Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Marc over at The Bad Catholic wrote an insightful essay--well, he writes several, but this one from several days ago just came back to mind earlier today and I wanted to connect a couple dots.

An agnostic I once read, long enough ago that I have forgotten who it was (I welcome all offers to identify the person and the circumstance for me), admitted that despite the dearth of objective, tangible evidence for God, one thing that materialists haven't really been able to account for is the presence of so much beauty in the world. The idea is that it would be simpler to evolve a psychology in a species that lacked any sense for beauty, and lacked any need for it, than a psychology that has a sense for beauty that helps propagate one's genes, or a psychology that has a sense for beauty that serves no materialistic need.

Marc points out some instances where a Darwinist might suddenly recognize that there are things of value that are not simply material, and then turns them on their heads. To wit:
How can you not believe in God? Have you never seen yourself seeing a sunset?”
What evolutionary end is furthered by being able to admire a sunset? Or music? Or the human form in non-reproductive terms?

Spare me references to magpies hoarding shiny things or the insistence that any appeal of one human to another is sexual. The former may be no more than analogous to a moth with its navigational instincts overwhelmed by a hundred watt light bulb, and the latter forgets that there can be more than one way for people to be just friends.

As CS Lewis would point out, why do we have this appetite for it if there is nothing real to satisfy it?  What sense would it make for the human brain to have acquired such a developed and nuanced sense of beauty, only to satisfy it with self-deluding judgments of sensory input?

Ah, but I've been talking about beauty.  What about ugliness and pain?

Same thing.  Witness a group of animals where one is wounded or brought down, not quite dead, by a predator.  The survivors might flee out of an immediate need to survive, and in some species parents might defend their young for the same gene-perpetuating reason (or sometimes a larger social group than the nuclear family, but whatever), but they don't attempt to rescue each other.  An ungulate gets caught in the mud near a watering hole and a cheetah is able to reach it without sinking, and starts eating from its hindquarters while it bleats in agony; the other antelope, sensing the departure of an immediate threat, return to drink and just keep an eye on the cat.

People, though?  Don't just rescue a person from the lion display at the zoo, look at yourself rescuing the person!  What motivated you?  A desire to prevent or stop the suffering of a fellow human?  Even a desire to play the hero?  Both motivations impossible for other animals.

Whether it's beauty or pain, we're capable of abstracting it and nothing else is.  Just think about why and where this capability originates.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The inclination to moral bankruptcy of the pro-abortion movement

I had a weird experience over the weekend, albeit one that wasn't too surprising, upon reflection.

Was web surfing and found an interesting food blog--barbecue I think was the main theme, and for what it's worth I'm a sucker for meat that's been cooked low and slow.

The blogger had posted on a pig roast, and some anonymous vegetarian left a comment to the effect of "your unborn child should suffer the same fate as that hog."

The blogger was understandably on the far side of annoyed, and after a brief and righteous condemnation of a coward flaming from behind the shield of anonymity, the blogger...proceeded to instruct the commenter that "unborn child" is a contradiction ("child" being defined by some assumed authority not to include the medical category "fetus"), and then spent the bulk of the message defending the legitimacy of meat consumption.

You can eat meat or not if you wish, but I was a little off-put by how this blogger just blew past the rhetorical threat to her son or daughter.

I shouldn't be shocked but it still goads me to see people hiding behind technical terminology in casual communication.  Especially here, when the retort was hardly a rebuttal.

Whether or not "unborn child" would be acceptable parlance in medical or legal literature, it's specific enough that no one fails to understand the reference.  It would be like me interjecting into a conversation on building materials with "You should know steel isn't a metal;" in a sense it'd be true, because steel is an alloy of elemental iron (a metal) and small amounts of carbon (usually forming a stoichiometric compound in the so-called alpha matrix), along with sometimes some other elements; but I would generally only be confusing the non-pedantic people who are concerned with matters to which my hair-splitting is irrelevant; and beyond that I still wouldn't be entirely correct because the steel would remain predominantly metallic in the sense that the iron's conduction and valence electron bands still overlap.

See what I did there?  Completely derailed the discussion by insisting on an inappropriate use of strict terminology.  Maybe intimidated a few people with my posturing.  Certainly confused and annoyed some people who understood perfectly what was going on until I jumped in and pretended to clarify things with impenetrable jargon--in essence, hid an entire forest behind a bunch of trees.

John Wright has written more thoroughly, and superiorly, on the abuse of language and how it is propagated through political correctness, and it's perfectly reflected by what this blogger did and what I just demonstrated:  Control of the discussion was claimed by one party, who overtly or subtly tried to dismiss the concerns of another party and redefined the terms from words that were well understood to malapropos words that are so specific they cloud the real issue, divert attention to other matters more easily argued than the matters that were relevant.

But still, why that detour?  The vegetarian rhetorically wants your kid roasted on a spit as payback for doing the same thing to a pig, and aside from this horrific overreaction to reading about a person eating meat, before going on a long diatribe about how eating meat isn't so bad, you have to stop to point out that--wait for it--it's not really a child the vegetarian wants to see cooked?

That kind of knocks the wind out of any rebuttal.  It would have been more clear how silly it is if the argument had been laid out differently.  "Your child should die in a fire as payback for you roasting that innocent pig whole."  "Hey, don't be so scandalized; almost everyone in the world eats meat.  But it's not really a child, anyway."  Huh?  So, maybe it would be okay, but if not, at least it's not like they'd be making her give up barbecue?  What?

I can only surmise it is part of the perpetual campaign to darken people's vision of what should be perspicuous, that innocent humans born or unborn are entitled to freedom from deliberate harm.  Without the high-falutin' rhetoric to counter rational thoughts to the contrary and this disjointed murmuring to keep people off guard and stop them from having quiet enough moments to think, people would be likely to realize the self-evident for themselves, start making well-informed and thoughtful decisions for themselves.

I wonder how the child would feel, looking back at the blog archives ten or fifteen years from now, and seeing his mother imply that while he might have been spared the embryotome, it was not because he deserved or had any right to be.