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Sunday, November 28, 2004

Check out this Website

The New Pantagruel features, among other interesting material, Empire and its Discontents by my LSU mentor, the late Eric Voegelin.  This selection is excerpted from chapter 3, ?The Process of History,? of Eric Voegelin ?s Order and History , vol. 4: ? The Ecumenic Age ? (Louisiana State University Press, 1974).

The New Pantagruel also has placed this website, THE VIEW FROM 1776, in its right hand column as a reference source.  It’s set up as an RSS feed, so that it automatically is updated for every new posting on THE VIEW FROM 1776.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Liberalism and Socialism - Round Two

A thoughtful response to the posting just below.

Responding to the exchange of views in the immediately preceding post, the reader wrote:

Thank you for your prompt and informative reply. Without wishing to draw you into a protracted discussion, I would just like to note that the fact that a few persons, yourself included, have called something a religion does not make it so. Even science has been called a religion by some. An “all-embracing view of life that shapes one’s perceptions and regulates his everyday actions” can just as easily be a philosophy as a religion. If your outlook were widely adopted on both sides, all that would have been accomplished would be to turn what had been a political (or political-science) discussion into a religious conflict. I fail to see what good would result from that. On the contrary, to insist on branding each other as holding political views based on faith rather than rational empiricism—or, say, on upbringing, which is where most people’s party affiliations come from—seems to me antithetical to healthy discussion of the real issues confronting both parties in this country.

By the way, “the founders” did not necessarily believe that the best government is that which governs least. I happen to be a small-government guy myself, but that belief, enunciated by Jefferson, was not even shared by all Jeffersonians, much less the Hamiltonians.

My reply:

Thanks again for a thoughtful reply.

You are correct that the “governs least” view is associated more with Jefferson, certainly than with Hamilton and many Federalists.

On the other hand, Jefferson’s protege James Madison is associated with the drive in the Constitutional Convention to make the Federal government strong enough to govern the people. 

In Federalist No. 45, Madison writes,  “Was, then, the American Revolution effected, was the American Confederacy formed, was the precious blood of thousands spilt, and the hard-earned substance of millions lavished, not that the people of America should enjoy peace, liberty, and safety, but that the government of the individual States, that particular municipal establishments, might enjoy a certain extent of power, and be arrayed with certain dignities and attributes of sovereignty?”


“The State government will have the advantage of the Federal government, whether we compare them in respect to the immediate dependence of the one on the other; to the weight of personal influence which each side will possess; to the powers respectively vested in them; to the predilection and probable support of the people; to the disposition and faculty of resisting and frustrating the measures of each other. The State governments may be regarded as constituent and essential parts of the federal government; whilst the latter is nowise essential to the operation or organization of the former. Without the intervention of the State legislatures, the President of the United States cannot be elected at all. They must in all cases have a great share in his appointment, and will, perhaps, in most cases, of themselves determine it. The Senate will be elected absolutely and exclusively by the State legislatures.”


“The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce; with which last the power of taxation will, for the most part, be connected. The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State. The operations of the federal government will be most extensive and important in times of war and danger; those of the State governments, in times of peace and security.”

It hardly need be said that, under the impetus of Progressives, beginning in the 1880s, and those styling themselves as liberals more recently, those intentions have long since been overrun by the colossus of the Federal government.

Liberalism and Socialism

Is liberalism a variety of socialism?

A reader wrote, in response to Why Liberals Can’t Compete in the Values Arena :

Nice try, but liberalism is not socialism, nor is socialism a religion.  I, for instance, am a liberal, an agnostic, an anti-socialist, and an anti-communist.  I have plenty of company in this.  Surely you can find faults in liberalism without having to pretend it is something else, can’t you?  I certainly can.

My reply:

Thanks for your comment.

The fact that you consider yourself a liberal, but are opposed to socialism and communism doesn’t of itself mean that liberalism is not a variety of socialism and that it is not a religion.  There are many shades of understanding of socialism and of adherence to its dogma within the liberal community.  For a more extensive discussion of that, see Who Are the Liberal-socialists?

It’s possible that your definition of liberalism may be more akin to libertarianism than to liberal-socialism.  The latter, in my use of the term, is associated with the belief that human social and political problems arise from the structure of a political state that supports private property rights and individualism.  That variety of liberalism prescribes collectivism and views individualism as tending toward anti-social selfishness.

It is also the case that American liberals tend to believe that only the Federal government can solve social, economic, and political problems.  They certainly do not believe, as the founders did, that the best government is the one that governs the least.  Liberals make much of the Bill of Rights, but do not view it from the perspective that produced it, the Anti-Federalist desire to embed hard-and-fast prohibitions against the arbitrary use of collectivized government power that could override individual rights, chief among them the rights of private property.  That, after all, was the genesis of our War of Independence.

As I’ve noted extensively, the most prominent socialist spokesmen themselves have described it as a religion, an all-embracing view of life that shapes one’s perceptions and regulates his everyday actions, as Jean Jaures, head of the French Socialists, put it at the beginning of the 20th century. 

For details, see Socialism: Our Unconstitutionally Established National Religion 

and What is Liberalism?

Friday, November 26, 2004

Proof of God’s Existence

Atheists and agnostics believe that inability to convince them of God’s existence is proof that God doesn’t exist.

An emailer wrote:

“Saying the universe has a beginning or an end does not imply the existence of god. ?Your syllogism seems to be:

“All things finite are created by god.
“The universe is finite.
“Therefore, god created the universe.

“The predicate is assumed and not proved.

“Assuming the universe came into existence at some defined point in space time does not, and cannot, prove the existence of god, whether the judeo-christian god or otherwise.” ?

My Reply:

Your syllogism is nothing that I’ve said.

Let’s take the opposite position, which may be the view that you hold, that the universe is infinite and that it was not created by God.  I defy you to prove that.

It’s not enough to deny that God exists because it cannot be proved to atheists’ satisfactions.  If Christians are to be dismissed by that argument, then atheists must be able to prove that God does not exist.  No one can do that.  In fact, the vast preponderance of evidence is against it.

To repeat what I’ve written in prior posts, rational understanding of a Divine realm of existence outside of being is impossible.  We can understand only that which is within the realm of being, or existence.  God is outside of, precedes, and will outlast, being as we know it, yet God encompasses being.  God is simultaneously being and non-being.

As an analogy, there exist mathematical theorems that appear to be true in all practical uses, yet their logical proof has remained beyond the the capacity of human intellects to date.  Rational minds didn’t create the propositions of mathematics; they were discovered by spiritual intuition, or inspiration, if you prefer.  They exist “out there” in a realm beyond our physical world, in Plato’s Ideal world, and they have been there since before the creation of our cosmos.  Theorists working with the presumed expansion of all matter, after the Big Bang, into what has become our cosmos must work with the assumption that the mathematical, universal constants of physics existed from the get-go.

The propositions of geometry and mathematics deal with “things” that have no existence in any physical sense.  They exist only in the metaphysical realm, yet we know from the results derived by using such propositions that there is a reality to them.

In the same way, the empirical evidence of history proves that societies ordered by a belief in Divinity and personal morality have been far more decent and productive than those ordered by the collectivism of secular and materialistic socialism.  The one has produced the greatest gains in productivity and improvement in living standards ever recorded; the other, steadily deteriorating living standards and varying degrees of police-state politics.

The entirety of our cosmos, to the extent of our knowledge to date, conforms to the same set of rules everywhere, i.e., there is a definite design underlying all observable energy and matter.  Where did that universal set of natural laws come from?  The odds of its having happened, on so vast a scale, purely by accident are incalculable.

To illustrate how unlikely, as an example let’s take a much more limited case, the odds that life might have evolved spontaneously and by pure chance. 

Harold Morowitz is one of the world’s foremost biophysists, sufficiently well regarded to have been named to NASA’s planetary biology subcommittee for explorations of life on Mars, Mercury, and Venus.  Professor Morowitz spent decades pursuing one of the latest life-generation theories, the so-called metabolic theory.  Studying a single-cell life form, the intent is to determine the entire DNA structure, down to the numbers of atoms in the DNA, along with determinations of how many proteins each DNA strand could encode.  The hope was that analysis down to that level would provide sufficient clues to the presumed process of spontaneous generation of living tissue.

After several decades of intense study, he concluded that the odds of a single-cell life form being spontaneously assembled, even in a stable environmental equilibrium (which almost certainly never existed) were less than one in 10 to the 100 billionth power.  Even if chance creation of life could have occurred against such overwhelming odds, Morowitz calculated that the currently estimated five billion year age of the cosmos would have been far too short a time for the process to have produced living tissue.

What then are the odds that the entirety of the cosmos, with its incalculably greater numbers of interactions according to definable laws, came into existence purely by chance?

One alternative is to declare that the cosmos had no beginning and will have no end.  That will be, I believe, even more difficult for you to prove.

The proposition that the cosmos was created by a power (God) outside the realm of existence as humans know it, and that the cosmos was created ab initio with a master design determining the laws of nature, however, is far more probable.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Evolution and Creation: Some Social and Political Implications

Answering emails from agnostics and atheists.

An emailer wrote:

“In your carefully resoned argument you make the assumption the the universe is an artifact, a created thing. There is little evidence that that position is true.”?

My reply:

Are you rejecting the Big Bang theory?  Are you rejecting the concept of black holes? If the cosmos was not created, then how to explain the growing belief that it will begin to collapse?  What is not created, but existed always, would seemingly remain forever in its original, uncreated state.

Even atheistic scientists believe that our cosmos came into existence at some defined point in time-space.  The only question is how.

Another emailer wrote:

“I’m curious about the difference between blacks and whites as to their physical abilities. It’s fairly clear in most sports now that blacks have a clear advantage in speed, jumping, hand-eye coordination and general strength. I have argued that it’s due to the challenges of their original environment where physical skills (not so much intellectual) were critical to survival.? The Bell Curve claims that there is a hierarchy in the intellectual area—asians first, Jews second, whites third and blacks last. (If I remember the book clearly.) I have also argued that the Jews, having been persecuted for many centuries meant their best and brightest had a better chance at survival. On the Asian side, the Chinese have probably the most intellectually challenging language in widespread use. As most parents try to do, the parents of desirable (attractive and smart) females would look for a bright Chinese boy for the arranged marriage.

“For those of us who came from European stock, it was probably a more challenging environment dealing with winters and some degree of intellectual skill enhanced survivability and therefore breeding opportunities.

“Isn’t this a process of natural selection? Survival of the fittest?”

My reply:

I would agree with you about different races, etc.  However, I don’t really know much about it, beyond anecdotal evidence.

The differences in attitudes and abilities would seem to reflect a natural selection effect.  But remember, that’s within a species. It can be argued that the perhaps 15,000 or so years that humans are thought to have existed is too short a time for the process of Darwinian evolution.

For Darwin to be correct, however, homo sapiens will have to phase slowly into some new sort of species that no longer can interbreed with today’s humans.  Neanderthal man is perhaps an example of that, but again the time between them and humans seems to be much too short for natural selection to have led to evolution of a new species, homo sapiens, and there is no fossil evidence to support it.

As I have said, I have no problem with the idea of natural selection within a species.  It’s the idea that every living thing evolved by accident from a random, spontaneous chemical event that produced living tissue.

Philosophically, the potential danger with Darwinian evolution is the sense of power-from-knowledge that it imparts to intellectuals.  Totalitarianism can’t exist in a society committed to individualism.  It arises only in a collectivized society in which there is no higher, Divine law of morality and in which the only source of legitimacy is the social-justice ideas of intellectuals.

Eugenics is an example.  Eugenics is, in effect, accelerated evolution, helped along by human intellectual planning.  The bad human apples are to be culled from the genetic pool with the objective of improving the race and thereby moving society faster along the road toward earthly perfection.

As you may know, the eugenics movement was started by Charles Darwin’s cousin, Sir Francis Galton in 1869, ten years after publication of “On the Origin of Species.”  Eugenics was defined by Galton as, ?the study of the agencies under social control which may improve or impair the racial qualities of future generations physically or mentally.?  Not only is the socialized state to regulate all economic activity, but also to subject marriage and procreation to technocratic control in the interests of perfecting society, a sweeping power that annihilates individuality. 

Various eugenics measures were tried in the United States, including laws in some states permitting forcible sterilization of women when authorities decided that their insanity, criminality, or other traits would, if passed on to their children, interfere with the scientific implementation of social justice.  Well-intentioned Madison Grant, an influential director of the American Museum of Natural History and a founder of the Bronx Zoo, was president of the American Eugenics Society; activist-President Theodore Roosevelt was among its prominent members.  Eugenics was also the basis for the Nazi regime?s master-race theories and for its restricting marriage to men and women of suitable aryan pedigree.

Posted by Thomas E. Brewton on 11/25 at 12:37 AM
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Wednesday, November 24, 2004

“Understanding” Creation - Round Four

Continuing the discussion about what the meaning of is is.

An emailer wrote, in response to my statements in “Understanding” Creation - Round Two:

“If you take out my heart, I will die. ?But you cannot deduce from this that all living creatures must have a heart.

“Similarly, because cells and single-cell creatures as we know them today would not be able to exist without certain parts, you cannot deduce that all cells/cellular organisms must have those parts to exist. ?Therefore your suggestion that they must have had all of those parts to exist or they could not have existed at all is faulty, and therefore your suggestion that they must have sprung into existance fully formed is also faulty.

“If I remember my science correctly, viruses are quasi-living creatures that are primarily complicated protein structures that behave in a living-like way, yet most of them are missing the detailed substructures of which you speak. ?In any case, you could posit viruses as an example of what a medium stage between complicated proteins and single-celled animals with specialized parts might look like.

“As for the spontaneous existing of vertebrate life, I’d never heard that before and would be interested if you could point me towards a more history of that era.”

My reply:

Let me answer your second point first.  I didn’t say that the vertebrate life forms of the Cambrian period came into existence spontaneously.  The imprecise terms I used were:

“Apart from the fact that the fossil record completely contradicts his predictions (the basic vertebrate phyla and genera sprang into existence, fully differentiated at one time in the Cambrian period roughly 600 million years ago, with no connecting evolution from the invertebrate forms found in earlier fossils) .....”

In addition to this dramatic case, there are large numbers of others in which a species simply died out, with no evidence of evolutionary change over hundreds of millions of years, as well as additional large numbers in which life forms remain today exactly as they were hundreds of millions of years ago, with no evidence of evolution in response to tremendous changes in their environments. 

At the same time, there are many cases in which a species remained unchanged for as long as 140 million years, then exhibited a sudden leap to major new characteristics, with no intermediate, gradual changes. 

The problem is so acute as to have produced a major controversy within the field of evolutionary theorists.  The late Stephen Jay Gould and his colleague Niles Eldredge conceived the theory of punctuated equilibrium as a less then successful attempt to explain the phenomenon.  Other evolutionary biologists hotly dispute this theory.

Darwinian theory, of course, postulates thousands of intermediate forms, as a species randomly and spontaneously develops genetic mutations and imperceptibly evolves into a completely new species. The fossil record was predicted by Darwin to reveal thousands upon thousands of these intermediate evolutionary forms.  In fact, it does not.

With regard to your first point, you are, of course, correct that not all single-cell creatures have all of the sub-systems that I mentioned.  Viruses are less complex.  Nonetheless, they are far from simple in their organization. 

The Tulane University website on viruses states: “The complex arrangements of macromolecules in the virus shell are minute marvels of molecular architecture. Specific requirements of each type of virus have resulted in a fascinating apparent diversity of organization and geometrical design.” About the HIV virus, for example, Tulane says: “HIV is a fairly complex virus, although by no means the most complicated known. The virus is thought to contain 2 identical copes of a positive sense (i.e. mRNA) single-stranded RNA strand about 9,500 nucleotides long.  These may be linked to each other to form a genomic RNA dimer.”

You say, “In any case, you could posit viruses as an example of what a medium stage between complicated proteins and single-celled animals with specialized parts might look like.” 

The differences between the structures of viruses and the single-cell creatures I described are as great as the differences between a slide rule and a desktop computer.  To postulate that one evolved from the other requires so huge a leap of faith as to make Christians’ faith look like a short walk from the desk to the water cooler.

Unfortunately, “might have been” is about the best that Darwinian theorists can produce.  To say, for example, as Ernst Mayr did that fish fins evolved into legs is about as scientifically conclusive as saying that, because they look somewhat alike, boulders might have evolved into bricks, and eventually into walls.  The mere superficial similarity in appearance or structural use is no proof at all that one evolved from the other.  When biochemists examine these structures at the x-ray microscope level, they find great differences of chemical and structural makeup.

Darwinian evolution’s inescapable problem remains that it cannot produce a single proof of evolution.  Most people, including me, will accept the idea of natural selection producing gradual changes within a species via combinations of random genetic variation and suitability for changing environments.  That, however, is a very long way from proving that every living thing started, purely by chance, from inert chemicals combining to form a single-cell living creature and that every living plant and animal evolved from this single-cell creature.

Underlying all of the debate is Aristotle’s Unmoved Mover, the God who created the cosmos and established all of the laws of nature that, for example, cause viruses to be organized in very precise geometrical patterns.

In your “might have been,” suggesting viruses as an intermediate stage between complicated proteins and single-celled animals with specialized parts, you make what amounts to an implicit assumption that complicated proteins are somehow just hanging around to be used in this theoretical transition.

Scientist in many specialized fields have confidently started young careers aiming to demonstrate how life might spontaneously, purely by chance, have come into being from some primordial soup.  All of them have ended their careers as disappointed and skeptical old men.

Even in carefully controlled laboratory conditions, no one has come close.  The most promising theories to date have foundered on the simple fact that, while the theorized conditions of a geologically young earth might have produced some amino acids, the process doesn’t stop there, but continues on to convert the amino acids into gooey, lifeless tar.

Posted by Thomas E. Brewton on 11/24 at 01:09 AM
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Tuesday, November 23, 2004

“Understanding” Creation - Round Three

Yet more discussion about what the meaning of is is.

In the continuing exchange of emails, I received the following:

“So you say the bible is to be taken symbolically, not literally?”

That was in response to part of my earlier answer in which I said:

I think that’s the point. ?There are realms of being or non-being that we simply cannot imagine or sense.  The Book of Genesis is a symbolic effort to put this profound intuition into human words.

My reply:

You’re about to push me into a very hot pot.  Many Christians, as obviously you know, believe that the Bible is literally the Word of God. 

I too believe that it is the Word of God, in the sense that the Bible is what the spirit of God put into the hearts of men.  But, as I said in other replies, God can only be intuited, because the human mind lacks the capacity to understand a realm of pre-existence outside being (that tangle of words illustrates the difficulty).

A masterly painting is not the same thing as the physical reality that it represents, and it may be a selective distortion of the reality.  Nonetheless it was inspired by the original and conveys a distinct and instructive picture, a “message” to the viewer.  The Bible is more than that, but the analogy is useful.

Obviously the writers of Genesis were not present to witness the creation of the world out of darkness and chaos.  One can say that the Genesis account is the Word of God in the sense that it represents humans’ Divinely-inspired attempt to deal with a fundamental question of existence and humans’ place in it.

The ancient Hebrews were pretty sharp.  Genesis is not a bad layman’s description of what many physicists and astronomers today would say about the origin of our world.

Jesus Christ was an actual, historical person, as witnessed by both enemies and believers.  His miracles are also historical fact, witnessed in some cases by thousands of people.  You may not believe them possible, but that is to maintain that the laws of nature, as we presently understand them, are never suspended. 

It was in that connection that I mentioned Professor Hawking’s naked singularity of a black hole, where the laws of nature are suspended.  Until recent experiments in the realm of quantum mechanics, most people would have thought anyone was nuts to believe that matter could be simultaneously in two different places, or that action in one locale could directly influence matter located elsewhere.  As physicists probe further into matter and energy, they are encountering more and more counter-intuitive phenomena.

In the medical field, for example, miraculous cures occur, for which medical science has no answer.  Life-threatening tumors just disappear overnight in response to prayer (as I know from an experience in my family).

Sunday, November 21, 2004

“Understanding” Creation - Round Two

Further discussion about what the meaning of is is.

Another emailer wrote:

“I still find it impossible to imagine infinite, finite and eternity or the beginnings as a “singularity”.

“I also can’t imagine a god who would or should care about 6 billion human beings who are either unique in the universe or have come to be on perhaps an infinite number of similar planets.”

My reply:

I think that’s the point.  There are realms of being or non-being that we simply cannot imagine or sense.  The Book of Genesis is a symbolic effort to put this profound intuition into human words.

The great weakness of Comtean Positivism (i.e., that the only reality is what we can sense) is that the human body can sense so very few of the many varieties of force fields and energy waves (quantum energy packets) that we know of indirectly via things like cyclotrons, electron, and X-ray microscopes.  The human senses can’t detect X-rays, for example, though we will experience the deteriorating effect later on if we endure too much of it.  In the case of cyclotrons, electron microscopes, and X-ray microscopes, we never “see” things, but get data responses from the impact of various kinds of energy with the molecular or sub-atomic structure of materials.  These data responses must then be interpreted with the vast computing power that only in recent years has become available.

Add to this the fact that the human body never directly senses anything.  Receptor nerves react to external stimuli, triggering a chemical response that travels along one or more nerve paths, thence to the brain, where the chemical reaction must connect to the proper combination of ganglia before we can see, hear, taste, smell, or feel anything.  As many people have noted, sensory perceptions are often very different from person to person.  What an insane person hears or sees may not exist from the standpoint of a sane person.  Reliance upon the supposedly scientific approach of Comtean Positivism is rather like asking a blind man to perform brain surgery with a sledge hammer.

Poor Charles Darwin, for example, thought in his ignorance (and obsessive desire to find something, anything to disprove what he called the “damnable doctrine of Christianity”) that life began spontaneously from inert chemicals to form so-called simple, single-cell life forms, from which every other living thing evolved purely by random chance, over unimaginable billions of years. 

Apart from the fact that the fossil record completely contradicts his predictions (the basic vertebrate phyla and genera sprang into existence, fully differentiated at one time in the Cambrian period roughly 600 million years ago, with no connecting evolution from the invertebrate forms found in earlier fossils), microbiologists have determined that, even at the level of irreducible simplicity, single-cell life is is extraordinarily complex.  Knowing this has only in recent years become possible, with the advent of X-ray microscopes and the necessary computing power.

What Darwin in his obsessive and benighted ignorance presumed to be just a fluid-filled membrane with a nucleus is, in fact, a bundle of interdependent systems for capturing food, moving it within the cell to the digestive system, then for moving toxic chemical waste from the digestive system, and thence dumping the waste out of the cell.  Each of those individual systems within the cell requires a dozen to as many as a couple of hundred complex organic chemicals not found free-form in nature. 

Without any one of these complicated sub-systems, a supposedly simple, single-cell creature would die almost immediately.  Ergo, evolution over billions of years, as Darwin postulated it, to evolve each of these systems via random chance is now known to be completely impossible.  Every single one of these sub-systems had to be in existence simultaneously and operating effectively.  Darwinian evolutionary theory thus crumbles to dust before it can even take to the theoretical evolutionary road. 

Remember that Darwinian evolution is not just the random development of characteristics within a species via natural selection.  It sinks or swims on the theory that every living plant and animal started from the spontaneous generation of life from inert chemicals into a supposedly simple, single-cell thing.  As cutting-edge scientific research in microbiology now makes clear, anyone teaching that Darwinian evolution is scientific fact is guilty of criminal ignorance, if not willful stupidity.

The only presently available explanation is intelligent design, i.e., that something (shall we say God?) brought all of these things into existence in their fully developed complexity ab initio.  Whatever changes we have seen since then in the development of similar species is no more than what plant and animal breeders hundreds of years before 1859 could have told Mr. Darwin.

With regard to why liberal-socialists insist upon keeping the latest scientific research from students and continuing to inculcate the religious dogma of Darwinian evolution, see Ohio Subjects Darwinian Dogma to Scientific Scrutiny.

As for whether God can care for and shepherd each individual creature within our realm of Creation, I refer you to the opening sentence above.  Remember that the word care is only a human attempt at approximating a God of literally unknowable nature Who exists outside of, before, and after the Creation that we experience as being itself.  Everything in our cosmos is simultaneously part of God, yet different from God.  Symbolically this was expressed by the Bible’s account of God speaking to Moses from the bush in the desert that was burning, yet not being consumed by the flames.

Posted by Thomas E. Brewton on 11/21 at 11:55 PM
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Can You be Moral and Ethical without being Religious?

The absence of morality and ethics is nihilism, the complete denial of Divinity or any ordering principle.

An emailer asserted, “One can be moral and ethical without being religious.”

My reply:

Sorry. It’s impossible to be moral and ethical without being religious. Without religion, there is no standard for acceptable (moral) conduct. Otherwise you’re simply a nihilist for whom nothing is forbidden.

You can be, as apparently you are, a materialistic, atheistic socialist, but that is still believing in a religion, albeit a secular and materialistic one in which the only standard is the current opinions bouncing around in the minds of intellectuals under the rubric of social justice. That, of course, is what your coreligionists Lenin and Stalin used as the standard to liquidate an estimated 20 million dissident Russians. Today’s standards, under the religion of socialism, of course, are unlikely to be tomorrow’s (cf. Stalin’s abrupt switches in the Popular Front era). So you are obliged to read the New York Times every day to determine which of your beliefs from yesterday are no longer valid.

To this another emailer wrote. “Whoa…?Had to go to the dictionary for this one…
? ?- n, form L. religio, reverence for the gods, holiness, in LL.(Ec.) a system of religious belief. ?1.a) believe in a divine or superhuman powers or powers to be obeyed and worshiped as the creator(s) and ruler(s) of the universe.
I suppose the terms moral and ethical relate to some sort of standard, but where is the component related to a deity? ?You made me think, as I consider myself ethical, moral, but areligious. ?Maybe a marginal agnostic.
My reply:

Your main point, I believe, was:

“I suppose the terms moral and ethical relate to some sort of standard, but where is the component related to a deity?”

The shortest answer is that the component related to a deity is first clearly articulated by Plato and Aristotle in the concept of natural law, which forms the essence of Western civilization until the remarkably ill-named Age of Enlightenment.  It was to this concept of natural law that Thomas Jefferson referred in the Declaration of Independence (“the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God”), in an America still untainted by the godless secular materiality of liberal-socialism.

Plato’s idealism led him to conclude that the ideal, or perfect, forms of everything were of divine origin and that what we observe with our senses in this world is no more than a vague shadow of the perfection of divine reality. 

For a good analogy, look at the propositions of geometry.  Geometric logic can lead to complex and explicit understandings of spatial relationships, but everything in our realm of being is at best an approximation of pure geometric forms.  No matter how fine the tolerances of any manufacturing process, no physical representation of a geometric form will be perfect, if for no other reason than the gaps at the sub-molecular level.  Yet we know that the theoretical understandings of geometry work and produce effective results. 

Liberal-socialism, particularly the Positivism of Auguste Comte, propounded the doctrine that the only reality is what can be detected by our senses.  One must then ask, how much do Einstein’s special and general theories weigh?  what do they smell like?  how do they taste? Not even liberal-socialists deny the existence of mathematics, but mathematics is the science of things that exist in a non-material realm that can be accessed only in the mind, via revelation, or, if you prefer, inspiration. 

In precisely the same way, the natural law propositions relating to human nature and morality are not “things” which you can taste, smell, or weigh.  But morality has real existence and it works.

It also must be acknowledged, even by liberal-socialists, that no intellectual’s mind created the the laws of science.  Nonetheless they exist and they came from somewhere out of non-being.  Liberals, however, having observed these laws, immediately puff themselves up and declare that they created everything with their minds and that there exists no higher source of legitimacy than the minds of intellectuals.  Professing to have discovered the so-called laws of history, intellectuals hubristically claim the power to control human destiny by reshaping political society (as in Lenin’s New Soviet Man).

Philosophy, or love of wisdom, is the process of seeking to glimpse as clearly as possible the ideal forms of behavior, which we call morals.  In Plato’s Parable of the Cave (in The Republic), a savior archetype manages to free himself from the chains of human, sensual life and look straight at the source of light (divinity), then descends back into the cave to free other captives with the knowledge he has imperfectly viewed.  The similarity to Moses’s descent from the mountain bearing the Ten Commandments is not accidental.  The oldest know law code, that of Hammurabi, asserts that its legitimacy derives from the Babylonian god Shamash.

Aristotle said that everything we observe with our senses in this world can be described in terms of motion or energy, and that the nature (or natural law) of things is their potential energy or motion.  Human potential for Aristotle was expressed in ethics or morality.  Behind all of this lay what he called the Unmoved Mover, i.e., the god-creator of being out of non-being. 

As far back into antiquity as archaeologists and historians can go, human behavior and human aspirations have been the same as we observe today.  Collective, societal forms of government and ideas of permissible social conduct vary over the centuries, but all individuals have always had some sense of what they believed was fair or unfair to them.  This is the human potential imparted by the Unmoved Mover, god-creator.  The role of religion and philosophy is to study nature with the aim of conforming individuals’ ideas of fair and unfair conduct to the highest aspects of nature.

For more in that regard, see Return of Pharaoh, the God-King.

Liberal-socialism, however, completely eliminates this aspect and says that humans are no different from earthworms crawling across an electric grid, with intellectuals at the switches to administer stimulating shocks in order to control human behavior.  That is what atheistic, secular materiality, expressed as psychology, boils down to:  humans are merely receptors and reactors to material, sensual pleasure or pain.

Even secular scientists in astronomy and nuclear particle physics are led to speculate whether our observable world is static, always existing and in its present form, degenerating, expanding, or collapsing.  For anyone who thinks very long about the matter, it is impossible to escape the logic that from nothing (the chaos of Genesis) came being, and that somewhere beyond our physical realm lies a state of non-being (Heaven) in a realm entirely beyond the capacity of humans to understand or observe.  Steven Hawking, for example, allows for the complete suspension of the observed laws of physics in the naked singularity of a black hole, where matter and energy as we know them cease to exist in those forms.

The sumum bonum, or supreme good, was for Aristotle individuals striving toward morality within a society that supported religion, tradition, laws, and education aimed at instilling and preserving the morality that is man’s distinguishing characteristic or potential, imparted by the Unmoved Mover, the God existing in a state outside being itself who created the observable cosmos.

This is the Aristotelian doctrine incorporated directly into Christianity in the 13th century by St. Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologica.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Why Liberals Can’t Compete in the Values Arena

When liberals speak of values they are talking about material goods and services, which are presumed to flow exclusively from collectivized government.

My essay can be found on the website of