Friday, April 20, 2007

I think I finally see...

...what David was getting at with all that "Darwinism is trivial" business.

Still don't agree though.


Peter Burnet said...

I'm not completely convinced that David believes Darwinism is trivial, but I've little doubt his kids do.

Duck said...

Can you explain it in 100 words or less?

Peter Burnet said...

Ha! Yes Brit, and while you're at it, can you send Duck your Readers Digest abridged version of the Bible. He's got a little problem with the meaning of life, but he's a busy man.

Duck said...

I can summarize the Bible in 100 words or less:

God made good stuff.
Man ruined the good stuff.
God feels cheated, wants repayment from Man.
Man can't repay.
God makes perfect man who can repay
and kills him.
The Divine Books are balanced.
Man is still screwed up but it doesn't matter anymore.

Brit said...

Not sure about 100 words, but I think I can do it succinctly (while of course leaving it open for David to point out any errors):

The brute scientific facts about natural evolution are not in dispute, but their truth-value is only a trivial element of the greater question, just as the truth-value of the facts about nuclear physics is trivial when discussing the possibilities of the A-Bomb.

This leaves us looking for a 'therefore...'. David's fear is that since it is impossible to talk about darwinian evolution without using teleological langauge, majority acceptance of darwinism must lead to eugenics unless there is an alternative benign teleological narrative also in place: specifically, the Anglospheric Judeo-Christian tradition. Therefore, to put it crudely, while accepting evolution is ok in the Anglosphere, it should no more be given to the rest of the world than the A-Bomb.

I think that's what he means, anyway. If so, I disagree for the simple practical reason that the darwinian genie is already out of the bottle, it's too late to suppress it, so the sooner you start showing that it does not justify eugenics (it absolutely does not), the better. Orrin's brand of imbecilic pseudo-scientific muddying of the facts is counter-productive. If you keep telling people it leads to eugenics, like OJ does, people might even start believing you.

Duck said...

Christianity was not a counterbalance to eugenics.

Ali said...

I can summarise all religions in four words:

Behave yourself or else.

Peter Burnet said...


Christianity was not a counterbalance to eugenics.

Yes, it is/was. If you look hard enough, you can always find religious people who preach and practice distortions and extremisms, much like you can find free market socialists and prudish materialists, but at some point you go with the middle or there is no point in talking anymore. You can blame lots of things on Christianity and Christians, but please don't tell me a worldview that says life is sacred and mankind is made in the image of God leads to eugenics. If you persist, I'll find you some Christians who claim the message was all about sexual liberation. :-)

I'm not sure how much can be pinned on Darwinism (I think Freud's legacy is more dangerous), but I'm surprised you fellows aren't a little more wary here. Have you not noticed the growing popularity of the idea that some lives aren't worth living and are disposible? People who think they have a keen eye for incipient fascism but only recognize it in shrill little Germans with moustaches are not much help. Eugenics is not just about sterilizing blacks or mass-murdering Jews.

One thing we are witnessing is a resurgence of a social darwinism that is a mirror of the original. If you look at what Dawkins, Pinder, Mayr, etc. preach, you will see lots of claims that evolution is to be thanked for "good" qualities like altruism, cooperation, etc. and that we are all becoming kinder, less racist, universal in perspective, sexually mature, less sexist, etc. as we slough off bad old mystical thinking. Listening to these guys, one could easily believe the end point of evolution is the UN Declaration of Human Rights. But stuff we don't like--war, vengeance, loyalty to the group, genocide, sexual strictures, cruelty, etc--are pinned directly or indirectly on bad old warping, blinding religion. That of course is the whole point of The God Delusion.

It's a bit of a hoot because it's the exact opposite of the original "red in tooth and claw" social darwinism that impelled us to prove how much fitter we were and urged us to struggle without mercy to reach the pinacle. In those days, religion was largely dismissed in Darwinist circles as a pile of gooey, enfeebling niceness suitable for wimps and old ladies, but of no use to real men who understood what was at stake. Strange, no? Same philosopy, same religion.

David said...

Ali: Exactly

Duck: For these purposes, the past is irrelevent. All that matters is the present and near future.

Brit: Very nice. Clearly, you're ready for a number of further lectures. I would only clarify that I'm not looking to bury any facts about evolution, I just want it understood that "nature" or "evolution" or "survival" in the sentence "X designed the elephant's trunk as the perfect instrument for eating Circus Peanuts can also be replaced by "G-d."

Duck said...

Yes, but if you are going to make correct interpolations of the future you have to use the past data points to interpolate from.

David said...

Yes, but the more recent data points are the more important, and it doesn't take too long before all previous data points are irrelevant.

joe shropshire said...

So: was David as fat as you expected him to be, or was he even fatter?