"...I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me..." [Deuteronomy 5:8-10]

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Bonnie Alba's War On Culture

Bonnie Alba's latest salvos in the Culture Wars are attacks on "Evolutionary Psychology". *

Her previous writings have shown her to be ignorant both about evolution (which she apparently opposes) and "Intelligent Design" (which she purports to support). This time, she keeps things subjective. Only those who believe that their "mind-soul will survive death", she says, "will see the merits" of her arguments.

Bonnie's position is essentially this: science alone cannot achieve absolute knowledge. Its truths are always provisional, in that other information may come along to change them. Therefore science alone cannot be trusted to make moral judgements. When faced with questions of science and morality, Bonnie argues, we should ask what is "beneficial for the progress of mankind?"

But why is this controversial? Morality and ethics have been debated by philosophers for thousands of years. Does one really need to believe in an afterlife to hold that there are moral and ethical questions which science alone cannot answer?

Bonnie certainly thinks so. She recently wrote: "Churches and Christians must teach their young people the difference between the worldviews so they are better prepared to reach the conclusive, objective biblical truth of who God is and what he says about himself and his creation."

In other words, Bonnie argues, religious truth is "objective", and can override the "subjective" truths of science. Now, as Bonnie points out, I cannot prove or disprove the existence of anything beyond the physical world. But I can demonstrate that she is dishonest in her arguments. Bonnie claims, for example: "Today’s scientists see no boundaries in proposing their singular unethical theories".

If that statement sounds ridiculous, then that's because it is. If you have visions of thousands of mad atheistic scientists roaming the streets looking for embryos to experiment on and animals to have sex with, then good - that's precisely what Bonnie wants you to imagine.

"Darwin’s theory", she continues, "is... a produced-in-the-brain idea which threatens to overtake all of humankind to dissatisfactorily explain all things".

But wait - isn't Darwin's theory accepted by the Catholic Church, an august and conservative organisation with a moral line very similar to that championed by Ms Alba? Well yes, it is.

The flaw in Bonnie's magical thinking is this... She claims that her basic beliefs in Christianity and the Bible are objectively "true". But how can she be so sure? If her "truth" comes from religious revelation, then who is to say that it is more true than any other claim of "truth" from religious revelation - such as that claimed by Hindus, Muslims, Mormons, abortion clinic bombers or anybody else?

The real truth is that objectivity is something we must strive for - not something that we can claim to have by default.

Bonnie believes the Bible teaches that the Earth is only 6,000 years old. The overwhelming majority of scientists say the evidence is conclusive - the Earth is vastly older than that.

Does that make the Bible "wrong"? Of course not. But it does make Bonnie's interpretation of the Bible wrong. And if the "truth" of the Bible is dependent upon one's interpretation of it, then that "truth" is clearly relative - not absolute.

The irony is that while Bonnie claims to champion absolute morality and truth, her own words and behaviour speak of morality and truth being relative. If her arguments were "absolutely true" she wouldn't have to pretend that only those who believe in an afterlife "will see the merits of" them.

There is a real moral debate about what is acceptable and what is not in science, whether that means animal testing, embryo research or genetic screening.

But it is not as facile as Bonnie pretends. She says that Evolutionary Psychology's "desire is to correct present adaptations of natural selection and eliminate God, religion, morality, values, standards and let 'right behavior' select itself -- their way. Most of us will fight tooth and nail to keep what has worked for civilization, knowing that without rules and morality, we have chaos and anarchy."

But in truth it is Bonnie and her ilk who wish to ignore "what has worked for civilisation". Her claim that "Science" calls for an abandonment of "rules and morality" is ignorant, bigoted and dishonest.

If we follow Bonnie and insist that the only "truth" comes from her interpretation of the Bible, then we are stuck with only her "truths" as a guide in this moral debate. Bonnie insists that we must reject everything else that humanity has learned over thousands of years in many different cultures. She insists that we must believe only as she believes - and that it does not matter if we are dishonest about what others believe, because they have less of a claim on "truth" than believers in her "true" religion.

Ask yourself: Is that beneficial for the progress of mankind?



The Evolutionary Information Gap Between Science and Bonnie Alba, PTET, May 20, 2005

Scientists Speeding Up Darwin's Natural Selection?, Bonnie Alba, May 23, 2005

That Old Magic - Evolutionary Psychology, Part I, Bonnie Alba, June 01, 2005

Nature Vs. Nurture - Evolutionary Psychology, Part II, Bonnie Alba, June 08, 2005

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