Friday, July 24, 2009


The Controversy Rages

What follows is from an exchange I recently took part in on the ID website Uncommon Descent. The topic at hand was a post introduced by Denyse O’Leary, “Darwinism and Pop Culture Attempts to Pretend that Darwin Did Not Extend His Theory to Human Society.” A frequent topic of debate is whether Darwinism necessarily implies Social Darwinism. Darwin’s defenders often try to deny the link between the two isms. Pay particular attention to the comments from “Mr Charrington.”

8:03 am
the darwnists cannot allow their icon, yea verily their god, darwin, to have his holy name profaned. their devotion to him is just further proof that evolution is a religion. atheism posing as ’science’

Terry Mirll
6:29 pm
Actually, the god is naturalistic materialism. Darwin was only its prophet.

The attempt to divorce Darwin from Social Darwinism comes from the innate realization that if darwinian theory implies that human beings are mere animals like any other species, then there’s no reason why we SHOULDN’T try to cull the weak, the infirm, the inferior from the human herd. After all, inferior strains of humanity, what Darwin called sub-species, are a drain on our limited resources and threaten our very survival. The trouble is, such a notion has led us to the greatest horrors of the 20th century: eugenics, euthanasia, and the Holocaust.

But, of course, its difficult for Darwin’s defenders to pretend darwinism is true if its end-product is a bunch of brown-shirted knuckleheads shoving Rabinowicz into an oven for no better reason than he’s Rabinowicz. So, they deny the link between their prophet and Social Darwinism.

The problem is, the link is still there.

Mr Charrington
6:35 pm
“then there’s no reason why we SHOULDN’T try to cull the weak, the infirm, the inferior from the human herd. After all, inferior strains of humanity, what Darwin called sub-species, are a drain on our limited resources and threaten our very survival.”

But in that case there is no reason to cull the weak, etc. Why would mere animals care about their species survival?

Why does it follow that if darwinian theory implies that human beings are mere animals like any other species, then there’s any reason that we SHOULD try to cull the weak?

How can “mere animals” care about such things?

[Deleted to save space]

Terry Mirll
5:43 pm
#3 Mr. C
But in that case there is no reason to cull the weak, etc. Why would mere animals care about their species survival?

Land o’ Goshen! You HAVE read Darwin, haven’t you? According to Our Lord, PBUH, nature instills the drive to survive in all creatures, great and small. Any organism is innately concerned with its own survival, demonstrating its fitness by reproduction; the more it reproduces, the greater its fitness.

Why does it follow that if darwinian theory implies that human beings are mere animals like any other species, then there’s any reason that we SHOULD try to cull the weak?

Again, per Our Lord, PBUH, all living creatures compete with one another for survival, in a constant struggle brought about by our environment’s limited resources. In the Descent of Man, Our Lord, PBUH, argued that man uses his intellect to shape our own evolution (which is why, Our Lord argued, women are just so gawsh-darned inferior to men; men have made them that way). In allowing the weak, etc, to survive, we share with them the limited resources we would otherwise use to feed the healthy and strong, and thus ultimately endanger the survivability of our species.

So, since 1) we are acutely concerned with our own survival, and 2) use our intellect to shape our evolution, knowing that allowing the weak to thrive threatens our survival, we would have every reason for eliminating the weak so that the strong would have greater access to limited resources (and, similarly, no reason whatsoever for tolerating the weak); the strong would then display their fitness by reproducing more of their kind, and thus enhance our survival.

The only trouble is, once people get this idea into their heads, eugenics and die Endloesung aren’t too far off.

Mr Charrington
5:50 pm
Mr T
“knowing that allowing the weak to thrive threatens our survival”

Does it? Why?

Also, please define “weak”.

Terry Mirll
6:28 pm
Mr. C.
I think I’ve sufficiently explained how, according to Darwin, allowing the weak to thrive threatens our survival. If you’re asking me to defend that notion, I won’t. I’m not a Darwinist. If you don’t really believe that allowing the weak to survive actually threatens the survival of the strong, then I’d say you don’t really believe in Darwinism.

As for “weak”–it can’t be defined. This is one of the (many) reasons why I am not a Darwinist. Darwinism rests on precisely such tautological constructs, which is why I feel Darwinism fails.

The “weak”, according to Darwin, are those who aren’t identified as the “strong”, according to Darwin. The “fit” are those that survive; the “unfit” the ones who don’t. They just are. Ipse dixit, says the prophet. Now, either accept that without question, or PZ Myers will forever brand you a Bible-thumping creationist bent on dragging science back into the Dark Ages.


And now some observations:

Note how the Darwinist is unable to address the topic. Is there or isn’t there a link between Darwinism and Social Darwinism? Mr Charrington won’t say. He merely attempts to refute my assertions by asserting contrary assertions, without proffering any commentary whatsoever as to why he feels he’s right. Is this guy even listening? I doubt it. He’s more like John Cleese in the old Monty Python “Argument Clinic” sketch, ready to gainsay automatically anything someone else says.

Note what he has to say in (3). I say there’s no reason why human beings shouldn’t try to cull the weak from our midst, according to Darwin; I back up this assertion with the typical Darwinian caterwauling about competition over limited resources. Mr Charrington’s response is to counter “But in that case there is no reason to cull the weak, etc.” Never mind that the limited-resources argument is PRECISELY the reason why we should cull the weak, if Darwinism is true. Somehow, the very reason why we should eliminate the weak is also the reason why we shouldn’t.

Instead, he counters with this bit of nonsense: “Why would mere animals care about their species survival?”

Never mind WHY. DON’T animals care about the survival of their own? Don’t rabbits try to escape being chased down by coyotes? Don’t lionesses defend their cubs when a jackal gets too close to the pride? Isn’t self-preservation an instinct? The fact that these things occur is self-evident. But I guess if your goal is to do anything in your power to deny that Darwinism implies Social Darwinism, there’s no limit to whatever facts are to be ignored, no matter how obvious.
Note also in (6) that rather than engage the topic, he simply reiterates his musings from (3). Anybody who simply restates a question that’s already been answered isn’t really looking for answers, anyway. But this precisely the sort of gyrations the Darwinist has to go through to ignore the holes in Darwinian theory.

Labels: , ,

Friday, July 10, 2009


Circular Logic is No Logic

What is so very frustrating about arguing with a materialist is that there is simply no argument one can make that will rationally compel someone else to accept a position or viewpoint he is unwilling to take. There are no magic words that will make anyone believe you, regardless of how well your argument is formulated or how solid your logic. This is because human reason, whatever its merits, is still human reason, the inevitably fallible product of fallible human beings, who, when logic forces them into a rational corner, will almost invariably try to rationalize their way out of it rather than concede the point. This is the reason why philosophers can debate for centuries about any given philosophical notion and never come to any resolution, and why some people never seem to change their minds, even in the face of overwhelming evidence that their viewpoint is a house built on sand.

Most people, it seems, are like the Black Knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Arthur slices the Black Knight’s arm off, and the Black Knight proceeds to argue that the severed arm now lying on the ground isn’t his, and no amount of pointing at the bloody stub at his shoulder will convince him otherwise.

Rational compulsion towards an idea is hampered by two facts:
1. Any truth, however unassailable, can be denied.
2. Any falsehood, however unbelievable, can be believed.

At first, such a notion seems counterintuitive. You’d think that there are at least some things about which we can all agree. Who, for instance, doesn’t believe the Earth is round? Surely no one in his right mind would disbelieve such a thing, especially when we’ve all seen photographs of the earth, taken from space, which clearly show a round Earth. Game, set, and match, right?

Yet, go to California, where you’ll find the Flat Earth Society. I once saw an interview with a member. He not only steadfastly maintained that the Earth is indeed flat as a pancake, he even had an explanation for the photos: As Einstein demonstrated, space is curved; and thus any photo of the Earth shot from space would doubtlessly show a round Earth due to the curvature of space. Never mind that this is not at all what Einstein meant when he said that space is curved. Never mind that we have lots more evidence as to the shape of the Earth than just a pile of photographs. Never mind that science has corroborated time and time again that the Earth is round. It’s flat, dammit, and that was that.

Mind you, the man was no nut-case wearing aluminum foil on his head, warning of the coming apocalypse and spouting nonsense like “Only government can break the vicious cycles that are crippling our economy.” Other than in his assertion that the Earth is flat, he seemed like a calm, thoughtful, temperate individual.

And if the sphericity of the Earth can be denied, how easy is it to deny that the universe is a product of Intelligent Design? Quod volumus, facile credimus—we easily believe what we want to believe.

Take, for example, the notion that science has to be naturalistic. While it’s true that science begins with the material world in undertaking any scientific investigation, there’s no reason at all why science must be limited to the material world in generating its answers or formulating new hypotheses and theories. In fact, scientists churn up ideas all the time that have nothing to do with the observable world—multiverse theory, extradimensionality, wormholes to other universes, directed panspermia, etc. Oddly enough, these same people will often maintain that the difference between science and religion is that science is based upon fact and observation, while religion is based on faith—despite the fact that there is not one shred of evidence that there is more than one universe or that ancient astronauts seeded life on our planet.

But, posit that the universe is best explained by the existence of an inscrutable designer who created it ex nihilo, and you’ll be deafened by all the scientists harping that you’ve somehow crossed the bounds of science. And yet note: all they will ever do or can ever do is make the claim; they can never, by any reasoned argument, establish what these bounds are and what has to occur to constitute crossing them. It’s not because they’re incapable of formulating the argument, but because no such argument can possibly be made. There is no philosophical support whatsoever for the notion that science has to be naturalistic. Such a notion is a mere second-order proposition about science rather than a first-order proposition coming from science itself.

Try sorting out their logic. What is it that makes multiverse theory scientific but makes the God hypothesis unscientific? We’re often told that scientific formulations are testable. So what test has any scientist ever conducted—or could ever conceivably conduct—that leads him to suppose the existence of multiple universes? (Hint: answer is “none.”)

Okay, then, the materialist says. Real science is also falsifiable. But that simply leads to the same obstacle as before: how is multiverse theory falsifiable, even in theory? You could only verify the notion by demonstrating the existence of at least one other universe—but you could never prove that there aren’t any more universes than our own, because it’s impossible to disprove a negative.

And even if the materialist concedes that there is no way of testing or falsifying multiverse theory, he’ll merely conjure up some “Yeah, but…” strategy to obscure the weakness of his position. Yeah, but, he’ll say, that doesn’t mean we have to believe the universe came into existence because G*d said so. This, of course, is a mere non sequitur, which doesn’t address the notion of the multiverse at all, but only seeks to turn the discussion into some altogether else—namely, whether there’s a God. And if the non-materialist takes the bait, the materialist will simply counter with That’s a non-issue. Talk about G*d is religion, not science.

This, of course, merely begs the question: Does science have to be naturalistic? Only if we accept as a given the very point the materialist is arguing can we say that talking about God is unscientific. Again, this is a second-order proposition about science.

Rather than being fundamental to science, the notion that science has to be naturalistic is so subjective, there’s difficulty in hashing out just what the term even means. Ask a materialist to define “natural.” He’ll say something like, Well, natural means it’s found in nature, what we can see all around us. And God? Well, God isn’t found in nature. How do you know? Well, because you can’t see him. And you can see other universes? Well, no. So you do you know God isn’t found in nature? Well, he’s supernatural. And what do you mean by “supernatural”? Well, that’s anything that isn’t natural.

And this is nothing more than a tautology, a fancy way of saying the same thing twice—which is to say: it says nothing at all. A simple mathematical substitution demonstrates this:
1. Natural = that which belongs to nature.
2. Supernatural = that which isn’t natural.
3. So, Supernatural = that which isn’t that which belongs to nature. In other words, “supernatural,” whatever it is, is that which we don’t identify as “natural,” whatever that is. The distinction is wholly arbitrary.

The discussion continues: Yes, but why don’t we identify God as natural? Because he isn’t. Yes, but why not? Just because. So, how do we distinguish the supernatural from the natural? Because the supernatural isn’t observable in nature. And the multiverse is? No, but at least the multiverse is scientific. Why? Because the multiverse is natural, while God is supernatural. How do you know? Never mind about that. I just know. We’re no closer to finding the answer than when we started.

Similarly, we’re supposed to exclude God from any scientific discussion, because “that isn’t scientific.” And why isn’t it scientific? Because God is supernatural. And why is God supernatural? Because otherwise we couldn’t exclude God from scientific discussion. And ‘round she goes!

And that’s the real reason why entertaining notions like God is considered unscientific, while untestable and unfalsifiable notions like the multiverse are acceptable. The multiverse, directed panspermia, and the like are all in the anything-other-than-God category, and so are allowable. We must exclude God from scientific discussion, because otherwise we can’t exclude him. Rrrrright…

Why, then, does the materialist say that all science has to be naturalistic? Answer: just because. Ipse dixit.

Thus, the materialist’s position isn’t supported by reason at all, but by simple bluster. How does the materialist know he’s right? He simply has faith that it is so. It is the evidence of things unseen, like the multiverse.

But I thought that science is based on fact and observation, while religion is based on faith. If it is, the materialist needs to turn in his lab coat for a surplice and cassock. If it isn’t, he needs to wise up.

But he won’t. Quod volumus, facile credimus.

Labels: ,

Friday, July 03, 2009


A Quick Word from My Inner Monologue

As I started work on Killjoy, I took time to read some of Mickey Spillane’s “Mike Hammer” novels (I, the Jury; My Gun is Quick; and Vengeance is Mine). I had various reasons for doing so. Mainly, though, I wanted to mimic Spillane’s terse style as closely as possible, in order to give a more realistic feel to the narrative and to give a solid characterizational foundation to Killjoy himself.

I’ve always admired Spillane. He was a wonderfully prolific writer, churning out novel after novel, furiously pounded out on a manual typewriter. I’ve been told that he rarely took more than three weeks to write a book, from start to finish. Me, I take that long just to compose my first sentence.

Now that I think of it, maybe that’s the essential difference between Spillane and me. Spillane writes. I “compose.” Just maybe that suggests a differing sense of self-confidence.

That is to say—Spillane actually had self-confidence. I’m so full of angst and self-loathing, I’m absolutely convinced that whatever I write will be utter crap, with each successive word setting a new standard in utter-crappiness, forming an infinite regress of crap supporting crap. Why, it’s crap all the way down!

Just why this is so is difficult to explain. Most everyone who knows me thinks I’m some sort of Wyle E. Coyote, Supergenius, ‘cause I can watch old war movies and tell you what the Germans are really saying, or because I can quote Chaucer at length in Middle English or because I can read Old Norse. Yet, I can say without any hesitation whatsoever that I’m dumber than a sack of hammers—and no amount of books that I read, or disciplines I follow, or ideas I ponder, will ever convince me otherwise. My mind is made up, so don’t bother trying to talk me out of it.

Perhaps it’s due to my upbringing. My parents, neither of whom ever sought to educate themselves beyond the high school level, had only one goal in having kids: to have someone they could forever be smarter than, wiser than, and better than. My brother and I were never allowed to have our own opinions. We were expected to mirror mom & dad’s Weltanschauung in every way imaginable, and any break on our part with what M & P considered the True Way was frowned upon as some form of insolence. Thinking for myself was always viewed as my first step ‘pon the Road to Hell.

In short, I was raised to believe that my opinion didn’t matter. Everything I needed to know, believe, or say had already been written down centuries ago in scripture, and every thought that came to me that didn’t adhere to what had already been said was probably the Dark One trying to lead me astray and was best ignored. That notion plagues me every second I write.

And yet—and here’s the wiggy part—despite all that, I write anyway. Despite the firm, resolute conviction that whatever I say is worthless and forgettable, I still feel the need to write it down, to see it in print, and to share it with one and all.

Imagine, if you will, a tiny, impish editor-in-chief, dressed all in motley and sitting on my shoulder. I write: “The night was…”

“Hold it,” he says. “Every two-bit hack since Shakespeare starts off with ‘The night was.’ Try something else.”

So I tap the delete key a few times and then write, “It was a…”

“Hold it,” he says. “WHAT was a? Gotta make yourself clear.”

“Well,” I answer. “The NIGHT was a.”

“Okay, so say that then.”

So I delete some more and then write: “The night was…”

“Pathetic,” he grumbles.

So on it goes. Around 150,000 words later, I type: “The End.”

“Stinks,” he says.

And that’s how I write.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?