Beware the Darwinian Moralists
Darwinians want to take over the fields of ethics and psychology. Can they be trusted with such power?
Psychological Gobbledygook in Academia
At The Conversation, psychologist Gregory Maio of the University of Bath makes a case for “Why society needs a more scientific understanding of human values.”
When we talk about “human values” we tend to mean important abstract ideals. Things like freedom, equality, security, tradition and peace.
Politicians mention values all the time, while all kinds of organisations claim to put “key values” at the heart of whatever business they are in. This makes perfect sense, as values are relevant to everything we do. They help us to choose careers, romantic partners, homes, consumer products and the broader ideologies by which we live.
But public debate often focuses on perceived threats to different values – while rarely recognising the problem of really understanding the values themselves.
What is it about science that offers better understanding of values than the understanding from ethicists, theologians and philosophers? Maio never answers that question. He never uses the word ‘science’ again in his article. He ends with vague, academic gobbledygook:
This kind of blurring comes from a disconnect between the abstract meaning of values and the varied ways in which people apply them. In working to tackle environmental and social problems, we overlook the links between values and value instantiations at our own peril.
Improving our understanding of the links will help us to better understand the role of values in our psychology and social lives – and where they fit into human character, morality, and culture.
Moral Relativism from Science
If nobody can understand what exactly Maio means, we can look for clues from what secular science has done to values. Two psychologists from Princeton, for instance, write in PNAS that “Preferences for moral vs. immoral traits in others are conditional.” You guessed it; they promote relativism. They try to prove that what is moral in one situation is perceived as immoral in another, and vice versa. Eliminating any hint of conscience, they degrade values into mere preferences conditioned by the situation:
These findings suggest that our preference for morality vs. immorality is conditional on the demands of our current goals and cannot be attributed solely to innate, “hardwired” links or personal learning experiences. They also suggest that immoral people sometimes win public adoration, and the power that comes with it, not in spite of but precisely because of their immorality.
Is this a descriptive or prescriptive paper? If descriptive, it may be true of some people. But if prescriptive, it is disastrous. It would make Hitler’s immorality just fine, if it wins acceptance via “public adoration.” One might as well ask if they felt it was moral or immoral to write their own paper.
Secular scientists also attribute everything about humans to ape ancestry. This is clear from another article at The Conversation by Bernard Wood and Michael Westaway, who illustrate their story of human origins with photos of apes. And yet in answer to their headline, “The origin of ‘us’: what we know so far about where we humans come from,” they indicate that opinions have changed repeatedly over the last century and a half. Controversy and debate have been the rule. The phrase “We do not know” peppers their article, which ends in a series of questions. Readers might do much better to study the critical analysis of paleoanthropology by Sanford and Rupe that we announced on January 4.
Even so, under the best of Darwinian stories, belief in human evolution cannot provide any solid foundation for morality. Whatever served the purposes of alleged human ancestors for breeding becomes ‘good’ in that view. Is that the kind of foundation any society would want for its laws and courts?
Another example in PNAS attributes ‘aggression’ to ape ancestry.
Compared with many primates, humans have a high propensity for proactive aggression, a trait shared with chimpanzees but not bonobos. By contrast, humans have a low propensity for reactive aggression compared with chimpanzees, and in this respect humans are more bonobo-like.
This paper is another ‘on-the-one-hand-this-but-on-the-other-hand-that’ type of academic waffle. In his elitist, academic way, Richard Wrangham discusses “Two types of aggression in human evolution” as if a human being is even capable of drawing conclusions from such a wobbly foundation as Darwinism. He thinks capital punishment was a behavior of hominins in the Pleistocene. He envisions aggression as a manifestation of “contrasting expression, eliciting factors, neural pathways, development, and function.” And yet the most basic questions a philosopher might ask about ethics and morals leave him with unsolved paradoxes. Would anyone appoint this man as a judge in a courtroom?
Applying Scientific Methods to Foreign Policy
Here’s an example of what secular psychologists would advise on a critical issue of foreign policy. In PNAS, secular psychologists, presumably Darwinian in outlook, try to apply the scientific method to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Their paper, “Testing the impact and durability of a group malleability intervention in the context of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict,” presumes to offer a superior “scientific” outlook:
The importance of psychological factors in conflict resolution has been well established in laboratory experiments. However, these factors have rarely been examined in longitudinal field experiments. The goal of the current project was to address this gap by comparing the effectiveness of psychological interventions during a period of extensive violence in the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. An intervention that spoke to the idea that groups can change and improve over time (a group malleability intervention) proved superior to a control intervention in improving attitudes, hope, and willingness to make concessions, even 6 months after the intervention. These findings provide evidence from a longitudinal field experiment that group malleability interventions can increase openness to conflict resolution.
But these are exactly the people you don’t want in the policy room. Why? They have no grounds for evaluating right and wrong. What are they going to say to people on either side, ‘try to be nice’ or something? Their prescribed ‘malleability interventions’ rely on moral assumptions all the way down. While it seems reasonable to expect ‘hope’ and ‘willingness to make concessions’ to be more moral than their opposites, what if Churchill had taken that position against the advice from Chamberlain and the others advising appeasement and peace negotiations with Hitler? (See the current movie The Darkest Hour.) Sometimes an uncompromising stand against evil is what morality requires. Would these psychologists advise Israelis to be more malleable to terrorists who blow up buses and bomb restaurants filled with peaceful civilians? Even the question presupposes moral assumptions.
Science’s Record in Medical Ethics
Look what New Scientist just wrote: “Science helped cause the opioid crisis – now it must make amends.” One of the biggest crises in world health began with, this article claims, science. In a rare instance of this left-leaning rag’s advice, they actually make a right turn: “New Scientist rarely finds reason to approve of Trump, but on this occasion he deserves credit – not only for recognising the scale of the problem but also for appointing a non-partisan and scientifically literate commission capable of analysing the issue and formulating a detailed response.” They even approve of Trump’s comparison of the death toll from opioids to an act of terrorism. So what is their solution, granting that “scientific publications can be used for ignoble purposes, especially when they let opinion get in the way of fact”? Answer: “It is time to do anything, and everything.” Correction: everything except fake science.
Science’s Record on Eugenics
Philosopher Stephen Fuller, who appeared in the movie Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, has a new piece at The Conversation about eugenics. In “Progressive eugenics is hardly history – the science and politics have just evolved,” he argues that eugenics never disappeared, but ‘evolved’ into a more personal form, where decisions about “good genes” transitioned from the state to the individual. He makes no mention of the Darwinian connection to eugenics, and how many eminent scientists at prestigious universities supported forced sterilization and elimination of ‘imbeciles’ and ‘defectives.’ For that history, people should read Jerry Bergman‘s well-documented books like The Darwin Effect and How Darwinism Corrodes Morality and John West’s thorough treatise Darwin Day in America.
‘Science’ has nothing to offer on such matters. Its neutrality is fake. Darwinian science has even less to offer than nothing. It offers evil. Don’t be fooled by the white lab coats; these guys are “wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam; wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever” (Jude 13). Keep these quacks out of government until they repent and trust the Prince of Peace.