October 29, 2003


Hedonists R Us: Darwinism and Morality (BreakPoint with Charles Colson, September 23, 2003)

Ask someone who the first Darwinist was, and they’re likely to think it’s a trick question, like “Who’s buried in Grant’s tomb?” But as a recent book tells us, it’s not Darwin—at least not in regard to the way a materialistic worldview shapes our morals.

That book is Moral Darwinism: How We Became Hedonists by Benjamin Wiker. Wiker of Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, calls the Greek philosopher Epicurus, who lived in the third century before Christ, the “first Darwinist.” Actually, as Wiker says, it would be more accurate to say that Darwin was an Epicurean—probably the most influential one ever.

What he means is that Darwin represented the culmination of what Wiker calls “Epicurean Materialism.” While Epicureanism is commonly associated with hedonism, the fact is that Epicurus “offered the first thorough-going materialist view of the universe where the mere chance interaction of brute matter swirling about created all things.”

So, human beings are “just one more soul-less product of evolution,” and “there is ultimately no good and evil.” This account of the universe was the “foundation” of Darwin’s system and his materialistic explanation for the world.

Wiker writes that Epicurean materialism is “fundamentally antagonistic” to Christianity. For two thousand years, these worldviews have contradicted one another with regard to God, nature, human nature, and morality.

The last part is especially important. Just as Epicurean materialism provided the foundation for Darwinism, Darwinism is the foundation for “one of the two sides in the culture war”: the side “that champions sexual freedom, abortion, [and] euthanasia.”

A materialistic worldview undermines the very basis for morality by denying that we are distinct from the other animals and created in the image of God. Instead, we are considered the product of chance and impersonal forces. If that’s so, why prohibit murder? Nobody talks about “murdering” a dog or a fly. The very idea of “murder” assumes that there’s something unique about being human.

What’s true about murder goes double for human sexuality and familial relationships. If there is no God, soul, or afterlife, all that’s left, as Wiker’s subtitle tells us, is hedonism. In a world that is amoral, how we should live becomes a matter of “continually balancing bodily pleasures and pains.” Morality and the distinction between good and evil are purely human creations with no intrinsic authority.

This link between materialism and amorality, along with materialism’s account of the origins of the universe, makes attempts to “reconcile” Darwinism with Christianity—which some Christians try to do—wrong-headed. If there is one lesson to be learned from “moral Darwinism,” it is that Darwinism and materialism are not “morally neutral.”

Darwinists like to imagine that he discovered, explained, or popularized some important scientific insight, when in reality all he did was provide an undisprovable (and therefore unscientific) justification for an ideology that denies the possibility of morality. The realization that people--Americans mainly--are rejecting it for just that reason has sent the Robert Wrights of the world scrambling around trying to prove that evolution produces "morality" too but has rendered them so incoherent as only to appeal to the lunatic fringe and secular elites, if there's a difference.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 29, 2003 7:30 PM

"Darwinism", as described here, is a straw man.
There is nothing whatsoever contradictory between Christianity, (or any major religion, for that matter), and evolution.

What IS in contention, is Darwinism and descriptions of God's works, by some religious individuals. However, it's obvious that humans aren't God, and thus human descriptions of God's works are necessarily suspect.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at October 29, 2003 8:05 PM

Straw man, indeed. It would be nice if Christian critics of Darwin would bother to read what he wrote.

Wiker is just a demonologist, which is a respectable field where he comes from but has nothing to do with science.

And whatever Epictetus may have thought, Darwin did not believe there was no such thing as good and evil. One of his arguments in favor of the materialistic view was the suffering and cruelty (famously, the larva that ate the caterpillar from inside without killing it till the very end) he observed everywhere.

He did not deny good and evil. He did deny that, based on observation, there could be a loving and kind god.

This kind of shameless perversion of the theory does no credit to its critics.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at October 29, 2003 8:17 PM

"Good" and "evil" require the type of ontological commitments which Darwin can't make. One looks in vain for the word "evil" in The Origin of Species. Good and evil are simply human fictions to Darwin. The extinction of man isn't an evil, it is simply evolution playing itself out.

Posted by: David at October 29, 2003 9:16 PM

(1) "Nobody talks about 'murdering' a dog or a fly." Some vegetarians and other animal rights folks do.

(2) It's incorrect to state that evolutionary theory is undisprovable. A reason why it's a legitimate scientific theory is that it is disprovable. Darwin himself understood that his theory had holes. One hole he recognized was the lack of transitional fossils, which has since been filled in a little bit. Another hole he recognized was the lack of fossils of the earliest forms of life, but since then we've discovered fossils of prokaryotic cells. Yet another hole he recognized was the "ink pot" criticism, that suggested that different species would merge together like different inks in an ink pot. Genetics has since refuted this criticism.

Evolution can easily be disproven. If we start finding lots of fossils of humans, dinosaurs and prokaryotes all mixed together in precambian rock then people will recognize that present theories of evolution and natural history are fatally flawed.

(3) Chuck Colson is clearly a good writer, and he succinctly states why some Christians reject evolutionary theory: "A materialistic worldview undermines the very basis for morality by denying that we are distinct from the other animals and created in the image of God." But he draws the wrong conclusions. Even if the human species were shown to have been created through a supernatural process, it would not prove or disprove that we are distinct from other animals, it would not show that we were created in the image of God (how would we know?), it would not prove that we have souls or that there's an afterlife, and it would not explicate our Creator's views of moral issues.

So disproving Darwinism would hardly shut the door on amorality.

(4) If we accept evolution, does it oblige us to shut the door on morality? Hardly. An omniscent God of Love would surely have forseen evolution when he created the universe, and would expect us to behave morally regardless of how the human species originated.

Posted by: Peter Caress at October 29, 2003 9:27 PM

What about "The Descent of Man". A little controversial vis a vis modern sensibilities I would think.

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford,Ct. at October 29, 2003 10:51 PM

"Evolution can easily be disproven. If we start finding lots of fossils of humans, dinosaurs and prokaryotes all mixed together in precambian rock then people will recognize that present theories of evolution and natural history are fatally flawed."

That's called an argumentum ad silentio. More to the point, the failure to discover this is an argumentum ad silentio. In the absence of contradictory evidence, "x" is true...though "x" cannot be demonstrated with any certitude given the broadness of the claim and the paucity of the evidence upon which it is based. The explanation for the lack of fossils prior to a certain point is also of this vein as it cannot be proven.

Posted by: David at October 29, 2003 11:30 PM

er...an argumentum *ex* silentio...sorry

Posted by: David at October 29, 2003 11:33 PM

While I'd love to get into a discussion as to why the evolution of intelligence/consciousness may tend to short-circuit some of the elementary precepts of "descent with modification" (which some of you refer to as "evolution"), and while I'd also like to note that it seems that anti-Darwinists appear determined to read stuff into his writing that really isn't there in the first place in order to have something they can "successfully" argue against (the "straw man" strategy), instead I'd just like to say...

"Eeew, it's THAT Charles Colson."

Posted by: HarryT at October 30, 2003 12:08 AM

I don't agree with this:

"Darwinism is the foundation for 'one of the two sides in the culture war': the side 'that champions sexual freedom, abortion, [and] euthanasia.'"

This may historically be true, in that that side in the "culture war" draws on Darwinism for its justifications, but I think there could be a strong argument that, at the very least, sexual freedom and abortion are evolutionarily maladaptive in the extreme. Not so sure about euthanasia, though.

Admittedly, applying evolutionary principles to cultural/social developments is "social darwinism," but if the mechanism of natural selection is conceded, it is pretty much a given that it must apply to learned behaviours, as well as genes.

Posted by: Taeyoung Jensen at October 30, 2003 12:08 AM

I think I see your point, David, but I don't see how it applies to my statement you quoted: I'm not claiming that because paleontologists haven't found dinosaur fossils next to human fossils, evolution must be true; rather, I'm claiming that finding dinosaur fossils and human fossils together would be strong evidence that evolution is false.

OJ made the bogus claim that evolutionary theory is unscientific and undisprovable. I countered by arguing its scientific nature (noting that Darwin himself freely admitted his theory had flaws) and giving an easy example of how evolution could be disproven. Obviously, there are many other ways to disprove evolution.

You're right about the problems with fossil evidence that Darwin recognized in his own theory: the lack of certain fossil evidence hardly disproved evolution, though it weakened the theory. I should not have listed the lack of prokaryotic fossils and transitory fossils in the posting, because they were irrelevant to the claim that evolution is indeed disprovable.

Posted by: Peter Caress at October 30, 2003 12:59 AM

What baffles me most about this is the assertion that it is impossible for evolution and morality to be consistent.

An article posted here about a month ago noted that, by and large, moral precepts are invariant across societies and history, irrespective of the extant religion.

To someone who finds the theory of evolution the most persuasive explanation of natural history, the qualifies as a "Well, duh..." moment.

It makes no more sense to talk about a lone human than a lone ant. We evolved as social animals. Without certain mental adaptations to that fact, we would never have existed as we clearly do.

Peter is absolutely correct in what he says. The precepts underlying evolution are simple, and, individually, beyond question.

What is, to some people, well within question, is whether their combination acts to produce the observed results.

So far, the fossil evidence has overwhelmingly failed to produce anything like contradiction to Evolution.

What David is asking is that Evolution prove a negative: Evolution Theory is not true until said Theory proves there is no evidence contradicting it. Under those conditions, not even Newtonian mechanics qualifies as true.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at October 30, 2003 7:41 AM

The hebrew version of "Epicurus" -- more like Apikoros -- is the word for atheism or heresy.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at October 30, 2003 9:32 AM

Peter & Jeff,

You see the problem then. You want the theory to be true but you cannot prove it to be so, therefore you resort to conjecture. I do not want evolutionary theory to refute *all* objections to it, just those which are most salient to its fundamental claims. In this case, it cannot for it cannot gather enough evidence from archaeology to do so and, without the fossil record, you're just throwing pasta against the wall. The fact that both of you admit this is a breath of fresh air to me since so many who believe in the theory are more intolerant of criticism than the mullahs in Iran (eg. Ernst Mayr). Like OJ said, teach it as a theory but don't demand that everyone accept it as gospel cause it ain't.

Posted by: David at October 30, 2003 9:59 AM

Jeff -

Of course, as it turns out, Newtonian mechanics isn't true.

David -

But can you argue that there are any other plausible explainations than

a) evolution
b) A Miracle.


Surely we should choose (b), a Miracle, not merely when the alterative is unproven but only when it is clearly impossible?

My car's left-front tire keeps getting low. I suspect, but cannot prove, it has a leak, though that seems implausible; the tire is new. Should I therefore conclude that Satan is removing air each night?

Posted by: Mike Earl at October 30, 2003 11:03 AM


Whales have pelvises, dude, and vestigal feet. Sooner or later you're going to have to deal with it- evolution is a fact.

You may as well just get it over with and incorporate it into your theological worldview now, because the longer this goes on the more you look like some kind of kooks instead of the fundamentaly sensible, widely educated and intelligent folks I know you are.

Posted by: Amos at October 30, 2003 11:19 AM


Do I want evolution to be true? No doubt bias influences my personal judgement, but I try to keep an open mind and can honestly state that I have less of an emotional investment in accepting evolution than Chuck Colson does in rejecting it. I don't think evolution is incompatible with Christianity. Colson does.

I acknowledge that evolution is a theory so I cringe when someone states evolution is a proven fact, but only slightly. I regard evolution the way I regard continential drift: there's so much evidence for both theories, and so little evidence against, that I conclude that both theories are almost certainly true.

Fossils are only one part of the evidence for evolution. Far stronger evidence comes from biology and genetics. There's no smoking gun, but there are a lot of little pieces that together present a very strong case for evolution.

Posted by: Peter Caress at October 30, 2003 11:58 AM

Mike E.,

This, in my opinion, is where the wheels come off of the bus. I don't need to give an alternative theory to one which isn't correct. I don't know if light is a particle or a wave but it sure is handy to have around when the leaves are turning.
This may be unfashionable to say but I don't know precisely how we came to be and I find it amusing that others think that this can be demonstrated with any certainty. I'm fine with the Torah's explanation because it is simultaneously open to interpretation and quite rational. It requires a bit of anthropomorphism but I don't mind that insofar as we don't get crazy with it. I detest, however, the darwinian hypothesis because it is vulgar, irrational, and anti-intellectual. It requires assenting to all sorts of logically ridiculous propositions with the express purpose of reducing man to an accident. Men are strange creatures when they seek to depreciate their stature as the only rational animals on this planet through the use of their rational faculty. As Darwin's boosters get more shrill I see little difference between them and their biblical literalist opponents. Their unwavering faith and blinding arrogance is the antithesis of probative thought.

Oh, and I'd take the car in to have the tire looked at . There are no guarantees that something didn't happen to it before it got onto your car.This isn't relevant to what Mayr & co are saying.

Posted by: David at October 30, 2003 12:21 PM

Six months of careful reflection on the posts of our resident evolutionists lead me to conclude:

A) Evolution doesn't say much, and most certainly much less than most people who believe in it think it says;

B) Although it doesn't say much, the evidence in favour of what little it does say is overwhelming. However, there is little evidence for any of the things that most people who believe in it think it says;

C) Evolution will someday prove all the things it doesn't say, but that most people who believe in it think it says. Just be patient.

D) People who don't believe the things evolution doesn't say, but which most people who believe in evolution think it says, are close-minded religionists who want to impose a theocracy.

Posted by: Peter B at October 30, 2003 12:32 PM


I will leave the recitation of Evolutionary Theory's four precepts to the reader as an exercise. But for someone to assert that Evolution does not succeed as a scientific theory, that is one of two places to start. The other being what evidence is available to us.

So far as I know, the more complete the evidence with regard to any given species, the greater the support for evolutionary theory. Additionally, evolutionary theory, in being consistent with things not directly related--continental drift, for one--becomes overdetermined.

The point being not that therefore Evolution is true, but rather within the context of rational inquiry, it fulfills all the requirements required for a scientific theory.

Unfortunately, the salient claims against Evolution are, or at least every one I have seen, are either ignorant, or assert claims as true which themselves are nowhere near proven; for example, mere assertions that Evolution can't possibly have lead to some result--a la cellular life.

The conclusion being that until Intelligent Designers can come up with contradictory evidence or a theory that more persuasively explains the available evidence, then it loses to Evolution in the contest for scientific theory status.

Therefore, if one is teaching science, then the subject should be restricted to science. Unless you are willing to insist astronomy classes start teaching astrology.

There was a reason I cited Newtonian mechanics above. Within roughly 100 years of Newton, at the moment telescopes became sufficiently advanced to discern binary star systems, it was immediately obvious that Newtonian Mechanics was incomplete (the reason why is left to the reader).

It isn't that I want to theory to be true. Rather, it is what I want out of explanations before assigning to them the status of scientific theory. Evolution achieves that goal. So far, no other competing explanation does.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at October 30, 2003 1:12 PM


What propositions underlying evolution are logically ridiculous?

Posted by: Peter Caress at October 30, 2003 1:19 PM

To be precise, evolution is an observed fact, both historically and dynamically (you can observe it going on now), and the theory offered to explain it is (for darwinians) natural selection. For Colson, the Big Spook.

On a mere practical level, the darwinian idea is useful in producing good stuff (like recombinent insulin) even if it is incorrect or incomplete; while the Colson version, even if correct, is useless.

Utility, however, is not a reason to choose one theory over another. Nothing says the Universe is arranged so that we will like what happens.

That is where Darwin came down concerning good and evil. He looked at the suffering of the caterpillar -- an indubitable fact -- and concluded that a good god could not have devised such a universe.

He might have concluded that god was not good. He instead concluded he did not have to consider that god was concerned in the matter.

Then, you could evaluate the evidence.

Whales not only have pelvises, as Amos correctly says, they sometimes have legs. While you guys blithely kiss off tens of millions of interconnected pieces of evidence for darwinian evolution, in favor of intelligent design, you open yourselves the the challenge: Explain to me, using ID theory, why whales have legs?

What's intelligent about that?

Posted by: Harry Eagar at October 30, 2003 1:32 PM

Although I'm not all that interested in the topic, I do want to note that, in a created world, evidence of evolution proves nothing and will only be meaningful only to those who reject creation a priori.

Posted by: David Cohen at October 30, 2003 1:36 PM


As a theory that's fine. Let us call it a theory and leave it alone since we can't prove some of its more extravagant claims. Anyone who studies the history of science is struck by the recurring theme of how certain we were that we had the best explanation for something only to watch it go down the tubes upon further investigation. I'll take Montaigne's position on this: we've thought we were right so many times before, why should we assume that this time it's different?


Let's start with Darwin's nominalism, which isn't a rationally defensible position as it is incapable of explaning the permanence of forms in living creatures. We can move on from there.


I know you want to believe but we have no observable instances of humans coming from polyps (or apes for that matter). Show me where they've grown one in a lab and I'll conceed the point. Pointing to fossils from different time periods isn't proof of anything more than the existence of different organisms at different times. Causality can't be established that way. It's rather like showing me two photos of a man, one where he's standing and the next where he's laid out unconscious, then telling me he got hit on the top of his head with a baseball which knocked him out. It sounds plausible but without the baseball and the photo of him getting hit with it you're just guessing. If you want to remind me that this is only a theory I'll refer you to my previous statement to Jeff.

Posted by: David at October 30, 2003 2:42 PM


The suffering of caterpillars? How do we know that they suffer their condition?

Posted by: David at October 30, 2003 2:46 PM

Don't let PETA hear you, David.

Caterpillars were not Darwin's only example. Everywhere he looked he saw "nature red in tooth and claw."

It's the old problem of evil that Christians and Jews have never provided any answer for, because they are committed, a priori, to goodness. Darwin chose neutrality, which seems, to the naive, to be immoral.

Huxley is sometimes chided by the grammarians for the barbarous term amoral, but Darwin (and I) view the Universe as amoral, not immoral. There's a difference.

That you have not seen a polyp become a human is true but there is other, continuous evidence. In Darwin's time it was inferential. Today, it is direct. It is the sequence of DNA.

If sequences could not be artificially manipulated, then the sequence would not, by its mere existence, prove anything. But we can manipulate it, and we can demonstrate methods by which mere chance can accomplish the same feat. And we observe natural operations that are random, common and powerful -- mutation.

We, therefore, conclude that DNA evolves according to random, physical principles without requiring any intelligent intervention.

This sequence of evidence is as solid as any for any other science.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at October 30, 2003 3:01 PM


Darwin may have looked at the suffering of a caterpillar and concluded a good god couldn't have made such a world. What of those who look at the lives of saints or the Catherdral at Chartres and conclude there is no way random selection could have led to that?

Posted by: Peter B at October 30, 2003 3:13 PM


The persistence of life in all of its myriad forms seems to be rather decent evidence of the goodness of the cosmos, nature-and-all. If the caterpillar wishes to bemoan its existence we would do well to point out the alternative to the fuzzy little menace. This isn't to say that nature can't appear to be a hostile or stingy mother which we must trick to get our way. This, however, is Plato, not Darwin and it is no proof of the amorality of nature. After all, our ability to master nature is grounded in our human nature.

DNA is a lovely discovery but it still doesn't prove that my brother is a distant relative of the apes (no matter what I told my mom growing up). It may suggest such a thing but I wouldn't want to put a wager on it come Derby day. Like I said to Jeff, its a theory of our origins. There's no need to suppress it but I'd point out to the people that it's just a theory and we've been very wrong before so a bit of caution is in order.

Posted by: David at October 30, 2003 3:25 PM


Nominalism, as I understand it, is a philosophy dealing with the realtionship between ideas and reality. I fail to see the connection between nominalism and biology. I have no idea what you mean by "the permanence of forms in living creatures".

Posted by: Peter Caress at October 30, 2003 3:33 PM

David C:

So, your argument is that we can't be sure that God didn't deliberately fake evidence of evolution after creating the world?


Why do you think that living creatures have permanance of form? Isn't that begging the question?

Posted by: Mike Earl at October 30, 2003 3:45 PM

Harry -- Where in the world did you get the idea that "Jews . . . are committed, a priori, to [the] goodness" of the world?

Mike -- Yep. (Well, fake isn't the right word, because its real evidence and after isn't right because I assume that the world was created as a whole.)

Posted by: David Cohen at October 30, 2003 3:59 PM


Nominalism is the assertion/belief that there aren't any universals. Put another way, all universals are constructs of our minds. Darwin was very insistent that this had to the be case because, if it wasn't, his theory couldn't work. Okay, I'm being mean but the fact remains that if there is no such thing as an "essence" of man (ie. certain universal characteristics exhibited by all homo sapiens) then there can't be men because we would give birth to oxen and sheep when we procreated. DNA just does't cut it here because we exhibit characteristics which can't be reduced to our biological components.

Posted by: David at October 30, 2003 4:08 PM

David look in a mirror. The similarity in head shape, nostrils, ears, the opposable thumb, vestigal big toe. You absolutly are related to apes my friend, you share 99% of your DNA with them. We are a sub branch of that family, a vastly sucessful one even if we do tend to confuse ourselves with the perambulations of our big brains.

I know you have certain cherished religious attatchments to the idea of yourself as the centrepiece of creation, but you need to get a handle on this whole 'science' thing or you look like some ignorant flat earther.

Posted by: Amos at October 30, 2003 5:23 PM


A theory is all I have ever called it, and is all that evolutionary scientists call it.

However, people with a theological axe to grind call it Darwinism, typically within a half-sentence of abusing the word "theory," because, intentionally, or otherwise, they haven't taken on board the meaning of "hypothesis."

Which characteristics do we exhibit that can't be relegated to DNA? And how would you determine "can't?"

Read Matt Ridley's "Nature via Nurture." Evolutionary zealot though I may be, I was utterly astonished at how useless the word "can't" is when applied to DNA.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at October 30, 2003 8:17 PM

Oh, and asserting that scrambling about trying to explain morality has rendered the Robert Wrights of the world inchoherent obviously hasn't read "Non-Zero, The Logic of Human Destiny."

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at October 30, 2003 8:19 PM

Perhaps I should have said "goodness in the world."

If you're going to argue that nothing can be proven anyway -- as I understand Orrin to think -- because it might all be a trick by the Big Spook, or because we are a dream of another person of Alpha Centauri, or something, then why bother to teach anything?

Darwinism has the excellent credential that it works. Results count.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at October 30, 2003 8:23 PM


I'm under the influence of Mayr, who is intent upon the apotheosis of Darwin. I couldn't tell you the difference between the various sects. It's Big-Enders vs. Little-Enders to me. Oh, DNA doesn't explain our desire to divinize our fellow humans...but that's kind of a cheap shot. Human reason isn't coded into our DNA in any way that we can determine. Don't know anything about Wright save that his political commentary is hopelessly jejune.


Manipulating the world and understanding it are two different things. When I turn the switch I know I get light but I'll be damned if I know how that happens. Maybe if I just continue to send checks to the mysterious god called CL&P...


Apes don't look at themselves in a mirror and tell themselves that they are the brothers of humans. Perhaps that's a rather important distinction, no?

Posted by: David at October 30, 2003 8:42 PM


Evolution deals with the HOW, not the WHY, and thus has nothing to say about whether humanity is an accident, or not.

Peter B:

Those who look at saints and cathedrals, and conclude that they could not be the product of random chance, are fooling themselves. We don't know if they are, or not, but they COULD be.
What do these folks say when looking at addicts and squalid slums ? "Ah, HERE is proof of God's existence" ?

Mike Earl:

That's not Satan, that's me. Kind of a hobby. Sorry.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at October 30, 2003 9:35 PM


Yes, that's the point precisely. We accept things on faith. Your faith is just more niggardly(or extravagant).

Posted by: oj at October 30, 2003 10:25 PM

Harry -- A little Googling will find a picture of Saddam and Osama's wedding.

I'm not saying that evolution can't be a useful model, I'm saying that all the evidence in the world can't prove that we were not Created.

Posted by: David Cohen at October 30, 2003 11:00 PM

I don't know enough to comment on evolution, but I do know that Christianity and Judiasm provide the only coherent answers to any question about evil. The answers are not complete, and they certainly don't 'satisfy' us, but they are accurate, both personally and cosmically. And before the bricks start flying, remember that both the OT and the NT speak very harshly about false believers who do all sorts of unauthorized religion in the name of God. Each of us has experienced/observed words and behavior like that, but the answers remain.

Posted by: jim hamlen at October 31, 2003 12:38 AM

Well, in that case, David, you have just refuted the theory of non-creation. Very neat.

Irrelevant to Darwinism, though, which is not a theory to describe that the world was either created or not created, but to describe how evolution works.

Dawinism does not say anything definite about the origin of life, although a number of speculations have been posed, and some have been tested, to a limited extent.

It does not require a creator -- except that it does require matter and energy and rules to manipulate them. But it does not say where those came from. I myself do not care where they came from. Whatever the answer might be, it would not alter my behavior in any way.

By the way, after hanging around here for several months, I have concluded that the world is not divided into Republican/Democrat, Christian/atheist, red/blue etc. It is divided by issues that can generate 40-plus posts on BJB, and those that don't.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at October 31, 2003 12:45 AM

Good point - although I am surprised at the number of thoughtful excerpts/posts which never get a comment (like Peggy Noonan's of the past couple of days).

Posted by: jim hamlen at October 31, 2003 1:26 AM


I agree with you on the saints and cathedrals. They could come from random selection. But I was responding to Harry/Darwin's suggestion that a good god could not have created a world red in tooth and claw. Where does that assumption come from? Indeed, how does a Darwinist even talk about "good" in any meaningful sense?

Most of the posters here are so good they leaving me far behind, but I am still under the general impression that evolutionists tend, when pressed, to insisit evolution's proven claims are very modest and restricted on the big issues, but then somehow argue it is reasonable to extrapolate and assume the veracity of more general, unproven conclusions on the sole basis of there being no scientific evidence to the contrary. As Orrin as said many times, that is faith, not science. The gaps seem to be huge within science, never mind non-scientific evidence.

I second Harry's comment about 40+ posts. I hope Orrin keeps that in mind when the primary season gets into high gear.

Posted by: Peter B at October 31, 2003 5:54 AM

Harry -

Did you mean to say "you have just refuted the theory of non-creation", which would be a major victory, or, because I've said its not falsifiable, did you mean to say "you have just refuted the theory of creation"?

In either event, I haven't said anything profound. It is a tenet of science that no system can contain its own proof nor, by definition, can any system make any statement about anything that lies outside of the system. Thus, science can say nothing about events occurring or beings existing outside the system. Faith can, which is why it is called "faith."

Posted by: David Cohen at October 31, 2003 8:03 AM


Geez...if I judged the posts by the number of comments I'd have a complex.

Posted by: OJ at October 31, 2003 8:07 AM


How does a Evolutionist talk about good in any meaningful sense?

In precisely the same way a Thermodynamicist does. That is, Evolution has no more to do with good and evil than does Thermodynamics.

The Theory of Evolution is nothing more, or less, than a coherent explanation of how a system with a small set of specific characteristics changes over time.

Any assertion of good or evil is a human interpretation of the results of that process having nothing to do the actuality of that process.

For instance, I can view the upwards of 20% maternal mortality pre-modern medicine to be "evil." Or I can view it as rather contradictory to the assertion of a powerful, aware, compassionate God. Or I can view it as an inscrutable part of that same God's plan. Or I can view it as the sort of thing you'd expect out of a conservative, ramshackle, non-deterministic process.

No matter, it is what it is, which is all Evolutionary Theory hopes to explain.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at October 31, 2003 8:32 AM


Which is why atheists end up free-loading on Judeo-Christianity--they can't derive a universal morality independently, but the thought of an amoral Universe is intolerable. Teach people what you just said and belief in Darwinism will decline even further.

Posted by: OJ at October 31, 2003 8:41 AM

Jeff -

The Second Law of Thermodynamics is religion in a nutshell.

Posted by: David Cohen at October 31, 2003 8:53 AM


A superiority complex, I assume. Of course, each Brothersjudd post is worth twenty of those on all those other run-of-the-mill sites.


That was a clear, honest answer, but how do you deal with Orrin's free-loading accusation? It seems to me that, when you don't like the moral positions asserted by some of us, you object to their religious source and start muttering about theocracy. But you obviously have some pretty strong views on what is right and wrong yourself. Whence cometh they? (and if you say "freedom" or "choice", I will then: a)ask you why; and b) ask you why we shouldn't be allowed to kill off old people when they become dependant and cranky.)

Posted by: Peter B at October 31, 2003 11:12 AM


A previous article here at BroJudd Industries noted that all known religions have essentially the same core moral values, as do all known societies. And it seems all known societies have a religion.

In similar news, in all known societies, men are more aggressive, and women are the primary care givers.

From the viewpoint of rational inquiry, then, the results indicate those things are elements of human nature.

From an evolutionary viewpoint, there is no reason why innate moral sense could not evolve in the same way bipedalism, language, or the fully opposable thumb. The assertion is that humans without some moral sense were insufficiently fit within a social species. Now OJ may decry that as baseless, but that is beside the point. There is nothing in Evolutionary Theory that precludes evolved innate morality.

So Judeo-Christianity, as well as the plethora of other religions since the dawn of man, in part attempt to codify and put an imprimatur on what is already there. Which is why accusations of free-loading are specious--it amounts to no more than accusing atheists--who are human--of freeloading on their humanity.

I don't think I have ever said--I certainly never meant to--I don't like the moral positions some of you assert (in fact, I agree with them far more often than you have inferred). Rather, I dislike appeals to government intrusion in instances where I believe the decision is best left to the individual. In particular, I dislike the imposition of sectarian decisions upon those who do not share that sects beliefs.

Why shouldn't we be allowed to kill off old, dependent, cranky people? Because, to the extent we don't need to, we wouldn't, no matter what the law would allow. Societies without sufficient means to care for the completely dependent--infants and the elderly--expose them. Those that do have the means, don't.

Why? That's the way human nature works, for one. And, for two, most of us can foresee becoming that way ourselves, and also note that generally, what is good for the goose...

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at November 1, 2003 5:41 AM


Belief in Darwinism has absolutely nothing to do with its truth value. As does the intolerability of an amoral universe.

Or do you mean to imply that astrology's veracity is directly related to how many people believe in it?

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at November 1, 2003 5:42 AM


The connection between religion, and the observation there is a fundamental dissymetry in nature seems tenuous in the extreme.

But that wasn't my point. Thermodynamics is amoral. So is evolutionary theory.

No one uses the former to derive moral conclusions. It is an abiding mystery to me why some insist the latter do so.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at November 1, 2003 5:44 AM


Yes, I'd assume that those things which are believed are more likely than those which are not.

Posted by: oj at November 1, 2003 6:02 AM


I know you are attracted to the moral positions many take here. That is why you are so admired and also so d---d enigmatic.

Religious people believe in moral codes because they believe in tenets of the faiths that produce them. You seem to agree with moral positions based on collective efficiency. Don't you agree there is a risk that that principle could produce genocidal fascism as much as American consrvatism? I would agree that religious fundamentalism could do likewise, which is why I want both sides expressed in public life. You seem to see one as a threat.

Posted by: Peter B at November 1, 2003 7:11 AM


I only assert that the morality we have is demonstrably true only through fitness arguments, not on any notion of collective efficiency--the two sound similar, but they aren't. One is reality, the other theory.

Religious fundamentalism has frequently produced awful results. Islamism is the current obvious example.

I am happy with religious expression in public life as long as it is through private associations. Handing the levers of government power to religious belief has a virtually unbroken history of awful results.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at November 1, 2003 5:43 PM


That's just silly. Fitness arguments are at best amoral, at worst antimoral. For instance, why not just kill off the intellectual, moral, physical defectives and purify the gene pool? Aren't three generations of imbeciles enough? Wanna stop the cycle of poverty? Neuter the poor. Etc. That's the sense in which eugenics generally and Nazism specifically was just applied Darwinism.

Posted by: OJ at November 1, 2003 6:04 PM

Fitness is what works, OJ.

That stuff didn't work.

And if you understood Evolutionary Theory, you would realize how oxymoronic is the phrase "applied Darwinism."

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at November 1, 2003 6:58 PM

How did it not work? Germans are among the fittest people on the Earth.

I'll assume you're kidding that Darwinism is some kind of unique science which has no application in the real world.

Posted by: OJ at November 1, 2003 7:05 PM


You seem to want a society that is full of religious people, but which treats religion as a societal danger never to be spoken of in public life, never to be promoted and never to be allowed to influence public policy. Good luck.

Posted by: Peter B at November 1, 2003 7:38 PM


Evolution is entirely backwards looking. Applied evolution means you know the fitness answer before the fitness answer is knowable. Hence the oxymoron.


What I want is precisely the society I have. Everyone is free to choose whichever religious belief they prefer so long as those beliefs don't contradict the overarching civic religion (Declaration of Independence/Constitution).

That means keeping religion in the private sphere and, think Judge Moore here, out of government.

The result is clear: a vibrantly religious society that reflects its religiosity in government--which is made up of the members of that religious society, after all--but without giving any sect even the tiniest notion they get to Lord it over the rest of us.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at November 1, 2003 8:47 PM


Yes, its inability to predict anything is one of the features that makes it nonscientific.

Posted by: OJ at November 1, 2003 9:04 PM


That is utter nonsense. It uses a few principles, themselves disprovable, in combination to provide an explanation as to how observed change occurred. And since the explanation is itself based on observable evidence, the explanation is disprovable.

You don't seem to doubt that plate tectonics qualifies as a scientific theory. Despite the fact it can't tell you diddly about where continents will be in the future.

So, in this regard, you are mysteriously selective.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at November 2, 2003 6:58 AM

Plate tectonics predicts that seismic activity, etc. will be caused and it is observed. Darwinism predicts that environmental factors will cause evolution and...crickets.

Posted by: oj at November 2, 2003 7:14 AM