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stevestory



Posts: 10127
Joined: Oct. 2005

(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 10 2006,13:03   

Many people in the science community see conservatives as fools. Just a bunch of Inhofes and Davetards and Pat Robertsons. But this is not true of all conservatives. There are several intellectual conservatives, among them John Derbyshire, who has a little previous history with Panda's Thumb. Well, I was getting a little shadenfreude kick over at National Review's blog The Corner, when I came across this excellent post which touchest on creationism:


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Wes vs. Derb  [John Derbyshire]
NRO friend and occasional contributor Wesley J. Smith paid me the compliment of taking up one of my God points on the First Things web site.  Rebecca Bynum over at New English Review pointed this out to me, and I sent her a rather rambling response, which (with my permission) she posted on the NER blog. I thought I might as well box the compass & post a brief response to Wesley here on The Corner, since I know some readers like this sort of thing.  (Some others hate it—but there, you can't please everyone.)  Also because I can't find any way to respond on the First Things site.  If they have a blog or comments section, I couldn't locate it.

Wesley tackles me on "human exceptionalism," the idea that we are distinct from the rest of brute creation by having been chosen and gifted by a supernatural being.  He doesn't offer anything that I would call evidence for this, though.  He just says it's so.  The nearest he gets to offering evidence is:  "Understanding that there is such a thing as evil action proves we are special in the known universe."  I take this to mean that (1) we are special by virtue of having a moral sense, and (2) this specialness proves that we are special in the particular way Wesley says we are—chosen and gifted by God.

I don't accept either proposition.  Even if you assume that our moral sense makes us unique, I don't see how the supernatural element follows.  All sorts of creatures are unique in all sorts of ways.  The pangolin has its teeth inside its stomach—how's that for unique!  The elephant has that unique trunk, etc., etc.  That we are special by virtue of possessing a moral sense does not prove that we are specially special in Wesley's sense.  We may be; but he hasn't proved it.

And in fact our moral sense does not look all that special to me.  Higher animals exhibit rudimentary moral sense—they care for their young, co-operate in social groups, and so on.  If you want to tell me that animals sometimes kill their young, and their social interactions sometimes end in lethal fights—well, ditto in both cases for humans.  Where's the specialness?  And the moral sense of humans can by no means be depended on.  All too often "man is wolf to man."  Where is the specialness?

Wesley does not really tackle the main point.  Everything we know tells us that mankind developed by small gradations from earlier forms.  With modern genomics we can even set approximate dates for the various changes.  At which point in this everlasting series of changes were we kissed by God?  Or:  How would we go about seeking an answer to that question?  And if, at some point in the series, God did indeed say:  "This is my favorite creature, this one I will bless with special gifts"—if that actually happened, why might not it un-happen?  If God can bestow His favor at some point in our phylogenetic development, why might He not withdraw it at some further point, for His own mysterious purposes?  How do we know this hasn't already happened?  How, in fact, do you detect this specialness—this having been favored by God?  What would be the difference between a human being, or the human race, thus favored, and one not thus favored?  How would I tell which was which?

My main point about biology in my original piece was just that up until about 150 years ago practically everyone believed what Wesley believes—that we are a uniquely blessed and gifted creature.  All the big religions of the world are built around that notion.  It is now clear that we are not, after all, special in the way we thought.  And that weakens faith.  That's all.  As I said in my piece, the creationists are perfectly correct to hate and fear modern biology.  Probably all religious people should hate and fear it.  If its discoveries pass the very strict evidentiary tests required by science, though, then to reject it is just obscurantist.      
Posted at 11:46 AM


http://corner.nationalreview.com/post....DJkNDg=

   
The Ghost of Paley



Posts: 1703
Joined: Oct. 2005

(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 10 2006,14:40   

Funny that you bring this up, cause Lawrence Auster has been tearing Derby a new one on this issue:

   
Quote
Thus he says he believes in some kind of mysterious (non-Christian) divine being—but he regards as an idiot anyone who doubts the neo-Darwinian view of life, he has withering contempt for advocates of Intelligent Design, and he thankfully states that the most formative experience of his intellectual life has been his participation at Steve Sailer’s Biodiversity e-mail list, a collection of mostly stone-cold materialist atheists and religion-haters. (I know whereof I speak; I was a member of the list back in 2001 and fought many battles there, alone against a room full of atheists.) It never occurs to Derbyshire that if he stopped calling himself a conservative or at least absented himself from the supposed seat of the conservative movement (where readers are—gasp!—looking for conservatism, not Derbyshirism), conservatives would stop being offended at his continuing demonstrations of his non-conservatism, and stop being annoyed that he is weakening conservatism from within. No. Derbyshire is a modern guy; he wants it all. He wants to spend his life hanging out at a conservative online magazine while gassing on about his non-conservatism, and have no one criticize him for this.


Just getting started, he brought out the real ammo:

   
Quote
Looking at a passage in John Derbyshire’s profession of non-religion at National Review Online, a reader comments:

William Jennings Bryan is right again! Darwinian evolution eventually cancels out belief in God!

Here’s what Derbyshire wrote:

I can report that the Creationists are absolutely correct to hate and fear modern biology. Learning this stuff works against your faith. To take a single point at random: The idea that we are made in God’s image implies we are a finished product. We are not, though. It is now indisputable that natural selection has been going on not just through human prehistory, but through recorded history too, and is still going on today, and will go on into the future, presumably to speciation, either natural or artificial. So which human being was made in God’s image: the one of 100,000 years ago? 10,000 years ago? 1,000 years ago? The one of today? The species that will descend from us? All of those future post-human species, or just some of them? And so on. The genomes are all different. They are not the same creature. And if they are all made in God’s image somehow, then presumably so are all the other species, and there’s nothing special about us at all.

Why does Derbyshire stop at denying that man is made in the image of God? He might just as well have said: "There are lots of different people in the world, and they're all different from each other, so how can there be such a thing as 'man'"? The point is, if you see only the material, then there is no such thing as God, there is no such thing as man, there is no such thing as objective good and bad, and ultimately there is no such thing as language itself, because all these things exist in a dimension beyond matter and what can be seen with the material senses.


So there. :)

Actually, conservatives need to address this subject. We are polarised on this topic, and sweeping it under the carpet to appease creationists isn't going to fly much longer. Any healthy philosophy should welcome truth.

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Dey can't 'andle my riddim.

  
stevestory



Posts: 10127
Joined: Oct. 2005

(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 10 2006,14:54   

Does Lawrence Auster have anything intelligent to say, or just the sort of stuff you quoted?

   
The Ghost of Paley



Posts: 1703
Joined: Oct. 2005

(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 10 2006,15:09   

Quote
Does Lawrence Auster have anything intelligent to say, or just the sort of stuff you quoted?


Not really. I think Auster views Darwinism as a dangerous idea that no "true" conservative should accept, because it corrodes man's connection to tradition, morality, and God. He's recommended Francis Hitching's The Neck of the Giraffe, which implies a very weak grasp of the subject. Nevertheless, he plays his emotional cards very well, and like it or not, if conservatives are swayed by the false dilemma of Darwinism vs. All That is Good, most will choose the latter. Auster's no Straussian though.

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Dey can't 'andle my riddim.

  
mcc



Posts: 110
Joined: July 2006

(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 11 2006,21:42   

Wow. That Auster piece is really just... funny.

 
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He might just as well have said: "There are lots of different people in the world, and they're all different from each other, so how can there be such a thing as 'man'"?


I guess you could make an argument like that, since "man" is a human-invented category and thus ultimately subjective rather than objective. It would mostly just be semantics though. We can avoid such problems by defining "man" in careful biological terms, for example in terms something like the set of those biological entities whose genes are close enough to that of any other human that their gametes can recombine, etc. That might not be a good definition since it might exclude people with trisomies or whatever but it's probably an okay place to start.

 
Quote
The point is, if you see only the material, then there is no such thing as God, there is no such thing as man, there is no such thing as objective good and bad, and ultimately there is no such thing as language itself, because all these things exist in a dimension beyond matter and what can be seen with the material senses.


Huh. I was under the impression language existed here.

  
Arden Chatfield



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Joined: Jan. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 12 2006,12:02   

Quote
The point is, if you see only the material, then there is no such thing as God, there is no such thing as man, there is no such thing as objective good and bad, and ultimately there is no such thing as language itself, because all these things exist in a dimension beyond matter and what can be seen with the material senses.


Uh oh. I can only assume that this means that if we all persist in being church-burnin' Ebola boys, that eventually we'll lose the ability to talk or recognize speech... YIKES!

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"Rich is just mad because he thought all titties had fur on them until last week when a shorn transvestite ruined his childhood dreams by jumping out of a spider man cake and man boobing him in the face lips." - Erasmus

  
The Ghost of Paley



Posts: 1703
Joined: Oct. 2005

(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 12 2006,16:24   

Auster's attempt at Reductio ad absurdum isn't the best example out there, but his main point is pretty solid: science, being predicated on methodological naturalism, is often used to support metaphysical naturalism, and this is even more true for branches of science that deal with the origin and evolution of life. This conflation harms people because it delegitimises the intangible cultural and moral values holding society together. I don't believe all of this, but many people do assume that because science is the best strategy in its domain it should be the null strategy in all domains, including the realm of moral guidance. People then  replace one religion with another while rejecting the accumulated wisdom of societal selection. That’s why utopian ideas almost always fail –- they haven’t “proven” themselves over time like most traditional ideas have. The Law of Unintended Consequences ensues.

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Dey can't 'andle my riddim.

  
Arden Chatfield



Posts: 6657
Joined: Jan. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 12 2006,22:40   

Quote (The Ghost of Paley @ Nov. 12 2006,16:24)
Auster's attempt at Reductio ad absurdum isn't the best example out there, but his main point is pretty solid: science, being predicated on methodological naturalism, is often used to support metaphysical naturalism, and this is even more true for branches of science that deal with the origin and evolution of life. This conflation harms people because it delegitimises the intangible cultural and moral values holding society together. I don't believe all of this, but many people do assume that because science is the best strategy in its domain it should be the null strategy in all domains, including the realm of moral guidance. People then  replace one religion with another while rejecting the accumulated wisdom of societal selection. That’s why utopian ideas almost always fail –- they haven’t “proven” themselves over time like most traditional ideas have. The Law of Unintended Consequences ensues.

So is that why secularism makes language disappear?  :O

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"Rich is just mad because he thought all titties had fur on them until last week when a shorn transvestite ruined his childhood dreams by jumping out of a spider man cake and man boobing him in the face lips." - Erasmus

  
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