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« Links Mentioned on the 1/29/16 Show | Main | Why You Shouldn’t Trust the Feeling That You Don’t Deserve Hell »

January 29, 2016


Evolution says species survival is good and extinction is bad. That's the standard, and it never changes. The particular means of survival may change, of course, but survival itself remains.

Since the phenomenon of evolution itself does not change, evolutionary morality also does not change.

John Moore,

Evolution doesn't say anything. Evolution is just a processes of development and change over time.

Just in a manner of speaking, you know. Come on.

From “Present Concerns” by C.S. Lewis:

“Let us suppose that nothing ever has existed or ever will exist except this meaningless play of atoms in space and time: that by a series of hundredth chances it has (regrettably) produced things like ourselves— conscious beings who now know that their own consciousness is an accidental result of the whole meaningless process and is therefore itself meaningless, though to us (alas!) it feels significant. In this situation there are, I think, three things one might do:

[1] You might commit suicide. Nature which has (blindly, accidentally) given me for my torment this consciousness which demands meaning and value in a universe that offers neither, has luckily also given me the means of getting rid of it. I return the unwelcome gift. I will be fooled no longer.

[2] You might decide simply to have as good a time as possible. The universe is a universe of nonsense, but since you are here, grab what you can. Unfortunately, however, there is, on these terms, so very little left to grab — only the coarsest sensual pleasures. You can’t, except in the lowest animal sense, be in love with a girl if you know (and keep on remembering) that all the beauties both of her person and of her character are a momentary and accidental pattern produced by the collision of atoms, and that your own response to them is only a sort of psychic phosphorescence arising from the behavior of your genes. You can’t go on getting any very serious pleasure from music if you know and remember that its air of significance is a pure illusion, that you like it only because your nervous system is irrationally conditioned to like it. You may still, in the lowest sense, have a “good time” – but just in so far as it becomes very good, just in so far as it ever threatens to push you on from cold sensuality into real warmth and enthusiasm and joy, so far you will be forced to feel the hopeless disharmony between your own emotions and the universe in which you really live.

[3] You may defy the universe. You may say, “Let it be irrational, I am not. Let it be merciless, I will have mercy. By whatever curious chance it has produced me, now that I am here I will live according to human values. I know the universe will win in the end, but what is that to me? I will go down fighting. Amid all this wastefulness I will persevere; amid all this competition, I will make sacrifices. Be damned to the universe!”

I suppose that most of us, in fact, while we remain materialists, adopt a more or less uneasy alternation between the second and the third attitude. And although the third is incomparably the better (it is, for instance, much more likely to “preserve civilization”), both really shipwreck on the same rock. That rock— the disharmony between our own hearts and Nature— is obvious in the second. The third seems to avoid the rock by accepting disharmony from the outset and defying it. But it will not really work. In it, you hold up our own human standards against the idiocy of the universe. That is, we talk as if our own standards were something outside the universe which can be contrasted with it; as if we could judge the universe by some standard borrowed from another source.

But if (as we were supposing) Nature— the space-time-matter system— is the only thing in existence, then of course there can be no other source for our standards. They must, like everything else, be the unintended and meaningless outcome of blind forces. Far from being a light from beyond Nature whereby Nature can be judged, they are only the way in which anthropoids of our species feel when the atoms under own skulls get into certain states— those states being produced by causes quite irrational, unhuman, and non-moral. Thus the very ground on which we defy Nature crumbles under our feet. The standard we are applying is tainted at the source. If our standards are derived from this meaningless universe they must be as meaningless as it.

For most modern people, I think, thoughts of this kind have to be gone through before the opposite view can get a fair hearing. All Naturalism leads us to this in the end— to a quite final and hopeless discord between what our minds claim to be and what they really must be if Naturalism is true. They claim to be spirit; that is, to be reason, perceiving universal intellectual principles and universal moral laws and possessing free will. But if Naturalism is true they must in reality be merely arrangements of atoms in skulls, coming about by irrational causation. We never think a thought because it is true, only because blind Nature forces us to think it. We never do an act because it is right, only because blind Nature forces us to do it. It is when one has faced this preposterous conclusion that one is at last ready to listen to the voice that whispers: “But suppose we really are spirits? Suppose we are not the offspring of Nature…..?”

For, really, the naturalistic conclusion is unbelievable. For one thing, it is only through trusting our own minds that we have come to know Nature herself. If Nature when fully known seems to teach us (that is, if the sciences teach us) that our own minds are chance arrangements of atoms, then there must have been some mistake; for if that were so, then the sciences themselves would be chance arrangements of atoms and we should have no reason for believing in them. There is only one way to avoid this deadlock. We must go back to a much earlier view. We must simply accept it that we are spirits, free and rational beings, at present inhabiting an irrational universe, and must draw the conclusion that we are not derived from it. We are strangers here. We come from somewhere else. Nature is not the only thing that exists……..”

Whether a manner of speaking or not, Remingtons point remains. I take it your claim John is that evolution (assuming it's even true for a moment) 'defines' survival as 'good' and extinction as 'bad'. Two insurmountable problems with this. Firstly, a purely physical process simply cannot define anything as 'good or bad', it can merely describe what will happen, not what 'ought to happen', as the video stated. Secondly, this idea vastly contradicts with the reality of human morality we all experience. A reality where actions to enhance the propagation of our genes such as slavery, rape, genocide etc are deemed 'bad'. There is no room for this at all in the evolutionary morality myth.

By the standard of evolutionary biology it's all good. Violence augments survival. As does fear. As does forced insemination. Evolution has first invented, and then retained over eons all such deeply embedded neuro-biological networks because they "work".

That equates to "good".

But the Non-Theist cheats, hedges, equivocates.... as in:

He seems to want to take “parts” of it, a few feelings over here, and call them “good”, but leave other “parts” of it, a few feelings over there, and call them “bad”. Now, that is begging the question. Also, it forces him to appeal to teleology, which becomes apparent as we move further into any argument which claims that “this part” is “good” and “this part” is “bad”. Teleology becomes, for the Non-Theist, quite painful as we force his hand there in those question begging claims.

The Non-Theists haven’t shown, by argument, a coherent metaphysical chain of continuity by which Reason as truth-finder cannot reasonably disagree with Goal X and simply shift any such transitory norm’s slice to some other foci, some other Goal, for all sums to a matter of definition rather than an ultimate explanatory terminus to that “metaphysical chain of continuity”.

Non-Theism’s elementary properties of reality sum to this: “…….a singular and seamless continuum of particle (or whatever) in motion” (Debilis) in which all cutting points (“this” vs. “that” per the irrationally conditioned mind of man) are necessarily arbitrary rather than immutable (non-eliminative). Clearly it is a fact that “meaning” that is not immutable sums to “morality” that is arbitrary.

Similarly, the Non-Theists have not shown that, should Reason as truth-finder choose to cut that chain somewhere else (preference/goal), she would factually be (given Non-Theism’s constitutional structure of reality) *un*-reasonable. Indeed, Reason as truth-finder in Naturalism hears only the sound of her own voice such that there is no paradigmatic contour of love’s categorical full stop by which Reason may be found – should she contradict said contours – to factually contradict the elementary properties of The- Real and thereby be, factually, un-reasonable.

Hume looks at Reason functioning as our truth-finder and ties it to a lack of moral facts such that there is no such thing as a morally unreasonable goal. On Theism alone is it the case that Hume was, when it comes to such a necessary categorical imperative, in fact wrong about Reason:

The question, though, is whether someone who rejects an imperative like Pursue happiness, or any other purportedly categorical imperative – and continues to reject it no matter how hard we try to talk him out of doing so -- really is, necessarily being irrational.

From the A-T point of view, the answer is: “Yes, he is per se irrational.” But from the Humean point of view, the answer is: “No, he’s not necessarily irrational; he’s just different from most other people, that’s all.” As Hume famously wrote:

“'Tis not contrary to reason to prefer the destruction of the whole world to the scratching of my finger. ‘Tis not contrary to reason for me to chuse my total ruin, to prevent the least uneasiness of an Indian or person wholly unknown to me. ‘Tis as little contrary to reason to prefer even my own acknowledg'd lesser good to my greater, and have a more ardent affection for the former than for the latter.” (Treatise of Human Nature

Now, if, contra the Aristotelian, there were no such thing as irreducible teleology immanent to the natural order, then it is hard to see how Hume’s position could be avoided. For in that case nothing would be inherently for anything, would not be of its nature directed toward any particular end. Thus practical reason would not be inherently directed toward the good, so that there would nothing per se contrary to reason in refusing to choose the good. And of course, as I have already argued, nothing would in that case really be good in the first place. It would only be “as if” there were goodness. And since as a matter of statistical fact most people tend to want to pursue their happiness and tend to agree at least in a very general way about what is good and bad, it would be “as if” their practical reason were directed at the good. Hence it would be “as if” there were such a thing as morality. But there wouldn’t really be morality, and if everyone knew that it was merely “as if” there were morality – that morality was at best a useful fiction….”

The intellectual honesty of Hume on the obligation of Reason as truth-finder to nothing in particular is refreshing — as no moral fact can stand, exist, in and by the mutable and contingent effervescence of “psychic phosphorescence” as per the quote from “Present Concerns” by C.S. Lewis. Nothing in Non-Theism’s paradigmatic shape finds Reason as truth-finder discovering a path, a Goal, which can be, factually, actually, irreducibly, *un*-reasonable. Until the Non-Theist can give his ontologically irreducible logical proof of Hume’s error, well, little needs to be said.

Straw men about reward and punishment within the contours of love also fail to merit a response. Love’s fruition within the corridors of Self/Other finds her true felicity, her final good, there in the ceaseless begetting of love’s unicity amid the singular Us. That such constitutes the irreducibly triune is unavoidable, and finds immutable love as the proper end of Reason as truth-finder should Reason be, factually, ontologically, morally reasonable.

As for ceaseless reciprocity within the immutable love of the Necessary Being — and love’s eternally sacrificed self therein — well — that is all another story taking us into much deeper waters.

The Non-Theist also runs into trouble vis-à-vis evolutionary morality in the following manner:

He seems to want to take “parts” of it, a few feelings over here, and call them “good”, but leave other “parts” of it, a few feelings over there, and call them “bad”. Now, that is begging the question. Also, it forces him to appeal to teleology, which becomes apparent as we move further into any argument which claims that “this part” is “good” and “this part” is “bad”. Teleology becomes, for the Non-Theist, quite painful as we force his hand there in those question begging claims.

Hume once more:

The Non-Theist will have to show his logically lucid paradigm wherein Hume got it wrong. That is to say, he will have to show us moral facts to which Reason as truth-finder chasing this or that goal can (by chasing something un-true) become *un*reasonable. So far, on Non-Theism, there is no morally unreasonable act.

We are discussing that to which Reason is bound as truth-finder. “Goals” and all that. So far, there is no morally unreasonable act nor any morally unreasonable goal which Reason as truth-finder can chase after. Often the Non-Theist seems to equivocate between (on the one hand) reason being obligated to find truth, and chase after truth rather than some other goal – and hence being able to do otherwise, with (on the other hand) being either unfree to do otherwise or else based somehow in a motivation of reward or punishment somehow. But none of that has anything to do with morality nor with the Christian basis of morality.

Also, Non-Theism as a paradigmatic claim finds morality, seemingly, expunging the entire landscape of love from its definition short of both question begging and ontological elimination within the pains of causal closure forced upon it by Physics. All causation collapses into irrational causation, indifferent causation, volition-less causation, intention-less causation. But that fails reality-testing. Why? Because people hurt the ones they love. Often. And by choice. They could have done otherwise. Yet, given his tools, the Non-Theist has to “hedge” in such arenas. In these locations we begin to see the Non-Theist take all such undeniable perception and subject it to the pains of a wide array of reductio ad absurdums.

And yet love’s interior is constituted of Self/Other is it not? And love’s fruition sums in begetting Unicity does not it? And unicity begotten (which is love’s fruition) constitutes the singularity of Us does it not? Perfect reciprocity. The volitional motions of the will and of love in those three termini all seem unaccounted for in evolutionary biology’s explanatory terminus to its metaphysical chain of continuity given Physics, Causation, Reason, and Logic.

In fact, but for love’s unavoidably triune geography in all of that — whence any moral claim whatsoever?

John Moore,

Just in a manner of speaking, you know. Come on.

A manner of speaking which turns out to be nothing when we ask what it literally signifies!

@John Moore

Actually Evolution says the exact opposite. It says survival is bad, extinction is good. By extinction, the worthless can go away. Imagine in the evolutionary tale, if Dinosaurs had never gone extinct. How do you know that man's extinction will not bring about the evolution of a more moral man? One who will be free of wars and take care of the environment?

When you guys argue that evolution "doesn't say anything," you're assuming that morality is like rules. It's true that evolution makes no rules. It doesn't "tell" us what to do. Instead, evolution makes us do things, or it makes us want to do things.

Morality isn't about rules, but it's about wanting. What do you really, ultimately want? That's the good. What hinders you from getting what you ultimately want? That's evil. This rule-less view of morality is entirely compatible with Christianity. Christians think of their ultimate desire as God.

On the other hand, if you understand evolution, you realize that the effect of evolution is to push us to do everything we can to make our kind survive and avoid extinction. That's evolutionary morality.

Anyway, my point was just that Peter Kreeft totally misunderstood evolutionary morality. He suggested evolutionary morality is changeable, but it really isn't.

John agrees with Hume.

There is no such thing as an immoral want/act.

Violence helps survival. As does forced insemination. As does slave labor under shortages of resources. A professor somewhere actually did the math. Euthanasia emerges. Infanticide too given the right pressures.

As does.... Survive -- Period.

If you want "X", X is moral.

All such wants are deeply embedded neuro-biological constructs invented by evolution, retained by evolution, and embedded .... over eons... by evolutionary morality.

What is unclear is why the Non-Theist supposes he is saying anything more than nothing in particular.

The comical part is when Non-Theists begin begging the question trying to pick which wants are okay, and, also, when they try to tell us that, "really", people don't "really" have wants which the Non-Theist disapproves of.


You're right. Evolutionary morality is immutable. That's why all the wants we see today, which you think are bad for us, which are bad for us, have always been in us and always will be in us until we become extinct.

Tooth and Claw.


That was to equate morality with want.

An equal sign you foisted.

Human wants are immutable.

Or did you mean something else?

Note how I said morality is our "ultimate" want. You guys are pointing out all kinds of short-term, short-sighted wants, but that's not what I'm talking about at all. Look to the ultimate, long-term wanting. There is just one thing that all people want ultimately, and that thing never changes.

Of course our short-term wants can change. I thought I wanted to eat three ice cream cones, but now I've got a stomach ache and regret it. Did I really want those three ice cream cones? Ultimately I did not.

People don't just want random things for no reason. People just want things they think will contribute to their long-term goal of survival. But sometimes people are wrong about what contributes. The sugar and cream in ice cream are good sources of energy, but too much is bad for you.

Short-term wants can change, but the our ultimate want does not. I'm sure you guys can understand this. And as I said, this view of morality is completely compatible with Christianity.

>> Of course our short-term wants can change. I thought I wanted to eat three ice cream cones, but now I've got a stomach ache and regret it. Did I really want those three ice cream cones? Ultimately I did not.

John Moore,

I can't believe you can't see the non sequitur wrapped around this paragraph. Truth: in a moment of time you decided you wanted to knock down three ice cream cones. Wanted. You ultimately learned that this noshing was stupid and unhealthy. You were the proverbial sadder but wiser man. You moved from A to non-A (or less A).

Would love to say more on Kreeft's video (particularly options that Kreeft missed in his alternate sources of morality [the man only had five minutes, for Pete's sake!]). Now, time is against me. Ultimately, I may return.


What is every person's, who ever has and ever will live, one, real, immutable want which Nature can actually provide, fulfill, totally actualize?


Is it eternal survival?

If not, then what?


"Short-sighted" is a question begging move on your part.

[1] Evolutionary morality did NOT invent, refine, retain, and deeply embed over eons "certain parts" of our neurobiology.

Or, evolutionary morality DID invent, retain, and refine our neurobiology, but:

[2] Evolutionary morality got it wrong in "some" parts.

[3] Evolutionary morality got it right in "some" parts.

Which seems correct on your view?

As to Kreeft's critique of five possible source's of morality, I felt he could have given more time to rationalism as a source, or utilitarianism as a philosophical solution.

I know that there is something to the insufficiency of logic and reason to points moral. His notion of the one capable of accomplishing the perfect crime must be a rational person over against an irrational one. But perhaps PragerU could give more time to this issue if we thought through the philosophical suggestions for morality. I was thinking of the concepts of the idealize use of reason, of finding reasons for doing the just and noble actions. Do these need higher levels of reason, or do we need to establish a moral aristocracy, as Plato conceived of the philosopher-king (a sort of reverse utilitarianism, where 10% of the populace know the better way and should be empowered to guide the other 90% to accomplish the greater good for the greater number). Or Aristotle's notion of the ethical middle (neither rashness or cowardice, but true courage as a virtuous path).

This, of course, leads to the argument of which of us are better reasoned, more given to the ideals of the just, true, and noble. And perhaps of the divine imprint which may be the basis of these three.


Further, if Perfect Survival / Eternal Survival is not the perpetual PUSH, then your definition ipso facto wants death "too".

Now, that opens a painful question begging door to wanting death.

Also, naturalism cannot actualize eternal life (perfect survival), thus if such constant survival *is* the marching order, then it is illusionary. Morality is based on a lie.

Which is immoral. And the morality is chasing illusions.

Useful fictions.

No objective morality.

Or, instead:

if wanting death is "okay" because, when there's too much hurt in life, wanting death is good.

But then the X in the seat of the throne is not life, but Pain-Avoidence.

But *that* is a Pandora's Box.....

A sort of blip on the screen came up in another thread and served as a reminder on the nature the problem of what a "goal" actually is given naturalistic morality. Just in case it adds context then, a quick excerpt on that nuance:

Perfect reciprocity. In the Triune God we find all of these interfaces void of imperfection within the timeless and ceaseless reciprocity which we find in the “simplicity” of “singularity” that is “Trinity”. Do you refute that such is housed in the Christian paradigm? Do you refute that “E Pluribus Unum” in the *human* sense is reaching for, aiming towards, the teleos of literal perfection? Or is it all at bottom just a temporary illusion vis-à-vis evolution’s non-rational and intention-less causations “causing” the proverbial “us” to chase after a “Goal” which can never (in fact) be “Actualized”?

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