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---- meets Kirchliche Dogmatik
Another good ISCA meeting came to an all-too-quick end. Yesterday, obviously my entire focus was on the Sanskrit Marathon. Today we were back to the typical ISCA scenario during the workshop sessions. How many times have June and I sat at conferences of other organizations looking over the available papers being given at a particular time slot, maybe eight or so at one time, and not one of them looked interesting to us, and--frankly, we couldn't imagine how any of them could be interesting to any of them except their thesis advisor, their best friend, and their mother (at least pretending). The ISCA dilemma tends to go in the other direction. During the two workshop sessions, with five or six options each time, three or four of them in each time slot looked intriguing and relevant. For obvious personal reasons we selected the two we did attend, but it could have been the others just easily, and I got the papers for some of the sessions we couldn't go to.
Our first session to attend was with Bill Roach, whom I've mentioned on this blog before, e.g., as co-author with Norm Geisler of Defending Inerrancy.
His topic was the dialectic of Karl Barth's Christology and how it ultimately determined his view on Scripture. He got it just right, clarifying Barth's supposed mediating stance on Christology that created a tertium quid, as they say, though I guess it was really a quatertium quid, a "fourth thing," since it attempted to straddle Chalcedonian orthodoxy, Nestorianism, and Monophysitism (spec. Eutychianism). How can you do such a thing? Well, philosophically you can do so by following the pattern of Hegel, where God and humanity merge on the way to becoming Absolute Spirit. (See my combined lengthy treatment of Hegel at http://www.wincorduan.com/hegel.html or go specifically to the place on that site where I discuss Hegel's view of the incarnation. --- Actually, while I'm mentioning my websites, if you need a break from theology and the like, and you haven't read my little fictional piece, The Absence of the Bloggist, treat yourself to something different.)
For our second session, we went to hear Trevor Slone, whom I sponsored last year to present a paper as an undergraduate, who now, as a graduate student, presented one chapter out of a book he is writing on evolution and creation. This chapter was on some of the unlikable, but unavoidable consequences of Darwinian evolution. Interestingly, we hadn't communicated about this, but he began by focusing on roughly the same issue I just raised on this blog the other day, viz. that cultural anthropology based on Darwinian principles cannot help but be racist. Trevor continued with several consequences that arise out of the fact that the process of evolution is morally neutral, including, for instance, the idea that rape can be justified on the basis of "survival of the fittest." It was quite a personal, hard-hitting paper, saying some things out loud that people would rather not even think about. -- Trevor was also one of the good people who made my day yesterday by taking being a part of my Sanskrit group.
I promised Trevor some quotes from the nineteenth-century evolutionists that support his point, and I'll state and comment on a somewhat lengthy one right here. This is from the end of the last chapter of Darwin's Descent of Man. (Please note, by the way, that further on Darwin is making use of a Larmarckian theory of the inheritance of acquired traits, which he invoked whenever it became suitable. The supposed opposition between Lamarck and Darwin is a myth)
Note what Darwin is saying here, if you would. He is, of course, assuming inferiority and superiority between the different human races and among people within the various races. That part goes without saying. Like virtually all of his colleagues, he makes a distinction between "savages" and "civilized" human beings. So, if there are two human beings, one of whom is inferior to the other, they ought not to marry. The earlier stated rationale is that the offspring will tend to the "inferior" side. Now, Darwin laments this idea as only Utopian, but calls on people to advance this end. To whom is he addressing this hope for a ban of marriage between those whom he considers to be incompatible? Surely not just to the hypothetical mismatched couple; he is overtly wishing for a social program here. And the first step in this program is for a government-sponsored test of the effects of consanguinity. In other words, the government ought to sponsor some practical experiments on the empirically verifiable effects of incest. After all, if it can be shown that, say, a brother and sister with highly superior intellect can have offspring without genetic repercussions, such marriages should be encouraged, I assume.Thank God for "ignorant members of the legislature" who rejected it "with scorn."
There are a lot of people on the web accusing creationists and supporters of intelligent design of misrepresenting Darwin on eugenics because he tempers his advocacy thereof at times with appeals to morality. However, it appears to me that when he calls for government-sponsored programs of genetic experimentations using human beings, the man stands indicted. And it is pretty clear, it would seem to me, what his preferences are when he refers to a ban on supposedly mismatched couples "Utopian."
Darwin goes on, tottering between his own inclinations and the position advocated by a not-so-close relative, Francis Galton.
Darwin: The advancement of the welfare of mankind is a most intricate problem: all ought to refrain from marriage who cannot avoid abject poverty for their children; for poverty is not only a great evil, but tends to its own increase by leading to recklessness in marriage.
Darwin appears to be inclined to the view that poor people ought not to marry, to put it modestly. But, even in such an understated form, we need to ask, Is this simply an appeal to poor people--who would hardly be reading his book--or does he have a government program in mind, or is he simply musing with no practical application in mind? We don't know what he personally intended on the practical side, but he certainly advocated a specific goal. Eugenics became a powerful idea in Europe and America in the early twentieth century, and it based itself on Darwin's ideas, regardless of whether some people may want to say that he really didn't mean what he said. Carrying on with the quotation:
There you have it, not directly from Darwin but from Darwin referring to Galton's ideas: There should be nothing to stand in the way of superior people to be able to improve the human race--neither laws nor customs. If laws and customs may be ignored, anything is possible: eugenics, bullying, rape, anarchy: all the points Trevor mentioned in his speech. But Darwin himself expresses some hesitancy (I think).
Darwin: Important as the struggle for existence has been and even still is, yet as far as the highest part of man's nature is concerned there are other agencies more important. For the moral qualities are advanced, either directly or indirectly, much more through the effects of habit, the reasoning powers, instruction, religion, than through natural selection; though to this latter agency may be safely attributed the social instincts, which afforded the basis for the development of the moral sense.
Okay, Darwin definitely turns down Galton's heat. But he does not shut his gas down completely either. He is simply saying that other considerations are more important than mere existence, namely superior morality. After all, if the superior people become brutish in their struggle for survival and the moral superiority were lost, there would not be a whole lot gained. However, we should not make the mistake of thinking that, therefore, Darwin is opposing the advancement of the superior people through manipulation of who may have offspring or in the battle for survival. He is just not as radical as Galton. It is here that his recourse to Lamarck becomes important. To clarify this point a little more; Darwin did not replace Lamarck's theory with the theory of natural selection. Since Darwin had no clue as to how genetics really worked, he frequently used Lamarck-like ideas to explain progress as self-propelled by the organism's own effort. So, here he is saying that there is a combination of methods by which the superior humans can advance themselves: First, natural selection provides the social instinct that brings about the moral sense. Then, by cultivating the moral qualities through habit, reason, education and religion, the superior people will propagate themselves since acquired moral skills are supposedly heritable.
Ben Stein is right. And, even though in the quote of Darwin in the film Expelled, Ben did not include all the phrases in which Darwin expressed squeamishness about his own goals, there is no question of what his goals were. And, I'm sorry, but no matter how much people want to apologize on behalf of Darwin, a person promoting a perverse idea, regardless of whether he implements it himself or his followers do so, he certainly shares some responsibility in it. Even though it may be possible to excuse the person who expressed an idea to some extent (which is not the same thing as justifying him), ideas, once expressed, are incapable of being excused. If I were to say that it would be a good idea to rob such and such a bank and propose a plan for it, I would share in the responsibility if someone else later implemented the idea for which I provided the blueprint. And, of course, even if Darwin cannot be saddled with any of the repugnant ideas, if Galton is an advocate of Darwinian evolution, the point stands that in the 19th century people were putting into print implications of evolutionism that nowadays people do not want to acknowledge. [There you go, Trevor. I'll send you more.]
There followed the last plenary session. Dr. Phil Roberts spoke on Milt Romney and Mormonism. It was a good, interesting, fact-filled speech, similar to the one he gave in 2007 or so. However, it was a little bit anticlimactic. At the time he spoke on the topic last time, nothing was decided yet. On the Democrat side, Senator Clinton was gearing up for a battle, in which she ultimately lost against Sen. Obama. On the Republican side Gov. Romney was one of many candidates in the as-yet-undecided pre-primary competition, in which he eventually was overrun by his opponents This time, it appears to be settled that the election will pit the pagan President Obama against the Mormon Gov. Romney, and many of us believe that any problems that a Mormon presidency could cause for evangelical Christians, pale against the quality of moral and political leadership President Obama is manifestly lacking. But it was still an interesting, informative talk and a call for watchfulness.
After giving away back issues of JISCA by the armful and some socializing, we parked the truck at the motel, had a latish lunch at Denny's and hung around here the rest of the afternoon and evening. We will most likely not drive all the way home tomorrow, partly because it's doubtful that I'm up to such a haul again (by my standards), partly also because there is a lot of uncertainty with regard to the weather, considering the fact that Kansas had tornadoes today, and we may be either following or leading the path of the storm.