Evolutionary Obfuscations

So, I am watching Life on the Discovery Channel on my HDTV, and it’s so cool. Sometimes the narrator slips into saying things likes “this plant evolved such-and-such behavior” which of course is a mere homage to the dull Darwinian orthodoxy. I mean, suppose you replace “evolved” with “were created 6,000 years ago with” or simply something meaningless like “cleepsed their behavior.” Would that explain anything? I mean, come on, if you say that the plant has evolved, then you must be prepared to supply the relevant details: when it obtained its present nature; from what it evolved; through what intermediate stages; how long each evolutionary thrust took; which genetic mutations occurred when and in what sequence; how each feature of the plant evolved; what happened on each level of the plant from organs (roots, leaves) to biochemical and physical events within cells in all their mechanical specified complexity; and a hundred other things. No such explanation is even attempted. So, who cares? I suggest that a far more fascinating and, yes, fruitful approach is to treat these life forms as divine engineering. Were I a biologist, I’d think of the objects of my studies as exactly that.

A War to End All Wars

This is an attractive concept: we fight to bring universal peace. That was the message of the recent wars, World War I, and even the Roman conquests as portrayed in the movie Gladiator:

In the winter of 180 A.D., Emperor Marcus Aurelius’ twelve-year campaign against the barbarian tribes in Germania was drawing to an end.

Just one final stronghold stands in the way of Roman victory and the promise of peace throughout the empire.

Oh yeah, sure, the Roman killing and destroying and taxing were all in the name of peace. But only division of labor and trade bring peace.

When someone tells you that he wants to go to war in order to ensure peace or prevent other wars, sneer at this person with contempt: he is lying to you.

No Eye Has Seen

Did you know that this famous phrase uttered by Paul (1 Cor 2:9, also Isa 64:4) was also written down by the Greek Empedocles?

Week and narrow are the powers implanted in the limbs of men; many the woes that fall on them and blunt the edge of thought; short is the measure of the life in death through which they toil.

Then are they borne away; like smoke they vanish into air; and what they dream they know is but the little that each hath stumbled upon in wandering about the world. Yet boast they all that they have learned the whole.

Vain fools! For what that is, no eye hath seen, no ear hath heard, nor can it be conceived by the mind of man. (quoted in Will Durant, The Life of Greece, 357)

I wonder if in that passage Empedocles counseled despair or hope, though.

R&D of Statism

The Democrats hate themselves; the Republicans hate everyone else, including the Democrats.

The Rs think the American government is morally perfect; the Ds think the American people are all morally corrupt.

The Ds believe in socialism; the Rs believe in nothing.

The Ds love socialism for the poor; the Rs love socialism for the rich.

Roy: A Psychoanalysis

So, there is this guy, Roy, a middle-aged machinist of above-average intelligence whom I befriended at the coffee shop.

We’ve discussed economics to some extent, and, though I tried to hint on the idea that the reasons for our economic maladies are not free market but rather government interventionism, especially government and the Fed’s control over money supply, messed-up incentives, overregulation, and like deviations from laissez-faire, he persisted in denouncing “greed,” fraud on the part of corporations, lying and corrupt business executives, and so on. He thought exactly the way Mises described: the rich got their money in underhanded ways, but he, Roy, was too moral and upright to do the same; the reason he enjoyed only modest income was that his moral scruples did not permit him to rob other people.

If that were all, then it would scarcely be interesting. But, hoping to see an improvement in Roy’s thinking, I gave him a copy of Mises’ Anticapitalistic Mentality. It’s a short work and probably the easiest of Mises’ contributions to science. Since he read it, he underwent a remarkable change. No longer did he claim to be morally superior to his more successful fellows. He said to me: “If I could rob people, I surely would; I just don’t have the balls.” He was now as allegedly evil as the rich are; but unfortunately too cowardly and stupid to be able to commit similar crimes. Roy has become malicious, stupid, and weak.

It seems that knowledge can corrupt as well as enlighten.

Every Man, to Aid His Clan, Should Plot and Plan As Best He Can

What is the meaning of the following?

Be careful not to do your “acts of righteousness” before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.

But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. (Mt 6:1-4)

It might be argued that Jesus is saying that it is better to be honored by God than by men. But, it can be objected, surely it is even better to be honored by both. Would not Jesus command “men” to honor those who give to the needy? Why the denial of nature: I naturally want to be honored but should hide my good deeds; society naturally does not care to honor me but should try to do so nevertheless?

Perhaps the idea is that being honored by men is completely irrelevant. Say, Smith writes a useful blog post, and some lurker reads it profitably without Smith’s knowledge. Jesus may be assuring Smith that his contribution to society will not be unnoticed and left unrewarded by God. Perhaps, but surely it is incumbent upon the lurker at least to thank Smith in his heart. St. Thomas writes that honor is the greatest thing a man can receive from other human beings. And therefore the person who is honored should be pleased. It’s OK to enjoy it and therefore to desire it. Surely, honor matters, even before men.

Another and more general interpretation is that the right hand represents costs and the left hand, revenues. Jesus is telling the reader not to be perpetually calculating profits. Now far be from Jesus to despise prudence, a cardinal virtue on par with justice. The parable of the talents (Mt 25) is striking for its emphasis on business calculations and profitable investments. Thou shalt not fail in business (or in obtaining your “human capital” gains, i.e., return on your natural gifts)!

Here, first, Jesus is referring to the circle of family and friends. For within a family calculations are rough and imprecise. A husband does not at the end of every month give his wife a bill saying, “Here’s what I have done for you; here’s what you have done for me; and you still owe me $150.” Now of course if a relationship is one way, such that one person just gives and the other just takes, then this is a recipe for disaster.

But Jesus’ point, second, is to bring up familial love: if you love, then give without further thought: the profit to the beloved is your profit. And if you are loved, then take without fearing that you will need to repay the favor: your profit is the profit of the lover, as well.

Elsewhere Jesus reveals the ultimate need to love even strangers. But here out of the three moral states <beginning, proficient, perfect> Jesus is dealing with the proficient state. A beginner would want honor among men and receives that reward in this life; a man perfect in virtue gives out of charity in his heart, feels acutely the joy of those to whom he gives, and is again rewarded by that even in this life. But someone in between, a man whose virtue is considerable but imperfect, may find his motivation in the thought of presenting his deeds to God and being honored for them. There is nothing shameful in this but perhaps such ideas still fall short of true love for one’s fellow men.

Parable of the Ten Virgins

The parable (Mt 25:1-13) ends with “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.” People keep looking for signs of the end of the world, even in the Bible. They fail to grasp that all the alleged references to the “Second Coming,” the “Armageddon,” and so on are in fact to each man’s own personal end of the world, namely, his death. “Keep watch,” therefore, because you can almost never predict when you will die or at least when you will acquire a disease (such as cancer) that will allow to predict when you will die with some certainty. The point is not to postpone things you can do now, because you may end up never doing them, if tomorrow you are swimming in the ocean, and everything seems irie, mon, and then a shark bites off your head.

Musings on Evolution

Here is a talk.origins reply to the claim that evolution is tautological:

According to Popper, any situation where species exist is compatible with Darwinian explanation, because if those species were not adapted, they would not exist.

That is, Popper says, we define adaptation as that which is sufficient for existence in a given environment.

Therefore, since nothing is ruled out, the theory has no explanatory power, for everything is ruled in.

In other words, in the actual world people say that all creatures are what they are because they have “evolved.” But in any possible world, say, in the world in which lions had horns and chipmunks sang songs, the conclusion would be the same, too: these creatures, too, must have evolved. Is there any world in which the claim that things presently existing have arrived there by means of evolution cannot be made?

A certain species of birds produces two offspring. If the year is good and rich with food, then both survive. If the year is bad, then the firstborn sibling will kill the secondborn. Now this is very interesting, to be sure. We can see how this strategy may increase reproductive fitness over an alternative strategy in which infanticide is not condoned, and the birds wait until the first chick is fully weaned. But first, we don’t know if this strategy is globally efficient: perhaps if the birds produced three offspring or had more sophisticated powers of foresight, such that they could determine how good the coming year would be, then their fitness would increase still more.

Second, how do you jump from this observed behavior to the idea that this behavior has “evolved”? Well, “obviously,” these birds were not specially created. More important, however, is that they are not human and are therefore stupid. They could not have reasoned their way toward efficiency but could only have arrived at this somewhat efficient reproductive strategy by millions of years of blind trial-and-error.

This already presupposes that trial-and-error is powerful enough to solve even inventive technological problems. This is evolutionary theory’s worst presumption.

So, it may be true that evolution “rules out the existence of inefficient organisms when more efficient organisms are about.” Also, if 3,000 years ago the world was teeming with life but today most of the world was barren, then this would support the hypothesis that living things were created and in addition by an incompetent creator. But that still leaves a huge number of possible worlds whose emergence is “explained” by evolution with a glib “evolution did it.”

Genes “will tend to be more often transmitted insofar as what they deliver is better ‘engineered’ to the needs of the organisms in the environment in which they live. And you can determine that, within limits, by ‘reverse engineering’ the traits to see how they work.” But this is the very research program of intelligent design! By all means, study these biological systems, such as chemical robots within cells, and how they enable the organism to work and reproduce. All that’s missing is the proper interpretation (is this structure evolved or was it ID’ed?) of the common project.

Again, evolution is not a “science” in a double sense.

First, all science looks for regularities, causal laws. Evolutionary theory is merely history, dealing with unique non-repeatable events.

Second, almost nothing is known about these events, be they mutations or occurrences of design.

I fully realize that what I am asking of evolutionary biologists is impossible for them to produce. But then this is a dead discipline. Quit your jobs and become economists or something.

Premarital Sex Fails to Lead to Love

An acquaintance has expressed the following opinion. One should have plenty of sex with his future wife, because one should marry for love not for sex. One should get “sex out of his mind” before marrying the girl. This is the exact opposite of truth. One should marry for sex! As with all things Catholic, most people travel from the sensual to the intellectual and spiritual. But sex before marriage does not bond the lovers spiritually. And if sexual desire is exhausted before marriage, then sex afterward within marriage will no longer be a stepping stone toward a more sophisticated spiritual friendship. The whole point of waiting to have sex until one is married is to use sex to produce love.

There are two aspects of marriage that support love: faithfulness and possession / surrender.

Sex is a means to love but only when both are committed to learning to love each other, when no one is still contemplating their “options.” Love before marriage is somewhat faithless.

Further, the ultimate signal of love is the woman’s agreement to bear the man’s children. It’s her ultimate surrender and his dominion. But such a thing is impossible before marriage.

Sex before marriage then is a recipe for massive heartbreak.

Now there is indeed a problem of finding out if a couple is “sexually compatible.” Could a solution be found in a “carnival,” understood as “licensed misrule”? During a carnival, perhaps properly executed sex before marriage can supply the relevant info.