Friday, February 25, 2011

Matt 24 watch, 116: A warning from Plato

Evolutionary materialism is usually presented as "science" in our day, but it is actually ancient, tracing to the likes of Democritus and his atomistic, naturalistic philosophy. Indeed, as we may read in Lucretius' poem On The Nature of Things, Book I, Chapter 4 and Bk I, Ch 5; more than anticipating today's common, reductive, materialistic naturalism:
[[Ch 4:]  . . . All nature, then, as self-sustained, consists
Of twain of things: of bodies and of void

In which they’re set, and where they’re moved around.

For common instinct of our race declares
That body of itself exists: unless
This primal faith, deep-founded, fail us not,
 Naught will there be whereunto to appeal
On things occult when seeking aught to prove
By reasonings of mind . . . .

whate’er exists, as of itself,
Must either act or suffer action on it,
Or else be that wherein things move and be:
, saving body, acts, is acted on; 
but the inane [[i.e. void] can furnish room.  
And thus,
Beside the inane and bodies, is no third
Nature amid the number of all things . . . 

[[Ch 5:] Bodies, again,
Are partly primal germs of things, and partly
Unions deriving from the primal germs.

And those which are the primal germs of things
No power can quench; for in the end they conquer
By their own solidness
. . . .

Such may seem to be simply a particular view on reality, one that is currently popular in scientific circles,  but it is loaded with moral significance. Specifically, it has in it no IS that can ground OUGHT, so it is inherently amoral and radically relativistic, which tends to reduce public policy to power games among ruthless factions, ending in the tyranny of might makes right.  Something that should concern us deeply today.

That is not a new insight.

For, such materialism seems to have played a significant part in the shaping of the mindset of the avant garde Athenian thought at about the time of the Peloponnesian war, bled over into the politics and policies adopted, and contributed to the disastrous consequences at the hands of the coalition led by Sparta. 

At least, that was plainly Plato's view.

Accordingly,  in his The Laws, Bk X, which takes place between Cleinias of Crete, Megillus of Sparta and the Athenian Stranger, Plato took this theme up, having first subtly distanced himself from the mythical pagan thought of his day as well. 

In so doing, he warned of the inherent amorality and radical relativism of such evolutionary materialism, and went on to highlight how it promotes lawless factions in politics, and thence abusive misrule.

Or, as we may read him speaking in the voice of the Athenian Stranger:


>> Ath. At Athens there are tales preserved in writing which the virtue of your state, as I am informed, refuses to admit. They speak of the Gods in prose as well as verse, and the oldest of them tell of the origin of the heavens and of the world, and not far from the beginning of their story they proceed to narrate the birth of the Gods, and how after they were born they behaved to one another. Whether these stories have in other ways a good or a bad influence, I should not like to be severe upon them, because they are ancient; but, looking at them with reference to the duties of children to their parents, I cannot praise them, or think that they are useful, or at all true. [[Notice Plato's own carefully stated skepticisms and moral concerns regarding classical paganism.] Of the words of the ancients I have nothing more to say; and I should wish to say of them only what is pleasing to the Gods. But as to our younger generation and their wisdom, I cannot let them off when they do mischief. For do but mark the effect of their words: when you and I argue for the existence of the Gods, and produce the sun, moon, stars, and earth, claiming for them a divine being, if we would listen to the aforesaid philosophers we should say that they are earth and stones only, which can have no care at all of human affairs, and that all religion is a cooking up of words and a make-believe . . . . 

 [The avant garde philosophers, teachers and artists c. 400 BC] say that the greatest and fairest things are the work of nature and of chance, the lesser of art [[ i.e. techne], which, receiving from nature the greater and primeval creations, moulds and fashions all those lesser works which are generally termed artificial . . . They say that fire and water, and earth and air [[i.e the classical "material" elements of the cosmos], all exist by nature and chance, and none of them by art, and that as to the bodies which come next in order-earth, and sun, and moon, and stars-they have been created by means of these absolutely inanimate existences. The elements are severally moved by chance and some inherent force according to certain affinities among them-of hot with cold, or of dry with moist, or of soft with hard, and according to all the other accidental admixtures of opposites which have been formed by necessity. After this fashion and in this manner the whole heaven has been created, and all that is in the heaven, as well as animals and all plants, and all the seasons come from these elements, not by the action of mind, as they say, or of any God, or from art, but as I was saying, by nature and chance only . . . . 

 [T]hese people would say that the Gods exist not by nature, but by art, and by the laws of states, which are different in different places, according to the agreement of those who make them; and that the honourable is one thing by nature and another thing by law, and that the principles of justice have no existence at all in nature, but that mankind are always disputing about them and altering them; and that the alterations which are made by art and by law have no basis in nature, but are of authority for the moment and at the time at which they are made.- [[Relativism, too, is not new; complete with its radical amorality rooted in a worldview that has no foundational IS that can ground OUGHT. (Cf. here for Locke's views and sources on a very different base for grounding liberty as opposed to license and resulting anarchistic "every man does what is right in his own eyes" chaos leading to tyranny.)] These, my friends, are the sayings of wise men, poets and prose writers, which find a way into the minds of youth. They are told by them that the highest right is might [[ Evolutionary materialism leads to the promotion of amorality], and in this way the young fall into impieties, under the idea that the Gods are not such as the law bids them imagine; and hence arise factions [[Evolutionary materialism-motivated amorality "naturally" leads to continual contentions and power struggles; cf. dramatisation here],  these philosophers inviting them to lead a true life according to nature, that is, to live in real dominion over others [[such amoral factions, if they gain power, "naturally" tend towards ruthless tyranny; here, too, Plato hints at the career of Alcibiades], and not in legal subjection to them . . . [[Jowett translation. Emphases and explanatory parentheses added.]>>

The essential point, as already pointed out, is that evolutionary materialism -- and this is no more well grounded on science than it is on philosophy -- has in it no foundational is that can ground ought, and so naturally reduces morality in the community to predatory, relativistic power politics: "the highest right is might."

Such a patent absurdity should be enough to tell us that something is very wrong with such a worldview and its agendas, as we may also see from the now notorious William Provine Keynote address from the 1998 Darwin Day celebrations at the University of Tennessee:

Naturalistic evolution has clear consequences that Charles Darwin understood perfectly. 1) No gods worth having exist; 2) no life after death exists; 3) no ultimate foundation for ethics exists; 4) no ultimate meaning in life exists; and 5) human free will is nonexistent . . . . 
The first 4 implications are so obvious to modern naturalistic evolutionists that I will spend little time defending them. Human free will, however, is another matter. Even evolutionists have trouble swallowing that implication. I will argue that humans are locally determined systems that make choices. They have, however, no free will . . . . Without free will, justification for revenge disappears and rehabilitation is the main job of judicial systems and prisons. [[NB: As C. S Lewis warned, in the end, this means: reprogramming through new conditioning determined by the power groups controlling the society and its prisons.] We will all live in a better society when the myth of free will is dispelled . . . .

Just the opposite is true.

For, once people are led to imagine that they have no responsibility or true capability to freely choose aright and act in that light as morally governed creatures, no freedom to be virtuous, and no frame of morality that grounds the right on solid principles, we will end in a chaos of amorality and self-destructive behaviour. 

 As, we may see all around us.

Such absurdities also mean that law would be reduced to a power struggle, and whatever factions and coalitions can gain power are free to use it without any need to respect the principles of natural justice that Locke highlighted by citing "the judicious [Richard] Hooker" from his Ecclesiastical Polity, when he set out to ground rights, justice and liberty in his Second Essay on Civil Government, Ch 2 Section 5:
. . . if I cannot but wish to receive good, even as much at every man's hands, as any man can wish unto his own soul, how should I look to have any part of my desire herein satisfied, unless myself be careful to satisfy the like desire which is undoubtedly in other men . . . my desire, therefore, to be loved of my equals in Nature, as much as possible may be, imposeth upon me a natural duty of bearing to themward fully the like affection. From which relation of equality between ourselves and them that are as ourselves, what several rules and canons natural reason hath drawn for direction of life no man is ignorant.
Without a foundational premise like this [here, anchored in our being made in the image of God, and so being fundamentally equal], politics becomes predatory, and law is a raw expression of force.  A sword to use against those with whom one differs, while cloaking oneself with the aura of legitimacy under law.

Indeed, we can see that happening in a recent, highly disturbing ruling by a certain judge Rutherford in the UK, in regards to the Bull Guest House case. 

For, an elderly Christian couple who tried to enforce a rule that non-married couples were not to rent their double-bed rooms -- such small hotels are often turned into convenient locations for adultery or even prostitution -- were censured and fined for so doing in the case of two homosexualist men; in a case joined in by the British human rights agency, on the side of the homosexualists.

Let us notice the judge's key rulings. As the Daily Telegraph recounts:
. . . In his ruling, Judge Rutherford said that, in the last 50 years, social attitudes in Britain had changed. 

"We live today in a parliamentary democracy. Our laws are made by the Queen in Parliament," the judge said. 

"It is inevitable that such laws will from time to time cut across deeply held beliefs of individuals and sections of society for they reflect the social attitudes and morals prevailing at the time that they are made. 

"In the last 50 years there have been many such instances - the abolition of capital punishment; the abolition of corporal punishment in schools; the decriminalisation of homosexuality and of suicide; and on a more mundane level the ban on hunting and on smoking in public places. 

"All of these - and they are only examples - have offended sections of the population and in some cases cut across traditional religious beliefs. 

"These laws have come into being because of changes in social attitudes. The standards and principles governing our behaviour which were unquestioningly accepted in one generation may not be so accepted in the next. 

"I am quite satisfied as to the genuineness of the defendants' beliefs and it is, I have no doubt, one which others also hold. 

"It is a very clear example of how social attitudes have changed over the years for it is not so very long ago that these beliefs of the defendants would have been those accepted as normal by society at large. Now it is the other way around."
In short, it is all a matter of who has enough power to manipulate the public's opinion and gain control of parliament, in an era where over the past half century, evolutionary materialistic thought under the name of science, has captured the mindset of the elites. 

Justice and freedom of conscience, as a result, are dead -- exactly as Plato warned.

The guesthouse is not just the Bulls’ livelihood, it’s their home. Surely they should be allowed the freedom to live by their own values under their own roof. Everyone benefits from these important liberties, and everyone suffers when they are eroded.
The case brought by a homosexual couple against Mr and Mrs Bull was paid for by the Government-funded Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) . . . . 

The Commission is responsible for defending everybody’s human rights, including the rights of Christians to live and work in line with their faith. This case raises sensitive issues of competing rights. It is a finely balanced and complex case. Yet the EHRC put its substantial weight, and taxpayers’ money, behind one side of the argument. Christians are left to feel that, when it comes to equality, they are on the outside looking in.
In a chillingly Orwellian comment, the EHRC’s John Wadham said: “This decision means that community standards, not private ones, must be upheld.” And so the power of the state is brought to bear against a Christian couple aged 70 and 66 who believe in that most pernicious of institutions, marriage.
Discrimination law is meant to act as a shield to protect people from unfair treatment, not to be used as a sword to attack those whose beliefs you disagree with. The same laws used against the Bulls have been used to shut down faith-based adoption agencies that want children to have the benefit of a mum and a dad who are committed to each other in marriage. Children were sacrificed on the altar of political correctness. Personal liberty may be next.
But, in a world dominated by inherently amoral evolutionary materialism, that is exactly what will predictably happen. 

As Plato warned 2,300 years ago.

Plainly, we -- again -- need to re-learn the hard lessons of history about what happens when freedom of conscience is trampled underfoot by an arrogant elite. 

Perhaps the best historical case to study is that where Antiochus Epiphanes thought to force the Jews of Israel to conform to the pagan "community standards" of his day; as we may read in 1 Maccabees:
1: [20] After subduing Egypt, Antiochus returned in the one hundred and forty-third year [of the Greek hegemony]. He went up against Israel and came to Jerusalem with a strong force.

[21] He arrogantly entered the sanctuary and took the golden altar, the lampstand for the light, and all its utensils.
[22] He took also the table for the bread of the Presence, the cups for drink offerings, the bowls, the golden censers, the curtain, the crowns, and the gold decoration on the front of the temple; he stripped it all off.
[23] He took the silver and the gold, and the costly vessels; he took also the hidden treasures which he found.
[24] Taking them all, he departed to his own land. He committed deeds of murder, and spoke with great arrogance.
[25] Israel mourned deeply in every community . . . . 

[41]Then the king wrote to his whole kingdom that all should be one people,

[42] and that each should give up his customs.
[43] All the Gentiles accepted the command of the king. Many even from Israel gladly adopted his religion; they sacrificed to idols and profaned the sabbath.
[44] And the king sent letters by messengers to Jerusalem and the cities of Judah; he directed them to follow customs strange to the land . . . . 
[47] to build altars and sacred precincts and shrines for idols, to sacrifice swine and unclean animals,
[48] and to leave their sons uncircumcised. They were to make themselves abominable by everything unclean and profane,
[49] so that they should forget the law and change all the ordinances.
[50] "And whoever does not obey the command of the king shall die."
[51] In such words he wrote to his whole kingdom. And he appointed inspectors over all the people and commanded the cities of Judah to offer sacrifice, city by city.
 All seemed to be fine for the king, until his officers came to the little town in Judaean hills called Modein, and he then faced revolution in the name of God. liberty and conscience:
2: [1]In those days Mattathias the son of John, son of Simeon, a priest of the sons of Joarib, moved from Jerusalem and settled in Modein . . . . 

[6] He saw the blasphemies being committed in Judah and Jerusalem,
[7] and said, "Alas! Why was I born to see this,
the ruin of my people, the ruin of the holy city,
and to dwell there when it was given over to the enemy,
the sanctuary given over to aliens?
[8] Her temple has become like a man without honor;
[9] her glorious vessels have been carried into captivity.
Her babes have been killed in her streets,
her youths by the sword of the foe . . . . 

[11] All her adornment has been taken away;
no longer free, she has become a slave.
[12] And behold, our holy place, our beauty,
and our glory have been laid waste;
the Gentiles have profaned it . . . . 

[15]Then the king's officers who were enforcing the apostasy came to the city of Modein to make them offer [pagan, blasphemous] sacrifice.

[16] Many from Israel came to them; and Mattathias and his sons were assembled.
[17] Then the king's officers spoke to Mattathias as follows: "You are a leader, honored and great in this city, and supported by sons and brothers.
[18] Now be the first to come and do what the king commands, as all the Gentiles and the men of Judah and those that are left in Jerusalem have done. Then you and your sons will be numbered among the friends of the king, and you and your sons will be honored with silver and gold and many gifts."
[19]But Mattathias answered and said in a loud voice: "Even if all the nations that live under the rule of the king obey him, and have chosen to do his commandments, departing each one from the religion of his fathers,
[20] yet I and my sons and my brothers will live by the covenant of our fathers.
[21] Far be it from us to desert the law and the ordinances.
[22] We will not obey the king's words by turning aside from our religion to the right hand or to the left."
 [23]When he had finished speaking these words, a Jew came forward in the sight of all to offer sacrifice upon the altar in Modein, according to the king's command.

[24] When Mattathias saw it, be burned with zeal and his heart was stirred. He gave vent to righteous anger; he ran and killed him upon the altar.
[25] At the same time he killed the king's officer who was forcing them to sacrifice, and he tore down the altar.
[26] Thus he burned with zeal for the law, as Phinehas did against Zimri the son of Salu.
[27]Then Mattathias cried out in the city with a loud voice, saying: "Let every one who is zealous for the law and supports the covenant come out with me!"
[28] And he and his sons fled to the hills and left all that they had in the city . . . 
 The rest is history, that of the successful -- but costly -- Hasmonean revolution against Antiochus Epiphanes.

Grim history.

But, if we forget history, we are doomed to repeat it. 

Especially, if we confuse power in the institutions of government -- whether "democratic" or not -- for the right to trample on the conscience. 

And so we see the cogency of Mike Judge's warning that:
Discrimination law is meant to act as a shield to protect people from unfair treatment, not to be used as a sword to attack those whose beliefs you disagree with.
If discrimination law is abused like that, it will discredit itself and those who use it as a sword to cut down and threaten the livelihood, consciences and liberties of those who dare to differ with and call them to account on matters of moral principle.

Then, if such persist in that madness, at some point,  they will face the grim prospect of becoming persecutors of people of principle and conscience. "To the lions!"

Already, in the UK, that has led to plainly unjustifiable shutting down of orphanages and threatening of livelihoods. In at least one case, a street preacher has faced prosecution under hooliganism law, based on the actions of a homosexualist advocate policemen for replying to a heckler by citing 1 Cor 6:9 - 11, on how by God's grace, sinners of all stripes may find transformation through the gospel.  Similar things elsewhere have also underscored the same worrying trends.

Beyond a certain point, the result will be the utter delegitimisation of governments and laws that do that, and God only knows where that would end.  

Though, history repeatedly warns that if peaceful protest on conscience-based principle is blocked, revolutions are the result. At least, in our day, the ballot box offers a peaceful means of reforming or replacing unjust government.

(And let us observe, how conscience on issues connected to marriage, sex and family are now being routinely cast as though they were comparable to racist discrimination, which disregards the fundamental equality of human beings as being made in God's image. That is incendiary, outrageous utterly uncivil and poisonously polarising slander. It is very dangerous and should stop at once.)

Let us trust that we will wake up to where we are plainly headed, before it is too late.

It is time to stop and think again. For, as Mike Judge tells us:
Discrimination law is meant to act as a shield to protect people from unfair treatment, not to be used as a sword to attack those whose beliefs you disagree with.
And, if the prospect of decent people being deprived of livelihood and liberty on matters of conscience does not suffice to wake us up to what is going on, then our civilisation will have destroyed itself through clutching the asp of ill-founded worldviews and associated amorality and radical relativism to its breast.

Let us wake up, peaceably but forcefully speak up, and vote up to stop the madness, before it is too late:

Revelation 13:11-17 (Amplified Bible)

11Then I saw another beast rising up out of the land [itself]; he had two horns like a lamb, and he spoke (roared) like a dragon.
    12He exerts all the power and right of control of the former beast in his presence, and causes the earth and those who dwell upon it to exalt and deify the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed, and to worship him.
    13He performs great signs (startling miracles), even making fire fall from the sky to the earth in men's sight.
    14And because of the signs (miracles) which he is allowed to perform in the presence of the [first] beast, he deceives those who inhabit the earth, commanding them to erect a statue (an image) in the likeness of the beast who was wounded by the [small] sword and still lived.(A)
    15And he is permitted [also] to impart the breath of life into the beast's image, so that the statue of the beast could actually talk and cause to be put to death those who would not bow down and worship the image of the beast.(B)
    16Also he compels all [alike], both small and great, both the rich and the poor, both free and slave, to be marked with an inscription [[a]stamped] on their right hands or on their foreheads,
    17So that no one will have power to buy or sell unless he bears the stamp (mark, inscription), [that is] the name of the beast or the number of his name.
  1. Revelation 13:16 Joseph Thayer, A Greek-English Lexicon.
 Surely, we do not want to end up in the situation of an Antiochus Ephipahanes or a Nero Caesar. 

Can we not at least learn from history and turn back before it is too late?  END