Off Topic Philosophy

Darwinian Nobility

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Please note this is categorized in off-topic philosophy.

Does Darwinian Nobility, capitalized no less, sound like a contradiction in terms? Not really. In the Descent of Man, Darwin talks about the noble nature of man like it was a tangible thing.

“Nor could we check our sympathy, even at the urging of hard reason, without deterioration in the noblest part of our nature.”

Who’s responsible for eugenics? Simple. People who don’t have the noble nature of man that Darwin mentions like a physical thing.

If you don’t instinctively know that the right thing to do is help rather than harm those less fortunate in life than you are then you lack Darwinian Nobility.

Is Darwinian Nobility due to nature or nurture? Who the hell knows. One or the other or both. All I know is the world would be a better place with more of it.

43 Replies to “Darwinian Nobility

  1. 1
    Jason Rennie says:

    Actually what Darwin is referring too is the idea of Natural Law, and it has no place at all in the materialist worldview.

  2. 2
    DLH says:

    There are two foundational sources for ethics:
    An intelligent moral cause
    A materialistic cause.

    Compare the Preambles to the Magna Carta, Declaration of Independence vs the Soviet Constitution.

    Magna Carta 1215

    Preamble:

    John, by the grace of God, king of England, lord of Ireland, duke of Normandy and Aquitaine, and count of Anjou, to the archbishop, bishops, abbots, earls, barons, justiciaries, foresters, sheriffs, stewards, servants, and to all his bailiffs and liege subjects, greetings. Know that, having regard to God and for the salvation of our soul, and those of all our ancestors and heirs, and unto the honor of God and the advancement of his holy Church and for the rectifying of our realm, we have granted as underwritten by advice of our venerable fathers, Stephen, archbishop of Canterbury, primate of all England and cardinal of the holy Roman Church, Henry, archbishop of Dublin, William of London, Peter of Winchester, . . .


    The Declaration of Independence of the Thirteen Colonies

    In CONGRESS, July 4, 1776

    The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

    When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. –That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. . . .
    Soviet Constitution

    Preamble
    The Great October Socialist Revolution, made by the workers and peasants of Russia under the leadership of the Communist Party headed by Lenin, overthrew capitalist and landowner rule, broke the fetters of oppression, established the dictatorship of the proletariat, and created the Soviet state, a new type of state, the basic instrument for defending the gains of the revolution and for building socialism and communism. Humanity thereby began the epoch-making turn from capitalist to socialism. . . .

  3. 3
    jjcassidy says:

    Again, Dave, regardless of how it seemed to Darwin, it didn’t prove to be tangible.

    His notions weren’t repeatable by equally empirical POVs, so they meant nothing in the Balkanized world that could only communicate through common observations of objects.

    I made a point in another thread that I think the humanity of both Darwin and Nietzsche are commendable. But they were borrowing from an old POV, (or a perhaps un-written “second act” that Nietzsche’s letters hint at) while exhorting a new system.

  4. 4
    Nathan says:

    This is a very interesting question and its very refreshing to see someone not equating Darwin to Hitler!

    I would argue that there have to be genetic influences on altruism simply due to variation across all populations. The more interesting concept is the ‘nurture’ aspect of nobility.

    I have always found great insight from Thomas Hobbes observing the ‘natural state of war’ and that given total freedom we have no freedom whatsoever. Why build a house or grow food when someone can just take them from you without fear of consequence?

    You can call the trade off between freedom and civility a social contract or any type of law but it’s interesting to consider the concept as Darwin observed no such parallel in the animal kingdom.

    Regardless of belief about the origin of life its nice to see that humans as a species can hold themselves apart from the unending conflict of predator and prey found everywhere else on the planet.

  5. 5
    Bob O'H says:

    Dave, I guess you’re aware of the shock you’re causing on “the other side”. We’re beginning to worry that you’ve been replaced by an intelligently evolved replica.

    Seriously, whatever our disagreements, I think we should try and remember that we’re all still human, and we diminish our own dignity if we don’t treat each other with dignity.

    It’s hard at times, I know.

  6. 6
    Borne says:

    Jason Rennie : “Actually what Darwin is referring too is the idea of Natural Law, and it has no place at all in the materialist worldview.”

    I agree completely. Whatever Darwin considered ‘noble’, his materialist view could not lend any support to.

    Materialism has no real foundations for morality. Thus, nobility, being itself some metaphysical quality of moral character, has no place in true Darwinism, whether the man recognized his own self-contradiction or not.

    Morals do not exist in rocks or flesh.

    This is a logical conclusion based on materialist philosophy. “No ultimate foundations for ethics” (Provine) means no objective basis for any rule of law whatsoever. And without the external ‘Natural Law’ there is, logically speaking, no such thing as nobility of character.

    Darwins words were based on his hanging on to the branches of certain Natural Law value principles, while rejecting the root of the tree.

    But rejecting the root while demanding the branches always ends in failure. As we have seen throughout the world in the past century of materialist reign.

    They “cut out the organ but demand the function”. It can never work.

  7. 7
    jjcassidy says:

    If commonality held the same value as suitability for modeling then we might not doubt the existence of God, as this concept is very common in humans. We might argue that we “instinctively know” there is a God.

    But this smacks of Popular fallacy, and as such we have a known invocation against this conclusion. In light of this, God must be reconstructable from the evidence in this value system.

    Instinct is often given as “unlearned” behavior. Unlearned behavior makes doubtful that we could ever reconstruct a case for an apprehension by instinct by prerequisites, because we cannot trace our prerequisite conditions in gathering this knowledge–because we don’t gather it.

    Thus given above the fact that we can relate to each other within a specific concept, both ourselves and our laws have become increasingly doubtful that it matters.

    So by this general methodology it is rather unsupportable to argue that if we are injuring the race by some instinct that we are acting in a rational way.

    It’s a strange conjunction to talk about “instinctive knowlege” especially if we invite the criterion that instinct must be present in every member of the species, knowing that the commonality is not a great argument for the concept it represents.

    I just think about the experiment of passing a cardboard cutout in the shape of a hawk over its prey. The argument was that it acted by instinct to the shadow of the hawk. Whereas it would be a little less hassle for the same creature to look up, assess that it is not a real hawk and continue what they were doing. Invariable and irresistible impulses via instinct are little argument for clearly seeing the subject of the instinct. In fact, it has often been argued that this predisposition is proof enough against it.

    Darwin is likely more the participant in a history than the creator of anything. He was influence by trends as well as he influenced others. But as he is often cited as a major influence in this field (regardless of who did it first) and the record shows that he was a skilled popularist of this concept, his reflections don’t matter as much as the general trend.

    I don’t see the Expelled quote as trying to dig up Charles Darwin and sentence him, as much as it is a comparison of popular trends on the subject of what has the name “Darwinism”. The point of the quote is to bring the parallels to surface not to be entirely faithful to the full sympathies of Charles Darwin.

    Actually, we need more of Charles Darwin with the temerity to attribute moral judgments to something perhaps unseen, than a Charles Darwin who throws up his hands and says “instinct”. One is more powerful than the other.

    Notice how that even in light of history’s verdict about eugenics, Inherit the Wind can still divorce Jennings (ala Brady) from his convictions and perceptions, because he wasn’t thought to be procedurally right, because he was relying on non-evidential grounds.

    By protesting Jennings concerns about eugenics on the basis of secularism and censorship, in the narrative of progressivism, it gives a case–however ignorant–that we must be free to rethink our moral conceptions against the reflexive and unelaborated intuitions of others.

    Darwin participates in the narrative of progressivism, the progressives participate in the promotion of Darwinism. It’s much the same thing as NAZIs participating in their brand of ruthless progressivism.

    And Jones gives legal stamp to the idea that objective truth is more sacred and important than reflexive. Instinct cannot survive this rationalistic onslaught. Darwin gave it scant defense.

    All narratives are linked stories, Inherit the Wind is just a particular egregious example of the Progressive narrative. That the NAZIs are distinct from this progressive urge is another story in the narrative. Darwin is amply evident as a cheerleader (if you prefer a background role for him) in the state of the progressive narrative in his time. Thus he probably did not invent his main incentives to contribute as he did.

  8. 8
    Bob O'H says:

    Materialism has no real foundations for morality.

    The fact that we are social animals, so we can and do work together, and everyone benefits: just look at the number of successful anarchist states. This then implies the need for rules of social behaviour, which are formalised as morals.

    This gives at least an outline for a material basis for morals.

  9. 9
    StephenB says:

    Darwin’s comment about nobility in man was, in my judgment, his spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down. What was that medicine? It was the controversial notion that man is not noble at all. So, yes, I am saying that he was being disingenuous when he wrote this. I contend that he believed no such thing. Put aside the fact that his life was full of examples of holding back his true beliefs for strategic reasons, or that, for a time, he even allowed his own wife to believe he was a Christian. I don’t really need his life history to make the case. There are too many examples of Darwin crossing the threshold of science and taking on the role of moral philosopher. In fact, Darwin was more than a scientist; he was a social reformer and an iconoclast.

    First, he attacked traditional morality with a vengeance. As he put it, “one can have for his rule of life, as far as I can see, only to follow those impulses and instincts which are the strongest or which seem to him the best ones.” Thus, in the name of science, he undermines the traditional moral law and promotes his own law of the jungle.

    Second, he “expelled” God from science. In the past, the greatest scientists insisted that they were “thinking God’s thoughts after him.” Darwin would have none of that traditional Christian morality that characterizes man as being “made in the image and likeness of God,” and, therefore, endowed with “inherent dignity.” He considered such notions as “anthropocentric.” In effect, he argued against the rational justification for placing value on life by stripping it of any transcendental value. Not even Mr. Natural himself, Francis Bacon, took such a radical view of science.

    Third, he blurred the ontological distinction between man and animal. Indeed, for him, Blacks were subhuman and scarcely distinguishable from animals. Before Darwin, conventional wisdom held that we are all planted in two worlds, spirit and matter. While being part animal, we did, nevertheless possess an immortal soul, complete with intellect, will, and moral conscience. When Darwin tried to strip humanity of all these things, he was not doing science; he was doing social commentary in the name of science. Why shouldn’t we extrapolate from his science to its social consequences when he himself made that same leap with alarming regularity, all the while trying to pass himself off as a disinterested researcher?

    Darwin changed the world with his own interpretation of his science. It was his moral philosophy that did all the damage, and he used his science to make it happen. So, I don’t take his intermittant forays into nobility very seriously. They always seem to follow comments that indicate the opposite point of view, leading me to believe that they were placed there soley as a rhetorical ploy to cushion the blow.

  10. 10
    alext says:

    Materialism has no real foundations for morality. Thus, nobility, being itself some metaphysical quality of moral character, has no place in true Darwinism, whether the man recognized his own self-contradiction or not.

    wrong, wrong, wrong on every count. sorry. firstly: by what criteria do you label Darwin a materialist? he was alive in Victorian Britain and it is almost certain that he would have ascribed to at least some of the superstitions of the day.
    secondly: your claim that “nobility” is metaphysical is simply baseless – why do you think that? do you know anything about neuropsychology? ethics?

    finally, to answer your statement – morality exists everywhere in nature, heck it’s even observable on a very basic level in social animals. evolution would almost certainly entail that any animal living in a large group would have to be kind to its neighbours, selfish behaviour would confer much less of an evolutionary advantage in such situations. such behaviour continues in other creatures apart from us humans.

    to claim that materialists simply “aren’t moral” is observably false in the real world, and is fairly offensive. ever heard of Humanism?

  11. 11
    nullasalus says:

    Bob O’H,

    “The fact that we are social animals, so we can and do work together, and everyone benefits: just look at the number of successful anarchist states. This then implies the need for rules of social behaviour, which are formalised as morals.”

    Benefits as defined by what measure? Pleasure? Honor? Simple happiness? Freedom?

    Materialism (itself filled with a variety of philosophers, each arguing about what constitutes the truly material, or whether they should all just abandon the term for physicalism) on its own can’t supply what’s needed to shape morality in any meaningful way. At best, it can argue that everything is subjective, therefore if materialists persuade others to follow their models, it can be “functional” – it just is ultimately meaningless, as it’s not objectively better or worse than any other subjective system.

  12. 12
    StephenB says:

    —–Bob O’H: “The fact that we are social animals, so we can and do work together, and everyone benefits: just look at the number of successful anarchist states. This then implies the need for rules of social behaviour, which are formalised as morals.”

    Which anarchist states did you have in mind?

  13. 13
    jjcassidy says:

    Bob,

    The NAZIs were very definitely not anarchists. They worked together. The very idea of fascism is “strength in number”. It would be hard to do eugenics without some sort of social backing.

    So a criticism against the NAZIs cannot come from a perspective that we all need to work together. If Darwin argued that we injured our race by suffering imbeciles, then it could be the collective good of the race to change that outcome.

    The NAZIs raise no appreciable objections to the idea of working for common good. The main question is how universal the “common good” must be, and whether or not that value translates to a universal scale or how mercurial an idea “The Common Good” is.

    There’s no doubt that fascists found an empirical core in all this. The only difference comes with a reassessment of the “good” that tolerates “injury” from dilution of the pool.

    Stephen,

    Arguing what Darwin felt in his inner heart of hearts is best left to the principle that (if it fits you) only God can judge that. Darwin’s duplicity is somewhat documented, so it’s not totally unthinkable. But there is no need to condemn Darwin directly.

    His unwittingness is enough. One can wonder though, how he could lament the imminent supremacy of the Caucasians, in following the evolutionary path, but exude confidence than our “nobler” natures would provide assurance in other cases. How is it one “evil” is inevitable and the other not?

    We do not have to infer the worst implications of following our “strongest and best” instincts, especially if Darwin didn’t think it all through. We equally have the case that he was a shoddy philosopher who didn’t check his math.

    There’s even a stronger case that he shaped the internal/external separation of the NAZIs. Internally, we create much evil by advancing programs on our society; externally, there are no such counters, so one race might just exterminate the others.

    The fact that we can speak about the movement on the eugenics front in the century after the his period, means that Darwin was mostly wrong on the predictions he did make. In turn, that explains why a number of his observations did not survive: they were not fit.

  14. 14
    DLH says:

    DaveScott
    Some insight into Darwin’s understanding of “nobility” can be found in:

    Charles Darwin: Influences On the Man, His Science, And His Theory Never a believer, he rejected the gospel Of Christ and chose evolution, By Robert E. Kofal, Ph.D.

    Charles Darwin’s hidden agenda for science, pure and simple, was to drive from the thinking of all scientists any conception of divine special creation, divine intervention in the world, or divine purpose, plan or goal in the universe.

    In the Origin he refers to and specifically argues against creation and the biblical God of creation at least 35 times. In these and a half dozen or so additional places he uses essentially theological argumentation grounded in his personal anti-biblical
    opinions of what God ought or ought not to do or be. And it is significant that his arguments against Christianity in his Autobiography have been standards for atheists and skeptics for centuries.

    It appears Darwin explicitly rejected any divine or Christian perspective. He consciously chose a materialistic basis for his theories – though providing some high sounding words to make them palatable.

    Consequently, what is Darwin’s “nobility” but the “law of the jungle”. If the one who makes the rules considers himself noble, what evidence is that of nobility but Rex Lex? e.g., as in King John.

    Contrast, Samuel Rutherford’s Lex Rex.

  15. 15
    DaveScot says:

    DLH

    Am I supposed to care whether Darwin believed in God or not?

  16. 16
    DLH says:

    DaveScott
    Only if you wish to examine what Darwin meant by “nobility”.

    From Darwin’s stated rejection of any Creator, he could not logically derive his concept of “nobility” from the Judeo-Christian God. He would have to rely on his law of the jungle that might makes right. Otherwise, he would have to appeal to non-Judeo-Christian nobility. e.g., the Greeks or Romans. But in that worldview, the “noble” hero again is one who demonstrates his prowess against all enemies.

    In actual effect, I expect Darwin did refer to the Judeo-Christian concepts of nobility by assimilation from his cultural heritage, though contrary to his stated reasoned beliefs.

  17. 17
    Borne says:

    Bob O : “just look at the number of successful anarchist states”

    That’s an oxymoron. There is no such thing as an anarchist state.

    Anarchy :

    1. Absence of any form of political authority.
    2. Political disorder and confusion.
    3. Absence of any cohesive principle, such as a common standard or purpose.

    So I don’t know what you meant but what you said makes no sense.

  18. 18
    Borne says:

    alext : “wrong, wrong, wrong on every count. sorry. firstly: by what criteria do you label Darwin a materialist?”
    Firstly, it is you who are wrong on every count. Worse, you would know this if you’d just do your own homework and think.

    Darwin’s early, private notebooks show his materialism. In one of them he addresses himself as, “O, you materialist!” and says, “Why is thought, being a secretion of brain, more wonderful than gravity as a property of matter?” He believed that the idea of a separate realm of spirit was nonsense. This is further demonstrated when he wrote:

    “to avoid saying how far I believe in materialism, say only that emotions, instincts, degrees of talent which are hereditary are so because brain of child resembles parent stock.”

    You post is riddled with contradiction.

    “do you know anything about neuropsychology? ethics?” It’s at least quite obvious that you understand nothing of ethics.

    Then you further embarrass yourself: “… evolution would almost certainly entail that any animal living in a large group would have to be kind to its neighbors, selfish behavior would confer much less of an evolutionary advantage in such situations. such behavior continues in other creatures apart from us humans.
    to claim that materialists simply “aren’t moral” is observably false in the real world, and is fairly offensive. ever heard of Humanism?”

    1. No one ever claimed materialists aren’t moral. Like most materialists, you read poorly and interpret even worse. The question is not whether materialists are moral but whether they have any objective foundations for morality. They do not as materialist atheist and Darwinist high priest Will Provine stated in my quote, There are no ultimate foundations for ethics in materialism.

    2. When you refer to selfish behavior, do you mean wrong behavior? If so then upon what foundation do you claim any behavior has moral wrongness under a materialist paradigm?

    But I’ll answer for you – none. As Provine and virtually every true materialist in history knew and knows.

    Same reasoning applies to your use of kindness.

    The usual Darwinist answer, as you gave; “it’s for survival”, only misleads the shallow thinking. The Darwinist survival is everything paradigm is meaningless in a purely material cosmos. Why, exactly, should anyone or anything survive?

    When you figure that out come back.

  19. 19
    todd says:

    Davescot wrote,

    If you don’t instinctively know that the right thing to do is help rather than harm those less fortunate in life than you are then you lack Darwinian Nobility.

    What if it is considered noble to make way for evolutionary progress? Wouldn’t eugenics then be Darwinian Nobility in practice?

    If it is true that Darwin’s theory made philosophical materialism more plausible and by extension, non-‘created in God’s image’ views of human nature.

    Materialist philosophy has no place for materially transcendent principles, because there is nothing to transcend. One is logically left with Nature as the only source of any principles.

    If human nature is ultimately ruled by Nature, then Nature rules. Darwinism (not Darwin) lends the scientific objectivity to make true believers.

    Nature on PBS last night featured a story on the razorback gorillas Jane Goodall began to study 30 years ago. When discussing the alpha male, the narrator noted that, should he be deposed by a challenger, the victor would instinctively kill all the infant gorillas not of his bloodline.

    If that’s natural instinct of one of our darwinian cousins, why should we ‘instinctively’ help those less fortunate? Where does that notion originate and why is it valid if Nature Rules?

  20. 20
    Borne says:

    Dave : “Am I supposed to care whether Darwin believed in God or not?”
    It makes a huge difference as to what Darwin’s foundation for moral obligation was and consequently his basis of defining nobility. It would also depend and which god or which kind of god he believed in or not.

    Without an objective moral law there is no basis for defining nobility of character as anything other than what happens to please you.

  21. 21
    StephenA says:

    Let’s see what happens when we apply Darwin’s theory to this concept of Nobility.

    Whatever benefits it may give us in the great struggle of life, Darwin himself commented, “No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man.”

    Since it seems that we must consider it a negative trait, at least in terms of the survival of the race, one must conclude that this trait will, in time, be selected against.

    This in turn means that the races that retain this trait will become extinct, and the one that loses it will rise supreme. This is, after all, how new traits are aquired.

    …Hmmmm… This is starting to sound familiar…

  22. 22
    Rude says:

    Dave Scott asks an interesting question: “Does Darwinian Nobility, capitalized no less, sound like a contradiction in terms?” Indeed it does … unless … unless the Darwinian materialist accepted the mathematical realism of the physicist (and the Peircean extension to esthetics and ethics)—but I have yet to meet such a Darwinist. Without that over against what are you going to evaluate the “nobility” of a conglomeration of organic chemicals?

    So I wonder: Has anyone ever tried to categorize materialism’s genre? The biologists I know believe only in chance and selection—they have no knowledge of mathematics and the puzzle of its independent existence “out there” has never crossed their minds—except perhaps for Lakoff’s denial. This would represent the lowest rung of materialism. Next are the atheist physicists who do subscribe to a mathematical/logical/esthetic backdrop to reality, and one might include here those theologians who have thrust God outside of time and thus agency.

    Furthest removed from materialism would be the Menugean acceptance of agency as elemental, a fundamental ingredient of reality (just like numbers) which we see instantiated in ourselves and thus also the Deity.

    Now it may not be logically necessary that the Deity be good, but if he is—as the Abrahamic religions assert—then we not only bring in Natural Law but also the Judge.

  23. 23
    scordova says:

    Darwin had a severely deformed daughter. He would could not have carried out a program of Eugenics without sacrificing his own.

    The “noble” nature he displayed in himself is what one would expect of every father, that he does kill his helpless kids….

    As far as calling this nobility “Darwinian”? Even Francis Collins could not bring himself to attribute altruistic qualities to Darwinian evolution. Thus the use of the term “Darwinian” here seems only to be tied to the fact Darwin mentioned this quality in his writings, but it was a quality that seemed well known before Darwin’s time….

    You can call this noble aspect of human nature “Darwinian” but it seems a bit incongruous with the mainstream perception what “Darwinian” means.

    As Berlinski pointed out, even Dawkins would not want a “Darwinian” society.

    I could of course be wrong, but that’s how I see it.

  24. 24
    StephenB says:

    The problem with the nobility issue is that it depends on which passage you happen to be reading.

    On a previous thread, for example, Dave was incensed because I quoted a compromising passage from Darwin, but I left out the following passage.

    “The aid which we feel impelled to give to the helpless is mainly an incidental result of the instinct of sympathy, which was originally acquired as part of the social instincts, but subsequently rendered, in the manner previously indicated, more tender and more widely diffused. Nor could we check our sympathy, even at the urging of hard reason, without deterioration in the noblest part of our nature. The surgeon may harden himself whilst performing an operation,for he knows that he is acting for the good of his patient; but if we were intentionally to neglect the weak and helpless, it could only be for a contingent benefit, with an overwhelming present evil.”

    The problem is that Darwin goes back to his original theme a little later on with this:

    “We must therefore bear the undoubtedly bad effects of the weak surviving and propagating their kind; but there appears to be at least one check in steady action, namely that the weaker and inferior members of society do not marry so freely as the sound; and this check might be indefinitely increased by the weak in body or mind refraining from marriage, though this is more to be hoped for than expected.”

    So, as it turns out, we must hope that these inferiors do not breed after all, which was the original point. I could hold Dave accountable to the same charge that he held me accountable for—purposely leaving out relevant information. But this is the problem with Darwin. He unquestionably doesn’t want inferiors breeding, but he always makes it a point to muddy the waters. So, the first paragraph, the one which dramatizes his views in the clearest possible language, is the relevant one.

  25. 25
    ericB says:

    If human behaviors were measured by nothing more than the outcomes of evolution, then every “vile” or “detestable” practice that persists in the population is just as vindicated as those behaviors Darwin would wish to call “noble.” Rape or altruism, murder or self-sacrifice, all can claim the vindication of being persisting variations in human behavior. All are candidates contending for preservation.

    Evolution has no way to differentiate among any behaviors that survive. There are no “right” surviving patterns vs. “wrong” surviving patterns.

    Furthermore, there cannot be any final determination in that view about what behaviors must be best ultimately. Shifting environmental conditions might favor and preserve/select any particular combination of behaviors in the future, regardless of how they are favored at present.

    As Borne indicated above, Cornell biologist William Provine is quite plain about the fact that consistent Darwinism implies “No ultimate foundation for ethics.” The reason is plain.

    Which is more plausible? That William Provine does not understand Darwinism? Or that Darwin could not bring himself to be completely consistent within his own theory (especially if it had implications for his own daughter)?

    alext: “to claim that materialists simply “aren’t moral” is observably false in the real world…”

    Borne was correct in pointing out to alext that the issue is not whether a materialist can choose to behave in particular way. That said, at a more fundamental level, the deeper problem is that no human behavior can ever be truly “wrong” or “immoral” in any objective sense. Morality either has no definition, or else whatever definition you happen to prefer to give it. It becomes a vacuous concept. To claim that a materialist or anyone else is “moral” would no longer be much of any claim at all.

    Provine understands Darwinism’s implications in this regard possibly better and with less reservation than Darwin himself.

  26. 26
    Borne says:

    Nathan: “This is a very interesting question and its very refreshing to see someone not equating Darwin to Hitler”

    I think you’ve seriously missed it here. No one has equated Darwin to Hitler. Re-read what is actually stated in virtually all of the comments on the relationship between Darwinism and Hitler’s eugenics.

    No says says Darwin was a Hitler.
    What is said is that there is a clear historical and logical link between Hitler’s acts and Darwinism – as Hitler understood it.

    Darwinism strips human life of it’s nobility. Thus putting the value of human life as something equal to the that of a mere animal.

    Darwinism has no basis for adding value to humans over animals. In fact, in polyphyletic Darwinism, not all humans are as ‘human’ as others.

    The whole Darwinistic notion of inferior versus superior species is without any logical material foundation!

    If were are all “mere animals sharing a common heritage with earth worms” wherein is human life valued as superior?

    Intelligence? Upon what objective basis does more intelligent = superior or more valuable? And if so, what of the value of the lives of the mentally handicapped?

    Hitler slaughtered around 200,000 of them exactly because he saw no reason to consider them of more value than “dumb animals” and wished to artificially “select” them out of the gene pool. And the reason why is clearly linked to Hitler’s version of Darwinism. In fact, if not for Darwin, he would have found no ‘scientific’ reason for his actions.

    I witnessed a Darwinist prof. lecture on values in society and when asked by someone in the audience, “Is is wrong to kill a human?”, refuse to answer!

    Darwin held on to certain judeo/Christian values in spite of his materialism, Hitler followed Darwin’s view of life right to it’s ultimate logical conclusions without any of Darwin’s personal qualms about leaving those judeo/Christian values.

    The link is there and won’t go away by candy coating it to protect poor Darwin or his dangerous idea.

    But get your story straight first – no one equates Darwin to Hitler but Darwinism was one of Hitler’s main influences in his artificial selection campaign.

  27. 27
    DaveScot says:

    Borne

    If were are all “mere animals sharing a common heritage with earth worms” wherein is human life valued as superior?

    Because a noble man, sir, upon seeing an earthworm dying in the sun, might scoop it up for no good reason and put it in a moist spot that it might live.

    Darwin talked of this nobility like a tangible thing. I suppose if you’re not yourself noble you have no bloody idea what I or Darwin are talking about.

  28. 28
    DaveScot says:

    jjcassidy

    Again, Dave, regardless of how it seemed to Darwin, it didn’t prove to be tangible.

    Regardless of how it seems to you, God didn’t prove to be tangible either. What makes your unproven assumptions better than mine or Darwins?

  29. 29
    ericB says:

    DaveScot (27): “Darwin talked of this nobility like a tangible thing. I suppose if you’re not yourself noble you have no bloody idea what I or Darwin are talking about.”

    Clear ad hominem. A noble reply that is not. I believe you can do much better than that and respond with substance rather than an attack. Better to respond in a way more fitting of your nobler qualities.

    Borne has never said that noble qualities are not real. The point is, as Provine acknowledges, that Darwin’s sense of that nobility is borrowed from outside of Darwinism. It has no place to stand within Darwinism itself. Is Provine wrong? How?

    Borne (26): “The whole Darwinistic notion of inferior versus superior species is without any logical material foundation!”

    I would revise that to observe that Darwinian fitness attaches to no intrinsic quality other than survival and reproduction. A ruthless people leaving many ruthless descendants would be “superior” to one that is rendered extinct.

    Ergo, in the Darwinian framework, if the Germans had won and had succeeded in their final solution, that would be sufficient to define superiority over those they exterminated.

    The full title to Darwin’s work is this:

    The Origin of Species. by Means of Natural Selection,. or The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.

  30. 30
    ericB says:

    p.s. To be more accurate, if “noble” qualities have any definition within Darwinism, they do not therein intrinsically mean “fit” or “best” or “superior” in that way we ordinarily use “noble” to refer to that which is good or superior.

    (correcting typo in previous), surviving “would be sufficient to define superiority [over] those they exterminated.” {DLH corrected it}

  31. 31
    DaveScot says:

    ericb

    Let me get this straight, when Darwin talks about racism, that’s part of “Darwinism”. But when he talks about the noble nature of man, that isn’t part of Darwinism.

    How convenient. And how lacking in consistency.

    Darwin believed that man’s noble nature was due to natural selection. He believed everything was due to natural selection. So, you’re wrong. The noble nature of man is every bit as much “Darwinism” as anything else.

    You can’t stand the thought of having your favorite demons taken away from you, can you?

    Is this whole Darwin/Holocaust crap more inane baggage carried into ID by young earth creationists? This has nothing at all to do with design detection. It’s just a pathetic attempt to bolster an argument through appeal to emotion. It’s really disgusting.

  32. 32
    ericB says:

    p.p.s. Most people do not consider something as tenuous as who got the A-bomb first as sufficient to determine what we normally consider superior moral qualities.

    Yet, in the Darwinian framework, if the Germans had been a bit quicker…
    (or if Edith Keeler had not died…).
    😉

  33. 33
    DaveScot says:

    That William Provine does not understand Darwinism?

    Provine looked like a raving lunatic in Expelled, so yeah, lunatics lack understanding of many things.

    Provine doesn’t believe in free will. So he has no choice about being a raving lunatic, does he? He is, in his own stupid opinion, a puppet with no control over himself.

  34. 34
    ericB says:

    DaveScot (31): “Darwin believed that man’s noble nature was due to natural selection. He believed everything was due to natural selection. So, you’re wrong. The noble nature of man is every bit as much “Darwinism” as anything else.”

    I see that we have cross-posted where you probably had not seen my p.s. before posting this.

    In any case, you can see that even before your note, I was already acknowledging that “noble” can have a Darwinian sense — just not the objectively superior sense we normally give to it in common usage.

    Also, see above my point in 25. Rape, murder, etc. are equally the product of evolution (in that view) as any other surviving behaviors. Plus, there is no final assessment of superior moral qualities. What wins for now may not win later, and vice versa.

    So Darwin can have “noble” if we redefine it to mean something not inherently superior. But to claim the inherently superior sense of “noble” would be cheating by means of equivocation.

    BTW, I don’t fault Darwin for valuing or praising noble qualities, or for aiming better than his theory supports. In such cases, consistency is not always the best choice.

  35. 35
    StephenB says:

    —–Dave: “Darwin believed that man’s noble nature was due to natural selection. He believed everything was due to natural selection. So, you’re wrong. The noble nature of man is every bit as much “Darwinism” as anything else.”

    I am with you half way on this one, but not the half that counts. Granted Darwin believed that nobility was a function of natural selection, but he also believed that the instinct for survival is a function of the same process. So, how do we reconcile natural selection giving us both the instict for self sacrifice and the instinct for self survival. That sounds like a pretty schizophrenic process to me.

  36. 36
    ericB says:

    Provine has had a briain tumor (which is now returning). Attacking his mannerisms does not constitute a rebuttal to his understanding of the implications of consistent Darwinism, nor is it a noble response.

    Whether there is free will or not, that has no effect on how Darwinism scores the “winners” and “losers”. Darwinism has no means to call any surviving behavior superior over other surviving behaviors. If you survive by bombing your enemies or by showing mercy to earthworms, Darwinism does not differentiate. And what wins today may not win tomorrow. Within that framework, there is no fixed, inherent compass apart from successful reproduction.

    Insults will not change that reality.

  37. 37
    Patrick says:

    Darwin believed that man’s noble nature was due to natural selection. He believed everything was due to natural selection. So, you’re wrong. The noble nature of man is every bit as much “Darwinism” as anything else.

    Actually, wouldn’t that be part of evolutionism, a philosophy or worldview as defined by Michael Ruse, and not Darwinism, a scientific hypothesis?

    BTW, I’m using “Darwinism” as an overarching term to refer to all variants of modern evolutionary biology.

  38. 38
    alext says:

    Borne, i humbly retract my assertion about Darwin’s materialism, and accept your references on that topic.
    however, you appear to miss my point. i’m not saying that materialists have an objective foundation for morality (although, arguably there are objective morals one can conclude from materialism and evolution).
    i’m arguing against the original statement, as i understood it, that materialists are a nasty bunch with no reason to be good to each other. i’m sure you’ll agree that this is a pretty perjorative, ignorant statement to make really.

    also: yes, i’m reading on ethics, and the origin (philosophical / biological / theological) of them, at the moment. it’s something that interests me greatly, and i’ll freely admit to not being anywhere near an expert on it, but i am willing to learn more.

    from your other posts, regarading “‘Darwinism’ stripping humans of their value”, i would take issue very strongly with this. who is to say that non-human life has no value? if you think Darwinism places humans equal with other animals (it doesn’t, there is obvious difference between all the species) and from this we should kill humans – do you already feel we should be killing animals for no reason? does non-human life hold no value to you?
    when people talk of “lowering” humans to animals’ level, really they should be thinking about realising that all life is sacred.

    thanks for your taking time to answer.

  39. 39
    ericB says:

    alext (38): “i’m not saying that materialists have an objective foundation for morality ….
    i’m arguing against the original statement, as i understood it, that materialists are a nasty bunch with no reason to be good to each other. i’m sure you’ll agree that this is a pretty perjorative, ignorant statement to make really.”

    I don’t see where Borne or I have made such a statement. Do you have a particular quote you are bothered by? That isn’t part of the point he and I have been making. If you look, he has tried to make the distinction clear.

    The fundamental problem is not that there could never be a motivation to be nice to others.

    The fundamental problem is that every persisting behavior, both noble and base, both selfish and altruistic, ever persisting pattern has the evolutionary seal of approval. None of them can be considered “wrong” from an evolutionary standpoint. And even if some do not succeed well in one set of circumstances, it might be that evolution/selection would render a different verdict for the same behaviors in a different set of circumstances.

    Ergo, none of them are inherently superior to the others in that framework. Mother Theresa has her way. Hitler and the Nazis had theirs. Some people prefer chocolate, others vanilla. If it makes offspring and is not weeded out by selection, evolution is OK with it either way.

    DaveScott wondered what this all has to do with design detection. In a way, the issues are analogous.

    In biology, we have a sense that biological organisms are designed. Dawkins et al say this is only an appearance. ID proponents hold there is growing evidence that the best explanation is actual design.

    In ethics/morality, we have a sense that some behaviors are truly noble, truly good and superior in an inherent sense. Provine, Michael Ruse, E.O.Wilson and other thorough going evolutionists would say this is only an appearance. “Morality …. is merely an adaptation put in place to further our reproductive ends. … In an important sense, ethics as we understand it is an illusion fobbed off on us by our genes to get us to cooperate.” – The Evolution of Ethics

    The alternate position is that our perception is not an illusion, and that there really is a way that humans ought to treat each other. If human biological life is designed (i.e. the result of intention), then it becomes objectively meaningful to consider that there can be intended behavior as well.

    alext (38): “… (although, arguably there are objective morals one can conclude from materialism and evolution)…”

    I’ve heard this claim made before, but I have never seen or heard anyone make a solid case for it.

    The fundamental problem is that no amount of reasoning can ever introduce a concept into a conclusion that is not in the premises. Consequently, no list of factual “this is so” statements (such as science might produce) can ever yield a single “ought”. It is not logically possible. The “ought to” has to come from something other than facts about what is true.

    alext (38): “when people talk of “lowering” humans to animals’ level, really they should be thinking about realising that all life is sacred.”

    To refer to the sacred or the holy is to indicate something or someone belongs to God. That option is not open to a materialist.

  40. 40
    Stone says:

    Nobility through virtue instead of descent? Yes, that sounds a little ass backwards coming from Darwin.

    However, when you believe helping those less fortunate includes the civil races whiping out “savage” races, who are simply trying to survive, I suppose you don’t bother considering that you may be a living contradiction.

  41. 41
    Stone says:

    To refer to the sacred or the holy is to indicate something or someone belongs to God. That option is not open to a materialist.

    Can we show God is not a product of material mechanisms we simply do not understand? I think if human biology produces a non material individual through material causation(Brain) it is plausible to suggest the same is true for a deity.

    After all, have we ever really put God to any lab testing?

    Also, I may hold something as sacred or holy without the presence of a God. Buddhism has no personal relationship with God, yet it’s traditions/rituals, monks/priests, and noble truths are held sacred/holy.

  42. 42
    allanius says:

    Darwin did indeed cleave to the notion of nobility in the human spirit. You might say that’s the problem.

    Darwin believed that evolution was ameliorative. He believed in his own goodness, like the old philosophers, but he claimed that this goodness was a product of nature and did not reflect the qualities of a transcendent being.

    No philosophy can obtain influence without a promise of happiness, and the promise implied in the notion of ameliorative evolution is that nature is in the process of making men more beautiful and good.

    Darwin linked sympathy to social instinct because he wanted to indicate that nature had the power to produce this noble trait of its own accord. And he implied that nobility would continue to increase by natural means, without the help of God.

    History suggests that he may have been overly optimistic. The murderous regimes of Hitler, Stalin and Mao, evolutionists all, do not indicate that man is good by nature or can experience an increase in goodness by dispensing with God.

    The key question is this: Does getting rid of God really make men nobler, as Darwin’s philosophy implies, or does it turn them into beasts?

  43. 43
    alext says:

    ericB@38,
    it was the original person i quoted that made the statement i was referring to (i can’t remember who it was now). obviously you and Borne are better writers than this person.

    i would argue that objective morals can exist in a world where we are not necessarily specifically created to fulfil them. i certainly am no great philosoper, but i’d point to the idea that no (or very few) extant culture(s) on earth tend to deem the killing of their own as moral (except in extreme cases where it would arguably save more lives, e.g. capital punishment). this points to an evolutionary source of at least some morality.
    certainly the indication that there is very little other morality that is universally shared between cultures would indicate that a common designer did not instill each of us with His law (i think, if we’re discussing a designer who gives morals to His subjects, i’m allowed to use The Pronoun).

    you are right that “ought” is not necessarily derived from science, but this does not necessitate a retreat into the supernatural. demonstrably, human culture is the most prominent, observable source of morality we have. secular and religious cultures alike have their own moral codes, and the differences are apparently entirely subjective.

    i hope you wil forgive my use of the phrase “life is sacred” i know it is a common phrase and it does not necessarily include the Baggage (pronoun again) that the original useage of sacred may have implied (any more than if i was to Thank Goodness). i merely mean that life is beautiful, defendable, important, and yes, noble.

    The fundamental problem is that every persisting behavior, both noble and base, both selfish and altruistic, ever persisting pattern has the evolutionary seal of approval. None of them can be considered “wrong” from an evolutionary standpoint. And even if some do not succeed well in one set of circumstances, it might be that evolution/selection would render a different verdict for the same behaviors in a different set of circumstances.

    you are right to point out that all forms of morality is consistent with evolution. however, noticably, humans are not selected on terms of morality so much nowadays (and arguably, the more complex forms of morality are instead culturally imposed).

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