Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

The evolution/I.D. debate

This fine article covers the waterfront and includes some revealing quotes from Richard Dawkins:

Being "pro-life in debates on abortion or stem cell research always means pro-human life, for no sensibly articulated reason," he once wrote. The fact that humans think of themselves as altogether distinct from other animals -- and the biblical notion that humans have dominion over other animals -- is a sort of racism, Dawkins said. Evolution shows that fox hunters and bullfighters are tormenting their own distant cousins, which is why the biologist sends money to anti-bullfighting groups in Spain, and why he notes with pride that fox hunting was banned on the family farm. "The melancholy fact," Dawkins wrote in an essay called "Gaps in the Mind," "is that, at present, society’s moral attitudes rest almost entirely on the . . . speciesist imperative."


Darwinian ideas about natural selection are also freighted with moral import because they show that nature, while spectacularly beautiful and ingenious, requires prodigious amounts of ruthlessness and suffering to achieve its ends. The grace of the cheetah, the beauty of a butterfly’s wings and the complexity of the human brain were all achieved by the same general process that allows bacteria to evolve into a resistant strain -- they required the death of those less quick, less strong and less smart.

***

Dawkins believes that, alone on Earth, human beings can rebel against the mechanistic indifference of nature. Understanding the pitiless ways of natural selection is precisely what can make humans moral, Dawkins said. It is human agency, human rationality and human law that can create a world more compassionate than nature, not a religious view that falsely sees the universe as fundamentally good and benevolent. That is why, Dawkins said, he donates to disaster relief efforts -- work that is "un-Darwinian" -- and why he is a stickler for human laws, even the unimportant ones: When riding his bicycle, he stops at red lights even when there are no traffic and police officers present.


"I am a passionate Darwinian when it comes to explaining how things are, but I am an even more passionate anti-Darwinian when it comes to politics," said Dawkins, who comes close to describing himself as a pacifist. "Let us understand Darwinism so we can walk in the opposite direction when it comes to setting up society."

Alhough he says that one can’t have a "two spheres" view when it comes to science and religion, he claims that one can when it comes to science and morality or politics. I’m not sure what the ground of this "human exceptionalism" would be. How and why are we "free" to attempt to overcome our natures? What guides us in that attempt? Is "anti-Darwinian" human morality simply an act of will? Are we able thus to "play God" only after we’ve used Darwinism to dismantle any normative system that might not comport with our own personal preferences? I could ask lots more questions, but I’ll leave it at these for now.

But read the whole article: it’s thorough and fair-minded.
 

Discussions - No Comments Yet

Leave a Comment

* denotes a required field
 

No TrackBacks
TrackBack URL: http://nlt.ashbrook.org/movabletype/mt-tb.cgi/7892