Friday, August 17, 2007

Moral Darwinism

Byron passes along this piece by Ben Wiker on what evolution has to teach us about morality. The closing paragraphs, in particular, caught my eye:

While he didn't call for direct extermination of the weak, Darwin did believe that the unfit shouldn't be allowed to breed at all. As for the fit, "there should be open competition for all men; and the most able should not be prevented by laws or customs from succeeding best and rearing the largest number of offspring."

What does this mean? Forced sterilization? The end of monogamy? Breeding camps for the hyper-fit and concentration camps for the unfit? Darwin was purposely vague, but ended with the ominous remark: "All do good service who aid toward this end." Well, that's morality according to Darwin. Again, it ain't pretty, but all must agree on one thing. Darwin correctly drew the logical moral implications from his evolutionary theory. It's hard for the most adamant advocates of Darwin to recall the horrors of the 20th century-to bring to mind all those who thought they were doing "good service" by the eugenic elimination of the unfit-and not squirm a bit.

In his book, From Darwin to Hitler, Richard Weikart fleshes out the connections between the Nazi holocaust and the 19th century eugenics movement which was, as Weikert demonstrates, largely inspired by Darwin. Ideas have consequences and the consequences of Darwinism have not been particularly lovely.


Kirk on Conservatism

I came across a link recently to an essay by Russell Kirk in which he outlines ten key principles of philosophical conservativism. It's an excellent primer on what it means to be conservative in the tradition of Edmund Burke.

One of the best paragraphs in the essay is the conclusion wherein Kirk observes that:

The great line of demarcation in modern politics, Eric Voegelin used to point out, is not a division between liberals [i.e. classical liberals] on one side and totalitarians on the other. No, on one side of that line are all those men and women who fancy that the temporal order is the only order, and that material needs are their only needs, and that they may do as they like with the human patrimony. On the other side of that line are all those people who recognize an enduring moral order in the universe, a constant human nature, and high duties toward the order spiritual and the order temporal.

In other words, the great divide in modern politics, at least in the West, is between secular materialism which holds that man is nothing but a flesh and bone machine, and Judeo-Christian theism which holds that man has an inherent dignity and worth because he has been created by God in His image and is loved by Him. The implications of each of those views are immeasurable. The first leads to tyranny and totalitarianism while the second leads to freedom and human achievement.


The Speed of Light

An article in The U.K.Telegraph says that German scientists are claiming to have broken the speed of light barrier. If they have, it'll almost certainly throw much of our entire understanding of physics into disarray.

The article gives a couple of reasons why, but here's one. Increasing the speed of an object takes increasing amounts of energy and, according to relativity theory, as the object approaches the speed of light the energy it takes to make it go even faster begins to approach infinity. In other words, to accelerate an object beyond 186,000 miles per second would take all the energy in the universe. This seems impossible and so it had been thought that such speeds were impossible to attain.

If the German physicists have done it physics will never be the same and science fiction will theoretically no longer be fiction.