Friday, April 27, 2007

The Darwinian Holocaust

Richard Dawkins is an atheistic, neo-Darwinian evangelist. His The God Delusion is a masterpiece of falsehood, self-indulgence, and just plain sloppy reasoning. The holes in his arguments are so obvious that even Dawkins has difficult concealing them. Dawkins argues that atheists are moral upright people because they follow the moral zeitgeist (world spirit), and the moral zeitgeist is the standard of morality. Dawkins uses a Nazi-esque passage from H.G. Wells’s 1902 book New Republic to illustrate the depravity of the zeitgeist in the past (if a “progressive” like Wells was bad in the past, just imagine the contemporary conservatives!) and the goodness of progress according to the zeitgeist. Wells writes:

And how will the New Republic treat the inferior races? How will it deal with the black?… the yellow man?…the Jew?… those swarms of black, brown, and dirty-white, and yellow people, who do not come into the new needs of efficiency? Well, the world is a world, and not a charitable institution, and I take it they will have to go… And the ethical system of these men of the New Republic, the ethical system which will dominate the world state, will be shaped primarily to favor the procreation of what is fine and efficient and beautiful in humanity—beautiful and strong bodies, clear and powerful minds… And the method that nature has followed hitherto in the shaping of the world, whereby weakness was prevented from propagating weakness…is death…. The men of the New Republic…will have an ideal that will make killing worth the while. (quoted on pp. 269-270)

Dawkins omits from his telling two embarrassing facts: (1) Wells’s predecessors and the conservatives of his day would have been just as horrified as we are by his zeitgeist-endorsed views, and (2) Wells’s views are unmistakably Darwinian: the strong survive; death to the weak. Later Dawkins asserts, “One reason black people and women and, in Nazi Germany, Jews and gypsies have been treated badly is that they were not perceived as fully human.” But what goes unsaid is the Nazis saw the slaughter as part of a racial Darwinian struggle. In Darwinism, there is no such thing as a human being, since, as Dawkins confesses, “there are no natural borderlines [between species] in evolution” .

The connection between Darwinism and eugenics as well as the U.S.'s unsavory part in it is well described in a recent article, "Deadly medicine: The forgotten history of eugenics" by Logan Paul Gage (no relation). Here's an excerpt:

The acknowledged founder of the eugenics movement is Francis Galton [Charles Darwin's cousin]. Through an examination of the British upper class, Galton tried to show that talent is largely hereditary. As eugenics ideas spread, it was not much of a stretch for Indiana's General Assembly to believe conversely that "heredity plays a most important part in the transmission of crime, idiocy and imbecility."

While modern Darwinists may wince, eugenics clearly drew inspiration from Darwin's theory. In fact, Galton was Darwin's cousin. He took evolutionary theory seriously, arguing persuasively that hospitals, mental institutions and social welfare all violate the law of natural selection. These institutions preserve the weak at the expense of the gene pool. In the wild, such people would die off naturally, thus keeping the human race strong. As Darwin himself declared in "The Descent of Man," "No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this has been highly injurious to the race of man. ... Hardly anyone is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed."

Pro-abortion views for a slave to politically correct fashion go without saying. Dawkins of course justifies abortion with Darwinism: “The humanness of an embryo’s cells cannot confer upon it any absolutely discontinuous moral status. It cannot because of our evolutionary continuity with chimpanzees and, more distantly, with every species on the planet.” By that argument, there can be no special moral status for any human being; the lines between human and subhuman are purely arbitrary, definable by whoever has power: the state, as in Hitler’s Germany, or the media elite, as in the modern West. Dawkins attempts to avoid the uproar of making born humans fair game by resorting to “well-thought-out consequentialist morals” (a double oxymoron): the adult’s fully developed nervous system sets him off-limits to killing, while the embryo’s inability to feel pain makes him fair game. Can Dawkins be so dense as to fail to see that his moral “standard” justifies any killing so long as accompanied by anesthesia?

The best that can be said for Dawkins's moral "principles" is that they are incapable of argument against the holocaust of World War II. Thus it should be no suprise that they offer no real barrier to the modern holocaust of abortion.


Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2006).

36 comments:

Doctor Logic said...

Talk about sloppy argumentation.

You are claiming that social Darwinism is justified by the fact of natural selection. This is not the position of Dawkins or any other modern philosopher that I am aware of. Indeed, social Darwinism is a far more common view among American religious fundamentalists.

The fact that life evolved does not by itself imply any course of action on our part. It most certainly does not imply that we ought to be racists. An is does not imply an ought.

CrimsonCatholic said...

Given that Dawkins is willing to adopt thoroughly unconvincing materialist account of consciousness, it isn't surprising that he is willing to go to the same empty well to justify morality. It just goes to show that once you are willing to accept a contradiction at any point, you can prove anything.

FzxGkJssFrk said...

Dr. Logic, exactly which "American religious fundamentalists" hold social Darwinism as a common view? And don't even think about mentioning Fred Phelps as representative.

Besides, what he's pointing out is that natural selection in the hands of Dawkins may as well imply racism as anything else. Dawkins's statements to the contrary are nice, feel-good non sequiturs.

Himself said...

Dr. Logic wrote that an "is" does not imply an "ought." But surely a "did" ought to amount for something? History trumps logical theories.

Lawrence Gage said...

Master Logician,

You should read the paragraph of LPG's article that follows the selection I've quoted:

Defenders of Darwin note he insisted that we could not follow cold hard reason on this matter. But as Galton and other eugenists reckoned, if the human race is truly in jeopardy, strong, even harsh measures must be taken to preserve it. In America, only the horrors of the Holocaust broke this chain of reasoning. Consequently, eugenics died out.

You can't argue all the logic you want, but reality has a way of upsetting our most cherished theories. As they say, history is philosophy teaching by examples.

LG

Doctor Logic said...

Um, guys... what about the Inquisition? The Crusades? 9/11? The murder of Hypatia? The assassination of Yitzhak Rabin?

Do these lessons teach us that the relevant religions preach that we ought to murder people? I don't think you believe that. You probably believe that the Inquisition was a bunch of nuts who misinterpreted Christianity. Yet, by your logic above, history condemns Christianity of these evil deeds.

Oh, and by the way, Hitler was a Christian, and his armies marched wearing the insignia "God with us."

Let's take this quote:

if the human race is truly in jeopardy, strong, even harsh measures must be taken to preserve it.

Is this true? Is it true in light of natural selection? Or do you need another bunch of assumptions?

Galton's view is just plain wrong.

* The survival of the human race (Caucasians in his case) isn't threatened by the existence of the other human races.

* The other races aren't inferior.

* Just because evolution leads to species well-adapted to their environments does not imply that a more evolved species is more intelligent or more virtuous one. Crocodiles are as well-evolved as humans.

* Humans do very little adapting these days. Rather, we control our environment so that the selective pressure of the environment does not impact our biology.

* What we value is not "evolvedness." We value many things, and every person has a slightly different valuation of those things. What we ought to do follows from our values, not purely from the non-moral facts.

So, it does NOT follow from evolutionary biology that we ought to kill other races.

Don't you agree?

Now, if you're going to say that evolutionary biology confuses people who cannot grasp the concepts, I think you have far greater problems on your side of the fence. At least evolutionary biologists don't ask people to outsource their morality to science departments. Science asks people to think critically and for themselves, and does its work transparently. In contrast, religion indoctrinates people, promotes dogma, and demands that its adherents be led to their conclusions like sheep.

William Bradford said...

Um, guys... what about the Inquisition?

The inquisition was instigated by a government run independently of the Catholic Church. It was a secular government whose goals were inconsistent with the teachings of the founder of Christianity. The pope at the time did give his assent to the Spanish queen's request to "purify" Spain but that only makes that individual a fellow rogue with respect to Christian principles.

If guilt by association is a standard, as opposed to doctrinal inferences, then atheism suffers the ignomy of having mass murder associated with some very prominent 20th century leaders. The bywords for analogies of the 20th century holocausts to the likes of the inquisition is: you don't want to go there.

Himself said...

_Um, guys... what about the Inquisition? The Crusades?

Seems Doc Logic needs to go beyond logic and study some history. There is nothing in these events (or the others that he named) comparable to eugenics. The latter, he seems to equate with any sort of violence, including court-ordered executions, warfare, mob violence, etc.

What is at issue is not so much whether something is a "logical" consequence of X, but whether it is in fact a consequence of X. The roots of eugenics are hard-wired into Chapter 6 of the _Descent of Man,_ where Darwin writes:

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

"Allowing" his "worst" "animals" to breed is fraught with peril - especially to Irishmen, singled out by name among those who, by outbreeding English country gentlemen like Darwin, somehow defied a scientific law of nature.

He also wrote in the same chapter:

"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. 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."

We may argue that Darwin was only stating a lamentable fact, but what happens in history is not limited to determined literalism of texts. It is clear which way evolution =ought= to go in his view; and it is clear that he thought it needed a little help. Otherwise, why the eugenics and hand-wringing over "inferior" people outbreeding the better sort?

William Bradford said...

Oh, and by the way, Hitler was a Christian, and his armies marched wearing the insignia "God with us."

German soldiers marched with an insignia referencing God so therefore Hitler was a Christian. Impressive logic doctor. Sam Harris jingles money in his pocket bearing the inscription "In God we trust." He must not be an atheist after all.

Anonymous said...

from reader

Let us not be so hard on Dr Logic. He has raised an issue. He has caused us to discern a difference between consequences of a failure to live according to the essence of beliefs (his indictment of Christian atrocities) and the action that follows from the Darwinian thesis.

We see how extensive are the impact of our moral failures as Christians-our example on the moral plane shuts off the ability of the seeking mind to achieve clarity in thought.

Lawrence Gage said...

the Inquisition?
The Crusades?
9/11?
The murder of Hypatia?
The assassination of Yitzhak Rabin?


Two of these aren't Christian by anyone's reckoning. DL is grouping all religious atrocities together. Blindly grouping things or people together is called bigotry. Please see my warnings about Islam here As far as the Israelis are concerned, a few take Joshua too literally as a model for the modern world. Despite what some rogue Christian sects may preach, that aspect of the Hebrew Scriptures isn't binding on Christians in a literal sense: we're to fight to destroy sin (primarily in ourselves), not sinners.

The popular symbolism of Hypatia's death is due to Carl Sagan (from whom DL seems to draw much of his historical knowledge). While Christians probably weren't innocent of her death, it's hard to call it a "Christian" action in any sense. Wikipedia says of Hypatia:

Theories about the origins of the mob violence that ended Hypatia's life range from a local, spontaneous Christian uprising tolerated by the Christian Patriarch Cyril of Alexandria over a conflict between Cyril and the city prefect Orestes; to a conspiracy by the Emperor himself; to a lawless, civilian "peasant stock" mob (soldiers are never mentioned) made up of Christians and non-Christians alike, led by a man named "Peter." Another point of view holds that Hypatia was part of a rebellion and her murder inevitable.

One forgotten fact is that Hypatia was part of an Platonic-Aristotelian school of philosophy. She wasn't an atomist in the classical sense, nor an atheistic materialist, as Doctors Logic and Sagan would prefer us to believe.

The Inquisition and the Crusades are poorly understood by the modern world. But even if they were what their critics say they are, they would indict Christians, not Christian doctrine, whereas eugenic atrocities flow directly from Darwinism, as "Himself" has documented in the quotation from Descent of Man. As I wrote in the post, "The best that can be said for Dawkins's moral "principles" is that they are incapable of argument against the holocaust of World War II." In contrast, Christian principles are capable of arguing against atrocities of all ages. The ending of chattel slavery is one example. Christians are so often caught in hypocrisy because their ideals are so lofty; atheists are almost never hypocrites, because they have no moral ideals.

LG

P.S. I plan to post again soon. Stay tuned! LG

Doctor Logic said...

Well, what an interesting collection of comments!

Anonymous seems to get it.

The defense of Christianity seems to rest on the claim that Christian atrocities did not follow from Christian doctrine. Well, I think that's mostly true as we understand the doctrine today, and the atrocities certainly don't follow from what I know of the New Testament.

However, when criticizing "Darwinism", a different standard is used. In your attacking Darwinism, you don't care whether the neo-Darwinian synthesis is correct, nor whether it demands social Darwinism. Rather, your primary interest is in listing those villains in history who believed Darwin's science to be correct. Whether those people understood the science is irrelevant to you. Whether those people's acts follow purely from the science is irrelevant to you.

In LG's recent comment, he appears to be defining Darwinism to be a moral philosophy held by certain people who have committed the naturalistic fallacy. A group which does not include anyone I know, least of all Dawkins and Harris.

I suppose it's like me using the word Christianism to refer to that moral movement that justifies bad acts using scriptures and handy interpretations of Christian doctrines, then lumping all Christians under the Christianist label.

I don't see how you can have it both ways. If an idea is to be condemned because people misuse it to justify acts we consider immoral, then Christianity should be condemned along with Darwinian evolution.

A few other notes.

I didn't say Hypatia was an atheist. And I don't care whether she was or was not. But she dared to think for herself. That was one of the beauties of the classical world. There was free thought because there was no authoritarian demand that it everyone conform in their beliefs. Until Christianity came along, that is.

The claim that I am bigoted because I lump all of the crimes of religious extremists into one example is laughable.

LG writes (in the post he references):

Muslims are happy to dialogue as long as they are out of power. But when they are in control, there is no dialogue: all other religions have second-class status at best; there are no integral human rights. Those who convert from Islam are to be killed. There is no freedom to preach any religion but Islam, or to advocate any societal system but that mandated by the Koran.

Replace "Koran" with "Bible", and "Muslims" with "Christians", "Islam" with "Christianity", and you have the history of the Christian Empire, my friend. And then you wonder why we don't want to return the key of state to Christianity by breaking down the wall of separation.

I'm so pleased we can dialogue.

Himself said...

DocLog sez:
"But when they are in control, there is no dialogue: all other religions have second-class status at best; there are no integral human rights."

'Replace "Koran" with "Bible", and "Muslims" with "Christians", "Islam" with "Christianity", and you have the history of the Christian Empire, my friend.'

Not exactly. Aquinas argued that natural rights belonged to the individual person "by his nature," on which his state of grace had no bearing. The Thomist tradition was more forthrightly expressed near the close of the Middle Ages by Fr. Domingo de Soto:

"Those who are in the grace of God are not a whit better off than the sinner or the pagan in what concerns natural rights."

This in fact marks the only cultural tradition in which arose a concept of natural, human rights against the prince, independent of one's beliefs, state of grace, ethnicity, et al.; and if we have not been as effective in carrying this out as we ought to have been, one may at least say that we have conceived that we ought.

+ + +
DocLog also laments that the eugenics movement was a logical derivation from what Darwin actually wrote, however distressful we may find that now. All the "best" people were avid in its support, and it was left to the likes of G.K.Chesterton to argue against it. The Superman, achieved by controlled breeding applying Darwinian principles, was all the rage back then - see Shaw, Wells, et al., until the Germans gave the idea a really bad name.

Doctor Logic said...

Himself,

You gotta be fair now. Maybe after 800 years of Islamic dictatorship, Muslim philosophers would write about the theological wisdom of science, Greek democracy, and humanist values. Then, hundreds of years later, those things would actually emerge as real forces in society. After all, there was once an Islamic state that did embrace science and a liberalism uncommon in its day.

Either condemn both Christian and Muslim theocracies for their inherent anti-humanism, or give Muslim theocracy its fair shake.

DocLog also laments that the eugenics movement was a logical derivation from what Darwin actually wrote, however distressful we may find that now.

I'm sorry, I must have missed this. Where did I do this lamenting? I said that eugenics does NOT follow from Darwin's science.

Peter said...

Lawrence,

This recent article by Alvin Plantinga on Dawkins has a slight bearing on this topic: http://www.christianitytoday.com/bc/2007/002/1.21.html

By the way, I have an interesting offer for you regarding out-of-print books in the Thomistic tradition. Rather than carry on about it in a combo box, send me an email at peter.dzialo@aya.yale.edu if you are interested [in those kinds of works].
Thanks!

Oh! . . . and if I don't write back right away, it is because I am out of town for about 10 days.

Himself said...

DocLog wrote:
After all, there was once an Islamic state that did embrace science and a liberalism uncommon in its day.

Alas, not quite as the modern urban legend has it. The Islamic faylasuf (e.g., ibn Sinna and ibn Rushd) who embraced Aristotle, embraced him all the way, and became heretics in the Islamic tradition. Those who rejected him (e.g., al-Ghazali) rejected him completely. (There was never a muslim Aquinas to reconcile philosophy with revelation.) Natural philosophy was never taught publicly in the House of Submission and was regarded there with deep suspicion. It flourished only under the temporary patronage of powerful emirs. Al-Ghazali wrote in Tahafut al Falasifa [The Incoherence of Philosophy], "The imponderable decisions of God cannot be weighed by the scales of reason." (This reflects the absence of the Latin doctrine of secondary causation.) Ibn Rushd countered with Tahafut al Tahafut [The Incoherence of the Incoherence], but in 1195 he lost all his offices and was exiled from Marrakech. As "Averröes" and "Avicenna," the faylasuf enjoyed wider circulation and more enthusiastic audiences in Western Christendom than in Dar al-Islam. Averröes was second in popularity only to Aristotle.

The flicker of Islamic interest in natural philosophy came to grief on secondary causation. In the West, by the 12th century, it was acknowledged that the natures with which God had endowed his creatures could act directly upon one another without divine intervention. Hence, "natural" laws. But in Islam, as described by Maimonides, the mutakallimin held that the hand does not move the pen: God moves the pen and God moves the hand, and it is only the habit of God that the hand seems to cause the pen to move. And al-Hakim noted: God is not bound to continue to do so. There cannot be natural laws in such an environment, and hence, no science. [See Note.] Thus, the brief flowering of Islamic natural philosophy petered out. When ibn Khaldun wrote, "The problems of physics are of no importance for us in our religious affairs or our livelihoods; therefore we must leave them alone," he was speaking for the mainstream. He made an exception for the "practical arts" of astronomy (which in those days was a branch of mathematics) and medicine.

[Note: "science" does not mean the mere accumulation of facts and lore, but the =explanation= of those facts by natural laws and physical theories. Mathematics is a different order of knowledge, and the importance of determining Ramadan, etc. meant a lively interest in astronomical calculations. No one - Hellenistic, Islamic, or Latin - thought these calculations represented physical reality. In that sense, astronomy did not become a =science= until Copernicans began insisting that their system was physically real.]

+ + +

DocLog also thinks that Darwin, his cousin Galton (and all the others who felt that a natural law needed a little help because the wrong people were being reproductively successful) did not understand that the eugenics touted in _Descent of Man_ was not a logical consequence of the _Descent of Man_. Oh, well. We always reserve the right to change our minds. But those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it.

William Bradford said...

Replace "Koran" with "Bible", and "Muslims" with "Christians",
"Islam" with "Christianity", and you have the history of the Christian Empire, my friend. And then you wonder why we don't want to return the key of state to Christianity by breaking down the wall of separation.


That's an odd comment given that freedom and democracy find their most hospitable environment in cultures most influenced by Christianity.

William Bradford said...

Either condemn both Christian and Muslim theocracies...

I need to find a Christian theocracy before I can condemn one. Well, there is the Vatican. Is that the threat you had in mind?

Holopupenko said...

LG:
     I recently returned from vacation and noticed DL is now haunting your site (again) with his bigoted hatred of faith -- especially Christianity. He's been taking a beating at the Thinking Christian site and so, like Dawkins, is looking for "soft targets" to spread his disordered ideas - apparently so as to feel good about himself. I suggest banning him as you did earlier: his only interest is to spread hatred of faith, promulgate naturalism and neo-Kantism spiked with Positivism, and generally to disrupt discussions.

Lawrence Gage said...

Holopupenko,

I don't know why you say I banned DL before. I never ban people, and God willing, I will never have to. What I did was challenge him to put up (an honest argument) or shut up, and he chose the latter.

Certainly DL is bigoted, but the fact that he's willing to expose his ideas to the light of day means he isn't a complete loss (though it would be nice if he would at some point show signs of listening). Besides, his comments are certainly good at generating discussion!

LG

P.S. Joseph Stalin's appraisal of the Vatican threat: “The Pope? How many divisions has he got?”

Doctor Logic said...

Hey, is anyone here gonna address the actual topic of discussion?

Maybe I can get y'all back on track.

1) Darwinian evolution does not imply social Darwinism.

2) If Darwinian evolution is to be condemned because some people were mistaken about (1), then Christianity should be condemned because some people are confused about what the Bible tells them they ought to do (Inquisitionists, Fred Phelps, murderers of Hypatia, etc).

3) If we're in fact introducing a new term, "Darwinism", to refer to the bad things done by people who believe the science of Darwinian evolution is correct (but whose badness is not implied by the science), then we will introduce the term "Christianism" to refer to bad people who believe Christianity is true (no matter how confused they may be about the implications of their alleged belief).

4) Assuming (3), you'll have a hard time finding any advocates of "Darwinism" among the likes of Dawkins and Harris. Similarly, I may have a hard time finding many Christianists among the average flock of Chrsitians.

Doctor Logic said...

William,

I need to find a Christian theocracy before I can condemn one.

Thanks to the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, you'll find it only in the history books.

Lawrence Gage said...

Dear Master Logician,

Here's your chance to show us that you're right: give us a coherent argument on Darwinian/neo-Darwinian terms against the holocaust, eugenics and the killing of innocents in general.

The claim on our side is not that neo-Darwinism demands social Darwinism, but that it provides no moral argument against it. Any form of Darwinism taken as the complete description of (biological) nature is compatible with the most horrendous crimes against humanity. There is no basis in Darwinism for opposing such practices. (If only material things are real, considerations outside the material world are purely whimsical.)

Or perhaps you can simply argue against my claim that Dawkins's moral “standard” justifies any killing so long as accompanied by anesthesia? The only reason Dawkins doesn't take his arguments to their logical conclusion is that the zeitgeist recoils; given a different times and a different zeitgeist, he could explicate what is implicit in his principles. In other words, Dawkins's opposition to Hitler's crimes against humanity is purely an historical accident.

And I think it's safe to say that neither he nor you oppose the "soft eugenics" of a couple choosing to abort a child with a defect (e.g., Downs, cleft palate). I would be pleasantly suprised to hear that I am wrong on this one.

LG

Doctor Logic said...

LG,

Here's your chance to show us that you're right: give us a coherent argument on Darwinian/neo-Darwinian terms against the holocaust, eugenics and the killing of innocents in general.

That's pretty funny. I know that you know what the answer is. And I think that you know that I know that you know. Oh, well...

The neo-Darwinian evolution (NDE) is morally neutral. There's no more a Darwinian argument for (or against) the morality of eugenics than there is a pancake recipe that proves the Pythagorean theorem.

You can only deduce a moral conclusion if you start from some unprovable moral axioms. You have to start with a moral axiom of the form "one generally ought to do X" before you can use discoveries of science to reach a moral conclusion.

How might NDE enhance the moral claims of eugenics? Well, for starters, one would have to accept the moral axiom that obtaining the fittest population is the highest moral value, and one has to accept as a moral axiom that a particular kind of fitness is a moral objective.

Once you arbitrarily accept this moral goal, then you might naively use NDE to conclude that eugenics is a moral imperative.

Of course, these are rather peculiar moral axioms to have chosen in the first place. There are very few people in the world who hold fitness of the population to be the greatest good in and of itself. I doubt that anyone has consistently held this view. Not that they wouldn't use the claim to persuade others that eugenics was a cool idea.

Or perhaps you can simply argue against my claim that Dawkins's moral “standard” justifies any killing so long as accompanied by anesthesia?

I don't think Dawkins is arguing for any particular moral valuation scheme. He's merely arguing against very poor ones.

Dawkins is saying that having human DNA is inadequate to automatically grant full personhood and full social rights. He's not saying what the formula is, only that your simplistic formula is clearly wrong.

But this is a sideshow.

You are arguing that if we permit the destruction of embryos, we might as well permit the destruction of anesthetized people, or even of conscious people. Killing regular people is bad, therefore, killing embryos is bad.

This is like me arguing that if you can eat a banana for lunch, you might as well eat 45 bananas for lunch. Eating 45 bananas for lunch is bad, therefore, eating a banana for lunch is bad.

You have an obvious objection, namely, that you don't want to eat 45 bananas for lunch. And that's the way moral arguments are played in real life. The force of persuasion comes not from some abstract argument but from what the other party prefers to do.

And I think it's safe to say that neither he nor you oppose the "soft eugenics" of a couple choosing to abort a child with a defect (e.g., Downs, cleft palate).

"Soft eugenics." Hey, that's catchy.

It's catchier than "soft reproductive slavery" which is how we see your alternative.

William Bradford said...

I need to find a Christian theocracy before I can condemn one.

Thanks to the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, you'll find it only in the history books.


What powers did you think were theocracies before the Ranaissance?

Himself said...

DocLogic sez:
Thanks to the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, you'll find [Christian theocracies] only in the history books.

But I looked in my history books and didn't see any there, either. (Except the Papal States.)

Instead, medieval Europe developed the idea of "the Two Swords" and the separate domain and dignity of Church and State; and, in the Hildebrandine revolution, created the secular state by denying to emperors and kings the right to appoint bishops and call councils.

+ + +

But on the main topic:

To say that "Social Darwinism" is not a logical consequence of Darwinism is too broad a brush, since SD includes a great many things that really aren't dependent on Darwinism. But when everyone from Darwin on down, and all the most progressive thinkers of the progressive age, cited Darwinism as the justification for eugenics - with no demurrals from the evolutionists - we might be justified in thinking they did see a logical consequence up until it became associated with mass murder.

Now it is asserted that Of Course eugenics does not necessarily follow.

The scientific theory of Darwinism may not lead to moral principles; but the social construct of Darwinism does. Darwin himself was aware of and troubled by it, as he revealed in one of his letters. His answer was that we could depend on religion and the churches and 'all the great thinkers' to supply these. Which would be fine if only metaphysical Darwinists, taking the scientific theory and running with it, have not been doing their best to undermine those principles.

+ + +
Abortion is not 'soft eugenics' unless one is preferentially aborting the "less fit." See Darwin, Galton, Sanger, and others for who the "less fit" are.

Lawrence Gage said...

I don't think Dawkins is arguing for any particular moral valuation scheme. He's merely arguing against very poor ones.

To the contrary, Dawkins spends a whole chapter trying to argue that atheists are moral people (in vain, I might add). He realizes that any responsible person setting out to destroy "poor moral valuation schemes" has to supply an alternative and better scheme.

Instead of "soft eugenics", you claim it's "soft reproductive slavery." Actually, short-term indentured servitude would be a better parallel. I guess supporting an unwanted (born) child is economic slavery (20 years): but does love of "freedom" justify taking that child's life? There are certain obligations that we undertake in life when we make certain choices. Despite what our hedonistic media culture says, engaging in sexual intercourse engages us in the committment to (possibly) have and support children. That is why the secular institution of marriage is so important.

As the President's Bioethics Council's Beyond Therapy puts it:

"[P]renatal diagnosis adopts a novel approach to preventive medicine: it works by eliminating the prospective patient before he can be born." (p. 36)

What a simple, dependable way to cure disease! With limitless possibilities! Stalin put it plainly: “Death solves all problems--no man, no problem.”

You are arguing that if we permit the destruction of embryos, we might as well permit the destruction of anesthetized people, or even of conscious people. Killing regular people is bad, therefore, killing embryos is bad.

No, I was not (here) arguing to the immorality of killing the unborn, but rather that if you are going to allow the killing of the unborn, you have no real reason for banning the killing of the born. (I guess misreading my argument is your only hope at this point.)

LG

Doctor Logic said...

LG,

To the contrary, Dawkins spends a whole chapter trying to argue that atheists are moral people (in vain, I might add).

Um, maybe you'd like to explain that parenthetic remark in more detail.

but does love of "freedom" justify taking that child's life?

It's not a child. It's a clump of cells with less sentience than the cow you had for lunch.

engaging in sexual intercourse engages us in the committment to (possibly) have and support children.

Agreed.

No, I was not (here) arguing to the immorality of killing the unborn, but rather that if you are going to allow the killing of the unborn, you have no real reason for banning the killing of the born.

This is bizarre. You could mean two things here. You might think that permitting X entails permitting Y. Or you might think that permitting X does not rule out permitting Y.

The latter makes little sense. If we permit free speech, we don't rule out permitting rape. That doesn't mean that anyone who permits free speech advocates rape or is being inconsistent by opposing it.

In the case of the former, there's simply no entailment. Not in this case, and possibly not in general.

Killing an embryo is not the same as killing a born human, so why on Earth would you think that permitting the former ought to entail permitting the latter?

And there could be any number of reasons to allow X but not allow Y, even when X and Y have some things in common. Among those reasons, "I prefer to allow X but not Y" is most prominent.

Doctor Logic said...

William, Himself,

Sounds like a sort of "no true theocracy" theme you guys are selling.

In most parts of Europe in the Middle Ages, contradicting the church meant you would be sentenced to death, or something along those lines. I think this is close enough to theocracy, don't you?

and, in the Hildebrandine revolution, created the secular state by denying to emperors and kings the right to appoint bishops and call councils.

Hmmm. We have an independent judiciary (or at least we're supposed to have one). That doesn't mean we have separation of judiciary and state.

William Bradford said...

Sounds like a sort of "no true theocracy" theme you guys are selling.

I'm after the truth and am not buying your theocracy meme. it is a matter of history and history should be about what actually occured; not how you spin it. Pre-Renaissance Europe was a primarily run by secular rulers who were known to be at odds with the Pope from time to time. Laws were determined locally, not in Rome. Many times it was the Pope who depended on kings like Charlemaine rather than the other way around. Anti-religious motives are poor guides to the historic truth.

BTW, Dr. Logic, what is the cause of your preoccupation with Christianity?

Himself said...

DocLog:
There's no more a Darwinian argument for (or against) the morality of eugenics than there is a pancake recipe that proves the Pythagorean theorem.

Himself:
Poor analogy. Cooking:Geometry not as Darwinism:eugenics. A better analogy might be that pancake recipes do not =necessarily= lead to obesity, which they do not. However, when there is no acceptable alternative to pancakes, people might actually get overweight on a steady diet thereof.

That Darwinism makes no argument about the =morality= of eugenics does not mean that eugenics is a natural consequence or that Darwinists did not =in fact= make arguments about the =necessity= of eugenics.

Darwin himself, as well as his cousin, clearly saw that eugenics was a consequence of Darwinian theory. Darwin lamented that only in the case of man do we allow our worst animals to breed and that no one can doubt that this would be detrimental to the race. It is not a very big jump from such sentiments to Shaw and the Superman or Wells and the New Race or Margaret Sanger, and all the rest of that crowd.

Do not confuse eugenics as practiced by the Progressives and Liberals with Nazi racial extermination. The Nazis were more influenced by Nietzsche, and Nietzsche derided Darwinism as obviously false.

A screed against eugenics can be found here:
http://www.cse.dmu.ac.uk/~mward/gkc/books/Eugenics.html

+ + +

DocLog:
Sounds like a sort of "no true theocracy" theme you guys are selling. In most parts of Europe in the Middle Ages, contradicting the church meant you would be sentenced to death, or something along those lines. I think this is close enough to theocracy, don't you?

Himself:
No. A theocracy is when a church possesses the secular rule, not when it hands over to the kings for execution those of her members who are religious traitors - however much we may deplore the death penalty today. In medieval times, to get the death penalty for heresy, you really had to work at it. For another, the Church had no authorities other than over the orthodoxy and praxis of her own religion. She could not, for example, promulgate a secular law. If you wish, you may argue that the death penalty is Bad, and I will not disagree; but that applies to Everyone. Secular authorities also practiced execution, for secular treason... and for a whole bunch of other stuff. It was when the Kaiser, Fred Staufen, started executing political enemies as "heretics," asserting this as the ancient prerogative of the Roman Emperors (of whom he regarded himself as heir), that the Church set up her own courts to inquire into charges of heresy, asserting that Christ had separated church from state. There were instances of lynch mobs, fearing the soft-heartedness of the clergy (clericalem verens mollitiem) actually storming bishop's palaces to seize and burn suspected heretics.

Other than that, one is more likely to find the popes at the mercy of the kings than vice versa (cf. the "Outrage at Anagni"). Every king desires in his heart to be a monarch, so the existence of a separate "chain of command" to which people could appeal was hateful to them. Even the so-called penance of Kaiser Heinrich at Canossa was a political ploy to counter rebllious barons using his conflict with the pope as a rallying cry. The pope tried to avoid meeting him; which is why he ran off to Canossa in the first place. Once Heinrich appeared publicly before the castle in penitential rags, he had no choice but to publicly pardon him.

DocLog
Hmmm. We have an independent judiciary (or at least we're supposed to have one). That doesn't mean we have separation of judiciary and state.

Himself:
Justices are nominated by the Executive Arm and confirmed by the Legislative Arm. That is not separation, however independent they are supposed to be.

Kings did not nominate popes to be confirmed by the Diet; nor did Popes nominate kings to be confirmed by the Curia. Bishoprics and papacies were not considered imperial or royal offices; nor were thrones considered papal appointments. (PS: this does not mean that no one had or urged their favorites as candidates. People is people, even when they wear funny hats.)

+ + +
All DocLog needs to do is to =name an actual theocracy= not make vague statements about the overuse of the death penalty for capital crimes. Facts are worth a hundred theories; and we like to rely on empirical evidence. Was the Republic of Genoa a theocracy? The Kingdom of Bohemia? The Mark of Brandenburg? The Kingdom of the Two Sicilies? The Duchy of Brabant? Where, oh, where to find a theocracy?

Lawrence Gage said...

Doctor Logic,

I'm sorry for the lack of clarity. I should have added the word "necessarily." My point is that atheist materialists have (by their own lights) no real reason to be moral. As Dawkins makes all too clear (and not entirely despite himself), atheists simply blow with the wind of the zeitgeist. Atheists are as moral as their society: just at home in 1930's Germany as early 20th century America. Morality is whimsical for an atheist materialist.

Theists on the other hand have a real basis for an objective morality: the morality of a theist's acts have a direct effect on his future happiness. An atheist has no such luxury: he can do anything as dastardly as he wants, as long as he won't get caught. (While we struggle to have justice in the world, that justice will never be perfect.)

Again, I'm merely arguing that an atheist has no real reason to be moral. He may happen to be moral, but his morals are simply subjective preferences, with no better basis than a taste for oysters.

My argument is far less "bizarre" than you appreciate, as a moment's reflection might show you. Whereas free speech has only the most tenuous accidental connection with rape, what you call a "clump of cells" is a human individual. If the "clump of cells" in your mother's womb wasn't the same individual as you, perhaps you can say at what point the "clump" became you.

Consciousness is no criterion for humanity. Sans consciousness (which is easily and morally removed), you are just a "clump of cells." Why shouldn't it be eliminated like the over 800,000 humans presently aborted each year in the U.S.

LG

Lawrence Gage said...

The oyster allusion was to a remark that Mortimer Adler attributed to Bertrand Russell:

A recent article on Heidegger in Encounter reported that Lord Russell, in an exchange of letters in the London Observer, said explicitly that his philosophical position would put his dislike for merciless cruelty and his liking for oysters exactly on par.

This is from a guest lecture Adler gave at the Philosophy of Science Institute at St. John's University, probably in the fall semester of 1961. I'd be interested in finding the original Russell quotation.

Adler, Mortimer Jerome. “Questions Science Cannot Answer.” The Logic of Science. Ed. Vincent Edward Smith. (New York: St. John’s University Press, 1963), 5.

Lawrence Gage said...

A salient paragraph from Marilynne Robinson's November 2006 review of Dawkins's book:

Finally, there is the matter of atheism itself, Dawkins finds it incapable of belligerent intent — “why would anyone go to war for the sake of an absence of belief?” It is a peculiarity of our language that by war we generally mean a conflict between nations, or at least one in which both sides are armed. There has been persistent violence against religion —I n the French Revolution, in the Spanish Civil War, in the Soviet Union, in China. In three of these instances the extirpation of religion was part of a program to reshape society by excluding certain forms of thought, by creating an absence of belief. Neither sanity nor happiness appears to have been served by these efforts. The kindest conclusion one can draw is that Dawkins has not acquainted himself with the history of modern authoritarianism.

I recommend reading the full text of this crisp review of Dawkins's flabby book; it is available here. (H/t to Fr. Neuhaus.)

c matt said...

If an idea is to be condemned because people misuse it to justify acts we consider immoral

The problem, of course is whther one has to misuse the idea to justify the act. Christian doctrine does have to be misused to justify killing the weak among us; Darwinism only needs to be followed.

Lawrence Gage said...

Well said, C Matt.

LG