Friday, July 22, 2011

Stories-- even silly ones-- have implications in the affairs of men.

Commentor bachfiend has raised some important issues.

I had written a post attributing the disintegration of the black family in American to liberal social policies. bachfiend replied (in part):

...Being able to tell stories, putting together series of events together in sequence, allows us to make sense of situations without actually understanding them...

I replied:


Isn't that what Darwin's theory does?
:
bachfiend:

It certainly does, if your comprehension of evolutionary biology is still stuck with Darwin's 1859 theory of natural selection. You're just making a straw man argument.
The modern synthesis is an elaboration on Darwin's basic idea of RM + NS as an explanation for adaptations. If you're willing to admit that the ground of modern evolutionary theory is story-telling, I'd certainly agree.

bachfiend:

Your naive belief in intelligent design is equally silly. ID is just a story too, one for which there isn't the shred of any evidence.
ID posits that intelligent agency is potentially discernable in biology. So does Darwinism, although Darwinists go through contortions to deny it. ID and Darwinism are merely two opposite answers to the same question: is there intelligent design in biology? Both are stories, in the sense that they are post-hoc inferences about fundamental causes.

There is nothing wrong with stories as historical science, as long as wildly inappropriate claims are not made for their value to science. The claim that 'nothing in biology makes sense except in light of evolution' is not true, just as 'nothing in biology makes sense except in light of intelligent design' isn't true either. Most biologists do their work just fine without meaningful explicit inference to either hypothesis. Many of the fundamental questions about teleology in biology are philosophical questions more than practical scientific question.

We could discuss the evidence (logical and empirical) for and against intelligent design, but the wild assertions of evolutionary biologists that Darwinism is 'proven' or that biology cannot progress without the materialistic implications of Darwinism are nuts.


In a previous thread, you'd argued that morality had been implanted into all humans by God, and was therefore proof of God's existence,
Morality isn't "proof" of God's existence. God isn't one thing among others whose existence can be probed empirically. God isn't a scientific hypothesis. He is a Person, and his existence can be experienced.

Theologians have demonstrated (e.g. Aquinas' Five Ways) that the Prime Mover/First Cause etc can be logically deduced. The connection between logical demonstrations of that sort and the triune God of the New Testament is a matter of revelation and personal encounter with Him.

My argument against evolutionary psychology's explanations for morality is (in part) that denial of God's existence pretty much excludes the objective existence of moral law. Your argument is, then, that murder isn't really wrong, in any objective way. It is merely maladaptive, and thereby we perceive it as 'wrong'.

My goal is to make you state clearly the logical implications of your theory, and people can judge for themselves whether the theory makes sense.

The theory that murder/rape/theft aren't objectively wrong, but merely maladaptive, is a view that most people find implausible.

And your evolutionary theory of morality poses enormous problems for the criminal justice system. You can justify punishment for willful disobediance of objective moral law. But how can you justify punishment for (errant) evolutionary adaptation?

And if you claim that punishment is really control of maladapted humans, rather than punishment of a person with free will who violates an objective moral law, your view gets even uglier, because you reduce people who commit crimes to the level of defective animals, who need to be 'controlled' and 'conditioned', rather than dealt with as persons with transcendent value and responsibilities.

Darwinism is a universal acid. Do you really want that acid in our criminal justice system and in our Bill of Rights?
 ...deriding my claim that evolutionary psychology's theory that morality is naturally selected for in human social groups as being just a 'story'.
Stories are fine, as long as one understands their limitations (and strengths). I believe that the story that God created us to be moral is a quite plausible story. I believe that the story that morality is a subjective evolutionary adaptation is a stupid story.

I try to get you to explain it in detail, and own up to its logical implications, so people can see just how stupid it is.

Divinely implanted morality is just as much a story, and one that isn't particularly plausible, because it isn't particularly well embedded in most people.
The moral law is deeply imbedded in virtually all people. Even murderers usually make up a moral justification for their act-- 'he had it coming', 'she resisted me', 'I was mistreated by my father', etc.

Moral law is so deeply imbedded in man that the failure to recognize it, even on rare occassions, is a diagnosable illness-- psychopathic personality disorder. The moral law is so pervasive that failure to experience it is a disease.

Of course, none of us obey it without exception, but we all feel its weight, especially when we don't obey it.


Michael Jones, in his book 'Leningrad', detailing the 872 day siege of Leningrad during WWII, gives lots of cases where the atheist Russians acted with extreme morality and empathy, and the theistic Germans acted with extreme inhuman brutality.
Of course many atheists acted, and act today, with extreme morality and empathy. While atheism provides no ground for objective morality whatsoever, most atheists are basically moral people. Morality is written in our hearts, and integrity and decency are not the domain of any one faith. We act (often) in accordance with moral law because we are human, and that is how we are created.

Christianity provides an explanation for our morality (and our immorality), and provides us with some very Personal help when we try to be moral.

I'm not entering into arguments whether Hitler was a Catholic or not.
Hitler was baptised as an infant (probably), and he used religious rhetoric as a politician. There is no evidence that he practiced Catholicism. His marriage to Eva Braun on the last day of his life was performed in a small civil ceremony without religious references. His last will and testament make no reference to religious beliefs, and he asked to be cremated, which at the time was not permitted in the Catholic church.

Hitler obviously was not in any meaningful way a Christian.

I concede that if he had won the war, then almost certainly no religion besides National Socialism and worship of Hitler would be allowed.

I agree.


But all his generals and his troops were believing Christians. The troops had chaplains in the front lines for pastoral duties.


You don't know the beliefs of "all his generals and troops". What a stupid thing to say. There were some believers, some not. Germany was a country with a long Christian heritage, so it would not be surprising if many Germans continued to practice Christianity during the war.

National Socialism was not a particularly religious ideology, except perhaps in a pagan sense-- worship of blood and soil . Not a lot of "love thine enemies" and "the meek shall inherit the earth" in Nazism.

But the Germans had as their policy to destroy Leningrad and its population by siege and starvation. Artillery units had as their targets marked on maps such military targets as schools and hospitals.
[National] Socialists can be a nasty bunch.


Evolutionary psychology has no problems explaining how Hitler managed to manipulate the German people to behave with such inhuman brutality in Russia.
Evolutionary psychology has no problem explaining anything. That's the problem.

Through years of propaganda and indoctrination, the German people were taught to regard the Soviets as being outside the group of humans, not deserving of humane or moral treatment.

A Darwinian understanding of human origins-- that humans were mere evolved animals-- runs through much of Nazi anthropology.

Stories-- even silly ones-- have implications in the affairs of men.

6 comments:

  1. Mike.
    I read fascinating e-book on this subject a while back: 'Hitler's Ethic: The Nazi Pursuit of Evolutionary Progress' by a Richard Weikart. Very interesting if somewhat horrific read. In fact it was so well written that it is number five or six on my 'paper list' (list of actual paper books to order for my library). If you have not had a chance to take it in, I would highly recommend. Ditto for Pepe and Matteo.

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  2. crusadeRes,

    Thank you. I'll look for it. Weikart is a superb historian and has a very deep understanding of the Nazi-Darwinian connection.

    Another interesting insight that I read a while back (I forget the reference) was a comment by William Jennings Bryan, who was Wilson's secretary of state during the early years of WW1 and testified in the Scopes monkey trial.

    Bryan was a devout Christian, and one of his reasons for opposing the teaching of Darwinism in schools was that he had seen quite a few Darwinian references from Germans at the beginning of WW1. He attributed the German inference to 'survival of the fittest' to Darwin.

    He would of course be vindicated in WW2, when the Nazi's explicitly used Darwin's theory as a justification for the expermination of 'inferior races'

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  3. I'll add the book to my list.

    bachfiend said:

    ID is just a story too, one for which there isn't the shred of any evidence.

    Which is, itself, an assertion for which there isn't a shred of any evidence. One making this claim is either ignorant, stupid, insane or wicked (but I'd rather not consider that).

    One can disagree with ID arguments (but I have yet to read anybody who does who also shows the slightest familiarity with the genuine article), but to say there is not a shred of evidence in their favor is just hysterical atheist agitprop.

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  4. I wonder if Darwin and his foollowers were inspired by Perrault, since they have a gift for coming up with fairy tales.

    Beside Once upon a time, their favourite words are could, might, perhaps, maybe, imagine, possibly, surmise and evolve!

    They think they can live happily ever after with their hallucinations.

    What a sorry bunch...

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  5. Michael,

    Since you have a habit of taking my comments and turning them into a thread, here are some more:

    The Sun rises in the East.
    Night follows day.
    Objects attract by gravitational attraction.

    See how you can distort these?

    I conceded that Hitler wasn't a true Catholic. There's no record that he ever attended Mass in Vienna. There's no evidence he ever sought Absolution for his crimes, and if he did, he still would be in Confession today.

    My point was that the ordinary German soldiers and generals who so happily went along with the atrocities in Russia were believing Christians, without the slightest protest.

    It's not true that in Hitler's dictatorship, it was impossible to opt out of committing atrocities on order. Members of the Sonderkommandos which were responsible for shooting hundreds of thousands of Jews and communists occasionally asked to be excused from taking part in the atrocities, and there's no record of any of them suffering any ill consequences.

    One of the few groups of German Jews to survive the war were spouses of non-Jewish Germans (Viktor Klemperer was an example), because the spouses publicly protested, and the Nazis backed down.

    The point is, for divinely implanted morality, it was remarkably poorly embedded. Actually, I think that it's odd that a neurosurgeon should think that morality is embedded in the heart ...

    Morality is objective, because there's no society that's going to prosper if murder, theft, lying, etc are tolerated without penalty, often very harshly.

    Bryan was prosecuting counsel in the Scopes trial. He also testified because Darrow managed to successfully challenge to testify on his biblical knowledge.

    Putting National in parantheses is dishonest. Hitler wasn't particularly socialist, the socialism was an electoral ploy, and the Nazis who believed in it were quickly eliminated, but he was strongly nationalistic.

    And if I don't understand ID it's because there's no one coherent theory. It ranges from Michael Behe, who seems to believe in some sort of theistic evolution, with occasional assistance from God such as making malarial parasites resistant to chloroquine so it can kill more humans, to Paul Nelson, a young earth creationist, who happily took part in producing 'Darwin's Dilemma', in part an ID video about the Cambrian radiation 540 million years ago.

    Give me a break and reread what you've written.

    Religion also has no problem in explaining anything, and is quite happy to change its opinions as society evolves. The Southern Babtist churches before the Civil War were quite happy to use the Bible to justify slavery.

    Michael, where do you get your morality? I hope you don't get it from the Old Testament. There aren't too many Christians who follow the precepts of turning the other cheek and loving one's enemies. The only public figure I can remember following these precepts was the Hindhu Ghandi, with his non-violent opposition to British rule in India.

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