Intelligent Design

Will Darwinists just grow up about social Darwinism or not? Maybe not …

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Recently, at the Post-Darwinist, I have received many posts from Darwinists who protested my mentioning the fact that the recent school shooting in Finland was driven by social Darwinism. Some of them have resolved never to read my blog again as a result.

(Be still, my heart! Be still! How can you be sure they will keep their promise?) Anyway, I wrote,

This tragedy has provoked an enormous outburst of protest from Darwinists on account of my noting that the shooter’s motive was social Darwinism. On the rare occasions when a shooter’s motive has been anti-abortion advocacy ( Rudolph) or fundamentalist madness ( Yates), I have NEVER been excoriated by an anti-abortionist or fundamentalist for openly discussing that fact. Indeed, these types of cases were openly discussed among Christian journalists at a number of gatherings in which I participated over the last decade, with conspicuously little defensiveness. We had long accepted that some forms of anti-abortion advocacy and fundamentalism are toxic.

So this storm of comments has been a real eye-opener for me (and I probably rejected more than I accepted, so readers never saw all the somniferous posturing I did). The storm suggests that – despite claims – Darwinists have never dealt with the legacy of social Darwinism in an emotionally healthy enough way to just put it all behind them. Now that may be because the actual worldview of Darwinism necessitates social Darwinism. Or it may be because no one has said, “let’s just do it.” Or someone has said that, but the troops didn’t get it. It’s not really my problem though.

More here.

Also, at the Hack,

Do recent studies of out of body experiences show that there is no soul?

Should evangelicals be worried about the “Spiritual Brain” book?

College no longer best place to lose your faith?

Religious freedom: Not a mere luxury, says political theorist

Theories of brain evolution: Evolving brain or revolving door

Theocracy, theocracy, a theme for thee but not for me!

Sure, I love praise from people I respect. Who doesn’t?

26 Replies to “Will Darwinists just grow up about social Darwinism or not? Maybe not …

  1. 1
    Larry Fafarman says:

    IMO the problem is that some people try to use Social Darwinism as an argument against Darwinism. To me, Social Darwinism is no more an argument against Darwinism than nuclear bombs are an argument against nuclear physics.

  2. 2
    tribune7 says:

    Social Darwinism is no more an argument against Darwinism than nuclear bombs are an argument against nuclear physics.

    Larry, nuclear bombs proved nuclear physics. Has Social Darwinism proved Darwinism? 🙂

  3. 3
    specs says:

    Some of the people, Denyse, that have taken you (and Barry) to task, both here and at your blog, have identified themselves as Christians. Should that not have given you at least a moment’s pause that there are some tactics that just have no place in the war on materialism?

  4. 4
    getawitness says:

    Denyse,

    I’m one of those specs mentioned above, and I’d like an answer. And I must point out that when you say “the recent school shooting in Finland was driven by social Darwinism,” you are going beyond even BarryA’s attempt to milk a point out of this tragedy.

  5. 5
    nullasalus says:

    I disagree with the idea that any person who is an atheist, or who accepts darwinism (I probably qualify in that respect, at least to a point) will naturally think nothing of running out and killing people.

    OTOH, I don’t think that was nearly the point Denyse was making. It actually seems like a rather tame illustration – Dawkins does it all the time, arguing how if religious belief is accepted, then you’re laying the groundwork for a suicide bomber or other variety of murderer. He uses 9/11 and suicide bombings to criticize not just extremist religion, but all religion, period – and asserts that ‘religious moderates’ give aid and comfort to the enemy. The only reason this is not shocking and controversial is because it’s been essentially repeated time and again in the past few years by the usual suspects.

    In Finland, we have a shooter whose rantings were connected to a ‘survival of the fittest’ worldview. No, his actions are not representative of ‘darwinists’. No, his actions are not the necessary result of ‘darwinism’. But when the modern claim is that religion inevitably leads to violence (and therefore we must eradicate it), what’s the problem with pointing out the violence a darwinist view can lead to?

    And honestly – if this shooter was found to have made sectarian references prior to his killing (Perhaps some comments about the sin in the world, and how he will do God’s work by punishing the wicked and becoming a martyr), is there any doubt that Dawkins, Harris and the rest would be out screaming “See what kind of poison religion unleashes on us?”

  6. 6
    specs says:

    And honestly – if this shooter was found to have made sectarian references prior to his killing (Perhaps some comments about the sin in the world, and how he will do God’s work by punishing the wicked and becoming a martyr), is there any doubt that Dawkins, Harris and the rest would be out screaming “See what kind of poison religion unleashes on us?”

    As a child, when punishing me for punching my sister, my parents never bought the “she started it” defense. I wouldn’t think that, as adults, we would have any better luck with that.

    Besides, shouldn’t we aspire to more thoughtful discourse instead of just aping their approach?

  7. 7
    tribune7 says:

    But when the modern claim is that religion inevitably leads to violence (and therefore we must eradicate it), what’s the problem with pointing out the violence a darwinist view can lead to?

    Fair point, nullasalus.

  8. 8
    tribune7 says:

    Specs — As a child, when punishing me for punching my sister, my parents never bought the “she started it” defense. I wouldn’t think that, as adults, we would have any better luck with that.

    There is a reason why the fellow shot those people. Shouldn’t we consider why? Shouldn’t we be allowed to take his own words into account?

  9. 9
    nullasalus says:

    And what did I say that was unthoughtful? I identified myself as likely being able to be cast as a darwinist personally (Obviously I have differences of opinion, but I’m closer to Ken Miller than Michael Behe, much as I admire his politeness), stressed that darwinism does not inevitably lead to murder, and that darwinists are not killers-in-waiting.

    I did, and do, point out that the oversimplification which leads Dawkins & company to illustrate religion as a murder machine, then the social parallels in darwinist thought can’t be cried away. It’s one more reason to not view these events in such a simplistic light, joining an army of other good defenses of religion and belief in general.

    The idea that ‘thoughtful discourse’ entails avoiding harsh topics altogether because someone may cry foul is ludicrous. This topic isn’t as simple as ‘is it wrong for specs to punch his sister?’

  10. 10
    specs says:

    There is a reason why the fellow shot those people. Shouldn’t we consider why? Shouldn’t we be allowed to take his own words into account?

    Are you willing to do so consistently? In my opinion, the answer is few are willing to do just that. Everyone is quick to dismiss the stated religious motives of Andrea Yates and Eric Rudolph and write their actions off as the product of a diseased mind and unreflective of the stated theology. Yet those same people are more than willing to extrapolate the fruits of an equally diseased mind into a broader socio-political point when the words “social Darwinism” is used. I am merely saying you can’t have your cake and eat it too.

    Now, Denyse responds that she was never taken to task for her discussions of Yates and Rudolph by other Christians like she is by the “Darwinists” on this subject. To that point I would say fair enough, Denyse, were it not for the issue that an admittedly cursory review (and followup Google searches) of your several blogs reveals no such public writings about either of those notorious characters.

    When it comes down to it, I am not sure I really need Denyse to discourse on Rudolph and/or Yates, which is just as well as she has so far refused to take the bait. I really am trying to address is the willingness to take some people’s words at face value when it makes your point for you, while discounting the prima facie comments of criminals who would be, in the absence of their crimes, your fellow Christian.

  11. 11
    Carl Sachs says:

    Depends on what you mean by “reason,” right?

    If one wants to explain what happened, then one might want to look at what he said but interpret it as a symptom.

    That’s different from interpreting what he said as a justification of his actions, right?

    Of course he might have believed that his actions were justified in light of atheism, or Darwinism, or whatever, but simply believing that one’s actions were justified doesn’t actually make them justified.

    Again and again on this blog, I hear theists say, “atheists can’t account for the objectivity of logic or of morality.” Well, maybe — though I happen to think that atheism can. But surely, regardless of whether atheism can or cannot accommodate objectivity, theism can and does — which means that theists are committed to recognizing that logical relations do not depend on personal beliefs about those relations.

    Therefore, a theist should recognize that whether or not Darwinism licenses atheism, or whether or not atheism licenses mass murder — those relations of warrant, justification, etc. — don’t depend on what the killers themselves happen or happened to believe.

    Tangentially: if I really thought that atheism couldn’t account for the objectivity of logic or of morality, I wouldn’t be an atheist — I’d rather reject atheism than let go of objectivity.

  12. 12
    Bugsy says:

    If you follow this logic to its extreme, there is not a single religion, system of thought, or scientific belief which is not “immoral”. At least one person has killed in the name of any given thing, and if you want to accuse Darwinism of causing this you have to make a case for that.

    A serious, real case, not just mudslinging.

  13. 13
    tribune7 says:

    Are you willing to do so consistently?

    Sure.

    In my opinion, the answer is few are willing to do just that. Everyone is quick to dismiss the stated religious motives of Andrea Yates and Eric Rudolph and write their actions off as the product of a diseased mind and unreflective of the stated theology.

    I don’t think anybody claims that Andrea Yates had a “religious motive” for killing her children. The criticism of religion w/re to Mrs. Yates involved discouraging her to get treatment for her psychosis, encouraging behavior that aggravated her psychosis etc.

    And the criticism is probably warranted. There are people who are preaching that really shouldn’t be.

    W/re to Rudolph, I don’t think there is any argument that his religious views were the motivation for his murders, although I haven’t seen much concerning the details, i.e. What specific religious view caused Rudolph to kill? Does his religious views allow for murder? Does he consider himself a murderer? Why or why not?

    And I would welcome such a discussion.

  14. 14
    tribune7 says:

    I went back and looked up the Yates case. It looks like she did have a religious motive, and yes it certainly is a subject worthy of discussion.

  15. 15
    russ says:

    Off topic: For fun, you can find out the reading level of this and other blogs at: http://www.criticsrant.com/bb/reading_level.aspx

    This blog is “high school”
    Pandas Thumb is “post grad”
    Evolutionnews.org is “genius”
    Denyse’s blog is “college”

  16. 16
    jerry says:

    “I’d rather reject atheism than let go of objectivity.”

    I never saw an atheist who was objective. They must fudge something or resort to make believe to justify their position.

    Isn’t an objective atheist an oxymoron?

  17. 17
    Carl Sachs says:

    In re: (16). Weren’t we trying to tone down the level of unnecessary inflammatory rhetoric?

    Snarkiness aside — of course everything here depends on what one takes “objectivity” (not to mention “atheism”) to mean. The question that I’m interested in is whether one can develop a “deflationary” understanding of objectivity.

    Allow me to illustrate with a story. George Bernard Shaw was once asked if he believed in infant baptism. He allegedly responded with, “believe in it? Madam, I have seen it done!”

    What Shaw’s lady-friend wants to know, of course, is not whether he has observed infants getting baptized, but whether he accepts that such activities are all that they’re cracked up to be by those who engage in them and take them seriously.

    Shaw doesn’t deny that infants are sometimes sprinkled with water and some words spoken over them; he rejects the understanding that traditionally, typically, accompanies (explains, justifies) that practice.

    There’s a difference at work here, and I think it comes down to this: are we necessarily locked into the platonic/christian/kantian understanding of the objectivity of logic, morality, science, etc. — or is there available, actually or potentially, a different understanding of the concept of objectivity? Such a different understanding might seem “deflated” in contrast with the full-blown transcendence offered by Plato, Paul, Augustine, or Aquinas — but is that a strike against it? I, for one, don’t see how it is.

    For what it’s worth — and it may be worth a lot, a little, or nothing at all — the version of atheism that I’m personally defending — “Sachist atheism,” if one insists, and I hope you don’t — does not hold either that (i) atheism is more realistic or more rational than theism or, conversely, (ii) that theists are somehow ‘deluded.’

    I’m the sort of atheist who thinks that The Dawkins Delusion? is in many respects a better book than The God Delusion. (As well as the sort of Darwinist who thinks that Brian Goodwin is right, and Richard Dawkins is wrong, on a lot of things.)

  18. 18
    Bob O'H says:

    There is a reason why the fellow shot those people. Shouldn’t we consider why?

    Yes. And there are people here in Finland who are doing just that. I don’t doubt that they’ll do a much better job, because they have better access to the information, and also the skills to be able to do it.

    Why not let them get on with the job, and not use this incident to push our own pet theories?

    Shouldn’t we be allowed to take his own words into account?

    Yes, and actually that is being done. But, as has already been pointed out, the appeals to Darwinism could be symptoms and justifications, rather than causes. IMO, The actual causes are probably not Auvinen having thought through life carefully and objectively and coming to the conclusion that a killing spree is the only rational solution (it doesn’t do much for your lifetime reproductive success).

    Bob

  19. 19
    Jehu says:

    Looks like Pol Pot and his lovely genocide are back in the news.

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/200.....rouge_dc_3

    Let’s not forget other attempts at an atheist paradise. 1.8 million murdered under Pol Pot.

  20. 20
    StephenA says:

    “Tangentially: if I really thought that atheism couldn’t account for the objectivity of logic or of morality, I wouldn’t be an atheist — I’d rather reject atheism than let go of objectivity.”

    Very good of you. (irony not intended) Since this is the case, would you mind answering the questions I asked in the Colombine thread, that you never got around to.

    To refresh your memory:
    If “the objectivity of morality is found in human social relations, practices, and institutions”, how can these things progress? If society is what objectifies morality, it cannot progress, since there is no goal, nor can it obtain new knowledge about what is moral, since ther is no moral knowledge outside of it. And, by the way, what makes you say that ending slavery was progress, rather than a step backwards?

  21. 21
    StephenA says:

    Just to clarify – I am not trying to argue that an objective morality would not be subject to change. I am arguing that the objective foundation of morality cannot ‘progress’ or ‘improve’ since these are moral judgments. What could you possibly use to judge the morality of a change in what things are moral?

  22. 22
    kairosfocus says:

    Steve[s?], Carl, Bob and co:

    Now that the UD blog has probed into the phil underpinnings issues and other surrounding issues relative to the design inference, we have a cluster of cross-thread issues to deal with, including objectivity. (BTW, IMHCO, this has helped the blog.)

    Pardon a few notes:

    1] Truth, warrant, objectivity:

    I rather like Aristotle’s definition of truth: that which says of what is, that it is; and of what is not, that it is not. This is independent of who says it, or why or on what basis.

    We may extend: absolute truth is “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth,” on the material points on a matter.

    In this context, the natural issue that comes up, is: how do you KNOW that X is true?

    Thus, we arrive at warrant, so that knowledge can usefully be viewed as well-warranted, credibly true belief (typically expressed in statements). (I bring in Plantinga’s terminology because of the Gettier counter-example issue on the classical, justified, true belief; I am also bringing in the distinction between knowledge in the ideal sense and what we in praxis view as knowledge, i.e I am open to the possibility of error in knowledge in the practical sense of the term, which I am defining above. I also of course connect knowledge to underpinning worldviews considered as grand explanations, and the associated questions of factual adequacy, coherence and elegant simplicity.)

    Warrant of course comes in degrees appropriate to the subject matter, and is not the same as that which is infallible — we must be open to correction of error. But, well-warranted claims are generally reliable and trustworthy — we live by them all the time. We have no other choice — think about how many things you are currently taking for granted as true, for excellent reason; starting with the reality of the computer sitting in front of you as you read this. [Onlookers, cf my discussion here on these matters].

    In this context, objective truth is tantamount to: well warranted truth-claims. And, warrant is not necessarily a matter of inter-subjective consensus or “proof”: we can know our interior lives, and we can know credibly and reliably well beyond what we can prove, personally or collectively.

    That which is objectively true is that for which there is good reason to accept that it is true — regardless of our [un]willingness to accept that good reason.

    With this in hand, let us see on:

    2] CS, 17: are we necessarily locked into the platonic/ christian/ kantian understanding of the objectivity of logic, morality, science, etc. — or is there available, actually or potentially, a different understanding of the concept of objectivity?

    Namely? Specifically?

    I take it that the classical view is more or less as I roughly summed up above?

    Now, notice, that it addresses that error exists . Following Josiah Royce [courtesy Elton Trueblood] we can see that the claim: “error exists” is undeniably true — to try to deny it implies an instance of error, i.e one affirms it even in trying to deny it.

    So, well-warranted truth exists, as we have instantiated a case; albeit a rather humbling one. We have excellent reason to infer that truth exists, and that in some cases we can confidently [as opposed to absolutely] know it, though in the very same act of reasoning, we see that we can make mistakes about it.

    If by objectivity, you mean either [a] consensus among whatever circle of the supposedly well-informed, or [b] a sufficient degree of coherence across claims [what you seemed to be saying in previous threads], I think this is at best only partial.

    Circular arguments are very coherent, but lack warrant, and the consensus of whatever circle or institution or community or civilisation is notoriously subject to error and correction, or even to deceptive manipulation.

    3] CS, 11: he [the Finnish murderer] might have believed that his actions were justified in light of atheism, or Darwinism, or whatever, but simply believing that one’s actions were justified doesn’t actually make them justified.

    That is perception or even argument or even experience are in many cases not adequate for warrant, and warrant in turn, in the general case, is not infallible. Ya gotta believe, but ya gotta have reasonable faith, and good reasons in that “reasonable part. Tall order.

    But more on the point as has been amply discussed in many threads e.g. the Aug 20 Darwin thread, Darwinism is the keystone in the arch of evolutionary materialism, and this worldview undermines mind and morality as a central function of the deciding mind. (Onlookers, cf my intro level summary here.)

    In particular, such evo mat evidently enthrones or — unless constrained from outside the system — invites inference to the destructive principle that might makes “right.”

    That is, so far as I and many others can see it naturally tends to undermine fairness and respect, the foundation for so valuing the other that one responds justly, respectfully, kindly, caringly, lovingly. (Cf here, Watson’s recent declaration on Africans, etc etc.)

    4] Again and again on this blog, I hear theists say, “atheists can’t account for the objectivity of logic or of morality.” Well, maybe — though I happen to think that atheism can.

    As the just linked shows, we have particular reasons for that, as say Lewis, Plantinga and Reppert inter alia have argued. Namely, evo mat has serious difficulty getting to the reliability of the reasoning mind, thus also to the credibility of the notion that we make real as opposed to illusory decisions. Without real decisions, morality is impossible. And, evo mat appears to be inescapably self-referentially incoherent.

    Kindly show us how we have gone wrong in so concluding, if we have gone wrong.

    5] theists are committed to recognizing that logical relations do not depend on personal beliefs about those relations.

    Correct, so far as it goes. That is, logical relations are part of the story of warrant, and our ability to reason is God-given, and applies generally and to morality in particular.

    6] if I really thought that atheism couldn’t account for the objectivity of logic or of morality, I wouldn’t be an atheist — I’d rather reject atheism than let go of objectivity.

    Good for you.

    Now, too, pardon a “dumb” request: could you kindly give us an outline at least of the relevant accounting-for, and of why you consider that it gives us good reasons to reject the concerns we have expressed on the evident incoherence of evo mat thought and on its failure to ground morality as a function of that?

    Also, of how it escapes the might makes “right” trap or tendency?

    (An abstract or executive summary or precis here with onward links would be fine.)

    For these, we would truly be grateful.

    GEM of TKI

  23. 23
    jerry says:

    I didn’t think I was being snarky but just like Shaw observing what is.

    I mentioned on another thread that I never met an honest atheist and that atheism is intellectually bankrupt. I meant that in an objective sense. To justify atheism one has to jump through a lot of illogical hoops.

    I also mentioned I had more respect for a deist than an atheist because there can be some logic applied to the evidence to support deism. But atheism is just fashionable nonsense in today’s world catering to people who don’t think things through but want to appear sophisticated.

  24. 24
    duncan says:

    Denyse, Isn’t the fact that these crackpots always end up committing suicide slightly at odds with you analysis of them as some sort of Darwinist inevitability made manifest?

  25. 25
    tribune7 says:

    Off topic: For fun, you can find out the reading level of this and other blogs at: http://www.criticsrant.com/bb/reading_level.aspx

    If UD got a spell-check I bet the level would rise. I find myself making a lot of typos on this blog.

  26. 26
    DLH says:

    Since we are dealing with persons, we need to consider statistical probabilities in contrast to logical or physical necessity. I propose the more important questions are:

    Do those holding to Darwinism have a propensity to Social Darwinism?

    Do regimes foundationally holding to Darwinism have a propensity for totalitarianism?

    Do regimes holding to Darwinism have a propensity for causing massive deaths of their own population?

    See the data in thread: Pathological consequences of Darwinism vs ID

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