Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Antics of Ben Carson, Round 2

By Hos
Ben Carson is a disgrace to my profession. I'd really not be mentioning him again, were it not for the "support" that he is getting concerning him commencement speech at Emory. The "support" is coming from usual suspects. As a warm up, let's get to know them first.
Meet Richard Weikart. Weikart is a creationist historian at the State University of California, Stanislaus, and a fellow at the anti-science Discovery Institute. He specializes in the fictitious link between Darwin and Hitler, and a contributor to the conservative American Spectator. He has published this piece in the World magazine, a religious right publications whose "about us" page says this: "Journalistic humility for us means trying to give God's perspective." I am sure Edward Murrow himself would aspire to such heights.
Weikart criticizes Emory faculty for their objection to Carson's speech. He centers this criticism on Emory staff's displeasure with Carson's equating acceptance of evolution with lack of ethics and morality. (Curiously, he seems to be completely oblivious to the fact that Carson's denialism goes to the heart of what Emory staff are doing, and hence would make him less than popular.) He starts by telling us that according to evolutionary biology "morality has evolved and has no objective existence". (It seems that here he is conflating that fact the human understanding of morality have evolved over centuries, with evolutionary change in human behavior over geological time.) After a brief mention of study of moral as well as immoral behavior by sociobiology and evolutionary psychology, he tell us that Charles Darwin himself mentioned the evolutionary origin of biology in the Descent of Man, and concluded that morality has evolved, therefore it is not objective and universal. Once again, he concludes (I am assuming) that Carson's tying of acceptance of evolution to lack of morality is justifiable on the basis of its being impacted by evolution. On this basis, Weikart tells us, the staff and students at Emory should not object to Carson's statement, because it meshes with statements of Darwin and today's sociobiologists.
Weikart's faulty and baseless arguments are absolutely jaw dropping. If morality has been subject to evolution, what does that have to do with morality's objective existence? The eye is a structure that has evolved. Does that mean that the eye does not exist? Human trade and commerce have changed over time. So money does not exist?
The only context in which Weikart's mediocre journalism makes any sense is by comparing morality as a subject of evolution to religious morality, and going with the common religionist fallacy that religious morality is the only objective morality, since it is based on inspiration from god(s) and so it cannot change. Which of course, opens the door the numerous problems of its own: that religion-based morality has changed at least as much as secular morality over time, that there are always "people of faith" on both sides of any controversial issue, that god's behavior in the bible/koran is anything but moral, Euthyphro's dilemma, etc, etc. Also, I would like to ask Carson and Weikart a question: if acceptance of evolution means lack of morality, does that mean that Francis Collins and Kenneth Miller are immoral people? I am sure the good Christian scientists will be thrilled to hear that.
Lastly, I think it is telling that while Weikart is supposedly a legitimate historian, this article had to come out in a religious fundamentalist magazine, as opposed to an actual history journal. Would a reputable journal publish this drivel? (You never know.)

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