Tuesday, June 14, 2011


In last Saturday's post Chasing Down Dawkins I mistakenly attributed the video to William Lane Craig's organization Reasonable Faith. The actual creator of the video is a talented fellow by the name of Peter Byrom (He's the gentleman asking the question in the clip below) who promises more great entertainment in the months between now and Craig's trip to England in October. We're looking forward to it.

My apologies to Peter.

Hitler's Ethic

A brief review of a new book by Richard Weikart is posted at Evolution News and Views:
One of the most controversial parts of the movie Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed was the segment where Ben Stein interviewed the history professor Richard Weikart about his book, From Darwin to Hitler: Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics, and Racism in Germany. Darwinists went apoplectic, deriding Stein and Weikart for daring to sully the good name of Darwin by showing the way that Hitler and German scientists and physicians used evolutionary theory to justify some of their atrocities, such as their campaign to kill the disabled.

Some critics even denied that the Nazis believed in Darwinism at all. Weikart challenges his critics to examine the evidence in his fascinating sequel, Hitler's Ethic: The Nazi Pursuit of Evolutionary Progress (Palgrave Macmillan, new in paperback), which examines the role of Darwinism and evolutionary ethics in Hitler's worldview.

In this work Weikart helps unlock the mystery of Hitler's evil by vividly demonstrating the surprising conclusion that Hitler's immorality flowed from a coherent ethic. Hitler was inspired by evolutionary ethics to pursue the utopian project of biologically improving the human race. Hitler's evolutionary ethic underlay or influenced almost every major feature of Nazi policy: eugenics (i.e., measures to improve human heredity, including compulsory sterilization), euthanasia, racism, population expansion, offensive warfare, and racial extermination.
Once people reject the idea that morality is rooted in an omnipotent, omniscient, perfectly good being the next logical step is to abandon the idea that there's any objective moral standard at all. This leads inevitably to moral arbitrariness and subjectivity, i.e. what's right is whatever feels right to me. Moral subjectivism leads directly to egoism, i.e. the belief that one should put one's own interests ahead of the interests of others, and egoism leads to the ethic of "might makes right".

Hitler's "morality" was completely consistent with his rejection of a belief in a personal God. Hitler was who every atheist would also be if they a) had the power and b) were logically consistent. Thankfully, few of them are both powerful and consistent, but in the 20th century some were. Mao, Stalin, Pol Pot all were atheists who had complete power within their sphere and acted consistently with their naturalistic, materialistic worldview. The consequences were completely predictable.

Cartesian Theist makes a similar point in this video:

Pro-Life Progress

Elections have consequences and the election last November has had more than most. One arena in which this is especially the case is the matter of abortion legislation. This interesting article by Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra explains why:
The Oregon bill is one of 576 measures related to abortion that have been introduced so far in 2011 in 48 states, according to Elizabeth Nash, public policy associate for the pro-choice Guttmacher Institute.

[B]y early April, 142 abortion-related provisions had passed at least one chamber of a state legislature, compared with 67 in 2009. More than half of the 142 bills (57 percent) introduced this year seek to restrict abortion access, compared with 38 percent in 2010.

About 40 new anti-abortion laws were on the books by mid-April. They include:
  • expanding the waiting period requirement in South Dakota from 24 hours to 72 hours, and requiring women to visit a crisis pregnancy center in the interim.
  • requiring a physician who performs an abortion in South Dakota to provide counseling on all risk factors related to abortion.
  • allowing any hospital employee in Utah to refuse to "participate in any way" in an abortion.
  • making it a felony in Arizona to perform or provide money for abortions sought because of a baby's race or sex.
  • prohibiting insurance plans that participate in the state insurance exchange from including abortion coverage in Virginia, Arizona, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and Tennessee.
  • prohibiting the abortion of a fetus capable of feeling pain in Nebraska, Kansas, Idaho, and Oklahoma.

Republican victories in the 2010 mid-term elections account for much of the legislative surge. Republicans....took 29 governorships and 680 seats in state legislatures, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. "The November elections brought huge change in the state houses," said Charmaine Yoest, president of Americans United for Life.

The legislation has been snowballing since the Republican sweep: "Just in the first three months of this year, we've provided testimony on 17 life-related legislative matters," she said. In previous years, the average number of testimonies provided was two or three for the entire year.

Restricting abortion through new state laws seems to be highly effective in reducing abortion rates. "We see that the number of abortions has gone down by 22 percent between 1990 and 2005," said Michael New, political science professor at the University of Alabama. "An important reason is the restrictions that more and more states are passing."
There's much more at the link. One interesting aspect of this that's not mentioned in the article has to do with how the rhetoric in the debate has changed. Back in the decades after Roe v. Wade (1973) we were often told by those who wanted to liberalize abortion laws that the majority of people in the country were pro-choice. We seldom hear that claim anymore. It'd be hard to explain, after all, why pro-choice majorities keep electing pro-life legislators to their state governments.