Home » Intelligent Design » Origins and the 2012 US Presidential Election

Origins and the 2012 US Presidential Election

There seems to be a lot of chatter on the news and the Internet about the candidates’ beliefs about origins. While many in the media are using this as a test of scientific savvy (and a way to discredit people they don’t like), I think there are deeper reasons why the question of origins is important to an election.

In a recent article on the Classical Conversations website, I show how the question of origins relates directly to some of the foundational questions of governance, and how different views affect those questions and outcomes.

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31 Responses to Origins and the 2012 US Presidential Election

  1. From the cited page:

    The foundation of politics is in the nature of humanity. One cannot govern humanity if one does not understand humans.

    Okay, fair enough.

    If a presidential candidate gets his ideas about the nature of humanity from theology, then I would consider that candidate unfit to govern.

    If a candidate gets his ideas about the nature of humanity from the theory of evolution, I would consider that candidate unfit to govern.

    A candidates ideas about the nature of humanity should come from his being a human and from his experience in interacting with other humans. Someone whose ideas about the nature of humanity come from an abstract theory, whether theological or scientific, is somebody who is out of touch with reality.

  2. I would disagree, largely because theology has grown from the experience of thousands of years of human wisdom about the human condition. The depth of theological understanding transcends any one national culture, for nearly *any* religion one can think of. It certainly transcends ones own circumstances to provide a broader picture.

    I agree with you in general, that one’s view of humanity should be grounded in experience. However, I think a bigger view is needed to transcend the limitations of an individual’s experience.

    The problem I have with evolution is not that it provides a larger view of human experience, but rather that it provides a smaller one. As pointed out so eloquently in the book Absence of Mind, materialism (which is the core of modern evolution), is a very limiting proposition regarding our own human experience. There simply aren’t material representations (even in theory) for things like experience, choice, and creativity.

    In any case, while I am a fan of theological understandings, the point of the article wasn’t really about theology, though. The main point was, as the article mentioned, your view of the person will likely overflow into your view of the origins of the person. This is true whether your view of the person is based on theology or not. You might be objecting to my reference of “original sin”. However, the doctrine of original sin (that people have a natural inclination towards selfish behavior) can be defended entirely on the basis of experience. Or you may be considering my reflection on nature as an orchestrated plan. One need only read Agassiz’s Essay on Classification to realize that the fact of a plan of nature is an empirical one before it is a theological one (Agassiz, I believe, was a unitarian, and thus had little use for dogma).

    None of that to discount the additions that theological views can bring – they flesh out what is empirically deducible, stretch out our experience from our own little corner to cover cultures across the globe and millennia through time, and include the special revelation that God gives us in each of these matters. Nonetheless, the basic view is one that is empirically detectable. It is only by intentionally, habitually removing our empirical experiences of daily life that one embraces a materialistic view.

    (Apologies if this was posted twice – the first time I posted it looked like it didn’t go through)

  3. Note – this was intended as a reply to Neil’s comment above.

  4. As pointed out so eloquently in the book Absence of Mind, materialism (which is the core of modern evolution), is a very limiting proposition regarding our own human experience.

    I support evolution, but I do not claim to be a materialist. I disagree with some of the ideas of some materialists. However, I wonder how much of that “very limiting proposition” is based on propaganda rather than on what materialists actually believe.

  5. From a religious point of view, the only government directly endorsed by God was a theocracy. Human authorities were at best tolerated. The Bible says not to put faith in any of them.
    By saying that I am not proposing that any government be overthrown and replaced by a theocracy. For one thing that’s impossible because no man can institute a theocracy, and the one who thinks otherwise is dangerous.

  6. Neil: “”Someone whose ideas about the nature of humanity come from an abstract theory, whether theological or scientific, is somebody who is out of touch with reality.”

    Hmmm . . .

    All men are created equal . . . are endowed with unalienable rights . . . entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness . . . etc.

    Seems that most of our highest principles are abstract generalized principles, rather than just statements codifying our “experience interacting with other human beings,” as you suggest. Indeed, it could well be said that our principles *must* be higher than our experiences in personal interactions. Those principles are what compel us to aim higher, seek for truth, nobility, justice, civility . . . The higher principles rarely find perfect implementation in society, but we don’t limit our aspirations to the level of those interactions. The principles should guide our interactions and be the goal, not the other way around.

    As to your other comment, whatever anyone thinks of any particular religion, it is a historical and current fact that the primary laws governing society in the U.S. and maintaining the peace are based on religious principles, primarily the Ten Commandments, namely don’t kill, don’t steal, etc. Oh sure, one might feel that this is an old historical irrelevancy and that we are now enlightened enough to see that we need such laws, independent of some old dusty religious text, but the basis remains. It seems pretty naive and misguided to suggest that “if a candidate gets his ideas about the nature of humanity from theology, then [we should] consider that candidate unfit to govern.”

  7. Neil –

    I’ve read quite a bit of materialists’ writings, some of them fairly thoroughly. My masters’ paper in theology was on a Christian materialist, Nancey Murphy. Materialism has a pretty strict definition – no causes outside of physics. And those who promote it are fairly clear on what it means – it means that choice is not real. Everything is determinable by either chance or antecedent causes. Physics is the whole kaboodle. Nonreductive physicalists (like Murphy) also say that there are other valid ways of describing the world (i.e. describing an act as moral or immoral is not more or less real than describing it in terms of physical causes), but that doesn’t take away from the fact that everything boils down to physics. I honestly haven’t heard much in the way of “propaganda” about materialists. They usually own up quite well to what ID’ers say about them, with regard to their core beliefs.

    I have trouble seeing what usefulness materialism offers, especially when there are so many other possibilities to choose from. I am a substance dualist myself, but there are many other options which at the very least take into account the world we find ourselves in (panpsychism, aspect dualism, emergent dualism, just to name a few).

    Out of curiosity, would you consider yourself an ID’er? Why or why not? I can’t think of a non-materialist ID evolution that isn’t contained within the ID concept, but am curious to hear your thoughts.

  8. NR:

    Thank you for your frank admissions:

    If a presidential candidate gets his ideas about the nature of humanity from theology, then I would consider that candidate unfit to govern.

    If a candidate gets his ideas about the nature of humanity from the theory of evolution, I would consider that candidate unfit to govern.

    A candidates ideas about the nature of humanity should come from his being a human and from his experience in interacting with other humans. Someone whose ideas about the nature of humanity come from an abstract theory, whether theological or scientific, is somebody who is out of touch with reality.

    The core problem with this is immediate: it is not evident from the mere process of interacting with other people, what they are, and how they should be treated. Worldview level foundation issues — aka, turtles all the way down — cannot be so easily diverted and dismissed to your convenience, especially when it comes to grounding ethics, which is directly related to ever so many issues of government. (And it is to be noted that there is a crucial real-world concern at stake where media houses and spinmeisters are pretending and projecting that if one has questions about the institutionally powerful evolutionary materialism agenda, one is an idiot or worse. That has to be answered.)

    In quick response, if a candidate gets his ideas on the nature of humanity — thus, necessarily, morality — from a priori atheistical evolutionary materialism or its fellow travellers, the clear evidence of the past 100 years [not to mention 2350 years -- spell that ALCIBIADES (who we should learn a lot more about, by way of a highly relevant caution from history . . .) ], is that that candidate is a potentially serious hazard to the property, liberty, safety and even lives of his potential constituents; not to mention those of people in neighbouring countries.

    So say the ghosts of over 100 million victims over the past 100 years.

    In short, two can play that ad hominem game, and you may not like where it points at all, on balance.

    It is no accident that when John Locke set out to ground modern liberty and democracy in his 2nd essay on civil govt, ch 2, he cited from Richard Hooker, in his Ecclesiastical Polity, where this “judicious” [Locke's word] Anglican worthy had written c 1594 as follows:

    . . . 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.

    Historically, the only sound foundation for that equality that grounds the Golden rule/Categorical Imperative, lies in our being equally made in God’s image. Indeed, that is what is the pivot of argument in the directly derived — and historically vital — state document, the US Declaration of Independence of 1776:

    [ . . . ]

  9. When . . . it becomes necessary for one people . . . to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

    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; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But 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 . . . .

    We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions [Cf. Judges 11:27 and discussion in Locke], do, in the Name, and by the Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

    It looks a lot like, the worldview foundations of a candidate are indeed quite crucial.

    Just, not convenient to those who would push us into an a priori evolutionary materialistic cave; in the name of science, then pretend that by borrowing, unacknowledged, principles of equality from the Judaeo-Christian worldview they have so enthusiastically and venomously trashed, they think they can stave off the chaos that flows naturally from such an amoral, morally bankrupt worldview.

    NOT!

    In short, if sound government is founded on maintaining the civil peace of justice, which requires equal and balanced respect for rights and responsibilites of free men, then that puts the grounding of rights and responsibilites up front centre in political issues. And in turn that brings right on centre stage the utter amorality and moral bankruptcy of evolutionary materialism, which has in it no IS that can ground OUGHT.

    And so, putting the wheelhouse of the ship of state in the hands of those indoctrinated to think that scientism and a priori evolutionary materialism are the hallmarks of sound education and intelligence, is patent folly.

    materialists can rhetorically dodge worldview level issues and make the truth or what is sound LOOK like nonsense to the ill-informed and historically ignorant, but you cannot escape the cultural consequences; as we are beginning to see all around us.

    GEM of TKI

  10. Out of curiosity, would you consider yourself an ID’er? Why or why not?

    No. The available evidence does not currently support ID.

    If actual evidence (as distinct from philosophical argumentation) shows up, then I will reconsider.

  11. Hmmm . . .

    All men are created equal . . . are endowed with unalienable rights . . . entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness . . . etc.

    Seems that most of our highest principles are abstract generalized principles, rather than just statements codifying our “experience interacting with other human beings,” as you suggest.

    Those abstract principles are a way of expressing our ideas about humanity, but they are not the sum total of our ideas about humanity.

    As to your other comment, whatever anyone thinks of any particular religion, it is a historical and current fact that the primary laws governing society in the U.S. and maintaining the peace are based on religious principles, primarily the Ten Commandments, namely don’t kill, don’t steal, etc.

    This frequently made claim is frequently contested, and it probably false.

  12. “Those abstract principles are a way of expressing our ideas about humanity, but they are not the sum total of our ideas about humanity.”

    Well, shoot. You initially said that our views should be informed only by our actual experience interacting with others. Now it sounds like our views should be informed by our ideals/values, as well as our interactions.

    Isn’t that what everyone is doing anyway? I’m not sure the supposed separation between the two is possible even in principle.

    Maybe all you’re saying is that, regardless of philosophical background, we should let our actual experiences meaningfully inform our decisions in a practical way. And that we shouldn’t be blind to our actual interactions, by hiding behind the abstract theory. I agree with that, as long as we recognize there is always an underlying philosophical/abstract/religious underpinning. We don’t get away from that. Even stating that there shouldn’t be one is itself an underlying position.

  13. Mr Rickert:

    Kindly start from the DOI and Constitution in historical context (a very small slice of which is given above). It will begin to show just how far wrong your estimates — commonly reported though they are — are.

    It may help you to begin to appreciate that the USA was a part of a civilisation then known as Christendom, in its founding era; as can be seen form say Blackstone, the whole common law frame of thought that was the basis of law was deeply imbued with a Christian character, imperfect though it inevitably was.

    Let me for one example simply clip Blackstone from his famous 1765 Commentaries on the Laws of England, which were a pivotal work used to guide legal education:

    Man, considered as a creature, must necessarily be subject to the laws of his creator, for he is entirely a dependent being . . . consequently, as man depends absolutely upon his maker for every thing, it is necessary that he should in all points conform to his maker’s will. This will of his maker is called the law of nature. For as God, when he created matter, and endued it with a principle of mobility, established certain rules for the perpetual direction of that motion; so, when he created man, and endued him with freewill to conduct himself in all parts of life, he laid down certain immutable laws of human nature, whereby that freewill is in some degree regulated and restrained, and gave him also the faculty of reason to discover the purport of those laws . . . These are the eternal, immutable laws of good and evil, to which the creator himself in all his dispensations conforms; and which he has enabled human reason to discover, so far as they are necessary for the conduct of human actions. Such among others are these principles: that we should live honestly [NB: cf. Exod. 20:15 - 16], should hurt nobody [NB: cf. Rom 13:8 - 10], and should render to every one his due [NB: cf. Rom 13:6 - 7 & Exod. 20:15]; to which three general precepts Justinian[1: a Juris praecepta sunt hace, honeste vivere. alterum non laedere, suum cuique tribuere. Inst, 1. 1. 3] has reduced the whole doctrine of law [and, Corpus Juris, Justinian's Christianised precis and pruning of perhaps 1,000 years of Roman jurisprudence, in turn is the foundation of law for much of Europe].

    (I suggest you read here [fat Google PDF) in Sen Sumner's actual copy -- yes, the same who was beaten in the UD Congress building -- of a relevant historical work by B F Morris on the subject, or you could start here for a 101 survey on the historical background from Vindiciae, to the Dutch DOI of 1581 to Rutherford and Locke on to the US DOI, [note the cites from original documents, and the links to the US Library of Congress display]; those who are trying to revisionise the relevant history have greatly — and, at the top level, plainly culpably (as, they SHOULD know better) — misinformed and misled the public.)

    But, all of this is yet another tangent.

    YOU NEED TO DEAL — START FROM PLATO AND ALCIBIADES, THE PROTOTYPE FOR NIETZSCHE’S SUPERMAN — WITH THE IMPLICATIONS OF WORLDVIEWS FOR ETHICS, POLICY DECISIONS, LAW AND CULTURE, WITH CONSEQUENCES FOR THE PATH OF A NATION OR CIVILISATION. (Emphasis, not shouting.)

    G’day

    GEM of TKI

  14. Turtles all the way down.

    (Cf. here — this also applies to the issue of a foundational IS that can ground OUGHT, on pain of reduction of a worldview to the absurdity, might makes ‘right.’)

  15. Translated: NR refuses to attend to what we know 9empirically and analytically) about the source of functionally specific complex information, which we happen to find in the heart of the living cell.

  16. There is a big difference between a proposed Theocracy and a government based on religious principles.

    The former would repeat Islam’s mistake of using a Holy Book to map out specific laws and establish a permanent, stifling, unchanging culture.

    The latter allows the culture to change, grow, and develop naturally, while standing on a foundation of unchanging ethical principles.

  17. I don’t see how a government based on religious principles is different to a government based on any other principles. You still have to work out what the principles are. First, you have to work out what religion to use for the principles. Then you have to work out what (often competing) principles from within that religion you adopt. Ultimately you adopt the principles that the people who elect you are most comfortable with. It doesn’t really matter where they come from.

  18. T:

    Re:

    I don’t see how a government based on religious principles is different to a government based on any other principles. You still have to work out what the principles are . . .

    Pardon, a direct question: What are you talking about?

    We are not talking in a vacuum here, we are dealing with a civilisation as a going concern for many centuries, with a lot of history and thought at the highest level easily accessible if we want it.

    (On the sorry track record of the evolutionary materialism being touted by the pundits that are pushing those ever so supercilious questions to candidates, I would begin from the expose of Plato — yes, that Plato [if you refuse to learn from Jesus and Paul, Plato will do admirably for a start] — in The Laws, BK X, 360 BC, i.e 2350 years ago; and I would also look onward at the story of his exhibit no 1, Alcibiades; prototype and poster-boy for Nietzsche’s superman. And, if you don’t know about these things, ask yourself, who has ever so artfully censored your education so that you don’t. Yes, CENSORED.)

    Next, we are talking of a worldview — as opposed to imposing an institutionalised, religious — option that as a matter of abundantly documented historical fact [despite much revisionising that seeks to dismiss the inconvenient truth that can be read starting with STATE PAPERS . . . ] has made a major and in fact the major contribution to the rise of modern liberty and democracy.

    There is a big and even blatant difference between chaotic amorality –

    what is on the table under the false colours of science, through a priori evolutionary materialism [the pundits' "if you don't toe the line on this, you are ignorant, stupid, insane or wicked" New Atheistical slander based talking point . . . yes, we have not forgotten that venomously arrogant little Dawkins quip that seems to be driving ever so many pundits today . . . ] –

    . . . and a well understood, easily accessible moral framework historically and philosophically foundational to modern liberty and democracy.

    One that, when he set out to ground modern liberty’s principles in Ch 2 of his 2nd Essay on Civil Govt, John Locke — yes, THAT John Locke — cited from “the Judicious” Canon Richard Hooker, in his 1594+ Ecclesiastical Polity:

    . . . 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 . . . [[Hooker then continues, citing Aristotle in The Nicomachean Ethics, Bk 8:] as namely, That because we would take no harm, we must therefore do none; That since we would not be in any thing extremely dealt with, we must ourselves avoid all extremity in our dealings; That from all violence and wrong we are utterly to abstain, with such-like . . . ] [[Eccl. Polity,preface, Bk I, "ch." 8, p.80]

    But of course, thanks to the censorship of education imposed in the name of separation of church and state and an artfully cultivated fear of “theocracy” ever so many for a full generation have been ignorant of that foundation.

    Why else do you think that those who sought to promote that which has no foundation for ethics beyond “might makes right” would want to do, but to besmirch and poison our minds against an alternative that would restrain them from license, and then get the nations to forget that which would restrain them from where they want to take our civilisation?

    How naive we are!

    And, in fact, it is not that:

    Ultimately you adopt the principles that the people who elect you are most comfortable with. It doesn’t really matter where they come from . . .

    But that, instead, we had better be concerned to find a sound worldview foundation for our ethical thought and practice, knowing full well that we are going to be uncomfortable, ashamed, and struggling at best to do the right.

    GEM of TKI

  19. Only unchanging principles that precede the discussion can inform the discussion. In that sense, only the Judeo/Christian world view can provide the kinds of unchanging principles that precede the discussion and also allow for legitimate changes in external circumstances.

    With Islam, the principles, though they are unchanging and precede the discussion, are too rigid to be useful because they forbid legtimate changes in the culture. With Secularism, the principles that “come out” of the discussion are ever changing and cannot, therefore, inform anything, prompting inappropriate changes in the culture.

    What we are after, or should be after, are religious principles that encourage legitimate changes in the culture. What we should avoid are the two extremes of [a] forbidding legitimate change in the culture or [b] encouraging illegitmate change for the sake of change.

  20. I don’t think any principles are unchanging. It doesn’t matter what religion or other source they come from. The will be adapted to fit changing cultural conditions or they will die. That’s why we don’t apply a lot of Judeo/Christian principles that might have seemed acceptable 2,000 years ago.

  21. I once had a discussion with someone who believes, as you do, that humans can work out their own moral code. So, I offered to work out a moral code with him–just the two of us. I put my standards on the table and I asked him to put his standards on the table so we could negotiate. So, I will make the same offer to you. Here are my standards: The Natural Moral Law, The Ten Commandments, and The Sermon On the Mount. Provide you standards, and then we will negotiate.

  22. I don’t believe a moral code is “worked out” in that way – ie a negotiation between two people. What you are describing sounds like a theocracy – say, modern day Iran where a group of mullahs decide what the moral code is (based on their interpretation of the prescriptions of their religion). They argue and discuss it, and what they decide becomes the moral code enforced by law.

    I think a moral code arises as a matter of necessity from a community of people living out their lives. Over time the principles that are important to them become bedded into a community-wide moral code. There will be individual differences – some will think it immoral to have sex before marriage, some will think it should be mandatory – but a kind of average becomes the accepted standard. Many principles such as the golden rule have stood the test of time, have appeared in many different moral codes, and have become almost universal. Many others have appeared more recently and are not so universally applied – for example the right of people not to be slaves.

    I find the belief that humans are not responsible for their own moral code to be very strange, and kind of insulting to our species. If we can’t work out our morals, who can? Who else is there to tell us what they are? And why should we cede our authority, like children, in respect of such an important matter?

  23. T:

    Translation, might and manipulaiton by the opinion-leaders make “right,” a recipe for chaos, rooted in amorality and nihilism.

    Let’s test with test case no 1:

    Torturing babies is wrong, is a self-evidently true and binding moral claim. It is true, it is undeniably true and to try to deny it lands you in patent absurdities.

    Either show that this principle is not binding, or else acknowledge that there are objective, even absolute, binding moral principles that are not culture-flexible.

    Despite the prevailing opinion in say Canaanite culture or the like that actually did practice this.

    Then, extend this to the issue of the wanton slaughter of innocent UNBORN babies in our civilisation; now that evolutionary materialist secular humanism is dominant among power elites.

    GEM of TKI

    (And your insistence on an atmosphere-poisoning comparison while willfully ignoring the accessible [right here in our thread and onward linked] relevant evidence on roots of liberty and democracy in our own civilisation is utterly revealing.)

  24. This is a reply to your 5.1.1.3. Does not seem to be a reply button there.

    No, the principle of not torturing babies is not “binding”. I don’t even know what you mean by “binding” other than in the legal sense. I could not imagine a modern culture that would not find the practice barbaric, but that doesn’t make it binding. Binding implies something that is forced. Moral codes are chosen not forced (apart from those aspects that make it into law). And I already said that some principles become almost universal in application.

    In any case, there are presumably circumstances when torturing a baby might be moral. For example if it would save 100 other babies from themselves being tortured.

    I don’t want to delve into your casual conflating of babies with foetuses.

  25. Onlookers:

    Re, T:

    No, the principle of not torturing babies is not “binding”.

    We hardly need to read further to understand the reduction to absurdity that clings like a limpet to amoral, radically relativist systems of thought like the a priori evolutionary materialism that likes to dress up in a lab coat.

    Of course, T’s objection to the idea that moral principles are binding, i.e. are things we OUGHT to follow, is rooted in his having a worldview that has in it no foundational IS that can ground OUGHT. That is why he can only see “binding” as true in the sense of laws made by power brokers, and backed up by police guns.

    In short, for the amoral, might and manipulation make ‘right.’

    Which should chill us to our bones when we consider what dominates the halls of our academies, and thus is shaping the views of those who will be making and enforcing our laws, for generations to come.

    (And if T thinks that by attaching a Latin term for child or baby to an unborn child, that insulates him from the same problem, that speaks volumes.)

    Let us hear again Plato’s rebuke to all such in The Laws, Book X. For, we were warned 2350 years ago:

    [[The avant garde philosophers, teachers and artists c. 400 BC] say that the greatest and fairest things are the work of nature and of chance, the lesser of art [[ i.e. techne], which, receiving from nature the greater and primeval creations, moulds and fashions all those lesser works which are generally termed artificial . . . The elements are severally moved by chance and some inherent force according to certain affinities among them-of hot with cold, or of dry with moist, or of soft with hard, and according to all the other accidental admixtures of opposites which have been formed by necessity. After this fashion and in this manner the whole heaven has been created, and all that is in the heaven, as well as animals and all plants, and all the seasons come from these elements, not by the action of mind, as they say, or of any God, or from art, but as I was saying, by nature and chance only . . . .

    [[T]hese people would say that the Gods exist not by nature, but by art, and by the laws of states, which are different in different places, according to the agreement of those who make them; and that the honourable is one thing by nature and another thing by law, and that the principles of justice have no existence at all in nature, but that mankind are always disputing about them and altering them; and that the alterations which are made by art and by law have no basis in nature, but are of authority for the moment and at the time at which they are made.- [[Relativism, too, is not new; complete with its radical amorality rooted in a worldview that has no foundational IS that can ground OUGHT. (Cf. here for Locke's views and sources on a very different base for grounding liberty as opposed to license and resulting anarchistic "every man does what is right in his own eyes" chaos leading to tyranny.)] These, my friends, are the sayings of wise men, poets and prose writers, which find a way into the minds of youth. They are told by them that the highest right is might [[ Evolutionary materialism leads to the promotion of amorality], and in this way the young fall into impieties, under the idea that the Gods are not such as the law bids them imagine; and hence arise factions [[Evolutionary materialism-motivated amorality "naturally" leads to continual contentions and power struggles; cf. dramatisation here], these philosophers inviting them to lead a true life according to nature, that is, to live in real dominion over others [[such amoral factions, if they gain power, "naturally" tend towards ruthless tyranny; here, too, Plato hints at the career of Alcibiades], and not in legal subjection to them . . .

    Those who refuse to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

    In this case, we would all do well to read the story of Alcibiades, prototype for Nietzshe’s Superman.

    We have been warned, but, will we listen?

    GEM of TKI

  26. “We have been warned, but, will we listen?

    I’m betting not. Too bad for us. The world people think they are going to get will turn out to be much different than the one that shows up at the front door.

  27. Kairosfocus,

    I have to say that Timbo’s comment on torturing babies (6.1) reflects very confused thinking on his part. He writes:

    In any case, there are presumably circumstances when torturing a baby might be moral. For example if it would save 100 other babies from themselves being tortured.

    If Timbo is an act utilitarian – i.e. someone who believes that an action is right if and only if it is compatible with the greatest happiness of the greatest number – then torturing a baby would (on such a hellish world view) be not merely permissible but obligatory.

    It gets worse. According to the theory of act utilitarianism (which Timbo apparently espouses), he himself would be obliged to carry out the torture, if that were the only way of saving the 100 children. What’s more, according to this vile theory of ethics, he would be obliged to do so even if the child were his own. Finally, the ultimate reductio ad absurdum for the theory is that if you were a child, and the only way you could prevent 100 children from being tortured and degraded was to allow yourself to be treated in such a fashion, you would be morally obliged to submit to such degradation – even if it left you dead, permanently insane, or otherwise scarred for life.

    So far, I have confined my comments to act utilitarianism. Rule utilitarianism, of the sort that J. S. Mill espoused, would object that one cannot focus solely on the outcome of this or that particular act; instead one must also imagine the consequences for society that would result if acting in this way in these circumstances were turned into a general rule. In this way, rule utilitarians argue that their theory is not vulnerable to the same arguments that have been so effectively used to discredit act utilitarianism. Should one always give in to the demands of torturers? That might be bad for society if it were universalized: all sorts of twisted people would make hellish demands, knowing that their wishes would be complied with.

    While the desire of rule utilitarians to avoid the perverse implications of act utilitarianism is commendable, I would argue that their critique is not penetrating enough. For the real flaw in all of these scenarios is that they assume that the welfare of one individual is subordinate to that of a larger number of people. But why should this be so? There is no entity that suffers 100 deaths when 100 individuals die; there are simply 100 people, each of whom suffers one death.

    Perhaps one might object that society suffers a greater loss when 100 people die than when one person dies, and that one is obliged to subordinate one’s own welfare to that of “the body corporate”, so to speak. I reply: that is morality for ants. It falsely pictures the relationship of the individual to society as analogous to that of a cell to the body. On this analogy, just as we might excise a cancerous cell – or even a healthy one – for the sake of preserving the body, so too, we are morally justified in destroying an individual for the sake of preserving society.

    The problem is that the analogy is a flawed one: the relationship of the individual to society is fundamentally different from that of a cell to the body. The key difference is that a cell is something whose entire function and raison d’etre is to contribute to the harmonious operation of the body as a whole. That is its biological purpose. A human individual, on the other hand, does not exist solely for the sake of building up the society he/she happens to live in. Some human goods are solitary – e.g. mathematical contemplation, or enjoyment of beauty. And even those goods which are social – e.g. friendship, or procreation – do not have to be enjoyed within the confines of any particular society. People can and do migrate from one society to another.

    Now we can see why the notion of sacrificing an innocent individual for the sake of “the good of the whole” is fundamentally flawed. As individuals, we do not “live and move and have our being” within the society in which we happen to live, as cells do within the bodies they are part of. Rather, the very notion of “the good of society” is something which can only be understood after we have grasped what is good for individuals. For instance, the notion of public health and sanitation makes no sense unless we first understand that the individuals living in any human society are each vulnerable to being attacked by germs. Likewise, law and order is a public good that presupposes that each human individual needs to feel safe as he/she goes about his/her daily business.

    Thus we see how bad theories in ethics are built on a foundation of bad metaphysics. I sincerely hope that Timbo has reconsidered his ill-advised comment, now that he has seen where his views would lead, if taken to their logical consequences.

    I would like to conclude by saying that the clearest way of expressing the unique importance of each individual is to say that each of us is made in the image and likeness of God. To destroy an individual is to destroy something sacred. And to those who would object that that makes us God’s slaves, I respond: we are not God’s slaves but God’s children. God could no more “un-love” us than He could “un-love” Himself.

  28. Gentlemen, I have had this discussion with materialist/Darwinists many times. When they suggest that humans can work out their own morality, I ask them to negotiate a moral code with me. In each case, I place my standard(s) on the table (Law of love, Ten Commandments, Natural moral law, and the Sermon On The Mount) and ask my dialogue partner to disclose his standard so that we can arrive at some kind of agreement.

    Invariably, the materialist/Darwinst makes no attempt to find a common ground with me. Indeed, he will not even articulate his own starting point from which to negotiate, making it clear that not even two engaged people could hammer out a moral code from the bottom up. How then, could a community of hundreds, a country of millions, or world with billions of unengaged people work out a moral code.

    Morality must be objective or it isn’t morality, and it must come from the top down or it isn’t binding. If it isn’t binding, then there is no good reason to honor it since those who feel that it isn’t binding will take advantage of those who do. Either God and nature bind with objective morality (The natural moral law) or humans bind with arbitrary rules (might makes right). There is no third choice.

  29. Now suppose you had this same argument with a Hindu or Buddhist, would you be able to common negotiate a moral code to your satisfaction? Presumably you don’t believe the other belief systems to be true (which then calls into question your tolerance of their moral codes) but you do have common ground – the Constitution. This supreme law is the objective, binding standard. It supercedes local and state laws, international laws, and even religious laws like those of the Bible. And of course, the Constitution is equally applicable to all, including materialists and Darwinists, of which there are millions. So in practical terms, you already have a negotiated moral code.

  30. I was going to comment on an interesting idea or two in johnnyb’s piece on the other website. However, the “discussion” seems to have devolved into another “atheists ain’t got no morals” “oh yes we do” bloviation-fest. As there are no signs half the comments are intelligently designed, I think I’ll abstain.

  31. Rhampton7,

    It could be argued that the Constitution is viewed religiously. Aren’t the “Founding Fathers” usually written with capital letters? Don’t people dispute the meaning or the intent of the tiniest phrases just as they do scripture?

    And I might put myself in hot water by mentioning this, but what about the flag salute? From childhood we’re taught that we must face an object while assuming a specified position and recite scripted words devoting ourselves to it. In any other context that would be considered a prayer.

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