Nested Hierarchies: Proof of Evolution?

We had a recent drive-by commenter, John, here who purported that nested hierarchies were “proof” of common descent (the holy grail of Darwinism). My friend over at the Italian ID site, Progetto Cosmo, recently wrote a post on nested hierarchies.

Why complex systems of nested hierarchies like cars or living things cannot be produced from the lowest to highest level.

An automobile is an example of a complex system with nested hierarchies. At the highest hierarchical level, a car is a device for transporting people and things. It consists of several sub-hierarchies:

1. Steering mechanism
2. Braking system
3. Engine
4. Transmission Etc.

The most complex of these is the engine. Within the engine we have further sub-hierarchies like the crankshaft assembly, a precisely machined and balanced steel bar which converts rotary to linear motion. Then we have the piston assembly which includes the piston itself, connecting rod, piston pin, and rings. The rings are a hierarchy down from the pistons. They are precision parts and typically sold as sets. The set of spark plugs and wires is yet another sub hierarchy of the engine. And each spark plug is a hierarchy of it’s own consisting of insulator, threads, electrode and so on. And the same applies even to spark plug wires which consist of insulator, copper wire, and connectors.

The car does not function unless all the hierarchies of systems are included in the proper order. Nor can they be included helter-skelter. They have to be in the proper assembly order. The piston rods must be connected to the crankshaft. The cylinders must have spark plugs. The wheels must have tires. A car which has the pistons in the trunk and the tires on the back seat is useless. An engine without piston rings will not function.

And continues…

We now understand that the molecule lying at the lowest level of hierarchy is DNA. The random changes are simply substitutions of one DNA base for another resulting in a mutation. A useful mutation will aid survival and reproduction. The cycle of mutation/selection is the engine that drives evolution. So we are told. But wait: mutation takes place at the lowest level of a living organism’s hierarchy. How can changes at this level be coordinated into the vast array of hierarchies above?

Imagine handing an ancient Roman engineer a spark plug and expecting that by tinkering with it he might eventually develop a car. How could this possibly happen without a vision of a car and how its hierarchies interrelate? Even if that ancient Roman somehow stumbled on a modification that improved the spark plug he would have no way to recognize the improvement because without all the hierarchies that make up a car, the spark plug is useless.

So his notion is that for complex systems of nested hierarchies, there must be a designer who has in mind, a purpose and function of the designs, from the beginning in order to produce a functional nested hierarchy. In other words, random changes in the surface of your concrete floor in your basement will not transform your house into something different. Random changes to a blueprint for a house before it is built would certainly have implications for the outcome, and blueprints that result from random processes would have even further implications. The blind process and necessity worshipers seem to believe that these processes can result in nested hierarchies and even try to use this as proof of evolution. I’m less than convinced…

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71 Responses

  1. So his notion is that for complex systems of nested hierarchies, there must be a designer who has in mind, a purpose and function of the designs, from the beginning in order to produce a functional nested hierarchy.

    This is what we know from our experience with the application of conceptual thinking to material reality. We know what it is to see by sight and insight and we know what the application of mind to matter looks like in technology. We also know that irreducible complexity can be widely observed empirically. But unfortunately knowledge rooted in empirical observations and experience is generally being done away with by imagining things about the past, an epistemic shift takes place to the point that many lose their focus on what can actually be observed and instead focus on imaginary events that apparently seem more “natural” to them than what can actually be observed and experienced in reality.

    In other words, good job but no matter how clearly you or others point to evidence of design many will still imagine that they can deny it. 😉

  2. mynym wrote,

    This is what we know from our experience with the application of conceptual thinking to material reality. We know what it is to see by sight and insight and we know what the application of mind to matter looks like in technology. We also know that irreducible complexity can be widely observed empirically. But unfortunately knowledge rooted in empirical observations and experience is generally being done away with by imagining things about the past, an epistemic shift takes place to the point that many lose their focus on what can actually be observed and instead focus on imaginary events that apparently seem more “natural” to them than what can actually be observed and experienced in reality.

    So, with this statement in mind, how do we communicate effectively with those caught up in this kind of delusion?

    Your summary statement reminded me of this quote:

    Post-modernists believe that truth is myth, and myth, truth. This equation has its roots in pop psychology. The same people also believe that emotions are a form of reality. There used to be another name for this state of mind. It used to be called psychosis. (Brad Holland)

  3. So, with this statement in mind, how do we communicate effectively with those caught up in this kind of delusion?

    Well, if you seriously believe that people like me are “deluded,” then you’ve already indicated that there’s no possibility of collaborative deliberation. At best you might think that people like me need something like therapy. That is, if you’re going to take seriously your own use of terms such as “delusion.”

    I, for my part, don’t think creationists or design theorists are deluded — simply mistaken. The mistake lies in being taken in by the analogy between biological systems and technological systems. (Steve Fuller, never one to make-believe that design theorists aren’t theists, puts the point nicely: from the ID standpoint, “biology is divine technology.”)

    I regard this as faulty reasoning because it comes down to “X and Y are exactly alike, except for all the ways they’re different, and their differences are due to Z.” Whereas the non-ID perspective would have it that all the differences between organisms and artifacts, which are explained in terms of the mysterious properties of the Intelligent Designer, stand in need of an explanation which rejects that very analogy to begin with.

  4. But Carl, if we want to develop a hypothesis of design we need to see what we can empirically observe about designers. In that case, all we have is man and his creations. If design is a constant in nature, and man bears witness to that because he can understand it (just like he can understand other natural laws), then we are justified in making comparisons.

  5. Carl,

    mynym wrote,

    But unfortunately knowledge rooted in empirical observations and experience is generally being done away with by imagining things about the past…

    Delude- “To cause to accept what is false, especially by trickery or misrepresentation: beguile, betray, bluff, cozen, deceive, double-cross, dupe, fool, hoodwink, humbug, mislead, take in, trick.”

    “Imagining things about the past” as opposed to standing on “knowledge rooted in empirical observations and experience” is, to me, delusional!

    I didn’t have you in mind when I commented, Carl, but I realize now that I have offended you. It was unintentional! Or, perhaps, are you claiming to be delusional because you “reject knowledge rooted in empirical observations and experience?”

  6. Oh, I’m not offended by you or by anyone here, DB — fear not!

    My point is, rather, that it strikes me as rather odd to regard someone as “delusional” and, at the same time, to seek to persuade them on the basis on evidence. (Perhaps you are not seeking to persuade on the basis of evidence? But then, what’s the goal of communicating?) To even try to persuade someone on the basis of evidence presupposes that the person you’re trying to persuade is basically rational — as the deluded, generally speaking, are not.

    if we want to develop a hypothesis of design we need to see what we can empirically observe about designers. In that case, all we have is man and his creations. If design is a constant in nature, and man bears witness to that because he can understand it (just like he can understand other natural laws), then we are justified in making comparisons.

    OK, now it makes more sense to me. I think there’s a big difference between proceeding inductively and proceeding hypothetico-deductively — in other words, a difference between inferring that design has happened, on the basis of a set of observations, and beginning with the hypothesis of design and testing that hypothesis through looking for the deduced observations.

    Incidentally, I think that this is major difference between contemporary design theory and old-school natural theology, and also between natural theology and Darwin’s approach. Old-school natural theology — e.g. William Paley — was purely inductive. Whereas it’s been argued that Darwin’s method was not induction, but the hypothetico-deductive method — just as contemporary design theory is, if this way of construing it is correct.

  7. Carl, I don’t think anyone is really trying to persuade you here. If you are to be persuaded about theology, you have to talk about personal beliefs. But, I agree that someone should only share when they are ready and comfortable doing so. Just know that it makes dialogue more difficult when you don’t trust us.

  8. Carl, I don’t think anyone is really trying to persuade you here. If you are to be persuaded about theology, you have to talk about personal beliefs. But, I agree that someone should only share when they are ready and comfortable doing so. Just know that it makes dialogue more difficult when you don’t trust us.

    Oh, I don’t think anyone here is trying to persuade me about theological matters. And I’m not really interested in talking about theology, myself. (What could I say about it, after all?) I’m interested in talking about epistemology and philosophy of science, and also about education policy.

    And those issues do intersect with theological views — for example, if someone says that Darwinism is incompatible with Christianity, and that’s a good reason for wanting theories taught in schools which are compatible with Christianity, then yes, I’m going to be very critical of that person’s epistemology, and of his or her views on education policy.

    But you’re right to remind me that when it comes to the theological issues that divide theistic evolutionists from creationists, or OECs from YECs, I have nothing to contribute, except for occasional color commentary.

    I hope you don’t take it personally when I don’t trust you, Country Shrink — I don’t trust anyone I meet on-line. I reserve my personal life to my daily, face-to-face interactions with people I know in my off-line community.

  9. Mynym wrote:

    In other words, good job but no matter how clearly you or others point to evidence of design many will still imagine that they can deny it.

    No doubt about that. The scientific method of imagination always seems to trump observation for Darwinists. They even imagine that their theory is as well-founded as the theory of gravity; therefore, it is. It’s not even really my hope to convince Darwinists. It would be nice, but unlikely (the parable about throwing pearls to swine comes to mind). However, there are others out there who read and are doubting and truly searching for answers. Those people are the reason that I write. I don’t write for people who have nothing better to do than engage in mental gyrations for the sake of mental stimulation or self-gratification and pretend that what they are doing is science.

  10. It is my belief that in years to come evolution will actually include principles of design in it’s definition. And why not? Nobody seems to really agree how to define evolution anymore anyway. Nature already “selects”, so maybe Darwinists will call it “natural ordering”, or some other impressive term! But while they will not call it “intelligent design”, they will still refer to the “genius of nature” all the same!

  11. I think there’s a big difference between proceeding inductively and proceeding hypothetico-deductively — in other words, a difference between inferring that design has happened, on the basis of a set of observations, and beginning with the hypothesis of design and testing that hypothesis through looking for the deduced observations.

    Can you say “c-o-m-m-o-n d-e-s-c-e-n-t” ? 😉

  12. I suppose one of the key differences between us, Mike, concerns our views about human psychology. It’s my belief — a prejudice, if you will — that, given some hypothesis, if the expected observations which are deduced from the hypothesis are not actually observed, then the hypothesis will be abandoned. (Maybe not by all at once, but eventually.) Whereas your remark

    Can you say “c-o-m-m-o-n d-e-s-c-e-n-t” ? 😉

    suggests the view that we will somehow treat hypotheses as Procrustean beds into which the data will be fit, however recalcitrant, and willfully (or perhaps unconsciously?) ignore all data which disconfirms the hypothesis in question.

    Is the latter close to the picture which you had in mind?

    If so, then at stake between us, it’s important to note, are radically different pictures — I would not say theories, but pictures — of the nature of reasoning, and of the mind itself.

  13. Yes Carl. We have a different view of human nature I believe. Most of us view human nature as utterly corrupt, blind, and self-interested. We even extend that to ourselves. It’s only God that is good and honest. If you call that a picture, fine. I call it truth, in a metaphysical sense. If we do something good, it is because God is working through us, and we are following Him.

    And back to the issue of trust. I don’t trust anyone, except God, completely. Trust is a continuum, not a dichotomy. If you have not done so, I would suggest that, in the future (on a different site perhaps), that you post using a pseudonym so you can be a little more free about your personal beliefs. That’s one reason why most of us here use pseudonyms, so that we can more easily express our personal beliefs. It wouldn’t work if you did that here, because we would recognize the form and design of your arguments (e.g., Olorin/Ragnarok/Kitab al-Falsafah who thinks we’re so stupid as to not know).

  14. Is the latter close to the picture which you had in mind?

    It all depends on what’s at stake. People who like to call nature “brilliant” have a lot at stake.

  15. Carl wrote,

    My point is, rather, that it strikes me as rather odd to regard someone as “delusional” and, at the same time, to seek to persuade them on the basis on evidence.

    Again Carl,

    mynym wrote,

    But unfortunately knowledge rooted in empirical observations and experience is generally being done away with by imagining things about the past…

    As opposed to going with “knowledge rooted in empirical observations and experience,” many are turning to imaginations about past events, which then seem to become reality to them. Is this not a delusional state, Carl?

    Carl also wrote,

    (Perhaps you are not seeking to persuade on the basis of evidence? But then, what’s the goal of communicating?)

    “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11: 1

    Carl, I would change your question to read, “But then, what’s the goal of communicating” when nothing is ever resolved?”

  16. Shrink wrote,

    However, there are others out there who read and are doubting and truly searching for answers. Those people are the reason that I write. I don’t write for people who have nothing better to do than engage in mental gyrations for the sake of mental stimulation or self-gratification and pretend that what they are doing is science.

    Yes!! This is the only reason I comment here and write on my sites. If it weren’t for this reason, I would no longer take part in any of this “mental gyrations for the sake of mental stimulation or self-gratification,” as the Shrink puts it so well!

  17. I don’t find it any more delusional to posit the existence of past events than to posit the existence of unobservable entities in general, and the latter is, it’s generally agreed, indispensable to any kind of science.

    I’m not inclined to put science in the straightjacket of empiricism. Empiricism, taken seriously, leads to skepticism, as Hume brilliantly showed. Maybe that’s OK if one wants to invoke fideism. But that’s not my agenda!

    If you have not done so, I would suggest that, in the future (on a different site perhaps), that you post using a pseudonym so you can be a little more free about your personal beliefs. That’s one reason why most of us here use pseudonyms, so that we can more easily express our personal beliefs. It wouldn’t work if you did that here, because we would recognize the form and design of your arguments.

    I would consider it the height of rudeness to post here under an alias — that’s not even on the table for me. And I don’t use pseudonyms on Internet sites any more. I am no longer interested in wearing masks.

  18. Yes Carl. We have a different view of human nature I believe. Most of us view human nature as utterly corrupt, blind, and self-interested. We even extend that to ourselves. It’s only God that is good and honest. If you call that a picture, fine. I call it truth, in a metaphysical sense. If we do something good, it is because God is working through us, and we are following Him.

    Interesting! You know, I find this immensely helpful in clarifying the vast differences between us. It’s part of my picture that we are able to employ a variety of techniques that enable us to understand something of objective reality. (Not “absolute reality”!) Whereas on this picture, it seems that human beings are incapable of objectivity unless guided by — I’m not sure what the right word is — would you want to say “unless guided by grace”, maybe?

  19. […] via Nested Hierarchies: Proof of Evolution? | Intelligent Design and More. […]

  20. Carl asked,

    Whereas on this picture, it seems that human beings are incapable of objectivity unless guided by — I’m not sure what the right word is — would you want to say “unless guided by grace”, maybe?

    We, who “seek first, God and His kingdom,” are led by the Spirit of God, which was given us through His grace and secured at the cross by Christ.

  21. Carl wrote,

    I don’t find it any more delusional to posit the existence of past events than to posit the existence of unobservable entities in general, and the latter is, it’s generally agreed, indispensable to any kind of science.

    Even at the expense of “knowledge rooted in empirical observations and experience?”

    If yes, then I refer you back to this quote:

    Post-modernists believe that truth is myth, and myth, truth…

  22. Interesting! You know, I find this immensely helpful in clarifying the vast differences between us. It’s part of my picture that we are able to employ a variety of techniques that enable us to understand something of objective reality. (Not “absolute reality”!) Whereas on this picture, it seems that human beings are incapable of objectivity unless guided by — I’m not sure what the right word is — would you want to say “unless guided by grace”, maybe?

    I think you’re missing the point, or at least part of it. We were talking about views on human nature, and you extend that to all of reality. I think DB does a good job of clarifying your last sentence.

  23. Hmm. I guess I don’t see the point of DB’s clarification. But then again, if I did see the point, we’d be having a very different sort of conversation!

    Let me rephrase my remark from above:

    is it the case that the issue which divides us that of whether or not human beings can know something of objective reality independently of being “led by the Spirit of God”?

    [I shall refrain from imposing any of my interpretations on the phrase “led by the Spirit of God”.)

    Let me recall for you where we are in the conversation, if I may. I had asked Mike

    It’s my belief — a prejudice, if you will — that, given some hypothesis, if the expected observations which are deduced from the hypothesis are not actually observed, then the hypothesis will be abandoned. (Maybe not by all at once, but eventually.) Whereas your remark suggests the view that we will somehow treat hypotheses as Procrustean beds into which the data will be fit, however recalcitrant, and willfully (or perhaps unconsciously?) ignore all data which disconfirms the hypothesis in question.

    To which the Country Shrink had responded:

    Yes Carl. We have a different view of human nature I believe. Most of us view human nature as utterly corrupt, blind, and self-interested. We even extend that to ourselves. It’s only God that is good and honest. If you call that a picture, fine. I call it truth, in a metaphysical sense. If we do something good, it is because God is working through us, and we are following Him.

    By my question to Mike, what I’d meant was this:

    Do you think that scientists are capable of, or if they in fact tend to, adjusting their degree of confidence in a hypothesis based on available evidence, or whether you think that scientists tend to hold onto their hypotheses due to various biases in the face of available evidence?

    Now, if scientists are capable of “adjusting their degree of confidence in a hypothesis based on available evidence,” that can only be (it seems to me) we have reliable techniques that allow us to know something about objective reality.

    So, my question is, do you think that there such techniques, and if they are, can be used independently of “being led by the Spirit of God”?

  24. I suppose one of the key differences between us, Mike, concerns our views about human psychology.

    You forgot the first sentence.

    So, my question is, do you think that there such techniques, and if they are, can be used independently of “being led by the Spirit of God”?

    Are you asking because you want to know the truth, or are you just asking?

    When talking about human nature, I think the more important questions are: Can we trust a class of scientists who set themselves up as high priests of truth? And correspondingly, should we trust that they have imagined things correctly? Is imagination one of those techniques that you think help lead to an objective evaluation of reality? Isn’t asking questions fun?

  25. Do you think that scientists are capable of, or if they in fact tend to, adjusting their degree of confidence in a hypothesis based on available evidence, or whether you think that scientists tend to hold onto their hypotheses due to various biases in the face of available evidence?

    And I answered that already. Scientists with a faith in naturalism, (whose very language gives them away as believers in a personified nature), will have just as hard a time denouncing their god as one who has faith in any other god. Evidence becomes not evidence, but attacks on faith. Objectivity is lost.

    Evolution is a religion. It “satisfies” because it offers up a god to be worshipped, and relieves one from going through the trouble to find the true God (whom they can now scoff at, accordingly). Evolution has its share of prophets, false prophets, doctrines etc… Especially important is the messiah they are all waiting for who will convince all the unbelievers in one brilliant Revelation of Science.

  26. Carl,

    The answers you have received from the Shrink, mynym, Mike and myself are “objective reality” to us, but not to you. That is why my answer didn’t satisfy you. If you don’t want answers that contain such things as “Spirit leading” then don’t ask the questions that will get that response: for instance, “unless guided by grace, maybe?”

    The word of God tells us that this world and its system is passing away. We see things as they are from the vantage point of the Spirit of God. It’s like the “Matrix” movie (as ridiculous as this simile may seem): Neo and crew could see the real world, or the matrix, but those who had not swallowed the right capsule (red or blue, who cares!) were totally blind to the true world.

    So, “objective reality” is in the eye of the beholder, perhaps?

  27. I didn’t say that I don’t want such answers, DB — merely that I’m puzzled by such answers and don’t know what to make of them.

  28. I can relate to your puzzlement, Carl. Twenty three years ago, you and I would have been much more closely aligned.

    My comment may have been overstated a bit on the “if you don’t want answers…” Sorry!

  29. Scientists with a faith in naturalism, (whose very language gives them away as believers in a personified nature), will have just as hard a time denouncing their god as one who has faith in any other god. Evidence becomes not evidence, but attacks on faith. Objectivity is lost.

    I’m still terribly confused as what your view is here, Mike.

    It sounds as though you’re saying that naturalistic scientists cannot be trusted to evaluate evidence objectively — but then you say, “just as hard a time denouncing their god as one who has faith in any other god.” Now it sounds, however, as if you’re saying that no one can be objective, because everyone has some presuppositions which govern how evidence is interpreted.

    Do you really make such a bold claim, Mike? How about the rest of you?

  30. Carl said and asked,

    Now it sounds, however, as if you’re saying that no one can be objective, because everyone has some presuppositions which govern how evidence is interpreted.

    Do you really make such a bold claim, Mike? How about the rest of you?

    I heard Conan O’Brian in an interview exclaim (in a serious tone), “No one knows what they’re talking about really, including scientists.”

    I think that he says this because humans cannot be objective on issues that they are vested in. I know I struggle sometimes, when others attack, to be objective about my faith in God and those things about this world that I have come to know as truths.

    Carl, if a “naturalistic scientist” spends his or her whole life pursuing a hypothesis, wouldn’t it make sense that, when their hypothesis is attacked, they become less objective? I mean defensiveness usually leads to subjectiveness, right?

  31. Do you really make such a bold claim, Mike? How about the rest of you?

    Yes, but how is that a bold claim?

    Here’s an example:

    As a Christian I may be objective about theology, but my mind is already made up about the historical actuality of the events upon which the theology is built.

    Similarly, a Naturalist may be objective about evolutionary theories, but his mind is already made up about the historical actuality of abiogenesis and common descent.

    Both are faith-based positions.

  32. Now it sounds, however, as if you’re saying that no one can be objective, because everyone has some presuppositions which govern how evidence is interpreted.

    Given your support for relativism and pluralism it’s not clear why you would have a problem with the notion that no one can be “purely” or totally objective? I’m not saying that you do have a problem with that notion, only that it sounds like you do and it sounds like you only apply a belief in a myth of objectivity to science and nothing else.

    At any rate, the Christian worldview contains within it both absolute truth and “pure” objectivity combined with an awareness of our “dirty” and subjective nature. Given this view of things absolute truth exists and we ought to pursue it using science as objectively as possible but in the end we should always be humble because we see subjectively through a glass darkly and so on. This is simply our nature, we are not as gods so we cannot have a “purely” objective perspective on that which we exist in because we are incarnate beings made of matter and so on. The Christian view has much to do with science as we know it because it modulates the insane notions of “pure” objectivity but does fall off into subjectivism and/or relativism and so on to do away with objectivity totally. Both are true, we are subjective beings designed to seek the objective truth of things. Ironically your denials of “absolute truth” are merely an artifact of the fact that you are designed to seek it.

    On another note you seem to be shifting your epistemic standards so that in the end a “scientific” view of origins may include imagining things about the past with no regard for actual history and empirical evidence rooted in patterns that can be widely observed and verified. I suspect that you would shift your standards if someone told you that Christ is Lord and then pointed out that it may be so given that they can imagine it so. It’s interesting that most people actually have higher epistemic standards for the historical claims of Christ than the epistemic standards that you are arguing for in the name of science with respect to history/origins.

  33. As a Christian I may be objective about theology, but my mind is already made up about the historical actuality of the events upon which the theology is built.

    Similarly, a Naturalist may be objective about evolutionary theories, but his mind is already made up about the historical actuality of abiogenesis and common descent.

    Both are faith-based positions.

    I wouldn’t slip into epistemic equivalency between naturalism and theism. There is actual historical evidence that Jesus is who He said He was. But if Jesus is who He said He was then Logos is incarnate and a lot of things fall out of that, including science as we know it. Everything is a faith based position but some forms of faith are more reasonable than others. Those that include a rationale for rationality itself tend to be more reasonable, naturally!

  34. So, “objective reality” is in the eye of the beholder, perhaps?

    Both are true, beauty may be experienced in the eye of the beholder but beauty is in the beheld because it is also an objective reality defined in form by God, as the language of mathematics tends to illustrate. Mathematics speaks to the logic of the Logos while pointing to objective reality, naturally. (Notice how even your fictional analogy includes a matrix, etc.)

    As some have said:
    “God is a mathematician of a very high order and He used advanced mathematics in constructing the universe.” –Paul A.M. Dirac

    Galileo said, “The holy Bible and the phenomena of nature proceed alike from the divine Word.” and he also noted that, “The laws of Nature are written in the language of mathematics.” Kepler, Galileo and even many modern scientists subject to Nature based paganism still believe that they are studying the Mind of God through the language of mathematics, a view that is not “proven” by but is consonant with the Bible being of the same type of Word as Galileo thought.

    As Paul said: “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”

    How do you see things that are invisible, anyway? And not only see them but see them clearly? (You can’t do so by merely imagining things, merely imagining things tends to result in the blurred imagery typical to those with a pagan urge to merge.)

  35. This is simply our nature, we are not as gods so we cannot have a “purely” objective perspective on that which we exist in because we are incarnate beings made of matter and so on.

    Vernard Eller writes of this in his study of the Fourth Gospel, and he distinguishes the “peak religious experience”, from divine communication, and the error of interpreting Christ in forms of mysticism.
    (http://www.hccentral.com/eller8/index.html)

    Let it once more be said that neither Kierkegaard nor the Beloved Disciple here (nor anyone cited elsewhere in this book) has any desire to use faith’s focus upon the objective “flesh of Jesus” as a ploy for eliminating, denying, or belittling the subjective and experiential side of faith. The issue, rather, is that of priority. Let me, then, try putting the ideaof the Beloved Disciple’s “Bread of Life” Jesus into the mouth of the Synoptic “Sermon on the Mount” Jesus: “Be not anxious to seek the personal spiritual satisfactions of self-indulgent peak experience. What is to be soughtis none of these things that your heavenly Father already knows you need (and is perfectly capable of granting). No, seek first the objective, other-oriented, self-denying action of masticating that flesh which (whether you like it or not) God has put before you–and whatever you need in the way of spiritual experience will be added to you as well.”

    This order of priorities is the only workable one–because the objective norm of “the flesh of Jesus” is absolutely essential to the sorting out of our subjective experience. We are following up on Kierkegaard’s concept of subjectivity, then, in suggesting that a believer’s “Christian experience” is to be understood as the impingement of an objective, wholly-other deity upon his inner consciousness. Thus, for example, the action of an objective (i.e., an altogether “not-me”) Holy Spirit arouses certain sensations and feelings that nevertheless exist altogether within me.” “‘Things beyond our seeing, things beyond our hearing, things beyond our imagining, all prepared by God for those who love him,’ these it is that God has revealed to us through the Spirit” (1 Cor. 2:9-10, NEB). Yet, pray tell, just how are we supposed to distinguish these “beyond” things from those things that in fact are “from” our seeing, from our hearing, from our very own imagining?

    The experience of these things is totally subjectivistic. So how am I (either “I” individually or “I” as the “we” of our common cultural subjectivism) to sort out those that are “of God” from those that are of purely human psychology, that are of our cultural background, that are of my genetic makeup, that are of my imagination, that are of Satan, that are of my just having had a good meal?

    Most often, I propose, we do this sorting on the grounds of pure subjectivism. We have nothing of a “beyond ourselves” to use as an objective point of reference, and so we proceed to operate very much on the basis of our own individual and cultural imaginings. I identify as “of God” whatever experiences feel to me like what I imagine “of God” experiences ought to feel like. What to me feels “real good” is what I have in mind when I judge something to be real good. God, of course, is something real good. (Possibly, even, “God” is nothing other than the name I give to whatever I find to be real good–and what is thus my “ultimate concern.”) In any case, that which makes me feel real good becomes the only possible standard for my identifying which are my “of God” experiences.

    Yet, in this situation of pure subjectivism, I myself actually am functioning as the only true “God” involved. I am the one Authority, the one Lord, who has full say about what understanding of God, of his Good, and of my good experience shall be attributed to deity. There is no objective, beyond-myself norm by which my identification of God can be gauged as either true or false, right or wrong. I’m the one to say who or what my God is–and of course, my God is all of God I can ever experience or know.

    Yet the Fourth Gospel claims to have a solution (the only possible solution) to this dilemma of religious subjectivism. “Christian subjectivity” (as is never the case with pure “subjectivism”) always indudes an objective norm that is objectively accessible to us: “No one comes to the Father but by me.” It is not that Christian experience is always limited to but that it must ever and always start with and proceed from God’s objective revelation of himself in “the flesh of Jesus.”

    So, how do I go about sorting out which of my experiences truly are “of God”? Well, the Fourth Gospel says that I begin by masticating the flesh of Jesus–and that provides me the wherewithal for making the test: Whatever of human experience arises from (or leads to) faith in Jesus as the incarnate Logos of divine communication and which then comports with that flesh, manifesting the character of that which, in him, was seen in the flesh–whatever experience passes this test can be taken as being “of God.” With anything else–no matter how right and good I subjectivistically feel it to be–I can never be confident I’m getting a true reading. Indeed, I think this “litmus test of the flesh” is what Scripture means when it tells us to “test the spirits to see whether they are from God” (1 John 4:1).

    “The Beloved Disciple, His Name, His Story, His Thoughts” by Vernard Eller, 1987

  36. I think this “litmus test of the flesh” is what Scripture means when it tells us to “test the spirits to see whether they are from God”

    And how do we test the spirits, or how do we discern the logos?

    “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; 17 that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you… But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” (John 14: 16-17, 26)

    “I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. 14 “He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you. 15 “All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you…” (John 16: 12-15)

    As many as are led by the spirit, these are the sons of God.” (Romans 8: 14)

    We can’t get anywhere with God, beyond mother’s milk, until we’re aware of this truth and seek to then learn how to hear the Spirit of God!

  37. My concern with Mike’s remarks above are that his view seems to lead, by my lights, to a pretty extreme relativism. For if different people have different presuppositions, and if those presuppositions are recalcitrant to revision in light of experience, then it seems as though nothing can lead to revision in one’s presuppositions — we are simply stuck with them.

    In one sense, I completely agree with Mynym that absolute knowledge cannot be meaningfully divorced from theism. However, that does not lead me into quite the position that Mynym thinks it does, because I insist on making a distinction between what is absolute and what is objective. I tend to prefer “objective fallibilism” as a label for my view. If there’s interest I can try to spell that out more carefully.

    I should also point out that the target of my ire is neither theism, nor even creationism, but rather the Cartesian picture of the mind which inclines us to say that if there is no absolute conception of the world to which we have access (through through reason or through revelation), then we are resigned to (pick any one of the following): subjectivism, skepticism, nihilism. My aim is to reject that picture of the mind in favor of insights from Wittgenstein, Dewey, and Merleau-Ponty. And of course Wittgenstein and Dewey were quite favorably disposed towards religion as they understood it — though it was, in both cases, a religion without metaphysics and without supernaturalism.

    Still, I expect that most people here would say that such a religion is not a religion worth having. (In good atheistic fashion, I shall be indifferent to the distinction between “religion” and “faith”; I hope that my doing so does not come across as a sign of disrespect.)

  38. Carl wrote:

    In one sense, I completely agree with Mynym that absolute knowledge cannot be meaningfully divorced from theism. However, that does not lead me into quite the position that Mynym thinks it does, because I insist on making a distinction between what is absolute and what is objective. I tend to prefer “objective fallibilism” as a label for my view. If there’s interest I can try to spell that out more carefully.

    I think you are perhaps missing an absolute underlying “truth” of your assertion. As an assumption of this viewpoint is an absolute truth: Humans are capable of objectivity. I think Mike’s point is that one must choose the absolutes upon which we view the world. I am of the mind that one cannot have reasonable thought without some basic metaphysical assumptions. Although some, such as you, dislike this notion, it is lurking in the background and unspoken.

  39. For if different people have different presuppositions, and if those presuppositions are recalcitrant to revision in light of experience, then it seems as though nothing can lead to revision in one’s presuppositions — we are simply stuck with them.

    That’s where I’m losing you. What experience? For myself, I certainly don’t feel “stuck”! I am more free than I ever have been, because I’m already “home”.

    Anyway, history is already closed on the life of Jesus. Unless we find thousands of hand-copied letters from St. Peter, scattered throughout Asia, that admits the whole thing was a hoax or something, or that there was some serious mainstream revisionist movement started by the apostles themselves that nobody ever knew about. The case is closed, the testimony is given, either one is convinced or not. But it certainly does NOT follow that I would in turn interpret every rotted piece of wood found on a hill outside Jerusalem as a piece of the original cross!!

    To me, intellectually meandering in the wilderness, or sailing adrift on the ocean is anything but free. From my perspective that is what I would call being “stuck” or perhaps “lost”.

    Who gives testimony for common descent? What witness has spoken of it?
    Naturalists don’t even have that. They want a god they can experience with the senses, but yet the flesh of Christ isn’t “down to earth” enough for them. They would rather pay homage to an impersonal DNA molecule, and act like it is “telling them something”.

  40. Country Shrink,

    That’s a powerful and interesting objection. Let me see what I can say in response.

    I would say that the role of objectivity in human life is a transcendental presupposition. However, I mean that in a rather odd way. A transcendental presupposition, as I understand it, is a constitutive feature of anything that we can imagine as a form of life that we would regard as human. In fact, I would say that I regard as a transcendental presupposition the interdependence of subjectivity, objectivity, and intersubjectivity. None of those three makes sense without the other two.

    But this depends on what we can understand, imagine, etc. as a humanly livable form of life. Some species which lacked any grasp of these notions, and lacked practices in which these notions played a fundamental role (e.g. the practice of truth-telling, or lying), would not be a species that we could see as being like us.

    And, I don’t think there is any necessity to our having the form of life we have — it is utterly contingent so far I can tell, contingent on historical trajectory that is, as I would have it, not only thousands but also millions of years in the making.

    So it is not that I’m without transcendental presuppositions, but that I don’t seek some further ground for those presuppositions in the very fabric of reality itself.

    I’m afraid I have nothing of interest to say about the historical reality of Jesus or the truth of his claims, or of claims made about him.

  41. However, that does not lead me into quite the position that Mynym thinks it does, because I insist on making a distinction between what is absolute and what is objective. I tend to prefer “objective fallibilism” as a label for my view.

    It’s not clear why you think that your view does not comport with the Christian worldview as it is understood by many here, as it leads to the conclusion that we should seek objective truths while being aware of our subjective fallibility. Of course there are many different types of Christians and even some people who claim to be Christians who are ignorant of Christianity or maintain views that have more to do with Greek philosophy than Christianity but it’s generally understood that Christianity includes both objective reality and subjective experience and that our understanding of both may be fallible. So it would seem to include “objective fallibilism.”

    I should note that comparing the subjective and the objective may be a useful heuristic in the abstract but given the Christian worldview they are typically viewed as complementary in reality. And that is what they are in reality, as one cannot have “objective” knowledge without subjective sentience and so on. In Christianity one pattern is not viewed as superior to the other with the rational/objective/manly/harsh/superior on one side and the emotional/subjective/feminine/tender/inferior on the other, instead they should be unified into the whole truth, a truth that can be spoken in love.

    Hedonists want looove without any concern for objective truths, legalists want the hard cold “scientific” truth without love but given the Christian view these patterns cannot be divorced from each other. They are not to be divorced and then be set against each other as they are in the “war” between the subjective/personal/”religious” and the objective/public/”scientific.” I.e. the so-called war between science and religion which according to the mythology of the Enlightenment has been going on for some time now. (In fact, many propagandists predicted that it would be over by now based on their mythology of purely objective scientific Progress and many predict the same thing about the future to this day. This seems to have more to do with their supposedly “objective” mentality than what has actually happened in the real world historically.)

  42. I’m afraid I have nothing of interest to say about the historical reality of Jesus or the truth of his claims, or of claims made about him.

    Then you have little to say about creationism, as the historical reality of the Christ and the claims of Jesus (making all things new) and the claims made about Jesus (all things were made through the Logos) have much to do with creationism.

    It is odd that believing the claims of a Jewish peasant turned rabbi can change one’s view of origins but the whole topic of origins is odd. For example, some ask where Cain got his wife. The gnostics believed that everyone was born as twins in perfect pairs* and perhaps other solutions might be proposed but whatever you believe at some level incest took place. Yet any view of origins leads to this type of conclusion because all family trees trace back to trunks. The Darwinian creation myth is equally odd if not more so given that it includes the gradual crossing of the categories of human and animal. It also seems odd to believe that you and your intelligence are the product of natural selection operating on ancient populations of worm-like creatures and then turn around and claim to have or to be inevitably progressing towards having a knowledge of the structure of the entire Cosmos rooted in a brain structure that has more to do with blind processes like natural selection than sighted, insightful intelligent selections of any sort.

    *(Citing the song of Solomon as evidence if I recall correctly.)

  43. It’s not clear why you think that your view does not comport with the Christian worldview as it is understood by many here, as it leads to the conclusion that we should seek objective truths while being aware of our subjective fallibility.

    Well, maybe it does comport in some ways, and not in others.

    In my questions and criticisms of Mike and the others above, in this thread, what I was trying to get clear on is this. I’m still confused as to whether the position is:

    1) Seeking objective truths will lead us to a deeper understanding of God, or
    2) It is necessary to be led by God in order to seek any objective truths at all in the first place.

    Mike has said things that sound to me like (2), and so have DB and Country Shrink. So I’m trying to make sure that my interpretation of their remarks as endorsing (2) is a correct interpretation before I launch my counter-offensive.

    [Parenthetically, something like (2) has a long and venerable history in the Western tradition; Plato and Augustine seemed to have held something like it, and so does Descartes. And it’s a long tradition which holds that we need theism in order to understand why there are any objective truths which are discoverable by human means in the first place — that was certainly Leibniz’s view, and it may have been the Scholastic view as well, though I’m not sure.]

    Then you have little to say about creationism, as the historical reality of the Christ and the claims of Jesus (making all things new) and the claims made about Jesus (all things were made through the Logos) have much to do with creationism.

    If you say so, that’s fine by me. I mean, I reserve the right to criticize creationism when it impinges on evidence, but you’re right to say that rests on presuppositions about which I have nothing interesting to say. Though I’d thought that creationism had more to do with Genesis than with the New Testament — the general line of thought being that if we reserve for ourselves the authority to interpret Genesis allegorically, then the authority of Scripture itself is fatally compromised. At least that’s what I’d gotten from my conversations with DB. So one couldn’t, consistently, interpret Genesis as a metaphor but still take literally “the historical reality of the Christ”.

    It also seems odd to believe that you and your intelligence are the product of natural selection operating on ancient populations of worm-like creatures and then turn around and claim to have or to be inevitably progressing towards having a knowledge of the structure of the entire Cosmos rooted in a brain structure that has more to do with blind processes like natural selection than sighted, insightful intelligent selections of any sort.

    Again, surprisingly, I agree — in part. Certainly it is one of Dawkins’ grossest failings as a pseudo-philosopher that he does not face this problem squarely, even though it is manifest on the surface of his writings. (Along with his inability to take seriously the free will/determinism problem, also evident in his writings.)

    Now, that is not to say that this problem is irresolvable — in fact, I think that there is a elegant solution to it, first developed by John Dewey and not much developed since then, though there have been some interesting developments in ecology, development, and neuroscience that I find quite suggestive.

    Interestingly, it was Nietzsche who first saw that the Darwinian view of things, taken seriously and to its logical conclusions, undermined the authority of objectivity itself. Now, I am not much persuaded by those who claim that Nietzsche was a substantial influence on fascism. However, Nietzsche’s influence on postmodernism and on existentialism is massive and unquestionable. So there is a good deal of historical evidence for the thought that there’s a chain of influence that runs from Darwinism through Nietzsche to existentialism and to postmodernism.

  44. Carl said,

    In my questions and criticisms of Mike and the others above, in this thread, what I was trying to get clear on is this. I’m still confused as to whether the position is:

    1) Seeking objective truths will lead us to a deeper understanding of God, or
    2) It is necessary to be led by God (you mean spirit of God) in order to seek any objective truths at all in the first place.

    The position is both 1) and 2). They are both the way!

    As to 1)

    Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6: 33)

    Make me know Your ways, O LORD;
    Teach me Your paths.
    Lead me in Your truth and teach me,
    For You are the God of my salvation;
    For You I wait all the day. (Proverbs 25: 4-5)

    Do not let kindness and truth leave you;
    Bind them around your neck,
    Write them on the tablet of your heart.
    So you will find favor and good repute
    In the sight of God and man.
    Trust in the LORD with all your heart
    And do not lean on your own understanding.
    In all your ways acknowledge Him,
    And He will make your paths straight.
    Do not be wise in your own eyes;
    Fear the LORD and turn away from evil. (Proverbs 3: 3-7)

    As to 2)

    As many as are led by the spirit of God, these are the sons of God. (Romans 8: 14)

  45. Here’s a good post on the historical reality of Jesus.

  46. Mike has said things that sound to me like (2), and so have DB and Country Shrink. So I’m trying to make sure that my interpretation of their remarks as endorsing (2) is a correct interpretation before I launch my counter-offensive.

    I’m curious as to what you think I sound like.

    This is a tangent and it’s long but for anyone interested, well, here’s a tangent. 😉

    Carl said:
    Now, I am not much persuaded by those who claim that Nietzsche was a substantial influence on fascism. However, Nietzsche’s influence on postmodernism and on existentialism is massive and unquestionable. So there is a good deal of historical evidence for the thought that there’s a chain of influence that runs from Darwinism through Nietzsche to existentialism and to postmodernism.

    Nietzsche was very similar to Darwin given that he essentially prophesied Nazism. He in the world of “fiery” ideas, Darwin in the real world of biology where lower races get “exterminated” like bugs.

    E.g. Nietzsche, on the Jewish influence:

    In connection with the tremendous and immeasurably fateful initiative provided by the Jews through this most fundamental of all declarations of war, I recall the proposition I arrived at on a previous occasion (Beyond Good and Evil, section 195) that with the Jews there begins the slave revolt in morality: that revolt which has a history of two thousand years behind it…
    (On the Genealogy of Morals, Ecce Homo (1967, Random House)
    Friedrich Nietzsche, translated by WalterKaufmann. :34)

    Was that the end of it? Had the greatest of all conflicts [between the poison of the Jewish ‘slave influence and the noble master values] of ideals been placated for all time? Or only adjourned, indefinitely adjourned?
    Must the ancient fire not some day flare up much more terribly, after much longer preparation? More: must one not desire it with all one’s might? even will it? even promote it? …it has long since been abundantly clear what my aim is, what the aim of that dangerous slogan is that is inscribed at the head of my last book: Beyond Good and Evil. (Ib :55) (Emphasis added)

    Nietzsche worked in a world of mental patterns and ideas and he actually did not apply many of his ideas to real people in the real world, e.g. his opinion of anti-Semites in the real world was low even as he celebrated the demise of what the Nazis would later call the “Jewish influence.”

    …it is true that Nietzsche became the father of a strong irrationalistic trend in recent German philosophy, from which unmistakable lines of connection lead to certain political slogans of National Socialism, such as ‘the destructive intellect,”blood and soil,’ and the ‘Myth of the twentieth century.’ Hans Prinzhoon….praises Nietzsche for having searched for the roots of individual ‘fate-character’ in [naturalism and so] the vital or biological stratum of ‘blood-heritage’ (Bluterbe) and ‘culture-space'(Kulturraum), and no longer in the intellectual factors of culture, ideals and morality….
    (Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol. 6,
    No. 3, Jun., 1945
    Friedrich Nietzsche in the Judgment of Posterity
    by Walter Eckstein, :318)

    Also, Nietzsche himself celebrated the fact that language drawn from the world of ideas that he represented was dangerous in the real world. He commented approvingly of his critics:

    My latest book [Beyond Good and Evil] was greeted in one Basel newspaper in the following way: ‘Those trucks that shipped the dynamite necessary for the construction of the railroad over the St. Gotthard carried a black flag of warning, indicating deadly danger; in this sense we call the book of the philosopher Nietzsche a dangerous book.'(Ib :318)

    Scholars of the time noted:

    The Nazis can also find support for their current racial doctrines in the work of Nietzsche. One passage is especially famous…
    ‘It is impossible not to recognize at the core of all these aristocratic races the beast of prey; the magnificent blonde brute, avidly rampant for spoil and victory; this hidden core needed an outlet from time to time—the Roman, Arabic, German, and Japanese nobility, the Homeric heroes, the Scandinavian Vikings, are all alike in this need. It is the aristocratic races who have left the idea “Barbarian”on all the tracks in which they have marched. . . . The profound, icy mistrust which the German provokes as soon as he arrives at power, even at the present time, is always still an aftermath of that inextinguishable horror with which for whole centuries Europe has regarded the wrath of the blonde Teuton beast.’
    Nietzsche affords passages still closer to what the Germans today mean by Rassenhygiene. Europe is degenerating because of the shocking mixture of blood modern times have brought about: ‘Europe, the scene of a senseless, precipitate attempt at a radical blending of classes, and consequently of races, is therefore skeptical in all its heights and depths, sick unto death of its will.’
    (The National Socialists’ Use of Nietzsche by Crane Brinton
    Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol. 1, No. 2.(Apr., 1940), pp. 131-150)

  47. Another tangential point, if it can be said that “there is a good deal of historical evidence for the thought that there’s a chain of influence that runs from Darwinism through Nietzsche to existentialism and to postmodernism” then it can be said that there is a good deal of evidence that a chain of mental “influence” runs from Darwin to Nietzsche to Nazism. In fact it can be argued that postmodernism is the same type of rebellion against the “Jewish influence” and the West in the world of ideas which is simply not taken to its logical conclusions in the real world:

    Today’s postmodernists criticize “humanistic” values in what they consider a liberating way. They attack the concept of individual identity to restore a sense of social responsibility. They uncover the hidden workings of power to expose oppression based on race, gender, or class. They have the best of motives. They are certainly not fascists.
    And yet, they need to realize that the fascists of the 1930s also sought to dismantle Western civilization and its human-centered values. They too attacked the concept of individual identity and taught that reality is socially constructed. They too insisted that underlying all institutions is naked power. They too prized ethnicity. They too were environmentalists. They too questioned the objectivity of meaning.
    The difference is that contemporary thinkers in this vein bemoan the structures of power and oppression that they uncover. They still work with unexamined moral assumptions, overlooking the way they have demolished the basis of those assumptions.
    The fascists, on the other hand, took these assumptions to their logical conclusions. If individual autonomy is an illusion, then everyone should find identity in the communal state. If society shapes the individual then let it do so, replacing individual liberty with propaganda and social control. If power underlies all social institutions, then let us exercise power. If race and ethnicity is a determining value, then ideas should be evaluated in racial and ethnic terms. If societies are intrinsically racist, with one ethnic group oppressing the others, then let us be racist, protecting our racial identity in this power struggle by subjugating other races. (Modern Fascism: Liquidating the Judeo-Christian Worldview by Gene Veith :22-23)(Emphasis added)

    On a final tangent, it seems that Nietzsche himself did not get very far beyond good and evil at all. He spoke of supermen going beyond good and evil by sacrificing the weak but in the end he did not even get beyond the day to day sacrifice of animals that already takes place. E.g.

    As the correspondence of his last period reveals, he imagined himself to be either the God Dionysos or the Crucified. In this latter role he caused a public—and in reality humanely beautiful—scandal, which led to his transfer to the asylum for nervous diseases in Turin:
    Nietzsche interfered in Turin with a cab driver who was mistreating his horse, as so often happens in Italy. Nietzsche embraced the horse’s neck and prayed that it be beatified in the name of God. Then he collapsed.
    (Nietzsche and After by Robert Rie
    Journal of the History of Ideas,
    Vol. 13, No. 3. (Jun., 1952) :366)

  48. Today’s postmodernists criticize “humanistic” values in what they consider a liberating way. …

    for an in-depth study see:

    http://www.hudson.org/files/publications/transnational_progressivism.pdf

    and here’s an overview:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transnational_progressivism

  49. This is an interesting read also!

    “…out of sight of the world, in Buchenwald and Auschwitz, eugenic doctors like Josef Mengele would carry on the research begun just years earlier with American financial support, including grants from the Rockefeller Foundation and the Carnegie Institution. Only after the secrets of Nazi eugenics horrified the world, only after Nuremberg declared compulsory sterilization a crime against humanity, did American eugenics recede, adopt an enlightened view and then resurface as genetics and human engineering. Even still, involuntary sterilization continued for decades as policy and practice in America.

    True, the victims of Virginia and hundreds of thousands more like them in countries across the world were denied children. But they did give birth to a burning desire to understand how the most powerful, intelligent, scholarly and respectable individuals and organizations in America came to mount a war against the weakest Americans to create a super race. Just as pressing is this question: Will the twenty-first-century successor to the eugenics movement, now known as human engineering, employ enough safeguards to ensure that the biological crimes of the twentieth century will never happen again?” (emphasis added)

    http://www.waragainsttheweak.com/chapter1.php

  50. Mynym asked:

    I’m curious as to what you think I sound like.

    You sound to me like a Platonic-Aristotelian, fundamentally committed to (i) the reality of form and (ii) the discontinuity between human beings and the rest of nature.

    We agree on (i) and disagree on (ii). With respect to (i), you seem to think that the reality of form can only be adequately understood within a theist framework, whereas I think there are good reasons for finding theories of self-organization and complexity as providing an explanation of the reality of form. (But such theories are not inconsistent with certain versions of theism, such as process theology.)

    It’s also true that you subscribe to a number of claims about the connections between Darwinism and Nazism:

    1) Darwinism denies the discontinuity of humans and nature;
    2) Nazism denies the discontinuity of humans and nature;
    3) Some Nazis used Darwinian notions in some justifications of their social policies;
    4) In doing so, the Nazis in fact drew the correct inference of Darwinism.
    5) Both Darwinism and Nazism are modern manifestations of paganism.
    6) This demonstrates both the dangerous social consequences, as well as the falsity, of paganism, in contrast with Judeo-Christian theism.

    I agree with (1), and (3), but disagree strongly with (2), (4), (5), and (6).

    The reason why I disagree with (2) — and this is a point I haven’t made before — is that it misses out on a crucially important difference between what happens to the discontinuity thesis under Darwinism and Nazism.

    In Darwinism, the rejection of discontinuity is universal; all human beings are part of nature, at best “another unique species — neither more nor less unique than any other, but as unique as all the others.

    Whereas Nazism is best understood, in these terms, as shifting the boundary rather than in terms of erasing it. In Nazism, some human beings — Jews, gays, Gypsies, the disabled — are put in the “nature” category, whereas other human beings — the Aryan master-race — remain in the radically discontinuous “human” category. And once those people are put in the “nature” category, one can treat them as one treats the rest of nature (within modern Western industrial societies) — as something to be experimented upon, manipulated, exploited, and destroyed.

    So Nazism retains the discontinuity thesis, and changes the members of those categories, whereas Darwinism dispenses with the discontinuity thesis entirely. For this reason, I think that your attempts to connect Darwinism and Nazism are fundamentally mistaken.

  51. Carl said,

    In Darwinism, the rejection of discontinuity is universal; all human beings are part of nature, at best “another unique species — neither more nor less unique than any other, but as unique as all the others.

    Do you agree with this Darwinian reasoning? IF SO, then why would I listen to you, or anyone else, for that matter, any more than I would a bird chirping in a tree?

    Carl also said,

    Whereas Nazism is best understood, in these terms, as shifting the boundary rather than in terms of erasing it. In Nazism, some human beings — Jews, gays, Gypsies, the disabled — are put in the “nature” category, whereas other human beings — the Aryan master-race — remain in the radically discontinuous “human” category.

    I disagree! The Nazis saw the Jews, homosexuals, Gypsies and disabled as not different (or the “nature” category) but “unfit” and as dragging down the human race from its “lofty position” above all other species. Just as did the eugenicists in America who supplied most of the eugenic/Mendelian theory to the Germans before and during Hitlers rise to power.

    To perpetuate the {eugenic} campaign, widespread academic fraud combined with almost unlimited corporate philanthropy to establish the biological rationales for persecution. Employing a hazy amalgam of guesswork, gossip, falsified information and polysyllabic academic arrogance, the eugenics movement slowly constructed a national bureaucratic and juridical infrastructure to cleanse America of its “unfit.” Specious intelligence tests, colloquially known as IQ tests, were invented to justify incarceration of a group labeled “feebleminded.” Often the so-called feebleminded were just shy, too good-natured to be taken seriously, or simply spoke the wrong language or were the wrong color. Mandatory sterilization laws were enacted in some twenty-seven states to prevent targeted individuals from reproducing more of their kind. Marriage prohibition laws proliferated throughout the country to stop race mixing. Collusive litigation was taken to the U.S. Supreme Court, which sanctified eugenics and its tactics.

    The goal was to immediately sterilize fourteen million people in the United States and millions more worldwide—the “lower tenth”—and then continuously eradicate the remaining lowest tenth until only a pure Nordic super race remained. Ultimately, some 60,000 Americans were coercively sterilized and the total is probably much higher. No one knows how many marriages were thwarted by state felony statutes. Although much of the persecution was simply racism, ethnic hatred and academic elitism, eugenics wore the mantle of respectable science to mask its true character. http://www.waragainsttheweak.com/intro.php (emphasis added)

  52. Do you agree with this Darwinian reasoning? IF SO, then why would I listen to you, or anyone else, for that matter, any more than I would a bird chirping in a tree?

    Birdsongs are intrinsically meaningful to other birds of that species. So the analogy doesn’t work — it doesn’t show why the continuity thesis undermines the intrinsic meaningfulness of human language. But we must take the intrinsic meaningfulness of our discourse as a “given,” as something to be perhaps explained but certainly not rejected. So the question could be, perhaps, “does Darwinism shed any interesting light on the origins of intrinsically meaningful linguistic communication?”
    And on that question I find the available evidence and hypotheses intriguing, but far from conclusive.

  53. as dragging down the human race from its “lofty position” above all other species.

    Now it seems as though you’re making my argument for me — on the Darwinian view, as I understand it, there simply is no “‘lofty position’ above all other species” for human beings, or any other species, to occupy.

  54. Carl said,

    Now it seems as though you’re making my argument for me — on the Darwinian view, as I understand it, there simply is no “‘lofty position’ above all other species” for human beings, or any other species, to occupy.

    No, Carl, you, as per usual, are spinning the conversation. So if this is true of Darwinian thought, then why did eugenics spring from Darwin’s and other’s naturalistic theories? How does Pearson’s “survival of the fittest” and Darwin’s “natural selection” do anything but dehumanize?

    So, Carl, according to your above reasoning, you think that a slug is your equal?

    On your other response to my comment, it’s beyond me to respond to something that wordy!

  55. Maybe this, from UD, says it better, Carl!

    Those who argue at school board meetings that Darwin should be taught in public schools seldom have taken the time to read what he had to say. If they even knew the full title of his book, which is On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life, they might have gained some inkling of the racism propagated by this controversial theorist.

    Then, if they had gone on to read his second book, The Descent of Man, it is likely that they would be shocked to learn that among Darwin’s scientifically based proposals was the elimination of “the negro and Australian peoples,” which he considered to be savage races whose continued survival was hindering the progress of civilisation.

    http://www.uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/tony-campolo-whats-wrong-with-darwinism/

  56. I’m not spinning the conversation, I’m flat-out disagreeing with you. I’m disagreeing with you about the content of Darwinism, and I’m disagreeing with you about the implications of Darwinism. And if you refuse to take the time to carefully consider posts that I put a good deal of thought and care into, it is not my fault for being “too wordy” (whatever that means).

  57. Carl,

    Please, am I supposed to beg your pardon now? Don’t be so sensitive, instead “gird your loins like a man!”

    You claim to give a “good deal of thought and care” to your exposes, and yet you hardly ever respond to the evidence given, by me or anyone else. So if you’re put out with my response to your carefully conceived ramblings, then get used to it and also…get over it!

    Tedium can invoke this kind of response from me, Carl!

  58. Carl said,

    I’m not spinning the conversation, I’m flat-out disagreeing with you. I’m disagreeing with you about the content of Darwinism, and I’m disagreeing with you about the implications of Darwinism.

    So, you are just going to ignore the material that I supplied above? Not surprised!

  59. The material which shows that Darwin himself had racist ideas? Firstly, that’s hardly news. Secondly, well, so what? What does that show? Is it supposed to show that there’s some inextricable connection between the continuity thesis and racism? That’s hardly plausible, since racism antedates Darwinism by several hundred, if not thousand, years.

    And as for the connection between eugenics and Darwinism: this is, to me, another big “so what?” I mean, I don’t even see why this is supposed to be so interesting or important to you. Eugenics antedates Darwinism by several hundred years; some 19th and 20th century eugenicists appealed to Darwinism to justify their policies; other Darwinists rejected eugenics; and, most importantly from my point of view, it is due to the modern synthesis that we understand why eugenics cannot work.

    In other words, this entire line of objection to Darwinism doesn’t seem to have anything to it that withstands a “so what?”

  60. Have a great day, Carl!

  61. I suppose I should add — I’d have thought that this would go without saying, but who knows? — that I completely share in the ethical judgment expressed here towards eugenics: that it is unquestionably horrid, inhumane beyond description in effect if not in intention.

    I feel I ought to emphasize this because this agreement may have been obscured by some serious disagreements, namely:

    1) disagreements over which particular sorts of activities count as dehumanizing;
    2) disagreements over what sort of metaphysics is necessary in order to properly account for why dehumanization is morally wrong;
    3) disagreements over what it means to say that something is morally right or wrong;
    4) disagreements over whether “the continuity thesis,” as I’ve been calling it, contributes to dehumanization.

    I take it that the real crux of my disagreement lies in (4), with (2) and (3) as background. (1) isn’t logically connected with the rest, but worth mentioning, since I’d be surprised if it doesn’t color the rest.

  62. Carl,

    I think you are completely missing the point. We tend to talk about real world associations demonstrated through historical events, whereas you attempt to boil things down to a logical and abstract basis. It would be nice if the real world were so clean and tidy; however, it rarely works that way.

  63. We tend to talk about real world associations demonstrated through historical events, whereas you attempt to boil things down to a logical and abstract basis. It would be nice if the real world were so clean and tidy; however, it rarely works that way.

    For one thing, the “real world” can work out that way more often than it does if more people actually take the time to care about good reasoning.

    For another, if all you care about are “real world associations demonstrated through historical events,” then there’s really nothing to talk about — every time you say “Hitler,” I can say “Dewey”, and every time you say “Dawkins,” I can say “Miller”. And we go back and forth and back and forth, ad nauseum.

    The only alternative to that pointless and useless trading of “real world associations” is to pose the question as to whose interpretations of Darwinism are correct, which is to say, which interpretations are better reasoned. I mean, if you can show me that Hitler or whomever carries out implications of Darwinism and that Dewey is inconsistent, then by all means, go ahead. And I can try to show you that Dewey is right in thinking that Darwinism is fundamentally consistent with the attitude expressed here:

    The serious threat to our democracy is not the existence of foreign totalitarian states. It is the existence, within our own personal attitudes and within our own institutions, of conditions which have given a victory to external authority, discipline, uniformity, and dependence upon The Leader in foreign countries. The battlefield is also accordingly here — within ourselves and our institutions. (Dewey, Freedom and Culture, 1939)

    And so, as I see it, it’s a question of whether you want to care about good reasoning, or if you want to have the same tired old debates that don’t actually move the conversation forward.

  64. @Carl Sachs – I’d be interested as to why you feel real-world associations are not germane to the topic being discussed. In other words, has there been a real world association between eugenics and Darwinism? Was Hitler’s final solution influenced by Darwinism? Was Sanger’s promotion of abortion influenced by Darwinism? Are there not people who today promote a modern eugenics perspective that is influenced by Darwinism?

  65. It’s not that “real world associations” aren’t “germane” — and it’s not that I wouldn’t answer “yes” to some of those questions above. It’s that they don’t demonstrate what you seem to want to demonstrate. For every evil person who was influenced by Darwinism, I can name a good one. For every vile act that claimed support from Darwinism, I can name a moral one. And so on and so on and so on. So it’s not enough to merely trace the lineage of the history of ideas — “who begat whom,” so to speak — but also to ask about the correctness or incorrectness, the validity and the evidence, etc. — of those interpretations.

    In other words, merely tracing the lineage from Darwin through Haeckel to Hitler isn’t enough — you’d also need to give me reasons for thinking that Haeckel’s interpretation of Darwin’s ideas is the correct one. Otherwise, I can simply say, “sure, but that’s a misunderstanding of Darwin himself, not to mention irrelevant to what evolutionary biologists believe 200 years later.”

  66. @Carl Sachs – I don’t believe in any such thing as a good person Carl. So, your points do nothing in my book.

    It’s really not that difficult to see how a person could come to believe that the “moral” position is to advance the survival of the species through a program of eugenics. It certainly could be considered even scientific, because Darwinism is taken to be as well established as gravity. Does Darwinism always lead to eugenics? Certainly not. Is there an historical association? Certainly there is. Is it logically consistent with Darwinism? Yes. Is it a position that must be held to be a Darwinist? No.

  67. For another, if all you care about are “real world associations demonstrated through historical events,” then there’s really nothing to talk about — every time you say “Hitler,” I can say “Dewey”, and every time you say “Dawkins,” I can say “Miller”. And we go back and forth and back and forth, ad nauseum.

    Yes, Carl, you’re right! So why do you keep insisting that we carry on this “back and forth and back and forth, ad nauseum” dialogue? It’s you who disregards our position on this issue and most others.

    If I know something to be totally true or false, why then would I take the time and energy to continue to discuss it as though it would somehow ever become truth? I guess that’s the crux, isn’t it, Carl? The issue here is really my perspective from an absolute (God’s truth) and your relative perspective (man’s secular truth). I think your quote above is your answer!

  68. @Carl SachsYou sound to me like a Platonic-Aristotelian, fundamentally committed to (i) the reality of form and (ii) the discontinuity between human beings and the rest of nature.

    The irreducibility of form and/or the transphysical nature of information are linked to discontinuities in nature and a correct understanding of the “nature of nature” itself. We are both continuous and discontinuous, immanent and transcendent at the same time.

    We agree on (i) and disagree on (ii).

    I’m not sure that we do disagree on (ii). We’re made of matter and have a basic biological structure which we share with other animals. There is continuity there, although in order to understand it one must somehow gain enough distance in order to see it in the first place.

    It’s also true that you subscribe to a number of claims about the connections between Darwinism and Nazism:

    1) Darwinism denies the discontinuity of humans and nature;
    2) Nazism denies the discontinuity of humans and nature;
    3) Some Nazis used Darwinian notions in some justifications of their social policies;
    4) In doing so, the Nazis in fact drew the correct inference of Darwinism.

    You go on to disagree but even someone like Dawkins admits this when he notes that he would not want to live in a culture shaped by Darwinism. I’m sure you know the catch phrases which represent Darwinian sentiments such as “survival of the fittest” and so on, so it’s not apparent why you disagree given that Nazism was a manifestation of such views. Despite the mythology of progress that Darwin and many Darwinists wove around such sentiments they can be viewed as a reversion back to nature based barbarism and paganism. Indeed, that is how the Nazis viewed their reversion, linking it to their barbaric/nordic past.

    In Darwinism, the rejection of discontinuity is universal; all human beings are part of nature, at best “another unique species — neither more nor less unique than any other, but as unique as all the others.

    In Nazism the rejection of discontinuity is universal. They generally viewed their “brutality” as being rooted in the nature of being a brute and believed themselves to be animals by nature. As Hitler said, “The light of the free, marvelous beast of prey must once again shine from their eyes. I want my youth to be strong and beautiful.”

    In Nazism, some human beings — Jews, gays, Gypsies, the disabled — are put in the “nature” category, whereas other human beings — the Aryan master-race — remain in the radically discontinuous “human” category.

    Not at all, that’s why the Nazis were “brutal” instead of “humane.”

    Of course we flatter ourselves with the terms “brutal,” “humane,” etc. but apparently it’s necessary because all civilized cultures maintain a strong distinction between humans and brutes. Where this is lacking civilization tends to decline, right on down to basic forms of sanitation of the sort that keep people sane.

    And once those people are put in the “nature” category, one can treat them as one treats the rest of nature (within modern Western industrial societies) — as something to be experimented upon, manipulated, exploited, and destroyed.

    Then why do you suppose that the Nazis condemned “Western industrial societies” for alienating people from nature and so on?

    So Nazism retains the discontinuity thesis…

    No it doesn’t. As a political scientist put it Nazism can be best described as “…the practical and violent resistance to transcendence.”

    For this reason, I think that your attempts to connect Darwinism and Nazism are fundamentally mistaken.

    How did the Nazis retain the discontinuity thesis? Your understanding of Nazism seems to be vague and almost little more than a stigma word. For example, you seem to think that the manipulation and exploitation of nature or animals typical to Western societies is bad and so the Nazis must have adhered to such views because they were bad too. But ironically, they were the first to pass anti-vivisection laws and so on because they viewed the supposed exploitation of animals and alienation from nature typical to Western/civilized nations as bad. How did the Nazis retain the discontinuity thesis? Give examples, preferably some that illustrate a pattern.

    At any rate, discontinuity is a reality evident in nature which is indeed best understood given theism. This pattern was summarized by Paul (a Talmudic scholar) as invisible things which can be “clearly seen” as sight leads to insight. When the pattern is understood in the light of theism it points to self-evident truths that are evident in the self but when it is misunderstood then truths which are self-evident are often denied. (E.g. Nazism and Darwinism)

  69. “The scientific method of imagination always seems to trump observation for Darwinists.”

    Your silly opinion is noted and disregarded as contrary to reality.

    “It’s you who disregards our position on this issue and most others.”

    I wonder why a rational person disregards the “position” of an irrational person?

  70. Your silly opinion is noted and disregarded as contrary to reality.

    A contrary “reality” apparently understood by a mind ignorant and stupid enough to believe itself to be reducible to neural nets shaped by natural selection operating on the reproductive organs of ancient ape-like creatures may not be reality at all. But you can disregard whatever you like.

    I wonder why a rational person disregards the “position” of an irrational person?

    Somehow you seem to believe that you speak for both reality and rationality based on biological structures shaped by the largely imaginary processes of natural selection? What is your rationale for rationality?

  71. “The scientific method of imagination always seems to trump observation for Darwinists.”

    The “poodling of poseurs” is ignored by adults.

    “I don’t write for people who have nothing better to do than engage in mental gyrations for the sake of mental stimulation or self-gratification …”

    A very good self-description!

    “and pretend that what they are doing is science.”

    I do not recognize this definition of “science”. So “deluded” certainly seems to apply to you. You ought to really read “A Devil’s Chaplain”. Your ignorance might get stimulated.

    “Most of us view human nature as utterly corrupt, blind, and self-interested.”

    That’s the result of evolution. But, as Dawkins writes, we can rise above this. It seems you view humanity as hopeless and Dawkins does not.

    “We, who “seek first, God and His kingdom,” are led by the Spirit of God, which was given us through His grace and secured at the cross by Christ.”

    And for this, you must rail against science, evolution, and reality? How pathetic!

    “Can we trust a class of scientists who set themselves up as high priests of truth?”

    Your ignorance is abysmal. There is no such “class of scientists” except in your deluded mind.

    “So, “objective reality” is in the eye of the beholder, perhaps?”

    What a profoundly anti-science opinion!

    “Similarly, a Naturalist may be objective about evolutionary theories, but his mind is already made up about the historical actuality of abiogenesis and common descent.”

    Your ignorance about science is abysmal.

    “Both are faith-based positions.”

    Your opinion is noted and disregarded as delusional.

    “They would rather pay homage to an impersonal DNA molecule, and act like it is “telling them something”.”

    Your ignorance about science is abysmal.

    “IF SO, then why would I listen to you, or anyone else, for that matter, any more than I would a bird chirping in a tree?”

    Ok. I’m convinced you are not worth listening to.

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