Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Memtok's Thumb: On The Use and Abuse of Darwinism

[Executive Summary: Some months back a reader asked me to reexamine my jointly-held, seemingly incompatible beliefs in both evolution and in the Biblical Creation. Here it is, good sir. Warning: 'tis long.]

I. A Night at the Opera: The Unbearable Being of Light

God said, Let there be light, and there was
God said, Let there be night, and there was
God said, Let there be day, and there was
Day to follow the night
And it was good, brother
And it was good, brother
And it was good, brother
And it was goddam good!
- Leonard Bernstein/Stephen Schwartz, The Mass

A few weeks ago, when I was visiting Washington, I had the great pleasure of an evening out with an old friend, a school classmate whom I had not seen in thirty years. In celebration of this particular and most pleasant event, her husband very kindly granted us his season tickets to a concert at The Kennedy Center.

The concert that evening was Haydn's Die Schöpfung: "The Creation". This 1797 oratorio was regarded by Haydn himself and by many of his admirers as his greatest work. As Wikipedia describes it, Die Schöpfung "depicts and celebrates the creation of the world as described in the biblical Book of Genesis". This particular evening, the University of Maryland Choir and three well known operatic stars sang the world into existence in three movements, from the creation of Light to, three hours later, the short, happy, and yet-unfallen hours of Adam and Eve, ending with the final line of the work an angelic wish: "I pray that they not wish for more!"

I couldn't help but think of Little Green Football's Charles Johnson, for this whole scenario was a contradiction, indeed a negation, of all his belief.

The evening was the paradigm of Intelligent Design. The music had not merely 'created itself', it was created in the mind of a single genius--an infinite monkey, as it were--now long dead. Nor were the sounds randomly generated, they were performed by hundreds of people who had spent their lives preparing themselves for this presentation. Nor was the building they sand in evolved; it was a clear example of intelligent design. Nor was the city the building was located in, nor the nation where the city was built.

We are indeed surrounded by signs of Intelligent Design: everything we see in our day to day world is a product of the intelligent design of men. (Or semi-intelligent, if we're reading LGF.) So, of course there is intelligent design in the universe: where Man makes it. But where does Man get this capacity?

I cannot think that the minds that made the nation, city, building and music were random: how could the Universe in which they all existed also be random?

But those who would hold design of the Universe to be 'intelligent' are outside of science.

Well. So be it. If the universe that made the concert possible was not random, in what way can it, does it, reflect the mind of a Creator? And in what way does our artistic expression of how that creation occurred not contradict the idea of long-evolved life in a 13.2 billion year old universe? The works of the Bible are of course, art: the highest art, the art of the Divine.

I realize that asking this question may reveal what the godlike, all knowing Squire of Gothos Charles Johnson (whom some bloggers refer to as "Darwinist Rage Boy") calls "the glazed mind of a creationist". But it must be asked: how, exactly, does Creation as expressed in Genesis really differ from Darwin? Or does it?

II. Duck Soup: Out of the The Divinely Premordial Ooze

God said, Let there be storms
Storms to bring life in all of its forms
Forms such as herds and gaggles and swarms
Swarms that have names and numbers and norms
And it was good, sister
And it was good, sister
And it was good, sister
And it was goddam good!
-Leonard Bernstein/Stephen Schwartz, The Mass

We seem to be in an era of a cultural undercurrent of loathing of religious believers, which is generally masked, and by a hostility toward aspects of their belief, which is most decidedly open. Most commonly, we see hatred manifested toward those parts of the belief that is most vulnerable to mockery and intellectual 'debunking.' Most commonly, traditional Judeo-Christianity's origin myth, being most "obviously" different from 'what science teaches us,' is subjected to ridicule, and those who put faith in that teaching are held up as fools at best, morons at worst.

One sees this manifest in many places, but of late we have heard it loudly proclaimed in places hitherto having little connection with religious faith as such, such as, inter alia, the pages of LGF. Charles Johnson in particular has lately spent his energy uselessly by ridiculing those holding beliefs thought conventional for two thousand years as "Creationists"--a charge both childish and useless.

I for one am unashamed to claim the title of "creationist": for I DO believe that God did indeed create the universe.

I am also unashamed to claim the title of "evolutionist": for I also believe that God took about 13.2 billion years to create that universe, and that biological evolution as detailed by modern biology is exactly the way He did so. As Devo put it thirty years ago: "God made man, and he used the monkey to do it." (No young-earth creationist am I.)

But as comfortable as I am with Darwinistic evolution as description of things past, I utterly reject it as a prescription for how human beings should live now and in the future.

Before we discuss that question, however, let's ask: truly, how does Darwinistic evolution REALLY differ from what is found in Genesis--if it differs at all?

Are Darwinism and the Creation really so different?

What follows is what is best described as a line of inquiry, by a self-admitted amateur (your narrator) into First Things: to wit, who are we? What are we doing here? Where are we going? (And: Where are they taking me in this handbasket?)

Let us start. From the beginning....

...starting with words that makes atheists recoil as a vampire does from a crucifix.

You know the words, dear Reader. (Yes, even you, Charles Johnson.) Let us reread them. Don’t worry, it won’t make you grow a third eye (or make a UPC appear) in the middle of your forehead.

In The Beginning .... God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.
And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.

And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so. And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good. And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so. And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good. And the evening and the morning were the third day.

And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years. And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so. And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also. And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth, And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good. And the evening and the morning were the fourth day.

And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven. And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth. And the evening and the morning were the fifth day.

And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so. And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good. And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat. And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so. And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. To paraphrase Steve Martin, in college they said this was all bullspit.

According to everything we have heard from the scientists, it’s nothing like what REALLY REALLY happened. Like Star Trek nerds whose heads explode at the slightest plot inconsistency, they nit and pick. Light first day! Sun fourth day! Plants before seas! Yadda yadda yadda. But ... let’s imagine what we would have had they written it. It would probably read something like this (at the risk of inviting incoming lightning bolts):

In The Beginning .... the universe was formless and empty; there was only a tiny, very hot but formless blob about the size of a walnut, and the rest was darkness.

Then Something happened (we don’t know what). And there was light: a horrendous space kablooie.

The universe was bright where the light was, and where the light wasn't, it was dark.

Then as the matter grew it divided in the deep into separate parts, so that there were matter in some areas and no matter in others, and maybe dark matter somewhere else.

Everywhere, whereever you were, Light was followed by darkness, and then light again, cyclically.

There eventually the gasses gathered and a appeared a star out of the void, and it lit up. Then the leftovers formed into clumps, and then into planets. This happened over and over again: lotsa stars. And One of the clumps became Earth. Another clump became the moon. The moon was lit by the sun and reflected light back onto the earth at night.

Then the surface of the earth became uneven, and waters gathered in the deeper parts; the wet parts we call Seas and Oceans and Lakes; the dry parts became what we call the Continents and Islands.

Then life developed in the water, and became many and various animals and creatures. These plants and creatures tended to change over time; the better formed ones survived to reproduce and ate the less successful.

Then one form of life moved from the sea to the shoreline, to eventually cover the lands, first the plants, then the bugs, then the fish. And this life differentiated into types.

The animals having arisen from the seas, then turned into the ancestors to the birds. And some developed feathers then wings, and so they flew.

Then mammals and herds of mammals appeared.

Then one particularly form of mammal appeared and developed a brain far better developed than anything that had come before.

And it figured out how to hunt every kind of animal and eat every kind of plant; it was an omnivore, and it learned to speak. And this form of mammal, male and female as created, turned out to be quite smart–smarter, in fact, than anything that had ever appeared before.

Now note this: Add on a few "And-God-saw-that-it-was-good's", then superimpose a six-day calendar on this, and what you have there is pretty close to Genesis. No?

Well, not exactly. But close enough. Compared to the creation myths of non-Judean-descended faiths, it’s remarkably close.

And really. Let’s not forget the absurdity of the competition’s origin myths. Let’s pick one of these other myths at random for comparison: say, the first Creation Myth listed in Wikipedia, for lack of anything more definite. It is the Bakuba tribal myth from the Democratic Republic of Congo, and it goes like this:

In the Bakuba account of demiurge, the Earth was originally nothing but water and darkness, ruled by the giant Mbombo. This giant, after feeling an intense pain in his stomach one day, vomited up the sun, moon, and stars. The heat and light from the sun evaporated the water covering Earth, creating clouds, and after time, the dry hills emerged from the water. Mbombo vomited once more. Many things were contained in this second vomiting—people (the first man and the first woman), animals (the leopard, the eagle, and the monkey Fumu), trees, the falling star, the anvil, the firmament, the razor, medicine, and lighting.
Now this -- this -- clearly is nonsense. Certainly this myth would not pass the LGF ha ha test either. Giant with the Earth in his stomach, barfing us up. Yeah, I want to base MY civilization on that myth: Man As Puke. No thank you. I don’t think so.

I leave it to the reader to go through the rest of that Wikipedia article and read the rest of the creation accounts, but verily, verily I say unto you: the Genesis account, although not perfect, is pretty darn close, at least by comparison to all the other possibilities.

But. But. But. Not close enough for some, it appears.

Our problem is that those who believe entirely in a universe created as the cosmologists insist, with Darwin tacked on for good measure, they look upon the words given from the Genesis account, and, even given the similarities, still they recoil: like that big eared alien in the Star Trek movie. “Genesis allowed is not! Is planet forbidden!”

But why should it be?

To cosmological fundamentalists, it is forbidden because Genesis postulates that the Universe was ‘created’ somehow. That implies.... a Creator.

That’s right. Gah-gah-gah- ... It’s okay, you can say it.

Gawd.

And THAT is an absolutely scary thought.

III. Monkey Business and Horse Feathers: Why Genesis Scares The Scientist

God said, Let there be gnats
Let there be sprats to gobble the gnats
So that the sprats may nourish the rats
Making them fat, fine food for the cats
And they grew fat, brother
And they grew fat, brother
All but the gnats, brother
They all grew fearful fat!
-Leonard Bernstein/Stephen Schwartz, The Mass

Scientists hate scary things. (Particularly things that might invalidate their work.)

Secondly, the possibility of a Creator leads to even scarier possibilities.

If there is a Creator, is it meaningless and eternally detached from the human race, like Allah (or The Flying Spaghetti Monster for that matter), or does It have a Personality?

If It has a Personality, does it care at all about its Creation?

If It cares about its Creation, does it care about the human race in particular?

If it cares about the human race, does it care about ME?

If there is a Creator, and It has a Personality, and it cares about Its Creation, and it cares about the Human Race, is it not entirely possible that that Creator might not like the fact that I’m stealing from the retirement fund/cheating on my taxes/schtupping the baby sitter when the wife is out of town (or whatever)?

Deep down, the anti-creationist “scientist” - in the end, just a profession, no different in principle from wipers of telephones, sellers of insurance, or fillers-out of immigration forms – simply hates the thought of God for the same reason everyone else, deep down, hates the thought of God.

It’s because we’re all as scared as hell of what God will do to us because of all the nasty things we have all done. They say it’s for ‘scientific reasons’ but that’s just a cover. Everybody has something to hide, and we’re all standing around naked outside of Eden looking for the nearest Figleaf Jeans store.

C.S. Lewis put it very well in Surprised by Joy: “The phrase ‘Man’s search for God’ made about as much sense to me as the mouse’s search for the cat.”

But. If there is a God, is there one way of knowing Him? And if this Book is that way of knowing Him best, why does this particular book of His creation start off with abject nonsense?

Well, it does. And it doesn’t.

A recent article in the Catholic Culture website, www.catholicculture.org, discussed the question of how Catholics should read scripture. The article stated:

[How do we explain] the limits of what Scripture can be expected to do and how we can go wrong if we approach it the wrong way[?] How can these limitations be explained to the faithful in a way that does not charge Scripture with error?

[The Vatican Council II document] Dei Verbum has given us an important tool for doing this. The Council spoke of those things "asserted by the inspired authors" as asserted by the Holy Spirit and thus protected from error. So we need to determine what the inspired author is trying to assert, for that is what is protected from error.

What a person asserts is not the same as what he says. Suppose someone says, "It's raining cats and dogs out there today." What he has said is perfectly obvious, but he is not asserting that cats and dogs are falling from the sky. Instead, he is asserting that it is raining hard.

His assertion may well be true. It may indeed be raining hard, and
if so then he should not be charged with error.

Native English-speakers are familiar with the phrase "raining cats and dogs" and recognize what is meant. But non-native English-speakers could be perplexed by the statement. It's the same with Scripture.
And so: how then do we reconcile the scientific reality of an evolved humanity, arising from an evolved animal kingdom, arising from a 4 billion year old earth, with what the Bible is asserting? Is what we see really unscientific--or merely divinely idiomatic?

What Genesis asserts is that in the Beginning, God Created The Heaven and the Earth. The details are secondary.

Specifically, HOW God did it has been explained through science. Not all Christians are young-earthers mired in Biblical literalism: the Roman Catholic Church (for which I am a cheerfully sinful partisan) accepts that obvious truth and has from the time of the discoveries of the 1920s.

So far as it goes as history, Darwinism, or evolution (in this article consider the terms interchangable), is correct. The Universe is, indeed, 13.2 or so billion years old. This planet has indeed existed for five billion years. The human race has only existed in its present form for under 100,000 years. Worms, shellfish, trilobites, armored fish, dinosaurs, horned wonders.... all lived, died, and became extinct, along with all matter of other creatures. Evolution as an explanation of where the human race came from, i.e., derived from, is as true as anything you can ask.

I have no problem whatsoever accepting the fact that my distant ancestors climbed through trees, and before them, climbed out of the waters on their fins.

A God who took 13.2 billion years to cook us out of His primordial soup is actually fairly impressive, if you think about it.

But at some point, something extraordinary happened in the course of that evolution, which makes Homo, sapient: that is, qualitatively different from the monkey, the ape, the hominid. What conferred this crucial delta in the human equation?

Even Darwinists fall back on myth and symbol for this event.

In our Genesis, the writer refers to “God blowing in the nostrils of the Man He formed out of the dust in the ground.”

In 2001: A Space Odyssey, that ‘something’ was a group of protohumans encountering the Monolith (which just begs the question: what made the Monolith builders smart?).

Conventional paleoanthropology (as displayed in this fairly good TV program here) holds that it was ‘evolution with the gas turned on high’, extreme conditions in the deserts of southern Africa, combined with a ruthlessly culled inbreeding, that kill all but the very, very smartest.

And then: the ice age ends, the glaciers melt, Man 'leaves the garden of Eden' and conquers the planet (and then exterminates 'Abel'–the Neanderthals).

Science may explain this change without God. And yet, there is an unutterable danger to the reliance on the scientific creation story that fails to include that important line: in the beginning God created the heaven and the Earth.

And what is that danger?

It is that, in the absence of a personal God on which to base morality, that the theory of Evolution, and the Long-Universe Cosmological View that it requires, may be used, not as an explanation of past phenomena, but rather as a justification for or a prescription for future human behavior. That Evolution–the Law of the Jungle–shall become the basis of judging all morality and behavior.

And THAT is unacceptable.

While evolution is perfectly acceptable as biology, as a philosophy it is not. By that method, ‘Do what thou wilt becomes the whole of the Law’.

Without the concept of the individual having an eternal God to answer to, morality (either wearing the Darwinian fig leaf or expressed in naked Nietzschean will-to-power) becomes nothing more than an artificial and unneeded limit on the means to impose one’s will. Thrasymachus, in the end, trumps Socrates: justice, indeed, becomes the advantage of the stronger. Which is to say: that which we have called evil becomes good; good becomes evil. Nietzsche triumphs from the grave and his transvaluation of all values is achieved.

For what Evolution is, is a recognition that, hitherto, prior to the arising of the human animal as the dominant species, for billions of years life has been shaped by the Law of the Jungle: Eat or be eaten. The strong survive, the weak don’t. Rape is not a crime; it becomes business as usual. The big guy gets the pretty girl; the 98 pound weakling gets sand in the face. (And the big guy gets the pretty girl whether the pretty girl wants the big guy or not.)

If we choose to worship Nature or Power or Evolution as, essentially, a god, let us understand that It is red of tooth and claw; it is a murderer, a cannibal, a sexual panderer and an accomplice to rape. It’s all about the benjamins, baby: the benjamins in this case being the fresh-killed meal and the orgasm, the only two currencies accepted at the Bank of the State of Nature.

Our ancestors had to live like that, in a world where life was nasty, brutish and short. But we don’t. We abandoned the life of animals and to savage each other when we adopted a new way of behavior: we started to live in large groups, and eventually, to build cities. Which is to say: when we chose to give up life in the State of Nature and lived together as neighbors instead of enemies. We abandoned the Law of the Jungle and adopted the Law of the Golden Rule in order to have the privilege of having our buildings (and children) survive to the next generation in close proximity to other humans.

And the price of a return to the law of the Jungle may well be the complete loss of civilization as we have come to know it. The past century’s catalogue of crimes illustrates this on every blood soaked page: for, when law and God disappear, how easy it is for civilized men to act like barbarians. (And it's a one-way trip, for it is, as Spock once observed, "far easier for ... civilized men to act like barbarians than it [is] ... for barbarians to act like civilized men.") Civilized norms once lost are terribly hard to relearn.

In the long run, embracing a morality of evolution may well lead to the complete dissolution of who and what we are: not merely racial extinction, but racial transformation into something no longer human. Ol’ Friedrich Wilhelm might have seen the Uebermann as Superhuman, but I see it as subhuman, a return to what the Walking with Cavemen writers called “the Rules of Life” but what any reasonable judge must instead call the rules of blood.

Today, again, we are tempted to adopt a Eugenic philosophy as the basis of doing business in the West: a Eugenics which is, in fact the white hood over the klansman.

We have seen it manifest itself very recently in many ways. This writer has noted it recently in the manifest public hatred toward Sarah Palin, for daring to publicly bear a Down’s Syndrome child (a “mongoloid”), and even hatred and death-wish directed toward the child itself.

We have also seen it in the recent remarks of a Supreme Court justice who asserted that abortion was legalized so that we would not “have too many of the sort of people we don’t want too many of.”

And we have seen it manifest in certain bigotries expressed toward ‘anti abortion nutjobs’ who have the temerity to assert the handicapped or the minority or the ‘illegitimate’ have a right to live, as well as calls the extermination of certain minorities or others as an inferior species and the celebration of genocides committed against them. (For example, take the genocidal-cheerleading writings of the execrable "Rodan" at "Freerepublic 2: The Blogmocracy.") (Please.)

What happens when this repugnant, Hitlerian fantasy of ‘bettering the breed’ through genetic manipulation manifests itself in reality?

We saw the first steps in the “destruction of the useless eaters” under the Nazi regime in 1941 and in Auschwitz in 1942-44. We also saw a hint of the converse in the establishment of the SS breeding program, “Lebensborn”, which provided funds for the mistresses of SS officers to raise babies born outside of marriage, intended to “strengthen the race”.

If we choose again to take that trip, I warn that Hell lies at the end of the railroad. But we only took a comparative few steeps down the road, at just the start of that journey, before we temporarily interrupted it by defeating the Nazis.

What will come if we choose to resume that journey? Where will it lead us? I for one am not sure I want to know. But let’s ask anyway.

IV. A Day at the Races: Memtok, Morlocks, and Moties

And God saw it was good
God made it be good
Created it good
Created the gnats to nourish the sprats to nurture the rats
And all for us big fat cats
Us cats YEAH!

-Leonard Bernstein/Stephen Schwartz, The Mass

The evolutionist and scientist Stephen Jay Gould is famous for a series of essays, first published in The Scientific American, concerning various aspects of how evolution manifests itself through tiny changes in the anatomy of various species, allowing this tiny, astonishing mechanism or that to assist the creature hosting the change to have a better advantage. His most famous essay (and the title of his most famous book) is entitled The Panda’s Thumb, and is a reflection of one such change: he discusses how the panda’s paw has undergone a minor evolution in a wrist bone which causes it to extrude as a sort of sixth finger, or “thumb,” thus assisting it in stripping and consuming its favorite food, bamboo shoots.

He also cites a rather obscure Darwinian study of orchid reproductive organs, to the effect that certain random changes in the internal structure of the orchid’s flower forces a visiting bee to carry pollen to point ‘b’, where, presumably, another orchid’s stamen (or is it pestle? one forgets) is eagerly awaiting being fertilized.

OK as far as it goes. But Gould has to add the following little snide aside:

Our text books like to illustrate evolution with examples of optimal design--nearly perfect mimicry of a dead leaf by a butterfly or of a poisonous species by a palatable relative: But ideal design is a lousy argument for evolution, for it mimics the postulated action of an omnipotent creator. Odd arrangements and funny solutions are the proof of evolution--paths that a sensible God would never tread but that a natural process, constrained by history, follows perforce.

The Panda’s Thumb, page 24.

Well. Who is Gould to say that “a sensible God” would never tread such a path? It’s entirely possible that the God who created the Human Brain simply allowed the orchid to develop a ‘good enough’ strategy for the present. By all indications, evolution ("Perfection") is an ongoing process: perhaps the ‘perfect’ orchid is a thousand, or a million, generations (of orchid) from now. (“God isn’t finished with me yet,” indeed.)

But while a Darwin-friendly, science-compatable God may indeed be glorious in His creation of things possessing, for no reason, great beauty--say, the orchid, the lily, the butterfly, or for that matter, the first lady of France--He also has, for His purposes, allowed the forces of evolution to twist some of His creatures into rather hideous forms as well.

Consider the monstrosities that God (or Mother Nature, take your pick) has come up with regarding the lower animals and how they live. No Disney nature film candidates here....:

* the praying mantis or the Australian black widow spider, "where the bride concludes her nuptials by eating the groom," as Screwtape says;

* the angler fish, that wonderful symbol of the feminist movement, where a miniature parasite sperm-generator called a 'male' attaches itself to a female and literally does nothing for the rest of his life but suck her blood and produce sperm;

* the hagfish, which exudes a particularly odious form of body slime to clog the gills of predators;

* gobies, who, as fishtank-owners well know, regularly engage of autopaedophagy (they eat their own young); and, my personal favorite....

* the grey nurse shark of Australia: a mother produces a hundred or so embryos within a 'womb' structure, but lacking a placenta, the little baby sharks then sustain themselves by engaging in "adelphophagy": they eat each other--intrauterine cannibalism--until only one emerges alive at the end of the process. Of all those conceived, only the biggest, meanest, nastiest baby shark emerges from the womb. (This last reminds me a great deal of my experience at law school.)

Mother Nature, as the saying goes, is indeed a bitch. Do we really want to abandon ourselves to her merciless norms?

I’d like to discuss what the universe would indeed be like, in the end, if, there being no God, we were to abandon a civilized view of what should constitute ‘conventional morality’ and look at it if we turned the force of evolution against ourselves. Let us ask: is that a moral universe that Steven Jay Gould would have wanted to live in?

Where would we go as a race if we allowed ourselves to be ruled by Darwinistic forces? How might it change us? Or how would we change ourselves if we let it run free?

About forty-five years ago, the science fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein published what may well be his worst novel: Farnham’s Freehold. It’s a poorly written saga, the story of a man, and five members of his family, hiding in a bomb shelter of the sort build in the early sixties by proto-survivalists. The nuke that bursts over their shelter transports the occupants forward in time, some two thousand years: to, perhaps, an alternate universe.

But what appears at first to be an end-of-the-world story turns into a nasty portrayal of the worst of black-white race relations.

The last third of the story, which out of charity I choose to call a “wild satire” is, in fact, a repugnant, klan-friendly fantasy. If this were his only book nobody would want to read anything else he had written. A charge of naked racism against Heinlein would be rebutted only through knowledge of his well known and long-established hatred of racism (and slavery) expressed in his other works.

In this world 2000 years in the future, slavery is reestablished and is commonplace, the slave owners are all black (not necessarily African; some may be of Hindu stock) and the slaves all white. In this world, white people are the property of blacks; black people eat, quite literally, white people, particularly young girls; white men are either mutilated “studs” or “tempered” castrati; where white women are “sluts”: either sterilized or breeders. And black men, having arrived in America after the nuclear holocaust to “rescue” the survivors, have chosen to stay as slave lords. This book is most unworthy of RAH and I consider it the most repugnant of his works.

And yet (as Nietzsche taught us) the errors of great men are often more productive than the successes of lesser men. Let’s look at one part of the story that indeed rings true.

There is, in essence, only one character worth noting in the book, and he describes clearly the universe we will live in, ultimately, if Christianity and its forms are replaced by a sort of Darwinian morality of power over weakness.

His name is given in the story as Memtok; he is the chief domestic of the Lord Protector of the Noonday Region. He is the head slave of his household, the feared supervisor of hundreds of house servants.

The truth was, Memtok loved his paperwork and did not want to share it. His hands flew over the papers, checking figures, signing his symbol, okaying payments. He held his pen in an odd fashion, nested between the first three fingers of his right hand – this because he had not thumbs.

He did not miss them, could barely remember what it had been like to have them. Nor did he need them. He could handle a spoon, a pen, and a whip without them, and he had no need ever to handle anything else.

Far from missing his thumbs, he was proud of their absence; they proved that he had served his lord in both major capacities, at stud when he was younger and now these many years as a tempered domestic. Every male servant over fourteen ... showed one alteration or the other; very few could exhibit both, only a few hundred on the entire Earth. Those few spoke as equals only to each other; they were an elite.

Farnham’s Freehold, pp. 131-132. Later in the book, it becomes clear that the white people in this land were all under 5' or so, the deliberate result of a breeding plan to reduce their size and to keep them small and subservient. A small reserve of “wild” whites are allowed to live like cave men in the mountains, and are hunted and captured for breeding purposes when the bred-out slaves become too soft.

Huh? Cannibalism? Cutting off of thumbs? Castration to control male aggression? Ridiculous, right? What sort of a society would practice such barbarities?

Not so fast.

We have many countries in this world who practice amputation of hands to punish theft. Sometimes these same countries castrate to punish rape–-a punishment advocated in this country by certain feminists in recent decades (and by racist whites in less recent days).

Furthermore, while castration is not widely practiced now against men, the gynocological equivalent–FGM (look it up)–is widely practiced world wide to control female sexual expression--and, per Wikipedia, this has been practiced since Pharaonic days in Egypt.

And as for cannibalism: all I need to say is: "embryonic stem-cell research." Capiche?

So don’t laugh. Not only can it happen, it’s already happening even as we speak. All that we lack is the will (and the evil!) to implement this as policy.

Now, Heinlein's vision is not particularly original; it is merely an earlier (fifteen hundred years vs. 800,00 years) version of what the socialist and "progressive" and (yes) racist H.G. Wells foresaw in his early novel The Time Machine. Like Heinlein, Wells foresees that humanity will eventually evolve into two separate groups, but over the longer time, they are in fact separate species: the peaceful, cattle-like eloi and the predatory, eloi-herding subterranean morlocks. But even this simple split of peoples may not truly encompass what lies ahead if the forces of evolution act on the human race with malice aforethought.

For that we turn to a book by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, The Mote in God’s Eye. I agree with Heinlein, who called it, in a book blurb, “possibly the finest science fiction novel I have ever read,” which is high praise indeed (let's quietly ignore the fact that Heinlein himself extensively edited the work and thus was patting himself on the back).

Be that as it may, however, it truly is an excellent story, as good as Farnham’s Freehold was awful. The story portrays man’s first contact with an alien intelligence.

In the year 3000, Man has colonized the stars and established residence on a thousand planets before finding their first intelligent non-human race. This people live isolated on a closed-in star system out of contact with the galaxy; the inhabitants are dubbed "the Moties." This novel answers what is apparently a throw-away question in the third chapter: “What would physical evolution of humans bring?”

The answer is shown by what has happened to the “Moties” over millenia, who (spoiler alert!) are a race of three handed, two legged aliens shattered into ‘castes’. There are twenty or thirty forms of the species. The Browns are engineers, short on conversation but long on tool-making and tool-using skills; Brown-and-Whites are go-betweens and mediators; the Reds are workers; Warriors are specialized killing machines beyond imagination. The delicate Doctors doctor, the stupid Farmers farm, Messengers communicate by rote memorization and running by foot, tiny Watchmakers do fine toolwork, Meats are raised in herds and eaten when starvation strikes. All are ruled over by the white-furred "Masters", to whom all the other castes defer by instinct.

The Moties are a race cursed by a reproductive trick: they are built in such a way that each individual is unisexual, male and female in cyclic change, and must give birth to a child every two to three years and then turn male, or they die. This reproductive cycle keeps their gross populations endlessly exploding. This causes them to rise and fall, rise and fall, in endless Cycles of civilization-overbreeding-war-destruction-barbarism-civilization, over and over and over again; collapses in civilization now occur before their civilizations rise enough to try to alter their genes artificially as they were originally, in ages past, by some sort of gene surgeons.

The story’s most horrible line is almost a throwaway, near the end. One Doctor Horowitz, a genetics expert, has been working on the creatures’ breeding and chromosome patterns.
“I believe the [Engineer] Browns were the original form” he said. “When the Whites became dominant they bred the other subspecies to their own uses. Controlled evolution, you see.”
(Emphasis mine.)
In other words, this unhappy (but thankfully fictional!) race is the end result of tens of thousands, or perhaps hundreds of thousands, of years’ reproduction of what was, in fact, a genetically engineered superrace and its subordinately-created subspecies. A race, in short, of slaves to the White masters, evolved long enough.

This is the end result of the breeding program in which Memtok is only at the threshhold. This is the answer to the question of where evolution of the human race would lead.

Now, these are, of course, just science fiction stories. And I can hear Charles Johnson mock me now: “He’s saying that you gotta be a creationist or we’ll all turn into three handed space aliens!” Then he might well put on his well-worn videotaped copy of Inherit the Wind and pat himself on the back for his intellectual superiority over creationists.

Not so fast, Trelayne. For starters, in India, we see the seeds of a Motie-like differentiation, in their caste system, in which jobs and function in society have for centuries been strictly inherited. For many centuries, if you were born a wiper of food troughs, so was your father and grandfather, and so would your children be, forever. Only the last hundred years or so has this caste system been broken; even so, caste hatreds abound (a redneck Georgia cracker is as nothing compared to an Indian caste-bigot).

Moreover, no less of an authority than the aforementioned Stephen Jay Gould states his belief that William Jennings Bryan, the supposedly blow-hard fundamentalist portrayed as "Matthew Harrison Brady" in Inherit the Wind, opposed the teaching of evolution, not because it was false, but because it was being used to advocate eugenics (as it indeed was in 1925, in the very textbook that Scopes used in his class). See his “William Jennings Bryan’s Last Campaign” (Natural History, November, 1987), reprinted in Bully for Brontosaurus, 1992.

(Of course, if I were on this occasion to treat Charles like he treats others, I'd then accuse him of being a Nazi exterminationist supporter of Lebensborn and Auschwitz because he disdains the divine account of the Creation. Instead I'll simply call him clueless.)

These stories I have cited are meant to be illustrative of how the Human race, having mastered genetics without mastering itself, could in the end transmorgrify itself into something less, rather than more, than human. This is what C.S. Lewis meant by The Abolition of Man.

We would behoove ourselves to pay attention, for if there is no overarching God to mark our paths and days, if we live in a universe where power is everything and Darwinian evolution is the driving force–where the Alistair Crowley* claim that “To do what Thou Wilt is the Whole of the Law” is true, then Memtok and the Moties may not merely be fantasies, but warning signs, in a way that Auschwitz and Lebensborn have ceased to be.

The lessons here may well be: In the end, not only is God needed by Man to stay 'on the straight and narrow path,' He may be needed to keep the race of Man from turning itself into something even worse than a beast. And, while Darwin tells us much about the past, what he tells us of our future we should not learn. For in the end, there are, indeed, some things man is not meant to know.

God said, Let there be light, and there was
God said, Let there be night, and there was
God said, Let there be day, and there was
Day to follow the night
And it was good, brother
And it was good, brother
And it was good, brother
And it was ... (whispers) SSSSSHHHHH!

____
A tip of the hat to my good friend Phil Rose for his assistance and comments.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for passing by, Rick.

    Interesting post...

    ReplyDelete

Keep your meme clean. Thank you.