How liberals would react if they met the real Charles Darwin
(Note: this entry includes a bunch of comments
from the exchange on Darwinism versus God at Secular Right.)
At a blog called The Joys of Curmudgeonry there is a clever satire in which the resurrected Charles Darwin is hosted at a contemporary English townhouse by a group of media and academic types. They gladly welcome the honored guest, until he begins to speak his actual views about race and related subjects, which so shock and scandalize them that he is eventually thrown out of the house. As I said in a comment, if this playlet were published in the New York Times or the London Times, it would shake the pillars of liberalism.
- end of initial entry -
Terry Morris writes:
I think you may be underestimating the power of liberalism to overcome or conquer such difficulties inherent to Darwin’s (the man’s) thinking.
After all, Darwin was, at least to some extent, a product of his times. In other words, Charles Darwin was understandably a racist due to the prevailing racism of the times and place in which he lived. Certainly were he to have lived in the enlightened 21st Century West, his views on race would be much different, much enlightened, much refined.
But that’s what natural selection is all about, isn’t it? Darwin’s racism has now been selected out of serious scientific existence.
Interesting point. On one hand, the liberals might play it as you say: Darwin had the regrettably backward racial views of those times, but he’s still the man who made liberalism possible by banishing God, and so we give him a pass on his bad ideas, just as we give the American founders a pass on slavery because they put in place the system that ultimately ended slavery.
On the other hand, the extreme and frightful nature of Darwin’s racial views might simply go too far for the liberals. By way of illustrating this, let’s compare Darwin to Lincoln. The very worst things Lincoln ever said about race were his remarks in the debates with Douglas in 1858 that if one race must dominate the other, he naturally would prefer that it be the white race, and that while he was against slavery, he did not believe in a social equality of the races, did not believe a black man should marry a white woman, and so on. THOSE were the most racial statements Lincoln ever made, and even THEY must be covered up by the liberal powers that be, because they would upset the image of Lincoln as liberal icon. Darwin, by contrast, did not just have the normal racial views of the 19th century; he talked openly and extensively of exterminating the inferior races. His views were Hitler like. Moreover, these weren’t just his personal views; they proceeded logically from his theory of evolution.
So I’m not sure that if Darwin’s retrograde, or rather progressive and Hitlerite racial views (I’m using “progressive” in the earlier meaning of the word, of advancing the human race by weeding out the unfit) were brought out, the liberals would comfortably subsume them under his overall greatness as a founder of liberalism. The reaction might be more like what happens in the playlet: The liberals throw him out of their house. He stops being their god.
Ken Hechtman writes:
Surprised you missed the obvious:
James Watson is the closest equivalent to Charles Darwin among anyone living today and he got metaphorically thrown out of the liberal house for saying a whole lot less than Darwin did in The Descent of Man.
What is your point? That if Darwin’s views were known, he would be rejected? Or that Darwin as the god of liberalism gets special treatment not accorded a Watson?
Ken Hechtman replies:
My point (such that it is) is you’re mostly right, Terry Morris is mostly wrong.
If most liberals knew the passages cited from Descent of Man, they’d still believe evolution was true. But they wouldn’t be quite so enthusiastic about celebrating “Darwin Day”.
Bill in Maryland writes:
“Darwin, by contrast, did not just have the normal racial views of the 19th century; he talked openly and extensively of exterminating the inferior races. His views were Hitler like. Moreover, these weren’t just his personal views; they proceeded logically from his theory of evolution.”
Do you have a reference for this?
Here’s a famous quote, which I found by googling darwin exterminate races:
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… 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.
He is clearly, in this passage, predicting that the advance of what we would now call Western Civilization will result in the extermination of the “savage races” (“savage” was effectively a technical term in Darwin’s day). He is not advocating “exterminating the inferior races,” as the Hitler analogy would require; as your reference makes clear, he strongly opposed slavery; why would he do that if he wished the eradication of the very races that are enslaved?
I don’t know. But his neutral non-judgmental prediction that this total extermination will take place speaks for itself: he accepts it and does not oppose it. And this did inspire Hitler.
More research is needed on this to get the full context of his statements.
Since he was predicting that the eradication will take centuries, one wonders what he could have done about it, except draw attention to its likelihood. Darwin’s purpose, in the passage you quoted, was not to predict the future of mankind, but to provide a plausible analogy to explain the absence of intermediate types between the great apes (assumed to be our distant ancestors) and “savages”, ie to explain the absence of what used to be called “missing links” (now no longer missing).
Here is the full paragraph:
The great break in the organic chain between man and his nearest allies, which cannot be bridged over by any extinct or living species, has often been advanced as a grave objection to the belief that man is descended from some lower form; but this objection will not appear of much weight to those who, from general reasons, believe in the general principle of evolution. Breaks often occur in all parts of the series, some being wide, sharp and defined, others less so in various degrees; as between the orang and its nearest allies—between the Tarsius and the other Lemuridae—between the elephant, and in a more striking manner between the Ornithorhynchus or Echidna, and all other mammals. But these breaks depend merely on the number of related forms which have become extinct. 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 (18. ‘Anthropological Review,’ April 1867, p. 236.), 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.
Interesting. Thanks for the full context of the famous passage from The Descent of Man. . The context is the explanation of wide gaps between known life forms.
It remains clear, however, that Darwin’s views on race and equality were wildly out of keeping with modern liberalism, and that the Darwinian theory of evolution logically and necessarily leads to such views as Spencerism, Social Darwinism, eugenics, H.G. Wells-ism, and Nazism—which is fact it actually did. What all these views have in common is the marginalization or elimination of the unfit in order to assure the progress of mankind to a higher state. Darwinian evolution is premised on Malthusian levels of mass death, leaving only the “most fit.” Darwin is the father of these schools of thought. How liberals reconcile Darwinism and liberal egalitarianism, I still haven’t figured out.
In Klinghoffer’s NRO article that you sent me. He writes, concerning Darwin’s “Descent of Man”:
In the same book, he compared the evolution of people to the breeding of animals and drew a chilling conclusion regarding what he saw as the undesirable consequences of allowing the unfit to breed:
However, in the next paragraph in DoM, Darwin writes:
“Thus the weak members of civilized 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 himself, hardly any one is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed.”
In this desacralized picture of existence, to speak of life as possessing any kind of holiness is to introduce an alien note.
[end Klinghoffer quote.]
The aid which we feel impelled to give to the helpless is mainly an incidental result of the instinct of sympathy, which was originally acquired as part of the social instincts, but subsequently rendered, in the manner previously indicated, more tender and more widely diffused. Nor could we check our sympathy, even at the urging of hard reason, without deterioration in the noblest part of our nature. The surgeon may harden himself whilst performing an operation, for he knows that he is acting for the good of his patient; but if we were intentionally to neglect the weak and helpless, it could only be for a contingent benefit, with an overwhelming present evil. We must therefore bear the undoubtedly bad effects of the weak surviving and propagating their kind.
Which is of course the antithesis of the Nazi position (I presume that the surgeon hardening himself refers to amputation without anesthesia).
The deception that Klinghoffer is attempting here is, unfortunately, typical of Creationists.
Your effort here is to exculpate Darwin from the charge that his work fostered Nazi-like ideas. But I’m not sure that your attempt is successful. Clearly there is a contradiction between Darwin’s general principles, which require the death or weeding out of the “unfit,” and his appeal to our “social instincts,” our “sympathy,” and “the noblest part of our nature.” The latter sentiments are an unprincipled exception to the consistent and ruthless working out of the principle of natural selection. Darwin himself was not a hard man. He softened his harsh principles with appeals to feeling and sympathy. But such feeling and sympathy do not derive from his principles. Other men less sympathetic—Herbert Spencer, HG Wells, Hitler—simply applied Darwin’s principles to human society in a way that Darwin himself would not have done.
As I always say, what matters in the world of politics and the world of ideas is not the personal thoughts or intentions a man has when he expresses an idea, but the objective content of the idea itself. The idea has a meaning, and an effect on other minds, independent of the thoughts and intentions of the man who thinks it.
For example, Nietzsche certainly did not intend and never dreamed of the extermination of European Jewry. But when he radically denied the existence of God and moral truth, when he savaged the Christian religion as a religion of weakness and decadence, when he described the Jews as the personification of the slave morality, and when he extolled the “blond beast” who triumphs through strength and cruelty in a world beyond good and evil, he was planting in the world the ideas that led to Nazism and the extermination of European Jewry. Nietzsche died in 1900. In 1933 the man who saw himself as Nietzsche’s follower (as well as Darwin’s follower) was the leader of Germany.
Tim W. writes:
Actually, I don’t think liberals give the American founders a pass on slavery anymore. We may not yet have reached the point where liberals feel safe to declare open war on the founders, but Washington, Madison & Co. are no longer particularly revered. As we become more “diverse” we’re increasingly told that a bunch of white Christian males who permitted slavery aren’t particularly relevant to the new world our liberal masters are creating. Most high school kids probably know more about Harriet Tubman and Martin Luther King than they do about any of the founders. [LA replies: yes, but in many contexts—respectable, liberal establishment contexts—the founders are still revered.]
As for Darwin, liberals will edit out any non-PC views he held. They’ll simply vanish down the Orwellian memory hole. At the height of the Soviet-driven nuclear freeze campaign in the 1980s, liberals elevated Gandhi to iconic status, culminating in the film starring Ben Kingsley. The screenplay simply left out any of Gandhi’s views or actions that might conflict with liberalism. No mention of his opposition to birth control, for example. Certainly no mention that Sergeant Major Gandhi once earned Victoria’s War Medal for putting down a Zulu uprising in South Africa.
Can you imagine Ron Howard directing a movie about Darwin and having the actor portraying him refer to Africans as members of a lower race, worthy of elimination? I can’t. Howard, or any other major Hollywood director, would focus exclusively on Darwin’s brilliance and the supposed stupidity and intolerance of his religious critics.
Ken Hechtman writes:
I’m reading through the chapter “The Extinction of Races” from my grandfather’s copy of Descent of Man. It describes the extinctions and near-extinctions of the 19th century, the Tasmanians, Maoris, Hawaiians and others. The tone is that of a dispassionate scientific observer throughout. No matter whether he attributes the various declines in population to environmental factors, moral failings of the native population or “the famous hunt by all the colonists”, as the case may be, his tone doesn’t change. He’s not for it, he’s not against it, he’s just reporting the facts.
So when he’s “neutral and non-judgemental” about future exterminations, this is the context: Similar exterminations had already happened in his memory and the memory of his readers and some of those were ongoing.
The genocide charge doesn’t need to stick, though. Darwin’s statement that blacks are “closer to the apes” would get modern liberals heading for the exits all by itself. Even if he also says:
“…yet I was incessantly struck, whilst living with the Fuegians on board the Beagle, with the many little traits of character shewing how similar their minds were to ours; and so it was with a full-blooded negro with whom I once happened to be intimate.”
“Some of my best friends are…” never got anyone else off the hook, I doubt it would help Darwin.
Ken Hechtman writes:
Here’s something else.
I find something vaguely off-putting about celebrating Darwin Day as a national holiday. We don’t celebrate Galileo Day or Isaac Newton Day or Antoine Lavoisier Day. Why Darwin Day? Just because it annoys the Christians? That shouldn’t be a good enough reason.
Do you have a Darwin day in Canada?
It’s not a formal public holiday like it is in England and Australia but there are small-scale events in every city.
I wasn’t aware of this.
If Britain, Australia, and Canada want to survive as societies, they need to get rid of Darwin Day. To have a national holiday in honor of a scientist whose main cultural achievement was that he made men feel it was possible to get rid of God, is an act of suicide.
Bill from Maryland writes:
You write: “Your effort here is to exculpate Darwin from the charge that his work fostered Nazi-like ideas.”
My purpose all along has been to demonstrate that Darwin did not harbor Nazi-like ideas, which appeared to be the message of the post that started this thread; I expressed no view on the political consequences of his theory. Your most recent quote from me is listed on VFR as my response to your own .”.the Darwinian theory of evolution logically and necessarily leads to such views as Spencerism, Social Darwinism, eugenics, H.G. Wells-ism, and Nazism,” but it was simply a comment on the Klinghoffer article.
You write: “But I’m not sure that your attempt is successful. Clearly there is a contradiction between Darwin’s general principles, which require the death or weeding out of the “unfit,” … “
These are not moral principles, but the result of simple reasoning applied to observation. Darwin in no way required the untimely death of a substantial fraction of each generation nor welcomed it, he simply saw it as inevitable, given that with every organism more (and very often, far more) offspring are produced than can survive.
The acknowledgment of the truth of this purely objective principle—superfecundity leading to the struggle for existence leading to the preservation of those most suited to their environment—does not oblige one to embrace it as a moral imperative for human society. One might without contradiction embrace the opposite, as Darwin clearly did, and practically everyone, evolution supporters included, does nowadays.
To boil the rise of Hitler down to the implementation of a Darwininian agenda is simplistic. It ignores, for example, the history of German anti-Semitism, the effect of the Treaty of Versailles and its aftermath, and the long-simmering antagonism between Kultur and Zivilization, which Weimar exacerbated, to name only a few factors.
Darwin was arguably better known and respected in England than in Germany (after all, they buried him in Westminster Abbey), but Britain never became Fascistic, or any more anti-Semitic than it had previously been as a result of his influence.
I never boiled Hitler down to the implementation of a Darwinian agenda. Do you think I would say something so simplistic?
It seems to me that the issue between us is this: did Darwin’s teachings play an important role in the development of Hitler’s ideology? And, further, did Darwin’s ideas inherently have Nazi-like implications? Not that everyone who believed in Darwin had to become a Nazi, but that Darwin’s ideas logically supported such a tendency?
Mark A. writes:
You wrote: “Darwinian evolution is premised on Malthusian levels of mass death, leaving only the ‘most fit.’ Darwin is the father of these schools of thought. How liberals reconcile Darwinism and liberal egalitarianism, I still haven’t figured out.”
I don’t think liberals need to reconcile Darwinism and liberal egalitarianism. The number of human beings who really believe in liberal egalitarianism could possibly congregate at a phone booth on 52nd Street. Humans beings are status seekers. Liberals don’t believe blacks are equal to whites. Liberals believe blacks are superior to whites. With the exception, of course, of white liberals who are superior to all. Who was H.L. Mencken looking to put down when he was reporting on the Scopes-Monkey trial? He could care less about putting down Negroes. He despised most the Anglo church-going hill-billy from West Virginia, just as a good liberal of his day would have.
Liberals, especially minorities, don’t need to refute Darwinism because they believe they are superior to the white man. There are black preachers in every city who believe that civilization began in Africa and that science, literature, and engineering all came out of Africa before the white man stole it from them. The Asians believe this too. Go ask them. “China was a great empire before the Anglo-Saxon came along with his opium, etc…”
Thus, Obama and Co. will shamelessly tax the productive to death. They truly believe that they are superior despite all evidence to the contrary. They believe they are the “most fit.” Darwin doesn’t present a problem to them at all. If they find any of his language offensive, they will merely redefine Darwin’s beliefs to suit their needs: minorities and white liberals are superior. That’s what Darwin meant! Never expect intellectual honesty from the Left!
Clever, interesting comment
We have to figure out if this is a sustainable explanation of liberals.
It does fit, however, with my tri-partite model of liberal society. (In this discussion, see my comment starting at: “What this points to is the articulation of the white population into two distinct groups.”)
As far as I can tell, Hitler concocted his own half-assed version of Darwin’s ideas (imputing wishes and agency to a being called “Nature”, that apparently wanted the “best” to survive and the “worst” to perish) and mingled it in with his anti-Semitism and Aryan supremacy theory. Most people are, shall we say, somewhat compromised in their understanding of evolution, but that’s not Darwin’s fault. I note that, despite the repeated charge of a connection between Darwin and Hitler, nothing Hitler wrote or said is quoted in its defense.
Embracing the fact of organic evolution does not commit you to adopting it as a principle for human existence. A sharp distinction between civilization and the state of nature was made long before Darwin. To adopt it as a general principle you must, unless you are pathologically obtuse, recognize that the result of so doing will be the eradication or sterilization of the “unfit”, however defined, or something equally oppressive and immoral. Thus, you must a priori be prepared to accept this outcome. Therefore, you must a priori be prepared, as Darwin put it, to accept “an overwhelming present evil”, and to face “deterioration in the noblest part of our nature”, or not have such a part in the first place. Therefore, the construction of a Darwinian social order proceeds from a pre-existing disposition to evil; it does not and cannot generate that evil, though it may, in common with other absolutist beliefs, empower it and give it purpose.
First, when you use a phrase like “pathologically obtuse,” which seems to be directed at me, you seem to be giving way to an anger which does not bode well for the future of this conversation. We’re having a reasonable discussion, let’s keep it that way.
I think you are missing the point that the distinction between nature and civilization that you believe is so firm and reliable is the very thing that is broken down by Darwinian thinking itself. How can you not see that the Darwinian view of man as an animal, as a machine controlled by past genetic mutations selected for their power to produce more offspring, radically degrades the very notion of a distinction between nature and civilization? How can you not see that the Darwinian view eliminates (or at the very least renders extremely questionable) the idea of morality that you are appealing to in your defense of Darwin from the charge that his ideas empower anti-human ideologies? It seems to me that you, like so many (e.g., like the theo-Darwinians, who think they can have God AND Darwin), want it both ways: you want Darwin’s radically reductionist and materialist view of man, AND you want civilization with all its higher values. I am saying that to the extent people consistently follow and apply the Darwinian view, those higher things get broken down. Look around you at our society. Look at our “pop culture” Look at television. Look at TV advertising. We don’t have to talk about Nazism as a symptom of Darwinian thinking. We can just talk about the radically degraded view of human beings that has become the accepted and unresisted norm in the liberal West. That, too comes from the reduction of man to an animal or a material machine, a view that is largely the work of Darwinism.
Not at all. I imagined myself confronting someone (not you) who supported applying Darwinian principles to society, and was pointing out the consequences. A subset of those so disposed—skinheads, neo-Nazis—are the pathologically obtuse I was referring to. I was using the “you” form rather than the “one” form (ie “..one must, unless one is pathologically obtuse,..”)
Just thought I’d clear that up.
Joel LeFevre writes:
This was posted by John Lofton, cited as written by C.S. Lewis at the end of a letter to Dorothy Sayers, March 4, 1954.
Lead us, Evolution, lead us
Up the future’s endless stair:
Chop us, change us, prod us, weed us.
For stagnation is despair:
Groping, guessing, yet progressing,
Lead us nobody knows where.
Wrong or justice in the present,
Joy or sorrow, what are they
While there’s always jam to-morrow,
While we tread the onward way?
Never knowing where we’re going,
We can never go astray.
To whatever variation
Our posterity may turn
Hairy, squashy, or crustacean,
Bulbous-eyed or square of stern,
Tusked or toothless, mild or ruthless,
Towards that unknown god we yearn.
Ask not if it’s god or devil,
Brethren, lest your words imply
Static norms of good and evil
(As in Plato) throned on high;
Such scholastic, inelastic,
Abstract yardsticks we deny.
Far too long have sages vainly
Glossed great Nature’s simple text;
He who runs can read it plainly,
Goodness = what comes next.
By evolving, Life is solving
All the questions we perplexed.
On then! Value means survival-
Value. If our progeny
Spreads and spawns and licks each rival,
That will prove its deity
(Far from pleasant, by our present
Standards, though it well may be).
Ben W. writes:
Bill says that Hitler misconstrued Darwin and applied idiotic interpretations to Darwin. So what? That’s simply evolution in action! What difference does it make whether one correctly interprets Darwin or not? Under the umbrella of evolution, everything is evolving, good and bad interpretations notwithstanding. Hitler was simply a chain in the link of evolution.
In any case how can there be a bad interpretation of Darwin under evolution? That would assume an objective world “outside” of evolution with which to measure evolution and its interpretations. From within evolution one can’t stand aside and judge it.
Hitler’s view of Darwinian evolution is just as valid as Gould’s or Dawkins’ (though Dawkins thinks Gould is a heretic).
Yes. In order to justify the fact that human beings including themselves have mental lives and speak language, supporters of Darwinism must concoct, on top of all their other Darwinian scenarioes, a scenario by which animal consciousness, then human consciousness, then abstract thought and moral valuation and love of the true and the beautiful, all came into being by random genetic mutations in non-conscious matter. As I wrote yesterday in the thread at Secular Right:
My argument goes … to the inherent impossibility of intentional consciousness and love of truth appearing by accident in a material universe that radically lacks intention and consciousness.
In reply to which, Daniel Dare wrote:
To put it very simply, if you have a universe consisting of nothing but billiard balls moving about, there is no conceivable arrangement of billiard balls by which intention and consciousness can come into being.
Well, I don’t believe in the billiard ball model of matter. Physics hasn’t believed in that for over a century now.
To which I replied:
We believe in Quantum Field Theory. And one of the most popular interpretations of that, is that the cosmos consists of an infinite number of constantly branching universes.
Daniel,To which Daniel Dare replied:
With respect, are you not embarrassed to mock at the idea of God, and then turn around and, as the alternative to the primitive, backward idea of God as the explanation of existence, propose multiple universes as the explanation? What happened to the materialist scientist’s lodestar, parsimony? Which is more plausible: God, or multiple universes? Is there not some pang of intellectual conscience telling you that if atheists have to bend themselves into pretzels to maintain the atheist view of the universe, something is wrong with it, as with the epicycles and hemicycles that were needed to maintain the Ptolemaic solar system?
The answer is Lawrence, that I am most reluctant to accept the MWI. For precisely the reason of parsimony that you imagine. And I know that many other physics-minded people are in the same boat.
To which I replied:
The probem is that people are coming up with serious tests of the theory(
One recent example). And I have to tell you, much as I hate it. If those tests start to seriously pan out then we are stuck with it, whether we like it or not.
I don’t know where this is going to end Lawrence, this cosmos is unimaginably deep and 21st century physics is becoming seriously weird.
Will it resolve at some point into something prosaic? Don’t know. Stay tuned for the next exciting installment.
Daniel, I repeat, given that physics has no answers to these questions in its present state, given that material science, in order to maintain some plausible material explanation of the universe, is being required to bend itself into something “seriously weird,” as you put it, isn’t it incumbent on you, as a man of science, to be more modest about the claims of science, and to stop expressing the contempt and hatred for people who believe in God that has been repeatedly expressed by you and others in this thread?
Alan Roebuck also had an comment yesterday on why Darwinism cannot explain how consciousness arose. His key statement was:
But when it comes to the first appearance of consciousness, the Darwinian mechanism cannot, even in principle, be a possible mechanism. A physical mechanism cannot, even in principle, account for something non-physical.
To which Daniel Dare replied:
I categorically do not accept that consciousness is non-physical. I think you have a seriously limited and sterile notion of “physical”. The physical is much deeper than you imagine.
To which I replied:
To such absurd lengths are the materialists required to go to maintain their reductive materialistic view of the universe. No one can see your consciousness by any physical means. No scientific instrument can locate your consciousness. Its existence cannot be discerned materially. You alone know your own consciousness—directly, through your consciousness itself. Consciousness—YOUR consciousness—is a non-physical fact. Yes, science can identify electrical impulses moving through the neurons in the brain, it can see the amazingly rapid changes in the chemical balance in the neurons as they transmit the electrical impulses. But science has never seen a thought. A thought—“I exist”—is by its very nature non-physical.
When materialists in order to maintain materialism have to go so far as to deny the self-evidently non-material nature of their own consciousness and their own thoughts, that is a clear sign of a belief system that is on the ropes, like the Ptolemaic system in the time of Copernicus.
Here are three more comments posted by me at Secular Right:
Daniel Dare wrote:
“Well, I don’t believe in the billiard ball model of matter. Physics hasn’t believed in that for over a century now. We believe in Quantum Field Theory.”
Quantum field theory doesn’t get us any closer to the evolution of consciousness out of non-conscious matter than does a universe consisting of nothing but billiard balls.
Without wanting to be tendentious, I would add that what quantum field theory does do is point to the limits of matter as an explanation of the universe. At the margins of the material universe, it is evidently the product of something non-material. The Big Bang demonstrates that the material universe came out of something that is not itself. It’s remarkable how materialists continue to deny the undeniable evidence that points beyond materiality.
To continue: It’s as though the scientists had said, “This notion in the Book of Genesis that a transcendent God created the universe is sheerest superstition that only a mentally backward person could believe. The truth is that only the material is real. There is nothing outside materiality and that which can be registered by the instruments of physical science. We will only believe in the possibility of a God if science provides evidence for it.”
But then these same scientists through their instruments began to realize that the universe is expanding, and found increasingly strong evidence that it began expanding from a single point in space about 15 billion years ago. Virtually all scientists today accept the Big Bang. Science has thus inadvertently discovered the strongest possible scientific indication that the physical universe came into being from some reality outside the physical universe, exactly as the Book of Genesis says. But do the scientists acknowledge the obvious and inescapable implication of their own discovery of the Big Bang? No. It turns out that they are not following the evidence where it leads, but are locked up inside their dogma of scientism, which says that only the material can exist. Not only do the materialists refuse to admit the implications of the Big Bang, but, like Harvard liberals demonizing Lawrence Summers for merely suggesting that there may be differences between the math abilities of men and women, they speak in terms of hatred and contempt about anyone who even suggests that there might be something beyond matter.
Bill of MD is correct, but only superficially correct, when he says that Darwinism has nothing to say about how the universe began or about how the laws of physics began or about how life began, and therefore that Ben Stein is wrong to attribute the lack of knowledge in these areas to a failure of Darwinism.
But Bill is only superficially correct, and Ben Stein is only superficially incorrect. Why do I say this? Because the core of Darwinism, as all honest Darwinists well know, is that it banishes any non-material or designing Intelligence from the universe. That is why they instantly attack as a “creationist” anyone who questions Darwinism, even if the questioner has said nothing about God. For the Darwinians, and certainly for the atheist Darwinians who post at this website, the choice is stark: it’s either Darwin or God. Therefore any fundamental failure of material science to explain how the universe began, or how the laws of physics began, or how life began, reflects directly back on the fundamental premise of Darwinism itself, that there is no reality outside the material forces of nature. Since Darwinism on one side and a non-material Guiding Intelligence on the other are mutually incompatible, any failure of material science to explain the universe, or any evidence of material science pointing to a reality beyond matter, is a failure of Darwinism. And, in that sense, Stein’s comment was correct.
Also, Bill of MD writes:
“An algorithm is a non-physical entity, but it can be implemented and executed in an entirely physical computer. Computers can be programmed to generate their own algorithms using an process analogous to evolution”
But Bill, how could you miss the point that a human mind had to design that computer and its programming?
Here is another comment I’ve posted at Secular Right:
I must say that I detect a certain opening here to a more reasonable discussion of these questions, based on the fact that several proponents of the material view are admitting that there are, at the least, very large unanswered questions about the nature and origin of the universe, the origin of life, the origin of consciousness, and so on. Given that science has not answered these fundamental questions, and, for all we know, may never do so, and given that the supposition of a non-material intelligent creator is a reasonable and understandable response to these vast unanswered questions, my hope is that the proponents of materialism and Darwinism will drop their extreme dogmatism and their Dawkins-like hatred of anyone who questions Darwinism and materialism.
That is really all I want. I do not have a problem with atheists. I have a problem with atheists who are on a war against religion and religious believers.
Leonard D. writes:
Terry Morris is right. Progressives are not utterly blind; they just have blind spots. They certainly know that almost everyone in the past had reprehensible views on race, sex, culture, colonialism, etc. Nonetheless, because man is a blank slate, “society” is what determined these people’s views. Thus, they were ignorant, but not necessarily to blame. Unless, of course, they were on the right, in which case, they are/were reprehensible.
Posted by Lawrence Auster at February 14, 2009 01:36 AM | Send
This is an example of the unprincipled exception. Everyone in 1850 was really, really racist. (“Really” is meant to be by comparison to modernity, where at least all white people are still “racist,” of course, but in completely unfalsifiable ways.) But we do not have to accuse any specific person of racism (unless he was not progressive, of course, in which case he can burn in historical hell).
But the principle of “no enemies on the left” is what holds here. To progressives, Darwin is (still) a useful club, to hold against traditional Christians like you. As such, he cannot be lightly abandoned.
If Darwin were transported here into his future, progressives would make any and all excuses necessary for him, so long as he abjured and “clarified” his earlier assertions based on Our New Scientific Understanding. Darwin was a great thinker, but he was very concerned about the good opinions of society. That is why he delayed 20 years in publishing Origins; in the end he was forced into it only by his greater desire for scientific glory. (And he managed to get the credit, whereas Wallace did not, although in part by his own later mistakes.) I expect after Darwin had a look at things, he would get with the program. It is hard to be a high-profile “racist” in modern society, as I am sure you know.