In a previous post a commentor attacked design on moral grounds using this example: “Would you conclude that the designer was sadistic for creating insects that kill one another in the mating process?”
Of course, at one level this attack has been answered again and again. In this blog’s “arguments that have been defeated over and over” section we say:
This [argument] is really odd as it is basically a religious argument being made against Intelligent Design. The proponent of this argument is making a faith based assertion that God is perfect and hence incapable of bad design. ID makes no claim that the source of complexity is a perfect God incapable of imperfection [or, in the commenter’s example, sadism].
Nevertheless, this discussion put me in mind of the following passage from Chesterton’s Orthodoxy:
But nature does not say that cats are more valuable than mice; nature makes no remark on the subject. She does not even say that the cat is enviable or the mouse pitiable. We think the cat superior because we have (or most of us have) a particular philosophy to the effect that life is better than death. But if the mouse were a German pessimist mouse, he might not think that the cat had beaten him at all. He might think he had beaten the cat by getting to the grave first. Or he might feel that he had actually inflicted frightful punishment on the cat by keeping him alive. Just as a microbe might feel proud of spreading a pestilence, so the pessimistic mouse might exult to think that he was renewing in the cat the torture of conscious existence.
I have always found the idea of a “Schopenhauer mouse” very amusing, but Chesterton’s larger point is germane to our discussion. The materialist really has no ground on which to say life is better than death (or sadism is better than charity) other than pure sentiment. Moreover, it is truly ironic for a materialist to attack a scientific project in terms of a morality they must assert has no objective basis.