Kingdom of Priests

Kingdom of Priests


The Hollowness of Conservatism Under Darwinism’s Sway

posted by David Klinghoffer

Sometimes the hollowness of contemporary conservatism gets me down. An earlier figure in the conservative tradition, Whittaker Chambers, began his journey up from Communism one morning when he was feeding his little daughter and he noticed her ear. Suddenly he felt the power and beauty in its evident design, and this transformed his whole view of reality. 

His political philosophy is summarized in the sentence from Witness, “Political freedom, as the Western world has known it, is only a political reading of the Bible.” Perceiving that his daughter’s ear reflected purpose, intelligence, and design made it possible for him to turn from Marx to Moses, and the rest of Scripture, for illumination.
Compare the timeless wisdom of Chambers with two respectable modern-day conservatives who write on bioethics. In Touchstone, my colleague John West reviews Yuval Levin’s Imagining the Future: Science and American Democracy and Eric Cohen’s In the Shadow of Progress: Being Human in the Age of Technology. There’s much to admire in the two books, which “offer profound insights into the dangers of scientific utopianism, the value of deomcratic politics as a moderating influence on science, and the need for science to be guided by moral purposes.” Levin and Cohen warn of future dangers from genetic engineering, a “new eugenics,” and the like.
That’s terrific, but West perceptively notes that both books fail to comprehend the degree to which nightmarish trends in contemporary bioethical thinking are tied up with Darwinian ideology. On the contrary, Levin and Cohen are careful to make sure the reader understands they would not be so benighted as to reject Darwinian evolution.

Levin, in particular, chides conservatives who “accept the proposition that the claims of evolution are in direct competition with the claims of Biblical religion or traditional morality, when in fact each offers answers to a different set of questions altogether.” Levin’s announcement of the compatibility of Darwinism with “Biblical religion” would be news to Charles Darwin, whose private musings show how his biological theory eroded his own religious faith and whose book The Descent of Man outlined the radical implications of his theory for morality, sex, religion, and society.

The Bible, huh? The most profound interpreters of the Hebrew Bible — from Maimonides to Samson Raphael Hirsch — have always understood that “Biblical religion” sets itself against a masterless, materialist picture of nature. Classically, that picture is crystalized in Epicurean philosophy, a vein of thinking that led to Darwinism. Nature, wrote Hirsch, is “not the result of some force working blindly, but the work of One thinking Being” who creates “with intention and purpose.” The horror in which Biblical tradition holds Epicureanism is reflected in a rabbinic term designating a particular kind of heretic: apikorus, literally an Epicurean. The Mishnah urges us to “Know how to answer an Epicurean.”

The earnest authors want to draw not only on the Bible but on Aristotle and on political philosophy generally, not realizing that if Darwinism is true, the authority of all these sources is radically undercut:

Appeals to “unchanging human nature,” the “soul,” or traditional morality are tantamount to fairy tales in the Darwinian worldview. According to Darwinism, there is nothing unchanging about human nature; it continues to evolve, along with the conditions for survival. Likewise, a nonmaterial soul is sheer fantasy because (to cite the late Stephen Jay Gould) “matter is the ground of all existence; mind, spirit, and God as well, are just words that express the wondrous results of neuronal complexity.” Even morality is simply an unintended byproduct of the material struggle for survival. As leading Darwinists E. O. Wilson and Michael Ruse argue,

Morality…is merely an adaptation put in place to further our reproductive ends….In an important sense, ethics as we understand it is an illusion fobbed off on us by our genes to get us to cooperate.

To be fair, however, West gives Cohen credit:

Cohen is more willing than Levin to acknowledge that many of the unsavory implications of Darwinism stem from the theory’s core and even from Darwin himself. Cohen also points out that Darwinian biology offers no explanation for the origin of matter or “the source of nature’s fixed laws.” Yet in the end, he embraces the blind Darwinian mechanism of selection and mutation as the “likely” explanation for the emergence of man on the earth.

Read the rest for yourself.


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Gabriel Hanna

posted August 7, 2009 at 10:00 pm


1) What’s the source for the Wilson-Ruse quote? The article you link to doesn’t provide it. When I Google it I find it quoted only by DI fellows. I know by now that I cannot trust anything quoted by you or the other ID fellows without checking the primary source.
Assuming that it is Philosophy 61 236 p173, this is just two scientists writing about what THEY think morality is, in a philosophy journal, not a biology journal. They do not speak for biology, or for Darwin.
At any rate, as usual you intentionally blur the distinction between is and ought. I hope Wilson and Ruse weren’t doing the same, but if they were, they are just as wrong as you.
2)The Mishnah urges us to “Know how to answer an Epicurean.”
Does the Mishnah say to lie about what Epicureans say and believe?
3) Bonus question: Who wrote this?
There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.
Charles Darwin, it seems, was as much a believer in “intelligent design” as Maimonides.



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Gabriel Hanna

posted August 7, 2009 at 10:56 pm


Let’s think about the Mishnah for a minute. “Apikoros” is often used to mean “Christians”, isn’t it, David:
http://www.torah.org/learning/pirkei-avos/chapter2-19.html#
The term our mishna uses for heretic is “apikorus.” This is the Hebrew equivalent of Epicurus, the Ancient Greek philosopher (3rd-2nd Centuries B.C.E.), founder of the Epicurean philosophy (“Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we may die” — especially with eating habits like that). (The Epicureans were actually more “rational hedonists,” but for our purposes, the folk-simplification is sufficient — and also telling.) The term apikorus in Jewish literature has become synonymous with one who adheres to any doctrine contrary to the basic tenets of Judaism. Certainly Epicureanism is practically antithetical to all we believe in. Death is not an end to existence to be ignored and disregarded. To the contrary: this world is no more than an entranceway before the Banquet Hall (4:21). The eventuality of death should not drive us to indulge ourselves, but to spend our lives preparing for that future grand entrance. (See also earlier, 2:15 .)
In addition (as my father of blessed memory once pointed out to me), scholars have noted that the Talmud’s frequent use of this term may have served as an anti-censorship device. When the Sages had occasion to refer to Christianity or other contemporary religions (usually in somewhat less than glowing terms), they would cloak their references by giving the impression they were referring to some obscure Greek philosophical sect. (See for example Talmud Chagiga 5b.) Likewise Gentiles in general were often referred to (both by the Talmud and the commentators) as Cutheans, Canaanites and the like.
So it’s not really honest for you to use the word here like it only applies to “Darwinists” or secularist or atheists. It applies just as well to the other DI fellows.



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Turmarion

posted August 7, 2009 at 11:20 pm


Well, at least you got away from the evolution-bashing for a little while (sigh).
1. As we’ve pointed out here before, it doesn’t matter what Darwin thought about the moral implications of his theory, any more than it matters that Newton was an alchemist in regard to the validity of his physics.
2. As Hume pointed out long ago, you can’t derive an ought statement from an is statement. Thus, the statement, “Evolution is true,” has no logical implications for what we ought do do morally. Or turn it around–theists in the past have cheerfully thought they ought to commit genocide, countenance slavery, oppress women, etc. etc. Does this invalidate theism? If the answer is “no”, then no nastiness purveyed by some who claimed to derive it from evolutionary theory invalidates it, either.
3. You have misrepresented Maimonides in the past, and have never addressed it when we’ve pointed this out. Also, the fact remains that most Orthodox Jewish theologians have no problem at all with evolution; thus I think it disingenuous, to say the least, for you to press Jewish philosophers and theologians into service against evolution.
4. To argue that Epicureanism is the origin of Darwin’s ideas is, to say the least, debatable for anyone conversant with the history of Western philosophy!
5. Finally, I want to challenge you, David. Your argument here is a variant of your old warhorse, that so-called “Darwinism” reduces the cosmos to “a masterless, materialist picture of nature”. I’ve pointed out that from the Divine perspective there is no “randomness”, and that it is perfectly conceivable that God works through these material, seemingly random and “masterless”, processes. I’ve pressed you on this again and again here to no avail.
Finally, I emailed you directly with the same questions. After some time, you referred me to a series of articles at Evolution News and Views, by John West, which you said dealt with that question. I read them and sent you back–well, not a refutation, because there was nothing to refute. West spent two and a half articles arguing against Stephen Barr (whose views are pretty much like mine, that God works through seeming randomness, since nothing is random to Him), or rather not arguing against Barr, but rather claiming that most scientists believe there is no order or transcendence.
As I pointed out, this is a complete non sequitur. What most scientists believe about a non-scientific proposition (God’s existence and how He works, these being philosophical and theological questions) is absolutely irrelevant. If every scientist in the world were an atheist, that no more makes God not exist that everyone’s believing the Earth is flat (as they once did) makes it not round.
Finally, in his third article, West (grudgingly!) admitted the following, with emphasis and brackets added: “I accept Collins’ proposal [that God works through "random" factors] as a logical possibility. In the abstract, God could have chosen to create a guided process that looks to us as if it is unguided. The relevant question for a Christian or Jew, however, is did God create life in that way based on what we know about His character and own self-explanations to us?…While Collins’ view is logically compatible with the idea that God actively guides the development of His creation, it is still in tension with the traditional Biblical understanding of God.
After bloviating for two and a half essays, then, West gives up the game by admitting that he has neither scientific nor philosophical grounds on which to refute the view of Collins (which he shares with Barr and myself) that God works through “random” processes. Unable to refute this, he falls back on arguing about how we understand God. The problem is in what he doesn’t say: Among Christian and Jewish theologians and philosophers, almost none outside those who hold the untenable belief of young-Earth creationism (which to your credit, David, you reject) have a problem with evolution! Now unlike West, I’m not arguing reality based on a “majority vote” of theologians and philosophers. My point is, however, that West seems to imply that it is self-evident that the traditional understanding of God excludes evolution and that the fact that almost no non-young-Earth theologians and philosophers agree with him indicates that it’s not as self-evident as he seems to think! I might also point out that there are theists who are not Jews or Christians, and for them, West’s argument here will obviously seem much less than compelling.
In any case, I emailed you back with my assessment of West’s articles, and got no response. This was back on the twenty-fifth of last month, BTW.
Now, since this was personal correspondence, I promised I wouldn’t post it here, and I haven’t and won’t because I take my promises seriously. However, I don’t think discussing the substance of the email violates this, especially since you yourself have invited direct communication and say you want dialogue. I do think that the least you could do in fairness, since this blog is a public forum, is to post all of the emails from both sides, or at least post to the West essays with an explanation, and let the others here make up their own minds. I would also like to hear your response to my comments on West’s articles. There are a couple of other questions I asked, too, which you’ve never discussed or responded to, and to which I’d like you to respond, preferably here, but in whatever forum in which you’re willing to do so.
As I’ve said in the past, if you want real dialogue, these are things you can’t neglect. Minimally, if you don’t want to respond, or bring things up here, you should at least give reasons for so doing (or not doing, as the case may be). I know that as I write this it is Sabbath, and you cannot yet respond; but when the time rolls around that you can, I’d much appreciate at least something. It’s in your court.
Gabriel: Excellent posts! I might also highlight a particular quote from the Torah.org site to which you link, brackets added: “The Epicureans were actually more ‘rational hedonists,’ but for our purposes, the folk-simplification [of Epicureans as materialist heretics] is sufficient — and also telling.” This is interesting, since the author of the article actually understands that Epicureans were, in fact, “rational hedonists” (additionally, while not conventionally “pious”, they weren’t atheists, in the modern sense of the word, either), but still goes on to say, “the folk-simplification is sufficient — and also telling.” This is like saying, “I understand that ‘Jew’ means a member of a particular religion, but the folk-simplification (“to jew’, a vile and disgusting Southern verb meaning “to cheat or swindle”) for our purposes is sufficient–and also telling.” I mean, really!!!



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Your Name

posted August 8, 2009 at 9:28 pm


Cuthians refers to a particular group of people, not gentiles in general. It refers to the Samaritans, who have an unusual status because they might have converted to Judaism at one point.



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Your Name

posted August 8, 2009 at 9:31 pm


And According to Maimonides an Apikores is one who denies the authority of the Sages. It has come to become a genreic term for any kind of denier.



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Dennis

posted August 9, 2009 at 4:31 pm


The issue of whether the universe is purposeful or not can not be determined empirically. What you can determine is what your purposes are. Stop wasting time and meditate on that.



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Glen Davidson

posted August 9, 2009 at 6:58 pm


Agreed with others, excellent post, Turmarion. Nevertheless, I’d like to follow up on the following:

The Bible, huh? The most profound interpreters of the Hebrew Bible — from Maimonides to Samson Raphael Hirsch — have always understood that “Biblical religion” sets its against a masterless, materialist picture of nature. Classically, that picture is crystalized in Epicurean philosophy, a vein of thinking that led to Darwinism.

I know this is the drone of anti-evolutionists, but it’s absurd on the face of it. Darwin only followed Darwin and Galileo in accepting a kind of Xianized Platonic view of nature, as that it is made rational and knowable by the Creator. Anyone who is knowledgeable and reads Darwin recognizes the hefty Newtonian strain in Darwin, and this from near the end of the Origin of Species sounds almost like it could have been lifted from Newton’s writings (if one didn’t already know that Newton adhered to a kind of “ID,” that is):

Authors of the highest eminence seem to be fully satisfied with the view that each species has been independently created. To my mind it accords better with what we know of the laws impressed on matter by the Creator, that the production and extinction of the past and present inhabitants of the world should have been due to secondary causes, like those determining the birth and death of the individual. When I view all beings not as special creations, but as the lineal descendants of some few beings which lived long before the first bed of the Cambrian system was deposited, they seem to me to become ennobled. (p. 428 of Origin in the version at the online writings of Charles Darwin)

There are discussions about whether or not Darwin was as close to religion as he seems in the Origin, and I won’t pretend that I know which way he really tended when he first wrote it. That he was reaching into his theology training to write that paragraph, though, seems more than slightly evident–and such views are also why mainline churches generally accepted Darwin’s writings. Clearly he’s just extending the Judeo-Christian (and Muslim) view of science to biology, which Newton had not been willing to do (nor could he see how), yet which is only a natural extension of the science developed by religious scientists like Newton.
As to conservatives and evolution, Pope John Paul II seems about as good as any, and he saw no reason to deny evolution and its scientifically known mechanisms (he probably reserved areas which I would not, but at least didn’t oppose these to evolution). Even Benedict seems to have come around to it. Bill Buckley accepted it as well as any person generally ignorant of science could do, and it is said that National Review’s staff typically accepts evolution.
I used to think that conservatism was wedded to honesty, and generally would accept clear evidence with its appropriate conclusions. Lately, this has seemed not to be the case in far too much of it, especially with the DI and too much dithering at NR and most conservative journals. And really, if it cannot accept good methods for getting at the truth, it is of no value whatsoever. May conservativism get some intelligent leadership that will push for proper standards of truth as a principle.
Chambers’ uneducated opinion on the matter has, definitely, no bearing on the matter in an intellectual sense.
Glen Davidson
http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p



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Glen Davidson

posted August 9, 2009 at 7:43 pm


I should have given credit to Gabriel Hanna along with Turmarion, and the other comments are apropos as well. I’m commenting really, though, because this is funny:

The earnest authors want to draw not only on the Bible but on Aristotle and on political philosophy generally, not realizing that if Darwinism is true, the authority of all these sources is radically undercut:

Appeals to “unchanging human nature,” the “soul,” or traditional morality are tantamount to fairy tales in the Darwinian worldview. According to Darwinism, there is nothing unchanging about human nature; it continues to evolve, along with the conditions for survival. Likewise, a nonmaterial soul is sheer fantasy because (to cite the late Stephen Jay Gould) “matter is the ground of all existence; mind, spirit, and God as well, are just words that express the wondrous results of neuronal complexity.” Even morality is simply an unintended byproduct of the material struggle for survival. As leading Darwinists E. O. Wilson and Michael Ruse argue,

Who among the IDists accepts Aristotle’s fixity of species?
But that’s what David seems to be arguing. He’s thus appears to be countering Behe and Meyer, unless, of course, Behe and Meyer actually believe in an unchanging soul, something they don’t generally argue when they’re claiming that ID is scientific. Otherwise, no doubt, they do, which just gets back to how equivocating and generally dishonest ID is.
The only way that humanity can be fixed in morals through time is if a miracle like a soul is invoked for it, unless one argues Aristotelian fixity of species. And really, what difference then would it make if evolution by natural means until the soul is put into humanity were to have occurred?
The incoherence of David’s position is staggering.
Glen Davidson
http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p



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David Klinghoffer

posted August 9, 2009 at 8:35 pm


Glen Davidson, whenever I take time to read, or rather skim, what you write, I find you to be generally wrong. For instance, on Bill Buckley, see here: http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=NzE4YThhMmRjZGM2NDIyNmY4Yjk0ZDdhZGVlZjFhMWY=
Agree with him or not, Buckley was no Darwinist nor an ID basher. That’s a matter of public record, not opinion.



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Turmarion

posted August 10, 2009 at 10:49 am


I don’t know, David. From the article you cite, it’s not really clear what Buckley was saying. He certainly seems not to be an ID-basher, but the stuff he says could equally well indicate theistic evolution as ID. Consider this sentence from the cited article: “To prove absolutely that an apple, dropped from above Johnny’s head, will fall down on it is not the equivalent of proving that no extrinsic force had a hand in setting up that gravitational exercise.” Now jimmy it slightly: “To prove absolutely that a life form, over vast periods of time, will evolve through natural selection into different life forms is not the equivalent of proving that no extrinsic force had a hand in setting up that exercise in selective forces, physics, and chemistry.” See?
I notice that Glenn, in his post, says that Buckley “accepted [evolution] as well as any person generally ignorant of science could do”, which based on this article, seems about right. From Buckley’s description of the Firing Line (“Resolved: that the evolutionists should acknowledge creation” sounds so vague that it could mean ID or theistic evolution–we “acknowledge creation”, too–or lots of other things) and the article itself, it seems that he is indeed rather ignorant of science, but it does not seem that he necessarily rejects evolution.
Instead, he seems to think that evolutionary biologists exclude religion based on the science, and disagrees with this. You know what? I do, too. Many, such as Dawkins, say that it is contradictory to believe in evolution and God at the same time. For reasons I and others have hashed over here again and again, I believe Dawkins and his ilk to be mistaken. Buckley just doesn’t seem to be making (or perhaps not understanding) the distinction between ID (which in effect requires regular miracles from God) and theistic evolution (which while having just as firm a place for God, assumes He works by natural laws in evolving species).
The only way we could clarify this would be to ask Buckley if he believes the Universe is billions of years old and that species evolve, directed by God or otherwise. Alas, by the time we are able to do so, we’ll be able to bypass WFB and just ask God directly. In any case, I think the article you cited supports Glen’s reading as much as it does yours.
BTW, what about those questions?



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Glen Davidson

posted August 10, 2009 at 1:50 pm


Glen Davidson, whenever I take time to read, or rather skim,

What’s the matter, David, can’t understand deep concepts?
Like I needed to ask. It appears that you also skimmed your course material in college, since you can’t make a decent argument, or even understand properly what was written, as Turmarion has already demonstrated.

what you write, I find you to be generally wrong.

Which is good, because I and anyone else with learning and honesty find most of what you write to be dishonest, ignorant, and poorly thought out. I’d worry if you actually thought well of what I write, considering your horrible track record of mindless attacks, ad hominems, and outright fallacies.
For instance, if you were going to actually back up your dishonest attack upon me there, you’d need more than your pathetic little instance, if you could even get that right. I listed a bunch of people, a couple of popes in the first examples–and I’m aware that I could be wrong in an instance, although there’s no evidence I was wrong about Buckley, your pathetic claims notwithstanding.

For instance, on Bill Buckley, see here:
article.nationalreview.com/?q=NzE4YThhMmRjZGM2NDIyNmY4Yjk0ZDdhZGVlZjFhMWY=
Agree with him or not, Buckley was no Darwinist nor an ID basher.

Did I say that he was a “Darwinist” or an “ID basher”? No, your lack of integrity comes through yet again. I wrote:

…no reason to deny evolution and its scientifically known mechanisms … Bill Buckley accepted it as well as any person generally ignorant of science could do.

You have to remember, David, that not all of us simply attack baselessly like you do, no matter how much you wish to project your inadequacies upon others. I watched the Firing Line episode on evolution, and I’m more than a little aware that Buckley didn’t come down on the side of creationism or the typical depiction of ID (he said things in favor of “intelligent design,” however there’s no reason to see it as more than the “design” of a theistic evolutionist) there. Here’s what I believe is the most relevant portion (KM is Ken Miller, WB is William Buckley):

KM: Let me ask a question along those lines, because you bring up your faith. And I have to tell you that over the weekend, looking for a weakness, I read Nearer, My God your recent book, which I much admire. I thought it was a marvelous explanation of the faith that you and I share. And I want to read a quotation to you. And as everyone in the audience will know, I came tonight with the hope to be remembered as “the guy with the placards.” [audience chuckles] And the quotation — the quotation is an important one: “…new knowledge has led to the recognition of more than a hypothesis in the theory of evolution. It is indeed remarkable that this theory has been progressively accepted by researchers following a series of discoveries in various fields of knowledge. The convergence, neither sought nor fabricated, of the results of work that was conducted independently is in itself a significant argument in favor of this theory.” Would you care to speculate who said that, sir?
WB: [chuckles] Well, the answer is — I have no quarrel with it. Within ten years after Darwin died, they were able to document to a point that he hadn’t, in the 20 years since he had visited the Galapagos, certain phenomena. I have no quarrel with those phenomena. But I think it’s correct to classify them as microevolutionary, not macroevolutionary.
KM: Well, in that point I think you’re in disagreement with Pope John Paul II, who made that statement.
WB: No, no, now wait a minute. Pope John Paul II said that he could not countenance any — any explanation which sought to account for the forces of living matter other than — as mere epiphenomena of the matter, and therefore incompatible with the truth about the man. I have no quarrel with –

At one point he tried to turn evolution into “microevolution,” obviously quite at a loss to know how to use such terms, but he’s certainly not disagreeing with his pope.
Other sections seem to have him more skeptical, but he’s always cagey and ambiguous about that. Anyway, since the linked article supports my position even better than anything in that debate, I’ll note here that I understood him to be accepting evolution quite ambiguously, while insisting that not everything is explained by “materialism.”
That you mendaciously try to imply that I claimed Buckley was an “ID basher” (do you even know how to use language honestly, David?), or that he was a “Darwinist” (what is that even supposed to mean?) rather than to respond to what I’d written about accepting evolution and its known mechanism is, well, the same low that you always attain.

That’s a matter of public record, not opinion.

That’s right, and it doesn’t support either your dishonest restatement of what I had written, or any claim that what I wrote was wrong. Your “conclusion” that I was wrong simply doesn’t follow from what Buckley wrote, and you had to falsely portray what I wrote to get even remotely close. Really, can an IDist have integrity? Because I don’t believe I’ve had a discussion with an IDist that didn’t devolve into some sort of dishonesty on the part of the IDist.
The most relevant part in the linked article David linked that I can see is this:

Please note, said Professor Johnson, that two years later the board of that association dropped the words “unsupervised” and “impersonal.” The meaning of it being that hard scientific research has taken from the evolutionary position not its authenticity—no one can argue with much of its description of what happened in the development of man—but its title to exclusivity. To prove absolutely that an apple, dropped from above Johnny’s head, will fall down on it is not the equivalent of proving that no extrinsic force had a hand in setting up that gravitational exercise.
Johnson’s objections have to do with separating real science from the materialist philosophy that provides “the only support for Darwinist theory.”
The questions are profound, and the arguments subtle. It is not reasonably expected of Senator McCain, or any other contender for the presidency, that in his public appearances he will explicate all the conundrums.
But the intelligent liberal community should not impose on anyone a requirement of believing that there is only the single, materialist word on the subject, and that only contempt is merited by those who consent to appear at think tanks composed of men and women prepared to explore ultimate questions, which certainly include the question, Did God have a hand in creating all of this? Including the great messes we live with?
[Bolding added]

Well again, he manages not to really say much, like in the debate.
And yet, he writes there (and I almost missed it), “…that hard scientific research has taken from the evolutionary position not its authenticity—no one can argue with much of its description of what happened in the development of man—but its title to exclusivity.” Which, particularly in context with what I said about the two popes, supports my statement that “Bill Buckley accepted [evolution] as well as any person generally ignorant of science could do…”
I might not write that claim of Buckley quite so strongly again, but really, I have to thank David for actually linking to an article that supports my position and not his own (except to the degree that he misrepresents what I wrote, which is considerable), one that proves me right (no, Turmarion, it does not support us equally, it really supports only my claim), and David, as usual, to be wrong.
And I repeat, even had I been wrong about Buckley, David’s use of that example wouldn’t support his defamatory statement about what I write. I’m well aware that I make mistakes, but so many fewer than does David.
Glen Davidson
http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p



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Bill Rohan Sr

posted August 10, 2009 at 10:27 pm


“To prove absolutely that an apple, dropped from above Johnny’s head, will fall down on it is not the equivalent of proving that no extrinsic force had a hand in setting up that gravitational exercise.”
The idea of an “extrinsic force” is an interesting concept. The concept of “extrinsic” as the God outside of or beyond the material world is made to acquires physical power with the concept “force”. The God guides changing matter by establishing and guiding, perhaps continuously, the controlling laws.
This is a completely useless idea from the perspective of a scientist. It adds nothing to an explanation. It is not only unnecessary but doesn’t even make sense. The object of study is entirely understood and explained without reference to an “extrinsic force”.
What the theist is trying to provide is a supersensible domain that interacts with the sensible. Why? I think the belief in a supersenible “extrinsic force” compels the believer to try to “make room” for such a power as if it justified that belief and transformed it into knowledge.



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Gabriel Hanna

posted August 10, 2009 at 10:57 pm


Bill Rohan Sr: I think the theistic evolution is trying to describe something outside science so that it is compatible with something that is within science.
I think that is philosophically respectable. Science cannot answer all questions; we have philosophy and religion for the others.
Here’s a metaphor: God and Larry Bird in a three-point contest. Larry Bird sinks (let’s say) 85% of his shots, and God 100% of His.
Is God performing a miracle to do this? Well, He certainly could, and if He throws the ball toward the half-court line and it stops in mid-air, then very slowly moves toward the hoop and drops in, then He certainly IS performing a miracle.
But it may be that God is better than Larry Bird at working out what spin, speed and direction one needs to give to the ball, and at making His “hands” impart those initial conditions to the ball. Then the laws of physics take over.
Let’s change the metaphor a bit. Larry Bird is God, and making a three-point shot is the production of Man in God’s Image (as Maimonides uses the term, which David Klinghoffer is so reluctant to comment on).
Larry Bird makes a three-point shot.
David Klinghoffer says Larry must have been controlling the ball all along its trajectory with his mind.
Theistic evolution says Larry Bird set up the shot, but the laws of physics are what made the ball actually go in.
Science says merely the ball was given such and such initial conditions, and the laws of physics made it go in the hoop.



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Turmarion

posted August 11, 2009 at 8:17 am


Bill Rohan and Gabriel: An even better (IMO) analogy:
I have a dream that I’m playing Larry Bird. Of course, he creams me (or heck, since it’s my dream, maybe I cream him!). To my dream-self and to Bird, the game progresses according to the normal laws of physics, etc. So, then, riddle me this: Does Bird beat me by 100 points (or vice versa) “because” he made better shots, etc., or “because” I dreamed it that way? Hopefully, it is obvious that it’s a false dichotomy.
To use another analogy from C. S. Lewis: Did Ophelia in the play Hamlet die “because’ she climbed a tree onto a branch, which broke, plunging her into the river where she drowned; or “because” Shakespeare decided to kill her off and wrote it that way? Both; or alternately, it depends on whether you’re “inside” the play or “outside” of it.
So, in a sense, the universe is God’s “dream”, or God’s “play”. From our point of view within the dream or play, the causality is totally self-contained. Everything happens because of the laws of physics and what we perceive as material causes (the stage directions, if you will). From the Divine perspective, however, everything is a result of God’s will, the way He dreams it, or writes it (pick your favorite metaphor).
The difference is that God’s dream really is real; or alternately, the characters in His play come to life for real. Authors will often talk about how a character takes on a life of its own–the better the author, the more “autonomy” his imagined characters seem to have. The artist, in a sense, breaks off a part of his mind to direct the character, gives it a certain “life”. With God, the autonomy and life of His characters are real, since He is the perfect author. Or, to go back to the dream analogy, God’s dream is real, and He is a lucid dreamer (He’s aware of it and in control the whole time).
Thus, the apple falls because of gravity, period, from the standpoint of us within the cosmos; and because God willed it to do so, from His perspective. Ditto for evolution. It’s not either-or; it’s both-and.
Hope this is useful! :)



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Gabriel Hanna

posted August 11, 2009 at 8:52 am


Turmarion, that is a little better.
The thing is, God can do miracles at any time. He isn’t constrained by His laws unless He chooses to be.
Why does He choose to be constrained, Turmarion? That’s tricky, I think.
Almost as tricky as trying to say that if God only works through the physical world, that’s just as bad as saying He doesn’t exist, but simultaneously saying that all the evidence we see that might point to God points equally well to aliens or Cthulhu. (David Klinghoffer, I’m looking in your direction.)



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Abambagibus

posted August 11, 2009 at 12:13 pm


Herr Klinghoffer’s implicitly obvious proclamation that all contemporary conservatives are hollow reminds me of a Nazi proclamation concerning the forbears of Jesus. Usually by way of our nutritive cultures, personal persuasions may bias our visions in such a way that a box may look empty when it isn’t, or others seem empty and hollow when we’re full of ourselves and proud. What the Romans had perceived as the substance of the Celts is the what the Celts had perceived as the substance of the Romans, long, long ago. When it comes down to it, we are all basically the same, are we not? Little has changed but our capacity to promulgate more efficiently both for and against and relax.



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