The issue of the dark triad in the debates over design — the danger of cossetting an asp of evolutionary materialism-driven cold, manipulative narcissism, machiavellianism and sociopathy from Alcibiades to today
|May 15, 2013||Posted by kairosfocus under Atheism, Culture, Darwinist rhetorical tactics, ID Foundations, Intelligent Design, Psychology, Science, worldview issues/foundations and society, Stirring the pot (tentative thoughts/explorations)|
“Cool” is often presented as the iconic, somewhat glamorous state of being calm, collected, in control. It is often viewed as highly desirable, sexy, balanced, stylish, just plain “right.”
Oh, soo, desirable . . .
But, beneath the surface of “cool,” there too often lurks a reptilian coldly amoral ferocity that marks all the difference between the Christian virtue of self-control and the manipulative, demonically controlling.
The dark triad, satanic side of cool.
Though this sounds a little like an overly melodramatic movie title, it is actually a term of art in modern psychology, to describe a destructive cluster of personality syndromes that is increasingly seen.
As Susan Whitbourne, writing in a Psychology Today article, sums up in a nutshell:
Lurking beneath the surface of people who use others to their own advantage is psychology’s “Dark Triad.” Defined as a set of traits that include the tendency to seek admiration and special treatment (otherwise known as narcissism), to be callous and insensitive (psychopathy [–> others, would want to use sociopathy instead, in a context of pointing to social influences]) and to manipulate others (Machiavellianism), the Dark Triad is rapidly becoming a new focus of personality psychology . . . .
Jonason and Webster’s Dirty Dozen scale can give you a quick way to spot the Dark Triad individual in your midst. Rate each item on a 7-point scale as you think it applies to this person. Of course, you can also rate yourself on these qualities to see how you measure up:
- I tend to manipulate others to get my way.
- I tend to lack remorse.
- I tend to want others to admire me.
- I tend to be unconcerned with the morality of my actions.
- I have used deceit or lied to get my way.
- I tend to be callous or insensitive.
- I have used flattery to get my way.
- I tend to seek prestige or status.
- I tend to be cynical.
- I tend to exploit others toward my own end.
- I tend to expect special favors from others.
- I want others to pay attention to me.
The total score can range from 12 to 84, but you can also break down the scales into the three traits as follows: Machiavellianism= 1, 5, 7, 10; Psychopathy= 2, 4, 6, 9; Narcissism= 3, 8, 11, 12.
Plainly, those who fail to mark the difference between being merely stylishly “cool” (or, better, being self-controlled) and being coldly manipulative, may well cosset an asp to the bosom, not to knowingly commit suicide as Cleopatra of Egypt is reputed to have done, but instead under the delusion that an asp has somehow managed to become lamb-like.
The effect, predictably, is just as fatal.
And, that is where the issue of the debates over design and the evidently remorseless, manipulative and too often outright slanderous rhetorical and agitation-propaganda tactics we have seen ever so often here at UD come in.
For example, when we re-read the classic warning by Plato in the laws, Bk X, regarding the dangers of evolutionary materialism in the light of the dark triad dynamic, we can see a very significant pattern. As the Intro-summary page for the IOSE notes:
>> v –> From the days of Plato, it was understood that such materialism also has serious implications for society, as it is inherently amoral: if thoughts are determined by chance and necessity, and the issue is the dominance of the “fittest,” then that all too easily becomes the premise for the ruthless and powerful to try to dominate all others. As Plato’s Athenian Stranger observed in The Laws, Book X:
. . . These remarks find a striking parallel in Dawkins’ words in a 1995 Scientific American article:
Nature is not cruel, only pitilessly indifferent. This lesson is one of the hardest for humans to learn. We cannot accept that things might be neither good nor evil, neither cruel nor kind, but simply callous: indifferent to all suffering, lacking all purpose.
We humans have purpose on the brain. We find it difficult to look at anything without wondering what it is “for,” what the motive for it or the purpose behind it might be. The desire to see purpose everywhere is natural in an animal that lives surrounded by machines, works of art, tools and other designed artifacts – an animal whose waking thoughts are dominated by its own goals and aims . . . .
Somewhere between windscreen wipers and tin openers on the one hand, and rocks and the universe on the other, lie living creatures. Living bodies and their organs are objects that, unlike rocks, seem to have purpose written all over them . . . . The true process that has endowed wings, eyes, beaks, nesting instincts and everything else about life with the strong illusion of purposeful design is now well understood.
It is Darwinian natural selection . . . . The true utility function of life, that which is being maximized in the natural world, is DNA survival. But DNA is not floating free; it is locked up in living bodies, and it has to make the most of the levers of power at its disposal. Genetic sequences that find themselves in cheetah bodies maximize their survival by causing those bodies to kill gazelles. Sequences that find themselves in gazelle bodies increase their chance of survival by promoting opposite ends. But the same utility function-the survival of DNA-explains the “purpose” of both the cheetah [–> i.e. predator] and the gazelle [–> i.e. prey] . . . .
The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but pitiless indifference . . . . DNA neither cares nor knows. DNA just is. And we dance to its music. [[ “God’s Utility Function,” Sci. Am. Aug 1995, pp. 80 – 85.]
[[NB: This article raises the issue of the problem of evil, here emphasising the problem of natural evil; probably the strongest argument in the atheists’ arsenal, but one that only works by implicitly assuming that good and evil, thus moral obligation, are real; while ducking the implication that the only valid worldview in a world in which OUGHT is real, is one that has a foundational IS that adequately grounds ought. And materialism — scientific atheism today, has no such is. So, the objecting atheist actually has no grounds to stand on to make the argument; his argument, in the end is self-defeating, and so the proper response is to insist that such an atheist face that issue before proceeding further. (Cf here for a preliminary discussion of the problem of evil from a Christian perspective.)]
x –> In critiquing Provine’s remarks from a Judaeo-Christian perspective, Kyle Butt brings out a significant implication:
In short, once evolutionary materialist amorality and irrationality gain a foothold within the door, the door is now wide open to the coldly manipulative nihilist who can persuade us that somehow the asp has become lamblike.
Plato’s chief implicit exemplar, Alcibiades, should give us pause. As Gabriella Arcan summarises:
According to Thucydides, Alcibiades was an immoral man. He was never able to be loyal to his country, his wife or his friends. As a teenager, he was Socrates’ protégé and pupil but was not faithful to him. Alcibiades also liked to be flattered, and indulged himself in sensual pleasures. He was famous for his parties which scandalized the citizens of Athens . . . . Alcibiades showed no respect for other people’s feelings, and for them as human beings all together. Sometimes he did certain things to redeem himself, but not because he was sorry for the wrong he caused, but because he realized that even he needed to maintain a certain level of decency in the public eye.
People of Athens tolerated his behavior for two reasons. First, he was a good general, and they needed him, and he knew how to get their clemency, by being very eloquent. He was a very charming man, and knew how to use that. But a time came when even the Athenian people had enough, and one day Alcibiades, having too many enemies, was accused of a religious sacrilege. He escaped to Sparta where the most unforgivable example of his immoral character occurred.
Alcibiades convinced the Spartans that he was their friend, and indeed helped them, against his own city, but in the meantime he was very busy himself, seducing the wife of his Spartan protector King Agis. Incredibly, Alcibiades seduced King Agis’s wife to have a successor to the Spartan throne. He thought that he was able to manipulate everything. She gave birth to a baby boy, and even if according to Plutarch, the boy’s name was not Alcibiades, she used to call him that when she was in a circle of good friends. Word got back to King Agis, and he got suspicious of Alcibiades. The king knew that the baby was not his own, since he hadn’t been with his wife for about ten months prior to the child’s birth. When he realized the boy’s father was Alcibiades, he planned to get revenge. Alcibiades, who up to then had pretended to be the king’s friend, being scared, fled Sparta for the chief enemy of all the Greeks, The King of Persia and his satrap Tissaphernes. Once there, he behaved unscrupulously. But what should not be forgotten is he left behind to who knew what sort of dangerous fate his own son and the woman with whom Alcibiades conceived him. He never thought of the king’s wife’s situation, or the child’s. But Alcibiades had never proved himself to be faithful before that time or afterward. He committed evil deeds because he thought he would be manipulating a situation for his own self-interest or simply because of whatever short-term pleasure it offered and he did not care about the harm that he caused. If he actually cared, he could have taken the mother, or at least the child with him. Of course, he did not. He did not go back to get them, or attempt to . . . .
As a result Alcibiades ultimately had to flee for his life to the king of Persia’s minister, or satrap. Turning traitor a second time, Alcibiades advised the Persians how to best defeat the Spartans. Later on, having worn out his welcome with the Persians, Alcibiades took advantage of a pair of revolutions in Athens, the first of which overthrew the democracy and the second of which overthrew the oligarchy that had taken over. Alcibiades participated in the revolution that returned the city to democracy and then came back to Athens . . .
In the end, the Athenians came to a point where they simply could not trust him (and ended up suffering a fatal defeat). He ended up in exile and came to a sticky end. I therefore cite him as a classic example (the one most likely in Plato’s mind when he penned The Laws) of the “cool” one who is in reality satanically coldly manipulative, amoral, remorseless, tricky, self-seeking and destructive, seduced by both sophistry and flattery, and seducing others with the same. (And BTW, when Socrates — who had tried to rescue Alcibiades but failed — was accused of corrupting the youth of Athens in his trial, the ghost of Alcibiades lurked in the background.)
Now, we have already sufficiently underscored the concerns about the ideology of evolutionary materialism. The issue now, is the dangers it poses through warping the mindset and conscience of ever so many, opening the door to nihilistic manipulation that imagines that might and manipulation make as much of ‘truth’ and ‘right’ as exist.
For, if there is a rising tide of such notions in our civilisation — and there plainly is — that invites the cluster of dark triad behaviours already highlighted. Indeed, we already see that on the design debates, in how often there is a cynical disregard for duties of care to truth or fairness in how the issue of inference to design is handled by objectors. And, when such is corrected (on evidence), we too often see no sense of remorse or of duty to truth or fairness in response.
Instead the game is usually to double down, as though the truth and the right can be rendered ineffective by being drowned out.
When we see this, let us not be fooled by a “cool” manner or manifest cleverness and glibness.
And, for sure, let us not cosset an asp (or even a potential asp . . . even one dressed up in a lamb’s skin)!
Instead, it may be helpful to ask for some clear and straightforward answers to questions such as these that I recently had to address to G2:
1] Your empirically grounded evidence that blind chance and mechanical necessity are plausibly adequate to form a life friendly cosmos, trigger OOL and then body plans (including our own with the crucial linguistic ability) is: ______________ ? [Cf. here on.]
2] Your empirically grounded evidence that things like FSCO/I are not empirically tested, found reliable indicators of design is: ____________ ?
3] Your adequate reason for dismissing the reality of God . . . is: ___________ ? [Cf. here.]
4] In that context [of evident evolutionary materialism], your grounding of the credibility of the human ability to reason and know (note here onlookers) is: ______________ ?
5] In that context, your grounding of OUGHT in an IS at worldview foundation level adequate to sustain rights as more than the nihilistic, amoral “might and manipulation make ‘right’ . . . ” warned against by Plato in The Laws, Bk X, is: _______________ ? [Onlookers, cf. here, here and here for why this is absolutely important.)
6] Your best explanation for the minimal facts at the historical foundation of the Christian Faith is: _____________, and it is best warranted as ____________ ?
7] In light of the above, your best account for the system of reality we see in the world around us and in our hearts is: ______________, and it is best warranted as a worldview because ____________ ?
If there is an unresponsiveness or an evasiveness at this point, a prudent person would take that as a warning sign.
If there is a further, remorseless doubling down on misleading talking points such as those corrected in the UD Weak Argument Correctives here on, that is a further sign.
And if there are manifestations of denigration, stereotyping, scapegoating and the like poisonous tactics, that’s three strikes and your’e out.
Don’t clutch dark triad asps to your bosom, folks.
Never mind how glibly the snake tells us that he had changed his ways since Eden. END