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Missing Link, Scopes Monkey Trial, Science, Secularism, and Education

So they finally discovered the ‘missing link.’  Huh, I was under the impression that missing links posed no problems.  I guess after you think you’ve resolved the problem you can admit you had one.  I’ll leave it to others to decide if they really have resolved it.

The discovery of this ‘missing link’ comes as I’ve been ruminating on the role of secularism in our society, science, and education.  Secularists insist that those who want to involve themselves in goverment have to frame their desired policies, legislation, etc, in secular terms, or else be ‘unconstitutional.’  Secularists really believe that this approach constitutes being ‘neutral.’  And of course, secularists get to decide what secularism entails.

(For a fascinating exhibition of this, I submit this thread on my discussion forum.)

It is nonsense to believe that secularism is ‘neutral.’  For the purposes of this post, though, what I want to contend is that there isn’t such a thing as ‘neutrality.’  In today’s post-modern world, I wouldn’t think that is controversial.   What we find, however, is that there are huge areas of our experience that we are told really are neutral.   Here again, the ‘neutralists’ are the ones who decide what fits into this category.  The rest of us don’t get to have a say.

The government is one such instance.  Science and education are two others.

To make my point plain before I begin:  I believe that the ideal government won’t insist on ‘neutrality’ (which is impossible) but rather allow everyone to come to the table on fair terms.

Secular education, we are informed, is devoid of ‘religious’ content.  This is why they feel like they can distribute condoms and have Planned Parenthood come in and offer ‘services.’  You see how it works:  if you are against abortion, that’s religious.  If you are for it, that’s secular.  If you are for the sexual morality theoretically embodied in traditional marriage, you’re religious.  If you could care less, that’s secular.   You have two sides of the same coin, and instead of acknowledging that the whole coin is ‘religious’ the secularists have decided that only one side is- the side they disagree with- and oh, by the way, don’t you remember that only secularists perspectives are allowed in the public schools?

Likewise, science we are informed is ‘neutral.’  One must keep religious content out of science at all costs!  To do otherwise is to establish religion!   The interesting thing about what passes as science today is that you can break it up into two basic parts.  One part, the part really supported by the scientific method, really is neutral in the sense that they represent brute facts.  The temperature at which water boils has no moral implications.  The other part, the part with a more modern approach to science where observation and direct experimentation is not critical, very often does have moral implications.

It seems that the less empirically demonstrable the claim, the more moral are the implications.

Take for example the question of when human life begins and is entitled to the rights of human beings.  It is easy to find secularists contending that their views are scientific whereas those religious nutjob pro-lifers have a religious view.  On the secularist’s own terms, though, when you choose (as a society) to grant human rights is basically just societal convention.  How interesting that they wish to decide what the societal convention really says?  The fact that half of America’s population is pro-life is irrelevant.  Why?  Because their perspective is religious, that’s why.  But ask them to scientifically demonstrate when a human life begins and when it deserves the rights we accord to humans and you are not going to get anything empircally demonstrable.

The number one example of a so called scientific theory that is loaded with moral and religious implications is of course evolution itself.  There was a time when people were more willing to admit this.

The famous Scopes Monkey trial resolves around the state of Tennessee saying that evolution could not be taught in science classrooms.  The horror!  But we forget what evolutionism entailed at the time.  For example, the textbook that was at the center of the Monkey Trial presents some interesting things as ‘science.’

Quote from the textbook:

Eugenics. When people marry there are certain things that the individual as well as the race should demand. The most important of these is freedom from germ diseases which might be handed down to the offspring. Tuberculosis, syphilis, that dread disease which cripples and kills hundreds of thousands of innocent children, epilepsy, and feeble-mindedness are handicaps which it is not only unfair but criminal to hand down to posterity. The science of being well born is called eugenics.

or,

If such people were lower animals, we would probably kill them off to prevent them from spreading. Humanity will not allow this, but we do have the remedy of separating the sexes in asylums or other places and in various ways preventing intermarriage and the possibilities of perpetuating such a low and degenerate race. Remedies of this sort have been tried success fully in Europe and are now meeting with success in this country.

I discuss this more in this post discussing one professor’s claim that we have a moral obligation to abort our potentially disabled children.

These comments are from the science book that Tennessee wanted kept out of their classrooms!  The horror!

For you see, there was a day when the implications of evolutionary theory were more obvious and more openly admitted.   Margaret Sanger, the founder of the aforementioned Planned Parenthood, openly urged abortion as a method of eugenics.  And of course, since this was all science, and science is ‘neutral’, it should follow naturally that religious people can raise no objections.

Today of course eugenics has a bad rap.  We can thank Hitler for that.  But that doesn’t mean the implications have changed or that there aren’t ‘neutral’ scientists and secularists who advocate for eugenics today.  People aren’t as dumb as secularists would like them to be.  When you promote ‘survival of the fittest’ as the guiding biological principle the inevitable conclusion is that we have the moral obligation to utilize that principle according to our own terms. You just aren’t supposed to say it out loud

It is common to hear secularists insist that the science and sociology of the 1930s was ‘false science’ or things of the like.  Of course, if they were alive at the time they would have believed exactly the same.  But to my point, they have this in common:  both believe that they pursue and promote a ‘neutral’ science based platform and that religion has no right to insert itself- unless it is farmed in their ‘neutral’ terms- in the affairs of governments large and small.

What to say except that the secularists are winning?  Where will it end?  History provides clues:  and it ain’t pretty.

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    • Matthew Ackerman on May 22, 2009 at 7:20 am

    Reading parts of civic biology certainly puts a different spin on the whole debate.

    However, it is interesting to note that the evolution free version of the text that was produced for Tennessee in response to the Scopes trial actually EXTENDED the section on eugenics.

    It may be possible that Christians of the time objected to evolution on the basis that it lead to eugenics, however, I have not seen any evidance this was the case.

    It seems much more likely that the key objections were simply to the contradiction to the Genesis account, and that eugenics was entirely acceptable to many Christians if it did not propound on Man’s evolutionary continuity with other animals. (Remember, Tennessee demanded the references to man’s decent from animals be removed, but said nothing about the lengthy chapter on eugenics.)

    At any rate, you are simply making the naturalistic fallacy again, and I am quite dismayed by your poorly reasoned emotional arguments.

    “When you promote ’survival of the fittest’ as the guiding biological principle the inevitable conclusion is that we have the moral obligation to utilize that principle according to our own terms.”

    If we admit that massive objects naturally attract each other, does that mean that space flight is morally wrong? What absolute non-sense.

    • Anthony on May 22, 2009 at 11:50 am
      Author

    “It may be possible that Christians of the time objected to evolution on the basis that it lead to eugenics, however, I have not seen any evidance this was the case.”

    I think you misconstrue the point. Whether or not evolution leads to eugenics is besides the point. The point is that at the time evolutionists themselves had embraced eugenics as a natural extension of their theory. Thus, it was natural for them to promote eugenics, as science, in their textbooks. The point here is simply that it is not the case that declaring something ‘science’ automatically means we are talking about something neutral.

    “It seems much more likely that the key objections were simply to the contradiction to the Genesis account, and that eugenics was entirely acceptable to many Christians if it did not propound on Man’s evolutionary continuity with other animals.”

    I think you are wrong, here. The writings of CS Lewis and GK Chesterton leap out as examples of people who had entirely different objections to both evolution and eugenics. Chesterton has a whole book called ‘Eugenics’ which is available online (you can search my blog and find it that way) which he made available before the worst abuses occurred.

    “At any rate, you are simply making the naturalistic fallacy again, and I am quite dismayed by your poorly reasoned emotional arguments.”

    Honestly, I think you yourself had an emotional response, because you seemed to have missed the point of the entire entry. 😉 Moreover, I seem to recall the last time that you insisted that I had not made this fallacy. Please, which is it?

    The point, since you seemed to have missed it, is that we can take nothing for granted as ‘neutral’ and consequently when secularists demand that Christians frame their views in ‘secular’/’neutral’ terms, they are really demanding that Christians interact in society- effectively- as though they were atheists.

    “If we admit that massive objects naturally attract each other, does that mean that space flight is morally wrong? What absolute non-sense.”

    Nonsense, perhaps, but unfortunately for you your fellow evolutionists are more than happy to employ such argumentation. Apparently you did not read this article I linked to:

    http://www.opposingviews.com/articles/opinion-mandatory-genetic-testing-isn-t-eugenics-it-s-smart-science

    Here, the evolutionist bio-ethicist plainly believes that we do, in fact, “have the moral obligation to utilize that principle according to our own terms.” He puts it in different words but it is the same thing. He says, “The reality is that pre-implantation genetic selection, like many technologies, can be used either for good or for evil. On this continuum, the prevention of serious illness seems like an unambiguous and inimitable good.”

    It’s the same dang thing.

    I did not perceive that my argumentation here was ’emotional’, but even if it was I am unapologetic. If I were you, I’d open your eyes to what secularists are really doing out there. Oh, and get word to Mr. Appel that just because natural selection works, it doesn’t mean the government should be deliberately using it ‘for the common good.’ He apparently didn’t get the message.

    • Anthony on May 22, 2009 at 12:02 pm
      Author

    Couple of more things:

    1. You seem to be proving my point that only the ‘neutralists’ get to have a say. I said, “Here again, the ‘neutralists’ are the ones who decide what fits into this category. The rest of us don’t get to have a say.”

    And you have deemed yourself a higher authority than the rest of the human race and dictated to me that any insinuation that evolution has any logical implications is merely the naturalistic fallacy. See how it works? You get to dictate. The rest of us have to sit down and shut up. And when an evolutionists like Mr. Appel comes along and actually behaves and practically comes out and declares that we need to use eugenics ‘for the common good’ then, well, he can say whatever he wants.

    2. For the record, I don’t personally believe that eugenics is the logical outcome of evolution. 🙂 So you’re barking up the wrong tree if you think I believe that. I know some of what I said may have sounded as though I believed that, but as I was arguing for an entirely different point, I wasn’t aiming for clarity there.

    3. I feel compelled to respond to: “If we admit that massive objects naturally attract each other, does that mean that space flight is morally wrong?”

    Perhaps you failed to read my post carefully, as I already anticipated this when I said: “The interesting thing about what passes as science today is that you can break it up into two basic parts. One part, the part really supported by the scientific method, really is neutral in the sense that they represent brute facts. The temperature at which water boils has no moral implications. The other part, the part with a more modern approach to science where observation and direct experimentation is not critical, very often does have moral implications.”

    I suppose, don’t you, that ‘the temperature at which water boils’ and ‘that massive objects naturally attract’ are essentially the same kind of brute fact which I already pointed out have no moral implications?

    Don’t you think?

    How did you miss that?

    • Matthew Ackerman on May 22, 2009 at 1:15 pm

    “Whether or not evolution leads to eugenics is besides the point. The point is that at the time evolutionists themselves had embraced eugenics as a natural extension of their theory. Thus, it was natural for them to promote eugenics, as science, in their textbooks. The point here is simply that it is not the case that declaring something ’science’ automatically means we are talking about something neutral.”

    No, I think you are missing the point. Demonstrating that someone has made an argument does not demonstrate that the argument is correct. I could equally observe that Hitler spent a substantial amount of his time talking about Christian nations, and God’s divine plan, but it does not demonstrate that the ideas that Hitler espoused are a necessary consequence of Christianity. Genocide existed long before Darwin, long before Hitler, long before Christ, and long before Moses.

    Genocide exist as a consequence of evil, not Darwin. (IMHO)

    “Moreover, I seem to recall the last time that you insisted that I had not made this fallacy. Please, which is it?”

    Perhaps before you hadn’t made the naturalist fallacy, but don’t dwell on your earlier avoidance of it, since it is clear here that you are making it. “When you promote ’survival of the fittest’ as the guiding biological principle the inevitable conclusion is that we have the moral obligation to utilize that principle according to our own terms.”

    On another topic:

    “And you have deemed yourself a higher authority than the rest of the human race and dictated to me that any insinuation that evolution has any logical implications is merely the naturalistic fallacy.”

    I have not deemed myself a higher authority than the rest of humanity on what is moral or immoral. I have simply said that when a statement is illogical then I have the right to say it is illogical. If you don’t wish to be called a fool, then stop being foolish. In any case, I certainly won’t feel remorseful for attempting to explain to you in detail why you are being foolish.

    Furthermore, of course evolution has logical implications, no one contest that. However, you have used fallacious reasoning to come to a false conclusion regarding its moral implications.

    “I suppose, don’t you, that ‘the temperature at which water boils’ and ‘that massive objects naturally attract’ are essentially the same kind of brute fact which I already pointed out have no moral implications?”

    On what grounds do you except the brute factual statements: “When heritable variation exists, there is an inevitable bias for favourable traits to increase in frequency.” and “All biological life is related by common descent.”

    The first can, and has been easily demonstrated by rigorous mathematical and experimental proofs, and the second is an inevitable logical conclusion of the first when sufficiently unpacked and considered together with the compelling molecular and physical evidence.

    The only difference I can detect between statements regarding the theory of evolution and the theory of gravity is that one does not contradict your own personal preference for how you would like the world to be, and the other does.

    And as per usual, you have failed to believe that it is possible that a reasonable person could read and understand your post, yet disagrees with it.

    If some one says “I’m not a racist, but I hate black people.” It is perfectly reasonable to say that they are a racist even though they claim not to be. Similarly your claim not to be make a particular kind of error is not compelling evidence that you do not make that error. Compelling evidence that you did not make such an error would be your ability to support your statement with a logically rigorous argument. Explain to me, logically, why assent to the factual correctness of the theory of evolution necessarily leads to the morality of ignoring basic human rights?

    Finally, it is [b]absurd[/b] of you to use Mr. Appel’s article can to support your contention that “When you promote ’survival of the fittest’ as the guiding biological principle the inevitable conclusion is that we have the moral obligation to utilize that principle according to our own terms.”

    Mr. Appel simply observes that medical technology exist which can prevent the birth of children with many genetic diseases. This is his goal, not the improvement of the human species.

    Mr. Appel’s plan would not substantially improve the genetic heritage of the human population over time. Approximately 20% of most debilitating genetic diseases result from spontaneous mutations, and will never be removed by any eugenic program. Further more, if these are serious medical disease which cannot be cured, then they will substantial decrease an individuals chance of producing offspring.

    For instance, even with modern treatment diabetes is still under sufficient Darwinian selection to prevent the majority of the human population from eventual developing the disease. So long as individuals experience a 1 in perhaps 10,000 chance of death from their medical condition before age 20, there is no danger to our genome. Even though the life expectancy for people with highly treatable forms of diabetes is quite high, it is still noticeably reduced.

    And of course, Mr. Appel is not even considering highly treatable diseases such as diabetes, but is only considering disease with a substantial mortality rate. The abortion of such individuals is essential equivalent to the natural death of these individuals in adolescent or early adult hood from an evolutionary perspective, or, for that matter, the genocide of these individuals at young ages. Genocide is clearly morally reprehensible, but even if it weren’t it produces no Darwinian benefit.

    Instead, Mr. Appel believes that preventing the birth of a particular child with a particular genetic disease is in and of itself a moral good. He does not invoke any arguments about the genetic heritage of future generations as a consequence of this action.

    Your fundamental disagreement with Mr. Appel is over whether the handful of cells that he proposes to destroy in order to prevent a child from being born with a disease is in itself a child.

    Mr. Appel’s view that these cells do not merit person-hood does not result from his acceptance of fact that there is variation in heritable factors which influence survival, and that consequently populations will genetically adapt to their environment over generations.

    I hope you will at least admit that Mr. Appel’s opinion has absolutely no bearing on the moral consequences of Darwinian evolution, but is instead a question of when human life begins.

    • Anthony on May 22, 2009 at 2:31 pm
      Author

    “No, I think you are missing the point.”

    No, I’m really not.

    “Demonstrating that someone has made an argument does not demonstrate that the argument is correct.”

    And everyone should get to engage in that discussion.

    “Perhaps before you hadn’t made the naturalist fallacy, but don’t dwell on your earlier avoidance of it, since it is clear here that you are making it.”

    Sorry, I’m not. Just because something is an inevitable conclusion doesn’t mean that it is logically follows. Some propositions simply have the effect of producing certain responses.

    How many atheists do you know that are young earth creationists?

    How many atheists do you know that staunchly believe that we are the product of unguided naturalistic processes?

    As we are so often informed, evolution and theism are not logically inconsistent. Nonetheless, how interesting it is to note that most, if not all, atheists are also evolutionists…

    One almost begins to get the idea that one belief is tied to the other.

    Now, you can sit back there and deny it. Your denying it does not change the reality.

    Besides, do you insist that your thorough intimacy with evolutionary theory has had no impact on the state of your Christian faith? Be honest.

    Funny how things that are not deductively locked together in iron clad fashion nonetheless tend to be tied together anyway, don’t you think?

    “I have not deemed myself a higher authority than the rest of humanity on what is moral or immoral.”

    I know that.

    “I have simply said that when a statement is illogical then I have the right to say it is illogical.”

    And I have the same right to say that it is logical. That’s the point of the entry.

    Now, will we both be permitted to make our case in politics, education, and science? Or shall only your position be allowed to be heard?

    “If you don’t wish to be called a fool, then stop being foolish.”

    Try not to get too ahead of yourself here. You’ve yet to say anything that indicates that you get the point of the entry. You don’t want your foot to get so lodged in your mouth that removal is impossible. Please, attend to the point of the entry and then if you wish to resume chest thumping, feel free.

    “On what grounds do you except the brute factual statements: “When heritable variation exists, there is an inevitable bias for favourable traits to increase in frequency.” and “All biological life is related by common descent.””

    The first statement is a brute fact. The second is not.

    “The only difference I can detect between statements regarding the theory of evolution and the theory of gravity”

    You cannot prove common descent with the same sort of empirical certainty that you can prove variation.

    You say that the one logically dictates the latter, but I see no reason why that should be. But we are getting far afield from the point of the entry.

    “And as per usual, you have failed to believe that it is possible that a reasonable person could read and understand your post, yet disagrees with it.”

    Since you’ve avoided 98% of the post, it remains to be seen if you understand the post. As per usual, you have ventured in to dispute the post only to prove the point being made in the post.

    “Explain to me, logically, why assent to the factual correctness of the theory of evolution necessarily leads to the morality of ignoring basic human rights?”

    As I said in my follow up post, I personally do not believe that eugenics deductively follows from evolution. I conceded in that comment that I can see how you might get that from what I said, but pointed out that as I was aiming to make an entirely different point, that explains the lack of clarity on that particular point.

    Now that I have explicitly said, “For the record, I don’t personally believe that eugenics is the logical outcome of evolution” you have no excuse for continuing to belabor that particular point. I am hoping that it is the case that simply missed my saying this. It appears, however, that you are deliberately ignoring it.

    “Finally, it is [b]absurd[/b] of you to use Mr. Appel’s article can to support your contention that “When you promote ’survival of the fittest’ as the guiding biological principle the inevitable conclusion is that we have the moral obligation to utilize that principle according to our own terms.””

    lol, well, just like I pointed out in my first comment, Lewis and Chesterton and the like were merely reacting to evolution as it was being presented in their time. Whether or not evolution leads to the ‘inevitable conclusion’ that eugenics is moral is largely irrelevant in the face of what we practically observe.

    Or do you insist that Appel’s favorable stance towards eugenics is unbound from his convictions about evolution, theism, etc?

    “Mr. Appel simply observes that medical technology exist which can prevent the birth of children with many genetic diseases. This is his goal, not the improvement of the human species.”

    Nonsense. He doesn’t merely observe it. He calls for it and provides reasons why it should be employed. ‘Simply observes’? That’s absurd.

    As for whether or not he also has in view the ‘improvement of the human species’ depends I think on what he means by, “socially-beneficial.”

    “Mr. Appel’s plan would not substantially improve the genetic heritage of the human population over time.”

    He seems to think so.

    “Approximately 20% of most debilitating genetic diseases result from spontaneous mutations, and will never be removed by any eugenic program.”

    Your argument is with Mr. Appel, not with me. I can think of a thousand reasons not to engage in such a program.

    “And of course, Mr. Appel is not even considering highly treatable diseases such as diabetes, but is only considering disease with a substantial mortality rate.”

    Again, your argument is with Mr. Appel, not me. But if you seriously wish me to believe that Mr. Appel is not trying to exploit the fact that “heritable variation exists” then I may as well put a bullet in my intellect, for believing such a thing is essentially intellectual suicide. He clearly means to do just that.

    I am merely addressing evolution and its implications as evolutionists are presenting it. If you have a problem with how they are doing it, take it up with them.

    “He does not invoke any arguments about the genetic heritage of future generations as a consequence of this action.”

    It depends on what he means by “socially-beneficial.”

    “Your fundamental disagreement with Mr. Appel”

    Now that we have engaged in a long diversion, I think it is important that we return to why I raised Mr. Appel in the first place. The question here is whether or not I have to reject Appel on ‘neutral’ grounds or can I reject him on my own terms?

    Do I have to produce allegedly neutral ‘scientific’ reasons to reject his proposal for secular society before I am allowed to be heard? Or can I reject it simply because I find it morally reprehensible?

    That’s the point of the entry.

    • Matthew Ackerman on May 22, 2009 at 3:39 pm

    Well, you did say that evolution does not lead to eugenics, and honestly, I really did skip over reading that, I am sorry.

    I will have some more to say about the fact that you don’t believe that science can produces certainty about historical facts, which I think is laughable, but we will get to that at another time…

    • Anthony on May 22, 2009 at 3:56 pm
      Author

    “Well, you did say that evolution does not lead to eugenics, and honestly, I really did skip over reading that, I am sorry.”

    No problem.

    “I will have some more to say about the fact that you don’t believe that science can produces certainty about historical facts, which I think is laughable, but we will get to that at another time…”

    I think before you attempt to assess my view on that subject you should first ask me what my view is on that subject. I had one central point in this post, and that was not it.

    Hint: I don’t believe that science is unable to produce certainty about historical facts. So, with that in mind, I think your attempt to address my ‘belief’ will be in vain. 🙂

    Peace, Matthew.

    • Urnext on May 19, 2010 at 4:16 pm

    “So they finally discovered the missing link. Huh, I was under the impression that missing links posed no problems. I guess after you think you’ve resolved the problem you can admit you had one.”

    Once again you’re showing your complete lack of knowledge on the subject. The skeletal record is incomplete. That doesn’t make it a problem but it’s still exciting when new discoveries are found. For example, pretend I wrote a message to my wife on a marque but was missing some letters so the message said, “I l v y u!” You know what the message says even though some letters are missing. Then I find the “e” and it now becomes, “I l ve y u!” Again, just because we have gaps in the skeletal record doesn’t mean evelution has a problem, but new finds are happening everyday and it only adds to the evidence.

  1. […] If disabled and stupid people were lower animals, we would probably kill them off to prevent them from spreading. Humanity will not allow this, … but we can prevent intermarriage and sterilize them.  Remedies of this sort have been tried success fully in Europe and are now meeting with success in this country. – The science book at the heart of the Scopes Monkey Trial […]

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