Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Rom 1 reply, 24: Evolutionary materialist secularism's inescapable IS-OUGHT gap, its troubling ties to radical relativism and the undermining of grounds for morality and rights in the community

Last time, we saw how evolutionary materialism -- for all its boasting of being the intelligent and educated person's scientifically enlightened view of the world -- lacks the capacity to provide grounding for the credibility of the self-aware, perceiving, knowing, thinking, understanding deciding mind. 

This was pivotally connected to the matter-mind gap, and to the key point that unless there is something in the foundation of a worldview adequate to support mind, we cannot successfully inject mind thereafter.

It should thus be no surprise to realise, that the same holds for morality, rights and duties.

For instance, in his well-known 1998 Darwin Day keynote address at the University of Tennessee, the well-known professor William B Provine of Cornell University stated:

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 . . . . [Evolution: Free Will and Punishment and Meaning in Life, Second Annual Darwin Day Celebration Keynote Address, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, February 12, 1998 (abstract).]

Leading new atheist Richard Dawkins, in a 1995 Scientific American article, “God’s Utility Function,” similarly stated:
Nature is not cruel, only pitilessly indifferent. This lesson is one of the hardest for humans to learn. We cannot accept that things might be neither good nor evil, neither cruel nor kind, but simply callous: indifferent to all suffering, lacking all purpose . . . . In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but pitiless indifference . . . .
DNA neither cares nor knows. DNA just is. And we dance to its music.
[“God’s Utility Function,” Sci. Am. Aug 1995, pp. 80 - 85. NB: This argument in context tries to raise the problem of evil, even while plainly stating that there is no foundation for such. Cf here for a preliminary discussion of the problem of evil from a Christian perspective.]
In short, it is quite plain that leading spokesmen for evolutionary materialism know that their worldview has no foundation for ought, for morality, for duty, for fairness and justice, for right and rights. But, they also know that rights talk and fairness etc talk is an inescapable part of the human situation, so they reduce such to the rhetoric of relativistic morality in a community where in the end it is might and manipulation that make 'right.'

That underlying amorality of evolutionary materialism and the cynical manipulativeness it so easily leads to should be spotlighted and exposed for what they are and for what they open the door to.

But also, we must observe what is going on here: the views lack a foundational IS that can bear the weight of OUGHT, and that leads to a problem where forever after that, it is not possible to support ought in the system. 

Why is that?

For the obvious reason: matter and energy interacting blindly based on forces of chance and mechanical necessity simply cannot sustain duties to be fair or just, truthful, respectful, benevolent, etc. And so, we are seeing how evolutionary materialism becomes a universal acid that eats up the foundational values that we need to hold a community together.

This is not new, in 360 BC, in his The Laws, Bk X, Plato speaking in the voice of the Athenian Stranger plainly warned, in light of the breakdown of the community of Athens in previous decades:
 Ath. . . . [The avant garde philosophers and poets, c. 360 BC] say that . . .  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. [[In short, evolutionary materialism premised on chance plus necessity acting without intelligent guidance on primordial matter is hardly a new or a primarily "scientific" view! Notice also, the trichotomy of causal factors:  (a) chance/accident, (b) mechanical necessity of nature, (c) art or intelligent design and direction.] . . . .

[[Thus, they hold that t]he 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], and not in legal subjection to them.
 In short, we can hardly say that this issue is a new o0ne, or that we have not been warned in good time of the danger of the rise of nihilistic factions through the promotion of evolutionary materialism as though it were a well-founded and enlightening approach to thought, life and community.

Where can we begin our answer?

First, in critiquing Provine's remarks from a Judaeo-Christian perspective, Kyle Butt brings out a significant implication:

Provine’s . . . [[address] centered on his fifth statement regarding human free will. Prior to delving into the “meat” of his message, however, he noted: “The first 4 implications are so obvious to modern naturalistic evolutionists that I will spend little time defending them” (Provine, 1998).

It is clear then, from Provine’s comments, that he believes naturalistic evolution has no way to produce an “ultimate foundation for ethics.” And it is equally as clear that this sentiment was so apparent to “modern naturalistic evolutionists” that Mr. Provine did not feel it even needed to be defended . . . . [[However, i]f it is true that naturalistic evolution cannot provide an ultimate foundation for determining the difference between actions that are right and ones that are wrong, then the door is wide open for subjective speculation about all human behavior. [[Rape and Evolution, Apologetics Press, 2005.]

That means that the first pivotal issue is to bridge the IS-OUGHT gap highlighted by Hume in his notorious guillotine argument:
In every system of morality, which I have hitherto met with, I have always remarked, that the author proceeds for some time in the ordinary ways of reasoning, and establishes the being of a God, or makes observations concerning human affairs; when all of a sudden I am surprised to find, that instead of the usual copulations of propositions, is, and is not, I meet with no proposition that is not connected with an ought, or an ought not. This change is imperceptible; but is however, of the last consequence. For as this ought, or ought not, expresses some new relation or affirmation, 'tis necessary that it should be observed and explained; and at the same time that a reason should be given; for what seems altogether inconceivable, how this new relation can be a deduction from others, which are entirely different from it. [Hume, David (1739). A Treatise of Human Nature. London: John Noon. book III, part I, section I, p. 335. ]
This is usually read as implying that  OUGHT cannot be grounded on IS, but that is not quite correct. 

What is more correct is to see that this is an expression of the worldviews grounding problem. 

That is, we cannot put ought into a worldview at any stage later than its foundation. 

(And yes, worldviews need foundations, e.g. the famous raft always under partial repair rests on the ocean and the laws of floatation.)

In short, we need to have in our worldviews a foundational IS that can bear the weight of OUGHT. 

The challenge is, that there is just one serious candidate for that: the inherently good, wise and loving Creator God

But, many would not have his shadow darken the door step much less put a foot in the door, so they will tolerate the most absurd consequences that an alternative that appears to be sustained by that prestigious institution, science, may have.

But, some will cry out, why do we need a foundation for ought anyway, let us just live with our moral feelings and find where our community can find a balance.

Such do not see -- or may refuse to acknowledge --  that by doing that, they have surrendered the grounds for saying that slavery was wrong, or that kidnapping, torturing, raping and murdering a young child is wrong and ought not to be done.

But, rest assured, they will want others to respect their rights.

Which exposes the inconsistency.

Let's look a bit at that issue: rights.

What are they? 

Mere entitlements granted by a state based on the play out of the power games and rhetoric of the time backed up by whoever controls the content of schooling and can dominate the media?

Do you not hear the grimly nihilistic echo in this: might and manipulation make 'right'?

There must be a better way.

Yes, start from the point we accept: we have rights.

But if I have a right, it means that I have the right on my side when I act, and that you have a duty of care to respect me, my life, my property, my reputation, my liberty and so forth. 

In short, a right is a binding moral claim that we owe one another due respect grounded in our common equality as human beings.

That is why, when he set out to ground the principles of liberty and justice for government in his famous Second treatise on Civil Government, in Ch 2 Sect 5, John Locke cited "the judicious [Anglican Canon Richard] Hooker" thusly:

. . . 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 . . . [[Hooker then continues, citing Aristotle in The Nicomachean Ethics, Bk 8:] as namely, That because we would take no harm, we must therefore do none; That since we would not be in any thing extremely dealt with, we must ourselves avoid all extremity in our dealings; That from all violence and wrong we are utterly to abstain, with such-like . . . ] [[Eccl. Polity,preface, Bk I, "ch." 8, p.80, cf. here. Emphasis added.]

And, that brings us full circle, to where do that equality and that value come from? 

(Recall, for decades, there were those who argued on claimed evolutionary superiority -- which was widely accepted by leading lights of science and medicine and cultural elites alike, that their races should prevail and others should be seen as simply in the way of progress and should be eliminated.)

There is but one serious answer, as the US Declaration of Independence summarised in 1776: it is self-evident that we are equally made in the image of God, our Creator, who has endowed us with value and rights.

So, again, we see that evolutionary materialism is an important topic, and one that we must face and answer decisively, if we are to avoid falling to the chaos triggered by the amoral nihilist factionists who are already pounding away at the door demanding to be let in. END