question really at hand is, what have Desmond and Moore brought to the historiographical table? They promise at the outset that their purpose is to show “the humanitarian roots that nourished Darwin’s theory.” They further promise that their book would serve as a lens through which his life could be “radically reassessed.” They failed on both counts, admitting in the end that with Darwin “racial genocide was now normalized by natural selection and rationalized as nature’s way of producing ’superior’ races. Darwin ended up calibrating human ‘rank’ no differently from the rest of his society.” Their words not mine. Is this the “radical reassessment” they’ve come to? Actually, I think their conclusion is essentially correct, but then what of “Darwin’s ‘Sacred’ Cause”?

    The only thing they did prove was that Darwin ended the old monogenist/polygenist debate, but as I mentioned, we already knew that. Desmond and Moore’s book reminds me of Samuel Johnson’s famous review, which I will recast to suit the occasion:

    Dear sirs,

    Your book was both good and orginal. But the part that was good was not original and the part that was original was not good.

  22. O’Leary @ 17

    Charles Darwin was a racist, like most Brit toffs of his generation.

    By today’s standards, some of this “Brit toff’s” attitudes certainly look racist at first glance – not so much if you read them carefully – but much the same could be said of Canuck hacks or Yankee carpetbaggers of that same period.

    He was NOT the answer to racism; he was one of its significant examples.

    He is not held up as an answer to racism but neither was he a secret member of the Ku Klux Klan.

    And his example was fruitful because he helped provide a basis for the false knowledge of eugenics.

    And for Southern Baptists the Bible provided scriptural justification for slavery.

    Why can’t Darwinists just admit this fact and get past it?

    Why can’t Roman Catholics admit that their church had a hand in slavery and get past it?

    I must hope that they do not actually agree with the thesis of his Descent of Man.

    I am prepared to be more considerate in that I credit contemporary Catholics with being opponents rather than proponents of slavery.

    But do they repudiate it? Where? How? I would be happy to publicize a genuine, serious repudiation.

    I mean, with details, not just some general anti-racism uplift. WHAT don’t they agree with about Descent of Man? Details, please.

    There are no doubt many who would be happy to discuss The Descent Of Man. My only stipulation would be that you make it quite clear that this sustained attack on Darwin’s alleged racism is not in any way a black propaganda campaign really intended to discredit his theory of evolution.

  23. Flannery [21]:

    My brief comment in 19 was more directed specifically at Denyse in 17, and her article on the same subject from yesterday. If you’re looking for a more detailed critique of your specific conclusions I could take a stab at it later. But briefly, Darwin’s Theory would be greatly lessened if Desmond and Moore have indeed shown that it was basically an outgrowth of deeply held feelings he had about slavery or an attempt at scientific justification of such. This would be especially true, if he himself wasn’t forthright about such a connection, or even worse, was unaware of it.

    But its clear that Darwin did see the blood of savages flowing in the veins of Europeans. There probably was a sincere though patronizing impulse in his opposition to slavery. One wonders if he was also for the humane treatment of animals.

  24. “One wonders if he was also for the humane treatment of animals.”

    This sounds like something Denyse said actually.

  25. Seversky @ 20 -
    “What I find odd is that some believers seem incapable of understanding that there are some of us who have no need to worship – whatever that might mean – anything. They seem to assume that if another is not worshiping the Christian God they must needs be worshiping someone or something else.”

    The online dictionary definition of worship:
    wor·ship (wûrshp)
    n.
    1.
    a. The reverent love and devotion accorded a deity, an idol, or a sacred object.
    b. The ceremonies, prayers, or other religious forms by which this love is expressed.
    2. Ardent devotion; adoration.
    3. often Worship Chiefly British Used as a form of address for magistrates, mayors, and certain other dignitaries: Your Worship.
    v. wor·shiped or wor·shipped, wor·ship·ing or wor·ship·ping, wor·ships
    v.tr.
    1. To honor and love as a deity.
    2. To regard with ardent or adoring esteem or devotion. See Synonyms at revere1.
    v.intr.
    1. To participate in religious rites of worship.
    2. To perform an act of worship.

    Take note of what’s (hopefully) bolded. Atheists are just as capable of worship as theists are.

    “To me Darwin was a human being who, after many years of hard, plodding work produced what is now generally accepted as a seminal theory in biology. It was incomplete and imperfect but still became one of the foundations of a field which has, nonetheless, moved on a long way since then. As a scientist, his work and methods were exemplary but nothing to be worshiped let alone deified.”

    Then how come there’s no Galileo Day? Linus Pauling Day? Copernicus Day? Arguably, Galileo is a greater scientist than Darwin; why is he not as adored as the one who made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist?

  26. Liberals use to denigrate the founding fathers for the supposed hypocrisy in owning slaves and yet saying “All men are created equal.” Of course conservatives would decry such lack of historical perspective.
    Emerson said “Consistency is the Hobgoblin of Little Minds.” (Admittedly, the saying is also catchy and thus easy to remember for little minds.)

    [Desmond and Moore:]We show the humanitarian roots that nourished Darwin’s most controversial and contested work on human ancestry…” (xviii).

    [Flannery:]And those “humanitarian roots,” we are told again and again throughout its 376 narrative pages was Darwin’s passionate and unwavering hatred of slavery. ..
    The essential problem with Desmond and Moore’s effort is their naive assumption that anti-slavery means egalitarian and humanitarian

    You can take away “egalitarian” maybe, but certainly anti-slavery does equate to humanitarianism. Furthermore, you did not quote a single source from this era that did think blacks were equal to whites. It seems evident from the examples you gave that even the most ardent abolitionists were not in a position to entertain such a self-evidently erroneous idea. What would you call Darwin’s opposition to slavery other than “humanitarian”? If his theory on close inspection doesn’t seem to cohere with his anti-slavery, all the more credit he deserves for being able to divest himself from political convictions within the context of scientific pursuits.

    The biblical monogenism of James Cowles Prichard (1786-1848) looked antiquated against the “scientific” racism of Josiah Clark Nott (1804-1873), George R. Gliddon (1809-1857), and others. Desmond and Moore describe in detail how Darwin sought to establish a viable counter to the polygenists with an explanation of human origins that was at once naturalistic and based upon a common descent…
    All this is true. Darwin was adamantly opposed to slavery, Darwin did end – eventually – the polgenists’ claim to scientific respectability.

    OK here, you seem to accept that Darwin’s specific goal was to overturn the polygenists explanation of human origins, even though this explanation was materialistic. What could be his motivation for doing this other than the polygenists’ association with racism? It matters little how others might have twisted and subverted Darwin’s ideas to their own ends. Here you seem to be admitting that Darwin’s personal goal was to supplant the racist ideas of a competing materialist ideology.

    Brace viewed blacks as inherently inferior and was himself a vocal opponent of miscegenation. In the words of historian George M. Fredrickson, Brace made “the Darwinian case for differentiation of the races by natural selection . . . [and] ended up with a view of racial differences which was far from egalitarian in its implications” (n. 2). Brace held out little hope for “the mullato” and finished up by declaring, “there is nothing in the gradual diminution and destruction of a savage or inferior race in contact with a more civilized and powerful which is ‘mysterious’ . . . . The first gifts of civilization are naturally fatal to a barbarous people

    Just the phrase “savage or inferior race” by itself would be considered inappropriate in the extreme today, not to mention a relic of an another era, which it is. The fact that even an ardent abolitionist would casually toss this out should tell you all about the tenor of the times. But was it really inaccurate? Would the Romans describe the Germanic Barbarians in a similiar way? Would it be inaccurate, at least from the perspective of the Romans? But even while voicing this seemingly incendiary assessment, Brace is actually expressing concern for Blacks, saying essentially that contact with whites will destroy them as a culture.
    Furthermore, I don’t know who would have been pushing miscegenation in this era (namely because you don’t tell us) but they must have been perceived as quite extreme, even avant garde. Its not as if even blacks would be for that. The whole miscegenation is utterly irrelevant. The PBS series on the first black heavyweight champion Jack Johnson described how even blacks were infuriated by his association with white women. (And let’s not forget George Jefferson.)

    Brace’s pioneering effort to devolop a Darwinist ethnology in opposition to the American School, although animated to some degree by antislavery humanitarianism, had demonstrated that most of the hierarchical assumptions of the polygenists could be justified just as well, if not better, in Darwinian terms” (n. 4).

    But you’ve already admitted that Darwin’s personal motivation was out of antipathy for the racist ideology of the polygenists. And here you characterize Brace himself as a humanitarian, but now its just getting confusing because you imply he was a polygenist as well.

    In the end, Nott came to accept Darwin’s theory of man’s common descent. Indeed he claimed nothing of what he wrote on the race question was negated but simply refined, and who was not to say that even in Darwin’s world races might not be “permanent varieties” (n. 6). The point, of course, isn’t whether or not any of this is true — it is obvious nonsense and most of Nott’s contemporaries recognized it as such – but whether Darwin’s defeat of polygenist theory and its replacement with his common descent really had any difference in the end toward establishing a science of brotherhood is doubtful.

    So now you’re judging Darwin apparently because he failed in his attempt to establish a science of brotherhood and you somehow equate that to being opposed to it. And you judge him based on the ideas of someone he probably didn’t even know personally, whose ideas you say were recognized as nonsense.

    but they are simply wrong in contending that he distanced himself from their emerging racial craniology. Their denials notwithstanding, there were skulls in Darwin’s science. In his Descent of Man (1871) Paul Boca’s crantiometry is referenced approvingly. While Darwin was careful to avoid the implication that “the intellect of any two animals or of any two men can be accurately gauged by the cubic contents of their skulls…”

    The above statement is flatly contradictory. I could quote it as proof, but there it is already.

    A devoted Darwinian, Huxley did not translate common descent into common equality.”

    Who did from this era. You haven’t quoted a single one. And you also admit that Huxley was against slavery. Let’s not forget that the entire South at least was for it.

    Thaddeus Stevens (1792-1868), Theodore Weld (1803-1895), William Lloyd Garrison (1805-1879), Wendell Phillips (1811-1884), John Marshall Harlan (1833-1911), and George Frisbie Hoar (1826-1904) found this kind of hypocracy repugnant.

    OK prove it. All you’ve done is quote several ardent abolitionists who nevertheless didn’t believe in the equality of races. Its hard to believe anyone form this era would believe in equality if even abolitionists did not. How about a single relevant quote from one of those guys above.

    Darwin admits, “It is very true what you say about the higher races of men, when high enough, will have spread & exterminated whole nations.”

    So Darwin was adamantly opposed to slavery but was in favor of the extermination of races. This two statements are contradictory and you’ve already admitted he was adamantly opposed to slavery. (Note: Darwin’s statement above doesn’t necessarily indicate approval.)

    So in the end we find Darwin’s “sacred” cause was, well, not all that sacred. His cause was less about slavery and more about common descent,

    Or maybe they were merely two seperate spheres of his existence. You’ve already admitted he was adamantly opposed to slavery.

    Darwin proved that man is a mere animal related (however distantly) to his ape ancestors then, like the domestic pigeons he was so fond of studying and analogizing from, mankind was capable of being bred, manipulated, and “improved.” That sort of biological historicism unleashed by Darwinian theory has exacted an enormous price…
    it could easily be argued Darwin cleared out the polygenists to give way to a new generation of racial discriminators and engineers…
    Darwin’s fascination with breeder and domestic stocks, opened the door to manipulating human “stock,” of managing and even culling the “unfit.” Not that Darwin himself would have condoned that,

    These metaphors about “unleashed” “opening the door” and “clearing the way” are evidently intended to suggest merely through the vehicle of rhetoric that Darwin was somehow complicit by proxy in regard to these things.

  27. I have no purpose to introduce political and social equality between the white and the black races. There is a physical difference between the two, which in my judgment will probably forever forbid their living together upon the footing of perfect equality, and inasmuch as it becomes a necessity that there must be a difference, I, as well as Judge Douglas, am in favor of the race to which I belong, having the superior position.
    –Abraham Lincoln

  28. H’mm:

    Looks like we need to look at some actual text here; as citation of fact to be addressed. Pardon Mrs O’Leary:

    _____________

    1] CRD, Descent of Man, Ch 6, with my parentheses:

    Man is liable to numerous, slight, and diversified variations [Random Variation, check], which are induced by the same general causes, are governed and transmitted [i.e. natural selection etc, check] in accordance with the same general laws, as in the lower animals. Man has multiplied so rapidly, that he has necessarily been exposed to struggle for existence [Malthusian positive checks, check], and consequently to natural selection. [NS, explicit, check] He has given rise to many races ["preservation of favoured races . . . " check -- subtitle, Origin], some of which differ so much from each other, that they have often been ranked by naturalists as distinct species [origin of species, check] . . . .

    At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilised races of man will almost certainly exterminate, and replace, the savage races throughout the world. ["Scientific" prediction per presumed acting laws, & subject to empirical test, check . . . all too nearly fulfilled 1939 - 45 . .. ] 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 civilised state, as we may hope, even than the Caucasian, and some ape as low as a baboon, instead of as now between the negro or Australian and the gorilla. [Note what he means by "races," in a SCIENTIFIC context . . . and by "Natural Selection" too.]]

    2] Original title of Origin, by CRD:

    On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.

    ______________

    Seems to me that the race — regarded as the relevant competing sub-population unit — was the heart of Darwin’s thesis on evo by RV + NS in a Malthusian contest for survival. And the price of failing was: EXTINCTION.

    Thus, the sting in H G Wells’ warning of 1897/8 in the opening chapter — opening page actually — of War of the Worlds, on genocidal war as a consequence of such “SCIENTIFIC” ([im-]moral equivalency games on Luther et al are simply distractors from the material issue) racist thought:

    No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man’s and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinised and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinise the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water . . . across the gulf of space, minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us . . . . looking across space with instruments, and intelligences such as we have scarcely dreamed of, they see, at its nearest distance only 35,000,000 of miles sunward of them, a morning star of hope, our own warmer planet, green with vegetation and grey with water, with a cloudy atmosphere eloquent of fertility, with glimpses through its drifting cloud wisps of broad stretches of populous country and narrow, navy-crowded seas.

    And we men, the creatures who inhabit this earth, must be to them at least as alien and lowly as are the monkeys and lemurs to us. The intellectual side of man already admits that life is an incessant struggle for existence, and it would seem that this too is the belief of the minds upon Mars. Their world is far gone in its cooling and this world is still crowded with life, but crowded only with what they regard as inferior animals. To carry warfare sunward is, indeed, their only escape from the destruction that, generation after generation, creeps upon them.

    And before we judge of them too harshly we must remember what ruthless and utter destruction our own species has wrought, not only upon animals, such as the vanished bison and the dodo, but upon its inferior races. The Tasmanians, in spite of their human likeness, were entirely swept out of existence in a war of extermination waged by European immigrants, in the space of fifty years. Are we such apostles of mercy as to complain if the Martians warred in the same spirit?

    There is a serious issue on the table — one reeking of rivers of blood shed within living memory — and it must not be ducked or distracted from or obfuscated.

    GEM of TKI

  29. Darwin’s use of the term “race” is quite clear, especially in the Origin of Species. by “race” he clearly means essentially the same thing as “variety” (or, if one is referring to domesticated animals and plants, a “breed”). That is, a taxonomic division below the level of sub-species, but above the level of specific populations (what would now be referred to as “demes”).

    In other words, “the preservation of favored races means “the persistence of particular varieties (within species)”, which in the fullness of time can (if they continue to persist) become new species. Throughout the Origin, Darwin refers to “races”, but never mentions human “races” at all. He refers, quite clearly, to “races” in the biological sense.

    As to Darwin’s prognostications about the eventual extermination of “primitive” peoples and the great apes, he was predicting these outcomes, not prescribing or (worse) advocating them. And he was very nearly correct; both the “primitive” peoples of the world and the great apes were very nearly driven to extinction during the latter half of the 19th century.

    The difference between prediction and prescription is a fundamental one, but one often mistaken or (worse again) deliberately conflated by people for political purposes. To understand the difference, ask yourself, if I predict that it will rain tomorrow (on the basis of my understanding and application of the science of meteorology), does that mean that I want it to rain tomorrow? Of course not, but that is exactly the same reasoning as employed by O’Leary and the authors of the very confused criticism of the book by Desmond and Moore that heads this thread.

    So, to sum up, I (and my colleagues in evolutionary biology at Cornell) agree that by today’s standards, some of Darwin’s comments in the Descent of Man are racist and sexist (hence our symposium at Cornell on precisely this topic). We also understand that this was not unusual for his time period or social class, and would certainly find similar statements made by anyone today to be racist, sexist, and unwarranted given our current knowledge about human nature.

    However, we do not confuse Darwin’s opinions about different genders or “races” of humans with his scientific theories, which (although quite dated in some respects) still constitute a revolution in the biological sciences. And we do not “worship” nor “deify” Darwin, nor any other human. We simply admire his work, as we admire the work of any dedicated scientist. Is there a problem with doing these things?

    By the way, there was also a series of symposia at Cornell celebrating Lincoln’s birthday and accomplishments last week (Cornell is a big place, with lots of people interested in lots of different things). I didn’t mention them because they were not the topic of this thread. Indeed, the Freshman Reading Project this year was on Lincoln, not Darwin (despite my urging that freshman be encouraged to read about both, given the propinquity of their births).

  30. “One wonders if he was also for the humane treatment of animals.”

    Yes, he was. Indeed, Darwin was an unusually sympathetic and gentle (even meek) person, especially for his gender and social class. And yes, as a youth he was a hunter (mostly of birds’ eggs, game birds, and rats). So was I, and like Darwin I gave it up when I got older. And yes, Darwin continued to eat meat as an adult, and so do I. None of these things contradict the conclusion that most people who have read his autobiography or collected correspondence would come to: that Darwin would have been horrified by some of the uses to which his ideas were put (such as involuntary euthanasia or deliberate genocide), and would have publicly opposed them, as he publicly opposed slavery throughout his life.

  31. Oops, I meant to write “eugenics”, not “euthanasia” in the preceding comment.

  32. To follow up, should Otto Hahn and Lisa Meitner be held responsible for the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki? If not, should Darwin be held responsible for the Nuremberg laws and the Holocaust (sorry about the Godwin, but we can all see where this is going…)?

  33. Joseph:

    Don’t undervalue the importance of disconfirming whale evolution.

    If we can show that the “transitionals” are simply land dwelling organisms and not precursors to whales we will win a major victory. In the popular mind whale evolution is the ultimate symbol of the reality of macroevolution.

    It is that important.

  34. In #25, Barb asks:

    “…why is [Galileo] not as adored as the one who made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist?”

    Darwin isn’t celebrated by most evolutionary biologists because he “made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist”. Darwin is celebrated because he revolutionized the science of biology. We had a week of seminars, symposia, presentations, etc. on Darwin’s scientific work at Cornell, and at not one of them was “making it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist” the subject.

    And if someone were to put together a “Galileo Day/Week” celebration at Cornell, do you think people (especially in the astronomy department) wouldn’t participate? Is it some kind of indictment of biologists that we have our act together enough to put together a “festshrift” around the work of a fellow biologist?

  35. As for investigating the evolution of whales (or any other living organism), none of the paleontologists that I know (and I know quite a few) view what they’re doing as “confirming” or “disconfirming” anything, and especially not for political or religious purposes. They’re motivated by curiosity and the desire to find out about how nature works, not in “scoring points for our side”.

    In the minds of most working scientists, doing research isn’t something we do to “score a major victory”, much less a “battle in a culture war”. No, it’s an occupation and an avocation, something we got into because we really like working with “real stuff”, going out in the field or into the laboratory and finding out something that we didn’t know before.

    And you won’t be able to do that if you’ve already made up your mind about what you might discover.

  36. A devoted Darwinian, Huxley did not translate common descent into common equality.” . . .Who did from this era.

    Those Republicans who wrote the 14th Amendment.

  37. Tribune7, that was the amendment that overturned slavery. Darwin was against slavery, so was Huxley. They both would have been in favor of that amendment.

    You could have mentioned Fredrick Douglass, but then he probably didnt accept Darwin’s common descent.

  38. Just to clarify, slavery would be a state of unequal protection under the law, so that amendment casts slavery in a legally defined context and bans it.

    But the “seperate but equal” interpretation was able to persist for a hundred years before that was overturned as well.

  39. And BTW Huxley isn’t my hero, nor Darwin for that matter.

  40. Forget what I said, it was the thirteenth amendment that banned slavery.

  41. JT, as you have come to realize it was not the 14th Amendment that banned slavery.

    What the 14th Amendment did was require “common equality” under the law, at least with regard to race. IOW, it is an answer your question as to who from that era were thinking that the common descent of the human race translated into common equality.

    Now, 30 years later our illustrated Supreme Court followed intellectual fashion as its wont and ruled the words didn’t mean what they said.

    But even in Plessy v Ferguson, Justice Harlan’s harsh dissent showed there were those from that era who did not hold to an innate superiority of race.

  42. Allen in #29,

    An excellent comment. It really gives me something to think about.

  43. “Equal treatment under law” has absolutely nothing to do with either egalitarianism nor the idea of the innate superiority of particular races (or particular persons, for that matter). “Equal opportunity” means exactly that: equal opportunity, not equal outcome. There is no logical contradiction between the idea that all people, regardless of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, etc. should be given “equal protection under the law” and provided with “equal opportunity” enforced by law and the idea that, given such conditions, certain individuals (or even “races”) might outperform others. On the contrary, everything we know about genetic and phenotypic variation between individuals (and closely related groups) indicates that this may very well be the case.

    Any teacher knows this. You work as hard as you can to give exactly the same information, attention, assistance, etc. to every single one of your students, and some will perform abysmally, most will perform adequately, and some will bring tears to your eyes and a lump in your throat (and a silent admission that you yourself were never that brilliant).

    By his own description Thomas Henry Huxley was the son of a drunk and a member of the lower classes, and he outperformed virtually every member of the hereditary aristocracy of his age. He was able to rise to the position that he did in Victorian society because the majority of the polity in Britain believed in “equality of opportunity”. Huxley (and Darwin) could believe in the same thing, and yet believe that certain people might not perform at the same level given “equal opportunity”, and there would not be any contradiction between their beliefs about these things.

    In my opinion, the most dangerous thing about the current trend toward “political correctness” is the idea that the force of government should be used to bring about equality of outcome. If there are any significant differences between people, the only way that this can be done is to violate the principle of “equality of opportunity” (read Kurt Vonnegut’s short story “Harrison Bergeron” at http://instruct.westvalley.edu/lafave/hb.html to see what such a society would be like).

  44. —-Allen: “In my opinion, the most dangerous thing about the current trend toward “political correctness” is the idea that the force of government should be used to bring about equality of outcome. If there are any significant differences between people, the only way that this can be done is to violate the principle of “equality of opportunity.”

    This is well put. You probably ought to keep that opinioin under your hat, though, or you may get expelled by your colleagues.

  45. “This is well put. You probably ought to keep that opinioin under your hat, though, or you may get expelled by your colleagues.”

    Yes, very well put, but also something that most of the scientists I work with or have met would agree with, I think most of the non-scientist academics I know would agree with it as well, but maybe this just reflects the kind of people I like to hang out with.

    From my view of the scientific community I don’t think Allen is in much danger here.

  46. “Equal treatment under law” has absolutely nothing to do with either egalitarianism nor the idea of the innate superiority of particular races (or particular persons, for that matter).

    It most certainly does Allen. You are conflating “superiority” with “talent” .

    Abilities, of course, are heritable.

    I’m sure you don’t mean, though, that certain races are “situated higher up” or “have a higher rank, quality or importance” than others.

    Darwin did. The radical Republicans that ran things back in 1866 did not.

    And I’m sure you don’t feel superior to even your slowest students. I certainly hope you don’t.

    Consider this: If you had a stroke that limited your mental capacity and physical ability or came down with some form of dementia, would that make you inferior?

    It should be self-evident that we are endowed by our Creator with certain rights. OTOH, maybe if you take out the “our Creator” part it no longer becomes self-evident.

    And “Harrison Bergeron” is a fine story. A teacher had us read that in high school, to his everlasting credit and our everlasting benefit.

  47. “It should be self-evident that we are endowed by our Creator with certain rights.”

    As one of Gods chosen people myself and my kin are endowed with greater rights than others… I don’t actually believe that rubbish but some of my relatives do.

    Why is it self evident that we all have certain rights just because we were ‘created’?

  48. Allen_MacNeill, your defense of Darwin [29, 30] falls short and cannot succeed. It qualitatively misses the mark. Even fully granting that “Darwin would have been horrified by some of the uses to which his ideas were put” and that he was only “predicting” not recommending what follows, his personal emotional reactions or preferences are irrelevant.

    The historically significant consideration is not about what Darwin felt or emotionally preferred as an individual. It is that the implications of his theory make such outcomes as the elimination of “inferior” people a normal process of nature. Thus it normalizes those events and consequences (at least for those who deny a transcendent moral standard). It becomes unreasonable (within such a view) to consider such outcomes “wrong.” Is nature and its processes in the wrong? How could that be?

    If Darwin personally disliked this or that, his emotions carry no weight in the matter whatsoever, and may only indicate a lingering but logically inconsistent effect from his earlier theologically informed influences.

    The man’s emotions are irrelevant. What his theory does for the normalization of what Darwin (merely) predicted *based on his theories* is the historically significant fact. If his theories did not have such implications, Darwin would hardly have predicted them.

    So the “prediction” not “prescription” dodge cannot fly. Whose theory was Darwin using to predict with, if not his own?

    [Just passing through for now. Good discussion to all.]

  49. Neither “superiority” nor “talent” have anything to do with the principle of equal protection under the law, nor with equality of opportunity, both of which are guaranteed under the United States Constitution.

    And thank you for assuming that I do not think that there are such things as “higher” or “lower” races. Indeed, I don’t think that there are “higher” or “lower” species either. The whole concept of superiority/inferiority is essentially political (and, in most cases, religious), not scientific. The theory of evolution, especially as it is currently understood, makes no value judgements about “higher” or “lower”. And fitness is simply a measure of relative reproductive output, not “superiority” or “inferiority”.

    As to my feelings about my students, I am extremely grateful to them for giving me the opportunity to follow my curiosity about biology wherever it leads. No, I do not discriminate between them. Indeed, I was hired by Cornell to concentrate most of my efforts on students who need extra help learning biology. I was very humbled to receive a special award from my department for my efforts in this regard, but even more humbled to receive a prolonged standing ovation from my students at the award ceremony.

    As for my mental acuity (or relative lack thereof), my teenage daughter will heartily discourse on my advanced state of mental decreptitude (and my wife will nod silently in the background, remembering all those things I said I would do, but forgot about). I have never claimed to be “superior” to anyone, and am constantly abashed at how little I know about virtually every subject with which I am acquainted.

    As for our rights, I believe that they are indeed “self-evident”, and don’t believe that anything further need be said about the subject.

    In addition to “Harrison Bergeron”, I was also influenced very deeply (at a very tender age) by reading Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged (I think that was the same year I finally read the Origin of Species all the way through). According to some of the commentators at this website, that should mean that my next accomplishment should surely be an act of unparalleled brutality: perhaps a string of murders, or bank robberies, or maybe drowning a basketful of cute little puppies. Or maybe not…

  50. So, ericB, nature is what makes things “right” or “wrong”, eh? Have you, perchance, read anything by G. E. Moore on this particular subject? I have, and what I learned from it was that “right” and “wrong” have nothing to do with “nature” at all. Indeed, conflating “is” statements with “ought” statements is the whole problem here, wouldn’t you agree?

  51. By the way, several commentators in this thread and others have asserted (without corroboration) that although there is abundant evidence for microevolution (which they apparently accept), there is no evidence for macroevolution (which they do not accept, mainly because of its implications for their religious beliefs). I started to write a response to this, but it started to get very long, so I made it into a post on my own blog. You can read it here:

    http://evolutionlist.blogspot......dence.html

    After you do, I would appreciate any comments (and especially substantive criticisms) you might have…but please, save the ad hominems for each other. Thank you for goading me to write what will become yet another chapter in my forthcoming evolution textbook from John Wiley & Sons (due out in 2010).

  52. Check your precepts, Allen.

    The principle of equal protection (and rights and ability to involve oneself in government) is a rejection of innate racial superiority. The reason for not having equal protection generally involves a belief in racial supremacy i.e. such and such a people are childish (or inherently debased) and unfit for participation in public life etc.

    I believe that they are indeed “self-evident”, and don’t believe that anything further need be said about the subject.

    So why are rights routinely violated?

    In addition to “Harrison Bergeron”, I was also influenced very deeply (at a very tender age) by reading Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged (I think that was the same year I finally read the Origin of Species all the way through).

    And in the formation of your personal philosophy, have you ever managed to read the New Testament?

  53. Allen, with regard to your blog site, the point your missing is that the dispute isn’t that observed natural forces can’t cause genomic changes affecting behavior, but whether these observed forces are capable of explaining all biodiversity.

    And ID at its purist isn’t even an attack on evolution per se — Behe and others support common descent — but is just a simple observation that aspects of biological entities exhibit traits only found in objects of known design, and that the rejection of assumption of design for these objects is based on dogma rather than science.

  54. Let’s just be clear on what Darwin wanted/thought should be the implications of his theory. He thought it ought to influence an entire new metaphysics. He thought it ought to inform legislators and be applied culturally and socially. He thought that civilized societies ought to strive for greater and continued advancements and they ought to do so through the better members of society out-breeding the worse. He thought that society must, by no means, curtail the principle pillars of his theory – the heritability of both desirable and undesirable traits culled by natural selection. He thought there ought to be no law or custom which allowed the lesser members of society to outbreed the superior ones. He hoped that whatever checks existed on the free marriage and reproduction of the unfit would be increased indefinitely.

    By Descent he was fully aware of Galton, Spencer, Gregg, Huxley anf Haeckel, and how they were using or intending to use his theory.

    Defend him as you will, but defend his true statements. Question the motives behind those who care to demonstrate these but question the motives of those defending against them as well.

    Flannery’s essay is excellent, by the way. Racism and abolition are not mutually exclusive and Darwin was, indeed, both a racist and a eugenist (and social Darwinist, though in practice this differed from eugenics), by definition.
    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/racist
    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/eugenics

  55. Footnote:

    Re laminar: ,i>Why is it self evident that we all have certain rights just because we were ‘created’?

    Try Locke’s cite from “the judicious [Richard] Hooker] in Ch 2, Sect 5 of his 2nd essay on civil Govt:

    . . . if I cannot but wish to receive good, even as much at every man’s hands, as any man can wish unto his own soul, how should I look to have any part of my desire herein satisfied, unless myself be careful to satisfy the like desire which is undoubtedly in other men . . . my desire, therefore, to be loved of my equals in Nature, as much as possible may be, imposeth upon me a natural duty of bearing to themward fully the like affection. From which relation of equality between ourselves and them that are as ourselves, what several rules and canons natural reason hath drawn for direction of life no man is ignorant.

    Once we walk away from that equality in the image of God, we open the door to all sorts of assertions of superiority/inferiority that end up in self-serving, self-referential absurdities.

    H G Wells gave a grim warning on possible consequences in the opening chapter of War of the Worlds:

    No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man’s and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinised and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinise the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water . . . Yet across the gulf of space, minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us . . . .

    looking across space with instruments, and intelligences such as we have scarcely dreamed of, they see, at its nearest distance only 35,000,000 of miles sunward of them, a morning star of hope, our own warmer planet, green with vegetation and grey with water, with a cloudy atmosphere eloquent of fertility, with glimpses through its drifting cloud wisps of broad stretches of populous country and narrow, navy-crowded seas.

    And we men, the creatures who inhabit this earth, must be to them at least as alien and lowly as are the monkeys and lemurs to us. The intellectual side of man already admits that life is an incessant struggle for existence, and it would seem that this too is the belief of the minds upon Mars. Their world is far gone in its cooling and this world is still crowded with life, but crowded only with what they regard as inferior animals. To carry warfare sunward is, indeed, their only escape from the destruction that, generation after generation, creeps upon them.

    And before we judge of them too harshly we must remember what ruthless and utter destruction our own species has wrought, not only upon animals, such as the vanished bison and the dodo, but upon its inferior races. The Tasmanians, in spite of their human likeness, were entirely swept out of existence in a war of extermination waged by European immigrants, in the space of fifty years. Are we such apostles of mercy as to complain if the Martians warred in the same spirit?

    This was in 1897/8, grimly prophetic I’d say.

    GEM of TKI

  56. In #52 tribune7 asked:

    “And in the formation of your personal philosophy, have you ever managed to read the New Testament?”

    Yes, multiple times, beginning when I was about ten years old. That was about the same time when I first tried to read the Origin of Species. Have you ever managed to read it?

    BTW, I’ve also read the Old Testament (in both the Christian and Jewish version, called the Tanach, which arranges the books in a very different order), the Apochrypha, the Rig Vedas, the Baghavad Gita, the Q’Uran, the Book of Mormon, most of Buddha’s sutras. Indeed, my wife is a classical scholar whose specialty is the origin and evolution of the Mediterranean religious cults around the year 0 AD, and so we have many of these texts in the original languages in our personal library (which currently stands at approximately 7,000 volumes).

    What exactly was your point in asking this question?

  57. Allen — What exactly was your point in asking this question?

    It seemed you put more stock in Atlas Shrugged than the Bible.

  58. Not necessarily. At the time, I found Atlas Shrugged to be intriguing, but not compelling. Same thing for the Old and New Testaments, and the Origin of Species. Indeed, as a teenager, I found almost everything I read to be intriguing, but not compelling.

    If asked today, I would list the following books as compelling…for me, of course (alphabetical by title):

    NON-FICTION:
    The Blind Watchmaker (Dawkins)
    Human Action (von Mises)
    Origin of Species (Darwin)
    The Revolution (Ron Paul)
    Sociobiology: The New Synthesis (Wilson)
    The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (Kuhn)

    FICTION:
    Little/BIG (Crowley)
    Always Coming Home (LeGuin)
    The Dispossessed (LeGuin)
    The Hobbit/The Lord of the Rings (Tolkein)
    The Left Hand of Darkness (LeGuin)
    The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (Heinlein)

  59. Allen_MacNeill [at 50] is quite correct when he implies that you cannot derive “ought” from “is”. (C.S. Lewis also wrote about that, e.g. The Abolition of Man.)

    Therein is the problem. Someone who recognizes a transcendent moral framework and an intended purpose for mankind can consider not only what is, but also what ought to be, not only how people do behave, but also whether they are behaving as humans ought to behave.

    But the materialist has only the physical realm, only what is. Man as the product of purposeless natural processes has no intended behavior, no “ought” to how he should behave that is distinct from whatever he actually does. Ought man to be anything other than what nature has made him to be?

    So I quite agree that you cannot derive “wrong” from watching nature. That is essential to my point. Whatever Darwin didn’t like emotionally, from a materialist perspective he is categorically unable to conclude that anything nature does is wrong. In this way, whatever is “natural” become “normal” and never, ever “wrong.”

    Darwin may not like what happens, but he shows the implications of his theory when he uses it to predict. And others, accepting the processes of nature over vast numbers of years as normal, have no rational basis for trying to oppose or defeat the way of nature. If some are wiped out, then that is just the way it goes, the way it has always gone. Why should we expect otherwise?

    So the “prediction” not “prescription” dodge fails completely. As indicated by the original post of this thread, what matters is that his theory does not require a “kindler, gentler” outcome, despite whatever personal, emotional feelings Darwin may have retained.

  60. The problem of developing the “ought to” from this “is” is really a contextual problem. In the context presented here, the commentators (Eric, Allen, etc.) are quite correct in the sense that a bare naked observation of nature cannot produce a moral imperative of any kind. This context, as presented by Hume however, is quite constricted and calculated to mislead and misdirect.

    In fact, the “ought to” follows very easily from the “is” if the “is” describes a reality that goes beyond the observation of data. If, for example, God exists (is) then clearly we “ought to” worship him. Similarly, if man has a human nature (is), and there is any such thing as a moral code (is), then, clearly, we “ought to” harmonize our behavior with it.

    Similarly, if we are created for a purpose (is) then clearly we “ought to” follow that purpose. More to the point, we are “good” if we faithfully follow that purpose and we “bad” if we do not follow that purpose. To be good is to function as one was designed and intended to function. So, if humans were designed for union with God, their behavior is “good” if it leads them in that direction, and it is “bad” if it takes them on another path.

    On the other hand, if Darwinists are right, that is, if we were not made for a purpose (is) then we cannot frustrate that purpose so there can be nor morality one way or the other. That is why Darwinism leads to purposeless, which in turn leads to amorality. Unfortunately, amorality always leads to immorality, so indirectly, Darwinism contributes to immorality.

    Further, if there is no God, no after life, and no final judgment, then another “ought to” asserts itself just as clearly—Might makes right. The sophists recognized this even in Plato’s time. Darwinists may want to deny this, but if they do, it just means that they are poor philosophers and do not understand the implications of atheistic materialism.

    There are only two possible choices—

    [A] Purpose and design as made manifest in the “natural moral law.”

    [B] Purposelessness which leads to “might makes right.”

    This is the reason why Darwinism is destructive to both the culture and the life of the mind.

  61. #60 StephenB

    If, for example, God exists (is) then clearly we “ought to” worship him. Similarly, if man has a human nature (is), and there is any such thing as a moral code (is), then, clearly, we “ought to” harmonize our behavior with it.

    Similarly, if we are created for a purpose (is) then clearly we “ought to” follow that purpose. More to the point, we are “good” if we faithfully follow that purpose and we “bad” if we do not follow that purpose. To be good is to function as one was designed and intended to function. So, if humans were designed for union with God, their behavior is “good” if it leads them in that direction, and it is “bad” if it takes them on another path.

    I don’t find any of these “oughts” to be obvious. Even if there is a God who has established a moral code and designed me for a purpose.

    Why ought I

    worship that God?
    harmonize with that moral code?
    function as I was designed?

    Just show me how it clearly follows.

  62. Ought man to be anything other than what nature has made him to be?

    Anybody over there want to answer this question?

    Careful.

  63. Re #62

    Ought man to be anything other than what nature has made him to be?

    Personally I think “yes”. Nature has created people with a mixture of motives – some I approve of (fairness, compassion, loyalty), some I don’t approve of (greed, cowardice, sadism). When the less than laudable motives prevail then we are behaving in one of the ways that nature has made us – but I think we ought not to behave that way. When the more laudable motives prevail then we are also behaving in one of the ways that Nature made us – and I think we ought to behave that way.

  64. Mark Frank,

    All the tyrants of the world agreed with themselves as well.

  65. #64

    UB

    I thought your were going to come up with an original angle but I fear it is the same old debate repeated daily all over the internet.

    My next move is …

    “The tyrants may have agreed with themselves. In most cases I doubt they agreed that what they did was right – they just fell for those less laudable motives. However, let us suppose they did what they did out of a perverted sense of justice, honour or whatever. The point is that the vast majoriity of people disagreed with them. ”

    Your response is something on the lines of

    “the vast majority of people agreed slavery/child sacrifice/female circumcision was right at time and place X”

    And my response…..

    “Those things seemed right to those people at that time and place. They would very likely have expressed this in terms of what they ought to do (in the appropriate language). That’s how I guess they woudl have expressed their opinion. Those actions seem wrong to us at this time and therefore I say (passionately and truthfully) they ought not to done those things. That’s how I express my opinion.”

    etc

  66. Allen, I fear you and I have fairly close political & economic views.

  67. StephenB @ 50:

    “…if we were not made for a purpose (is) then we cannot frustrate that purpose so there can be nor morality one way or the other. That is why Darwinism leads to purposeless, which in turn leads to amorality. Unfortunately, amorality always leads to immorality, so indirectly, Darwinism contributes to immorality.”

    According to this very common logical misconception, this should mean that people who accept the theory of evolution as a plausible explanation for biology should show evidence of “purposelessness” and “immorality”. And, just as clearly, this should be most likely among people who use the theory all the time; that is, evolutionary biologists.

    Ergo, one can make a series of easily testable predictions:

    1) that in those places (states, etc.) in which the theory of evolution is not tempered with alternative explanations (e.g. ID) there should be measurably higher levels of “purposeless” behavior and “immorality”, as reflected in higher suicide and crime rates

    2) that among those groups of people in which belief in a “higher power” is measurably higher, there should be lower levels of “puprposeless” behavior and “immorality”, as reflected in lower suicide and crime rates

    3) “purposeless” and “immoral” behavior, as reflected in suicide and crime rates, should be highest among evolutionary biologists.

    None of these predictions are supported by the evidence:

    1) those countries with the lowest rates of religious belief and the highest rates of belief in the theory of evolution have the among the lowest crime and suicide rates in the world (Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and the United Kingdom).

    2) those states with the lowest rates of religious belief and the highest rates of belief in the theory of evolution have the among the lowest crime and suicide rates (and also divorce rates in the United States (New England and the west coast)

    3) those states with the highest rates of religious belief and the lowest rates of belief in the theory of evolution have among the highest crime and suicide rates (and divorce rates) in the United States (the so-called “Bible belt” states)

    4) evolutionary biologists are dramatically less likely to commit suicide and violent crimes (as reflected in their under-representation among prison populations and in suicide statistics).

    I am not attempting to show that belief in the theory of evolution leads one to be more or less moral, more or less inclined to “purposeless” behavior, or more or less likely to commit suicide. On the contrary, it seems clear from the evidence that these things are unrelated to one’s acceptance of the theory of evolution (or lack thereof).

    This lack of correlation is precisely what one would expect if there is no necessary connection between statements about what “is” and statements about what “ought” to be. Most of the evolutionary biologists of my acquaintance are quite clear that no necessary connection between “is” and “ought” statements exists.

    In other words, if one wishes to justify one’s moral and ethical prescriptions, it is illegitimate to ground such justifications in science.

    Just clarify things a little, how many people following this thread believe that people who accept the theory of evolution must be immoral (by definition)? Are atheists immoral by definition? Is a belief in a supernatural “intelligent designer” necessary for one to behave in what we would all agree to be a “moral” way?

  68. tribune7 @ 66:

    ditto

  69. re: uprightbiped @ #62:

    If our “nature” is to make rational choices about our behavior, based on our perception of the consequences of that behavior for ourselves and for other people (as I believe it is), then the answer is “yes”.

  70. Mark — Why ought I worship that God?

    Mark, there are two ways of looking at that:

    The mean god way — i.e. he’s bigger than you and can do anything he wants to you and there is not a thing you can do about it, sort of like I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream so you better follow every jot and jiggle that he wants you to.

    The loving God way — i.e He’s bigger than you and can do anything He wants to you but what He wants is for you to be loving like Him and He’s granted you to freedom to do this.

    Now, you are probably wondering how a loving God can send people to Hell. I don’t think He does. I think people go there on their own. God says “don’t go that way” but he lets people choose and people respond by saying “up yours” and go that way.

    And Hell, I think, is basically a place where those that end up there get what they most desire — a place without God. No God, to comfort them in their suffering, to encourage them in their difficulties, to guide them in their dealings with others,

    I really don’t want to go there, but that’s not why I worship God. I worship God because He’s good and because He loves me.

  71. —-Mark Frank:

    Why ought I

    worship that God?
    harmonize with that moral code?
    function as I was designed?

    Just show me how it clearly follows.

    If you were made to worship God, then you ought to do it.

    If the moral code was made for you, then you ought to submit to it.

    If you were designed to pursue a desiny, then you ought to pursue it.

    A thing is good if it functions the way it was designed and intended to function. A good can opener is one that opens cans; A good pencil is one that writes. If a pencil tries to become a can opener, not only will it not open the can, it will destroy itself in the process, because it is not operating the way it was designed and intended to operate.

    It is the same with humans. If they were designed to worship, follow the natural moral law, then morality consists in doing these things.

  72. Well gee Mark, I don’t think I was going to say any of those things.

    I thought your were going to come up with an original angle but I fear it is the same old debate repeated daily all over the internet.

    I am not certain what a “new angle” on the issue would be. What is a new angle on the issue of greed, lust, or hubris? Is there supposed to be one?

    My only comment to your post is that you have nothing to decide what is wrong, your feelings don’t matter.

  73. #71 StephenB


    A thing is good if it functions the way it was designed and intended to function. A good can opener is one that opens cans; A good pencil is one that writes. If a pencil tries to become a can opener, not only will it not open the can, it will destroy itself in the process, because it is not operating the way it was designed and intended to operate

    I think you are confusing two meanings of “good”. A good gas chamber is one that fulfils its function of mass extermination efficiently as it was designed to do. I doubt you would say such a device is morally good.

  74. Re #70 Tribune 7

    Whether it be the mean God or the loving God I don’t see why I ought to worship it (in the moral sense of “ought”). .

  75. —–“Allen MacNeill: “According to this very common logical misconception, this should mean that people who accept the theory of evolution as a plausible explanation for biology should show evidence of “purposelessness” and “immorality”.

    Generally, they do. If you ask most materialists evolutionists to explain the purpose of their existence, they will draw a blank. Oh, sure, they set goals for themselves, but remember the principle at stake here. The challenge is to set goals that conform to that purpose. If they don’t know what that purpose is, then they can hardly integrate their personal goals with their major goal. Anyone who doesn’t know the purpose of his existence is aimless by definition.

    In any case, the list you allude to is not really definitive of anything. Some virtues are bought at the expense of other vices. The only way to measure the impact of religion or atheism is to examine the long terms effects on a given culture. A few years ago, Bill Bennett showed that relationship with his famous list of “cultural indicators.” (taking into account multiple vices). Our loss of religion has clearly caused us to deteriorate. Suicide rates are six times what they once were among teens. I have seen plenty of studies that disconfirm your assertions.

    In the short term, it is very easy to “cook the books” and get the result you want from a state by state survey. When non-religious partisans conduct surveys, wild and crazy things happen to the numbers. In the long term, it is impossible to misunderstand what is happening. If you want to take a meaningful survey, try to find out the religious/non religious perspectives of the Wall Street crooks and Washington politicians that are destroying the country at the moment. I guarantee you that their suicide rates are low, and I doubt very much that most of them take religion seriously. In fact, I am confident that they don’t.

    —-“those states with the highest rates of religious belief and the lowest rates of belief in the theory of evolution have among the highest crime and suicide rates (and divorce rates) in the United States (the so-called “Bible belt” states)”

    I question those results for reasons that I just indicated. What I do know for sure is that the irreligious states have higher rates for enabling child molestation. That’s on the record and no survey is needed to confirm it.

    —-“evolutionary biologists are dramatically less likely to commit suicide and violent crimes (as reflected in their under-representation among prison populations and in suicide statistics).”

    Your numbers don’t reflect much at all. Weakness manifests itself according to the weakness of the individual. For all I know, evolutionary biologists are too busy committing adultery and destroying the religious faith of their students to run stop lights and shoot people.

    —-” Most of the evolutionary biologists of my acquaintance are quite clear that no necessary connection between “is” and “ought” statements exists.”

    I am sure that most evolutionary biologists have no rational foundation for any “ought to” statement of any kind. Any concept of morality they can conceive of is totally arbitrary and subjective, a fact that defines the debate as well as anything could.

    —–“Just clarify things a little, how many people following this thread believe that people who accept the theory of evolution must be immoral (by definition)? Are atheists immoral by definition? Is a belief in a supernatural “intelligent designer” necessary for one to behave in what we would all agree to be a “moral” way?”

    You are cheating a little bit. I said that Darwinism leads to ‘amorality,’ (by definition,) which it obviously does. The “immorality” comes later. In any case, the clear answer to your question is, “yes.” Without religion, there is no rational justification for morality of any kind. As I said earlier, there are two choices, the natural moral law, and might makes right. Religion provides the former; Darwinism provides the latter. There is no way around it.

  76. —-”I think you are confusing two meanings of “good”. A good gas chamber is one that fulfils its function of mass extermination efficiently as it was designed to do. I doubt you would say such a device is morally good.”

    I think that I am not the one who is confused. A good axe, or a good chainsaw, or, for that matter, a good gas chamber can be used for evil purposes or for good purposes. A sharp axe is a good axe; that doesn’t change when an axe murderer uses it to kill someone. A good paragraph is one that is well-written. That doesn’t mean that well-crafted language can’t be used to destroy someone’s career. Thus, a “bad” person can use “good” things to commit “evil” deeds.

  77. #76

    OK. let’s see where your logic takes us. You define “good” as “performing as designed”.

    1) What do you mean when a natural event turns out to be a good thing or bad thing. Was this summer’s heatwave in Australia a badly designed heatwave? Or is this a different sense of good?

    2) If God exists then I guess you are assuming he designed people to worship him and harmonize with his moral code – that’s why it is good to do those things. OK – let’s take an alternative hypothetical. Suppose God does not exist, but the Devil does exist, and has designed people to perpetrate its ends. When we perform as designed by the Devil in this case would we be doing good?

  78. —-Mark Frank: “If God exists then I guess you are assuming he designed people to worship him and harmonize with his moral code – that’s why it is good to do those things. OK – let’s take an alternative hypothetical. Suppose God does not exist, but the Devil does exist, and has designed people to perpetrate its ends. When we perform as designed by the Devil in this case would we be doing good?”

    The devil cannot exist without God, so your scenario is impossible. Even if it were possible, the devil, by definition, does not embody the perfect qualities of truth, goodness, unity, beauty, and being in order to impart those things on his “creation.” That means that the principle of design cannot be there so nothing can operate according to that principle. Creatures have the power to create only because they have been given a small part of God’s creative power, which includes the gifts of intellect and will. The Devil cannot design or create without those faculties, all of which depend on a creator who will provide them.

    One of the reasons why a “good” thing is one which operates according to its designs, is because the principle of order and design were put there by a good God. If a good God did not create nature for a good purpose, then there can be no morality or no goodness. In that respect, it is appropriate to worship only a good God, because a bad God is not worthy of worship. Indeed, it is only perfect goodness has any moral right to worship at all.

    —-”Was this summer’s heatwave in Australia a badly designed heatwave? Or is this a different sense of good?”

    I don’t know if the Australian heat wave was designed that way or whether it was the result of a designed compromised by “the fall.” If we live in a moral universe, then everything was originally designed as a stage for soul making and moral development. Neither do I know whether the hot weather, if intended, causes people would worship God, get lazy, take vacations, or come to realize their dependence and pray for help, or a million possible other reasons. As a general rule, creatures tend to be ungrateful for prosperity and good fortune and often credit themselves for the blessings.

  79. [I guess I at least am still beating this subject to death.]

    Charlie [54]:

    Let’s just be clear on what Darwin wanted/thought should be the implications of his theory. He thought it ought to influence an entire new metaphysics. He thought it ought to inform legislators and be applied culturally and socially. He thought that civilized societies ought to strive for greater and continued advancements and they ought to do so through the better members of society out-breeding the worse. He thought that society must, by no means, curtail the principle pillars of his theory – the heritability of both desirable and undesirable traits culled by natural selection. He thought there ought to be no law or custom which allowed the lesser members of society to outbreed the superior ones. He hoped that whatever checks existed on the free marriage and reproduction of the unfit would be increased indefinitely.

    It is not clear that Darwin thought this. It’s only clear that you think he thought it. And why you think it is not clear either as you have not provided a single quote to substantiate it. If you were looking in the articles of Flannery or Denyse I don’t blame you because its not there either.

    Defend him as you will, but defend his true statements.

    Well since you didn’t actually provide any yourself, I’ll have to provide my own (from Denyse’s article):

    “The advancement of the welfare of mankind is a most intricate problem: all ought to refrain from marriage who cannot avoid abject poverty for their children; for poverty is not only a great evil, but tends to its own increase by leading to recklessness in marriage”

    Seems like a measured, careful and reasonable remark on the subject, not the remark of someone who has a radical agenda for social change.

    “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”

    Here, Darwin continues to make a direct application of his ideas to social policy. But his application is very measured and cautious and reasonable. (Not to mention very limited and non-specific). Who could possibly disagree with his remarks? Darwin was a theoretician, and a philosopher, not a politician. Yet he felt obligated to make some limited observations in reference how his ideas might pertain to social issues. He does this perfunctorily, out of a sense of obligation, lest his ideas be misinterpreted, and whereas he does not want to diminish his theoretical ideas or their validity, he by no means has a clearly thought out application for them in a political or social context. His opening remark above “The advancement of the welfare of mankind is a most intricate problem” is his euphemistic way of stating this very thing. That is what is patently clear.

    In Denyse’s extensive quotation from The Descent of Man she finally got around to Darwin’s own explicit stated conclusion on the matter:

    The main conclusion arrived at in this work, namely, that man is descended from some lowly organised form, will, I regret to think, be highly distasteful to many. But 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. … 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.

    So in his conclusion he is stating in effect, “These Barbarians are you and me.” And his explicit goal in all that preceded this was to make understandable to Europeans the idea that they were descended from Apes. Where in the above, in his stated conclusion is a social agenda alluded to? He talks about “the blood of more humble creatures flowing in his veins.” Patronizing? yes. The rhetoric of a proto-hitler? Hardly. Darwin at his lofty perch in society was not threatened by anyone’s race. It is slander in my opinion to imply that Darwin was intent on developing a scientific rationale for institutionalized racism or extermination or eugenics.

    ————————-

    And also a side note (not specifically related to the above) on the subject of extermination, consider all the problems settlers of the American West had with Indians. It wasn’t just a matter of white settlers exterminating Indians. Indians did their own share of “exterminating” themselves, of white settlers. Certainly a similar dynamic could undoubtedly be observed in places like South Africa, at roughly the same time (I presume). This is just to state the obvious that it wasn’t a matter of noble savages sitting around peacefully and the whites coming in and exterminating them. There were severe conflicts between two cultures – over resources, over land, and over sovereignty. And yet the more advanced settlers were ultimately winning, and were descimating and marginalizing native cultures. And they weren’t winning because of Charles Darwin. They were winning because it was inevitable, and Charles Darwin was not espousing extermination to remark on the inevitability of this process in his scientific works.

    ———————

    misc. quotes from Flannery:

    Darwinian principles, Darwin’s fascination with breeder and domestic stocks, opened the door to manipulating human “stock,” of managing and even culling the “unfit.” Not that Darwin himself would have condoned that

    Basing Darwin’s humanitarianism on his abhorrence of slavery and a purported “brotherhood of man” largely misses the point. Historians have long known that Darwin’s racial classifications were based more upon levels of cultural attainment than ethnic groups

    and O’Leary:

    [Darwin:] Slavery, although in some ways beneficial during ancient times, is a great crime; yet it was not so regarded until quite recently, even by the most civilised nations. And this was especially the case, because the slaves belonged in general to a race different from that of their masters.”

    In Denyse’s comments she focuses on the latter part of Darwin’s statement, and his supposed error that slaves were generally of a different race than their masters. But its not even clear she’s parsing the sentence correctly, as Darwin’s time frame also includes “until quite recently”. But she also misses the point: Darwin is saying that racism is the only factor that has kept people from recognizing slavery to be “a great evil”.

  80. To Allen_MacNeill, although you may find other targets easier and more tempting, I’m wondering whether or not you have a response to my post.

    [To answer your more recent question for the record, I've never maintained that atheists/materialists cannot choose goals or codes for living according to whatever preferences they may have. Nor have I maintained they break the law more often than others. Such ideas have no place in my argument. So is it too much to ask you to come back from that tempting diversion to the points I am raising? Or do you concede them?]

    What I do maintain is that from the materialist standpoint, there exists only what is (including personal emotions and preferences), without the possibility of any transcendent and distinct “ought” to compare it to. Lacking something beyond the physical realm that “is”, the materialist has no rational basis to say of anything that has happened, that was not as it “ought” to be. Whatever he may feel about matters, within that viewpoint it would be unreasonable to think nature is committing wrongs in what it does or produces.

    So, it is not sufficient for you to point out the error of trying to derive “ought” from science. That is true, so far as it goes. But recognizing that as an error does not imply that the materialist has an alternative that is not equally in error. To simply assume the materialist has a way out of the dilemma would be to beg the question at hand.

    The consequence is that, from the materialist viewpoint, to speak of Darwin’s sacred cause is rhetorical nonsense. By the force of your own point about the error of drawing “ought” out of science, Darwin’s theory is utterly powerless to contribute any “ought” to human choice. Nor does the materialist have any other source beyond the physical realm that “is” from which to obtain it. In other words, for the materialist, nature cannot have done “wrong” regardless of what has happened.

    In a nutshell, do you find *any* basis upon which to attach moral “wrong” to *anything* that nature has produced?

  81. To StephenB and others, one cannot legitimately introduce terms into the conclusion that are not present in any of the premises (at least implicitly). So, if one has a legitimate argument that leads to an “ought” in the conclusion, that will always mean that somewhere there is at least a tacit premise that specifies an “ought”.

    If you haven’t already read C.S. Lewis’s The Abolition of Man, I’d highly recommend it.

  82. #79 Tribune7

    Sorry – doesn’t do it for me. I still don’t see any why I ought to worship a God of any hue.

  83. #78 StephenB

    The devil cannot exist without God, so your scenario is impossible.

    We are only doing thought experiments – not reality. So let’s hypothesize an omniscient and omnipotent being that wants humans to suffer and inflict suffering on each other. All other supernatural entities are less powerful. You don’t have to call it the Devil.

    Even if it were possible, the devil, by definition, does not embody the perfect qualities of truth, goodness, unity, beauty, and being in order to impart those things on his “creation.” That means that the principle of design cannot be there so nothing can operate according to that principle.

    Are you saying that design cannot exist without truth, goodness, unity, beauty? But you were defining good in terms of “fulfils” design. So now design requires goodness – but what design is this goodness fulfilling? Seems like things are getting a bit circular.

    Creatures have the power to create only because they have been given a small part of God’s creative power, which includes the gifts of intellect and will. The Devil cannot design or create without those faculties, all of which depend on a creator who will provide them.

    That’s what you believe. It is not what I believe. We seem to have slipped out of thought experiments to test the logic of whether “ought” can follow from “is” into your personal religious beliefs.

    One of the reasons why a “good” thing is one which operates according to its designs, is because the principle of order and design were put there by a good God. If a good God did not create nature for a good purpose, then there can be no morality or no goodness. In that respect, it is appropriate to worship only a good God, because a bad God is not worthy of worship. Indeed, it is only perfect goodness has any moral right to worship at all.

    But again – what made this a good God? Which design was it fulfilling in order to count as good? Whose design?

  84. —-Mark Frank: “We are only doing thought experiments – not reality. So let’s hypothesize an omniscient and omnipotent being that wants humans to suffer and inflict suffering on each other. All other supernatural entities are less powerful. You don’t have to call it the Devil.”

    I would say that if such a being was the creator of the universe, then there would be no such thing as goodness. So, unless the creator is good and can impart goodness to the creation, then operating according to design would not constitute goodness because there would be no such thing as goodness. So, my definition of good is contingent on a good God.

    Also, I wrote, Creatures have the power to create only because they have been given a small part of God’s creative power, which includes the gifts of intellect and will. The Devil cannot design or create without those faculties, all of which depend on a creator who will provide them.

    —-Mark Frank: “That’s what you believe. It is not what I believe.”

    Well, I only know of two possibilities. Either our intellect and will are gifts, or else they emerged from matter and chance. Perhaps you find the second way plausible, I don’t.

  85. —-Mark: “But again – what made this a good God? Which design was it fulfilling in order to count as good? Whose design?”

    God, by the classical definition “is” being, truth, goodness, unity, and beauty, while we can “have” it by participating in it in a small way. So, the creature would be good by operating the way it was designed to operate. On the other hand, the creator was not designed, because God (classical definition) is a self existent being. In keeping with that point, nothing made God good because God wasn’t created.

  86. #85 and #86

    I am now truly confused. We started off by trying to decide whether you can deduce whether something is good from a statement of fact. You approached this by saying “good” mean’t “functions as designed” so therefore if something functioned as designed it was good.

    But now I think you are saying (but I may be wrong)

    Designed things are good because God is good (not just because they perform as designed)

    God is good and is not designed.

    Therefore by “good” you don’t just mean “functions as designed”. Therefore, you cannot use this definition of good to deduce an ought from an is.

  87. To Mark Frank and StephenB, there is a perhaps unavoidable stalemate in such discussions.

    1. As a practical requirement, every line of reasoning needs to start somewhere, i.e. with axioms that are accepted as given, without needing additional proof.

    2. To be persuasive to both parties, a line of reasoning must begin with axioms that are acceptable to both parties, and then work forward from there.

    3. Since “ought” as a conclusion can never be derived from any list of purely “is” premises, every argument that concludes “ought” requires one or more “ought” premises.

    4. Reapplying #3, and taken with the above, that means that to reason about “ought” one will ultimately need access to acceptable moral axioms, i.e. “ought” that is accepted as true without need of further proof.

    5. If one party denies (or is sufficiently skeptical of) the transcendent and accepts only axioms related to the physical, i.e. “is” premises, then there cannot be any mutually agreeable starting point — precisely because one can never get to an “ought” conclusion starting from only “is” premises.

    6. Ergo, attempts to wrangle around this fundamental issue are doomed to futility. The only way out is out is to come to the place where one (by one means or another) perceives and accepts the reality of transcendent moral “ought” as one perceives and accepts the reality of “is” axioms. You simply can never get there by proving something starting from shared “is” axioms. Can’t be done.

    So, unless Mark Frank considers one or more “ought” axioms as being acceptable without need of proof, any wrangling to derive one by reasoning is *guaranteed* to be futile.

  88. Allen wrote: “Darwin isn’t celebrated by most evolutionary biologists because he “made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist”. Darwin is celebrated because he revolutionized the science of biology. We had a week of seminars, symposia, presentations, etc. on Darwin’s scientific work at Cornell, and at not one of them was “making it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist” the subject.”

    Yet Alfred Russel Wallace did the same thing Darwin did, and he is not lionized. The ancient Greeks had concepts of evolution centuries prior to Darwin’s birth and yet they are not celebrated.

    J.M. Barrie, the Scottish novelist, once wrote that one’s religion is whateve one is most interested in. By that standard, Darwinism is a religion.

    “And if someone were to put together a “Galileo Day/Week” celebration at Cornell, do you think people (especially in the astronomy department) wouldn’t participate? Is it some kind of indictment of biologists that we have our act together enough to put together a “festshrift” around the work of a fellow biologist?”

    It’s not an indictment, it’s an observation. Darwin stood on the shoulders of others who came before him as well as his contemporaries (Wallace) and published first. Quite frankly, I can’t think of another scientist so honored.

  89. Mark,

    You are supposed to worship God because He is bigger and better than you. Why do you have a problem with that?

  90. Mark, Eric, the “Ought to” is just one species of the genus ‘good,’ as is “the natural moral law.” Once the “good” is acknowledged, as an “is, then the “ought to” becomes an “Is.” So, we are reasoning from “is” to “Is,” provided I assume a good God exists, which is exactly what I did. Also, the bridge between “is and “ought” poses a problem only the first time morality is under consideration. Once one has learned something about the “ought,” he can then bring to the next observation. Even if we begin with a clean slate intellectually, we need not remain a clean slate.

    Even at that we need not be so restrictive. Remember that Hume, the author of this dilemma was an empiricist. Empiricism, by the way is an extreme on one end of the epistemological continuum just as rationalism is an extreme on the other end. The former assumes that knowledge is solely a function of sense experience, while the latter assumes that knowledge is solely a function of the intellect. In fact, knowledge is a function of BOTH, as the epistemological position of realism attests. That means that we do possess some capacity to recognize self evident truths independent of the reasoning process.

    If a good God created a natural moral law, then we ought to follow it. There is nothing remarkable about this at all. Romans 1 reads, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen, (IS) being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. (OUGHT TO)” That statement, by the way, is not theological; it is philosophical, which is what gives it all its weight.
    To put things bluntly, Hume and Moore were atheists looking for loopholes. We should not fall into the same trap.

  91. Re #85 ericB

    The issue was the truth of your premise 3:

    Since “ought” as a conclusion can never be derived from any list of purely “is” premises, every argument that concludes “ought” requires one or more “ought” premises.

    I agree with this. Stephenb doesn’t. So I am glad to see you agree with me!

  92. #90

    I don’t know of any moral principle that says people are duty bound to worship things that are bigger and better than them. Barack Obama is both bigger and better than me. I feel no obligation whatsoever to worship him.

  93. re #91

    Once the “good” is acknowledged, as an “is, then the “ought to” becomes an “Is.”

    StephenB

    No one is denying that you can argue from “X is good” to “you ought to do X”. The point is how do you get to “X is good” from the bare non-moral facts about X.

    I don’t know what a “natural moral law” is – so I don’t know whether it is moral or non-moral itself. A few example might help here.

  94. Mark –Barack Obama is both bigger and better than me.

    I guess that’s the difference, Mark. Because I worship God, I don’t think there is another person better than me, nor do I think I am better than anyone else.

    All souls are equal.

  95. —–Mark: “No one is denying that you can argue from “X is good” to “you ought to do X”. The point is how do you get to “X is good” from the bare non-moral facts about X.”

    Are you talking about God? I thought I made it clear that I was beginning with the operating assumption that God was good. In other words, IF God is good, therefore………………
    Or, do I misunderstand your question?

    —-”I don’t know what a “natural moral law” is – so I don’t know whether it is moral or non-moral itself. A few example might help here.”

    By natural moral law, I refer to two espects:

    Objective: That law which is written in nature by the creator, that is, moral precepts that are inherent in human nature,(The Ten Commandments, The Golden Rule, etc.)

    Subjective: The instinct written on every human heart that allows it to apprehend the natural moral law. Some call it “conscience.” It is the psychological principle upon which political freedom rests.

  96. #95

    Well you can hardly deny Obama is bigger than me – I am 5′ 6″. I can’t think of anything I can do better than him – maybe speak in a British accent.

  97. #96

    Subjective: The instinct written on every human heart that allows it to apprehend the natural moral law. Some call it “conscience.” It is the psychological principle upon which political freedom rests

    Well that’s the key isn’t it? The phraseology is rather flowery – but basically you are saying that most humans have much the same ideas about what is right and what is wrong. I agree. But it is still – as you say – subjective.

  98. . I can’t think of anything I can do better than him . . .

    Wait a couple of months (weeks) :-)

  99. At 91, StephenB you seem to be addressing a separate concern, perhaps an epistemological one, since you refer to Hume, Moore, dilemmas and traps. However, you will notice that C.S. Lewis, former atheist turned Christian apologist, affirms what I have been saying. Lewis doesn’t consider it to be a problem to be evaded or a trap to avoid. In particular, neither Lewis nor I imply that “ought” cannot be known, if that is what you are concerned about. (Please do read The Abolition of Man and see for yourself.)

    Regarding your discussion with Mark, you will notice that it is not enough to vaguely establish the existence of morality. You will find that your reasoning is not persuasive to Mark most likely because you will tacitly (or explicitly) rely upon specific claims that he does not observe or affirm, and which do not necessarily follow from what he is willing to accept without support at the present time.

    In general, I don’t think the direction you are heading will help much. Yes, the “ought” that exists is part of reality and therefore, in one sense, part of what “is”. However, rather than helping, that tends to obscure what is an important distinction.

    In this conversation, “is” focuses on the physical reality that science examines,
    that the materialist acknowledges, and that the “ought” would apply to — except that for the materialist, there is no possibility (within that framework) of calling anything nature has produced wrong.

    That inability of the materialist by any means to attach “wrong” to anything nature has done is the issue that most materialists are not willing to fully engage. I expect most materialists don’t recognize the full implications of this.

    Allen_MacNeill, or you up to it?

  100. —-Mark: “Well that’s the key isn’t it? The phraseology is rather flowery – but basically you are saying that most humans have much the same ideas about what is right and what is wrong. I agree. But it is still – as you say – subjective.”

    Now Mark, it isn’t nice to take one part out of a two part composite and leave out the outer part.

  101. Eric, with all due respect, and I do mean respect, I think you misunderstand Lewis. I read the Abolition of Man years ago, and I don’t recall the formulation the way you do. My understanding is this: The “is” gives rise to the “ought to,” which in turn gives rise to the “should.” As I recall, the point Lewis was making was that “ought” principles need a source in order to make them credible and compelling. I have done that each time by pointing to God and the natural moral law. My understanding is that the “ought” with no source is not ought at all.

    There is no more objective source than God and the natural moral law. It is independent of human experience which gives it the strongest claim of all. That is why political freedom is based on it. Indeed, as I recall, I am making an argument similar to what Lewis made, though I can’t be sure. I don’t depend on other philosophers to do my thinking for me. The objective moral law exists, and it has a transcendent source. I think my argument is very strong and, again, with respect, the only substantive objective you have posed is to imply that Lewis would not have approved.

    It is ironic that I presented the concept of the natural moral law to Mark, both its objective and subjective elements, and, wouldn’t you know it, he ignored the objective part and threw the subjective part back in my face as if it didn’t have an objective counterpart. Again, it seems that Lewis’ argument is this: The more subjective the “ought,” the weaker the “should.” The problem with people who reject objective, transcendent moral values, is that they go from “Is” to “”Should without passing through.”

    I don’t think Lewis would disapprove of what I am saying, and if you disagree, then please show me why. In any case, Lewis is not infallible, so appealing to his authority will only go so far with me, as much as I do respect him. He has his gig; I have mine. For my part, nothing is more compelling that the natural moral law, the violation of which makes men miserable in the personal realm and makes them slaves in the political arena. I submit further that just as is says in Scripture, God’s handiwork is evident, [is], deniers are without excuse [ought], reasonable mean ought to follow it. [should.] Further, the creator of the universe has every right to make moral demands on his creatures. If you feel differently, then by all means, make your case. Frankly, I think you are pointing.

  102. —-Mark: “Well that’s the key isn’t it? The phraseology is rather flowery – but basically you are saying that most humans have much the same ideas about what is right and what is wrong. I agree. But it is still – as you say – subjective.”

    I guess that I had better not leave this to chance. I presented the OBJECTIVE moral law and explained in brief that is also has a SUBJECTIVE component. So, naturally, true to form, Mark defines my comments as references to the subjective and ignores the objective counterpart.

  103. Eric, ignore the last sentence fragmant at #102.

  104. StephenB

    I ignored the objective part because it wasn’t relevant. That someone has killed someone else is objective. That it is wrong to do so is subjective. Those are the two components of the moral law “thou shalt not kill”.

  105. —-Mark Frank: “I ignored the objective part because it wasn’t relevant. That someone has killed someone else is objective. That it is wrong to do so is subjective. Those are the two components of the moral law “thou shalt not kill”.”

    Thou Shalt not Kill is not “subjective.” It is the conscience that is subjective. The law, “Thou Shalt not Kill,” is the OBJECTIVE moral law that the subjective conscience apprehends. The reason that the law is compelling is because is comes from the “outside.” If it was subjective, then we could make up morality as we go along, which is precisely what most Darwinists want to do. The name for that is moral relativism.

  106. —-Eric, I wrote #102 too hurriedly. The phrase should read…”the only substantive objection [not "objective"] you have posed is to imply that Lewis would not have approved.

  107. I’d like to invite Allen_MacNeill / materialists generally to consider your favorite examples of cruelty in nature. Darwin had his examples, and these appear to have made it difficult for him to consider life as the product of intentional design.

    Let’s suppose, for the sake of argument, that we are operating on the assumption that the diversity of life is entirely the result of mindless, purposeless, material processes of a Darwinian nature.

    Concerning those examples of cruelty in nature, whether they be insects starting the next generation in paralyzed hosts or felines playing with prey or whatever, is there any way that one could meaningfully conclude that what those creatures did was morally wrong? Or would it be nonsense to talk that way?

    If nonsense, then consider that man is, in this view, just another creature of nature, equally the product of those same mindless, purposeless, material processes. What then of anything man has done? If the insect starting their next generation is amoral, what of the rapist? If the feline playing with its prey is amoral, what of gladiator type games for entertainment?

    When materialists work hard to try to attach to Darwinism a positive contributory role toward a “sacred” cause (e.g. see the original post of this thread), or to try to separate Darwin’s predictions, based on his theory, from his preferences (cf. post 29 by Allen_MacNeill), or to heatedly object to any examination of the historical applications that have been made of the Darwinian perspective of the course of nature, it seems to indicate they do not feel comfortable living within the skin of the implications of such a view.

    It does seem that materialists have trouble with the amorality of their own world view. But that may be my own failure to understand. So I’d like to hear from the materialists.

    Fair forewarning #1: If your first impulse is that the case of mankind is “different” because he is able to choose to live “above” his base nature or according to a “higher” standard, etc., etc., then obviously that gives away the game. Words such as “above” and “higher” imply the existence of an external moral framework against which choices can be measured and contrasted.

    Fair forewarning #2: None of this denies that any individual can choose whatever standard they prefer for their own code of conduct, if they want one. (For that matter, they might also decide to choose additional standards to apply to others.) I hope it is plain that canned responses along that line (e.g. post 67) are irrelevant to the questions I am raising.

    In a Darwinian materialist perspective, is anything truly morally wrong, rather than just being not what someone else wanted or preferred? If so, how so? If not, why do materialists have so much apparent difficulty owning up to the nature and implications of their own world view? Could it be that it is a theoretical suit that simply does not fit in practice?

  108. Eric B @108. Very Nice!

  109. EricB @108

    You have clearly taken some care with this comment and it makes it much easier to read than most. I am a materialist who has no problem with the amorality of my world view and will try to explain.

    First you seem to jump from “evolution is without purpose” (which I believe to be true) to the conclusion that “human beings act without purpose” (which is obviously not true). Evolution is not itself teleological but it creates organisms that are teleological.

    However, this is not the complete answer. Cats are also teleological. They act with purpose. But we do not typically blame them for (intentionally) playing with a mouse. Humans are unique in that they are the only species that are susceptible to moral emotions such as pity, loyalty, and justice. But this is nothing to do with a moral higher order or choosing to live above our base instincts. It is simply a fact of our psychological make up which has itself evolved. In fact many other species show some behaviours and drives which are somewhat moral in nature. Most dog owners will tell you that dogs can feel shame and loyalty – but not compassion or a desire for justice! I certainly hold my dog accountable should he pee indoors and he recognises that he has done wrong.

    The standard response is to object that this makes morality purely a matter of personal preference. To some extent this is true. If a psychopath cannot see why torturing babies is wrong than I cannot logically prove it to him/her – I can only appeal to other things they do find wrong and hope to show an inconsistency in their views.

    Luckily there are very few psychopaths in the world. The fact is most of us find torturing babies utterly repugnant and will do a lot to prevent others doing it. This subjective view of morality is passionate and firmly grounded in a common core of values among humanity.

    I could do on and explain my problems with objective views of morality – but hopefully this explains why I am comfortable with the “amorality of my world view”.

  110. Eric:

    Well said indeed,

    I add this from Koukl:

    Evil is real . . . That’s why people object to it. Therefore, objective moral standards must exist as well [i.e. as that which evil offends and violates] . . . . The first thing we observe about [such] moral rules is that, though they exist, they are not physical because they don’t seem to have physical properties. We won’t bump into them in the dark. They don’t extend into space. They have no weight. They have no chemical characteristics. Instead, they are immaterial things we discover through the process of thought, introspection, and reflection without the aid of our five senses . . . .

    We have, with a high degree of certainty, stumbled upon something real. Yet it’s something that can’t be proven empirically or described in terms of natural laws. This teaches us there’s more to the world than just the physical universe. If non-physical things–like moral rules–truly exist, then materialism as a world view is false.

    There seem to be many other things that populate the world, things like propositions, numbers, and the laws of logic. Values like happiness, friendship, and faithfulness are there, too, along with meanings and language. There may even be persons–souls, angels, and other divine beings.

    Our discovery also tells us some things really exist that science has no access to, even in principle. Some things are not governed by natural laws. Science, therefore, is not the only discipline giving us true information about the world. It follows, then, that naturalism as a world view is also false.

    Our discovery of moral rules forces us to expand our understanding of the nature of reality and open our minds to the possibility of a host of new things that populate the world in the invisible realm.

    I’d love to hear the evolutionary materialist response to this.

    GEM of TKI

  111. —-Mark Frank: “The standard response is to object that this makes morality purely a matter of personal preference. To some extent this is true. If a psychopath cannot see why torturing babies is wrong than I cannot logically prove it to him/her – I can only appeal to other things they do find wrong and hope to show an inconsistency in their views.”

    No, it is not true, for reasons that I have explained in some detail. It is refreshing, however, and, to your credit, that you acknowledge the bare truth of your philosophy of life. A Darwinist cannot explain in rational, objective terms why a psychopath should not torture babies.

    —-…..”I can only appeal to other things they do find wrong and hope to show an inconsistency in their views.”

    If morality is subjective, then there is nothing wrong with torturing babies. In any case, you have no standard for consistency to appeal to. Surely, at least that much is obvious.

    Even at that, what makes you think that such a moral monster would think he/she does anything wrong in other contexts? Moral relativists judge right and wrong based on personal feelings. If the baby killer feels his behavior is right, then you have no rational justification for questioning his feelings or for recommending a change in behavior. Perhaps he feels that you have an irrational bias against baby killers and ought to be prosecuted for a hate crime. You have no rational defense against this argument.

    Darwinism destroys both the culture and the life of the mind. That is why babies DO get tortued and killed by the millions, and that is why we excuse it. Every day four thousand more get burned alive, torn apart, and murdered in the womb (or out if they are strong enough to survive the assault) because our perverse culture “feels” like doing it. Amorality ALWAYS leads to immoratliy, and lies always lead to death.

  112. kairosfocus @ 111

    The first thing we observe about [such] moral rules is that, though they exist, they are not physical because they don’t seem to have physical properties. We won’t bump into them in the dark. They don’t extend into space. They have no weight. They have no chemical characteristics. Instead, they are immaterial things we discover through the process of thought, introspection, and reflection without the aid of our five senses . . . .

    In other words, Koukl is conceding that there is no evidence to suggest that moral rules have any existence outside human imagination.

    We have, with a high degree of certainty, stumbled upon something real. Yet it’s something that can’t be proven empirically or described in terms of natural laws. This teaches us there’s more to the world than just the physical universe. If non-physical things–like moral rules–truly exist, then materialism as a world view is false.

    …which raises the question of what it means to exist. Koukl has effectively conceded that moral rules have no existence outside of the imagination. He proposes a non-physical realm in which these moral rules can be said to exist but offers no reason to think it is any more ‘real’ than the moral rules themselves. Without that we are left with the inference that this non-physical realm is as much a product of the imagination as the rules. There may well be other aspects of reality of which we are as yet ignorant, but our ignorance is just that. It is a gap which, a we know, can be populated with gods or anything else we would like to exist but we have no reason to think that such things actually exist there

  113. StephenB #112
    No, it is not true, for reasons that I have explained in some detail.

    Sorry – what is not true? I have lost track.

    It is refreshing, however, and, to your credit, that you acknowledge the bare truth of your philosophy of life. A Darwinist cannot explain in rational, objective terms why a psychopath should not torture babies.

    And neither can you … you think you can, but you can’t. Try it if you like. I will pretend I am the psychopath. Whatever justification you offer the psychopath can respond – “I don’t think that makes torturing babies wrong” and you will have no way of proving the psychopath mistaken.

    —-…..”I can only appeal to other things they do find wrong and hope to show an inconsistency in their views.”
    If morality is subjective, then there is nothing wrong with torturing babies.

    Not true. It is subjective as to whether you find a film boring. But some films are indisputably boring.

    In any case, you have no standard for consistency to appeal to. Surely, at least that much is obvious.

    Not at all obvious. Suppose for example the psychopath agrees that torturing cats is wrong. Then I can ask them what it is about babies that makes it OK to torture them but while it is not OK to torture cats.

    Even at that, what makes you think that such a moral monster would think he/she does anything wrong in other contexts?

    Nothing – I might be unlucky and find the monster has no moral feelings at all. In which case I have no way of persuading them that anything is wrong.

    Moral relativists judge right and wrong based on personal feelings. If the baby killer feels his behavior is right, then you have no rational justification for questioning his feelings or for recommending a change in behavior. Perhaps he feels that you have an irrational bias against baby killers and ought to be prosecuted for a hate crime. You have no rational defense against this argument.

    This is just to repeat what has gone before. I can do a lot to persuade this chap that baby torture is wrong and that I am not guilty of a hate crime. I can find inconsistencies in his position. I can try to get him to imagine how much the babies will suffer. I can point to some of the consequences of baby torture that he had not thought of. But in the end I cannot make a logically incontrovertable case unless he has some moral feelings. I cannot derive what he ought to do simply from what is. I have to find something that he thinks people ought to do.

    Darwinism destroys both the culture and the life of the mind. That is why babies DO get tortued and killed by the millions, and that is why we excuse it. Every day four thousand more get burned alive, torn apart, and murdered in the womb (or out if they are strong enough to survive the assault) because our perverse culture “feels” like doing it. Amorality ALWAYS leads to immoratliy, and lies always lead to death.

    It appears you think Darwinism is responsible for modern attitudes to abortion. This is very controversial position which would take far more than a comment on blog to resolve.

  114. Mark Frank, Thank you for the thoughtful response to my open questions to materialists. I’m enjoying the dialogue and appreciate your contributions.

    You expressed one concern that can be put to rest.

    “First you seem to jump from “evolution is without purpose” (which I believe to be true) to the conclusion that “human beings act without purpose” (which is obviously not true). …”

    That is not the case at all. (Are you confusing my posts with someone else perhaps? Did you notice my forewarning #2 and its implications?) I certainly agree, for instance, that the rapist and the gladiator are acting intentionally.

    Most dog owners will tell you that dogs can feel shame and loyalty – but not compassion or a desire for justice!

    But what about Lassie! Say it isn’t so. ;-) [Sorry, but I couldn't resist the digression.]

    If a psychopath cannot see why torturing babies is wrong … Luckily there are very few psychopaths in the world.

    Using psychopaths as the illustrating example would be inadequate to address the question, not only because they are so statistically anomalous, but also because the idea of a “psychopath” inescapably carries strong connotations of having something “wrong” with them, and of being at least developmentally deformed if not biochemically dysfunctional.

    The kind of example you need to wrestle with is the healthy, intelligent, rational, internally consistent, and (by his measure at least) successful individual who can use his strength, abilities, fitness, and power to squeeze benefit for himself and his descendants out of the lives of others who are shown to be inferior by his successful dominance over them, and perhaps also by their declining numbers.

    In short, by any Darwinian measure, this state of affairs is working well for him and his descendants, not unlike breeding insects. However, you, like Darwin, feel repugnance toward his means of achieving this, perhaps because you feel empathy toward the oppressed.

    You could think of historical examples, or, if you know of The Time Machine, perhaps of the Morlocks and their Eloi.

    The question — Are your feelings telling you something that is true about that behavior, i.e. that such behavior is indeed, objectively wrong, whatever some may think or feel? Or do you affirm and embrace the amorality of materialism, affirming that the feeling of genuine, objective moral “wrong” is an illusion, and that these feelings are actually describing what you don’t like?

    If [...X...] cannot see why [...Y...] is wrong than I cannot logically prove it to him/her – I can only appeal to other things they do find wrong and hope to show an inconsistency in their views.

    Whether you could succeed or not is far less interesting than looking at what you are trying to do.

    You talked earlier about “moral emotions” which you clearly distinguished from transcendent moral truth or as you said “moral higher order.” Yet you did not say that you were trying to prove to this individual that you were having an emotion of repugnance toward what he had done. You talked about their inability to “see why [it] is wrong” and the limited recourse you would have in that case.

    One cannot see what is not true or what does not exist. It would be irrational to expect someone to see something that wasn’t so.

    Notice that if you had really meant to show or prove to him that you had a feeling of repugnance about this act, that would have been easily done. (If you eat meat, someday a Vegan may want to express her repugnance at what you eat for food.)

    Obviously that is not the intended aim. But if reality is amoral with regard to the behaviors themselves, then what is the meaning of expecting someone to “see that [it] is wrong”?

    This is the language of moral realism, not amoral materialism.

    I get the strong impression that, even from your response, when facing morally objectionable issues, materialists find it difficult not to slip back into treating morality as if it were objectively real, rather than a form of personal emotions.

    If it were just your moral emotions, upon what basis do you expect those who do not share your emotions to convert to *your* emotions?

    To put it another way, there is an alternate solution. Something could be done by you or to you to remove those particular emotions. Whether by scalpel, or drugs, or reeducation, you might be adjusted to where you don’t find the same things repugnant. That would also solve the discrepancy.

    Now, would it be objectively wrong for someone to do that to you?

    Even if you afterward approved and felt fine about it?

  115. Ericb

    Mark Frank, Thank you for the thoughtful response to my open questions to materialists. I’m enjoying the dialogue and appreciate your contributions.

    Thanks – you are on my list of people worth debating with.

    Using psychopaths as the illustrating example would be inadequate to address the question, not only because they are so statistically anomalous, but also because the idea of a “psychopath” inescapably carries strong connotations of having something “wrong” with them, and of being at least developmentally deformed if not biochemically dysfunctional.

    The kind of example you need to wrestle with is the healthy, intelligent, rational, internally consistent, and (by his measure at least) successful individual who can use his strength, abilities, fitness, and power to squeeze benefit for himself and his descendants out of the lives of others who are shown to be inferior by his successful dominance over them, and perhaps also by their declining numbers.

    In short, by any Darwinian measure, this state of affairs is working well for him and his descendants, not unlike breeding insects.

    However, you, like Darwin, feel repugnance toward his means of achieving this, perhaps because you feel empathy toward the oppressed.

    As an aside – there are people who are in other respects mentally normal but have little or no moral feelings. It is called dangerous personality disorder and it is contentious as to whether it is appropriate for psychiatrists to deal with them. But I will go with your example…

    The question — Are your feelings telling you something that is true about that behavior, i.e. that such behavior is indeed, objectively wrong, whatever some may think or feel? Or do you affirm and embrace the amorality of materialism, affirming that the feeling of genuine, objective moral “wrong” is an illusion, and that these feelings are actually describing what you don’t like?

    I don’t think my feelings are telling me anything about their behaviour other than what is observable. However, I don’t call this amoral. And when I say “this is wrong” I am not describing my feelings. I am expressing my reaction to what he is doing grounded in the belief that the vast majority of people would agree with me – or would agree with me if they knew what I knew.

    Here is a close analogy which may help. Suppose there is a film which has a reputation of boring and trivial. I watch and get a sudden insight as to what it is all about and that makes it very interesting and deep (perhaps I read a relevant book). So now I say to friends “actually that film is very interesting”. This is more than a report of my feelings. I am saying something about the film. But my statement is grounded in my belief about how others would react to that film and there isn’t a separate objective property “the interestingness” of the film over and above what is in it.

    If [...X...] cannot see why [...Y...] is wrong than I cannot logically prove it to him/her – I can only appeal to other things they do find wrong and hope to show an inconsistency in their views.
    Whether you could succeed or not is far less interesting than looking at what you are trying to do.
    You talked earlier about “moral emotions” which you clearly distinguished from transcendent moral truth or as you said “moral higher order.” Yet you did not say that you were trying to prove to this individual that you were having an emotion of repugnance toward what he had done. You talked about their inability to “see why [it] is wrong” and the limited recourse you would have in that case.

    One cannot see what is not true or what does not exist. It would be irrational to expect someone to see something that wasn’t so.

    Notice that if you had really meant to show or prove to him that you had a feeling of repugnance about this act, that would have been easily done. (If you eat meat, someday a Vegan may want to express her repugnance at what you eat for food.)

    Obviously that is not the intended aim. But if reality is amoral with regard to the behaviors themselves, then what is the meaning of expecting someone to “see that [it] is wrong”?

    This is the language of moral realism, not amoral materialism.

    I hope the film analogy will help answer this. I am not trying to prove to them what my reaction is. I am trying to get them to have the same reaction by seeing it my way. I want them to see why the film is fascinating.

    I get the strong impression that, even from your response, when facing morally objectionable issues, materialists find it difficult not to slip back into treating morality as if it were objectively real, rather than a form of personal emotions.

    If it were just your moral emotions, upon what basis do you expect those who do not share your emotions to convert to *your* emotions?

    To put it another way, there is an alternate solution. Something could be done by you or to you to remove those particular emotions. Whether by scalpel, or drugs, or reeducation, you might be adjusted to where you don’t find the same things repugnant. That would also solve the discrepancy.

    Now, would it be objectively wrong for someone to do that to you?
    Even if you afterward approved and felt fine about it?

    I would find it repugnant now. I would no longer find it repugnant then. I would resist it happening now and try to persuade others not to do it. I would stop doing it after the operation. End of story.

  116. Mark Frank: “Evolution is not itself teleological but it creates organisms that are teleological.”

    This statement can only be true if evolution is an effect and not a cause; i.e. evolution acting as transmission, changing life’s ‘gears’ once ‘acted’ upon.

  117. #117

    Mark Frank: “Evolution is not itself teleological but it creates organisms that are teleological.”

    This statement can only be true if evolution is an effect and not a cause; i.e. evolution acting as transmission, changing life’s ‘gears’ once ‘acted’ upon.

    I see no justification for this at all. Evolution creates things with many properties which evolution does not have itself. For example, evolution is not greedy, sexual, or mortal. You really need to explain why it cannot create a teleological entity.

  118. Onlookers:

    It seems that thanks to the frank admissions by Mark Frank [living up to his name . . . ] and Seversky, we have turned an important corner at UD this weekend.

    For, it is now plain for all to see that evolutionary materialism driven subjectivism and relativism, end in amorality [MF, 110, 114 pace 116] and in denial of the objectivity of not only moral truth but also of the closely conjoined abstract entities, proposition and number [Sev., 113], i.e. the hard core of science.

    So, we now know the implications of the evolutionary materialist option on worldviews, not only from those who object, but from those who seek to defend it.

    Therefore, we know the worldview level choice we must make, per comparative difficulties [Cf here, here and here], and what is at stake.

    GEM of TKI

  119. PS: Documentation:

    1] MF, 110:

    >>Humans are unique in that they are the only species that are susceptible to moral emotions such as pity, loyalty, and justice. But this is nothing to do with a moral higher order or choosing to live above our base instincts. It is simply a fact of our psychological make up which has itself evolved. . . . .

    If a psychopath cannot see why torturing babies is wrong than I cannot logically prove it to him/her – I can only appeal to other things they do find wrong and hope to show an inconsistency in their views.

    Luckily there are very few psychopaths in the world. The fact is most of us find torturing babies utterly repugnant and will do a lot to prevent others doing it. This subjective view of morality is passionate and firmly grounded in a common core of values among humanity. [MF, where did such a common core come from on your worldview3, and why should we heed it . .. ?]

    I could do on and explain my problems with objective views of morality – but hopefully this explains why I am comfortable with the “amorality of my world view”.>>

    2] MF, 114:

    >> I will pretend I am the psychopath. Whatever justification you offer the psychopath can respond – “I don’t think that makes torturing babies wrong” and you will have no way of proving the psychopath mistaken. >>

    3] Sev, 13:

    >> Koukl is conceding [nope, he is premising his point on the fact that we do and find ourselves bound to act as accepting that evil and thence morality objectively exist and binds us to "ought"] that there is no evidence [ah, but you are demanding evidence of PHYSICAL existence of the mental order . . . begging a big ontological qn that we have no right to presume] to suggest that moral rules [and propositions and numbers etc] have any existence outside human imagination [of course this is another, rhetorically loaded, way of saying that he concepts which we must act on to be rational moral creatures, are non-physical; which was not at stake . . . ]

    . . . . Koukl has effectively conceded [note the emotionally loaded rhetorical distraction and distortion again; he actually started from the fact that we find ourselves morally bound and in that context that we find evil objectionable; then he asked what follows from the fact that atheists often passionately pose the problem of evil as a warrant for their atheism?] that moral rules have no existence outside of the imagination [loaded term again, with ontological Qn-begging]. He proposes a non-physical realm [nope, he observe that we act on the assumed reality of abstract entities: good/evil and morality, number, proposition etc] in which these moral rules [and a few other things such as propositions and number, neatly overstepped by Sev . . . ] can be said to exist but offers no reason to think it is any more ‘real’ than the moral rules themselves [apart from that to live as moral rational creatures we must and do act on them . . . ]. Without that we are left with the inference that this non-physical realm is as much a product of the imagination as the rules. >>

    ________________

    The case is clear enough methinks, and we must now ask ourselves, per factual adequacy, logical and moral coherence and explanatory power, which view of reality makes for the most reasonable faith?

    And, for sure, it is evident that evolutionary materialists have not at all cornered the market on rationality, as they so often imagine.

    GEM of TKI

  120. PPPS: EricB, your reference to H G Wells’ warning in his other major sci fi novel, Time Machine, is also very apt.

  121. Mark Frank, I think your film analogy provides a helpful illustration, one that I haven’t heard before. Please correct me if I take the wrong meaning from it.

    It’s my understanding that you don’t intend that morality in the materialist sense is simply a matter of a majority view, since you qualify what you mean by “this is wrong” as follows.

    I am expressing my reaction to what he is doing grounded in the belief that the vast majority of people would agree with me – or would agree with me if they knew what I knew. [emphasis added]

    So it is essentially an emotional response (i.e. “reaction”) that you would claim is tied to your expectation of how most people would react if they shared your knowledge.

    A fundamental problem is that you have not specified the perspective for the reaction. If people identify with the victim or with the oppressed, yes most probably would find it disagreeable. If people identify with the victor who benefits, that would not be so. It is obvious from history that the elites tend to empathize with the elites and react accordingly. There is no surprise in this.

    To see the matter from the Darwinian perspective, you get different answers depending on whether you take the view of the predator or of the prey.

    Now I will fully grant that if it came to a “vote” there are typically more among the prey than among the predators. But it would be nonsense to find a poll of the reactions of the prey influential to the predators. “Do you react negatively to the idea of being eaten?” (or “being paralyzed and used as food for my next generation?”) 98.2% respond Yes. The predator responds “So what? 99.9% of predators react favorably to the idea of eating, as do I. And my vote is the only one that counts with me.”

    Nature is not a democracy. The democratic ideals we have came from religious influence, starting with the fact that in the Jewish understanding of the law, the whole nation was under God and God’s law, including the king. This perspective was extended and spread by Christianity throughout western culture. The idea of inalienable humans rights and the legal equality of mankind are grounded in belief in a God whose authority supersedes mankind’s governments. This is certainly not derived from watching Darwinian processes in action.

    There is a book: In Business As in Life, You Don’t Get What You Deserve, You Get What You Negotiate

    In nature, “negotiation” is typically tooth and claw against horn and hoof. In nature, you simply get whatever you can get.

    So when we boil it down to its essence, your conception of a materialist take on morality seems to me to come down to this. Prey don’t like being prey and react negatively toward it. (Ditto all manner of the oppressed, the used.) Meanwhile, the predators react quite positively. (Ditto all manner of the dominant, the oppressors, the users.)

    In the Darwinian perspective, this is resolved as follows: “Have at it. Let’s see who comes out a surviving reproducer.”

    In that perspective, there is nothing wrong at all, regardless of any emotional reactions. Of course the oppressed and those used react negatively. That motivates them to resist. Of course the predators and users react positively. That motivates them to persist.

    And that is how, in the Darwinian view, it has always been with life. Why should anyone expect it to be differently? The whole system works because there are plenty of the oppressed to be used, plenty of the prey to feed upon.

    So, the idea of persuading the predators to see that it is wrong to prey upon the prey — because most prey react negatively to this — doesn’t seem to hold up as a sturdy notion of morality. What it comes to is the brute struggle. The only “right” is the right of might.

  122. Ericb

    I have only 20 minutes to respond before I go to work. So I will pick up a couple of key points.

    There is a difference between what causes my moral attitude (a combination of nature and nuture) and what I mean when I make a moral statement. To pursue the film analogy. I might be aware of aspects of the film that are very interesting and worthwhile because of my prior reading and upbringing. But when I say the film is interesting I am not saying something about my prior reading and upbringing. I am talking about the film. I have a viewpoint which I believe others can share. I may be able to explain that viewpoint better by reference to my background. But I am not making a statement about that background.

    The cause of morality may be that prey don’t like being prey (actually I am sure its subtler than that). But that doesn’t mean that morality is about not being prey.

    As an aside – I think you overstate the role of religion in democracy. Doesn’t Athens – where the word comes from – get a mention?

  123. ericB

    I have time to pick this up in more detail. You seem to be concerned about how Darwinian evolution could lead to morality as we practice it. This is, of course, a well known problem. How can altruism arise if individuals are only selected for attributes which further their personal fitness? Large numbers of papers have been written and studies performed on the subject. I am not at all familiar with the latest research but I am sure that it has moved beyond looking at each organism’s role as predator or prey. Organisms have many roles to play in life which may or may contribute to their fitness – predator and prey are just two. Full blown morality is only found among humans. Partial moral practices are found among other animals with complex social setups. It seems pretty obvious that morality has arisen out of the need to function effectively in a social set-up and the associated roles.

    But let me emphasise again – this does not mean that when I think something is good I mean that it assists human social setups. To use another favourite example – we have developed a taste for sweetness because when we evolved that taste we needed calories. That doesn’t mean a taste for sweetness is a taste for calories.

    Maybe a little question for you. Suppose there is some objective property “good” or “right” which you can deduce or intuit or perceive when studying someone’s actions. Why should you therefore want to support/perpetuate/encourage those actions?

  124. —-Mark Frank: “It is subjective as to whether you find a film boring. But some films are indisputably boring.”

    How one feels about art is partly a function of the objective quality of the art and partly a function of personal taste. There is such a thing as beauty, goodness, being, and unity. Equally true, there is such a thing as truth and justice. The natural moral law is one of those objective realities, the violation of which will reap consequences just as surely as any violation of a physical law. Objective morality produces direction, happiness, freedom, and life; moral relativism promotes confusion, misery, slavery, and death.

    —–“I might be unlucky and find the monster has no moral feelings at all. In which case I have no way of persuading them that anything is wrong.”

    That is correct. You have no standard or any rational justification for asking him to stop torturing babies. Darwinists can provide no rational justification for any good act, nor can the provide any rational objection to any bad act. So, you should apologize to me for suggesting that I was once rude to you, since there is no objective standard for justice that makes rudeness wrong.

    —–“I can do a lot to persuade this chap that baby torture is wrong and that I am not guilty of a hate crime. I can find inconsistencies in his position. I can try to get him to imagine how much the babies will suffer. I can point to some of the consequences of baby torture that he had not thought of. But in the end I cannot make a logically incontrovertable case unless he has some moral feelings. I cannot derive what he ought to do simply from what is. I have to find something that he thinks people ought to do.”

    He does what he “feels” is right for him. He has no standard other than his feelings and you have nothing to offer him except your feelings. What if you do ask him to imagine how much the babies suffer? So what? Why should he care? I just told you a few days or so ago that millions of babies suffer from abortion. It didn’t move you. When behavior is based on sentiment and personal preferences, chaos follows. The natural moral law is there for all to follow, and it is the only principle around which a well-ordered society can be maintained.

    Darwinists, of course, have no standard for morality, and worse, they militate against the one standard that does exist, just as you are doing. That is why they are the enemy of society. In any case, if you explain to the one who tortures babies that there are “consequences” he has not thought of, he may counter that there are “benefits” that you haven’t thought of. Utilitarianism doesn’t work. Also, I thought we settled the point that we are moving from an “is” to an “is.” So, why are you going over that area again. We are not going from an “is” to an “ought.” Do I need to go back over that

  125. —-Mark: “But let me emphasise again – this does not mean that when I think something is good I mean that it assists human social setups.”

    Don’t you mean “when I ‘feel” something is good?” You have already acknowledged that you don’t accept that there is any such thing as objective moraliy, so you can hardly think that any act is really good nor can you think that any act is really bad. You can either be pleased by an act or you can be repulsed by an act, but you cannot think it to be good or bad. Others may, for example, be pleased by that which you find repulsive, for example torture. Why should we not go with the sadists feelings rather than yours.

  126. Mark Frank, now it is my turn to be short on time. A quick response now, and possibly more later tonight.

    You seem to be concerned about how Darwinian evolution could lead to morality as we practice it. This is, of course, a well known problem. How can altruism arise …

    The origin of altruism is an interesting challenge for Darwinism. However, it is not at all a part of my question in this thread. In fact, I am not here questioning whether Darwinism can build the species we see. The question I have is specifically about how materialists seem repeatedly unable to live within the amoral implications of a Darwinian view of life. I find that they often fall back on talking as if morality had real existence, or that it is logical to debunk God and yet talk as if we could still retain concepts that depend upon His existence, such as inalienable human rights.

    In a nutshell, the question I have put forward is basically this.

    Is it reasonable, from a materialist Darwinian viewpoint, to claim that anything nature has done was wrong?

    Notice I didn’t ask how you might define an idea of goodness for yourself, or choose a code of behavior for yourself, etc. Or whether people have feelings or preferences. It is about whether anything has been truly, objectively, morally wrong.

    After materialists have (supposedly) debunked the idea that mankind is fundamentally and qualitatively more than just another animal, I find them nevertheless reluctant to embrace the consequence that man is another species, another product of nature, and not fundamentally or qualitatively different from other animals in regard to the inappropriateness of calling human behavior (yet another product of that same process) wrong.

    Darwin is repulsed by some of what he sees in nature, yet that is not morally wrong. Once we (supposedly) understand how that appeared, we can see it as the expected consequence of that process — despite our feelings of repulsion. If man is not fundamentally different, then man is not fundamentally different. Some of what people do may repulse some other people. The materialist is equally unable to call any of those behaviors wrong. In the Darwinian view, like them or hate them, they are exactly what they are as a result of the very same process. The idea that it has taken a wrong turn or that it ought to have gone some other way is, I believe, incoherent in that position and incompatible with it.

    I realize that one approach is to redefine the word “wrong” but that is a dodge. The moral question I am raising applies to the human behavior just as it would to that of other species in the Darwinian view.

    Does that help clarify the issue?

  127. ericB

    I will go straight to the question at the heart of your comment:

    Is it reasonable, from a materialist Darwinian viewpoint, to claim that anything nature has done was wrong?

    (As an aside – it is possible to be a “Darwinian” and also believe in objective morality. I imagine Ken Miller falls into that category. However, I agree that being a Darwinian makes it easier to be an atheist, materialist, and hold that ethics is a facet of human nature.)

    Literally the answer has to be “no” for both you and me. Nature is just not the kind of thing that can do good or bad or be praised or blamed. People can. Some animals can. But not nature as whole.

    I guess you mean something like:

    Is it reasonable, from a materialist Darwinian viewpoint, to claim that anything done by an organism which is the result of natural selection is wrong?

    But then you add a qualifier

    It is about whether anything has been truly, objectively, morally wrong.

    I have to take the two parts separately. I think it is reasonable to claim that someone has done something wrong. But I don’t think that is a claim about something that is objectively true. I am not redefining “wrong”. I think you just don’t think you fully appreciate how you and I both use the word “wrong”. That sounds arrogant, telling you what you mean by a word, but it is actually a difficult matter to describe exactly what we mean by quite common words such as “true”, “wrong”, “meaning” etc. Even though we use them with complete confidence in ordinary larnguage. It is the subject of linguistic philosophy.

    The particular bugbear is the feeling that a word must get its meaning from naming something. Its meaning is what it refers to. So you feel that “wrong” refers to a property – the wrongness of the act. And when I deny that you conclude it must refer to my subjective feelings. Because it must refer to something.

    In my opinion Wittgenstein’s biggest contribution to philosophy was to show how this picture of language is inadequate (ironically he never applied this mode of thought to ethics as far as I know.) He pointed out that the meaning of words comes from their role in human activity – just as the meaning of the term “checkmate” in chess is not captured by listing all the configurations of pieces which count as checkmate. It requires the whole context of the rules of chess and the objectives of the competitors. So ethical terms such as “right” and “wrong” come from their role in the whole set of behaviours and expectations that we call morality. The challenge is to describe that set of behaviours and expectations.

    To summarise. It is perfectly rational for materialists to use the words right and wrong to refer to human (and some animal) activity. But this does not mean that right and wrong refer to objective transcendental entities.

  128. A few specific responses to StephenB

    Stephenb “How one feels about art is partly a function of the objective quality of the art and partly a function of personal taste. There is such a thing as beauty, goodness, being, and unity. Equally true, there is such a thing as truth and justice. The natural moral law is one of those objective realities, the violation of which will reap consequences just as surely as any violation of a physical law. Objective morality produces direction, happiness, freedom, and life; moral relativism promotes confusion, misery, slavery, and death.”

    You make these assertions without any supporting argument or evidence. They are all philosophical controversies which have been going on for millenia. That’s why I did not talk about the film being beautiful or artistic but stuck to the more prosaic “boring”. As far as I know there is no theory that boringness is some kind of transcendental property.

    Mark Frank: —–“I might be unlucky and find the monster has no moral feelings at all. In which case I have no way of persuading them that anything is wrong.”

    Stephenb – That is correct. You have no standard or any rational justification for asking him to stop torturing babies. Darwinists can provide no rational justification for any good act, nor can the provide any rational objection to any bad act. So, you should apologize to me for suggesting that I was once rude to you, since there is no objective standard for justice that makes rudeness wrong.

    You argue from “there is no objective property – good” to conclude “there is no rational justification for any good act”. That’s a fallacy. There is no objective property “boringness”. But there is plenty of rational justification for avoiding films which are generally perceived as boring.

    Mark Frank –“I can do a lot to persuade this chap that baby torture is wrong and that I am not guilty of a hate crime. I can find inconsistencies in his position. I can try to get him to imagine how much the babies will suffer. I can point to some of the consequences of baby torture that he had not thought of. But in the end I cannot make a logically incontrovertable case unless he has some moral feelings. I cannot derive what he ought to do simply from what is. I have to find something that he thinks people ought to do.”

    Stephenb – He does what he “feels” is right for him. He has no standard other than his feelings and you have nothing to offer him except your feelings. What if you do ask him to imagine how much the babies suffer? So what? Why should he care?

    That is my point. If someone is so very different from the rest of humanity there is no way to get through to him. Luckily very few such people exist. Unluckily they sometimes get into positions of great power.

    Stephenb – I just told you a few days or so ago that millions of babies suffer from abortion. It didn’t move you.

    Actually I just didn’t respond. I have personal reasons for avoiding this particular issue.

    StephenB When behavior is based on sentiment and personal preferences, chaos follows. The natural moral law is there for all to follow, and it is the only principle around which a well-ordered society can be maintained.
    “sentiment and personal preferences” makes it sound like ethical judgements are whimsical and idiosyncratic. They are in fact based on deep rooted feelings in the human psyche. You might as well say that the decision to care for your children is based on sentiment and personal preferences. Whether this leads to chaos is hard to say. I think that all ethical judgements are of this nature and not all societies are chaotic. So clearly I don’t agree.

    Stephenb – Darwinists, of course, have no standard for morality, and worse, they militate against the one standard that does exist, just as you are doing. That is why they are the enemy of society. In any case, if you explain to the one who tortures babies that there are “consequences” he has not thought of, he may counter that there are “benefits” that you haven’t thought of. Utilitarianism doesn’t work.

    This is just a diatribe not an argument. Materialists have moral standards. They are just rooted in different sources – as explained above.

    Stephenb – Also, I thought we settled the point that we are moving from an “is” to an “is.” So, why are you going over that area again. We are not going from an “is” to an “ought.” Do I need to go back over that?

    I am sorry I gave that impression (where?). I don’t think it is possible to go from “is” to “ought”. But I don’t think moral statements are statements of fact. So we are not going from an “is” to an “is”. We have a real problem bridging the gap. Which is why we have to assume some kind of underlying moral feelings.

    Mark: “But let me emphasise again – this does not mean that when I think something is good I mean that it assists human social setups.”

    StephenB – Don’t you mean “when I ‘feel” something is good?” You have already acknowledged that you don’t accept that there is any such thing as objective moraliy, so you can hardly think that any act is really good nor can you think that any act is really bad. You can either be pleased by an act or you can be repulsed by an act, but you cannot think it to be good or bad. Others may, for example, be pleased by that which you find repulsive, for example torture. Why should we not go with the sadists feelings rather than yours.

    I am not sure if I can think of any more ways to explain this. I do think things are good and bad. When I do it I am expressing my personal attitude to that thing underpinned by my belief that others will see it the same way. I am not talking about some kind of pretend goodness. I am not under an illusion. It was I mean by good and bad. It is very similar to when I say that a film is boring.

  129. H’mm:

    While we wait for Stephen’s reply . . .

    This, courtesy Arthur F Holmes, is what is at stake:

    However we may define the good, however well we may calculate consequences, to whatever extent we may or may not desire certain consequences, none of this of itself implies any obligation of command. That something is or will be does not imply that we ought to seek it. We can never derive an “ought” from a premised “is” unless the ought is somehow already contained in the premise [Just as Stephen pointed out several times above] . . . .

    R. M. Hare . . . raises the same point. Most theories, he argues, simply fail to account for the ought that commands us [factual inadequacy, a key and in this case even vital worldview test]: subjectivism reduces imperatives to statements about subjective states, egoism and utilitarianism reduce them to statements about consequences, emotivism simply rejects them because they are not empirically verifiable, and determinism reduces them to causes rather than commands . . . .

    Elizabeth Anscombe’s point is well made. We have a problem introducing the ought into ethics unless, as she argues, we are morally obligated by law – not a socially imposed law, ultimately, but divine law . . . . This is precisely the problem with modern ethical theory in the West . . . it has lost the binding force of divine commandments . . . .

    If we admit that we all equally have the right to be treated as persons, then it follows that we have the duty to respect one another accordingly. Rights bring correlative duties: my rights . . . imply that you ought to respect these rights.[Ethics: Approaching Moral Decisions (Downers Grove, IL: 1984), pp. 70 – 72, 81. ]

    So, let us be very, very careful indeed, before we accept any worldview that implies that rights are little more than conventions secured by personal or collective power.

    Especially, as it is an easily observed fact of life that we do understand ourselves to be morally bound by “ought” — just think about how we expect each other to behave, as revealed by quarrelling.

    Not even the materialist, in the end, can live differently than that, yet again revealing its incoherence as a worldview.

    GEM of TKI

    PS: here is my own introductory level discussion for those long-suffering students of a few years back.

  130. —–Mark Frank: “You make these assertions without any supporting argument or evidence. They are all philosophical controversies which have been going on for millenia. That’s why I did not talk about the film being beautiful or artistic but stuck to the more prosaic “boring”. As far as I know there is no theory that boringness is some kind of transcendental property.”

    You introduced the film analogy as part of your argument, so I responded by explaining that the response to art is both a response to objective value and a person response unique to the individual. You are so used to putting everything in the subjective mode, that you misunderstood my application to your example. A piece of art cannot be “objectively” boring, of course, but it can objectively bad, which will cause many people to be bored by it.

    —–“You argue from “there is no objective property – good” to conclude “there is no rational justification for any good act”. That’s a fallacy. There is no objective property “boringness”. But there is plenty of rational justification for avoiding films which are generally perceived as boring.”
    Once again, you miss the application of the principle and you ignore the critical point. You once accused me of being rude, and I may well have been guilty. However, your appeal pointed to an objective standard of justice to which rudeness was a violation. On the one hand, you say there are no objective moral norms; on the other hand, you say I violated one. It is clear now?

    —–“I am sorry I gave that impression [that {StephenB} is going from an “is” to an “ought to.” (where?). I don’t think it is possible to go from “is” to “ought”. But I don’t think moral statements are statements of fact. So we are not going from an “is” to an “is”. We have a real problem bridging the gap. Which is why we have to assume some kind of underlying moral feelings.”

    You did it early on, [appeal to the “is,” “ought” problem] and you are doing it again here in your last correspondence

    Here is what you wrote:

    Mark Frank –“I can do a lot to persuade this chap that baby torture is wrong and that I am not guilty of a hate crime. I can find inconsistencies in his position. I can try to get him to imagine how much the babies will suffer. I can point to some of the consequences of baby torture that he had not thought of. But in the end I cannot make a logically incontrovertable case unless he has some moral feelings. I cannot derive what he ought to do simply from what is. I have to find something that he thinks people ought to do.”

    So, can we please dispense with this “is,” “ought-to” business once and for all.

    —–“Actually I just didn’t respond (On abortion). I have personal reasons for avoiding this particular issue.”

    The last few times I raised that issue to a moral relativist, they gave me the same answer almost word for word. In fact, the moral relativist cannot come face to face with his own principles. Nor does he even believe them. You clearly believe in objective truth, but you don’t recognize your self-contradictory position. If you really believed that truth doesn’t exist, you would not tell me I am wrong. You would say that we are both right.

    —– “sentiment and personal preferences” makes it sound like ethical judgements are whimsical and idiosyncratic. They are in fact based on deep rooted feelings in the human psyche. You might as well say that the decision to care for your children is based on sentiment and personal preferences. Whether this leads to chaos is hard to say. I think that all ethical judgements are of this nature and not all societies are chaotic. So clearly I don’t agree.”

    OK, make it “DEEP sentiment and DEEPLY” personal preferences. Please! It is still based on feeling. Either one accepts the rationality of the objective moral law or one is reduced to relying on one’s feelings. If you think things through, you will realize that subjective morality leads to a “war of all against all.” Without objective morality as the final arbiter, personal moralities derived in context will always produce conflict.

    —–“This is just a diatribe not an argument. Materialists have moral standards. They are just rooted in different sources – as explained above.”

    All that you have told me so far is that morals are personal and based on feelings. That is not an objective source; it is a subjective source, which is no source at all. That is like saying we are all our own source of morality, which is exactly what you are saying.
    .
    —-“I am not sure if I can think of any more ways to explain this. I do think things are good and bad.”

    Can you give me an example of a “bad” action or an “evil” action? If morality is subjective, then I can simply call it good and we have a stand off. Who or what will arbitrate our disagreement? Please think carefully about this.

    —-“When I do it I am expressing my personal attitude to that thing underpinned by my belief that others will see it the same way. I am not talking about some kind of pretend goodness. I am not under an illusion. It was I mean by good and bad. It is very similar to when I say that a film is boring.”

    Yes, I know. You think morality is a matter of personal taste, which is why you offered the example about films. In all seriousness, you really do need to Google “Illustrations of the Tao.” Please do that and get back to me.

  131. “You introduced the film analogy as part of your argument, so I responded by explaining that the response to art is both a response to objective value and a person response unique to the individual. You are so used to putting everything in the subjective mode, that you misunderstood my application to your example. A piece of art cannot be “objectively” boring, of course, but it can objectively bad, which will cause many people to be bored by it.”

    I don’t happen to think art can be objectively bad. But I didn’t want to get bogged down in another thousand year old controversy. So I chose boring as an analogy. So I still don’t understand the application of what you wrote to my example. Perhaps you can try and explain it differently? What is it you are correcting about my analogy of boredom?

    “Once again, you miss the application of the principle and you ignore the critical point. You once accused me of being rude, and I may well have been guilty. However, your appeal pointed to an objective standard of justice to which rudeness was a violation. On the one hand, you say there are no objective moral norms; on the other hand, you say I violated one. It is clear now?”

    I can’t remember the example but if I wrote that and meant it – then I doubt I pointed to any objective standard. My belief was that other people, including you, would also agree that it was rude if certain aspects of what you wrote were pointed out. I might have found they did not agree. In that case I could do no more than say “that’s what I think”. Is that clear now?

    “I am sorry I gave that impression [that {StephenB} is going from an “is” to an “ought to.” (where?). I don’t think it is possible to go from “is” to “ought”. But I don’t think moral statements are statements of fact. So we are not going from an “is” to an “is”. We have a real problem bridging the gap. Which is why we have to assume some kind of underlying moral feelings.”

    “You did it early on, [appeal to the “is,” “ought” problem] and you are doing it again here in your last correspondence

    Here is what you wrote:

    Mark Frank –“I can do a lot to persuade this chap that baby torture is wrong and that I am not guilty of a hate crime. I can find inconsistencies in his position. I can try to get him to imagine how much the babies will suffer. I can point to some of the consequences of baby torture that he had not thought of. But in the end I cannot make a logically incontrovertable case unless he has some moral feelings. I cannot derive what he ought to do simply from what is. I have to find something that he thinks people ought to do.”

    So, can we please dispense with this “is,” “ought-to” business once and for all.”

    This is utterly bizarre. The paragraph you quote is me arguing that you cannot derive an “ought” from an “is”. You use it to claim that I am saying that morality is a case of deriving an “is” from an “is”. I truly cannot see how you can interpret it that way??????

    “The last few times I raised that issue to a moral relativist, they gave me the same answer almost word for word. In fact, the moral relativist cannot come face to face with his own principles. Nor does he even believe them. You clearly believe in objective truth, but you don’t recognize your self-contradictory position. If you really believed that truth doesn’t exist, you would not tell me I am wrong. You would say that we are both right.”

    I have personal involvement with an abortion situation. I am writing under my own name in a public forum. I will not respond any more on this particular subject. Please respect this.

    “OK, make it “DEEP sentiment and DEEPLY” personal preferences. Please! It is still based on feeling. Either one accepts the rationality of the objective moral law or one is reduced to relying on one’s feelings. If you think things through, you will realize that subjective morality leads to a “war of all against all.” Without objective morality as the final arbiter, personal moralities derived in context will always produce conflict.”

    Funnily enough I don’t come to this conclusion. Please show me.

    “All that you have told me so far is that morals are personal and based on feelings. That is not an objective source; it is a subjective source, which is no source at all. That is like saying we are all our own source of morality, which is exactly what you are saying.”

    For the umpteenth time. A subjective source is a source. A source which is based on deep, shared, aspects of human nature. Thus human nature is the source of morality.
    .

    “Can you give me an example of a “bad” action or an “evil” action? If morality is subjective, then I can simply call it good and we have a stand off. Who or what will arbitrate our disagreement? Please think carefully about this.”

    I think mass murder is bad. If you call it good you will be truly out of step with almost all humans. As I have indicated I can use lots of arguments to try and bring you to my point of view. But if in the end you still believe it to be good thing – then you are right – we have a stand off. That is my point!

    “Yes, I know. You think morality is a matter of personal taste, which is why you offered the example about films. In all seriousness, you really do need to Google “Illustrations of the Tao.” Please do that and get back to me”

    I read it. It’s a list of moral instructions. So what? I don’t deny that all cultures share many of their morals. In fact that’s a major part of my thesis.

  132. —–Mark Frank: “I have personal involvement with an abortion situation. I am writing under my own name in a public forum. I will not respond any more on this particular subject. Please respect this.”

    OK.

    —–:Funnily enough I don’t come to this conclusion. Please show me. (Without objective morality as the final arbiter, personal moralities derived in context will always produce conflict).”

    One person derives a person morality based on personal feelings, while another person derives another personal morality based on personal feelings.

    Example 1—Student [A] believes it is OK to cheat on a test if he has been deprived in some way or another. Person [B] believes that it is not OK for person [A] to cheat on the test because he believes that he shouldn’t have to compete against a cheater who has an unfair advantage. This is called a “conflict.”

    Example 2 — Person [A] (Me) thinks it’s OK to discuss abortion, person [B] (You) believes that it is not OK. That is a “conflict.”

    Personal moralities, insofar as they are unguided by an objective moral code, ALWAYS lead to conflict. How many millions of examples would you like?

    Also, you have yet to answer the big question: You think that your position is right and my position is wrong. Otherwise, you would not have issued this challenge in the first place. But if either truth or morality is subjective, then we are both right. So, why are you arguing with me if both of us are right? If, on the other hand, you are right and I am wrong, what universal standard of truth are you appealing to that will confirm you position and disconfirm my position?

    —–“I read it. (The Tao [natural moral law). It’s a list of moral instructions. So what? I don’t deny that all cultures share many of their morals. In fact that’s a major part of my thesis.”

    In the United States, during the 1940’s and 50’s, the majority accepted bigotry against blacks. Do you know what Martin Luther King said to that? He said that it didn’t matter what the majority thought. What mattered was that bigotry was wrong because it violated the “natural moral law.” Under those circumstances, would you have gone along with the majority?

    Further, we have not the small problem of the tyranny of the majority. What happens if 60% of the population decides that everyone over 80 must die? (We are headed in that direction right now). What happens if 51% of the population wants to be kept by the other 49% (We are almost there)

  133. Re: Mark Frank on the meaning of “wrong.”

    Wrong is the discrepancy between two distinct things, namely the way something is and the way it ought to be. An actor has said the wrong lines when what he said differs from what is in the script. A musician has played the wrong notes when what she has played differs from the intentions of the composer. “Wrong” is possible if and only if there is the relevant creator has a defined intended outcome. In all such cases, a comparison is made. “Wrong” indicates discrepancy, while “right” indicates correspondence.

    The problem for materialism is that it gives one only what is, and it can never provide a distinct “the way it ought to be.” Even if one says (by definition) that everything always is as it ought to be, you still do not have two distinct things to compare or contrast.

    Consequently, Darwinistic materialism, having only what is and never a distinct “ought to be,” is inherently incapable of saying that anything about the course of the history of life is objectively wrong (and to their credit various materialists acknowledge this). This comes from understanding the course of the history of life as a mindless, purposeless, undirected natural process. There can be no “ought” for this that is distinct from whatever has actually happened.

    This doesn’t exclude people from finding aspects of reality not as they like and having negative emotions related to this, just as animals may not be pleased about how their own role is going. However, dislike about something doesn’t imply that anything has digressed from what it ought to be. They are distinct concepts.

    So I fully grant to you that there can be a whole world of competing preferences, along with a host of related reactions and emotions. But I would think that any attempt to merely redefine “wrong” in terms of competing preferences would be a dodge that hedges on the distinct meaning of “wrong.”

    I don’t claim you are trying to make such a dodge. I will simply say that, so far, it is not clear to me that you have pointed to anything that goes beyond the categories of competing preferences and their associated emotions or reactions. Have I missed something? If so, please clarify.

    The problem I am raising is the apparent inconsistency in which materialists will on the one hand deny there is any objective standard for right and wrong (no objective “ought”) — this much is consistent. But then on the other hand, I have seen some take great offense, for example, at the suggestion that the Darwinian materialist paradigm eliminates the possibility of saying rape is objectively wrong. Yet, within Darwinian materialism, rape is also necessarily a product of the evolutionary process — exactly as is any cruel behavior that Darwin found repulsive and used as motivation toward his views.

    It seems that the materialists cannot consistently stomach their own tonic. But then, that is why I am asking materialists to speak to this, since I am viewing it from the outside.

  134. p.s. A couple specific clarifications for Mark Frank.

    So you feel that “wrong” refers to a property – the wrongness of the act. …

    I don’t consider “wrong” to be a property of the act or object or event in and of itself in isolation. As described in my post 134, it describes a comparison that finds a contrast or discrepancy between two things, i.e. between the actual and the intended outcomes, between what it is and what it ought to be. Thus, it is not a fact about the object itself, but it is a fact about the contrast with the ought.

    When there is no intention, no ought, then “right” and “wrong” are meaningless in that context. I believe we are in agreement about that, yes? If something is caused by a mindless, unguided process of nature, it simply is what it is. It would then be nonsense to say the outcome ought to have been otherwise. True?

    … And when I deny that you conclude it must refer to my subjective feelings. Because it must refer to something.

    My understanding came from your own references to “moral emotions” and later to “reaction” as in “I am expressing my reaction”. These are subjective and not shared by all, as you acknowledged.

    I do understand that you consider these reactions to be informed / influenced by nature and nurture and how one believes others would react, if they had the same knowledge.

    [But which others? As an aside, I don't think you have yet dealt with the issue I raised concerning how this is changed by one's perspective, e.g. identifying with victim vs. with the victor, the one who benefits. From the human standpoint, there is no single, universal perspective for all people. Even with knowledge, the same event can admit equally valid but completely different reactions.]

    Did I miss your intended meaning?

    Thanks in advance for your patience, if I am just being particularly slow on the uptake.

  135. Re #133

    StephenB

    You said morality based on personal feelings always leads to conflict (you even put it in uppercase). Listing examples does not establish that it always leads to conflict. After all moralities based on Christianity – which presumably you take to be objective – sometimes lead to conflict. In countries such as Sweden and Denmark where there is a high proportion of atheism there are many, many examples of agreement on moral issues.

    I don’t think that your position is morally wrong! I just think you misunderstand the nature of morality and therefore incorrectly believe that materialists are inconsistent. Your are objectively mistaken about the nature of morality – but that is not in itself a morally wrong thing to do. It is not your fault.

  136. Ericb

    This time I have only 5 minutes. So I can only say that

    a) I continue to appreciate your polite and considered comments and I will respond.

    b) You are not slow on the uptake. This is a subtle and complex discussion (My first degree is in philosophy so I have a head start over you (unless you also have such a background))

  137. H’mm:

    Muy interesante: Re. MF, 137:”My first degree is in philosophy . . . ”

    So we may freely infer from that, that he will have at least basic capacity to understand and assess the main arguments in this and other threads. But, let’s stick to the main focus for this particular one — evolutionary materialism and its ethical implications, which as MF makes quite plain, are along the lines of subjectivism and personal or cultural relativism and what we may call “rhetorism.” [By that, I mean that his evident view is that the issue in ethical conflict is to persuade, not to warrant. (And he will be aware of why I use this instead of terms like "justify" or "demonstrate."]

    Now, SB and EricB are deeply concerned that such rhetorism is in effect an attempt to have the cake of objectivity [which is not quite the same as absolutes, i.e i reckon with Josiah Royce's key truth no 1: error exists], whilst enjoying the fruits of subjectivism and relativism anchored in materialism.

    So, how are we to find a way forward in the face of the evident “impasse”?

    1 –> Let’s start with the plurality of worldviews, all of which bristle with difficulties, and so that our best approach to worldviews and thus to ethical positions (a key component) is by comparative difficulties. [MF and SB, your remarks on the just linked would go a long way towards clarifying whether we have common ground for dialogue, and would be welcome.]

    2 –> Now, the relevant key broad-brush live options are theism, materialism and pantheism, with the note involved that theism may focus on (a) the power of God to compel assent, or (b) on the reasonableness of what he may ask of us on ethics especially. Pantheism is important globally, but is not directly relevant save though implications of its inherent monism [which it shares with evolutionary materialism], to the issues we face; so I will focus.

    3 –> Judaeo-Christian ethics emphasises the latter, e.g. in terms of Rom 2 & 13:

    Rom 2: 3 . . . when you, a mere man, pass [moral] judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? . . . . 6God “will give to each person according to what he has done.”[a] 7To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. 8But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger . . . . 14(Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, 15since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.) . . . .

    Rom 13:8 . . . he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. 9The commandments, “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not covet,”[a] and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”[b] 10 Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. [Of course we all struggle to live up to such a standard, and thereby hangs our need for a rescuing, reforming and transforming Saviour . . . ]

    4 –> Or, as Locke cited Hooker on the golden rule as the foundation of just government and liberty in the community:

    . . . if I cannot but wish to receive good, even as much at every man’s hands, as any man can wish unto his own soul, how should I look to have any part of my desire herein satisfied, unless myself be careful to satisfy the like desire which is undoubtedly in other men . . . my desire, therefore, to be loved of my equals in Nature, as much as possible may be, imposeth upon me a natural duty of bearing to themward fully the like affection. From which relation of equality between ourselves and them that are as ourselves, what several rules and canons natural reason hath drawn for direction of life no man is ignorant. [Locke, citing Hooker in Ch 2 Sec. 5 of 2nd treatise on civil Gov't]

    5 –> On this premise, ethics is objective, knowable — in the sense of warranted, credibly true belief — as a core to the ordinary man [regardless of his particular worldview], and is anchored to our being created equally in the image of God. Indeed, conscience is seen as the inner moral compass of God that, with reasonable care over thought, word and deed in light of putting ourselves in the other person’s shoes, can usually lead us aright.

    [ . . . ]

  138. 6 –> On this view too, rights are not the accident of power plays and rhetoric across time in a culture, but are just claims we make on others to be respected as being made in God’s image and made to find fulfillment in a calling under God. That is, duties, justice and rights are inextricably intertwined with our fundamental equality as made in God’s image and towards his purposes for our best fulfillment.

    7 –> Compare, as C S Lewis was fond of saying, to how we quarrel — by appealing to just such a known or knowable [i.e. objective] standard, and the response to that is as a rule not “so what: me is cat and you is rat – yuh ‘ent nutten but lunch!”

    8 –> That is, the commonplace facts of moral conflict from ~ 18 months of age up are utterly consistent with the Judaeo-Christian theistic view that morality is objective, knowable and as to core a commonplace of knowledge.

    9 –> To this ethics of fundamental equality and resulting mutual duty, we can contrast the picture drawn out by H G Wells in 1898, and as underpinned by Darwin’s own Descent of Man, then sadly worked out over the next decades: fundamental inequality tracing to one’s inheritance as the engine of progress, with survival of the fittest by the passive or active — subtle or blatant — culling of the “unfit,” i.e. “inferior.” (To me, this seems frankly to be at core an anti-ethics of power, not an ethics, and only restrained by the counsels of prudence in regard to the lessons of the last major slaughter or two; but then, doubtless that would be brushed aside as just my perception. And in deed, relegation of ethical concerns to subjectivism, relativism and rhetorism smacks of anti-ethics, nihilism in all but outright name, or at best a struggle not to fall into that.)

    10 –> Now, theistic ethics faces two classic challenges. First, as H G Wells pointed out in War of the Worlds, that in many quarters, it is thought that the “scientific” view of the world establishes materialism, so like or lump it, we must live with it best as we can. (But in fact Lewontinian materialism is plainly an a priori imposition on science, not a well warranted conclusion from origins science.)

    11 –> The second, deeper, challenge is the problem of evil. How can the reality of evil be held compatible with the existence of a good God? Again, this raises two points.

    12 –> First, the strong form of the argument, the logical argument from evil against God, is now known to be answered by Plantinga, and the inductive form is manageable in that light.

    13 –> however, the passionate anger at evil raised by those who think it challenges the very existence of God, also has a subtler side. For, the objector thereby acknowledges the reality of evil. Which, as Koukl pointed out, does not sit very well with the worldview of evolutionary materialism.

    14 –> For, evil is not a material entity, no moreso than good is, nor than number, truth or propositions are. And if there is a rhetorical retreat into seeing evil as merely a label for partifularly strong negative feelings [i.e. subjectivism and/or relativism], then it seems we are right back at the challenge of anti-ethics.

    ______________

    So, which difficulties will we live with, why?

    GEM of TKI

  139. —-Mark: “You said morality based on personal feelings always leads to conflict (you even put it in uppercase). Listing examples does not establish that it always leads to conflict. After all moralities based on Christianity – which presumably you take to be objective – sometimes lead to conflict. In countries such as Sweden and Denmark where there is a high proportion of atheism there are many, many examples of agreement on moral issues.”

    Well, we know that isn’t the case don’t we. I showed you very clearly WHY subjectivism leads to conflict. When everyone invents his own morality, then everyone has a different morality and that leads to conflict. Even if you will not acknowledge that fact, onlookers can see the point clearly.

    The natural moral law is not based on Christianity, so I don’t know why you raise that issue. With regard to atheists, they have no morality, which is what leads to subjectivism, which, in turn, leads to conflict, which leads to tyranny. Meanwhile, it is not possible for someone to be good and moral while, at the same time, rejecting goodness and morality. So, if atheists are moral, they do so on the basis of someone else’s moral standard. If you think atheism has a universal moral code of its own (and a metaphysical foundation that can justify it), you are encouraged to present it now.

    —-”I don’t think that your position is morally wrong! I just think you misunderstand the nature of morality and therefore incorrectly believe that materialists are inconsistent. Your are objectively mistaken about the nature of morality – but that is not in itself a morally wrong thing to do. It is not your fault.”

    You believe that my position is wrong in the sense of being incorrect. We are, after all, having a disagreement. Truth and morality are related because morality is based on truth.(I understand that you have rejected that point as well, but it still holds). Materialism doesn’t just deny objective morality, it denies objective truth. You have no rational standard by which you can assert that anyone’s position on morality or any other subject is untrue, because you don’t believe that there is any such thing as truth. So, to be consistent, you must say that we are both right. Obviously, you don’t believe that or you wouldn’t have argued against my position for so long. You are defending your conception of the truth even though your metaphysical code holds that there is no truth to defend. It is not I who misunderstands materialism.

  140. Ericb

    I reread #134 several times but I am still not sure what you are getting at. I can pick out elements I understand.

    ———-

    So you decide whether something is wrong by comparing it to a standard.
    Although this is sometimes the case it doesn’t seem plausible as a general account of right and wrong.

    1) We often judge specific instances without reference to a standard. “I saw someone cutting down a wonderful old tree and it just felt wrong to me”.

    2) Whatever standard is invoked we still have to assess as to whether that standard is right or wrong. So right and wrong cannot be defined as meeting a standard or we would have infinite regress.

    —-

    I would have thought that hardly anyone of any persuasion would judge the course of the history of life as right or wrong. Most of it happened before there were any eukaryotes, much less people. So who would be responsible? God?

    —-

    The problem I am raising is the apparent inconsistency in which materialists will on the one hand deny there is any objective standard for right and wrong (no objective “ought”) — this much is consistent. But then on the other hand, I have seen some take great offense, for example, at the suggestion that the Darwinian materialist paradigm eliminates the possibility of saying rape is objectively wrong. Yet, within Darwinian materialism, rape is also necessarily a product of the evolutionary process — exactly as is any cruel behavior that Darwin found repulsive and used as motivation toward his views.

    I don’t know that many materialists would claim that rape is objectively wrong (presumably only those that believe in objective morals). They just claim it is wrong.

    The sex drive that, combined with environmental factors, lead to rape may well be the result of the fitness advantage of a strong sex drive. (Actually I am not sure that rape is the result of sex drive – but let’s assume it is). I don’t see why that makes it less wrong. We have also evolved a sense of compassion. Does that make it less right?

    It seems to me you have described a well known problem of free will and responsibility. If it is in our nature/genes to do something then are we responsible for doing it? It is fairly interesting problem – but it is equally a problem whether you acquired those genes through RM+NS or designer implant. It is nothing much to do with Darwinism.

  141. Re Mark:

    Eric showed that we make an objective decision that something is wrong — e.g. a flubbed line in a play — relative to a purposeful context.

    This is not at all parallel to it FELLS subjectively wrong to see a tree cut down. [And, even in that context, there is an implicit assumption that the purpose of a tree is to live not be cut down just for convenience or fun etc.]

    And, there is a reason why purpose is seen as a final cause, not an opening to an infinite regress. [All chains of reasoning are open to infinite regress in principle, we terminate at final points that we accept as plausibly true or valid.]

    And if you as a materialist say:

    I don’t know that many materialists would claim that rape is objectively wrong (presumably only those that believe in objective morals). They just claim it is wrong.

    . . . then that tells us a lot.

    Similarly:

    If it is in our nature/genes to do something then are we responsible for doing it? It is fairly interesting problem – but it is equally a problem whether you acquired those genes through RM+NS or designer implant.

    . . . tells us that M seems to think that we are the playthings of our genes etc, not responsible decision-makers. Which of course cuts clean across our world of moral choice and experience.

    It is underscored that evolutionary materialism leads to a serious difficulty with the anti-ethics of power. As has already been pointed out.

    But, that is not to be taken in the context that such materialism is well-established and so we have to live with its consequences. Far to the contrary:

    . . . [evolutionary] materialism [a worldview that often likes to wear the mantle of "science"] . . . argues that the cosmos is the product of chance interactions of matter and energy, within the constraint of the laws of nature. Therefore, all phenomena in the universe, without residue, are determined by the working of purposeless laws acting on material objects, under the direct or indirect control of chance.

    But human thought, clearly a phenomenon in the universe, must now fit into this picture. Thus, what we subjectively experience as “thoughts” and “conclusions” can only be understood materialistically as unintended by-products of the natural forces which cause and control the electro-chemical events going on in neural networks in our brains. (These forces are viewed as ultimately physical, but are taken to be partly mediated through a complex pattern of genetic inheritance ["nature"] and psycho-social conditioning ["nurture"], within the framework of human culture [i.e. socio-cultural conditioning and resulting/associated relativism].)

    Therefore, if materialism is true, the “thoughts” we have and the “conclusions” we reach, without residue, are produced and controlled by forces that are irrelevant to purpose, truth, or validity. Of course, the conclusions of such arguments may still happen to be true, by lucky coincidence — but we have no rational grounds for relying on the “reasoning” that has led us to feel that we have “proved” them. And, if our materialist friends then say: “But, we can always apply scientific tests, through observation, experiment and measurement,” then we must note that to demonstrate that such tests provide empirical support to their theories requires the use of the very process of reasoning which they have discredited!

    Thus, evolutionary materialism reduces reason itself to the status of illusion. But, immediately, that includes “Materialism.” For instance, Marxists commonly deride opponents for their “bourgeois class conditioning” — but what of the effect of their own class origins? Freudians frequently dismiss qualms about their loosening of moral restraints by alluding to the impact of strict potty training on their “up-tight” critics — but doesn’t this cut both ways? And, should we not simply ask a Behaviourist whether s/he is simply another operantly conditioned rat trapped in the cosmic maze?

    In the end, materialism is based on self-defeating logic . . . .

    In Law, Government, and Public Policy, the same bitter seed has shot up the idea that “Right” and “Wrong” are simply arbitrary social conventions. This has often led to the adoption of hypocritical, inconsistent, futile and self-destructive public policies.

    So, the root issue is whether we are seeing here a reductio ad absurdum not only on morals but on mind too.

    unless the materialists can show how they avert this problem, we can safely take their position as self-referentially absurd and thus false.

    GEM of TKI

  142. To Mark Frank, I have just seen post 141 (and not yet any others below it). It’s my turn to have only a few minutes for an initial response before heading out.

    You have me beat — I had only a minor in philosophy, at least two classes short of a major.

    Regarding some of your questions in 141, I think it may help you to understand if you distinguish between ontological concerns and epistemological concerns. The nature of wrong is that it is a discrepancy between two distinct things, ought and is. There is a separate question of how do we people come to understand in any setting what was the intended outcome, not just the actual outcome.

    It is objectively meaningful to say that there can be a discrepancy even if there are legitimate questions about how we can come to understand or know this with confidence. My only point in saying that is to emphasize they are two different questions, and to mix them together indistinguishably would only confuse matters.

    So the woman may not be able to explain the source of her feeling about the tree. Nevertheless, the feeling of wrong is a contrast between what is happening (the tree is being cut down) and what ought to happen (the tree should be allowed to remain standing). Your example is completely in line with my definition.

    Regarding rape, “We have also evolved a sense of compassion.” Who has, exactly?

    If compassion is an evolved feature, we both know that it would be nonsense to insist that every member of a species “ought” to manifest every feature ever associated with that species. Some have compassion. Others do not. If those that do not have compassion do not act compassionately, how do we justifiably claim, “Well, they ought to.”?

    To take a perhaps even better example, notice how Allen_MacNeill every now and then will offer a stock response that works hard to attempt to separate Darwin’s predictions based on Darwinism and Darwin’s personal preferences. It would seem that there is something shameful about owning up to the predictions of Darwinism. But consider the following.

    Consider the distinct values of those who, as a superior race march forward to fulfill those predictions, with the consequence that inferior races are pushed toward extinction. Darwin’s theory expects this. Where and how does the Darwinist insert “But this isn’t what ought to happen.”? And if he cannot insert that into the theory, where is the coherence of saying to the people who carry it out, “You ought not to do what we predict you will do.”?

  143. Mark Frank, I have a bit more time to clear up some misunderstandings. You said:

    It seems to me you have described a well known problem of free will and responsibility. If it is in our nature/genes to do something then are we responsible for doing it? It is fairly interesting problem – but it is equally a problem whether you acquired those genes through RM+NS or designer implant. It is nothing much to do with Darwinism.

    The problem I am describing is not one about freedom. It is not about ability. I am not questioning whether the rapist could stop raping or whether the superior race could stop pushing inferior races toward extinction. Assume that both are possible, even within Darwinian materialism.

    The question is whether it makes sense or nonsense within Darwinian materialism to say to everyone who does not have evolved feature X, “You *ought* to have X.” Expecting that all members of a species *ought* to be the same or to exhibit the same behavior seems utterly foreign, even contrary, to the perspective of Darwinian materialism.

    If compassion is a real transcendent value that applies to all humans, then it makes sense to expect that humans ought to be or become compassionate. But that view is excluded by Darwinian materialism. If compassion is a product of unguided, mindless evolution, then compassion is one instance of X in the above paragraph, and expecting that all humans *ought* to exhibit it appears to be incoherent to Darwinian materialism. Or if you think otherwise, what about X as “monogamous” or some other value that materialists like to debunk as a necessary universal human value. To be plausible, the reasoning cannot be arbitrarily applied to one thing and not another.

    Or, in the case of the other matter (cf. Allen_MacNeill’s attempt to avoid the implication in this very thread), please consider the last paragraph of my previous post. Where is the coherence of saying to the people who fulfill Darwinian predictions, “You ought not to do what we predict you will do.”?

    That is not a question of free will or determinism. It is a question about whether an expectation is coherent, given that the theory already (supposedly) indicates how life has always operated. Where does one find the “ought” that demands something else? How is that justified without stealing ideas and expectations from the culture of transcendent moral realism?

    Does that help distinguish my questions?

  144. —-Mark: “I don’t know that many materialists would claim that rape is objectively wrong (presumably only those that believe in objective morals). They just claim it is wrong.”

    Onlookers, this paragraph serves as well as anything to illustrate the difficulty of trying to integrate morality with materialism.

    On the one hand, the materialist cannot assert that the rape act is objectively wrong. On the other hand, he holds that it is, neverthelss, “wrong.” So, the contradiction is complete: Rape is both wrong and not wrong.

    Also, notice the phrase ……(“presumably only those [materialists]that believe in objective morals”). As it turns out, the materialist cannot logically believe in objective morality for the obvious reason that morality is non-material.

    While there is no escapte from this difficulty, there is a reasonable altermative. Truth, justice, purpose, morality, unity, being, beauty, goodness and other non-material realities do exist. Truth is not hard to find, it is hard to face, harder yet to follow. That is the problem with the materialist.

  145. #145

    StephenB

    On the one hand, the materialist cannot assert that the rape act is objectively wrong. On the other hand, he holds that it is, neverthelss, “wrong.” So, the contradiction is complete: Rape is both wrong and not wrong.

    I am beginning to despair. The whole point of discussion for the last 20 or so comments has been about how a non-objective morality based on human nature can be powerful and meaningful. You may not agree but to simply announce that “therefore rape is both wrong and not wrong” is just to assume your case is obviously true and ignore everything that has gone before.

    Now answer me a simple question. Suppose moral goodness is a non-material reality. Why do morally good things?

  146. #144

    EricB

    I think I undestand you.

    You are concerned that modern evolutionary theory means it is silly to expect all people to behave and be treated the same way. So morality is not universal.

    It seems me that most creationists/IDers believe that people are genetically different – even if they disagree about how they got that way. So they have the same problem. People are different and cannot help being different – however they got that way. So is it rational to apply the same moral principles to all of them. Why should some not be privileged?

    It is testing moral question. But it is not unique to those who believe in current evolutionary theory.

  147. Onlookers:

    Let us observe as members of the proverbial peanut gallery (MF “does not understand” and “will not read” or discuss the remarks of the undersigned . . . but, that does not prevent us onlookers from doing so, on or off line ):

    ______________

    MF, 141: I don’t know that many materialists would claim that rape is objectively wrong (presumably only those that believe in objective morals). They just claim it is wrong.

    SB, 145: On the one hand, the materialist cannot assert that the rape act is objectively wrong. On the other hand, he holds that it is, nevertheless, “wrong.” So, the contradiction is complete: Rape is both wrong and not wrong . . . . the materialist cannot logically believe in objective morality for the obvious reason that morality is non-material.

    While there is no escape from this difficulty, there is a reasonable alternative. Truth, justice, purpose, morality, unity, being, beauty, goodness and other non-material realities do exist. Truth is not hard to find, it is hard to face, harder yet to follow. That is the problem with the materialist.

    MF, 146: The whole point of discussion for the last 20 or so comments has been about how a non-objective morality based on human nature can be powerful and meaningful. You may not agree but to simply announce that “therefore rape is both wrong and not wrong” is just to assume your case is obviously true and ignore everything that has gone before.

    Now answer me a simple question. Suppose moral goodness is a non-material reality. Why do morally good things?
    __________________

    1 –> What — per 141 — is the difference between “objectively wrong” and merely simply “wrong”? According to MF @ 146: “a non-objective morality based on human nature can be powerful and meaningful . . .”

    2 –> In short, we see an anti-ethics of power or at best persuasion.

    3 –> So, per materialist worldview premises, there is no ought, just an is: your or my subjective preferences — claimed to be “human nature” [but is not a nature an essence, i.e. also just as immaterial as objective moral truth?] — backed up by who has the rhetorical or physical power to get his or her way.

    4 –> Also, it sems to me that most of the rhetorical force of MF’s “wrong” as opposed to “objectively wrong” traces to the objective connotation of “wrong.”

    5 –> So, also, the meaning of “objective” is in contention. Classically, objective truths are those we discover rather than merely perceive, imagine or create, i.e they are independent of the individual person and his/her preferences or perceptions.

    6 –> Or, echoing Josiah Royce, they are the truths we can be in error about when we face key objective truth no 1: “error exists.” (If one tries to deny this truth, s/he simply instantiates an error [whether by being mistaken or by implying that KT no 1 is error makes but little difference], confirming its truthfulness.)

    7 –> So, objective truth exists, though we can be mistaken about it; it is independent of our state of mind or opinion, and is discoverable. Such truth being “that which says of what is, that it is; and of what is not, that it is not.” [FYI Rob: Ari, Metaphysics 1011b, paraphrased.]

    8 –> Similarly, morality is in contention. So, Stanford enc of phil:

    The term “morality” can be used either

    1. descriptively to refer to a code of conduct put forward by a society or,

    a. some other group, such as a religion, or

    b. accepted by an individual for her own behavior or

    2. normatively to refer to a code of conduct that, given specified conditions, would be put forward by all rational persons.

    What “morality” is taken to refer to plays a crucial, although often unacknowledged, role in formulating ethical theories. To take “morality” to refer [exclusively] to an actually existing code of conduct put forward by a society results in a denial that there is a universal morality, one that applies to all human beings.

    [ . . . ]

  148. 9 –> In short, SB cited rape (and earlier the torturing of babies) as classic instances of conduct that the denial of the wrongness of is a mark of error or worse. EricB at 135 has given an excellent summary of why:

    I don’t consider “wrong” to be a property of the act or object or event in and of itself in isolation. As described in my post 134, it describes a comparison that finds a contrast or discrepancy between two things, i.e. between the actual and the intended outcomes, between what it is and what it ought to be. Thus, it is not a fact about the object itself, but it is a fact about the contrast with the ought.

    When there is no intention, no ought, then “right” and “wrong” are meaningless in that context . . . If something is caused by a mindless, unguided process of nature, it simply is what it is. It would then be nonsense to say the outcome ought to have been otherwise.

    11 –> In short, the human person is an end in her-/him- self, and we are all equally human persons. So, to violently abuse such a person, by rape or by torture, is to create a wrongful gap between the is and the ought; thus to be OBJECTIVELY wrong.

    12 –> What is more, as the hint at Kant’s Categorical Imperative in 11 indicates, should such behaviour propagate unchecked across a society, it would utterly break it down or outright destroy it. [That is we here have a thought-experiment test, or -- sadly -- a practical one -- for moral wrong. (Resemblance to present trends in our civilisation are NOT coincidental, even as H G Wells warned against in his 1897/9 War of the Worlds.)]

    13 –> Therefore, there is indeed objective moral truth, and that rape and torture of infants is wrong are two instances of such.

    14 –> This also brings us back to the problems triggered by the inherent purposelessness of materialism, and to implications of its denial of non-material realities.

    15 –> For, plainly its denial of objective truth and morality stem from its purposelessness [ought is not to be found in its premises as purpose is absent therefrom], and it objects to things that are objectively real but are obviously non-material: morality, good and evil, mind, propositions etc.

    16 –> In the place of such objective truths, we see an anti-ethics of power, backed up by the power of persuasive rhetoric, manifested in subjectivism and relativism, that now wish to plead with us that subjective “purpose” is “meaningful.” But, plainly (as we have seen step by step above), these are errors — errors that we learned the bloody implications of across the C20, having refused to heed the warnings that many gave, including H G Wells.

    ____________

    In short, we have again turned an important corner at UD, but one that is painful. For — despite how painful it is to say or hear this — it is now manifest that evolutionary materialism is in gross error on the nature and reality of morality, leading to an anti-ethics of power and rhetorical manipulation. One that all too recent — and as yet unfinished — history tells us is very, very dangerous.

    So, will we learn from it, or are we doomed to repeat it; with but minor variations? (E.g. what of the ongoing 48+ millions deep abortion holocaust . . . ? Assisted suicide? Involuntary euthanasia, first of the paralysed or comatose or uncommunicative, but then later on . . . ?)

    GEM of TKI

  149. Re MF, 147:

    >> most creationists/IDers believe that people are genetically different – even if they disagree about how they got that way. So they have the same problem. People are different and cannot help being different – however they got that way. So is it rational to apply the same moral principles to all of them. Why should some not be privileged? >>

    We see here what happens when we do not attend to key, easily accessible expositions. Let us simply cite:

    __________________

    Paul, Athens, AD 50:

    Ac 17:24″The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. 25And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. 26From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. 27God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. 28′For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’

    Paul, to the Romans, AD 57:

    Rom 13: 8 . . . he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. 9The commandments, “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not covet,”[a] and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”[b] 10Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

    __________________

    Locke, citing Hooker in his 2nd treatise on Civil Gov’t, Ch 2 Sect 5:

    . . . if I cannot but wish to receive good, even as much at every man’s hands, as any man can wish unto his own soul, how should I look to have any part of my desire herein satisfied, unless myself be careful to satisfy the like desire which is undoubtedly in other men . . . my desire, therefore, to be loved of my equals in Nature, as much as possible may be, imposeth upon me a natural duty of bearing to themward fully the like affection. From which relation of equality between ourselves and them that are as ourselves, what several rules and canons natural reason hath drawn for direction of life no man is ignorant.
    _______________

    US Declaration of Independence, 1776:

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, [cf Rom 1:18 - 21, 2:14 - 15], that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. –That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes . . . when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security . . . .

    ______________

    In short, the precise point of the Creation-based view is that we are fundamentally equal as made in God’s image, and are mutually obligated by neighbour-love; the denial of which ends in incoherences and absurdities — as we saw above in this thread. (Some of this was already cited above in this very thread . . . )

    The design view obviously is not so specific, but on the common-sense position that we are obviously equals in nature [as a common species of rational animals], and are thus mutually morally obligated to respect the dignity of persons, it would infer to the same basic view.

    GEM of TKI

    PS: One subtle implication of MF’s remarks is that ID and Creationism are essentially the same. This is not so, and MF should be careful to mark the distinction; given a commonplace rhetorical smear tactic.

  150. —-”Mark: “You may not agree but to simply announce that “therefore rape is both wrong and not wrong” is just to assume your case is obviously true and ignore everything that has gone before.”

    No, it is to simply site your quote which reads: “I don’t know that many materialists would claim that rape is objectively wrong (presumably only those that believe in objective morals). They just claim it is wrong.”

    To say something is “wrong,” without qualifying it as, “seems wrong” or ,”is wrong is my opinion,” is to say that it is objectively wrong. Therefore to say that, for a materiialist, something is not objectively wrong but wrong neverthertheless is to make a contradictory statement. That is not even a close call. One cannot logically deny something is objectively wrong and then assert that it is wrong nevertheless. Also, don’t forget the attending error(in parenthesis) namely, the one which forgets that materialism rules out objective morality in principle.

    —-”Now answer me a simple question. Suppose moral goodness is a non-material reality. Why do morally good things?”

    The reason is that our human nature, which includes the faculty of free-will, carries with it an appropriate morality of human nature called the “natural moral law.” Since animals have no free will, they are not subject to that same morality. Materialists (and Darwinists) seek to reduce man to animal status, therefore exempting him from the natural moral and providing him with the rational justification for acting like an animal.

  151. Re #151

    To say something is “wrong,” without qualifying it as, “seems wrong” or ,”is wrong is my opinion,” is to say that it is objectively wrong.

    Absolute rubbish. If you say that something is interesting are you saying it is objectively interesting?

    The reason is that our human nature, which includes the faculty of free-will, carries with it an appropriate morality of human nature called the “natural moral law.”

    This sentence seems close to meaningless to me.

    What makes the morality of human nature appropriate? Who decides if it is appropriate and on what basis?

    What do you say to the person who says – I don’t want to follow the natural moral law (whatever that is). What possible reason can you give them?

    Since animals have no free will, they are not subject to that same morality.

    You must be joking. Have you ever owned a dog?

  152. Mark Frank (147):

    I think I undestand you.

    You are concerned that modern evolutionary theory means it is silly to expect all people to behave and be treated the same way. So morality is not universal.

    Close, perhaps. But perhaps not quite. For a Darwinistic materialist to talk as though there is a universal moral standard that all humans ought to follow is not so much “silly” as incoherent. Where can this idea be grounded within Darwinistic materialism (as opposed to being taken from the cultural expectations grounded in transcendent moral realism)?

    What I notice most about your reply is what it doesn’t contain. I don’t find an answer to the hard problem of how to make sense out of grounding such ideas within Darwinistic materialism. But that is no discredit to you. I believe it is unsolvable. Such ideas don’t fit.

    With regard to earlier posts, I do want to acknowledge that it could make sense to talk about people having various emotions, or reactions, or preferences for or against what others do — possibly grounded in some combination of nature and nurture. I raise no objections to this. I readily grant a world of competing preferences (though I don’t believe you have yet addressed the issue of the relativism of perspective, i.e. that even given full knowledge of a situation, humans can still have profoundly different reactions depending on which perspective they view the event from).

    Nevertheless, regarding the idea that all humans ought to be behaving in a particular way, even in ways that run counter to the predictions of Darwinism — it appears this is a foreign idea artificially grafted from outside.

    As I understand it, so far your response on this point is not to offer an explanation that makes a universal human standard coherent within Darwinian materialism, but rather to essentially suggest that whatever difficulties you may have, other positions run into exactly the same difficulties.

    But that is simply not the case. The problem is not created by genetic differences. Recall what I said in 144.

    The problem I am describing is not one about freedom. It is not about ability. I am not questioning whether the rapist could stop raping or whether the superior race could stop pushing inferior races toward extinction. Assume that both are possible, even within Darwinian materialism.

    Even while granting this, the problem I am pointing to remains in undiminished full force for Darwinian materialism. The issue is, even if they could behave differently, how is it meaningful to say that everyone *ought* to? Even now, I am not here focusing on motivation as much as coherence. If you think there could be a coherent answer, we could go further and ask, “Whose “ought to” is the “ought to” that everyone else “ought to” conform to?” Within Darwinian materialism, this seems to lead inescapably to nonsense. We can’t universally conform to every competing claim for “ought”. The issue is not genetics. It is logical incoherence.

    But within transcendent moral realism, the idea that there exists a standard for human behavior is not only coherent, it is essential to the core of the position. I grant you may be skeptical that it is true, but that is not the problem of an internal inconsistency in the position. So the suggestion that the problem of coherence exists equally for all positions simply isn’t the case. The difference between them in this regard could not be more stark.

    Reading between the lines, it sounds like you are hinting at questions about how to measure blame regarding discrepancies between ought and is. But that is an independent question.

    If a musician plays the wrong notes, there could be any number of reasons. It might be due to her eyesight, or failure to practice, or lack of talent, or the fault of the teacher, or other reasons too numerous to mention. She might not even realize that she has played wrong notes. Whatever the case, the fact remains that there is a discrepancy between the intended and the actual, and — regarding the point at hand — that it is coherent and meaningful to say that there is a discrepancy.

    Darwinian materialism does not (yet) appear to even get as far as that. What’s more, if we look at your statements, they are most damaging to your own claims of being able to say that Darwinian materialism can rationally apply one standard to others (e.g. rape is wrong).

    MF: People are different and cannot help being different – however they got that way. So is it rational to apply the same moral principles to all of them.

    For transcendent moral realism, the answer is “yes, of course”. When a standard exists, that is of course what one compares with. (But that does not imply a particular answer regarding blame, or consequences, or other separate concerns.)

    For Darwinian materialism, it so far seems that the answer must be “No, this is not rational or coherent. People who do so must be laboring under misleading impressions or reactions, such as the person who thinks that everyone should like the same foods as they do.”

  153. At 151:

    —– If you say that something is interesting are you saying it is objectively interesting?

    “Interesting” is solely a matter of opinion and can only be subjective. Nothing can be objectively interesting. A thing can be objectively good and, in many cases, healthy minds will “perceive” it as interesting. Right and wrong are also objective matters of fact.

    —-”What makes the morality of human nature appropriate? Who decides if it is appropriate and on what basis?”

    That question perplexes me. Do you think that the morality of monkeys or elephants would be more appropriate to humans than the morality of human nature? Obviously, the creator of human nature is the one who decides the morality of human nature.

    —–”What do you say to the person who says – I don’t want to follow the natural moral law (whatever that is). What possible reason can you give them?”

    My answer at 125 has not changed. Objective morality produces direction, happiness, freedom, and life; moral relativism promotes confusion, misery, slavery, and death. Also, there is the matter of the next life that some would want to take into account.

    On another matter, since animals have no free will, they are not subject to that same morality.

    —-”You must be joking. Have you ever owned a dog?”

    If you think that dogs should be held to the same moral code as humans, or if you believe that they possess anything like human free will then the joke is clearly not on me. Wouldn’t it be easier for you to say that, as a materialist, you simply don’t believe in free will at all.

    I realize that this discussion is not edifying for either of us, but I am communicating to those who do have an interest.

  154. StephenB

    You are right that it is time to end this discussion which never makes any progress at all. I seriously doubt that there is anyone out there watching it to be edified.

    EricB

    I am still struggling to understand you.

    For a Darwinistic materialist to talk as though there is a universal moral standard that all humans ought to follow is not so much “silly” as incoherent.

    As you know I don’t believe there is a universal moral standard – just very commonly accepted moral standards based on human nature.

    I don’t find an answer to the hard problem of how to make sense out of grounding such ideas within Darwinistic materialism.

    I really don’t know what the hard problem is. I thought I did but now I am confused. I think it is the term “grounding” that I can’t really fathom. Do you mean the cause of our morality or the justification or something else?

  155. Gentlemen:

    The exchanges in this thread have been very enlightening, but also quite saddening. Especially when we consider that in the name of “science,” materialism is being acrticvley promoted in our educaiton, media and policymaking i9ntitutions across our civlisation.

    The implications, in light of the above, do not bode well for our future.

    Can we not stop, look again and rethink our path?

    GEM of TKI

  156. —-Mark: “I really don’t know what the hard problem is. I thought I did but now I am confused. I think it is the term “grounding” that I can’t really fathom. Do you mean the cause of our morality or the justification or something else?”

    I will not presume to speak for EricB, who is more than capable of speaking for himself. Still, your response prompts a three part question of my own:

    What is your moral code?

    What is your rational justification for holding it?

    How do you get from matter to morality?

  157. StephenB

    What is your moral code?

    By a moral code I guess you mean what I hold to be right and wrong. I would find it hard to write it down exactly. Compassion and fairness are big components but I would always be prepared to come across a new situation which made me feel differently.

    What is your rational justification for holding it?

    Well I thought I had said that about a million times. My justification is that there are things I that I find strongly motivating and I believe others would if they saw it the way I do. I suspect that you would not find that to be a rational justification. I don’t think there can be any other. All other justifications need themselves to be justified.

    How do you get from matter to morality?

    The same way I get from food to hunger. To the extent that I am moral, it is built in to my nature (like everyone I do not always behave morally – by a long chalk). It is very similar to your reasons for being moral. I find it gives my life direction, happiness, and freedom. I just find I don’t need any kind of code to come between the situation and my reaction to it. If someone asks me for my moral principles they are descriptive not prescriptive. They are description of how I find things.

  158. To Mark Frank, I’m sorry if I’ve lost you with my ramblings. Let’s review a couple examples and the questions you haven’t yet addressed. (But if that doesn’t help, you need to give me a better idea of what you find difficult to understand.)

    1. Concerning rape, you mentioned that “We have also evolved a sense of compassion.” However, that is not true of all. As I said

    If compassion is an evolved feature, we both know that it would be nonsense to insist that every member of a species “ought” to manifest every feature ever associated with that species. Some have compassion. Others do not. If those that do not have compassion do not act compassionately, how do we justifiably claim, “Well, they ought to.”?

    I submit that you could coherently claim to have reactions against rape (just as others have reaction for it), but you have no coherent basis within Darwinian materialism for saying those who do not share your reaction (e.g. the rapist) *ought* to have your reaction. You might prefer that, you might work toward that, but that doesn’t get you to “They ought to prefer what I prefer.” any more than you could claim that everyone ought to like the same food or that all finch beaks ought to be the same size and shape. If rape has been preserved by evolution, how does the Darwinian materialist coherently exclude its claim to as much evolved historic legitimacy as the compassion that you may feel?

    2. Hindu culture has been steeped for many centuries in a caste system (“Etymology: Portuguese casta, literally, race, lineage” Merriam-Webster). Some people react strongly against how that treats people of the lower castes. However, if you were there and interfered, you might find yourself on the minority side of very hostile reactions against your minority view. Both perspectives have reactions of a moral nature. Within Darwinian materialism, can you coherently claim that some moral reactions are the right ones while others are the mistaken ones? Or do you have simply competing preferences, fueled by alternate reactions.

    3. In the movie Quigley Down Under, we get a vivid portrayal of competing reactions regarding the advance of “superior” races into Australia with the consequence of pushing “inferior” races toward extinction. When it is pointed out that Darwin writes about this in ways that many find offensive, Allen_MacNeill points out that Darwin is only predicting what his theory says will happen, not indicating his personal preference.

    I suggest we accept Allen’s claim as true and see what this implies regarding Darwinian materialism. If Darwinism predicts this push of lesser races toward extinction, what then is the coherent basis upon which a Darwinian materialist may argue to the people who are fulfilling that prediction “You ought not do what we have predicted you will do.”? Darwinism says (supposedly) how life and evolution have been operating over millions of years. How does the Darwinian materialist now claim that this is wrong, that it ought not to be so, and that all those who do not share this reaction ought to?” (Or, if that cannot be done, then we are really just talking about competing preferences?)

    4. I alluded earlier to The Time Machine and the picture of race relations given there. Is there a basis within Darwinian materialism upon which one could conclude that ought not to happen, or that the superiors ought not to treat the inferiors in that way? How would your reaction to it be the right one and the reaction of all the superiors wrong? How is this not just a matter of competing preferences?

    A common weakness in your reasoning appears to me to be that you have not yet dealt with the fact that human reactions point in many different and competing directions, especially depending on how a situation will affect them. When your examples imply that “moral emotions” give insight into how most people would react, it assumes a picture in which you haven’t yet grappled with the fact that people can have completely different reactions, even with the same knowledge of the facts (cf. the issue of perspective mentioned multiple times above).

    Without access to an “ought” that is distinct from what “is”, the Darwinian materialist is left with competing preferences. You might react strongly against how the superior races utilize their advantages while others react favorably. You might claim your moral emotions give you access to a kind of idea of what is wrong, but you haven’t shown any ability to claim a uniquely different status from other competing reactions.

    It would be incoherent — not logically meaningful — for the Darwinian materialist to claim there is a right answer to whose reactions are the right ones to have and whose are the wrong ones to have.

    It would be especially incongruous to claim that those who are fulfilling the predictions of Darwinism are acting wrongly by pushing “inferior” races toward extinction, or that they ought not to act as living creatures have been acting for millions of years.

    Nevertheless, materialists (e.g. Allen_MacNeill) seem determined to avoid such implications.

  159. p.s. Mark Frank responded to StephenB’s question:

    What is your rational justification for holding it?

    Well I thought I had said that about a million times. My justification is that there are things I that I find strongly motivating and I believe others would if they saw it the way I do.

    I noticed that although you have said other things that sound similar, you have actually changed your wording.

    The problem with the new wording is that to say “if they saw it the way I do” would be faulty reasoning, as it is begging the question. It is of course true that everyone in the world would agree with me “if they saw it the way I do”. But just as clearly, this tells us nothing beyond “I see things the way I see things”, which is not very interesting or revealing.

    If you go back to your earlier wording, it seemed that it made a claim that was not question begging, i.e. if others knew what you knew. If you are/were basing your claim on saying they need only access to the same facts of the events, that could a claim that is not question begging. However, that lands you back in the problem of supporting that claim, when in fact it depends on the perspective people take.

    Unless I missed it, so far you don’t seem to have tackled the issue of perspective that I have asked about a few times.

  160. Yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s perfectly possible, at least in theory, to construct a warm & fuzzy moral code out of nothing and in the absence of God. The point is that it can never be anything more than a construct. Absent God, the construct of the compassionate Darwinist greybeard is no more “right” or “wrong” than Hitler’s. It’s just what he feels. Hey! Your pity and compassion are sapping the race and making it weak. That’s the way Nietzsche felt about it. So get over yourself, Mr. Lawgiver!

    And what could possibly be funnier than the notion of compassion “evolving”? Aren’t these the same advanced geniuses who wear us out with their condescending blather about the survival of the fittest? At least Darwin was honest about this stuff. There’s no room for “compassion” when it comes to evolution weeding out the weaker and less worthy races.

    But wait—wasn’t that the point of the post?

  161. —-allanius: “At least Darwin was honest about this stuff. There’s no room for “compassion” when it comes to evolution weeding out the weaker and less worthy races.”

    To that well-formed point I would add only this: Although some Darwinists do, indeed, violate their own world view by claiming to feel compassion, I have never yet met one who is willing to extend that compassion to the unborn.

  162. There is an awful lot of comments above saying very similar things. So I will answer two examples and hope the answers can be extended to the others.
    1. Concerning rape, you mentioned that “We have also evolved a sense of compassion.” However, that is not true of all. As I said

    If compassion is an evolved feature, we both know that it would be nonsense to insist that every member of a species “ought” to manifest every feature ever associated with that species. Some have compassion. Others do not. If those that do not have compassion do not act compassionately, how do we justifiably claim, “Well, they ought to.”?

    I submit that you could coherently claim to have reactions against rape (just as others have reaction for it), but you have no coherent basis within Darwinian materialism for saying those who do not share your reaction (e.g. the rapist) *ought* to have your reaction. You might prefer that, you might work toward that, but that doesn’t get you to “They ought to prefer what I prefer.” any more than you could claim that everyone ought to like the same food or that all finch beaks ought to be the same size and shape. If rape has been preserved by evolution, how does the Darwinian materialist coherently exclude its claim to as much evolved historic legitimacy as the compassion that you may feel?

    You seem to be confusing “logical/coherent” with “objective”. I have no objective basis for saying the rapist ought to have compassion. I have been saying right from the beginning that you cannot derive an “ought” from an “is”. That’s the whole point of my thesis. When I say someone ought not to do something I am expressing my reaction (but supported by the knowledge that the vast majority of others would agree). That is a perfectly logical and coherent belief.

    2. Hindu culture has been steeped for many centuries in a caste system (”Etymology: Portuguese casta, literally, race, lineage” Merriam-Webster). Some people react strongly against how that treats people of the lower castes. However, if you were there and interfered, you might find yourself on the minority side of very hostile reactions against your minority view. Both perspectives have reactions of a moral nature. Within Darwinian materialism, can you coherently claim that some moral reactions are the right ones while others are the mistaken ones? Or do you have simply competing preferences, fueled by alternate reactions.

    In that environment I would indeed be in a society that has some quite significant different ideas about what is right from me. I believe that many Hindus in that society would, as they learned more about the world, change their minds. I think it most unlikely that I would change my mind. But in the end I recognise I have no way of proving I am right and they are wrong. That is what it means to have a subjective view of morality. It is not incoherent. It is just not objective. Societies have always varied in their moral beliefs from one time and place to another and there has never been a way of proving one right and the other wrong.

    I would also remind you I would still share a core of moral beliefs with the members of that society. If you doubt that, read a book such as “A Fine Balance” or “A Suitable Boy”.

    Hindus base the caste system on their religious beliefs and their moral code. You base your principles on your religious beliefs and your moral code. Are you any better off than me?

  163. A quick footnote:

    re MF, 163: I have been saying right from the beginning that you cannot derive an “ought” from an “is”.

    Actually, in supporting StephenB and EricBH on th e issue of where ought gets its anchor, I cited Elizabeth Anscombe’s answer to that, as cited by Arthur Holmes, in 130 above:

    However we may define the good, however well we may calculate consequences, to whatever extent we may or may not desire certain consequences, none of this of itself implies any obligation of command. That something is or will be does not imply that we ought to seek it. We can never derive an “ought” from a premised “is” unless the ought is somehow already contained in the premise [Just as Stephen pointed out several times above] . . . .

    R. M. Hare . . . raises the same point. Most theories, he argues, simply fail to account for the ought that commands us [factual inadequacy, a key and in this case even vital worldview test]: subjectivism reduces imperatives to statements about subjective states, egoism and utilitarianism reduce them to statements about consequences, emotivism simply rejects them because they are not empirically verifiable, and determinism reduces them to causes rather than commands . . . .

    Elizabeth Anscombe’s point is well made. We have a problem introducing the ought into ethics unless, as she argues, we are morally obligated by law – not a socially imposed law, ultimately, but divine law . . . . This is precisely the problem with modern ethical theory in the West . . . it has lost the binding force of divine commandments . . . .

    If we admit that we all equally have the right to be treated as persons, then it follows that we have the duty to respect one another accordingly. Rights bring correlative duties: my rights . . . imply that you ought to respect these rights.[Ethics: Approaching Moral Decisions (Downers Grove, IL: 1984), pp. 70 – 72, 81. ]

    So, let us catch that again: We can never derive an “ought” from a premised “is” unless the ought is somehow already contained in the premise . . . . We have a problem introducing the ought into ethics unless, as she argues, we are morally obligated by law – not a socially imposed law, ultimately, but divine law . . .

    In short, the issue is not that there is no way to get to an ought from an is, but that a certain now commonly held worldview, often “justified” in the name of science, is such as to exclude those ISes that do imply the OUGHTs.

    And so, we are well within our worldview rights to infer:

    a –> If evolutionary materialism is true, then we are not morally obligated by any inherent ought. But,

    b –> we do find ourselves so obligated by our very nature as human beings. So,

    c –> we have excellent reason tracing to our minds and the morality that is on its face an inevitable part of mind, to infer that evolutionary materialism — regardless of claimed “scientific” warrant, is false.

    Moreover, scientific findings not only do not force us to infer to materialism [on the actual evidence we do have] but also, science is never capable of delivering a global conclusion that is any more than provisionally grounded on inference to best explanation.

    So, it seems that MF has at length given us an excellent reason to reject evolutionary materialism as unable to account for the credibly true fact of moral obligation.

    GEM of TKI

  164. To Mark Frank, having thought more about your answer to StephenB, especially about the changed wording of your conditional (“if they saw it the way I do”), I think I am seeing now that my original impression was a misunderstanding on my part. I had thought you were trying to say something else before.

    Please correct me if I am mistaken, but it seems to me now that your “subjective view of morality” is simply stating that your reactions for and against behaviors are conditioned responses (combinations of nature and nurture), not unlike Pavlov’s dogs learning to salivate at the sound of a bell.

    I notice that in your most recent response 163, you did not include any form of your conditional.

    I am expressing my reaction (but supported by the knowledge that the vast majority of others would agree).

    But if we were to fill in the implied conditional, it appears to be essentially this: they would agree (i.e. have the same reaction as you are having) if they had had the same conditioning that you have had.

    This fits with your earlier response when I asked you what you thought about the possibility of “an alternate solution” to the discrepancy between your moral views and those that differ.

    [ericB:] Something could be done by you or to you to remove those particular emotions. Whether by scalpel, or drugs, or reeducation, you might be adjusted to where you don’t find the same things repugnant. That would also solve the discrepancy.

    Now, would it be objectively wrong for someone to do that to you?
    Even if you afterward approved and felt fine about it?

    [MF:]I would find it repugnant now. I would no longer find it repugnant then. I would resist it happening now and try to persuade others not to do it. I would stop doing it after the operation. End of story.

    When you now doubt that you would change your views if you moved to India, that seems to be a statement about the resilience / resistance to change of the conditioning you have already had. But I suspect that if we supposed instead that you had grown up as an Indian, you would of course expect that you would most likely share the dominant view.

    This all fits with the subjective view of morality, but it essentially destroys the significance of the claim that I had previously thought you were making. You seemed to be claiming that your reactions were supported “by the knowledge that the vast majority of others would agree” if … But now that the conditional appears to be something like “if they had the same conditioning that I have had” that makes the claim of “support” completely empty.

    Every position could make exactly the same claim. Pick any position, any reaction. In this view, of course we might expect the vast majority — even everyone — would agree that view, given the same conditioning. But “support” that can support any position actually supports none. It turns out, there is no real support here at all.

    Now I see more clearly why I expect it would be difficult to engage my questions above about perspective, or to directly address the questions about “competing preferences”. It would lay bare the fact that, given your conditional, your “support” could be attached to any reaction that people have. And indeed, people always do feel that everyone else would agree with one’s one reaction (if you could see it as I see it). But in our more honest moments, wouldn’t we have to acknowledge that those who disagree or oppose us could make exactly the same claim?

    Now if I am missing something vital, please set me right. But as it seems now, you don’t seem to be actually claiming anything more for your subjective morality than to say given my own conditioning up to this point, I approve of what I approve and I disapprove of what I disapprove. And you would too if you were me. End of story.

    So is this “a perfectly logical and coherent belief”? If you stop at what I just said and speak it plainly, there need not be anything internally inconsistent about it. But Darwinian materialists typically are not willing to be so plain speaking.

    Instead they make noises that sound, for example, as if it meant something significant to say that Darwin didn’t necessarily like what his theory predicts.

    Or they make noises as if Darwin had a “sacred” cause that was somehow supported by Darwinism (as though other views were not also equally supported).

    You asked a question about whether my view were “better” but I don’t consider that to be the most important question. The key question is about which is true. If it is true that morality has objective reality, it is best to know that. If it is not true, then no position is “better” than any other, except in the trivial sense that everyone tends to define their own reaction as the right one.

    But if that is not what you are doing, I really would like to be corrected.

  165. —-Mark: “But in the end I recognise I have no way of proving I am right and they are wrong. That is what it means to have a subjective view of morality. It is not incoherent.”

    You are committed to the view that both truth and morality are subjective. That means that all views about truth and morality are equally valid. Yet, you have been arguing against my position, saying that I am wrong about the natural moral law, its objectivity, and the fact that we can apprehend it.

    To be consistent, you must say that we are both right. Why, then, do you say that I am wrong? The obvious answer is that your position is incoherent because it refutes itself. This is not the first time I have raised the point, and it is not the first time that you have left it untouched.

  166. EricB

    OK. I need to clarify some things.

    Moral judgements (like any other type of opinion) can be formed and changed through a number of different processes – genes, upbringing, pavlovian conditioning, debate, brain surgery, life-changing experiences, religious belief are some of them.

    I guess the thing that I find distinctive about moral judgements (and actually aesthetic ones as well) is that we operate with the assumption that if others understood all the things we understood then they would agree with us. It may be a false assumption but it is the way we go about the business of making moral judgements and in practice it is usually sound. My supervisor called it suspended subjectivity. Another way of describing it might be taking an objective attitude to what is actually a subjective issue (which is not the same as being under the illusion it is objective when it isn’t).

    I didn’t say your view was better than mine. I said are you “better off” then me. I meant better off in terms of being able to judge the rights and wrongs of the caste system. I refer back to my opinions and arguments which are different from theirs. You refer back to your moral code which is different from theirs.

    It seems to me that an objective morality on which there is widespread disagreement and no agreed method of discovering what it mandates, is of little use.

    One way to think of this – is that in practice you and I would go about debating a moral issue in much the same way. We would use the similar types of arguments and I doubt they would include many references to moral law! Which is the more convincing argument?

    * Imagine what it would be like if if you were 90 years old and someone stole all the money you had.

    * The Bible says do unto others as you would do unto yourself.

  167. Re #166

    StephenB

    You are committed to the view that both truth and morality are subjective.

    Where did I say anything about truth being subjective?

  168. —-Mark: “Where did I say anything about truth being subjective?”

    Do you believe that truth is objective?

  169. Re #169

    Do you believe that truth is objective?

    It depends. Some statements are about objective things and if they are true they are objectively true. Other statements are expressions of matters of opinion. Other statements it is meaningless to talk about truth or falsity. For example, “I promise to meet you tomorrow”.

  170. To Mark Frank,
    Suppose that someone were asked why they bought the brand of table salt they did (rather than others he may detest), and the response was “Ah, my choice is supported by the fact that this table salt contains sodium chloride.” But then it is observed that table salt is sodium chloride and that the very same claim could have been made for every brand on the store shelf.

    The obvious question then becomes “What is the point of drawing special attention to this kind of “support” that does not distinguish between the choices?” At least a couple possible answers immediately come to mind.

    1. The person honestly did not realize that all brands contain sodium chloride. He has been operating under the false belief that his preferred brand was somehow special in that regard.

    In this case, the person’s thinking is not well informed, or may be confused or possibly incoherent.

    2. The person fully realizes that all of the brands are sodium chloride, but chooses to omit this relevant fact about the other brands as a means to create the (false) impression that his decision has a kind of support that the other choices do not have.

    In this case, one wonders why there would be a need to create an illusion of having special support for one’s choice. One possibility: Perhaps the person is not entirely comfortable about the fact that brands he subjectively reacts strongly against are in fact just as supported by this justification as his preferred brand is.

    3. Something else I haven’t thought of.

    So, I want to ask you, why did you repeatedly bring in the idea that your moral reactions are “grounded in” (116) or “underpinned by” (129) or “supported by” (163) belief in the agreement of most others, with the explicit or implicit qualifier “if they saw it the way I do” (e.g. 158), etc.?

    I fear that I have spent a lot of time laboring under what now seems a misunderstanding of your position. If it weren’t for your recent reply to StephenB in 158, I might still think that you were seriously trying to suggest that your own reactions have some kind of special support in this regard that other competing reactions you disagree with do not also have.

    And yet, if you realize this is not true and if that is not what you are claiming, why bring in something that is superfluous, since it does not distinguish support for one reaction over others? What would be the point of encouraging an empty impression of support for just one type of reaction?

    116: And when I say “this is wrong” I am not describing my feelings. I am expressing my reaction to what he is doing grounded in the belief that the vast majority of people would agree with me – or would agree with me if they knew what I knew.

    [Film analogy:] This is more than a report of my feelings. I am saying something about the film. But my statement is grounded in my belief about how others would react to that film …[implicitly: if they shared my new insight]

    129: I do think things are good and bad. When I do it I am expressing my personal attitude to that thing underpinned by my belief that others will see it the same way.

    158: My justification is that there are things I that I find strongly motivating and I believe others would if they saw it the way I do.

    163: When I say someone ought not to do something I am expressing my reaction (but supported by the knowledge that the vast majority of others would agree).

    p.s. Thanks for the clarifications. FYI, I am simply using “conditioning” etc. in a very broad and inclusive sense that incorporates many different kinds of influences under a collective term.

  171. —-Mark: “It depends.(Do you believe in objective truth?) Some statements are about objective things and if they are true they are objectively true. Other statements are expressions of matters of opinion. Other statements it is meaningless to talk about truth or falsity. For example, “I promise to meet you tomorrow”.

    Mark, let’s take a closer look at what objective truth really is. Here are a few examples:

    [A] We exist, [B] We are aware of our existence, [C] Our existence had a beginning, [D] Something caused us to come into being, [E] Something cannot come from nothing, [F] A thing cannot be true and false at the same time, [G] A thing cannot be and not be at the same time, [H] The whole is always greater than any one of the parts. [I] Either the Universe was caused or else it always existed.

    There are many more examples, but we need not go into them now. The point is, we don’t reason our way to these things, we reason our way from them. They cannot be proven because they are the logical raw materials by which we prove things.

    Given this clarification, do you believe in objective truth?

  172. p.p.s. To Mark Frank, I left out the most recent example, which raises its own questions.

    167: I guess the thing that I find distinctive about moral judgements (and actually aesthetic ones as well) is that we operate with the assumption that if others understood all the things we understood then they would agree with us. It may be a false assumption ….

    The problem isn’t that it might be false. The problem is that it is never false — for anyone’s reactions — provided we include the necessary qualification. If someone else could effectively become me, then sure, they are going to react like me, because I react the way I react.

    … but it is the way we go about the business of making moral judgements …

    Now since you acknowledge that everyone’s reactions are operating this way, it is inescapable that every judgment being made, every moral emotion or reaction, is being grounded in this same belief. Since you know this, it follows that “I have this belief” tells us zero about whether that reaction is distinctly supported. Every reaction is supported the same way. It provides no distinction whatsoever.

    … and in practice it is usually sound.

    It is never sound. It provides no discriminating information at all. Every position makes the same claim, which by the way can never be disproved since there is always the escape that “you just don’t understand / see it the way I do”.

    My supervisor called it suspended subjectivity. Another way of describing it might be taking an objective attitude to what is actually a subjective issue (which is not the same as being under the illusion it is objective when it isn’t).

    I might call it the practice of taking a hypothetical vote from a hypothetical body of voters who “saw it the way I do”.

    How hard is it to guess the outcome of such a vote (regardless of what position you are taking)?

    So, I’m having a hard time coming to a clear conclusion about whether you really believe this is informative, or are free of illusions and realize that it is equally uninformative, since everyone can get a result that confirms the view they began with, whatever that was.

  173. StephenB

    The trouble is statements A through I differ. A-B are straightforward matters of fact (assuming “we” refers to the human species). It is quite interesting how we know that A and B are true. C and D might be regarded as particular cases of more general rules:

    everything has a beginning
    everything has a cause

    I am not convinced that either general rule is true but I am sure the particular cases are true based on straightforward empirical knowledge about species.

    F-G are logical statements.

    H is pretty much meaningless without further definition.

    I think I is false.

    I guess you are trying to get at what Kant would have called synthetic a priori truths and Plantinga calls basic beliefs. The clearest candidates in your list are F and G. They are true. I am not convinced that we don’t reason our way to them (although clearly we reason from them as well). It is just that they happen so early in our development we no more notice it than we notice learning to speak.

    I am very suspicious of any generalisations or deductions from the a priori synthetic. Too many great minds have been debating this for millenia without any consensus. This is truly what Wittgenstein meant when talked of philosophy being the bewitchment of the intelligence by language.

  174. Onlookers:

    MF is raising a significant issue, on the types of truths that exist.

    However, Mortimer Adler raises a significant issue, that the e is a gap in how we are thinking, in his essay on Little Errors in the Beginning. (NB: Steve, I hope I am serving as a good intro here, not stealing some of your thunder!)

    For, there is a good reason to think that there are such things as self-evident truths, deniable only on pain of serious misunderstanding of our experience as conscious intelligent reasoning creatures who have a modicum of old-fashioned common-/ good- sense [philo + sophia, after all is, properly, at root the love of wisdom . . . ]; and ending up in all sorts of self-referential absurdities.

    Here is a key excerpt from the just linked:
    _______________

    The little error in the beginning, made by Locke and Leibniz, perpetuated by Kant, and leading to the repudiation of any non-verbal or non-tautological truth having incorrigible certitude, consists in starting with a dichotomy instead of a trichotomy — a twofold instead of a threefold distinction of types of truth. In addition to merely verbal statements which, as tautologies, are uninstructive and need no support beyond the rules of language, and in addition to instructive statements which need support and certification, either from experience or by reasoning, there is a third class of statements which are non-tautological or instructive, on the one hand, and are also indemonstrable or self-evidently true, on the other. These are the statements that Euclid called “common notions,” that Aristotle called “axioms” or “first principles,” and that mediaeval thinkers called “propositions per se nota.”

    One example will suffice to make this clear — the axiom or selfevident truth that a finite whole is greater than any of its parts. This proposition states our understanding of the relation between a finite whole and its parts. It is not a statement about the word “whole” or the word “part” but rather about our understanding of wholes and parts and their relation. All of the operative terms in the proposition are indefinable. We cannot express our understanding of a whole without reference to our understanding of its parts and our understanding that it is greater than any of its parts. We cannot express our understanding of parts without reference to our understanding of wholes and our understanding that a part is less than the whole of which it is a part.

    When our understanding of an object that is indefinable (e.g., a whole) involves our understanding of another object that is indefinable (e.g., a part), and of the relation between them, that understanding is expressed in a self-evident proposition which is not trifling, uninstructive, or analytic, in Locke’s sense or Kant’s, for no definitions are involved. Nor is it a synthetic a priori judgment in Kant’s sense, even though it has incorrigible certitude; and it is certainly not synthetic a posteriori since, being intrinsically indemonstrable, it cannot be supported by statements offering empirical evidence or reasons.

    The contemporary denial that there are any indisputable statements which are not merely verbal or tautological, together with the contemporary assertion that all non-tautological statements require extrinsic support or certification and that none has incorrigible certitude, is therefore falsified by the existence of a third type of statement, exemplified by the axiom or self-evident truth that a finite whole is greater than any of its parts, or that a part is less than the finite whole to which it belongs. It could as readily be exemplified by the self-evident truth that the good is the desirable, or that the desirable is the good — a statement that is known to be true entirely from an understanding of its terms, both of which are indefinables. One cannot say what the good is except by reference to desire, or what desire is except by reference to the good. The understanding of either involves the understanding of the other, and the understanding of both, each in relation to the other, is expressed in a proposition per se nota, i.e., self-evident or known to be true as soon as its terms are understood.

    Such propositions are neither analytic nor synthetic in the modern sense of that dichotomy; for the predicate is neither contained in the definition of the subject, nor does it lie entirely outside the meaning of the subject. Axioms or self-evident truths are, furthermore, truths about objects understood, objects that can have instantiation in reality, and so they are not merely verbal. They are not a priori because they are based on experience, as all our knowledge and understanding is; yet they are not empirical or a posteriori in the sense that they can be falsified by experience or require empirical investigation for their confirmation. The little error in the beginning, which consists in a non-exhaustive dichotomy mistakenly regarded as exhaustive, is corrected when we substitute for it a trichotomy that distinguishes (i) merely verbal tautologies, (ii) statements of fact that require empirical support and can be empirically falsified, (iii) axiomatic statements, expressing indemonstrable truths of understanding which, while based upon experience, do not require empirical support and cannot be empirically falsified.[6]

    ______________________

    It will of course be at once evident that Stephen’s H is a simplified version of Adler’s case study example.

    Also, that what is needed is not so much resort to the definitions game,a s sober, conceptual analysis in light of illustrative exemplars and potential counterexamples.

    Indeed, definitions — and here I appeal to my moderate constructivist philosophy of education per Richard Skemp [by hook or by crook, get his Psychology of Learning Mathematics, and read, it's that important . . . ] — are after the fact of such thinking through what we know (or think we know) based on our experience of our world as rational animals. For, definitions serve to clarify the borders of concepts, not to identify them.

    Our over-hasty resort to “definition,” too, is a “little error in the beginning” of the analysis process. So, let us reflect a la Socrates [cf a few Socratic dialogues as reported (and doubtless massaged and adjusted) by Plato; they capture something of a method that modern approaches to doing phil miss because precisely of the gap Adler identifies . . . ] on a few fuzzy ideas and experiences, perhaps since toddler-hood, FIRST, then see how we can precise them up.

    GEM of TKI

    PS: You will see too that the Socratic dialogues encompass both the short and the longer remarks, in an integrated interactive whole, that works towards clarification: that is, short and sharp and longer more reflective remarks both have their legitimate place. I offer this as a model for further thinking through of what UD is trying to do.

  175. PPS: It is worth briefly taking up MF’s:

    >>I think I is false.>>

    Cf. SB’s statement I: Either the Universe was caused or else it always existed.

    1 –> Here the issue is, contingency vs necessity of being, in the context of there being a sufficient reason for what exists to be or to become.

    2 –> The cosmos exists [with us in it], as massive experience assures us beyond reasonable dispute.

    3 –> It may always have existed in some form, or it came into being. If the latter, it reasonably had a cause: it is generally acknowledged absurd and contrary to how we actually live to assume or assert that something comes into existence out of nothing — not space, time, matter, energy intelligence, mind etc. (In short, to deny this is to expose oneself — justly — to the claim that one is being selectively hyperskeptical, so self -referentially inconsistent and self-refuting. Cf below.)

    4 –> That is, per the fact of our own contingent existence in a cosmos that credibly had a beginning some 13.7 BYA, there “must be” a ground of that coming- into- existence; not “nothing.” So, if the observed universe is not eternal, there is a wider universe that is, or something/ someone else that is.

    5 –> But, perhaps [if say the steady state theory were true, which is logically possible; or something like that . . .], the universe we observe did not come into existence: it, in some form, has always been there. It would then be eternal and uncaused.

    6 –> So, it is reasonable — on pain of selectively hyperskeptical self- referential inconsistency [most likely the claim that there are or may be causeless comings- into- being] — to conclude that the universe is either caused or eternal.

    7 –> To this the usual objection is that the objector finds it “logically possible” for causeless comings into being to occur. So, the proposer is then challenged to “prove” that that is impossible.

    8 –> To that, the best refutation is through common sense understanding of the ways of our world: such objectors never infer to that in any other serious case of consequence, e.g. if their wallet vanishes from their pocket they consider that state of affairs the result of action by a pickpocket, not that of a state of affairs coming into causeless being.

    9 –> So, the attempt to reverse burden of proof against al experience, is selectively hyperskeptical. It is afge to dismiss it, pending only provision of credible evidence that coming into being can be without a ground of that being.

    10 –> In short, it is the usual objection that is most credibly false, not the proposition at I.
    ______________

    But of course, there is also a motivating context for the objection: we are here very close to an argument that points form our evidently contingent cosmos, to its cause. For, if little bangs have a cause, so should Big Bangs.

    GEM of TKI

  176. PPPS: Onlookers consider: is belief in a a causeless coming into being any whit materially different from belief in miracles? (So, who believes in the much derided supernatural now?)

  177. It seems you are right on the money kf. Is not a miracle a highly improbable occurrence which is purported to have no material cause?

  178. Also, on the topic of self evident truths, the fundamental axioms of logic such as the law of the excluded middle is also a self evident truth; there is no way to reason from scientific methods of hypothesis, testability, and potential falsifiability to arrive at those fundamental axioms of logic.

  179. Mark,

    Technically, some on my list are means of arriving at objective truth rather than objectivee truth itself. I am trying to begin with easy ones. But let us consider your response.

    —-”The trouble is statements A through I differ. A-B are straightforward matters of fact (assuming “we” refers to the human species).”

    I am glad that you accept them as true.

    —-”MF: “I am not convinced that either general rule is true (everything has a beginning–everything has a cause) but I am sure the particular cases are true based on straightforward empirical knowledge about species.”

    So, does that mean that you think some effects have causes while others do not?

    —-”F-G are logical statements.” (Law of non-contradiction)

    Not quite. F and G are the axioms that make logic possible. Do you accept them as true?

    —-”H is pretty much meaningless without further definition.”

    I you think that H is meaningless, then you fall into the same error as Kant. He did not take it into account.

    —-”I think I is false.

    Once again, anyone who doubts this [either the universe was brought into being or else it always existed] is hampered in his ability to reason in the abstract. As a matter of curiosity, what possible third alternative could you have in mind?

    Take time out to read the above comments by kairosfocus, which are quite good.

    —-”The clearest candidates in your list are F and G. They are true. I am not convinced that we don’t reason our way to them (although clearly we reason from them as well).”

    We cannot reason our way to them. We must assume them. They are axiomatic. If one doubts that some truths are self evident, he will be left at the starting gate doubting everything that should be understood as obvious.

    —-”I am very suspicious of any generalisations or deductions from the a priori synthetic. Too many great minds have been debating this for millenia without any consensus. This is truly what Wittgenstein meant when talked of philosophy being the bewitchment of the intelligence by language.”

    The so-called great minds are also capable of huge mistakes. Read Adler’s essay “Little Errors in The Beginning.” Kant’s error has done great damage to Western Civilization and all who follow him are seriously compromised in their ability to reason in the abstract.

    There are two extremes [A] Mindless faith on the one end and [B] hyperskepticism on the other end.

    By the way, you might be interested to know that Kant ended up refuting his own skepticism in his final foray into the metaphysical foundations of morals. The Academy never meantions that fact. Few of its gatekeepers even know it, and the ones that do guard the secret carefully. They don’t want well-educated people refuting their postmodern fantasies.

    For those who would escape the bonds of anti-intellectualism, I recommend that they stop reading Kant and start reading Chesterton. Begin with “Orthodoxy.”

  180. CJY:

    Indeed, I think it was Socrates who was challenged to prove that logical proofs were valid.

    The rejoinder was simple: ,i>it would rtake reasoned argument — i.e logic — to do that.

    Logic, in short, is the premise of reasoned argument, and so cannot be proved thereby. We TRUST it because (i) we understand it as rational animals, (ii) we see that it works well enough, (iii) we see that ignoring it gets us into trouble, and (iv0 we see that denying it lands us in evident absurdities.

    But, all of the above requires assuming the basic principles and canons of logic to do, including non-contradiction, excluded middle and identity.

    More broadly, the attempt to warrant A requires basis B, which leads to C, D . . . Thus (on pain of infinite regress), we end up at a faith-point f, where we take somethings as credible and trustworthy without further proof or warrant.

    Then, to avoid circularity, we accept tha tthere are alternative start-points F1, F2, . . . Fn. So we compare the difficulties across them, and selectt he best on balance. That is the big job of philosophy.

    And, shutting down the process of comparative difficulties leads to indoctrination and deception, precisely what seems to be going on with Lewontinain materialism:

    Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door. [Lewontin, NY Review of Books, 1997. Unfortunately, that is what now seems to be the "official" position of the NAS, the NCSE, School boards in key states, and even courtrooms . .. ]

    So, are we back at the problem of Plato’s Cave — false enlightenment, perhaps backed up by politically correct manipulation and indoctrination?

    GEM of TKI

  181. … which leads us to the understanding that logic is the arbiter of science, not the other way around, and thus “scientism” as the arbiter of truth is out the window.

    Furthermore, since logic requires subjective experience — it requires our ability to have first person awareness of our thoughts in order to order them [thoughts] logically — and it is the foundation of science, which is the system which discovers the objective, then it makes sense that the subjective underlies the objective and not vice versa.

    Sorry that is a bit off topic … just my “two sense.”

  182. StephenB, KF, CJYman. I am sorry – I don’t have time even to read everything you have all written much less respond. I will stick to responding to EricB.

  183. —Mark: “StephenB, KF, CJYman. I am sorry – I don’t have time even to read everything you have all written much less respond. I will stick to responding to EricB.”

    EricB is an outstanding commentator and he always tempers his dialogue with admirable patience and courtesy. I have no doubt that your interaction with him will be edifying for you in some way. Perhaps the two of you will come to come kind of meeting of the minds. If so, I will celebrate that event.

    I, on the other hand, have no such ambition. My aim is to expose the errors of postmodernistic skepticism and the intellectual poison that is killing our culture. While I worry for secularist educators, I worry much more about their victims, unwilling combatants who have been conditioned to hate truth for its own sake while being isolated from any other point of view.

    I understand that one does not come back from this kind of brainwashing overnight, and I also understand that many do not want to come back from it. Still, they deserve to be told at least one time that they have rational minds, that they live in a rational universe, and that there is a correspondence between the two. Excuse me, but I would like for them to know, among other things, that it is irrational to hold such notions that something can come from nothing or that monkeys and humans should live by the same moral code as humans.

    Having said that, I also realize that most cynics reject absolute truth and morality not because it makes no sense but rather because they would prefer to be a law unto them selves. If they were interested in truth they would be pursuing it rather than running away from it. My aim is not to convert them or dialogue with them but to expose them so that others will not have to endure the same fate.

    So, while I am open to dialogue with those who militate against reason, I don’t necessarily need their participation in order to expose their errors.

  184. @184. correction….”I would like for them to know, among other things, that it is irrational to hold such notions that something can come from nothing or that monkeys and humans should live by the same moral code.”

  185. To Mark Frank, I look forward to your thoughts concerning the issues raised by my posts 171 and 173. I apologize that in 173 I used a opening blockquote where it should have been a closing blockquote. I hope you can still distinguish and follow my comments (though they look like parts of quotations from you) without too much difficulty.

  186. EricB

    First I want to thank you for patiently continuing this discussion. I am very clear in my own mind about the nature of morality and moral language but explaining and convincing others is difficult. Where time permits, I need the practice.

    In this comment I will concentrate on #171. I think your example of choosing a brand of salt is confusing two kinds of support. I don’t think anyone is disputing that there is such a thing as disagreement on ethical matters. And I certainly don’t claim that I have any special privileges when it comes to such a debate. I just have a view as to what that debate means. To me your salt example is analogous to someone who is arguing that it is right to give money to the Red Cross rather than Oxfam and gives as a reason that it is morally right to give to charities. It would be absurd to offer this argument because they are both charities. However, it would be reasonable to argue that the Red Cross uses the money more effectively or more fairly or whatever (I have no idea whether this is true. It is just an example). The important point is that most people would agree that “being more effective” and “being fairer” are good things. It is the process that we have in common – what counts as an argument – not the details of our case. Without some common process it would not be a conversation it would just be a shouting match (it is interesting to reflect that when choosing a brand of salt almost anything might be a valid argument – which reflects the very subjective nature of the choice).

    When I say that my moral beliefs are grounded in the belief that others would agree if they would see my point of view – I mean that I believe they mostly accept the same reasons for things being good or bad. So if I present them with all the facts that I know (and maybe explain why I think they are relevant) then there is a really good chance that they will agree. If I didn’t believe that most people would accept the same reasons for things being good or bad, then my arguments would indeed be no more than personal preferences. Of course they may know things I don’t know, or may be able to make points which had not occurred to me which would cause me to change my mind.

    So far the situation is not much different from debating an objective issue e.g whether it will rain tomorrow. We accept similar reasons for supposing whether it will rain tomorrow and if we didn’t it would be hard to discuss it. The key difference between arguing about the rain and arguing about ethics is that if someone says “I don’t think that suffering is a bad thing” or “respecting the caste system is a good thing” then you have no way of proving them wrong. If someone says “I don’t think that heavy clouds are a reason for expecting rain” you can expect at some stage to be able to say something like “there were heavy clouds and look it is raining”. But you will never get into a position where you can say “there is the caste system and look it is wrong”. That’s because the word “wrong” is not describing a separate attribute wrongness. The best you can do is search for commonly held argument e.g. “yes – but look at the suffering the caste system creates”.

    I am not sure whether this answers your objections but no doubt you will tell me.

  187. —-”When I say that my moral beliefs are grounded in the belief that others would agree if they would see my point of view – I mean that I believe they mostly accept the same reasons for things being good or bad.”

    Obviously this commentator is unaware of the fact that two out of every three individuals in the free world no longer believe that there is any such thing as “good” and “bad.” (Those who are persecuted know better) Once, almost everyone believed that the disctincion between right and wrong is real.

    So, the real question is this: How did the numbers get from 80-90% to 33%. Answer: The decline was caused by academia’s anti-intellectual assault on reason.

    —”So if I present them with all the facts that I know (and maybe explain why I think they are relevant) then there is a really good chance that they will agree.”

    What “facts” could this commentator be talking about. I thought we had all agreed that we cannot derive an “ought to” from an “is.” In any case, his whole structure is based on collective opinions about personal feelings, so I don’t know why facts have suddenly become relevant to him. The only relevant fact is the existence of the natural moral law, a point that he has already rejected.

    On the matter of agreement, all relativists agree that morality is whatever they would prefer it to be and that they should be permitted to be a law unto themselves. So, it is no real surprise that they have come to a consensus on that trvial fact.

    —-”Of course they may know things I don’t know, or may be able to make points which had not occurred to me which would cause me to change my mind.”

    One wonders what such a fact could be. Will this commentator do us the courtesy of telling us? We already know that he does not find the natural moral law persuasive. What fact could be more compelling and decisive than that? What is to prevent him from simply dismissing any new fact and characterizing it as a personal opinion, just as he did with the natural moral law?

  188. Mark Frank,

    Correct me if I am mistaken, but I assume we would agree that the current moral opinion of the simple majority does not define for you (or me) what is “wrong.” I believe we would agree that the majority could be mistaken in our view. Although you don’t always include the qualifier explicitly, I assume that every time you refer to grounding or finding support in the belief that most people would agree with you, you at least implicitly qualify this in some way. Correct so far?

    Further, even though you have worded this qualification in a variety of ways (see my earlier summaries), I am assuming that you intend to have a consistent qualification. If you sometimes qualified it one way, other times a different way, and other times did not qualify it at all, then that would almost certainly be a case of muddled and inconsistent reasoning. My belief is that you don’t intend that.

    Nevertheless, the differences in how your qualification could be taken are profound and crucial to determining if you are saying something logical but debatable, or else perhaps a truism whose only application would be self-delusional, since it would never actually show or support any conclusion. I tried to point this out in 160, and the same concern is in my recent posts, e.g. 165, 171 and 173.

    If you really intend the qualification to be “if they saw it the way I do” then you have a truism that can never be false. Obviously, if they don’t agree, they don’t see it the way you do.

    On the other hand, if you intend that by merely having access to the same observational facts about a situation, then you expect most people would have the same moral reaction as you, that is not a truism, but it is also very doubtful. If that is what you mean, you have not yet wrestled with the issue of perspective, e.g. in a conflict whether they empathize or view it from the perspective of the victor or the vanquished, the one who passes the Darwinian filter of natural selection, or those who may not, and so on.

    If you mean something else that is not a truism, then at the very least there would be cases where others could know exactly what you know or see it as you see it (or however you choose to word it) and yet most of them do not agree with you and would react differently than you. If that is both meaningful and possible within what you intend, then please discuss a couple illustrating examples.

    NOTE: I don’t mean analogies such as with viewing films. I’m looking for examples of moral judgments and moral reactions where the majority may indeed disagree with you, even if they fulfilled your qualification completely and perfectly.

    As you give the example, try to state the qualification in a way that makes clear you are not describing a truism, if that is not the case. Examples where your hypothetical test fails, if that is possible, should help clear up this pivotal point.

    Thanks much.

  189. Re #188

    Obviously this commentator is unaware of the fact that two out of every three individuals in the free world no longer believe that there is any such thing as “good” and “bad.”

    You are right. What’s your evidence for this?

    What “facts” could this commentator be talking about.

    In the case of genocide the facts are all too obvious. People die. People suffer. You can’t derive the fact that genocide is bad from these facts – but pretty much everyone agrees they are reasons for condemning genocide.

  190. Re #189

    Ah I think I see where I need to take more care.

    It is a bit more than knowing all the same facts but not to the extent that they must effectively be me. For example, an argument for embryo research is the fact that an embryo up to 14 days may split into two and result in two individuals. But stated baldly it is not so convincing. You need to also point out that it is hard to give the early embryo the status of an individual if in fact it is not clear how many individuals it may be. You might even need to follow that up with – and if it is not an individual then it is not wrong to treat it simply as bunch of cells. Opponents can always argue that even a bunch of cells needs to be treated with respect or whatever. You will never make a logically watertight case. But it is more than just giving the facts.

    StephenB – please don’t get into the rights and wrongs of embyro research. It is just an example.

    The fact that people may in practice still disagree is not really the point. My point is that they often do agree (pretty much everyone agrees that murder is bad) and we behave, talk as though they would agree if only they understood – even if in practice they sometimes don’t and there is no way of, as it were, clinching the deal. That’s what I mean by an objective approach to a subjective issue.

  191. —-Mark: “You are right. What’s your evidence for this?”

    I don’t have linking capabilities, but I can provide several sources. Here is one among many: According to the Barna Research Group, 60% of all those over sixty and 75% of those between 18-25 are moral relativists. These are the numbers for American citizens. The numbers for European citizens are higher still.

    The statement that they were asked to respond to is this: “There are no absolute standards for morals and ethics,” 71 percent said that they agreed with that statement. Even higher numbers purportedly think that morality and ethics are a matter of personal opinion and that there are no universal standards by which one can determine the rightness or wrongness of a human act. This is just one of many studies. The proportions have been this way for at least 20 years. The reason I know is because I have been following it all this time.

    As I stated earlier, almost everyone believed in moral absolutes fifty years ago. That the numbers have changed so drastically is no coincidence. The academy has been working very hard to destroy morality in both the United States and Europe.

    —-Mark: “In the case of genocide the facts are all too obvious. People die. People suffer. You can’t derive the fact that genocide is bad from these facts – but pretty much everyone agrees they are reasons for condemning genocide.”

    You are answering a question that I did not ask. The question is this: What fact or facts would cause you to stop denying objective morality or the natural moral law? I submit that no fact (or argument, for that matter) could ever cause you to change your mind.

  192. Onlookers:

    A few further footnotes:

    1] SB, 188: two out of every three individuals in the free world no longer believe that there is any such thing as “good” and “bad.” (Those who are persecuted know better) Once, almost everyone believed that the distinction between right and wrong is real. So, the real question is this: How did the numbers get from 80-90% to 33%. Answer: The decline was caused by academia’s anti-intellectual assault on reason.

    (I First side-note that at 190, MF has now found some time to look at SB . . . but seems to have missed a key part on even this point.)

    Now for the first step on the main focus: there are many surveys that show the decline in stated belief in absolute or objective truth, especially on matters of morality. And, via the capture of key institutions starting with the academy, the seminaries and the major media houses and educational policy boards, there has indeed been a systematic undermining of the now quaint-sounding idea that there is such a thing as “moral truth.”

    (Need I say more than “values clarification” — the theme of radical moral relativist syllabi for education going back decades — to make my point?)

    2] An interesting comparison:

    MF, 187: When I say that my moral beliefs are grounded in the belief that others would agree if they would see my point of view – I mean that I believe they mostly accept the same reasons for things being good or bad. So if I present them with all the facts that I know (and maybe explain why I think they are relevant) then there is a really good chance that they will agree. If I didn’t believe that most people would accept the same reasons for things being good or bad, then my arguments would indeed be no more than personal preferences.

    SB, 188: What “facts” could this commentator be talking about. I thought we had all agreed that we cannot derive an “ought to” from an “is.”

    a –> Now, immediately, Steve, I must adjust: following Anscombe, Holmes et al [cf 130 above], we cannot derive the ought from the is, unless the ought is already implicitly in the premises. Which, strictly,

    b –> is only a moral-truth application of the classic irony of the deductive argument or especially the syllogism . . .

    c –> if its conclusions are entailed strictly by its premises if it is to be at all valid, it can only make explicit what was already implicit in the start-point.

    d –> That is, a deductive argument is about clarification and individual or collective “psychological” discovery by finite and fallible creatures such as ourselves, including also possibly exposure of implicit absurdity or confusion; not about arriving at true novelty.

    e –> But, such clarifications and eliminations of confusions, want of clarity and/or absurdities in our base assumptions are often very, very important.

    f –> Now, too, a key point of clarity from Aristotle: truth says of what is, that it is; and of what is not, that it is not. [Metaphysics 1011b, paraphrased.]

    g –> So too, absolute truth is that which is has the degree of being” the truth, the whole [relevant] truth, and nothing bu the truth; where also

    h –> objective truth is that truth about a situation, subject, object or matter that we discover rather than invent or imagine.

    i –> For, since we are subjects, there is always a subjective dimension to how we think or perceive. The issue — post Plato’s Cave — is whether the individual or collective subjective view corresponds to reality.

    j –> Against that backdrop, MF says: I believe they mostly accept the same reasons for things being good or bad. So if I present them with all the facts that I know (and maybe explain why I think they are relevant) then there is a really good chance that they will agree . . . that is he seeks inter-subjective consensus or agreement on moral issues.

    k –> But — unless he means that he sets out to deceive and manipulate using the Plato’s cave-ish arts of rhetoric and debate (which he evidently does not) — that is another way of saying: he seeks objective truth through dialogue that clarifies and corrects (though there does seem to be a need for mutuality, for he too could be in error . . . ).

    l –> thus we come to the irony in MF, 191: My point is that they often do agree (pretty much everyone agrees that murder is bad) and we behave, talk as though they would agree if only they understood – even if in practice they sometimes don’t and there is no way of, as it were, clinching the deal. That’s what I mean by an objective approach to a subjective issue.

    m –> What lurks here is the gap injected by the evolutionary materialist view: since its premises, notoriously, are “is-es” that entail no oughts, its adherents — assuming that evo mat = “science” = practical truth about our roots of existence and circumstances, etc — think that there can be no credible ises that lead to oughts.

    n –> Thus, for those who so view our world, facts are facts, and values are inherently only subjective — matters ONLY of preference and persuasion, not establishment/ warrant as discovered and trustworthy truth.

    o –> But then, they run up against a world in which they do see substantial inter-subjective agreement, and they do see that there are many many core issues on which that agreement is as near universal as makes no difference: a common characteristic of TRULY objective truth, e.g. no-one seriously doubts that 2 + 3 = 5.

    p –> Likewise, no sane person doubts that we have no right to do harm to our neighbour such as by murder or slander or betrayal of solemn oath or theft, etc. (Cf Rom 13:8 – 10 and Locke’s citation of “the judicious Hooker” in Ch 2 Section 5 of his second essay on civil govt. [Cf 55 above])

    [ . . . ]

  193. q –> The real issue is in that old Law-expert’s challenge to Jesus: WHO is my “neighbour”? (To which, Our Lord’s story of the Good Samaritan is the standing excellent answer and rebuke to those who would artificially constrict the circle of equality and mutual respect. [Including, in the name of natural selection and preservation of "favoured races" or other population groups.])

    r –> So we can solve the riddle: evolutionary materialists hold to a worldview that inescapably pushes moral truth out of the circle of possible objective truths, so they are forced to resort to attempting an objective approach to a subjective issue.

    s –> In that we are all subjects, that superficially allows them to say that morality is subjective; but in fact the resulting reasoning process itself tells the man of good sense that hey are trying to reconcile the patent objectivity of morality with the denial of that objectivity that is implied by their worldview that they mistake for scientifically established knowledge.

    t –> In short, reductio ad absurdum, to be resolved by recognising the obvious: evolutionary materialism is neither intellectually nor morally coherent, and the scientific evidence does not by any means force us to accept it as truth. As Lewontin so blatantly admitted in 1997:

    Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door. [N Y review of Books, 1997. Since made "official" by the US NAS etc. acting as de facto C21 Magisterium]

    3] EricB, 189: I assume we would agree that the current moral opinion of the simple majority does not define for you (or me) what is “wrong.” I believe we would agree that the majority could be mistaken in our view.

    Pre-zactly.

    So, MF et al, HOW do we correct moral error, but by appealing to discovery of truth using fact and logic, in light of our intuitively recognised dignity and equality, thus duty to one another?

    And, where does such inherent dignity point, whatever evolutionary materialism may have to say?

    4] MF, 190: In the case of genocide the facts are all too obvious. People die. People suffer. You can’t derive the fact that genocide is bad from these facts – but pretty much everyone agrees they are reasons for condemning genocide.

    Now, let’s see: genocide, per Am h Dict is “The systematic and planned extermination of an entire national, racial, political, or ethnic group.” That is, mass murder of a target group.

    We have inter-subjective consensus — save for those we view as moral monsters who argue — on claimed evolutionary superiority and survival of the fittest grounds BTW — about foxes having no respect for geese and cats having no mercy for mice. [Mein Kampf, BkI Ch XI.]

    Genocide is an evil. And that is recognised by subjects (save for the monsters . . . ) Evil is objectionable, and plainly abhorrent; so much so that many atheists often passionately use its reality to argue against the existence of God; the core premise of theism that makes morality a case where is-es do entail oughts. (Of course post Plantinga [cf. link at 139 above point 12], that is not a sound case, but that is another story.)

    Oops, we are back at the implication that right and wrong are objective even though immaterial, and all that Greg Koukl deduced from that common-sense, intuitively recognised natural law view [Cf 111].

    ____________

    Muy interesante. But then, this is just he peanut gallery tossing a few distractive nuts on the stage. (nothing to see there folks, just move along . . . )

    GEM of TKI

  194. PS: Steve on linking

    1 –> first copy the URL — web address — of the linked to page from the little window at the top of the browser page

    2 –> On the left hand side of the text that you want to link to, write:
    [Less than sign -- shift-comma]A href = “”[greater than sign -- shift full stop], no spaces after the LessThan,a nd noe before the GrtThan. Of course do not use square brackets etc, just the signs. [The greater than sign is the head of the arrow on this point's little arrow.]

    3 –> To the right of the same text, write [LessThan sign]/a[GrtThan sign] no spaces between

    4 –> Paste the URL in between the two double-quote marks. [It is important that they not be curly quotes, as most word processors will automatically insert; you may want to do this after you have gone back to the comment box and pasted in your text. Alternatively type a sample "" in the comment window and copy it to the top of your word processor text.]

    5 –> In short, use standard HTML markup code.

    6 –> For italics use i, for bold use b, for block quotes use blockquote. (It seems that now UD allows 3-level nested blocks.)

    7 –> In the past, there was a four link upper limit for any one comment. Not sure what it is now.

    8 –> Akismet anti spam software is probably still capable of doing strange things to comments, so watch for mysterious things.

    GEM of TKI

    PS: moderators, maybe a how to comment FAQ?

  195. PPS: Values Clarification.

    Did a Wikipedia search — no such article and the values education article has no mention of the term [a major movement in values education] — telling, as Wiki is known to be materialism- leaning and relativism- leaning.

    Google search turns up two key articles, and a nice little how-to prompter for UNESCO.

    The last shows the implicitly relativistic context and the underlying “situation ethics” pedagogic strategy of casting important values into contest and apparent contradiction, so that it appears that values cannot be absolute.

    But in fact since there is a longstanding acknowledged hierarchy of values and a general circumstance where one may be forced to choose the lesser of evils, that is illegitimate manipulation. (E.g.: if you cannot BOTH have your cake and eat it, you need to have a higher value that allows you to decide betwixt the two, accepting that the price of the one is the foregoing of the other. Not to mention, often, eating a little cake now and saving a lot of it so you can have cake later, is also possible.)

    1] A Global Change Seminar reader that neatly side-steps the issue of objectivity and of the deductive argument as the tool of clarification by reductio ad absurdum of incoherent start-points.

    2] A critical analysis of Values clarification on moral education, by Lipe; as a Christian apologetics exercise.

    3] UNESCO lesson slide e.g. “Should the parkland close to the centre of the city be re-developed to house landless people from nearby rural areas?” [To which: are we locked up to just those two competing options? Is there a both-and solution? and, if we must choose, then the short-term priority has to be on saving people not the pleasures of parkland. but longer term we need both so we must find a way forward.]

    _____________________

    Telling on what is going on, isn’t it.

    GEM of TKI

  196. PPPS: Another useful critical analysis.

  197. —-kairosfocus: “a –> Now, immediately, Steve, I must adjust: following Anscombe, Holmes et al [cf 130 above], we cannot derive the ought from the is, unless the ought is already implicitly in the premises.”

    KF, with respect, I well aware of this limitation and condition for the “is, “ought” syndrome. I addressed it @91and several times after that. My comments here are about the MF irony.

  198. # 192

    StephenB

    I understand your point about the growth of moral relativism. I am not surprised about the European figures – a bit surprised by the US figures.

    You are answering a question that I did not ask. The question is this: What fact or facts would cause you to stop denying objective morality or the natural moral law? I submit that no fact (or argument, for that matter) could ever cause you to change your mind.

    It was not clear that was your question. The answer is no facts – because my argument is one about the meaning of the words “right” and “wrong”. It is not an empirical one. So facts are not going to prove anything – any more than an additional facts would show that some bachelors are married.

    I cannot think of a counter argument that would work because my argument seems to watertight to me. It is bit like asking a mathematician what argument would cause you to change your mind about 1+1=2. Maybe there is one – but how could one possibly know what it is without also accepting it?

    What facts or arguments would turn you into a moral relativist? (I don’t expect an answer. I just want to illustrate the oddness of your request)

  199. JT:

    Here is how the UD glossary defines intelligence acceptably for ID purposes:

    Intelligence – Wikipedia aptly and succinctly defines: “capacities to reason, to plan [which plainly implies foresight and is directly connected to the task of designing], to solve problems [again foresighted and goal directed], to think abstractly, to comprehend ideas, to use language, and to learn.”

    In short, we are not using any unusual or idiosyncratic definition.

    Indeed, we used the Wiki definition for the excellent reason that it is an admission against interest by an entity known to be strongly opposed to ID, to the point of willful, insistent distortion and slander.

    That’s about the strongest form of evidence you can get: what intelligence is, is so well and so widely understood, that they could not come up with an “acceptable” definition that would cut off ID at the knees.

    GEM of TKI

    PS: JT, to save yourself further embarrassment, kindly take some time out and read the ID glossary and weak argument correctives.

  200. OOPS: Cross threaded, sorry.

  201. While I am at it:

    MF, good and evil are connected by self evident truths tied to our experience of the world as conscious, deciding, morally bound creatures.

    They Are NOT equivalent to the tautology that an unmarried male is a bachelor, per definition. AND, they are not synthetic statements, including a prioris. This, I excerpted, linked on and discussed at 175 above, but you “didn’t have time” to look; never mind that Stephen pointed you there.

    Now, you are stumbling into the implication of Kant’s “little error at the beginning” on this one.

    GEM of TKI

  202. —Mark: “What facts or arguments would turn you into a moral relativist? (I don’t expect an answer. I just want to illustrate the oddness of your request)”

    There was nothing odd about my request. If someone could show me that there are no minds, only brains, then I would become a moral relativist because I would realize that there can be no morality without immaterial minds and wills.

    Of course, the whole materialist enterprise is self refuting, because if it was true, I COULD not convert to any position other than the one I hold because I would have no free will with which to convert.

  203. —Mark: “I cannot think of a counter argument that would work because my argument seems to watertight to me. It is bit like asking a mathematician what argument would cause you to change your mind about 1+1=2. Maybe there is one – but how could one possibly know what it is without also accepting it?”

    It is more like asking someone who believes that 2+2=5 to please honor the laws of mathematics only to have him tell you that he doesn’t believe in those laws and nothing will convince him otherwise.

    Your standards for morality remain totally arbitrary, totally unique, and totally personal. It would be impossible to build a well-ordered society around such a concept. As I stated earlier, and has been recognized for over two thousand years, there are only two choices [A] The natural moral law or [B] Might makes right. To deny the former is to affirm the latter.

    The moral relativism you promote is simply a transitional fad that encourages vulgarity, compromises freedom, and always gives way to tyranny. There never has been and never will be a society based on feelings.

  204. MF: “The fact that people may in practice still disagree is not really the point.”

    If you are alluding to my question, knowing whether or not a majority of people who *fulfilled* your conditional qualification (however it should be stated — that is still not quite clear) could still disagree with your position is critical to the question of whether you are merely expressing a truism or else something that is not empty.

    You mentioned to StephenB the point of how you are focusing on the meaning of words and that you find your case to be watertight. However, both of those conditions are typically the case concerning truisms. They are true in a watertight way often exactly because they are juggling words in ways that can never be false, e.g. “I react the way I react,” or “People who react like me react like me.”

    So I’m hoping you can persuade me that this is not what your position comes down to. I’m still thinking about your last response, but I’m not sure I have a clear answer to my question. I don’t want to put words in your mouth.

    Are you then saying that, Yes, even when people satisfy my intended condition of sharing the same _______ as you, nevertheless a majority of them may still disagree with you? In such a case, my belief or expectation of their concurrence would turn out to be false.

    Or, is that outcome effectively excluded by your condition? Would you say, No, if a majority of some group didn’t agree with me, that probably indicates they have access to _______ I don’t have, or I have _______ they don’t have to a degree such that my qualifying condition is not met.

    My point is that they often do agree (pretty much everyone agrees that murder is bad) and we behave, talk as though they would agree if only they understood – even if in practice they sometimes don’t and there is no way of, as it were, clinching the deal. That’s what I mean by an objective approach to a subjective issue.

    That can also be explained at least as well, if not better, as a subjective approach to an objective issue.

    We talk and behave as we do because our historical understanding of right and wrong is that they have objective truth. Someone else’s view is not just there way of thinking. We have historically thought some views were more correct, more accurate, and others not as correct, not as accurate.

    Please consider: it is meaningless to talk of being closer to or farther away from X, if X has no real position. Closer necessarily implies that there exists something which has a true position we may or may not be closer to. Do you agree? If there is no Narnia, it is nonsense to argue over which of us is nearer to it. But to argue about which is nearer to New York or London could be meaningful because they do exist. (And it would be meaningful as concepts even if we didn’t have a practical way to measure and clinch the deal.)

    I don’t know if you have ever read C.S. Lewis’s The Abolition of Man, but it includes a discussion of the historical view that we need to train our sentiments so that they accord accurately with the actual and true values that things have, so that we value the valuable and despise the despicable, and so on.

    Whether you take that view as true, it is beyond reasonable question that this is the perspective that has historically shaped and influenced the way we behave and talk about this. “we behave, talk as though they would agree if only they understood” — precisely because we have thought of these matters as claims that may be true or false. Even the majority can be wrong at times, precisely because these matters are not defined by the majority but have an objective truth value independent of majority opinion.

    Again, I am not saying this is proof — only that this is without question the historical basis upon which our ways of talking about this have formed. This way of behaving and talking carries on with us through our culture, even if many have begun to doubt whether the original basis is true. There is cultural momentum.

  205. EricB

    We are now over 200 comments and I seem to be making no more progress. I am going to stop this debate and go away and write the book.

    It has been interesting and worthwhile.

    Thanks

  206. Mark:

    Peanut gallery here.

    Ask yourself: am I confusing the fact of subjectivity as a rational, moral animal, with the claim that there is therefore no objectivity of content on morals?

    Stephen is right, that either [1] we accept that there is self-evident truth that so soon as we spiral in on understanding how we experience that aspect of the world as rational, moral animals, we see HAVE to be so; or else [2] we end up in the horror of C20: might makes right.

    It is highly significant that in our civilisation, theism takes view no 1, and evolutionary materialism evidently takes view no 2.

    Onlookers — fellow members of our cvilisation — consider the historically predictable consequences, not forgetting to listen to the voices of over 100 million ghosts of the victims of regimes that chose option 2 over the past 100 years. (And that does not include the numbers of the victims of abortion in recent decades, which the Alan Guttmacher institute tots up to a number in the ballpark of a billion.)

    We have been warned.

    GEM of TKI

  207. Onlookers:

    A few follow-up remarks on the synthetic a priori truth issue. Pardon a few more bleats from the peanut gallery. (Let’s hope this poor sheep knows his Master’s voice . . . )

    a –> The analytic/synthetic distinction its felt by its adherents to be exhaustive of propositions, almost by definition. Thus, Kant, giving the example of an alaytic truth that “all bodies are extended,” and “All bodies are heavy” as exemplifying the synthetic:

    In all judgments in which the relation of a subject to the predicate is thought . . . this relation is possible in two different ways. Either the predicate B belongs to the subject A as something that is (covertly) contained in this concept A; or B lies entirely outside the concept A, though to be sure it stands in connection with it. In the first case, I call the judgment analytic, in the second synthetic. (A:6-7)

    :

    b –> Thus, we see that:

    (i) analytic truth claims are so by virtue of expanding the meaning/ concept of the subject and comparing with the predicate and seeing that they are in effect restating [some of] the substance of the subject in the predicate in whatever guise, definition, direct implication etc — effectively without having to immediately confirm from the world of experiences. By contrast

    (ii) Synthetic ones are the ones that differ from that, and by extension where we have to advert to the outside world specifically, not merely our common fund of “stored” background knowledge or the baldly asserted conventions of the subject in view.

    c –> So already, once we look at the issue by highlighting background experience and knowledge, we see that there lurks a clue that something is wrong, as Quine et al have highlighted: analytic truths seem to be often more tied to experience and derived knowledge of the world than adherents like to accept. (And so, to our informal and/or formal education and the dynamics of the concept formation — knowledge construction process in light of experiences, recognised patterns and ideas, thus links and relationships.)

    d –> As Wiki summarises:

    Quine’s chief objection to analyticity is with the notion of synonymy (sameness of meaning), a sentence being analytic just in case it is synonymous with “All black things are black” (or any other logical truth). The objection to synonymy hinges upon the problem of collateral information. We intuitively feel that there is a distinction between “All unmarried men are bachelors” and “There have been black dogs”, but a competent English speaker will assent to both sentences under all conditions since such speakers also have access to collateral information bearing on the historical existence of black dogs. Quine maintains that there is no distinction between universally known collateral information and conceptual or analytic truths.

    e –> In short, so soon as we look at this challenge, we see that we are already back at our experience of the world as rational-moral, verbalising, common-sense using animals. For convenience, Wiki again:

    Common sense (or, when used attributively as an adjective, commonsense, common-sense, or commonsensical), based on a strict construction of the term, consists of what people in common would agree on: that which they “sense” (in common) as their common natural understanding. Some people (such as the authors of Merriam-Webster Online) use the phrase to refer to beliefs or propositions [and, I add, reasoning] that — in their opinion — most people would consider prudent and of sound judgment, without reliance on esoteric knowledge or study or research, but based upon what they see as knowledge held by people “in common”. Thus “common sense” (in this view) equates to the knowledge and experience which most people allegedly have, or which the person using the term believes that they do or should have.

    {. . . }

  208. f –> By now we can see that the analytic/ synthetic dichotomy may well conceal more than it seems to reveal, especially on the analytic side, where in fact there is a lot that goes into these “conceptual” identities that are seemingly so tautological that they are often derided as useless; simply saying that “A is A.”

    g –> But actually, that is sometimes crucially important to say: recognition of an identity and accepting the stability of that identity based on essential nature is often a hard won, easily lost recognition in a world of selective hyperskepticism that so easily declares that YOU gotta prove that to me on my terms, which are — infinite regress or nothing, regardless of inconsistency on my part when I am more inclined to accept a claim. (Indeed, above this question lurks under the issues of what is good and what is evil and whether moral obligation is more than merely a feeling rooted in our conditioning.)

    h –> That is where the question of the little error at the beginning of rejecting the common-sense view that there are self-evidently true truths that can be recognied as such based on our experience of the world as rational-moral, common sense using, understanding creatures [cf excerpt from Adler and discussion at 175] surfaces.

    i –> Namely,

    In addition to merely verbal statements which, as tautologies, are uninstructive and need no support beyond the rules of language, and in addition to instructive statements which need support and certification, either from experience or by reasoning, there is a third class of statements which are non-tautological or instructive, on the one hand, and are also indemonstrable or self-evidently true, on the other. These are the statements that Euclid called “common notions,” that Aristotle called “axioms” or “first principles,” and that mediaeval thinkers called “propositions per se nota.”

    One example will suffice to make this clear — the axiom or selfevident truth that a finite whole is greater than any of its parts. This proposition states our understanding of the relation between a finite whole and its parts. It is not a statement about the word “whole” or the word “part” but rather about our understanding of wholes and parts and their relation.

    j –> You will see that he is zeroing in on tautologoies vs empirically supported truth claims vs self evident truths that are rooted in our experience and understanding of the world. Of such, he exemplifies: “a finite whole is greater than any of its parts . . . It is not a statement about the word “whole” or the word “part” but rather about our understanding of wholes and parts and their relation . . . We cannot express our understanding of a whole without reference to our understanding of its parts and our understanding that it is greater than any of its parts. We cannot express our understanding of parts without reference to our understanding of wholes and our understanding that a part is less than the whole of which it is a part.”

    [ . . . ]

  209. k –> Thus emerges the learning spiral approach to ever deeper understanding, that shows how we escape the apparent circularity.

    l –> We start where we are with ideas, experiences and so on in our background. We undergo a loop of learining experiences [whether hands on or minds on through dialogue or whatever], that show us, e.g. how wholes and parts interact and inter-relate.

    m –> That allows us to correct misunderstandings, and to deepen our understanding in an empirically linked frame. Especially, through careful dialogue constrained by good judgement of what makes sense, we understand that something is not just true but that it must be so, in light of our experience of the world as rational-moral creatures.

    n –> In particular, that includes the reality of the reasoning, truth-grasping [though also error making], knowing mind. This we see from Josiah Royce’s point: “error exists” is undeniably and self-evidently true.

    o –> For if we try to deny it [as an act of dialogue in a learning experience], that would only succeed in instantiating what we instantly recognise as an error. Thus, truth exists as what we are possibly mistaken about.

    p –> And, since we just warranted a truth claim we in fact all believe, we see that knowledge exists as a possibility. (But, we must equally beware the double-edged nature of tis known truth: we can be mistaken about what we think we know is so.)

    q –> Equally, we see the same of morality, good and evil. Indeed, we see that not only are we familiar with such from our life-experiences as morally obligated persons [think about how and why we quarrel], but that to reject such realities is to ever so soon end up in a morass of destructive absurdities.

    r –> Now of course, I long since pointed out (111) that Koukl’s argument points form such self-evidently true existence of evil to the reality of morality, good and evil. thence the suggestion that the evolutionary materialist picture of the world is simplistic to the point of factual inadequacy, i.e. error. (That it makes such heavy going of not only morality but event he minds required to think even as a scientific materialist, should have long since told us something is wrong.)

    Okay, a few bleats from the peanut gallery.

    GEM of TKI

  210. KF

    I did start to read your comment but I rapidly came across this sentence:

    “we accept that there is self-evident truth that so soon as we spiral in on understanding how we experience that aspect of the world as rational, moral animals, we see HAVE to be so”

    At the point I gave up ….

  211. MF

    In short you do not believe that truths can be self-evident.

    Try this one for size:

    Error exists. [From Josiah Royce]

    Try to deny it, having understood what it says as a rational animal, and see where that lands you.

    GEM of TKI

  212. kairosfocus,

    I gave up on this thread a long time ago and have no desire to read it to try understand the nature of the debate that is going on. But in searching for a past comment three years ago I came across another set of discussions between Mark Frank and Barry Arrington and others.

    Here are the two threads on UD from May of 2006. The first thread is titled “A Reply to Mark Frank” and was generated as a result of comments Mark made in the other thread.

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....y-to-rgds/

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....nt-design/

  213. Jerry

    Thanks.

    But this thread at length has brought out some very important consequences of MF’s evoltuionary materialism.

    Even his last little Parthian shot is itself inadvertently revealing, as I just noted.

    (For, rational animality [we have not got to the moralising part yet . . . ] has implications, one of which is that there are indeed self evident truths starting with undeniable ones like “error exists.” To attempt to deny that one is only to instantiate its truth, one way or another.)

    GEM of TKI

  214. To Mark Frank, not surprisingly, I’m disappointed that you seem to be stepping back without choosing to take a stand on my yes or no question. The crucial points seem to go untouched. As matters stand, so far you have not shown that the core of your position is distinguished from the following.

    Similarly conditioned people will react similarly. [ericB's best understanding so far of the foundation of Mark Frank's subjective approach to moral reactions and why people talk as they do about morality]

    Taking conditioning in the most inclusive sense of all formative influences, I immediately grant that this is “watertight.” But it is also empty of value or significance.

    As I pointed out previously, this claim can be made simultaneously and equally for everyone’s positions, for the less common ones just as much as the more common ones. Choose from any of the positions you find unacceptable, and nevertheless those people can make the same claim. By your own position, you would also react similarly as they do if you had been similarly conditioned.

    Consequently, this reality makes no distinction between positions. Nothing can be legitimately inferred from it, beyond a restatement that the reaction owes to one’s conditioning.

    If you think that I am mistaken in this regard, I would still welcome you showing how your position escapes this fate. Yet, when I have mentioned this before, you didn’t avail yourself of the opportunity. I am left to infer that your position does not escape this fate.

    I posed my original question to materialists because Allen_MacNeill (as one example) tried to make significance of the fact that Darwin was only predicting what will happen on the basis of his theory, not affirming that outcome.

    Yet, as matters stand, the Darwinian materialists so far have not shown they have any basis upon which to say that the conditioning that prompts some to affirm and fulfill what Darwin predicts is in fact wrong. Some react negatively (and so may call that outcome bad) while others react positively (and so may call that outcome good).

    The latter have the advantage of pointing out the objective observation, independent of all subjective reactions, that they are doing what species have always been doing. Where then does a Darwinian materialist introduce and insert a means of invalidating positive moral reactions to consistency with this course of events? There does not seem to be a legitimate means to invalidate any actual reaction. Darwinian materialism apparently provides nothing more than competing conditioning and circumstances, leading to competing preferences.

    Mark Frank, I’ve sincerely tried to see if your position could offer a way out of this for the Darwinian materialist. So far, it hasn’t improved the position at all. According to your position, those that fulfill what are (merely) Darwin’s predictions have at least as much claim, if not more, on behalf of their positive reactions as do any who react against that outcome, even if the latter includes Darwin himself.

    In any case, I remain open and interested in hearing more from you, whenever you wish to contribute. It has been a joy to dialogue with someone who is sincere and courteous. I’ve tried to focus on understanding your view primarily, more so than to advocate my own. But at some time I would welcome having you expose my own views to similar scrutiny.

    Best blessings to you and yours!

  215. #212

    KF – my problem with:

    “we accept that there is self-evident truth that so soon as we spiral in on understanding how we experience that aspect of the world as rational, moral animals, we see HAVE to be so”

    was not that I disagreed with it. It was that I couldn’t understand it. It seems like complete gobbleydook to me. Am I the only one that has this problem?

  216. 217

    Am I the only one that has this problem?

    No. I think KF may be making good points, but it is impossible to tell. :)

  217. MF:

    I may have indeed been obscure on the point as expressed; though I amplify following.

    I expand, dissecting; but noting that this is a phrase in a context and that serious phil discussions often make a point in 50 pps, not 5 points per p:

    ____________

    1] we accept that there is self-evident truth

    –> in other words self evident truth [SET] exists and is warranted as follows

    2] that so soon as we spiral in on understanding

    –> SETs are understood, and on understanding their components and how they fit together they are seen to be so, and that they must be so

    3] how we experience that aspect of the world as rational, moral animals,

    –> We are rational animals and are inescapably moral as well; consider how and why we quarrel or even seek top persuade of the correctness of our views

    –> we acquire ever-deepening insight through a spiral of learning experiences

    –> Circles do not progress but spirals do; even while revisiting much the same ground

    –> this is now a fairly common model in education, especially for those of moderate constructivist bent [as I am; note the linked things on that above in this thread . . . cf Richard Skemp et al for much more]

    –> Here is my own favourite version of a learning experience spiral architecture for curricula and even web sites.

    4] we see HAVE to be so

    –> That is, on inspection we see that we are dealing with truths that have to be true, on pain of reduction to self-referential usually absurdity.

    –> My fav case is of course Josiah Royce’s “Error exists.” (Most of us instantly agree, but the interesting thing comes in trying to deny it — due to clever self-reference, it forces an affirmation.)

    –> And the implications that follow are interesting: truth exists as what we can be in error [or sometimes not in error about -- this is an undeniable truth]

    –> Warranted credible truth that we can believe to be so warranted also exists, as it exemplifies. So knowledge exists, though we can be mistaken about it.

    –> And since we find ourselves drawn to excel on the virtue of knowing the truth, it hints [note my shift away from "warrant"] strongly that virtue exists and so opens the door to pursuit of virtue, i.e. moral excellence.

    –> Thus it sets up the onward set of issues that address a lot of worldview and life agenda themes.

    –> For instance if truth, even knowable truth exists, but truth is not a physical substance,t hen that strongly points to the need for a broader view of the world than is embraced by physicalism, and suggests that the mind that grasps truth is more than merely neurons and synapses firing away electro-chemically.

    _________________

    So, yes a lot lurked in a little, but in a spiralling context that I think would have helped to build a deeper base of insight.

    Trust that helps.

    GEM of TKI

    ps: I guess though that I am too used to “read three times to figure out” material.

  218. PS: Onlookers observe the excerpt is in 207. I took time to explain in 208 – 210.

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