Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Oh to have your cake and eat it too...

A while back, in a post titled Evolutionary Decency..., I wrote about the inconsistency that those who hold to a naturalistic paradigm (i.e., evolutionists) have whenever they attempt to explain morality. Essentially, the reasoning is very simple: If all that exists is the natural realm, then no reality exists outside of the natural realm. If no reality beyond the natural realm exists, then nothing abstract, such as morality, can truly exist. Typically there are responses that state the supernatural may exists, but that we have no way of detecting it; or that morality is directly tied to natural selection; and so forth. Breakpoint has a recent post on the impending extinction of the Giant Panda and how evolutionists are attempting to reverse that trend:
Biologists estimate that there are, at most, 1,500 giant pandas living in the wild, all of them in southwestern China. The most common explanation given for the panda’s plight is human encroachment on their habitat. ...The species’ ineptitude at reproduction has forced humans to intervene and essentially to take over the process, breeding and raising the young of a species that can’t do it on its own. In other words, if the giant panda survives, it will only be because human beings made its survival a priority. Human beings will refrain from activities that hurt the panda’s chances of survival and will take active measures, like breeding programs, to perpetuate the species. This is the right thing to do, but it’s not the Darwinian thing. It wouldn’t be happening if human beings were, as Darwinists like Richard Dawkins tell us, “just another animal.”
Roberto Rivera also has an article on Breakpoint, titled Panda Man, in which he states:
For those who take their Darwinism, as Thelonious Monk might’ve put it, straight, no chaser, the logical response to the plight of the Giant Panda is “tough.” Evolution is, if nothing else, unsentimental. It rewards adaptability and punishes, in the medium-to-long term, overspecialization. If your diet and habitat disappear ― and that has happened countless times in Earth’s history ― then you do, too.
As to be expected, these posts have been critiqued by evolutionists in the blogosphere, most notably at Panda's Thumb, Evolutionblog, and Dispatches from the Culture Wars. The arguments you read illustrate the extent to which evolutionists must bend over backwards in order to get around the issue of morality. Consider:
The panda, like every other modern species, resides at the end of a long line of winners in the game of survival. The pandas have been able to survive for a long time with their limited diet and leisurely reproductive rate. The reason they are endangered now is because of human encroachment on their natural habitats. - Evolutionblog Evolution does not posit that humans are "just another animal", it posits that we came to be here by the same process of descent with modification that produced other animals (or plants and fungi and microbes, for that matter). That does not logically lead to the conclusion that we either do or should behave like bison do (evolution is descriptive, not prescriptive). Humans have evolved with capacities for thought - emotion, rational consideration of alternatives, compassionate understanding of another's plight - that are, as far as we know, distinct from other animals. Those capacities are intimately tied to the physical apparatus of the human brain. Colson and Rivera are simply attacking a caricature of evolutionary thought. - Dispatches from the Culture Wars
So we are told that the panda is threatened with extinction because of human encroachment on their natural habitats, and that we humans are not "just another animal" but that we are, somehow, qualitatively different from, as far as we know, all other animals. Now I agree that humans are not just another animal, but the evolutionary process, if it truly is descriptive, contradicts that statement. Evolutionists believe that humans have evolved the capacities for thought, emotion, compassion, etc. - just re-read the quote above. While evolution states that no other animals must follow the same road to morality that humans have, it does not restrict any of them from doing so either. That's a big distinction, because the implication is that if one of the other animals on earth can eventually attain the same qualities humans have, then our so-called distinction from the other animals is erased. There is no getting around this for, as in the quote above, the only starting point an evolutionist can turn to for human morality are the physical apparatus of the human brain - we're stuck in the same, natural world, as all the other animals. We belong to the same diversity of life that sprang forth from the so-called last universal common ancestor. If we do belong to the diversity of life on planet earth, and if our qualities were simply the result of natural reactions then, as C. S. Lewis said, the statement "I ought" would carry the same weight as "I itch." One person's declaration that human encroachment on another species natural habitat was immoral would be just as valid as another person's declaration that we should eat the species to extinction! We would be justified to deem any act of nature as both moral and immoral - or neither. Of course such reasoning is ludicrous. Animals act in a manner distinctly different from humans. Even the evolutionists above understand that human behavior is qualitatively different from animal behavior. The question, which they've failed to answer, is... WHY? Evolutionists state, Humans have evolved with capacities for thought - emotion, rational consideration of alternatives, compassionate understanding of another's plight; but that simply begs the question. I have yet to see an evolutionist, who claims to hold to some form of morality, give any reason why humans should act compassionately - other than - a grand, and stealthy, because.

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