Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Chimps Still Don’t Name Themselves

Our friend Darwinian conservative Larry has a reasonable response to Mansfield’s manly political philosophy. He’s right to call attention to certain continuities between Aristotelian and Darwinian science on status-seeking animals. And he explains that today’s leading scientists have no problem naming their chimps. But he still sidesteps the "chimps naming themselves" issue. In his books, Larry, following Darwin in some measure, does acknowledge that our species is the only religious one. But he doesn’t explain religion either in terms of establishing the importance of a particular man and men in general (Mansfield), or in terms of love of particular beings (Deneen, the doctor of love).

Discussions - 11 Comments

Uh...excuse me...how do you know that chimps don't have names for themselves, or for those in their group? We do know that they communicate with one another, and we do know that they can understand some language (just like your dog). So, do you imagine yourself an expert on animal intelligence?

We chimps do name themselves, it's just that our names are all "ooo-ooo." It can get confusing sometimes.

If you put a thousand chimps in front of a thousand typewriters for a thousand years, they will name themselves.

OK, have your fun, but the fact remains they chimps are remarkable animals. They engage in organized hunting, organized "raiding" and killing, and have been taught to use language. They exhibit many of our own traits (language being the one real exception). You homophiles are just so specieist.

Ok, based on the fandom "Dain" has expressed here for higher primates and based on the attitudes he has evinced in other places towards developmentally disabled infants, let me be the first to posit that "dain" is a nom de blog for Princeton University's Professor of Bioethics, Dr Peter Singer.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you No Left Turns distinguished commenter Dain

Oh, no...outed! Woe is me....

Thanks, wm, that's the best laugh I've had in a couple of days. If his salary comes with the name, I'm IN!

His speaking fees too! Oh man...

Lest any of you think I would side with the likes of Dawkins, I see him as the dogmatic flip-side of extremely religious people. I think atheism is as intellectually untenable as theism. Most days, I'm an agnostic, which is the only truly humble stance a thinking person can take. Unlike Dawkins, I think most scientists are agnostics on the question of God -- they realize that such questions lie outside empirical verification, and so their expertise doesn't really allow them to comment.

As I said before, both Dawkinians and orthodox religionists need to tone it down, at least in the public policy arena. In a free society, there is room for a "Creation Museum" as well as the "American Museum of Natural History." There is also room for public schools that offer alternative explanations to students, as well as room for religious colleges and ultra-secular colleges. Like public schools, public universities need to respect different perspectives and to make provision for such teaching, although I think it is essential to allow all these perspectives to critique one another. The academy should never have sacred cows (and that ranges from religion to global warming). And since people never operate in such a fair and even-handed manner, we need to encourage a climate of open skepticism about all truth claims. I see no other way to proceed.

Most days? What happens on the other days?


It is a nice social diversity that allows for your mentioned alternatives. Really, we have that, except for the noise about it. As a Christian, it is difficult to talk to atheists who tell me either that I am mad (as Dawkins does) or imply I am a liar. It is difficult to deal socially, much less intellectually with such people. That really goes beyond critique.

But how do we create logical constructs without a premise? My premise that God is leads me to certain conclusions. Dawkins' premise that God is not and cannot be leads him to other conclusions. What is funny is how many of the same conclusions we can come to with the radically different premises. I don't know that I can be skeptical about truth, though neither can I see becoming impolite when someone does not see truth as I see it.


I was atheist, and then agnostic, and then I wasn't either. It leaves me skeptical about neurotheology. Was it you, dain, who said in some comment on some prior post that we are hard-wired for belief? (Maybe it was someone else. I was reading in a hurry and smarting at missing out on a nice chat.) I also know Christians who insist that we are innately given to belief in God. They say that people must deliberately choose to ignore that, which makes atheists liars or mad, too, as far as I can tell and what it says about agnostics, I don't know.


I can go so far as to say I might be wrong in my perceptions, as in I can have doubt about myself as a judge of the absolute. Yet the perceptions are my own, and I do not see how to think without them.

On alternate Thursdays I morph into a Christian again. I still have doubts on both sides of this question -- I've learned to live with simply not knowing. Sure, I'd like to have the zeal of complete certitude, but my intellect has never allowed me to remain comfortably dogmatic on realities for which I have no empirical evidence.

Yea, I think it was me who talked about being hardwired for belief. Indeed, St. Anselm thought that our need and ability to conceive of a god pretty much proved He exists. On a more scientific note, I think our need to believe in a greater power emerges naturally from our helpless dependence on our parents and our intellectual ability to perceive just how scary reality can be. Atheism can only come about in affluent societies were people are cushioned from scary realities.

Oh. Alternate Thursdays. I had imagined it might have to do with weather cycles or phases of the moon.


Your view would explain fox-hole conversions, but maybe not why they might linger and become permanent. Personally, I had gotten past all of the scary reality part of growing up and it was a mass of rescuing improbabilities and unlikely things that made me see God. Every time I think I can stop seeing, I blink and there He is. It is very hard to have a reality which one can't explain properly nor prove empirically. I don't cling to belief. Belief clings to me.

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