Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Thomas Jefferson vs. Charles Darwin

One thing that annoys us about the Darwinists is that when one calls them out on the implications of their scientistic BS, they always respond with hostility or ridicule with words to the effect of, "what are you talking about? There's no such thing as a Darwinist. That's just a straw man invented by creationists to denigrate something that doesn't actually exist. There is only science. That is all."

Right. There's a theory called natural selection. But it's not really a theory, you see. Rather, it's a fact, like gravity, or the conservation of mass and energy. The fact of natural selection explains everything about the origin and nature of man, and excludes any non-physical causes. But to suggest that this has any moral or political implications is a slander and a libel!

Anyone who holds such a view is either stupid, disingenuous, or a liar. For the fact of the matter is that no question could possibly be more fraught with metaphysical, philosophical, moral, and political consequences.

For example, what if the "truth" of natural selection were known at the time of America's founding? Suppose that instead of being highly sophisticated Christian thinkers and biblical exegetes, they all believed the simplistic notion that man is nothing more than an accident of the genes, just an animal with no conceivable claim on truth, justice, or liberty.

Obviously, our founding creed would have been equally inconceivable, i.e., that all men are created equal, and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights. Or, I suppose a Darwinist could mouth such words, but he would be lying, because the formulation is strict nonsense on any Darwinian grounds. Clearly, unless you are very stupid, you must realize that Darwinism does not permit the existence of permanent truths or natural law accessible to man's reason. The very idea is absurd, and the Darwinist should come right out and admit it.

So don't tell me that Darwinism has no political implications, because it is not only directly at odds with America's founding principles, but renders them absurd and impossible. Furthermore, it provides the principles and the framework for contemporary leftist statism, or "progressivism." Make no mistake: in order for progressivism to even be "legal" -- that is, constitutional -- it must first carry out an attack on the existing Constitution. Most of what progressives have done and wish to do cannot be done unless they first reframe the Constitution in Darwinian terms as an evolving document.

At present, I'm reading an outstanding book that touches on this subject, Living Constitution, Dying Faith: Progressivism and the New Science of Jurisprudence, and I'd like to spend at least a couple of posts discussing it.

As Watson explains, it never occurred to America's founders that they were simply affirming convenient or time-bound principles subject to later revocation by pettifogging mediocrities with law degrees, who are more "evolved" than they. Rather, their "understanding of law was structured around the idea of a knowable, unchanging moral order, to which human law and the Constitution -- and therefore constitutional interpretation -- were subservient." They would have fully endorsed the Socratic/Platonic principle that "law aims to be a discovery of what is," and that human law "cannot contradict the natural law that reflects the divine reason."

In other words, the metaphysics of the Founders is precisely the opposite of the contemporary Darwinist, in that they start at the top of the cosmos, with the One, the Absolute, the Divine Reason, not the bottom, i.e., matter and the random accidents of nature. A political philosophy derived from the latter is going to look very, very different, and will be irreconcilable with America's.

As misguided as they may or may not be, I am quite sure that the people who promote "intelligent design" are much more concerned with this aspect of Darwinism: that it is absurdly presented as a truth that renders everything else we know to be true -- everything above the plane of biology -- a lie or a fantasy. It is not the science that is troublesome, at least for me. It is the deceptive intrusion into higher planes about which it must remain silent.

Now interestingly, the Founders regarded evolution in precisely the manner I do, as movement toward a nonlocal attractor, i.e., a "permanent truth," thus reconciling time (or history) and eternity (more on which tomorrow). Remember, the idea of evolution was common currency for a century or more before Darwin's theory of natural selection, which was merely his attempt to account for evolution. He was hardly the first to notice that things evolve, but he was the first to imagine that it could be explained in a fully naturalistic manner, with no recourse to any principle beyond random mutations.

Watson does a fine job of describing the intellectual milieu in which Darwin flourished, and which then allowed the elites of the day to seize upon his theory as a kind of master key to legitimize progressivism. In other words, just as today, Darwinists do not actually arrive at their Darwinism through "logic," because that would be impossible. Rather, they have first internalized a certain implicit view of the cosmos that then permits them to seize upon Darwinism as an adequate theory. Without the underlying metaphysic, Darwinism is completely illogical.

To cite one obvious example, if one realizes that there are permanent truths or moral absolutes that are not strictly timebound, and that they are accessible to man's intellect, then one cannot possibly believe in reductionistic Darwinism, irrespective of what the science does or doesn't show. It's like when scientists try to tell you that free will doesn't exist. Right. Whatever. They are simply wrong, because they are wrong in principle, a principle that is a priori true and cannot not be true on pain of the very abolition of truth. (In other words, only a free being may know truth.)

Note that progressivism takes its cue from Darwinism, in that it "is characterized by a set of ideas that have at their core a marked historicism -- which is to say, a belief that truth is always and everywhere relative to its time and place" (Watson). Under Darwinism, the intellect cannot be a faculty that adequates itself to truth and therefore reality, but rather, is merely "a method of dealing with adaptation and change." In such a myopic view, our "minds" are adapted to the environment, not to truth. And "truth" would simply be a good fit between mind and environment. And a good fit means that it promotes survival and reproduction, or babes and power.

Thus, we hold these truths to be self-evident. That all men are intrinsically unequal; and that they are endowed by nature with very different gifts and abilities; that among these are strength, intelligence, and the will to dominate; that to nurture these gifts, governments are are instituted by the vanguard of evolution, deriving their just powers from nature's iron will and from the New York Times editorial board; that whenever any government, constitution, or religion undermines these powers, it is the right of nature's elites to alter, abolish, or deconstruct it, and to institute a new government rooted in a Living Constitution, as to them shall seem most likely to effect the perpetual rule of the better sort.

To be continued...


Contra Rebels said...

For example, what if the "truth" of natural selection were known at the time of America's founding? Suppose that instead of being highly sophisticated Christian thinkers deeply familiar with the Bible, they all believed that man was nothing more than an accident of the genes, just an animal with no conceivable claim on truth, justice, or liberty.

The political consequences of natural selection were finally realized in full fashion during the administration of Wilson--mainly in the background. You can trace almost every "progressive" political phenomenon to that era, the most insidious of which were the reformation of the education system in this country.

Gagdad Bob said...

Yes. We'll be getting to that tomorrow or Thursday.

Gerard said...

You need the Darwinist link on my page toot sweet.

Northern Bandit said...

Italian scientists claim they have reproduced the Shroud of Turin using materials available during the middle ages.

Maybe yes, maybe no. What I found interesting was the welling up of cacophonous commenters drenched in Schadenfreude and lashing out viciously at Christianity in general.

For many years I've believed the hard Left is a much bigger enemy to the West than the Islamists. Every time I'm exposed to them I become more convinced. Islamists are a straightforward enemy, plain and simple. The solution is a relatively straightforward military one. Leftism is something altogether more sinister and certainly more dangerous in the long run.

The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Gagdad Bob said...

I'm not sure which link Gerard is referring to, but people should visit his blog everyday anyway...

Ricky Raccoon said...

“For example, what if the "truth" of natural selection were known at the time of America's founding? Suppose that instead of being highly sophisticated Christian thinkers and biblical exegetes, they all believed the simplistic notion that man is nothing more than an accident of the genes, just an animal with no conceivable claim on truth, justice, or liberty.”

You mean, like their King thought of them. Bottom line. And for his majesty to think otherwise, they literally had to beat the truth out of him.

Looking forward to this series, Bob.

Petey said...

I ain't gonna work on Darwin's farm no more. Or George's.

Ricky Raccoon said...

I should have bought this book you’re reading, Bob. I just ordered a couple things from Amazon…the Gil Baile book one of them.
Anywho, it was “back to school night” couple weeks ago at my son’s high school. His “civics” teacher (not about Hondas, btw) kind of a throw back dude in his 60s. A real BWD. (Bald with ponytail). Anyway, very likeable guy. I still like him. Even after he said enthusiastically at the end of his off the hip presentation, “It really is a living constitution, you know. It really is!”

You want to know about not even wrong? And bottom-up thinking. This guy is teaching this stuff, has his whole career, and he’s 60+ years old.

More homework for Dad. That’s what this means.

Ricky Raccoon said...

'scuze me "BWP"

Alan McCann said...

Ditto on the recommendation for Gerard's blog.... except for the picture of the Obama cheerleader (ayyy, my eyes!!!)

Gerard said...

This one top item:

An almost biblical exegesis of Darwin, "Ardi", and the African Apes @ Laelaps

If our species had arisen from some ancient ape stock that gave rise to the rest of living apes then wouldn't we be more or less equidistant from other living apes?

in which Darwinist fondles the holy text.

Gerard said...

Sorry about that cheerleader Alan, but imagine what it was like to work with the high-def version.

Ken said...


I agree, scientistic Darwinism is the farthest from what Jefferson and the founders embraced, but equally distant from their hearts and minds was a radical reaction against "progressive" values, values which they helped forge. Jonah Goldberg's sophisticated but specious tract notwithstanding, progressivism is not the bugaboo that explains a century of statism nor is it explanatory of what Hitler and Stalin had in common. Jefferson expressed his "evolutionary" views in this way:"I am certainly not an advocate for frequent and untried changes in laws and constitutions. I think moderate imperfections had better be borne with; because, when once known, we accommodate ourselves to them, and find practical means of correcting their ill effects. But I know also, that laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths disclosed, and manners and opinions change with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also, and keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the same coat which fitted him when a boy, as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors."

Ricky Raccoon said...

Ken said, what Jefferson said:
“I am certainly not an advocate for frequent and untried changes in laws and constitutions.”

This reminds of the tragic story of the nuke sub USS Thresher sinking during her sea trials. Crew, engineers, you name it. Everyone was aboard. All lost.
It’s safe to say I think that all naval architects and engineers who work on submarine design since, know the story. As I’ve heard it from a number of them, the ultimate cause of the disaster: they tried too many new, big things at once.
Also reminds me of an administration I know.

Warren said...

>> For many years I've believed the hard Left is a much bigger enemy to the West than the Islamists.


Oh, yes - you can take that to the bank. The jihadists are almost a laughable threat compared with our own hardcore "progressives", for all kinds of reasons.

One of the reasons, in fact, that Islam has become so radicalized in recent decades is that many Muslims are (understandably) terrified that the Western "progressive" virus will infect their own societies.

Northern Bandit said...

One Cosmos is among a handful of sites I visit daily. I've visited Gerard's site perhaps biweekly for some time and have always been impressed. Perhaps it's time to bump American Digest up a few notches in my bookmark hierarchy...

Susannah said...

I love when you rewrite the Declaration. Hah!

Susannah said...

Isn't a "theistic evolutionary" view essentially intelligent design?

Northern Bandit said...

There is a leftist on NPR right now who is 100% behind Iran's regime, and is actively justifying their acquisition of nuclear weapons. His reasoning is that "harming innocent combatants is against Islamic principles".

At least the NPR interviewer is challenging this remarkably evil man.

Northern Bandit said...


Thought so. I've never heard Juan Cole's voice before. I joined the NPR program halfway through. It is Juan Cole, as I suspected.

The depth of depravity and evil inside this human being actually goes a long way to making Bob's points.

A purely "Darwinian" world could not possibly produce a Juan Cole.

julie said...

Ken quoting Jefferson:

"As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths disclosed, and manners and opinions change with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also, and keep pace with the times."

The key word/ concept there is true. Most "progressive" ideas - variations of socialism, increasing intrusion of the state into people's daily lives, etc. are based on concepts that have been demonstrably horrific for the societies that implement them. They aren't based on the truth of human nature and the value of liberty; instead, they are based on the false utopian ideal of equality of outcome, something that has never been and will never be, so long as people are unique individuals.

For man to truly progress toward his higher deustination, the government needs to be less, not more, intrusive. It needs to defend the nation's interests and its constitution. It needs to leave people with as much of their own money as possible, to spend as they see fit. And it needs to allow people the freedom to lead risky lives.

God save us from do-gooders and lobbyists.

Anna said...

It goes along with the notion that certain facets are 'ends' of the matter. Certain final causes that if changed, would change the nature of the progress reached (stall it, halt it.) Within the framework of truth, development, namely, especially cultural development, *is* possible. If you want growth, then these things (those final things) have to remain in place, remain the same. Bit of a paradox that people who want 'change' don't see. It's the conservative conundrum which is why the word 'liberal' fits better and the language swap does more harm.

julie said...

Exactly - change without reference to the Absolute is meaningless.

Anna said...

And once you hit upon, or discover, those absolutes, there's no going back without diminishing
their asset for real progress, real growth, real change.

Science and industry do not change those truths. They are on a separate trajectory. They are tools in the service of human beings, who remain human beings. FDR tried to propose that things had changed due to industrial development, but I've never seen a a proof of that, by him or anyone else, only a suggestion by him that was bit upon like bait. "Oh you can have a free nation, but if machines and factories come along, nope, not going to work..." Excuse me, what? You can't just slide that one by. Hold on a minute.

Not on my watch.

julie said...

Going back to this weekend's discussion about Israel, Obama's website had a post yesterday equating Israel to Nazi Germany. Of course, it's gone down the memory hole now, but the web does not so easily forget.

Granted, the POTUS didn't write the article, but the fact that it appeared there at all is appalling. Is our nation destined, in the next four years, to become an enemy of Israel? God help us if that happens...

Anna said...

Julie said,

"God help us if that happens..."

Maybe a smite on our behalf would wake people up out of their milk cup stupor. The milky we're all just friends living on one planet together... that makes people think national defense is mean and that everyone should share, and that Israel is unwilling to share. A message-to-cognition reality check. I think it was Van who said that reality has a way of asserting itself if people are living in a la la land, out of sync with reality.

Yes, God have mercy.

PSGInfinity said...

"A purely "Darwinian" world could not possibly produce a Juan Cole."
-Northern Bandit

'A purely "Darwinian" world couldn't avoid producing a Juan Cole.'

(Does this work better?)

julie said...

OT, Gerard is ruthless.

Ricky Raccoon said...


There is a new Father Lazarus El Anthony documentary on YouTube.
Film and sound are absolutely beautiful.

The Last Anchorite Part 1

Part 2

“I can see Eternity.”
~ Fr. Lazarus

ximeze said...

Dr Zero has a new one too:
Socialism: A Hate Story

julie said...

And one more link. This is the first I've heard of this project, but I'm with the Anchoress. Good grief - how about sticking with what they actually said instead of what current readers want it to say.

julie said...

Ricky, thanks for the Fr. Lazarus links, btw. I couldn't watch them until this morning, but yes, they're beautifully done.

Ricky Raccoon said...

You're welcome, Julie.

xlbrl said...

The American Founders saw God-given rights as enabling citizens to grant limited powers to his government; in Europe, the State, under any form, assumed all rights and granted limited powers to the citizen.