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Comments

robk

PM

Condescention does not phase me at all...

Don't go all soft and say Darwinism is nice and friendly, lets cut to the chase...

Darwinism, - mutation and natural selection would have the sickly and old die off ASAP to allow the 'fit' to thrive. The 'unfit' just use resources needed by the rest of the community.

Actually it's worse than this. This just maintains the status quo! Darwinism requires that a new mutation will give a person an advantage over the existing stock, and that they will outcompete the others and survive.

I think this concept is a reasonable precis...

Now, suppose you meet a downs syndrome person who is unable to gain enough food to feed himself.

If you feed him, you are fighting against natural selection.

If you don't feed him, you are in harmony with the 'circle of life' What advantage is he to the species?

I am not talking about 'voluntary euthanasia'.

I am talking about doctors and so on saying "this person (eg. in a coma) is obviously useless, let's give him an injection to actively end his life".

Some (I agree - not all) slippery slope arguments would seem to have validity. Just giving it a label does not create truth.

Sam Finnemore

Darwinism emphasises fitness for survival under given conditions. There is no objective standard (strength, height, and so on) by which Darwinian "fitness" can be assessed in humans. In some circumstances, muscular and physically powerful human beings are more likely to survive a situation. In other circumstances (for instance, concentration camps) those same qualities make it less likely that they will survive.

Your hypothetical about Darwinism leading to eugenics is misleading. You're right that Darwinism does not provide a moral incentive to feed those who cannot feed themselves; in fact, Darwinism doesn't attach any moral value to natural selection. You do not have to serve natural selection as though it were a God. So, in that light, please read on to the next paragraph...

In a situation where modern medicine and social frameworks (of all kinds) did not exist, people incapable of feeding without assistance would be very likely to die. But Darwinism doesn't view the feeding of the disabled as a sin against natural selection. You have not "failed" the course of evolution by doing such a thing. Evolution has no predetermined moral course. In a society where the severely disabled are cared for, a selective pressure has been removed, meaning that these people are likely to live longer. Environmental factors no longer virtually guarantee their early death.

This has happened because our society places a moral value upon caring for the sick and disabled. In the context of natural selection, however, it's just another changed input into the process. Eugenicists might place a moral value on particular kinds of natural selection, but that is something that springs from their own views as to what a desirable human race and society look like - not from some morality inherent in the principle of natural selection.

This has become quite long but I hope it illuminates the topic a little.

robk

Sam

Nice to hear from you.

"Darwinism does not provide a moral incentive to feed "

Of course Darwinism provides no incentive of any kind, unless there is a benefit to the individual or to the species.

"Darwinism doesn't view the feeding of the disabled as a sin against natural selection"

Agreed, but the point is Darwinism provides no reason to feed him, as above...

"Environmental factors no longer virtually guarantee their early death."

Yes, my point is that mankind can control natural selection, and we choose to overrule it by feeding the disabled. This seems counter to 'pure' Darwinism, surely.

"our society places a moral value upon caring for the sick and disabled. "

Why? The fact we hope to receive help ourselves should we become weak may be a factor, but this too is a weak force. The guards in the concentration camps apparently overrode any concern over their own future.

I contend that God has put compassion in our hearts. This, of course can not be countenanced by science.

Psycho Milt

It's not condescension - you basically confuse natural selection with eugenics and call it a "reasonable precis."

peter

Robk

I still struggle to see your point. I don't see that evolution (or "Darwinism" to creationists) has to be moral!

As implied by Sam and Psycho, it is a whole mass of naturally occurring processes - random in some respects, but with "selection" coming from the survival of the fittest.

I say a handicapped child IS fit in one sense, in that as naturally happens, empowered fellow human beings (and especially the parents) value his/her life.

You could equally argue that a baby should not live because a baby is not capable of survival, and is weaker than adults. You don't seem to recognise that nurturing of young and defenceless is also part of the makeup of every species.

It seems just so stupid to disbelieve something because it does not fit your preferred world view!!

peterp

Further to the above Robk .. a lion will eat a zebra!!!!

Evolution is not kind, or moral.

dad4justice

Hi Peter and Peter and cheers from Peter !!!What cowards !!!

robk

pete

"I still struggle to see your point. I don't see that evolution (or "Darwinism" to creationists) has to be moral!"

Inever said it was, is or should be

"I say a handicapped child IS fit in one sense, in that as naturally happens, empowered fellow human beings (and especially the parents) value his/her life."

Here it is actually YOU that is saying Darwinism can have morals. "value his/her life" is morals

"You don't seem to recognise that nurturing of young and defenceless is also part of the makeup of every species."

On the contrary, I say it's because God made us a bit like Him, compassionate. With evolution, the explanation how this could be is a bit of a 'just so' thing. Why does a magpie attack vastly bigger animals to defend it's young? How does it know this is necessary to the survival of the species?

In the beginning God made Lions to eat vegetables. God is both Kind and Moral. :-)

"It seems just so stupid to disbelieve something because it does not fit your preferred world view!!"

Listen to yourself! We agree on this too...


Sam Finnemore

"Yes, my point is that mankind can control natural selection, and we choose to overrule it by feeding the disabled. This seems counter to 'pure' Darwinism, surely."

No, it's not a counter to 'pure' Darwinism, because there's no such thing as 'pure' natural selection. If we choose to care for the sick and disabled - and I am 100% in agreement with you that we should, just like any other reasonable person on this blog - that simply removes one kind of selective pressure, and thus changes the function of natural selection. Natural selection is about fitness for a particular environment, and if we create an environment in which particular kinds of pressures don't operate, natural selection is still there. If we remove a certain pressure (e.g. by feeding those who can't feed themselves), natural selection still operates upon different factors amongst the population. If we don't, it still operates. It's a process, not a code to follow. You can't honour it or pervert it. All it does is *operate*.

You seem to be trying to prove that a 'proper' interpretation of Darwinism means that one should leave the less able to die, and that we should therefore reject Darwinism and stick to our values of caring for the sick. But natural selection is not a model for society. All it does is describe how organisms *in a given situation* will compete so that the one best suited to the situation is the most likely to survive and reproduce. Humans have the ability to change conditions so that more people survive in more situations, and I think we have a moral responsibility to do that. But natural selection will continue to operate no matter what we do. So we should concentrate on what we think is morally right - taking care of people - and leave natural selection to its own devices. It's not something that can go extinct. It'll do just fine on its own.

Natural selection doesn't lead naturally to eugenics. What you're claiming is akin to saying that we should be wary of the theory of gravity because a "proper" interpretation means letting babies fall off cliffs.

robk

Thanks, Sam

"You seem to be trying to prove that a 'proper' interpretation of Darwinism means that one should leave the less able to die"

Yes, that was my impression of evolution.

When I said:
"Darwinism, - mutation and natural selection would have the sickly and old die off ASAP to allow the 'fit' to thrive. The 'unfit' just use resources needed by the rest of the community.

Actually it's worse than this. This just maintains the status quo! Darwinism requires that a new mutation will give a person an advantage over the existing stock, and that they will outcompete the others and survive."

Was this wrong then, and where is it wrong?

Psycho Milt

Sam already showed you how it's wrong with his comparison to gravity. Natural selection isn't a religious precept or set of moral prescriptions, it's just an aspect of the physical environment like gravity. What it describes is that where organisms are competing for resources, any genetic modification that confers an advantage, however slight, will tend to spread through the gene pool, and modifications that confer disadvantage will tend to die out. These statistical likelihoods are inevitable results of the physical environment we live in, not any kind moral conviction we might have about how individuals should behave. Natural selection offers no guidance or recommendations for behaviour. It is also not about "me first" survival of individuals competing against each other, as you seem to imagine. Humans are social animals, like many others.

"Darwinism" as you call it "requires" nothing. It merely describes an aspect of the physical world. Pretty much the entire history of human civilisation involves attempts to reduce the influence of that aspect of the physcial world on humans, to the extent that it's hard to imagine what selection pressures remain on humans in the developed world, beyond the ones involving bacteria and viruses. Reproduction and survival is open even to people like me, who wouldn't live long without Western medical technology backing them. "Darwinism" doesn't have a word to say about whether that's a good thing or not.

robk

Milt,

Thanks, but what you've written assumes things I am NOT saying. Forget the stuff about natural selection not being moral, as I said to peter "I have never sais it was, is, or should be".

'Natural' selection is a useful thing which slows down the rot and decay brought about by man's rebellion at 'the fall'. Organisms which have harmful mutations tend to be eliminated. Fact of life and death, no problem.

"What it describes is that where organisms are competing for resources, any genetic modification that confers an advantage, however slight, will tend to spread through the gene pool, and modifications that confer disadvantage will tend to die out"

Is this not just a rewording (albeit better written)of what I said to Peter?

I still think it is hard to imagine where the downs syndrome mutation might confer an advantage, which is perhaps a situation that might undermine my argument.

In any case, I'm glad also that scientists are generally working to overrule natural selection and be compassionate to the 'unfit'.

If only they ALL were.

Danyl Mclauchlan

'Natural' selection is a useful thing which slows down the rot and decay brought about by man's rebellion at 'the fall'.

I'm guessing its about now that Milt and Sam will realise they're wasting their time . . .

robk

Danyl, anyone will waste a their time responding to posts they haven't read properly.

Danyl Mclauchlan

Danyl, anyone will waste a their time . . .

Chico?

Sam Finnemore

"I still think it is hard to imagine where the downs syndrome mutation might confer an advantage, which is perhaps a situation that might undermine my argument.

In any case, I'm glad also that scientists are generally working to overrule natural selection and be compassionate to the 'unfit'.

If only they ALL were."

I am going to bang my head against the wall one last time on this.

We *cannot* overrule natural selection. We can reduce selective pressures to the point where it's hard to imagine what they are in modern society, but the basic principle of natural selection cannot be erased. Modern medicine cannot 'overrule' natural selection. All it can do is alter the inputs that go into the process.

We have the unprecedented ability to alter the environments in which we live, to a degree that no other animal can do, so that there are far less selective pressures upon us as a species. By altering our environment, far more people have become 'fit' for the particular world we have built for ourselves, but we have not preserved the 'unfit' - if an organism lives, it's to some degree 'fit' to do so. Like you say, it's hard to tell what mutations will confer advantage, so defining a standard of 'fitness' is really pointless.

As a mindless, automatic process, natural selection doesn't have any relevance to morals. No calls to eliminate the weak. No calls to preserve them. No calls to any particular moral action whatsoever. It doesn't call for any guidance at all - it is only a principle, describing what occurs when a variety of organisms are competing for limited resources in a given situation. You have a moral system, and I have one. But natural selection does not have the slightest thing to do with this.

I realise that you view the world through the lens of a divine order and eternal moral laws, but please try to understand this basic point: natural selection is a blind principle that contains absolutely no moral imperative at all.

Let me go back to the gravity comparison. Belief in gravity doesn't require us to let things fall. It doesn't require us to stop them from falling either. All it does is describe what will happen when something falls. Natural selection is the same.

So claiming that it leads inherently towards calls for eugenics just means you're making the same mistake as the eugenicists, by loading moral significance onto something that has nothing to do with morality. In their case, it's in an ill-thought out attempt to justify a particular kind of society in which all people conform to a particular standard of 'fitness'. In your case, it's in an ill-thought out attempt to claim that if we accept the principles of evolution, someday we will all become heartless bastards who let disabled children die in the dust in the name of Almighty Darwin. It doesn't work like that, because human moral values (including Christian values) are separate from natural selection. Not opposed to natural selection. Separate from it. Our morality is our business (and you would say, the business of God). Natural selection, like gravity, is simply a force of nature.

Again, this was long. Apologies. I hope you've got the drift now.

robk

Sam

Thanks for that, hope the headache goes away :-)

"We *cannot* overrule natural selection"

I accept my wording was sloppy. However the practical outworking is, as you say: "We have the unprecedented ability to alter the environments ... so that there are far less selective pressures upon us as a species"

Which, to the sloppy layman, seems to be very similar...

"please try to understand this basic point: natural selection is a blind principle that contains absolutely no moral imperative at all"

I don't know how I can say it any better than I have three times now "I have never said it was, is, or should be".. moral.

"someday we will all become heartless bastards who let disabled children die in the dust in the name of Almighty Darwin"

I contend that there are many such bastards. No, NOT ALL Darwinists will become thus. As I said, most have compassion and allow 'unfit' people to live as well as they can.

"we have not preserved the 'unfit' - if an organism lives, it's to some degree 'fit' to do so"

But to all practical purposes, there are many who can only be honestly described as 'unfit' in normal terms. This is why they do 'mercy killings' in some unnamed countries, and possibly even N.Z.

"Natural selection, like gravity, is simply a force of nature."

Still agreed.

Sam I recognise from what you have written that what I said is simplistic. I don't agree that we are safe from eugenics, I feel we must be vigilant against it.

peter

Sam

The analogy with gravity is perfect. Yes, natural selection and evolution are just like gravity.

Robk says:

'Here it is actually YOU that is saying Darwinism can have morals. "value his/her life" is morals'

To value a life is NOT necessarily morals. As we have tried to explain to you Robk, animals of any species try to protect their own kind and especially their offspring. Its a genetic given, people of all religions are communal and protect their own.

And Robk, when I said:

"You don't seem to recognise that nurturing of young and defenceless is also part of the makeup of every species."

You answered:

On the contrary, I say it's because God made US a bit like Him ...
compassionate."

Were you speaking for the entire animal kingdom, for humans or just yourself?

It seems to me you are VERY close to saying that animals understand morality!

robk

peter

Yes, I thought Sam's example of gravity helped me see where he was coming from.

You said:
"animals of any species try to protect their own kind and especially their offspring"

Not always...

"You don't seem to recognise that nurturing of young and defenceless is also part of the makeup of every species."

Not every species, but you are right, many do.

Simply put: many animals,including humans, seem to have an instinct to protect their young, agreed. This isn't necessarily morals as I understand them, because morals are taught and chosen.

When humans choose to protect the weak it's a better example.

There are many examples in the animal kingdom of parent animals pushing defective young 'out of the nest'. I'm not sure whether this is part of natural selection ('survival of the fittest') or 'artificial selection' on the part of the (moral-less) animals...

Sam Finnemore

"There are many examples in the animal kingdom of parent animals pushing defective young 'out of the nest'. I'm not sure whether this is part of natural selection ('survival of the fittest') or 'artificial selection' on the part of the (moral-less) animals..."

I think this is probably explainable by natural selection. One possible explanation would be that in some situations, continuing to feed offspring that are unlikely to survive for long reduces the food available to all offspring and thus reduces all of their chances of survival. For instance, birds that push defective chicks out of the nest are more likely to have better-fed and healthier offspring in general, thus increasing the chance that their offspring will survive and pass on the trait of eliminating defective offspring in their own nests. This also explains the situation amongst some birds which only feed the largest (generally, the most likely to survive) of all their chicks - a situation which is exploited by cuckoos, which leave their chicks to be raised by smaller species of birds (who will actually ignore their own offspring in favour of raising the much larger cuckoo chick).

I don't have a ready explanation as to precisely how the trait evolved, but I would be interested in hearing from anyone who might know. Or anyone who thinks this is all rot and would like to prove me wrong... :)

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