Logically demonstrating why Darwinism precludes an objective moral good
e-mail exchange, Julien B. continued to express dissatisfaction with my argument
that if Darwinism is true, an objective moral order cannot exist, but it took a while for us to nail down where exactly his disagreement with me lay. What it came down to, at last, was that he felt I had not logically demonstrated my point to be true. The below exchange picks up from our off-line exchange.
… My suggestion was that Darwinism itself has no logical connection to a “materialist reductionist view of existence.” What your arguments show, I think, is that Darwinism encourages materialism and reductionism: too modern people, these different ideas just seem to fit together naturally.
My argument is not that acceptance of Darwinism puts people in a general disposition to accept a materialist reductionist view. My argument is that Darwinism itself logically results in and requires a materialist reductionist view.
I know that’s what you’re saying, but, for that very reason, don’t you think it’s fair for me to ask about the specifically logical relationship? Maybe we’re just using the word in different ways here. When I say that A logically implies B, I mean this: it is strictly impossible for A to be true and B false. So, for example, “The earth exists” implies “Something exists.” By contrast, it isn’t obvious that “Humans evolved by Darwinian evolution” implies “Everything is material.” [In your earlier response] you said that although it’s conceivable that the products of Darwinian evolution are subject to moral law, you think that such a view absurd. To say that it’s absurdly unlikely that A and B are both true is not the same as saying that, logically speaking, A and B can’t both be true. That’s really all I meant. But to put the debate in terms of likelihood rather than pure logic would make a difference.
Ok, then either my argument wasn’t good enough or it wasn’t sufficiently clear. Or maybe my argument, as you suggest, only adds up to saying that Darwinism makes an objective moral order “absurdly unlikely,” rather than saying it makes it “logically impossible.” I’ll look at it again.
Here’s a paragraph of mine that is relevant to our discussion:
In any case, if everything human has come into being because of its ability to help people survive and reproduce, then there can be no such thing as the love of good for its own sake. Indeed, there can be no such thing as the good. There can be no such thing as the right. There can be no such thing as avoiding lying because lying is inherently wrong—because there is no such thing as inherently wrong or inherently right. If people avoid lying, it’s not because they believe and feel that lying is wrong, but because they’ve been programmed not to lie by a previous chance random mutation in one of their ancestors which made the ancestor not lie, and this genetically programmed behavior of not lying somehow helped the ancestor have more children than other people, and so the tendency not to lie spread through the population. According to this Darwinian scenario, telling the truth is not a moral or volitional behavior but a mechanical behavior implanted in a person by a chance genetic mutation inherited from his ancestors. It has nothing to do with any moral sense of or choice of the good.
Now I can see a potential weakness in this passage of the kind you suggested. I’m saying that if Darwinism is true, then man’s possession of a love of the good for its own sake is impossible, and on that point, I gather you agree. But I’m also saying that if Darwinism is true, then the existence of the good itself is impossible, and you are saying that this is an unjustifiable leap.
Having now thought about it further, I stand by my point that if Darwinism is true, then the existence of the good itself is logically impossible. Here’s why.
If there were an objective good, then there would have to be an entity or consciousness that can know and love this good. A good that is unknowable, a good that exists in a universe where there is no one to know it, is a contradiction in terms. The very nature of the good is that it attracts by its very goodness, it draws consciousness toward it, and so is loved and sought as the good. If the only rational species that exists in the universe and that can love the good—i.e., man—has come into existence as a result of random genetic mutations that survived only because of their ability to help each individual possessor of that mutation live longer and produce more offspring than its fellow species members, then that rational species has come into being with no relation to the good as such. It is pure happenstance, pure serendipity, that such a species, with the ability to love the good, has come into existence. Meaning that the good could have existed with no one to know it, and it’s only due to pure material accident that there is a species capable of knowing it and loving it. According to this scenario, if things had taken the more likely course, i.e., if a rational being capable of loving the good had not accidentally evolved out of the Darwinian survival of the fittest, then the good would have existed by itself for eternity, unknown and unloved. This contradicts the very nature of the good, and so is logically impossible. Therefore, if Darwinism is true, it is impossible that an objective moral order exists. Q.E.D.
James M2 writes:
The final paragraph of this entry ranks among the most brilliant things I’ve read on your site.
Thank you. I’m aware that the argument is a bit roundabout, and I’m sure there are more direct and simpler ways of proving the same point, but I think it’s solid.
James M2 replies:
As it is, you are carefully leading the reader by the hand to the conclusion. Simpler ways of making the same case may actually be less accessible.
On further thought, maybe there is not a more direct approach. After all, arguments about Darwinism don’t normally deal with metaphysical questions such as the existence of the good. They deal with the existence of organic living beings. Therefore an argument on whether Darwinism precludes the objective good must start with an organic living being, namely man. And the connection between man and the good is that man knows and loves the good—otherwise no one would think of it as the good. So it was perhaps necessary that my argument moved in this roundabout way, from how man comes into existence, according to Darwinism, to the implications this has on whether the objective good can exist.
In any case, since for the moment the roundabout argument is the only one I have, let me try to summarize it in as few words as possible:
1. The nature of the objective good is that it attracts consciousness to love it as the good. Therefore an objective moral good requires by its very nature that there be a rational being who can know and love it.
* * *
2 According to Darwinism, a rational being that can know and love the good is not necessary, meaning that there is no necessity for such a being to exist. Indeed, according to Darwinism, such a being can only come into existence—if it comes into existence at all—by sheerest happenstance.
3. Therefore, if Darwinism is true, it is impossible that the objective moral good exists.
The discussion inevitably leads us to the question: does the objective moral good exist? By itself this question has nothing to do with Darwinism, but it will connect with it.
Let’s start with a simple example from daily life that will have happened to most of us. An employee in a retail store or restaurant accidentally gives me a significantly larger amount of change than I have coming to me. The employee is not aware of the mistake. I am aware that I could easily pocket the money and no one would know about it except me; but I also know, with an immediate perception, that that would be wrong. So I point out the mistake to the waiter or clerk and give back the money.
Why did I do that? Because I know that it is inherently wrong to take something that belongs to someone else. I see and feel, with an immediate perception, that it would be wrong to take the money, and right to give it back. Moreover, I return the money, not because doing so gives me a frisson of moral superiority (though perhaps it does give me such a frisson), and not because I am aware that failing to do so will make me feel guilty (though perhaps I am aware that not giving it back will make me feel guilty), but simply because it’s right. I do it, not because of any personal feeling or egoistic impulse, but because of an immediate perception that not doing so would put me at odds with the order of the universe.
The Darwinists will of course rush forward and say that this moral attitude of mine is something planted in me by sociobiological evolution which weeded out selfish behavior and selected cooperative and honest behavior. The problem with that argument is that Darwinian selection only selects organic features and external behaviors that help organisms survive longer and have more offspring. Darwinian selection has nothing to do with the consciousness, thoughts, and feelings of an organism; it is only “sees” the organic features and behaviors that help an organism survive longer and produce more offspring. The experience of a human consciousness that stealing is wrong has nothing to do with such externals; the experience is that stealing is wrong, period. Furthermore, Darwinism cannot explain that experience. What can explain it is our human experience of the inherently good as the good and of the inherently bad as the bad. A “science,” such as evolutionary biology, which as a matter of principle ignores this experience, because the experience is not material and only the material can be real, and on that basis says that the good does not objectively exist, is a false science.
A reader recently said to me that the belief in an objective moral good is merely the result of “faith,” i.e., I believe something because I choose to believe it. But that description of faith or credence does not describe the human experience of the good. People don’t say that stealing is wrong as a matter of faith. They say it’s wrong because it’s wrong.
A further result follows from this discussion. When God in Exodus says, Thou shalt not steal, he is not acting as a dictator arbitrarily imposing his whims on mankind. He is expressing an inherent moral truth of the universe. Stealing is wrong.
Also, let no one use the tired relativist argument that since people are constantly taking things that don’t belong to them, therefore it is not an objective truth that stealing is wrong. The fact that human beings constantly violate objective morality doesn’t mean that objective morality doesn’t exist. Also, even when people steal, they don’t generally say that stealing is right. Something tells them it is wrong, even as they are doing it.
* * *
One more point. Since, if Darwinism is true, an objective moral good is impossible, and since there is an objective moral good, therefore Darwinism is false. But that is not my preferred argument against Darwinism! It’s too complicated. I’ve demonstrated the falsity of Darwinism elsewhere by more direct methods.
In a further comment that I haven’t posted, Julien said that my answer to him “really [gets] to the heart of the matter,” but he then launched into further very complex questions that were too much to deal with at the moment, so I’m putting off the continuation of my dialog with him for the time being.
James M2 writes:
It may be too obvious, but you could have expanded your formulation to state explicitly that belief in Darwinism precludes belief in God, given that both our relationship to and the existence of the objective good are impossible without God. In fact, if you replace “objective moral good” with “any notion of the supernatural you may happen to maintain” and re-word things a little bit, you can come up with another way to show that acceptance of Darwinism necessitates the rejection of everything that is non-material.
Julien B. writes:
I’m afraid I have an objection along the same lines as my earlier one to the very concise version of your argument you’ve put up. The first premise, which says
“The nature of the objective good is that it attracts consciousness to love it as the good. Therefore an objective moral good requires by its very nature that there be a rational being who can know and love it,”
is really an argument in itself. And I think this argument is invalid: the premise does not logically imply the conclusion. Here’s the proof, by a counter-example.
The truth that 1 + 1 = 2 is such that any rational being, once presented with that truth, will have to agree to it. So it’s the nature of such truths that they “attract” rational consciousness in that way. But does it follow from this that without rational beings the proposition that 1 + 1 = 2 would not be a truth? Surely not. Long before any conscious beings existed, it was still true that, e.g., 1 planet + 1 other planet = 2 planets. Just as the existence of beings who know that 1 + 1 = 2 is not a requirement for the existence of the objective truth that 1 + 1 = 2, I’d say that the existence of conscious beings who know and love the good is not a requirement for the existence of an objective good. At least one could argue this, which means that, as it stands, your premise doesn’t imply your conclusion. In order to fill the logical gap you would need to add more premises. Or you’d need to say why my counter-example is not a good analogy; but I think it’s pretty solid.
Your analogy does not strike me as a good analogy, and the reason ought to be evident: I’m not talking about mathematical truth but about noetic/moral truth. I agree with you that a mathematical truth, such as 1 + 1 = 2, or a physical truth, such as the laws of motion or the number of electrons in the second electron shell of an oxygen atom, can be said to exist independently of and prior to any human mind knowing it. But objective moral value, what Plato called the Good and what C.S. Lewis calls the Tao, while objectively true, only exists relationally, in its awakening an attraction in the consciousness of a conscious being toward that good. That relation is of the very essence of the Good. This is the Platonic metaxy, or the In-between as Eric Voegelin translates it, meaning the tension between the objective Good and the experiencing consciousness that is drawn toward it. We can speak of mathematical or physical truths without reference to an experiencing consciousness. We cannot speak of spiritual or moral truths without reference to an experiencing consciousness.
In one of the homely examples C.S. Lewis gives in The Abolition of Man, he talks about how a baby is inherently lovable. It is not, Lewis says, some subjective orientation in ourselves that makes us respond to the baby the way we do; rather, it is a value inherent in the baby itself that calls forth a certain response in us. But (and here’s my addition to Lewis’s argument) this value cannot be said to exist separately from its inherent quality of drawing an experiencing consciousness to love it.
Similarly, the rightness of giving back money to someone who gave it you by accident is inherent in the act itself. But this value cannot be said to exist separately from its inherent quality of drawing an experiencing consciousness to experience its rightness.
There may well be holes in my argument and particularly in my account of the relational nature of the objective good, both of which occurred to me for the first time two days ago in response to your challenge that I logically prove my idea that if Darwinism is true, the objective moral good is impossible. But I don’t think your mathematical example disproves my argument.
The key to the difference between an objective mathematical/physical fact or law and an objective moral value is in the word value. A fact or a physical law can be said to exist by itself, even prior to anyone’s knowing it. But a value cannot exist, or at least it cannot exist as a value, apart from a “valuer,” an entity that values. Thus a value is inherently relational. It does not exist by itself, but in the Platonic metaxy.
Between the two of us, we’ve supplied two logical arguments that Darwinian evolution cannot co-exist in the same world as objective moral values: you supplied the knowability argument, and I supplied the causal nexus argument. They both appeal to the same Aristotelian doctrine which says to be is, among other things, to have an effect on other beings. [LA replies: I wasn’t aware of that doctrine; I guess I just came up with it on my own! But according to Plato in the Meno, in which Socrates demonstrates that an untutored slave has an innate knowledge of the principles of mathematics, we should expect that sort of thing to happen all the time.] Your argument invoked this principle by pointing out that if the good has so little effect on the creatures of a given world that it is not known to them at all, then it can’t exist. But the nonexistence of the good contradicts the notion of the good, which includes (among other things) that it is a desideratum of beings. My argument invoked it by pointing out that if the good does not at all constrain the morally random events of Darwinian evolution, then it isn’t having any effect upon them, and thus can’t exist (in the same world as those morally random events). Either way, you end up with the nonexistence of the good, so that Darwinism is shown to contradict it. [LA replies: your argument could also apply to the incompatibility of Darwinism and God. To believe that God created the universe, and then had nothing to do with the highest aspect of the universe, which is the evolution of life, crowned by intelligent life, is to make God so removed from the universe that he has essentially nothing to do with it, so he might as well not exist at all. A God who is irrelevant to the universe as man experiences it is no God at all.]
Related to this is a comment I sent you last month, where I said that desiring the good for its own sake could not be advantageous in a world that was not thoroughly constrained by the good. Thus the reproductive advantage bestowed by desiring the good for its own sake can’t exist unless the good we desire really is objectively good, whether we desire it or not. But a good that is objectively good regardless of whether a contingent creature thus perceives it as such is a necessary good.
None of the sociobiological stories about the origins of human morality have a shot at working unless morality really is objectively good. In effect, then, the sociobiologists have discovered that goodness is good policy, without quite twigging that this can’t be so unless goodness really is good. The goodness of the policy of being good derives from the prior necessary goodness of the good. Only if the good really is good from before all worlds can creatures in worlds search for it, or gain any advantage by finding it.
Well, I remain skeptical of this. (I guess I’m more of a realist than you are.) To me it seems conceivable that, for example, the pain of the earliest, most primitive creatures on earth was bad and their pleasure was good, even if there were nothing in the universe aware of that fact. That is, other things being equal, it would be morally better for those creatures to be happy than unhappy, even if no one knows about morality.
I think your example of the baby’s lovableness can be accommodated by my view. The quality of lovableness is not the same as the quality of actually being loved. So the quality of lovableness could be had by a baby even if there were no one who actually loved the baby, just as something can be water-soluble even if it never actually dissolves in water.
Likewise, even if you’re right that moral qualities can’t be separated from “the inherent quality of drawing an experiencing consciousness to experience its rightness,” it doesn’t follow that there must actually be such an experiencing consciousness in order for anything to have that inherent quality. Some actions or states of the world could be such that if there were an experiencing consciousness that consciousness would be drawn to experience their rightness (or wrongness) even if in fact there were no experiencing consciousness of that kind. In that case, they would be morally valuable even if not actually valued by anyone. That seems at least conceivable to me.
To me it seems conceivable that, for example, the pain of the earliest, most primitive creatures on earth was bad and their pleasure was good, even if there were nothing in the universe aware of that fact. That is, other things being equal, it would be morally better for those creatures to be happy than unhappy, even if no one knows about morality.
You are doing what defenders of Darwinism constantly do: you are importing into a Darwinian universe moral and teleological values that Darwinism itself rigidly excludes.
The subjectively experienced pain and pleasure of a creature are irrelevant in a Darwinian universe. All that matters is survival. The genes contained in the creatures that have attributes that enable them to live longer and produce more offspring spread through a species and become dominant. THAT’S IT. That’s the only calculus that matters. The pain or pleasure of a creature is irrelevant in the Darwinian scheme of things. Nothing bears on it. Nothing hinges on it. To speak of pleasure as a value in a Darwinian world is to misstate the Darwinian theory.
As I’ve said before (here, here, and here), the fact that Darwinian defenders keep irresistibly using moral and teleological language to describe a Darwinian world that rigidly excludes such things is itself a strong indication of the falseness and unsustainability of the Darwinian theory. Even its believers have to keep importing non-Darwinian realities into it to make the theory plausible and meaningful to themselves. But when, as has been done in numerous VFR discussions, the Darwinian world is described in a way that is consistent with the Darwinian theory, meaning that there is nothing in operation in that world but random genetic mutations and natural selection, then the utter absence of meaning and value in the Darwinian world become apparent, as well as its logical absurdity and impossibility.
In what follows, I shall adhere to my rule of capitalizing denotations of Archetypes, but not of their types. I shall refer to the Platonic Form of the Good by capitalizing it; derivative, particular, or situational goods will appear in lower case. Note that in the prior sentence, I capitalized “Form” because the Form of the Good is the archetype of all forms.
James says that “[he] would like to see Kristor give some support to his assertion that desiring or following the Good for its own sake confers a reproductive advantage. Since when has this necessarily been so and how?”
I never asserted such a thing. I never said that desiring the Good for its own sake does confer reproductive advantage, let alone that it necessarily does. I said that it could, but only if the world is thoroughly constrained by the Good. Only then is it even possible for desiring the Good to confer reproductive advantage. If you think about it, this is really quite obvious. If a world were not at all constrained by the Good, then the Good would have nothing at all to do with the world, and conforming yourself to it would be silly, if it were possible—but, of course, it wouldn’t be possible, because goodness simply wouldn’t be a factor of such a world.
Does the world have to be thoroughly constrained by the Good in order for desiring it to confer reproductive advantage? I think it does. This is a crude analogy, but deer are poorly adapted to cometary impacts, whereas they have no alternative but to be well adapted to everyday environmental factors that exert a constant constraint: to our planet’s mass and temperature, to our atmosphere, to liquid water, to night and day, summer and winter. If the world were only weakly constrained by the Good, then reproductive advantages to be gained from adaptation thereto would be commensurately weak. If the constraint of the good were only as strong as the constraint of cometary impacts, adaptation thereto would be a waste of biological resources, just as it would be absurd for deer to mount elaborate physiological defenses against comets.
We could then ask, with James, how does desiring the Good confer reproductive advantage? But notice that we can rephrase that question as, what is the good of seeking the Good? The goodness of one strategy versus another presupposes the Good. Unless the Good were really out there, no strategy would be really any better than any other; survival, even, would be no better than death. So if it were not for the Good, there could be no such good as an “advantage.” Thus reproductive advantage just is a good; is a derivate of the Good. All goods are, including the goods of sexual love to which James refers.
It goes deeper. The whole game of mutation (NB I did not say, “random mutation”) and natural selection can proceed only because it is better to exist than not—for no sort of good can be realized by a nonexistent being. Existence is therefore good per se. Were it not so, no physical structure in the world would be predisposed either to endure, or to fly apart; there would be no law of inertia, nor would there be as it were any law of “ertia.” There would be no laws of any kind, no order or pattern whatsoever; for every species of orderliness is a good that can be achieved (or fail of achievement) only by existent beings. If existence were not good, then no thing whatsoever—i.e., no particular instance of existence—could be even a little bit good. Existence is the sine qua non of goodness, and the zero of goodness is non-existence.
So we see that if an animal were wholly to abjure the pursuit of the Good, it would by that token have to abjure the pursuit of all the goods that derive therefrom. That is, it would have to abjure food, sex, health, and so forth. Rather than pursuing existence, and life, and all the values that support life, it would have to pursue only non-existence. And suicide is bad for your reproductive prospects.
So, while I didn’t say that the pursuit of the Good necessarily confers reproductive advantage—the utter altruism of the soldier who falls on a grenade to save his comrades would seem to be a case where the pursuit of the Good fails to confer reproductive advantage—I feel confident in saying that, ceteris paribus, the pursuit of Evil confers reproductive disadvantage.
Let me say first that I’m honoured that you think my objections are worth this much discussion, and I’m enjoying the debate. But I think your latest response begs the question. You seem to be accusing me of presupposing that a “Darwinian world” could contain moral values, which you think I’m not allowed to do because “there is nothing in operation in that world but random genetic mutations and natural selection” and therefore it can’t contain meaning or value. But I am not presupposing that Darwinism and objective goodness are compatible. Rather, I’ve given several arguments for that claim. And one key point that’s relevant here is that, as I understand it, Darwinism does not say that there is nothing in operation in the world other than mutations and selection. It doesn’t say, e.g., that there are no laws of arithmetic or physics. So why must it be taken to mean that there are no moral laws? Maybe it really does imply this, but if so that remains to be shown, and I’ve tried to show that it doesn’t (as far as I can see). That’s why it begs the question against my view for you to assert, at this stage, that a Darwinian world could not contain meaning or value. Whether that’s true is precisely what’s in question here.
And I think you might be misunderstanding my latest point, which was just that qualities of the form “Q-able” can be had by things that are not “Q”-ed. (Something can be soluble but not dissolved or dissolving.) So, likewise, it seems logically possible for something to be valu-able even if it isn’t valued. And that’s how one could maintain that objective values could exist without any consciousness of their value, even if, as you say, values are by nature such as to attract consciousness.
I did not mean that Darwinism precludes such things as the laws of motion and mathematics (though there might be an interesting case to make for that!). I did not mean that nothing would be in operation in a Darwinian world other than random mutations and natural selection. I meant that in a Darwinian world nothing about living beings would exist other than that which is brought into existence by random mutations and natural selection. And since random mutations and natural selection cannot (except by astronomically unlikely happenstance) bring into existence a rational being that can know and love the Good, and since the Good without a rational being or even the remote possibility of a rational being that can respond to its goodness is definitionally impossible, therefore Darwinism precludes the Good.
If I’m repeating myself, I think it’s because I have already answered your points satisfactorily, at least as well as I can do within the terms of this discussion.
Julien is not convinced that Darwinism and objective value are logical contradictions. That seems to be the extent of his worry. He believes that values may exist objectively, but he can’t see why, if they do, it would be logically impossible for a randomly generated being to apprehend them.
What he has not grasped, it seems to me, is that a randomly generated being is not capable of apprehension, because randomness is precisely the absence of any such orderly relations as are subsumed in apprehension. If a being is thus capable, it cannot, by definition, be random. It must, on the contrary, be related to, and thus constrained by, another being—that is to say, by a causal order.
Julien is stuck on exactly the problem that bedeviled Democritus. Democritus was a radical materialist. He believed that the whole world was random collisions between lifeless particles. That is, he believed that the world was nothing but Brownian motion, except that, unlike Brown, he thought that there were no laws like conservation of momentum. His basic doctrinal problem was to explain how a random concatenation of events could constitute an orderly world. Actually he had a much deeper problem, which was to explain how wholly random—and therefore unrelated—events could constitute a concatenation.
Democritus tried to solve this problem with the clinamen, a trend within the random “fall” of atoms through the void that resulted in an apparently orderly, perdurant world (emphasis on “apparently”). It started with one collision, and spread. Obviously this idea is a complete failure. “Randomness” and “trend” are contradictory concepts. There is no conceivable way, in a situation of pure disorder, to explain order, or even to admit of its existence.
The bottom line is this. Unless there be an underlying order expressed by and subsisting in such regularities as the conservation laws of physics, such randomness as Brownian motion exhibits could not occur. Randomness is a partial derogation of a prior and subvenient orderliness, and thus still somewhat orderly; or else, if it is purely, immaculately random, with no jot or tittle of orderliness to it, why then it simply doesn’t exist. Thus if there is really any order or sense to things at all, then that order and sense must pre-exist any particular thing, and must influence all particular things. Until you admit this, you are stuck, as Democritus was stuck: an orderly coherent rational being in a “world” where order, ratio, and being are not really conceivable.
Julien is, so far as I can tell, somewhere between Democritean materialism and theism. He admits the pre-existent order, he just wants to see if a purely random jumble of events could somehow come to apprehend that order, without having been at all influenced thereby. I think this description of his predicament—with which I deeply sympathize—suffices to show how absurd it is. I hasten to add that I do not mean that Julien himself, or his ideas, are absurd. I have the utmost respect for his intelligence, diligence, humility, and rhetorical skill. Rather, it is the predicament in which, as a consequence of his earnest search for understanding, he now finds himself, that is absurd. For the pre-existence of order entails that there can be no such thing as a purely random jumble of events.
Admitting that much, Julien would need to take only one small step to find himself at rest. That step is to accept that that pre-existing order, which rational creatures can discover only by virtue of the fact that it has formed their inmost parts, is the Logos, the Word, the Utterance by whom all things are made. That step is to admit the idea that his own orderliness, conscience, consciousness, intellection, virtue, liveliness, and personality all derive from that Logos, which perfectly and eternally exemplifies those things, and that Julien himself expresses, albeit incompletely. That step is to accept God.
PS I only now realize that I have been assuming that Julien is male. If I am wrong in that, Julien, I do apologize. Which raises an interesting question: why would we feel that we should apologize when we mistake a man for a woman, or vice versa? How could that possibly happen, unless manliness and womanliness were quite different virtues, to which quite different sorts of beings aspired, who might therefore conceivably be offended if their aspirations were to go unnoticed?
“Randomness” and “trend” are contradictory concepts. There is no conceivable way, in a situation of pure disorder, to explain order, or even to admit of its existence.
It’s the same with the “trends” within Darwinian evolution. For Darwinism to be true, there has to be a line of development consisting of a sequence of thousands of individual random genetic changes that occur one at a time and are selected one at a time in each generation (or perhaps one in every ten generations or one in every hundred generations), and that continue in a coherent manner the same line of development that occurred in past generations. But why should such a trend exist, given that in each generation the random change that occurs and is selected has no history? It is strictly a one-time event, unconnected causally with anything that occurs before or after it. Yet according to Darwinism a sequence of these one-time events forms a coherent “trend” extending for thousands of generations and leading from a fish to a salamander to a Brontosaurus. It’s a further example of Darwinists attributing a teleological order to a process that strictly excludes teleology.
Harry Black writes:
Kristor writes: Existence is the sine qua non of goodness, and the zero of goodness is non-existence.
It should be clear that this is falsified by the very existence of evil. The essence of the Good, rather, is in its being a relation between beings that is pleasing to God.
I gather what you’re saying is that, since evil exists, therefore existence is the sine qua non of evil as well as of goodness, and therefore goodness has no more relation with existence than evil has.
But your argument falls down if we follow Augustine. Augustine says that evil has no real existence, that evil is simply the lack of the good. Goodness has real existence. God is perfectly good and has perfect existence. Man, to the extent that he follows God, partakes of God’s goodness and existence. Evil is the denial or lack of goodness, and thus the denial or lack of existence.
Harry Black has not read carefully enough. I said that existence is the sine qua non of goodness, meaning that a thing cannot be any good at all unless it exists. Now, the capacity to be good is itself a good. And this means that, as the first ingredient of the capacity to be good, existence is itself good. That does not, of course, mean that existent things are per se perfectly good, which is what Harry seems to think that I said. An existent thing can be quite evil. But to have any goodness at all, it must exist; and if it has no goodness whatsoever, then by that token it has no existence. As you say, this is straight out of Augustine. And St. Thomas.
Posted by Lawrence Auster at October 06, 2008 02:00 AM | Send