Andrew Spivak, whom Farmer Tom and I–and another guy named John–debated on Boundless, demonstrated how frustrating the attempt can be. Here are some highlights. Andrew begins with this gem (emphasis mine):
Are there moral absolutes? Yes, there is only one: the species must survive. All else is subservient to that absolute. From this standard we get all the religious morality, and all the non-religious morality. At their root is not an imaginary god, but real evolutionary pressure.
(During the course of the debate, I returned to this fundamental assumption he made. Given that species die every day, how can one insist–assuming no transcendent, objective moral framework–that it is morally necessary that the human species survive?)
Sheridan brought up the question of whether–in that framework that Andrew has defined–rape can be legitimized. (I would return to that one later: according to his moral framework, there is no strong case against rape, especially in situations in which the birth rate is dangerously low.)
Andrew’s response to Sheridan would open a can of worms. Here is the part that set off the firestorm (emphasis added):
All the things you mentioned are usually morally wrong because they hurt the survival of the species. For instance, pedophilia is usually wrong because a pregnancy by a girl who is not ready can cause both her and the child severe damage if not death. Because the trauma of sex before a girl is ready can cause her to not have normal sex life later on, reducing her reproductive abilities, which hurts the species.
At this point, Farmer Tom–an ally from Vox Day’s world (we frequently join those discussions)–weighed in on Andrew:
Yep, You’ve got it all figured out.
There is no moral reason to consider rape or incest as anything other than propagation of the species, which is good, so we can not call it evil.
And as Jethro admits the debate is really one of power,
Maybe it is simply a matter of the powerful imposing their will on the less powerful.
And in a Darwinian worldview the survival of the fittest is what matters, therefore it is moral for me to steal your wife, rape your daughter and destroy your city with nuclear weapons because, I have that power. Power is the only arbitrator of morality, and the one with the most power is the most moral.
So you are either advocating anarchy where “every man does that which is right in his own eyes” or communism where the state determines right and wrong, deciding who can live or die and everything belongs to the state. A belief system which establishes morality based on raw power is what evolutionary principles lead to, is that what you guys want?
Later, Farmer Tom takes off the gloves even more:
You can’t give a straight answer, can you?
For instance, pedophilia is usually wrong
Well is it or isn’t it? I expect your answer to be, “depends on what the meaning of is, is”. From your previous answer, one can conclude that you think it is wrong to rape little girls, but you wouldn’t have any problem buggering little boys, is that right?
That’s when I decided to join in on the fun, noting that the premise that pedophilia is evil is hardly a univeral moral principle in history, underscoring the premise that, absent an objective framework, nothing is really sacrosanct. I wanted to open up the fight…:
Good point, Farmer Tom, as we have had cultures in world history that practiced–even celebrated pederasty. The ancient Greeks come to mind.
Andrew then weighed in, making a point to which I would return frequently:
Amir — Greeks practiced same-sex pedophilia, and they also gave us the greatest civilization until Renaissance Italy (with the possible exception of China). I’m not defending the practice, but obviously it didn’t destroy their society.
I responded innocuously:
The issue here, Andrew, was whether the premise that pedophilia is wrong is something you could ascertain purely from a secular, evolutionary, scientific framework. The case for an objective statement of morality on that matter simply is not there.
That’s when Andrew started getting frustrated:
Sure, Amir, very easily. First of all, it’s easy to see that there are no advantages to pedophilia. It’s non-reproductive, as far as I can tell there are no advantages to practicing it, evolutionarily speaking. Please feel free to disagree.
So, since there are no advantages, even a single disadvantage would make the practice immoral, right? Well, apparently you don’t know this, but pedophilia is actually quite harmful, especially for girls. For both genders it can stunt sexual and psychological development, which leads to less adapted adults who are less likely to procreate. In girls it can also damage vital reproductive organs, preventing them from having children. That seems to be a bad thing evolutionarily, don’t you agree? And in both genders the psychological effects of sexual behavior before onset of puberty severely harm these individuals.
To summarize — pedophilia has no positives and lots of negatives. Thus it is immoral in light of evolution’s one law.
Any more, Amir?
I decided to hit him point by point:
The premise that there are no advantages is a purely subjective one. It would be more accurate to say that there are no reproductive advantages.
And if you wish to go that route, you could make a case against homosexuality on those grounds. One could also make the case against marrying people–even straights–who cannot reproduce. One could also make a case for forced marriages on those grounds.
Do you suggest that any of those things are objectively morally right?
Pedophiles do not all agree [on the harmfulness of pedophilia], and there is an entire body of academics that disagrees with that premise.
Psychological factors are not very concrete measurements, and–even in the case of physiological damage–the issue is at which age that occurs. That is not the same for everyone. Ergo, you’re still being subjective here.
While I agree with the premise that pedophilia is wrong, you still have not provided an objective framework
Even if you were correct, the same can be said for many heterosexual practices.
Then it started to get really fun. Here is one of his responses (in italics):
Fine, Amir, name a single positive, evolutionary advantage of pedophilia.
Now you are narrowing your definition of “advantage”, and in so doing you are opening yourself to a big-time can of worms. One respondent has already pointed out that–on the basis that you have defined–one could conclude that rape is morally permissible.
Moreover, if you are suggesting that something that has no positive evolutionary advantage is fundamentally wrong, I’m sure there are any number of senior citizens–who enjoy sex lives well past childbearing age–who would take exception. I’m sure the AARP will take your hypothesis under advisement. 😉
In fact, using your definition, I could make the case that evolution is wrong, as nearly every mass implementation of Darwinian principles to society–from Deweyization of our education system to the governmental frameworks of Fascism, Nazism, Maoism, Leninism, Stalinism, and the Khmer Rouge not to mention Mugabe’s great experiment in Zimbabwe–has been an unmitigated disaster on a grand scale.
Contrary to your assertion, my argument is hardly resting on hypotheticals. As I said, pedophiles disagree with you on “positive advantages”, and Kinsey was hardly a nebulous academic. In fact, he was VERY much a devotee of Darwin.
He certainly was one with whom I take substantial exception for a number of reasons–fact is, his team molested 300+ children with taxpayer funding in their “research”–but nebulous he was not.
Your definitions have shifted. You went from “positive advantage” to “positive evolutionary advantage“. Fact is, there are many ways to define “positive evolutionary advantage”, and that can include factors that are tangentially related to perpetuation of species.
Besides, Andrew, you even suggested yourself that there is a positive evolutionary advantage.
In your own words: “Greeks practiced same-sex pedophilia, and they also gave us the greatest civilization until Renaissance Italy (with the possible exception of China)”
That’s when the gloves came off.
I was waiting for Farmer Tom to chime in on something that you left wide open, but since he is not here–I know he would have jumped on this–I’ll take the honors.
While your attempts to make a case against pedophilia using a purely evolutionary framework were very impressive, you inadvertently stepped in it. Big-time.
Let me explain…
When pressed on the matter, you decided on the following standard: for something to be “right”, it must have a “positive evolutionary advantage”.
Your attempt to deligitimize pedophilia requires a very narrow framework that leaves a moral allowance for the following atrocities:
(a) active euthanasia. A reasonable person, without much effort, can make the case for a “positive evolutionary advantage” of euthanizing people in a variety of circumstances. This case would be substantial, as this can be quantified in terms of positive economic tradeoffs. When the number of people receiving social security benefits exceeds the number of people working and paying into the system, you will see where this goes…
(b) eugenics. There are entire populations of people who (1) are net consumers of economic assets and resources, (2) are always creating political and military instability that negatively impacts the world economy, and (3) reproduce at such rates that they are literally a drag on other major economies. Rather than expend hundreds of billions of dollars toward economic development and humanitarian aid, one could make a very strong case that it is a much greater “positive evolutionary advantage” to the rest of the species to just kill off–or sterilize–these populations.
Bill Bennett, speaking rhetorically, let that cat out of the bag. If “positive evolutionary advantage” is all that matters, I could justify things that would make Hitler and Stalin look like Mother Teresa and Billy Graham.
(c) rape. I could easily make the case that rape provides a positive evolutionary advantage. Especially when one looks at it purely in terms of perpetuation of the species, and especially in certain populations where the birth rates are on a very dangerous downward path.
Here’s the problem, Andrew: you can’t win this one. This is because, to delegitimize pedophlilia, you have to define a framework so narrow that it allows for genocide, rape, and active euthanasia.
And no, we are not talking mere hypotheticals here. After all, everything I am describing here–except for the legitimacy of rape–has either happened before or is in progress now.
Andrew says: Are there moral absolutes? Yes, there is only one: the species must survive.
Species die every day. On what objective basis is it morally necessary that the human species survive?
Andrew says: Nowhere did I claim that Greek pedophilia was a positive evolutionary advantage. You’re making this up whole cloth.
I quoted your own words. Wanna read them again? Here:
“Amir — Greeks practiced same-sex pedophilia, and they also gave us the greatest civilization until Renaissance Italy (with the possible exception of China). I’m not defending the practice, but obviously it didn’t destroy their society.”
I didn’t make that up; you did. I say this not to ridicule you, but rather to call you to account.
Moreover, you don’t seem to get it with respect to your own argument about “positive evolutionary advantages”.
I bring up Kinsey because his body of work is the most influential in academia in terms of human sexuality studies. He is to sexuality what Darwin is to biology.
In fact, his experimental framework was Darwinian all the way, as that–in and of itself–provides a “positive evolutionary advantage”.
You see, Andrew, using people–especially children–for such experimentation, can be justified under any “positive evolutionary advantage” angle, be it “perpetuation of the species” or any other metric by which we choose to define it.
As I’ve said, your “positive evolutionary advantages” criteria is hardly a moral one.
Besies, why is it morally necessary that the human species survive? After all, other species die every day.
In a purely secular framework, what objective moral necessity requires that homo sapiens survive as a species?
Now, watch how Andrew starts coming completely unglued.
Amir — first the “why rape is evolutionarily wrong” question. See post 29. Case closed.
Second — eugenics. I have no idea who these “entire populations” are. Please do tell us. You sound exactly like Hitler. That’s scary.
Euthanasia — I have no idea what you’re talking about, and neither do you. You really need to learn to deal with reality, Amir, your addiction to hypotheticals is rather useless. I honestly thought that your longer post would have a shred of substance, which is why I put off reading it, but I was wrong.
And not only can I win this one, so far I’m pitching a shutout. You’re yet to present a single, coherent argument against anything I’ve said. All you rely upon are “if I cared to, I could…” Well, enlighten us. Care to, for once. As the old saying goes — put up or…
I proceeded to nail him to the wall:
Andrew says: Amir — first the “why rape is evolutionarily wrong” question. See post 29. Case closed.
Not so fast. You are assuming that the child NEEDS a father in the home. While we would agree that this would be the better solution, it certainly is not logically necessary. Ergo, your case against rape on those grounds is pretty weak.
Andrew continues: Second — eugenics. I have no idea who these “entire populations” are. Please do tell us. You sound exactly like Hitler. That’s scary.
I’ll answer this on two fronts:
(a) Sure that argument sounds like Hitler; I am demonstrating the telos of your line of reasoning. If all that matters is “perpetuation of the species”, then anything done to make the species stronger–and more likely to perpetuate–would be morally correct. This makes eugenics–which was SPECIFICALLY born from a Darwinian paradigm–and even genocide each morally permissible.
Who are these net consumers of economic capital? I could name several:
(a) Many populations in sub-Saharan Africa to include Sudan, Nigeria, Ethopia, and Niger.
(b) Much of the populations of the Middle East, to include Iran (the country of my heritage), Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. The populations have done little over the last 60 years except breed political and military turmoil. This destroys wealth and creates economic instability, which is a “negative evolutionary factor” as it erodes the quality of life for the people who are the better producers.
Ergo, a “positive evolutionary advantage” could be realized by wiping them out. That would free up the natural resources for the developed world, which better-uses those natural resources to produce wealth.
If all that matters is taking steps to create “positive evolutionary advantage”, there is no limit to the evil one can justify.
Euthanasia — I have no idea what you’re talking about, and neither do you. You really need to learn to deal with reality, Amir, your addiction to hypotheticals is rather useless.
As Reagan once said, “There you go again…” assuming you can tell me what I know and what I do not know. Shame shame shame…
Seriously, Andrew, I know quite well what I am talking about. As the Netherlands has already begun experimenting with active euthanasia. And, by the way, Nazi Germany did exactly that, and it was considered a “positive evolutionary advantage”, as Hitler used such techniques to purify the “German race”.
Not hypothetical, my friend. Quite real, in fact.
When you have people who are retired, and can no longer work, and they are a drag on the economy because the producers must work harder–sacrificing their wealth–to support them, a “positive evolutionary advantage” can be realized through their euthanasia. Especially when they outnumber the people working and producing.
Again, my friend, that is right around the corner. You may wish to call that hypothetical, but to do so would be to buck the Congressional Budget Office, and the Comptroller General.
Andrew continues: I honestly thought that your longer post would have a shred of substance, which is why I put off reading it, but I was wrong.
I thought you could attempt answer substantively. Instead, you have resorted to personal attacks. This is quite regrettable, as I have raised very legitimate points, and those are not hypotheticals but in fact were implemented by devoted Darwinists using the evolutionary paradigm as the pretext.
Andrew continues: And not only can I win this one, so far I’m pitching a shutout. You’re yet to present a single, coherent argument against anything I’ve said.
If you say that, then you haven’t really “read” anything I have written, but rather dismissed it without thinking. That strikes me as quite knee-jerk. Fact is, your “positive evolutionary advantage” paradigm leaves wide open any number of atrocities. The record of application of evolutionary thought to public policy is on my side.
Andrew continues: All you rely upon are “if I cared to, I could…” Well, enlighten us. Care to, for once. As the old saying goes — put up or…
I already have. Want a recap?
(1) Your “positive evolutionary advantage” (PEA) paradigm, while representing a spirited attempt to make the case against rape and pedophilia, fails. In fact, in a previous post, by lauding Ancient Greece, you yourself made a prima facie case that pederasty could pose a PEA.
(2) Your PEA paradigm leaves wide open the systematic application of eugenics, active euthanasia, abuses of humans in experimentation which seeks to find PEAs, infanticide for genetically-unfit children, and even mass extermination of foster children.
Much of that agenda–eugenics, genocide, active euthanasia, abuses of humans in experimentation, and infanticide, has been practiced before in the name of evolutionary progress or utilitarian ethics (which logically follows from your PEA paradigm).
This is real, my friend, not hypothetical. And it represents the telos of your PEA paradigm.
Now, to address your other points…
Here, you said: Amir, I’ll address #53 first, before getting to debunking the longer #49. You have it backwards. It’s not “morally necessary for human species to survive”
Unfortunately, you seem to be contradicting youself. Want me to quote your original statement?
Here:”Are there moral absolutes? Yes, there is only one: the species must survive. All else is subservient to that absolute.”
You originally said that the survival of the species is a “moral absolute” (which is what I meant by “morally necessary”)
Now you say that the survival of the species is not morally necessary.
Are you now saying that there are no moral absolutes?
I followed up by administering the TKO:
Andrew says: Amir — if you can’t see how it’s evolutionarily advantageous for a child to have 2 adults protecting and feeding him or her instead of 1, I can’t do much to help you.
I didn’t mean that there was no positive evolutionary advantatge (PEA) to it; however, the issue is whether a two-parent family is necessary. That it would be more advantageous does not necessarily make a compelling case against the legitimacy of rape, any more than it makes a compelling case for banning illegitimacy.
In a case of catastrophically-low birth rates, a PEA can be legitimized for legalizing rape, as the “negatives” could be adjudged to outweigh the “positives”.
What you are failing to account for, Andrew, is that in your scenario, all you need is the “right” set of Darwinians deciding on what constitutes a PEA.
They’ll be able to produce their own sets of “scientific studies” to prove their cases. After all, such experimentation would be morally permissible in your line of reasoning, as it is rationalizable as “seeking progress through positive evolutionary advantage”.
Andrew continues: I’m going to ignore all your comments about people in the Middle East and Africa because a) I’m certain whatever I say will not be let through by the board sensor; and b) commenting would legitimize the vile and disgusting stuff you wrote.
I’m glad you accept that what I put out there is vile and disgusting (although in your framework that is a purely subjective statement, even if I happen to agree with it). On the other hand, those are among the implications of your PEA criteria.
While I abhor eugenics and any wanton killing, the fact remains: if all that matters is “positive evolutionary advantage”–those vile and disgusting ideas would be progress.
You said it yourself: You’re not very good at philosophy or logic. And it shows. Subjecting a line of reasoning to truth tests is hardly about “hypotheticals”, especially when some of those “hypotheticals” have been implemented by other countries (and in some cases here) using your very reasoning. And on mass scales.
If positive evolutionary advantage–PEA–defined as “perpetuation of the species” is all that matters, then anything that makes the species stronger, more economically efficient, and more likely to perpetuate, is justifiable as “morally correct” by your definition.
That means the creation of a “master race” is not morally repugnant in your line of reasoning.
In addition, according to your line of reasoning, it would logically follow that any scientific experimentation that seeks to determine elements that would add a positive evolutionary advantage, would also be morally permissible.
That means subjecting women and children, and other races of people, and elderly, and handicapped people, to all sorts of cruel experimentation–in the name of seeking progress through evolutionary change–would be morally permissible. After all, all that ultimately matters is the perpetuation of the species. Since that is the only moral absolute in your framework, it logically follows that seeking a positive evolutionary advantage is a legitimate pursuit.