Thursday, April 22, 2010

Religion and Rocketry, by C.S. Lewis

In my time I have heard two quite different arguments against my religion put forward in the name of science. When I was a youngster, people used to say that the universe was not only not friendly to life but positively hostile to it. Life had appeared on this planet by a millionth chance, as if at one point there had been a breakdown of the elaborate defenses generally enforced against it. We should be rash to assume that such a leak had occurred more than once. Probably life was a purely terrestrial abnormality. We were alone in an infinite desert. Which just showed the absurdity of the Christian idea that there was a Creator who was interested in living creatures.

But then came Professor F. B. Hoyle, the Cambridge cosmologist, and in a fortnight or so everyone I met seemed to have decided that the universe was probably quite well provided with inhabitable globes and with livestock to inhabit them. Which just showed (equally well) the absurdity of Christianity with its parochial idea that Man could be important to God.

This is a warning to what we may expect if we ever do discover animal life (vegetable does not matter) on another planet. Each new discovery, even every new theory, is held at first to have the most wide-reaching theological and philosophical consequences. It is seized by unbelievers as the basis for a new attack on Christianity; it is often, and more embarrassingly, seized by injudicious believers as the basis for a new defense.

But usually, when the popular hubbub has subsided and the novelty has been chewed over by real theologians, real scientists and real philosophers, both sides find themselves pretty much where they were before. So it was with Copernican astronomy, with Darwinism, with Biblical Criticism, with the new psychology. So, I cannot help expecting, it will be with the discovery of 'life on other planets' if that discovery is ever made.

The supposed threat is clearly directed against the doctrine of the Incarnation, the belief that God of God "for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was . . . made man." Why for us men more than for others? If we find ourselves to be but one among a million races, scattered through a million spheres, how can we, without absurd arrogance, believe ourselves to have been uniquely favored? I admit that the question could become formidable. In fact, it will become formidable when, if ever, we know the answer to five other questions.

1. Are there animals anywhere except on earth? We do not know. We do not know whether we ever shall know.

2. Supposing there were, have any of these animals what we call "rational souls"? By this I include not merely the faculty to abstract and calculate, but the apprehension of values, the power to mean by "good" something more than "good for me" or even "good for my species'. If instead of asking, "Have they rational souls?" you prefer to ask, "Are they spiritual animals?" I think we shall both mean pretty much the same. If the answer to either question should be No, then of course it would not be at all strange that our species should be treated differently from theirs.

There would be no sense in offering to a creature, however clever or amiable, a gift which that creature was by its nature incapable either of desiring or of receiving. We teach our sons to read but not our dogs. The dogs prefer bones. And of course, since we do not yet know whether there are extra-terrestrial animals at all, we are a long way from knowing that they are rational (or "spiritual").

Even if we met them we might not find it so easy to decide. It seems to me possible to suppose creatures so clever that they could talk, though they were, from the theological point of view, really only animals, capable of pursuing or enjoying only natural ends. One meets humans the machine-minded and materialistic urban type who look as if they were just that. As Christians we must believe the appearance to be false; somewhere under that glib surface there lurks, however atrophied, a human soul. But in other worlds there might be things that really are what these seem to be. Conversely, there might be creatures genuinely spiritual, whose powers of manufacture and abstract thought were so humble that we should mistake them for mere animals. God shield them from us!

3. If there are species, and rational species, other than man, are any or all of them, like us, fallen? This is the point non-Christians always seem to forget. They seem to think that the Incarnation implies some particular merit or excellence in humanity. But of course it implies just the reverse: a particular demerit and depravity. No creature that deserved Redemption would need to be redeemed. They that are whole need not the physician. Christ died for men precisely because men are not worth dying for; to make them worth it. Notice what waves of utterly unwarranted hypothesis these critics of Christianity want us to swim through. We are now supposing the fall of hypothetically rational creatures whose mere existence is hypothetical.

4. If all of them (and surely all is a long shot) or any of them have fallen have they been denied Redemption by the Incarnation and Passion of Christ? For of course it is no very new idea that the eternal Son may, for all we know, have been incarnate in other worlds than earth and so saved other races than ours. As Alice Meynell wrote in "Christ in the Universe":

. . . in the eternities
Doubtless we shall compare together, hear
A million alien Gospels, in what guise
He trod the Pleiades, the Lyre, the Bear.

I wouldn't go as far as "doubtless" myself. Perhaps of all races we only fell. Perhaps Man is the only lost sheep; the one, therefore, whom the Shepherd came to seek. Or perhaps but this brings us to the next wave of assumption. It is the biggest yet and will knock us head over heels, but I am fond of a tumble in the surf.

5. If we knew (which we don't) the answers to 1, 2, and 3 and, further, if we knew that Redemption by an Incarnation and Passion had been denied to creatures in need of it is it certain that this is the only mode of Redemption that is possible? Here of course we ask for what is not merely unknown but, unless God should reveal it, wholly unknowable. It may be that the further we were permitted to see into His councils, the more clearly we should understand that thus and not otherwise by the birth at Bethlehem, the cross on Calvary and the empty tomb a fallen race could be rescued. There may be a necessity for this, insurmountable, rooted in the very nature of God and the very nature of sin. But we don't know. At any rate, I don't know. Spiritual as well as physical conditions might differ widely in different worlds. There might be different sorts and different degrees of fallenness. We must surely believe that the divine charity is as fertile in resource as it is measureless in condescension. To different diseases, or even to different patients sick with the same disease, the great Physician may have applied different remedies; remedies which we should probably not recognize as such even if we ever heard of them.

It might turn out that the redemption of other species differed from ours by working through ours. There is a hint of something like this in St. Paul (Romans 8:19-23) when he says that the whole creation is longing and waiting to be delivered from some kind of slavery, and that the deliverance will occur only when we, we Christians, fully enter upon our sonship to God and exercise our 'glorious liberty'.

On the conscious level I believe that he was thinking only of our own Earth: of animal, and probably vegetable, life on Earth being "renewed" or glorified at the glorification of man in Christ. But it is perhaps possible it is not necessary to give his words a cosmic meaning. It may be that Redemption, starting with us, is to work from us and through us.

This would no doubt give man a pivotal position. But such a position need not imply any superiority in us or any favouritism in God. The general, deciding where to begin his attack, does not select the prettiest landscape or the most fertile field or the most attractive village. Christ was not born in a stable because a stable is, in itself, the most convenient or distinguished place for a maternity.

Only if we had some such function would a contact between us and such unknown races be other than a calamity. If indeed we were unfallen, it would be another matter.

It sets one dreaming to interchange thoughts with beings whose thinking had an organic background wholly different from ours (other senses, other appetites), to be unenviously humbled by intellects possibly superior to our own yet able for that very reason to descend to our level, to descend lovingly ourselves if we met innocent and childlike creatures who could never be as strong or as clever as we, to exchange with the inhabitants of other worlds that especially keen and rich affection which exists between unlikes; it is a glorious dream. But make no mistake. It is a dream. We are fallen.

We know what our race does to strangers. Man destroys or enslaves every species he can. Civilized man murders, enslaves, cheats, and corrupts savage man. Even inanimate nature he turns into dust bowls and slag-heaps. There are individuals who don't. But they are not the sort who are likely to be our pioneers in space. Our ambassador to new worlds will be the needy and greedy adventurer or the ruthless technical expert. They will do as their kind has always done. What that will be if they meet things weaker than themselves, the black man and the red man can tell. If they meet things stronger, they will be, very properly, destroyed.

It is interesting to wonder how things would go if they met an unfallen race. At first, to be sure, they'd have a grand time jeering at, duping, and exploiting its innocence; but I doubt if our half-animal cunning would long be a match for godlike wisdom, selfless valour, and perfect unanimity.

I therefore fear the practical, not the theoretical, problems which will arise if ever we meet rational creatures which are not human. Against them we shall, if we can, commit all the crimes we have already committed against creatures certainly human but differing from us in features and pigmentation; and the starry heavens will become an object to which good men can look up only with feelings of intolerable guilt, agonized pity, and burning shame.

Of course after the first debauch of exploitation we shall make some belated attempt to do better. We shall perhaps send missionaries. But can even missionaries be trusted? "Gun and gospel" have been horribly combined in the past. The missionary's holy desire to save souls has not always been kept quite distinct from the arrogant desire, the busybody's itch, to (as he calls it) "civilize" the (as he calls them) "natives." Would all our missionaries recognize an unfallen race if they met it? Could they? Would they continue to press upon creatures that did not need to be saved that plan of Salvation which God has appointed for Man? Would they denounce as sins mere differences of behaviour which the spiritual and biological history of these strange creatures fully justified and which God Himself had blessed? Would they try to teach those from whom they had better learn? I do not know. What I do know is that here and now, as our only possible practical preparation for such a meeting, you and I should resolve to stand firm against all exploitation and all theological imperialism. It will not be fun. We shall be called traitors to our own species. We shall be hated of almost all men; even of some religious men. And we must not give back one single inch. We shall probably fail, but let us go down fighting for the right side. Our loyalty is due not to our species but to God. Those who are, or can become, His sons, are our real brothers even if they have shells or tusks. It is spiritual, not biological, kinship that counts.

But let us thank God that we are still very far from travel to other worlds.

I have wondered before now whether the vast astronomical distances may not be God's quarantine precautions. They prevent the spiritual infection of a fallen species from spreading. And of course we are also very far from the supposed theological problem which contact with other rational species might raise. Such species may not exist. There is not at present a shred of empirical evidence that they do. There is nothing but what the logicians would call arguments from "a priori probability" arguments that begin "It is only natural to suppose," or "All analogy suggests," or "Is it not the height of arrogance to rule out ?" They make very good reading. But who except a born gambler ever risks five dollars on such grounds in ordinary life? And, as we have seen, the mere existence of these creatures would not raise a problem. After that, we still need to know that they are fallen; then, that they have not been, or will not be, redeemed in the mode we know; and then, that no other mode is possible. I think a Christian is sitting pretty if his faith never encounters more formidable difficulties than these conjectural phantoms.

If I remember rightly, St. Augustine raised a question about the theological position of satyrs, monopods, and other semi-human creatures. He decided it could wait till we knew there were any. So can this.

"But supposing" you say. "Supposing all these embarrassing suppositions turned out to be true?" I can only record a conviction that they won't; a conviction which has for me become in the course of years irresistible. Christians and their opponents again and again expect that some new discovery will either turn matters of faith into matters of knowledge or else reduce them to patent absurdities. But it has never happened.

What we believe always remains intellectually possible; it never becomes intellectually compulsive. I have an idea that when this ceases to be so, the world will be ending. We have been warned that all but conclusive evidence against Christianity, evidence that would deceive (if it were possible) the very elect, will appear with the Antichrist.

And after that there will be wholly conclusive evidence on the other side.

But not, I fancy, till then on either side.

"Religion and Rocketry" from The Worlds Last Night by C.S. Lewis.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Global Warming Up To Each Other

Global Warming Up To Each Other: a global, omnicompetent, governmental technocracy, the dangers of which were first explained by C.S. Lewis in the following essay, are now attempting to be brought into reality by Senator Obama. The following are excerpts from Lewis's essay "Is Progress Possible? Willing Slaves of the Welfare State."

"Again, the new oligarchy must more and more base its claim to plan us on its claim to knowledge. If we are to be mothered, mother must know best. This means they must increasingly rely on the advice of scientists, till in the end the politicians proper become merely the scientists' puppets. Technocracy is the form to which a planned society must tend. Now I dread specialists in power because they are specialists speaking outside their special subjects. Let scientists tell us about sciences. But government involves questions about the good for man, and justice, and what things are worth having at what price; and on these a scientific training gives a man's opinion no added value. Let the doctor tell me I shall die unless I do so-and-so; but whether life is worth having on those terms is no more a question for him than for any other man.

On just the same ground I dread government in the name of science. That is how tyrannies come in. In every age the men who want us under their thumb, if they have any sense, will put forward the particular pretension which the hopes and fears of that age render most potent. They 'cash in". It has been magic, it has been Christianity. Now it will certainly be science.

We have on the one hand a desperate need; hunger, sickness and the dread of war. We have, on the other, the conception of something that might meet it; omnicompetent global technocracy. Are not these the ideal opportunity for enslavement? This is how it has entered before; a desperate need (real or apparent) in the one party, a power (real or apparent) to relieve it, in the other. In the ancient world individuals have sold themselves as slaves in order to eat. So in society. Here is a witch-doctor who can save us from the sorcerers -- a war-lord who can save us from the barbarians -- a Church who can save us from Hell. Give them what they ask, give ourselves to them bound and blindfolded, if only they will! Perhaps the terrible bargain will be made again. We cannot blame men for making it. We can hardly wish them not to. Yet we can hardly bear that they should.

The question about progress has become the question whether we can discover any way of submitting to the worldwide paternalism of a technocracy without losing all personal privacy and independence. Is there any possibility of getting the super Welfare State's honey and avoiding the sting? What assurance have we that our masters will or can keep the promise which induced us to sell ourselves? Let us not be deceived by phrases about "Man taking charge of his own destiny". All that can really happen is that some men will take charge of the destiny of others. They will be simply men; none perfect; some greedy, cruel and dishonest. The more completely we are planned the more powerful they will be. Have we discovered some new reason why, this time, power should not corrupt as it has done before?"

--C.S. Lewis
I wonder why Obama is campaigning overseas? Why is he also insulating himself from the press and interviews, and also requiring security and background checks on those who are to be in his presence? From these behaviors, and from a discussion I had recently with Allan Saxe, it seems like Obama's government would be a closed paternalistic technocracy ruled by a man who considers himself an elitist. Obama was a Senator for 148 days before he began to run for the presidency.
Consider the following global group "The World Wants Obama". Here is an excerpt from their petition:

Senator Obama, we send you this gesture of respect and sign of hope from all around the world. Let's work together to stop climate change, protect human rights and prevent war, and help make the US a responsible and respected member of the global community again."
And here is an excerpt from Obama's recent speech, given in Berlin:
"People of the world - look at Berlin, where a wall came down, a continent came together, and history proved that there is no challenge too great for a world that stands as one… The fall of the Berlin Wall brought new hope. But that very closeness has given rise to new dangers - dangers that cannot be contained within the borders of a country or by the distance of an ocean… As we speak, cars in Boston and factories in Beijing are melting the ice caps in the Arctic, shrinking coastlines in the Atlantic, and bringing drought to farms from Kansas to Kenya… The poverty and violence in Somalia breeds the terror of tomorrow. The genocide in Darfur shames the conscience of us all… The walls between old allies on either side of the Atlantic cannot stand. The walls between the countries with the most and those with the least cannot stand. The walls between races and tribes; natives and immigrants; Christian and Muslim and Jew cannot stand. These now are the walls we must tear down."

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Empty Universe

In our climate of naturalistic presuppositions in science, the following essay from C.S. Lewis is fitting, and worth quoting in full. The following essay is from "Present Concerns: A Compelling Collection of Timely, Journalistic Essays" (London, 1986).

This essay was first published as a Preface to D.E. Harding's The Hierarchy of Heaven and Earth: A New Diagram of Man in the Universe (London, 1952).

"This book is, I believe, the first attempt to reverse a movement of thought which has been going on since the beginning of philosophy.
The process whereby man has come to know the universe is from one point of view extrememly complicated; from another it is alarmingly simple. We can observe a single one-way progression. At the outset the universe appears packed with will, intelligence, life and positive qualities; every tree is a nymph and every planet a god. Man himself is akin to the gods. The advance of knowledge gradually empties this rich and genial universe: first of its gods, then of its colors, smells, sounds and tastes, finally of solidity itself as solidity was originally imagined. As these items are taken from the world, they are transfered to the subjective side of the account: classified as our sensations, thoughts, images or emotions. The Subject becomes gorged, inflated, at the expense of the Object. But the matter does not rest here. The same method which has emptied the world now proceeds to empty ourselves. The masters of the method soon announce that we were just as mistaken (and mistaken in much the same way) when we attributed "souls", or "selves" or "minds" to human organisms, as when we attributed Dryads to the trees. Animism, apparently, begins at home. We, who have personified all other things, turn out to be ourselves mere personifications. Man is indeed akin to the gods: that is, he is no less phantasmal than they. Just as the Dryad is a "ghost", an abbreviated symbol for all the facts we know about the tree foolishly mistaken for a mysterious entity over and above the facts, so the man's "mind" or "consciousness" is an abbreviated symbol for certain verifiable facts about his behaviour: a symbol mistaken for a thing. And just as we have been broken of our bad habit of personifying trees, so we must now be broken of our bad habit of personifying men: a reform already effected in the political field. There never was a Subjective account into which we could transfer the items into which the Object had lost. There is no "consciousness" to contain, as images or private experiences, all the lost gods, colours, and concepts. Consciousness is "not the sort of noun that can be used that way".
For we are given to understand that our mistake was a linguistic one. All our previous theologies, metaphysics, and psychologies were a by-product of our bad grammer. Max Muller's formula (Mythology is a disease of language) from "The Science of Language", 1864, thus returns with a wider scope than he ever dreamed of. We were not even imagining these things, we were only talking confusedly. All the questions which humanity has hitherto asked with deepest concern for the answer turn out to be unanswerable; not because the answers are hidden from us like "goddes privitee" from Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales", but because they are nonsense questions like "How far is it from London Bridge to Christmas Day?" What we thought we were loving when we loved a woman or a friend was not even a phantom like the phantom sail which starving sailors think they see on the horizon. It was something more like a pun or a sophisma per figuram dictionis (sophism disguised as language). It is though a man, deceived by the linguistic similarity between "myself" and "my spectacles", should start looking round for his "self" to put in his pocket before he left his bedroom in the morning: he might want it during the course of the day. If we lament the discovery that our friends have no "selves" in the old sense, we shall be behaving like a man who shed bitter tears at being unable to find his "self" anywhere on the dressing-table or even underneath it.
And thus we arrive at a result uncommonly like zero. While we were reducing the world to almost nothing we deceived ourselves with the fancy that all its lost qualities were being kept safe (if in a somewhat humbled condition) as "things in our own mind". Apparently we had no mind of the sort required. The Subject is as empty as the Object. Almost nobody has been making linguistic mistakes about almost nothing. By and large, this is the only thing that has ever happened.
Now the trouble about this conclusion is not simply that it is unwelcome to our emotions. It is not unwelcome at all times or in all people. This philosophy, like every other, has its pleasures. And it will, I fancy, prove very congenial to government. The old "liberty-talk" was very much mixed up with the idea that , as inside the ruler, so inside the subject, there was a whole world, to him the centre of all worlds, capacious of endless suffering and delight. But now, of course, he has no "inside", except the sort you can find by cutting him open. If I had to burn a man alive, I think I should find this doctrine comfortable. The real difficulty for most of us is more like a physical difficulty: we find it impossible to keep our minds, even for ten seconds at a stretch, twisted into the shape that this philosophy demands. And, to do him justice, Hume (who is its great ancestor) warned us not to try. He recommended backgammon instead; and freely admitted that when, after a suitable dose, we returned to our theory, we should find it "cold and strained and ridiculous" in "A Treatise of Human Nature", Book I, Part iv, section vii. And obviously, if we really must accept nihilism, that is how we shall have to live: just as, if we have diabetes, we must take insulin. But one would rather not have diabetes and do without the insulin. If there should, after all, turn out to be any alternative to a philosophy that can be supported only by repeated (and presumably increasing) doses of backgammon, I suppose that most people would be glad to hear of it.
There is indeed (or so I am told) one way of living under this philosophy without the backgammon, but it is not one a man would like to try. I have heard that there are states of insanity in which such a nihilistic doctrine becomes really credible: that is, as Dr. I.A. Richards would say, "belief feelings" are attached to it, in his book Principles of Literary Criticism, 1924. The patient has the experience of being nobody in a world of nobodies and nothings. Those who return from this condition describe it as highly disagreeable.
Now there is of course nothing new in the attempt to arrest the process that has led us from the living universe where man meets the gods to the final void where almost-nobody discovers his mastakes about almost-nothing. Every step in that process has been contested. Many rearguard actions have been fought: some are being fought at the moment. But is has only been a question of arresting, not of reversing, the movement. That is what makes Mr. Harding's book so important. If it "works", then we shall have seen the beginning of a reversal: not a stand here, or a stand there, but a kind of thought which attempts to reopen the whole question. And we feel sure in advance that only thought of this type can help. The fatal slip which has led us to nihilism must have occured at the very beginning.
There is of course no question of returning to Animism as Animism was before the "rot" began. No one supposes that the beliefs of pre-philosophic humanity, just as they stood before they were criticized, can or should be restored. The question is whether the first thinkers in modifying (and rightly modifying) them under the criticism, did not make some rash and unneccesary concession. It was certainly not there intention to commit us to the absurd consequence that have actually followed. This sort of error is of course very common in debate or even in solitary thought. We start with a view which contains a good deal of truth, though in a confused or exaggerated form. Objections are then suggested and we withdraw it. But hours later we discover that we have emptied the baby out with the bath water and that the original view must have contained certain truths for lack of which we are now tangled in absurdities. So here. In emptying out the Dryads and the gods (which, admittedly, "would not do" just as they stood) we appear to have thrown out the whole universe, ourselves included. We must go back and begin over again: this time with a better chance of success, for of course we can now use all particular truths and all improvements of method which our argument may have thrown up as by-products in its otherwise ruinous course.
It would be affectation to pretend that I know whether Mr. Harding's attempt, in its present form, will work. Very possibly not. One hardly expects the first, or the twenty-first rocket to the moon to make a good landing. But it is a beginning. If it should turn out to have been even the remote ancestor of some system which will give us again a credible universe inhabited by credible agents and observers, this will still have been a very important book indeed.
It has also given me that bracing and satifying experience which, in certain books of theory, seems to be partially independent of our final agreement or disagreement. It is an experience most easily disengaged by remembering what has happened to us whenever we turned from the inferior exponents of a system, even a system we reject, to its great doctors. I have had it on turning from common "Existentialists" to M. Sartre himself, from Calvinists to the Institutio, from "Transcendentalists" to Emerson, from books about "Renaissance Platonism" to Ficino. One may still disagree (I disagree heartily with all the authors I have just named) but one now sees for the first time why anyone ever did agree. One has breathed a new air, become free of a new country. It may be a country you cannot live in, but you now know why the natives love it. You will henceforward see all systems a little differently because you have been inside that one. From this point of view philosophies have some of the same qualities as works of art. I am not referring at all to the literary art with which they may or may not be expressed. It is the ipseitas, the peculiar unity of effect produced by a special balancing and patterning of thought and classes of thoughts: a delight very like that which would be given by Hesse's Glasperlenspiel (in the book of that name) if it could really exist. I owe a new experience of that kind to Mr. Harding."

Friday, May 2, 2008

Darwinism, Eugenics, Methodists, and The Nazis.

The Methodist Church, on April the 28th, 2008 adopted the following resolution: Methodist Conference 2008

This resolution is a repentence of the Methodist Church's historical involvement in the support of Eugenics in the early part of the 20th century. Within the resolution, the connection between Darwinian evolution and the Nazi program is considered. The full resolution is here: An Apology for Support of Eugenics

This is a quote from the resolution, explaining the history of the connection between Charles Darwin and the theory of Eugenics as it would come to be considered applicable to humans:

"Eugenics, the belief that certain “genetic” traits are good and others bad, is associated in the public mind mostly with the extreme eugenics policies of Adolf Hitler, which ultimately led to the Holocaust. The study of eugenics did not begin with Hitler or his German scientists, but rather was first promoted by Sir Francis Galton, in England. Galton, a cousin of Charles Darwin, who expanded on Darwin’s theories and applied them to the human population. In an article entitled "Hereditary Character and Talent" (published in two parts in MacMillan's Magazine, vol. 11, November 1864 and April 1865, pp. 157-166, 318-327), Galton expressed his frustration that no one was breeding a better human: “If a twentieth part of the cost and pains were spent in measures for the improvement of the human race that is spent on the improvement of the breed of horses and cattle, what a galaxy of genius might we not create! We might introduce prophets and high priests of civilization into the world, as surely as we can propagate idiots by mating cretins. Men and women of the present day are, to those we might hope to bring into existence, what the pariah dogs of the streets of an Eastern town are to our own highly-bred varieties.” Galton in the same article described Africans and Native Americans in derogatory terms making it clear which racial group he thought was superior. Francis Galton, the founder of the Eugenics Society, spoke hopefully about persuading people with desirable genes to marry and have large families. Galton's successor at the helm of the Eugenics Society was Major Leonard Darwin (1850-1943), a son of Charles Darwin. Leonard Darwin, who ran the Eugenics Society until 1928, made the transition from positive to negative eugenics, and promoted plans for lowering the birthrate of the unfit."

The Methodist Church sympathized with the Darwinian pretension that certain humans were superior to others. According to the resolution, the church participated in “Fitter Family Contests” which were promoted by the American Eugenics Society. The following is worth noting from the resolution.

"Methodist bishops endorsed one of the first books circulated to the US churches promoting eugenics. Unlike the battles over evolution and creationism, both conservative and progressive church leaders endorsed eugenics. The liberal Rev. Harry F. Ward, professor of Christian ethics and a founder of the Methodist Federation for Social Service, writing in Eugenics, the magazine of the American Eugenic Society, said that Christianity and Eugenics were compatible because both pursued the “challenge of removing the causes that produce the weak. Conservative Rev. Clarence True Wilson, the General Secretary of the Methodist Episcopal Board of Temperance, Prohibition and Public Morals, and the man chosen to debate Clarence Darrow after William Jennings Bryan’s death, believed that only the white Aryan race was the descendent of the lost tribes of Israel. Methodists were active on the planning committees of the Race Betterment Conferences held in 1914, and 1915. In the 1910s, Methodist Churches hosted forums in their churches to discuss eugenics. In the 1920s, many Methodist preachers submitted their eugenics sermons to contests hosted by the American Eugenics Society. By 1927, when the American Eugenics Society formed its Committee on the Cooperation with Clergymen, Bishop Francis McConnell, President of the Methodist Federation for Social Service served on the committee. In 1936, he would chair the roundtable discussion on Religion and Eugenics at the American Eugenics Society Meeting. The laity of the church also took up the cause of eugenics. In 1929, the Methodist Review published the sermon “Eugenics: A Lay Sermon” by George Huntington Donaldson. In the sermon, Donaldson argues, “the strongest and the best are selected for the task of propagating the likeness of God and carrying on his work of improving the race.”

"In 1933, Hitler’s Nazi government used Laughlin’s Model Law as the basis for their sterilization law that led to the sterilization of some 350,000 people. State sponsored Eugenics reached an abhorrent extreme in the Nazi extermination programs of the 1930s and 1940s. Initially directed at people with similar health or social problems as were targeted by the U.S. sterilization laws, these were eventually expanded to cover entire populations—Jews, Gypsies, Poles—judged by the Nazi regime to represent “worthless lives” (lebensunwerte Leben)."

In particular, the Nazis used Harry Laughlin's model, which "provided for the sterilization of 'feeble minded, insane, criminalistic, epileptic, diseased, blind, deaf, deformed, and dependent” including “orphans, ne’er do wells, tramps, homeless, and paupers.'” You can read all about Harry at the Pickler Memorial Library's online page at Truman State University.
As Dr. David Berlinski remarked in Ben Stein's movie "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed" Darwinism was not a sufficient condition, but was a necessary condition for the Nazi program. There seems to have been a significant number of people affected by Darwinian Eugenics (as it was applied to humans) in this time period, otherwise intelligent people, in both America and Europe. So why are we afraid to include the Nazis in this group of folks who were influenced? Why are we afraid to say that they acted accordingly with the logic they thought they embraced? No doubt Hitler was diobolical, but it is usually when people think they are doing something justified, something "right" that they can be the most diabolical. Did Darwinian pretensions alone, taken in isolation, lead to the Nazi phenomenon? I doubt it. But, it certainly seems to have been a formidable weapon in their arsenal. And Darwinian Eugenics seems to have been a weapon that they inherited, not one that they had to invent.
Here is the apology of the Methodist Church, as stated in the resolution.

"The United Methodist General Conference formally apologizes for Methodist leaders and Methodist bodies who in the past supported eugenics as sound science and sound theology. We lament the ways eugenics was used to justify the sterilization of persons deemed less worthy. We lament that Methodist support of eugenics policies was used to keep persons of different races from marrying and forming legally recognized families. We are especially grieved that the politics of eugenics led to the extermination of millions of people by the Nazi government and continues today as “ethnic cleansing” around the world."

Thursday, May 1, 2008

The Day The Universe Changed

"The Day The Universe Changed" is a British series hosted by science historian James Burke. Episode 8 investigates how Darwinism was relevant to the Nazi Regime. Here is the link:

The Day the Universe Changed

A quote from the website:

"Darwin's Revolution (#8). Reveals how Darwin's writings undermined the concept of an orderly, unchanging universe and with it the belief in the biblical theory of creation. Also considers how aspects of Darwinism were used to political and economic advantage to justify nazism, robber baron style capitalism, and communism."

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Ezekiel Bulver Reacts to Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed

C.S. Lewis invented "Bulverism" in an attempt to name the current condition of argumentation as he saw it in the last bit of the 20th century. The idea is to discredit your opponent's argument by discrediting the person themself.

Here is Lewis:

"Suppose I think, after doing my accounts, that I have a large balance at the bank. And suppose you want to find out whether this belief of mine is “wishful thinking.” You can never come to any conclusion by examining my psychological condition. Your only chance of finding out is to sit down and work through the sum yourself. When you have checked my figures, then, and then only, will you know whether I have that balance or not. If you find my arithmetic correct, then no amount of vapouring about my psychological condition can be anything but a waste of time. If you find my arithmetic wrong, then it may be relevant to explain psychologically how I came to be so bad at my arithmetic, and the doctrine of the concealed wish will become relevant - but only after you have yourself done the sum and discovered me to be wrong on purely arithmetical grounds. It is the same with all thinking and all systems of thought. If you try to find out which are tainted by speculating about the wishes of the thinkers, you are merely making a fool of yourself. You must find out on purely logical grounds which of them do, in fact, break down as arguments. Afterwards, if you like, go on and discover the psychological causes of the error.

In other words, you must show that a man is wrong before you start explaining why he is wrong. The modern method is to assume without discussion that he is wrong and then distract his attention from this (the only real issue) by busily explaining how he became to be so silly. In the course of the last fifteen years I have found this vice so common that I have had to invent a name for it. I call it “Bulverism.” Some day I am going the write the biography of its imaginary inventor, Ezekiel Bulver, whose destiny was determined at the age of five when he heard his mother say to his father - who had been maintaining that two sides of a triangle were together greater than the third - “Oh, you say that because you are a man.” “At that moment,” E. Bulver assures us, “there flashed across my opening mind the great truth that refutation is no necessary part of argument. Assume your opponent is wrong, and then explain his error, and the world will be at your feet. Attempt to prove that he is wrong or (worse still) try to find out whether he is wrong or right, and the national dynamism of our age will thrust you to the wall.” That is how Bulver became one of the makers of the Twentieth Century."

"Bulverism" from God in the Dock

This is just as prevalent of an argument tactic in the Twenty First Century. For the detractors of Intelligent Design, attempting to explain it away by accussing it's proponents of being Christians, or Jews, or Theists, leaves the argument regarding the merits of ID right where it was, on the side, untouched. Bulverism gets us nowhere, using it as our vehicle of discussion we can gain no ground. Intelligent Design's merits, or lack of merits, can never be discovered by it. The negative reactions I've seen to Expelled, for the most part, are just this sort of argument.

Intelligent Design and the Laws of Nature

"Men became scientific because they expected Law in Nature, and they expected Law in Nature because they believed in a Legislator. In most modern scientists this belief has died: it will be interesting to see how long their confidence in uniformity survives it. Two significant developments have already appeared-the hypothesis of a lawless sub-nature, and the surrender of the claim that science is true. We may be living nearer than we suppose to the end of the Scientific Age....

Theology says to you in effect, 'Admit God and with him the risk of a few miracles, and I in turn will ratify your faith in uniformity as regards the overwhelming majority of events.' The philosophy which forbids you to make uniformity absolute is also the philosophy which offers you solid grounds for believing it to be general, to be almost absolute. The Being who threatens nature's claim to omnipotence confirms her in her lawful occasions. Give us this ha' porth of tar and we will save the ship. The alternative is really much worse. Try to make nature absolute and you find that her uniformity is not even probable . . . You get the deadlock as in Hume. Theology offers you a working arrangement, which leaves the scientist free to continue his experiments and the Christian to continue his prayers."

--C.S. Lewis, Miracles

The philosophy which allows for God's involvement in nature, and therefore that nature is not autonomous, is also the philosophy which allows God to be the provider of her laws, and therefore our trust that she is trustworthy. "The Being who threatens nature's claim to omnipotence confirms her in her lawful occassions." This is very profound insight by Lewis.I can see no ultimate reason why we should consider nature's laws, apart from a Legislator, to be always obeying laws that we can observe. On the hypothesis that she was once a singularity, and now, she isn't anything like that, why should we consider observation over time to be ultimately trusted? If there were conscious beings inside the singularity, operating under the assumption that the conditions they had found themselves in would continue uninterrupted, and of which conclusion would have been based only on the strength of collective observations over time, the explosion would certainly have ruined their trust in the uniformity of nature. In admitting God as her Legislator, we can trust in her laws, and that they actually are "laws" and not a collection of occurences which may be otherwise in time.