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(Permalink) Posted: April 08 2003,23:41   

[note, the thread title is wrong as Glenn points out, it should be "Wiker".  I am officially dumb.]

Just came across this:

Does Science Point to God?
The Intelligent Design Revolution
By Benjamin D. Wiker
Crisis Magazine

Crisis link

DI link

Edited by niiicholas on April 17 2003,02:13


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Joined: May 2002

(Permalink) Posted: April 08 2003,23:54   

Here's a great little tidbit:


ID theory affirms the universe to be 15 billion years old (more or less) and endorses the generally accepted account of the wonderful unfolding of stellar and planetary evolution, but it makes clear that it is the original and inherent fine-tuning that allows the unfolding to occur. ID proponents look at the wonderful and wonderfully strange history of life the same way. They do not deny many of the marvelous things that Darwinism has uncovered, and so an ID account of biology would include much of what Darwinists have discovered. What they question, however, is the Darwinian assertion that such things are explicable solely as the result of purposeless, unguided mechanisms. Just as stellar (and hence planetary) evolution requires finely tuned parameters written into nature in order to bring about all the necessary material conditions for life, so also biological evolution will require finely tuned parameters written into nature. ID critics overlook the obvious. Since biological evolution depends on stellar evolution—where else would all the necessary chemical elements to make those incredibly complex molecules come from?—the necessity of fine-tuning for biological evolution has already been proven. Even now, Darwinism cannot claim to be designer-free.

But ID proponents suspect that the necessity for biological fine-tuning is more immediately and intimately necessary for evolution, and that means an investigation of the mechanism proposed by Darwin to eliminate design completely from biology. If the elimination of design in biology was wrongheaded, then the mechanism by which Darwin tried to exclude it must somehow be faulty or incomplete. To that mechanism we must now turn.

A classic example of:

The fact that the laws of the universe are perfect for life is evidence for a Designer. The fact that the laws of the universe can't produce life is evidence for a Designer.

(from The Quixotic Message


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(Permalink) Posted: April 09 2003,00:01   


The Design Revolution in Biology

To understand the design revolution as it applies to biology, we need to step back a bit from the heat and dust currently being generated by ID/anti-ID arguments about evolution and look more closely at evolutionary theory itself. Contrary to popular belief, the notion of evolution was not discovered by Charles Darwin. As I argue in Moral Darwinism, evolution is an inference from a larger theoretical framework, a particular kind of materialism, the historical roots of which can be traced all the way back to the ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus (d. 270 b.c.). In fact, about 50 years before the birth of Christ, the Roman Epicurean Lucretius provided the first extended evolutionary account in the fifth book of his philosophic poem, De Rerum Natura (On the Nature of Things). All who think Darwin discovered evolution are amazed when they read it.

The poem is online here: is not the kind of thing however one can absorb in a speed-read so I refrain judgement.

Anyone know of any informed commentary on Lucretius' poem?  Ah here's one.  So far this seems to support Whitaker's contention:


De Rerum Natura, Lucretius' great poem interpreting and extolling Epicurean thought, comprises six books in all. Each book is ordered into self-contained sections, designed to develop and drive home a major set of ideas. The first book begins with a joyous (and presumably metaphorical) hymn to Venus, and then presents an introduction to atomic theory. The universe is explained as consisting of an infinite number of atoms, small, indivisible, eternal particles, moving in a space infinite in extent, and periodically uniting into compounds. The second book explains Epicurean ethics and the infamous "atomic swerve". (This is widely considered to represent the chief weakness of Epicurean thought. In an attempt to rescue a sovereign human will from the determinism of Democritus, he postulated the strange notion of uncaused swerves in streams of atoms.) The third book returns to the more lasting insights of Epicurus. It covers the structure and essentially mortal and material nature of the soul, and the reasons why the premise of mind-body dualism is untenable. The fourth book discusses the Epicurean theory of perception and the role of sex in human behavior. The fifth provides an overview of the origin of the cosmos, of life, and of the development of civilization -- all within an evolutionary frame of reference. The sixth book offers a eulogy to Epicurus and to Athenian civilization in general, and ends with a dark story of calamitous happenings and forebodings about the future.

Edited by niiicholas on April 09 2003,00:14


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(Permalink) Posted: April 09 2003,00:09   

More is on the way in the future:


Now What? Now Where?

I have spent quite a few words trying to show that the ID movement is both larger than its well-publicized and strongly criticized attempts to question Darwinism and also that it is justified in publicly and strongly criticizing Darwinism. I believe that this analysis allows us to see the merit of the work done so far by ID proponents Michael Behe and William Dembski. Behe’s wonderful arguments about the irreducible complexity of biological structures (Darwin’s Black Box) show clearly that biological fine-tuning is a real problem for Darwinism precisely because of the discovery of the unfathomable complexity of even the smallest biological structures. Dembski (most recently, No Free Lunch) has declared war, so to speak, on the kind of irrational reliance on chance all too characteristic of Darwinism and seen all too clearly in Dawkins. Such reliance, we recall, is rooted in the desire to eliminate the design inference in biology, and Dembski’s arguments are essential to removing such irrational obstacles.

Where is the ID revolution headed? Time will tell. But it’s a young movement, after all. As with all scientific and philosophical revolutions—so also with ID—one is not able to predict what this mode of scientific inquiry will discover.

Of course, I have not answered all questions one might have about ID theory. Exactly how is it related to theology? To philosophy? To morality? Happily, the kind editors of this fine magazine have given me the opportunity to answer those questions in a future issue.

Benjamin D. Wiker is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute and the author of Moral Darwinism: How We Became Hedonists. He is a lecturer in theology and science at Franciscan University of Steubenville.


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(Permalink) Posted: April 09 2003,08:28   

The fact he thinks so highly of the Anthropic Principle speaks volumes.  


Those who know the truth are not equal to those who love it-- Confucius


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(Permalink) Posted: April 09 2003,08:39   

I have spent quite a few words trying to show that the ID movement is both larger than its well-publicized and strongly criticized attempts to question Darwinism and also that it is justified in publicly and strongly criticizing Darwinism. I believe that this analysis allows us to see the merit of the work done so far by ID proponents Michael Behe and William Dembski.

Greater and greater numbers of scientists are joining the ID movement, which is why we keep referring to the same three (or two) year after year.

It appears that the ID movement is little more than a mutual admiration society.



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(Permalink) Posted: April 15 2003,21:39   

I believe that the strong case for pure physical determinism makes all this bickering about "ID" moot. The "design" we see today is only the inevitable result of matter and energy working together, following phsical laws, to play out the original state of the universe. No matter what you think or believe, none of us have any say in the matter other than our own misplaced, anthropomorphic, Earth-centric prejudices.

Glenn Branch

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(Permalink) Posted: April 15 2003,23:32   

Wiker, not Whitaker. What the hey?

A review of Wiker's book Moral Darwinism by Richard Weikart, a fellow Fellow of the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture, appeared in Christianity Today's Books and Culture.

Also, a review of it by Van A. Harvey, Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies at Stanford University, will appear in RNCSE 23:1, which will go to the printer by the end of the week.  Now would be a good time to make sure that your subscription is current!


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(Permalink) Posted: June 11 2003,20:53   

Van Harvey's review is trenchant and confirms what I've been able to read of Wiker on the web.  

Some links:

The article from April/May:


Next installment is coming out in July I guess.

Archiving the letters as the URL looks non-permanent:
Science and Intelligent Design

In his piece, "Does Science Point to God? The Intelligent Design Revolution" (April 2003), the author, Benjamin D. Wiker, makes several common mistakes. The first and most critical is the assumption that Darwinism, taken to its extreme, calls into question the existence of a purposeful Creator. If we drop the simplistic idea that creation by "design" means something mechanistic has to be happening and allow instead for a broader control that does not rule out novelty, then the entire set of arguments given in his article become beside the point. After all, God can create any way He wants, and it's not our job to tell Him how He has to do it, but rather to find out precisely what He did. To me, mechanistic creation makes God in our image and likeness, which I read in Genesis is the opposite of what happened. (Frankly, such a view of life is also boring, and the Creator is probably anything but that.)

The other assumption here is the argument (currently very popular) from complexity. It goes something like this: "The structures we see, from DNA to the eye or similarly complex organs, are too complex for evolution to have built them up from less complex intermediate forms." This essentially boils down to, "Since we can't figure out how such complexity arose, then it must have taken God to make those things." And so we're back to an earlier paradigm of the "God of the Gaps," which says that whenever we can't figure out how something happened, we attribute it to God—pretty risky business.

Wiker allows for the universe to be unimaginably old and, having once been set in motion, to develop by physical laws in a controlled but stochastic manner. He then goes on to suggest that for biology to start, the Creator had to once again give creation a push. One wonders why one push wasn't enough for the Lord of the universe to achieve His purposes.

He cites the so-called Cambrian explosion as evidence that Darwinian ideas are incorrect, yet ignores Gould and Eldrige's suggested correction of punctuated equilibrium. Is he suggesting that, at the outset of the Cambrian, God had to step in to get the ball rolling? He also ignores the pre-Cambrian wealth of soft-bodied creatures (harder to fossilize). Did God have to get those started also? How many times does he think God had to step in? The answer seems to be every time that Wiker can't explain what or how something happened. This turns the almighty Creator into a tinkerer, who can get things going but has to help them out every now and then. This is pretty much the God of the Gaps warmed over.

Wiker's thesis is that those who think things got kicked off and have developed on their own have to be atheists. This is nonsense. To counter this idea, I recommend an excellent book by Kenneth Miller that deals with all this and more: Finding Darwin's God. It deals with all this stuff and shows how most of it is poor science or wishful thinking. In short, a loving, provident Creator could easily have made the universe we see without having to periodically inject Himself to fix things. As John Polkinghorne has written, we see a universe run by controlling laws but with the ability to generate endless novelty.

Wiker seems to be concerned that Darwinism will cause people not to believe in God. In my experience most people question God's existence because of evil in the world, which ID has a very hard time explaining but stochastic variation encompasses easily.

I agree with Wiker in one sense. Science has found nothing that rules out a Creator. Indeed, the anthropic principle is the embodiment of the comforting fact that all of creation is at least consistent with ID, if not proof of it. Finally, many of us think that the Creator most likely would not have left fingerprints in creation, else we'd be forced to acknowledge God's existence, which would in some sense violate free will and faith. For me, it's enough to know that nothing yet found by science contradicts God's existence, and actually science is showing us a creation quite comfortable with having been created by a loving, purposeful, but extremely clever God.

Charles Keller, Ph.D. Los Alamos, New Mexico

Benjamin Wiker's article, "Does Science Point to God? The Intelligent Design Revolution," dramatically overstates the case for the claims of Intelligent Design (ID).

If ID has had a significant impact on modern science, it is virtually undetectable. Its proponents typically do not publish claims about it in scientific journals, preferring to bypass the rigors of peer review for the safety of popular books published by right-wing and/or religious publishers. (Wiker's own book, Moral Darwinism, was published by the evangelical InterVarsity Press.) In 1997, George Gilchrist surveyed several hundred thousand scientific papers but "failed to discover a single instance of biological research using intelligent design theory to explain life's diversity." A similar study in 2001 by Barbara Forrest failed to turn up a single paper.

Wiker also fails to reveal that the arguments of both Behe and Dembski, supposedly the leading intellectuals of the ID movement, are fatally flawed. Brown biologist Kenneth Miller has completely dismantled Behe's claims about "irreducible complexity," and I addressed Dembski's bogus claims about "complex specified information" in a recent issue of BioSystems.

Wiker falsely claims that "ID theory affirms the universe to be 15 billion years old." On the contrary, leading intellectuals of the ID movement, such as Phillip Johnson, have repeatedly stressed that ID makes no predictions about the age of the universe. (This allows Johnson to garner support from fundamentalists who believe in an earth created at most 10,000 years ago.)

There are many other errors in Wiker's piece, but I will stop here. Suffice it to say that never before in the history of science has there been so much hoopla over so few results. ID is simply a vast propaganda exercise, funded by the Discovery Institute, and dedicated to replacing modern science with a flavor of Christian theology. It should be rejected by any thinking person, whether religious or not.

Jeffrey Shallit, Ph.D. University of Waterloo Waterloo, Ontario, Canada

Benjamin Wiker responds:

I thank Drs. Shallit and Keller both for taking the time to offer their various criticisms of my article. The worst thing that could happen to the Intelligent Design (ID) movement would be refusing to face the most trenchant criticisms of its presuppositions, arguments, and conclusions. Of course, I also believe that the worst thing that has already happened to evolutionary theory is that its proponents do not face the most trenchant criticisms of its presuppositions, arguments, and conclusions. ID, if nothing else, is the gadfly whose sting the evolutionists should welcome.

To begin with Dr. Shallit, he's half right in remarking that I dramatically overstated the case for ID. I was indeed dramatic, but lacking space, I was dramatically understating the case, hoping to spark interest in readers so that they'd read more extensively about ID. For my part, I assure Shallit that I'll make up for my deficiencies in my next two (yet-to-be-written) books.

It's simply false to say that ID has had no impact on modern science. As any historian of science well knows, if you leave out the impact of ID, modern science is historically unintelligible. If we survey the most prominent scientists from 1600 to 1800—those giants of modern science upon whose shoulders contemporary science stands—we find that, almost to a man, they believed that science was possible because the order of nature was intelligently designed. About the time of Darwin, that assumption changes, and not just because Darwin explicitly sought to eliminate design from biology. Darwinism was merely part of an overall shift to a secular culture, a shift that has its origins not in science as such but in the materialist assumptions that came to define science. Please see my book, Moral Darwinism, for more details.

Shallit can, with some truth, state that ID is not yet having an impact on contemporary science, but that's precisely because science is currently controlled by materialist assumptions—a sociological and historical fact, not a scientific one. That would help explain why no one dares make explicit mention of ID in the journals. The jury of peers in such peer-reviewed journals are stacked against it.

I believe that Gilchrist and Forrest would find overwhelming evidence that current biological research uses design if they had searched properly. Instead of searching merely the titles and abstracts for "intelligent design," they should try searching the actual texts for the number of times authors use the word "design." You will find, I assure you, that in those "several hundred thousand scientific papers," it is used several hundred thousand times at the very least. Why? Because working biologists spend almost all of their time investigating actual, functional living organisms, wherein they assume (as with all things designed) that the functional integrity of the organism is the touchstone against which all research into the biological minutiae of the parts must be scratched. The functional integrity is the design.

That's why even arch-Darwinian Richard Dawkins asserts that "biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose" (emphasis added). The functional complexity of the living thing is not at issue, otherwise it wouldn't appear to be designed. The fight occurs in regard to the cause of the design, not the fact of design. Darwinists assume it's the result of a series of accidents; ID proponents argue that it's the result of both intelligence and accident.

In this disagreement, we find two quite interesting things. First, ID proponents may allow for a great deal of chance, for it's the preexisting design, the functional integrity of the living thing, that permits chance to have a form, so that it can have an effect. By contrast, Darwinists are far more parsimonious, not allowing even a whisper of intelligence lest their entire edifice crumble. Second, as Michael Behe has found through equally extensive searches in scientific journals, when evolution is even addressed by practicing biologists—which is rare—it invariably takes the form of "unsupported attributions of a feature to evolution," or unverifiable just-so stories. Most biologists are concerned not with evolution but with the analysis and description of living organisms.

As for ID making no predictions about the age of the Earth, I think that is quite sane. The second-to-last I heard, scientists thought it to be 15 billion years old. Then, after I'd sent in my article, they informed us that it was only

13.7 billion years old. For myself, I now fear to make predictions even into next week. In any case, an effect can be known to be designed, even if we're not able to discern exactly when it was caused.

Finally, readers should judge for themselves whether Behe's and Dembski's arguments have been "dismantled." I suspect if readers take the time to examine the following replies by Behe, Dembski, and others, they'll find that the reports of the death of ID have been greatly exaggerated: M. J. Behe's "The Modern Intelligent Design Hypothesis: Breaking Rules" in God and Design: The Teleological Argument and Modern Science, ed. Neil Manson, 277-291; "Reply to My Critics: A Response to Reviews of Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution," Biology and Philosophy 16: 685-709; "Self-Organization and Irreducibly Complex Systems: A Reply to Shanks and Joplin," Philosophy of Science 67: 155-162. For William Dembski's replies to critics, go to

And now for Keller's letter. In one sense, Keller seems to have twice joined me in his own refutation. He ends by asserting that the anthropic principle is not only valid but "is at least consistent with intelligent design if not proof of it." Yet he begins by chiding me for allowing an ID foot in the biological door. Alas, he does not tell me why what is perfectly reasonable cosmologically is perfectly reprehensible biologically.

Or again, Keller warns me that "God can create any way He wants, and it's not our job to tell Him how He has to do it, but rather to find out precisely what He did." Then he goes on to inform me that God could only touch His creation, as it were, right at the beginning and would only be demonstrating His inferiority by touching it again. For Keller, God is not God unless He rules in absentia. Rather than rule how God must rule, I do believe Keller was right the first time. Let the evidence be our guide.

As for the rest, I have no problems with stochastic explanations— stochos in Greek means both an aim (i.e., as in shooting an arrow at a target) and a guess (and hence by derivation, taking a chance, or involving chance). To return to a point already made, ID allows for chance but makes the quite obvious claim that chance in order to have an effect, is always subordinate to design, or form. A chance is always a chance of something. The chance of rolling a six on a die is determined by the shape, or form, of the die. In biology, the preexisting functional integrity of the living thing makes possible any effect of natural selection—as is well known, pre-biological natural selection is a contradiction in terms. Therefore natural selection is subordinate to design.

Is ID a desperately disguised god-of-the-gaps? Indeed not. The criticisms coming from ID proponents arise from knowledge, not ignorance. For example, it is our knowledge of the prebiological conditions of the Earth that allows us to reject the possibility that amino acids could spontaneously form the first proteins; it is our knowledge of chemistry and the actual complexity of cells that allows us to reject the silly notion that the first proteins could have been formed on the surfaces of silicate clays; it is our knowledge of the general deleterious effect of mutations that allows us to reject the continual recourse to mutation miracles by Darwinists.

I look forward to hearing again from readers—and critics—when Part II appears in the July/August issue.

Other Wiker articles online:

Playing Games with Good & Evil: The failure of Darwinism to explain morality
Benjamin Wiker

Alot of egregious misunderstanding of game theory and a complete lack of mention of things like kin selection.  

This part I find especially priceless:


In contrast to Darwinism, the theory of natural law assumes that human beings are distinct from all other animals. As St. Thomas Aquinas argued in his Summa Theologiae, human beings alone among the animals have "a share of the Eternal Reason," since they are made in the image of God, and "this participation of the eternal law in the rational creature is called the natural law." Such reasoning assumes that human nature is permanently defined and that all human beings are of the same species, subject to the same moral dictates of the natural law. Thus, for example, "Do not murder["] is a moral command rooted in and defined by the nature of the human species.

Here, he explicitly notes that (in Christian natural law theory), morality is not a simple matter of "do what God says".  Such a simple morality does not explain why we have a moral sense, why we should follow it, why it lines up (presumably) with God's commandments, and why we should follow God's commandments in the first place.

With Aquinas and presumably Wiker, however, the moral sense is a fundamental part of human nature, in the same way that, say, language ability is fundamental.  We can no more rid ourselves of the moral sense than we could our language ability or our breathing ability, or our other fundamental drives such as hunger.  Since human nature is effectively universal (to humans), it applies to everyone.  This is pretty clear in the works of Bishop Joseph Butler.

The irony is that once this is established, you have a foundation for morality that is origins-independent.  Sure, this moral theory works fine if human nature is directly designed by God (as Wiker and presumably Aquinas would have it).  But it also works fine if that same human nature was arrived at by natural processes.

What Darwin was actually trying to do in chapter 4 of Descent of Man

(link: )

...was to argue that natural selection could arrive at such a human nature, and furthermore probably would in any species with a similar natural history, complex sociality, and language.


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(Permalink) Posted: June 11 2003,21:05   

Larry Arnhart points out the same thing I was trying to in my above post:


Darwin’s Morality
Benjamin Wiker’s attack on me (“Darwin and the Descent of Morality,” November 2001) contains many errors. I will point out only a few.

I have argued that a Darwinian science of the “moral sense” as rooted in human nature supports a conservative view of morality as derived from natural law. Thomas Aquinas indicates the biological basis of natural law when he endorses the claim of the Roman jurist Ulpian that “natural right (ius naturale) is that which nature has taught all animals.”

While I see this as a similarity between Darwin and Aquinas, Professor Wiker asserts that there is no similarity at all because “for Darwin, we don’t just share some aspects of our nature with animals. We are ultimately indistinguishable from other animals.” Prof. Wiker is wrong, because Darwin clearly states that although human beings share social instincts with other animals, the moral sense that combines social emotions and rational reflection is uniquely human. Indeed, Darwin declares, the moral sense is “the greatest of all distinctions” between human beings and lower animals. But like Aquinas, Darwin thinks this uniquely human morality is rooted in natural inclinations (such as sexual mating and parental care) shared with other animals. Contrary to what Prof. Wiker asserts, Darwin is not a reductionistic materialist who cannot see the moral distinctiveness of human beings.

To make Darwin look like a crude proponent of eugenics, Prof. Wiker selectively quotes Darwin’s remarks about how in civilized societies the weak are protected by compassionate practices so that they can survive, and “this must be highly injurious to the race of man.” Prof. Wiker does not quote, however, Darwin’s remark that such care for the weak manifests the “instinct of sympathy,” which is “the noblest part of our nature.”

Prof. Wiker claims that Steven Pinker and Richard Dawkins are closer to Darwin’s view of morality than I am. This is strange, because both Pinker and Dawkins explicitly reject Darwin’s explanation of morality as rooted in human nature. Both are ethical transcendentalists of a Kantian variety who assert that human morality shows the ability of human beings as rational creatures to transcend their nature. Both assert a radical dichotomy between natural facts and moral values. Only human beings, Dawkins believes, have the rational power to cultivate “pure, disinterested altruism,” which is “something that has no place in nature, something that has never existed before in the history of the world.” By contrast, I defend Darwin’s view of the moral sense as rooted in human nature.

I believe that Darwin’s ethical naturalism is fully compatible with a theistic view of nature as originally created by God. Prof. Wiker asserts, however, that any notion of God as Creator is incompatible with Darwinian evolution, but he does not explain why this must be so. Doesn’t the Bible teach us that God created the universe at the beginning with all of the natural formative powers necessary for developing into the world as we now see it? Doesn’t God use the secondary causes of the natural world to execute His original plan? Why couldn’t God use the natural secondary causes of evolutionary history to do this?

Is Prof. Wiker implying that God was unable or unwilling to create a fully gifted universe at the beginning that could unfold naturally without any gaps requiring miraculous interventions later? I see no evidence for this in the Bible, unless Wiker is a “young–earth” creationist who interprets the “six days” of Creation as a literal week of twenty–four–hour days. Like Augustine, I find such a literal reading of Genesis 1 to be absurd.

Larry Arnhart
Department of Political Science
Northern Illinois University
DeKalb, Illinois

Another good letter, and Wiker's reply, including some incredibly ignorant stuff about the races being "long isolated" and a complete failure to deal with Martin Luther's "The Jews and their Lies", which is quite surely tied to Luther's religious views, resulting in far more egregious faults than Darwin's victorian racism expressed in Descent of Man.

It is odd to encounter in First Things that vulgar rhetorical device—usual favorite of the left—of reviling a historical figure for his once–unexceptional views on race, sex, etc. It can hardly be surprising that Darwin was a racist, given the prevalent views of his contemporaries. To contextualize his racism is, of course, not to excuse it, but it is not impossible to separate his scientific ideas from his prejudices. Holding a contemporary Darwinist liable for Darwin’s racism makes about as much sense as asking a modern–day Protestant to answer for Martin Luther’s “The Jews and Their Lies.”

Charles Darwin’s books are not read as Holy Writ by any biologists I know of. One can appreciate his ingenious ideas of modification by descent and natural selection without agreeing with his misapplication of those ideas to humankind. In the passages that Benjamin Wiker quotes, in fact, it is obvious that Darwin is relying not on empirical observations—unless Professor Wiker agrees that there is some empirical basis for believing that the races differ in moral or intellectual capacity—but on the blind prejudice of his time. Rather than impugning the theory of evolution per se, these passages stand as a stark reminder to the scientist to confine his or her theorizing to matters empirical. When Prof. Wiker insists that despite their unpalatability, “Darwin’s [racist] conclusions were correctly drawn from his evolutionary principles,” he misses the point that without hard data, those principles exist in a vacuum.

Darwin is right, however, to observe that past societies have permitted behaviors that now seem shockingly immoral, such as infanticide. Is Prof. Wiker contending otherwise? Certainly a glance back at the twentieth century—to say nothing of September 11—confirms William Blake’s opinion that “Cruelty has a Human Heart / And Jealousy a Human Face.” Blake expresses a despair at the human condition that is not hard to square with the Christian idea that humans are mired in sin, unable to escape without the aid of their Redeemer. In this vein, I am stimulated by Edward T. Oakes’ writings in these pages (“Original Sin: A Disputation,” November 1998; “Wrestling with Original Sin,” February 1999) to wonder if there is an important if so far incompletely explored connection between the theory of evolution and the doctrine of original sin.

Charles Murtaugh
Research Fellow
Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology
Harvard University
Cambridge, Massachusetts

Benjamin Wiker replies:
Allow me first to say how pleased I am to have received such well–articulated responses to my article.

Larry Arnhart asserts that, for Darwin, “the moral sense that combines social emotions and rational reflection is uniquely human.” Darwin did indeed say that the “moral sense perhaps affords the best and highest distinction between man and the lower animals.” (All quotations from Darwin are from his Descent of Man.) As Professor Arnhart points out, Darwin argued that the “moral sense” of human beings is composed of two elements: “social emotions” and “rational reflection.” If the human moral sense is truly distinctive, then we should be able to see its distinctive character arise in its elements.

In regard to “rational reflection,” Darwin argued that “there is no fundamental difference between man and the higher mammals in their mental faculties.” Since the mental faculties, as all else, arise through natural selection, “the mental faculties of man and the lower animals do not differ in kind, although immensely in degree.”

This “immense difference in degree” might sound promising for Prof. Arnhart’s argument, but a closer inspection proves otherwise. The “gap” in mental faculties on the evolutionary spectrum is not caused by some sort of leap of natural selection from the ape to man; rather, Darwin asserts that the “breaks in the series are simply the result of many forms having become extinct.” And so, the difference in degree in regard to reason turns out to be merely the result of the intermediate species having become extinct. Therefore, human reason, as a distinctly evolved trait, is distinct only per accidens.

Even more distressing for Prof. Arnhart’s case is that Darwin did not consider reason, as developed in relation to moral sense, to be peculiarly human. For Darwin, “any animal whatever, endowed with well–marked social instincts, would inevitably acquire a moral sense or conscience, as soon as its intellectual powers had become as well developed, or nearly as well developed, as in man.”

But couldn’t Darwin have meant that any creature thus endowed would develop the same moral sense—say, that outlined by St. Thomas in his account of natural law? No. Darwin was quite clear: “I do not wish to maintain that any strictly social animal, if its intellectual faculties were to become as active and as highly developed as in man, would acquire exactly the same moral sense as ours.” It is at this point in the argument that Darwin illustrated his assertion by the hypothetical rational hive bees (quoted in full in my original article) who, according to their evolved moral sense, think it a “sacred duty” to commit fratricide and infanticide.

Nor, finally, is “sympathy” distinctively human, but develops in “all those [social] animals which aid and defend each other,” and “will have been increased, through natural selection.”

The social instincts, reason, the moral sense, and sympathy—none are distinctly human, nor does their evolution through natural selection result in a definite, non–changing morality, such as St. Thomas’ natural law.

Next, Prof. Arnhart faults me for quoting Darwin’s very frank eugenic language, but not quoting Darwin’s remarks that sympathy keeps us from destroying the weak, the sickly, and the deformed, even “if so urged by hard reason, without deterioration in the noblest part of our nature.” However noble Darwin’s sentiments here, there are (at least) the following difficulties with his invocation of sympathy.

First, it contradicts the essentially non–teleological nature of his more fundamental principle of natural selection. On evolutionary grounds, natural selection has no goals, and that includes no moral goals. Yet Darwin, in contradiction to his own principle, inserted one, and began waxing poetic about “an advancement in the standard of morality” through an extension of sympathy from the tribe to the nation, then “to the men of all nations and races,” and finally “to the lower animals.”

Second, since natural selection is the fundamental principle, on Darwinian grounds, if sympathy happens to develop by natural selection, and the expression of sympathy contradicts the better survival of the group, then so much the worse for sympathy. As the great nineteenth–century zoologist and avid Darwinian Ernst Haeckel asked, “What good does it do to humanity to maintain artificially and rear the thousands of cripples, deaf–mutes, idiots, etc. who are born every year with an hereditary burden of incurable disease?” Haeckel, reaffirming the “hard reason” of natural selection, declared quite frankly: “Sentiment should never be allowed to usurp the place of reason in these weighty ethical questions.” Haeckel’s conclusions are horrible, but in contrast to Darwin himself, they are consistent with the premises of Darwin’s account of the survival of the fittest, and that is why the eugenics movement flowed forth so swiftly after publication of the Origin.

Third, the embrace of sympathy as the moral principle is opposed to the natural law anyway. Sympathy is rooted in the capacities to feel pleasure or pain, and to recognize them in others. As Darwin points out, the capacities for pleasure, pain, and sympathy are not distinctly human. The difficulties? At least the following two.

In regard to human beings alone, sympathy is a loose cannon on a very large deck. The feeling of sympathy could just as easily bring someone to become an escort at an abortion clinic as it could bring someone to pray outside that same clinic; sympathy could just as surely lead someone to affirm homosexual marriages as to deny them; sympathy could just as quickly lead to the conclusions of the euthanasia movement as to the anti–euthanasia movement. Unlike the natural law, sympathy is morally protean.

Even worse, the elevation of sympathy and its extension to animals means that other animals must be weighed in the moral balance with human beings. As Peter Singer rightly reasons (on Darwinian grounds), the adult gorilla’s capacity to suffer and to empathize are greater than that of a newborn human, and therefore the adult gorilla morally trumps the human newborn.

As for Pinker and Dawkins, all attempts by “ethical transcendentalism” to escape the inevitable results of natural selection determining morality should tell us quite clearly that “natural facts” as defined by Darwinism do in fact lead to pernicious moral results. Why else would Pinker and Dawkins feel compelled to emigrate from the natural world—the world of Darwinian natural selection—to some alleged noumenal, transcendental world and plant the flag of morality there?

Finally, I am not a young–earth creationist, and I do believe that God uses secondary causes—but just not secondary causes as defined by Darwinian materialism.

Charles Murtaugh asserts that I used a “vulgar rhetorical device” to tar Darwin with racism. Certainly the question at issue is whether Darwin’s racism was intrinsic to his arguments or extrinsic. If intrinsic, then Darwin was rightly tarred; if extrinsic, I treated him unfairly.

To give an example of an extrinsic relation, suppose I had written an article on Dmitri Mendeleev, who discovered the logical arrangement of chemistry’s Periodic Table of Elements, and my article was chock full of Mendeleev’s racial slurs, all of which were taken from his private letters and none of which had anything to do with the structure of the Periodic Table. Then we might conclude both that Mendeleev’s racism might be an expression of “once–unexceptional views” and that such racism had nothing to do with his scientific theories.

The case of Darwin is clearly different. The racism is intrinsic to his account of natural selection, and that is why it arises in his application of natural selection to human races in the Descent of Man. Since, according to Darwin, the races themselves have arisen through natural selection, and further, since both intelligence and moral capacity are variable heritable traits, then (Darwin rightly concludes) different races will have different intellectual and moral capacities. If I were a Darwinist, I could not think otherwise, however unpalatable for current tastes.

But I am not a Darwinist, and I don’t believe that the races were caused by natural selection. Indeed, I believe that the presence of equivalent intelligence and moral capacities spread equally among all the races is a proof against Darwinism and for natural law, for natural selection could never have spread such capacities so uniformly. Thus, I am not a racist, because I am not a Darwinist. If a Darwinist is not a racist, then he will have to come up with a very good reason for the remarkable convergence of human intelligence and moral capacity among races so long isolated and evolving.


Posts: 319
Joined: May 2002

(Permalink) Posted: June 11 2003,21:12   

Strangely, the "humans are animals" contention didn't seem to bother Wiker a few years ago...


Don’t Wear That Mini to Mass
By Benjamin D. Wiker

As I have not received nearly enough hate mail of late, I thought it best to write something else on modesty, this time modesty at Mass (see my first article, "Drawing a Hemline: Sexual Modesty and the Pursuit of Wisdom," July/August 2000). I realize, of course, how delicate this subject is, but I also know that I am not the only one disturbed by immodesty. I am certain that more than a few priests grind their teeth every week in anticipation of having to minister to the inadequately dressed.  

First, we had better be clear about what is meant by immodesty. Immodesty is—and here I hope to quash any gainsaying—the opposite of modesty. Modesty is a sub-virtue of temperance, the virtue concerned with "desires for the greatest pleasures," as St. Thomas Aquinas said. We are animals, Aquinas noted, and as animals we have a natural desire to preserve ourselves as individuals "by means of meat and drink," and as a species "by the union of the sexes." Simply put, like all animals, we naturally desire food and sex—not in the raw, contemporary sense of uncontrollable appetites that must be sated at all costs, but in the ancient, sane sense of desiring to preserve ourselves by nutrition and our species by procreation. Modesty is concerned not with the sexual act itself, but with the public presentation of our sexual nature.


Posts: 319
Joined: May 2002

(Permalink) Posted: June 11 2003,21:54   

DI list of articles by Wiker:

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