Do readers remember when it was customary to sneer—on behalf of the great medieval philosopher, Thomas Aquinas—at the idea that the universe and life forms show evidence of design? It’s hard to imagine any medieval philosopher, let alone Thomas, thinking that the world around us does not show evidence of design. Medieval thinkers generated orderly hierarchies the way people today generate graphs, except they used imagination, not software. They were often over the top but their instinct was not wrong.
But suddenly, for some years earlier in this century, Thomas—of all people—was cast as the anti-design guy. I won’t soon forget Barry Arrington’s comment on possibly the most egregious example of this trend at First Things, of all places, “This year I let my subscription to FT run out after nearly 20 years. If I want misguided, uninformed anti-ID rants, I can go to Panda’s Thumb for free.”
The writer of the First Things article advised “Readers interested in these arguments are urged to visit websites such as The Panda’s Thumb”
Hmmm. Taking the yayhoo-driven Panda’s Thumb seriously is not a good look for a thinkmag inspired by traditional Western religion and philosophy. For a while, there was silence.
Iust recently, George Weigel made explicit at First Things that Panda’s Thumb Darwinism is not consistent with serious thinking in the Western tradition.
And now, another First Things type, addresses the misuse or bad handling of evidence prevalent among Darwinists:
Philip Kitcher, a philosopher of biology and a supporter of natural selection, chastises Darwin for “appeasing his critics,” writing that “If the presence of particular goals can interfere with the epistemic evaluation of a novel proposal, then it is epistemically desirable for the proposer to respond to those goals, even if it requires deception.”
In other words, you may have to lie to the stupid people to get them to take Darwinism as seriously as we smart people do.
A more elaborate argument in favor of deception is offered by philosopher Phillip L. Quinn, who says that sometimes, in public debate over Darwinism, the only arguments that have a chance of convincing policymakers are bad ones. He argues that presenting arguments one knows to be faulty is morally permissible, but only “provided we continue to have qualms of conscience about getting our hands soiled.” He does worry that after presenting effective but bad arguments has become easy and second nature, one’s hands “become dirty beyond all cleansing and one suffers from a thoroughgoing corruption of mind.” But perhaps scholars could “divide up the labor so that no one among us has to resort to the bad effective argument too frequently.” That way, “we can succeed in resisting effectively without paying too high a price in terms of moral corruption.”
In others words, if you feel bad about lying to the stupid people, that makes it okay, so long as you take turns with other liars so that the habit doesn’t become so well-entrenched that it spills over into the rest of your life. (Why, you might then begin lying to us smart people too.)J. Budziszewski, “I’m with stupid” at MercatorNet
Budziszewski is onto something here. In a Darwinian universe, there is no reason not to lie to achieve a survival goal. In the traditional universe, classically assumed to exist by most human civilizations, morality is intrinsic to the nature of the conscious entities of the universe. That is, whether one believes in God or in karma, lying separates one from reality. And the universe keeps score and it eventually catches up with you, as surely as physics will.
See also: (for reference) First Things Goes From Giving ID A Platform To Viciously Attacking It (Barry Arrington)
Brit commentator Melanie Phillips weighs in on David Gelernter dumping Darwin. For many intellectuals, it must seem like an agonizing, nasty divorce but Phillips would be well placed to take it in stride.
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