Evolution News writes about an eminent scientist who is under by professors and students at Emory University because of his disagreement with Darwinian orthodoxy and his assertion that morality isn’t possible on a materialistic worldview.
Here’s the first article from Evolution News, which explains what got Dr. Carson in trouble with the Darwoids.
You can be a brilliant, innovative pediatric neurosurgeon at a sky-scraping top medical school, in addition to being a generous philanthropist with an inspirational up-from-dire-poverty personal story, plus a Presidential Medal of Freedom winner, and a best-selling writer whose memoir was turned into a TV movie starring Cuba Gooding Jr.
All that, but if you once shared your critical thoughts on evolutionary science and its moral implications — everything else about you suddenly dwindles to very little.
Dr. Ben Carson of Johns Hopkins University is that man. He’s scheduled to give the Commencement address and receive an honorary degree at Emory University but close to 500 faculty members, students and staff protested, drawing up a gravely serious letter to the student paper expressing their “concerns.” Over what? Carson had no intention of speaking about evolution but someone dug up an impromptu interview he once gave to a publication associated with his Christian denomination (he’s a Seventh Day Adventist).
Carson explained why he’s not impressed by the evidence on offer for Darwinian theory and why a materialist philosophy is at odds with the idea of free will and therefore makes it tough to offer a coherent account of moral principles. The interview is casual in tone and it’s not clear whether his views are more along the lines of theistic evolution, intelligent design, or some other perspective. Not that the protestors seemed inclined to make any careful distinctions.
Emory isn’t withdrawing the invitation and the letter’s signatories don’t demand that the university do so. But they do distort his opinions and make him sound far less thoughtful than he actually is. Because he says you can’t, under materialism, give a sound rationale for morality, they claim he said that evolutionists are therefore morally defective, which is of course absurd.
At the First Things website, Princeton University moral philosopher Robbie George comes to Carson’s defense. Professor George agrees with Carson:
But of course Gentle Ben (and he is indeed one of the gentlest, kindest people one could ever meet) doesn’t believe that his Darwinist friends and colleagues are necessarily unethical. What he believes is that Darwinism is necessarily materialistic. (This is a view about Darwinism that he shares with some devout Darwinists themselves.) And he believes that materialism, if true, is incompatible with free will and with ethical norms (which must be, after all, norms for the guidance of free choices, if they are to have any standing, force, and validity at all). Now, he knows perfectly well that people who believe in materialism are in many cases decent, honorable, ethical people. But he thinks that they lead lives that are much better than their formal philosophical beliefs would require them to lead. He believes that their commitment to materialism makes it impossible for them to give a sound account of the ethical norms which they themselves, to their credit, live by. Of course, he might be wrong about that (though I don’t think he is), just as he might be wrong about the validity of Darwinism as a scientific theory, or the compatility of Darwinism with the rejection of materialism. But it’s certainly not a mean or crazy thing to believe or say. It’s scarcely a cause for “concern” about having him as a Commencement speaker.
Robbie George is one of the best moral philosophers out there. If he says that morality is not rationally grounded on a materialist worldview, then that’s the way it is. Naturally, people who believe in Darwinism can behave morally, because they are made in God’s image. Therefore, they have free will and an awareness of the moral law, even though these things are not rationally grounded on materialism. The point that theists make is merely that materialists are not able to make sense of morality on a deterministic worldview. They can, however, act better than their worldview allows – but it’s not rational for them to do that.
I note that Emory University is on the list of LEAST-FREE universities, according to the non-partisan, non-religious Foundational for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), so it’s not surprising that they would be censor anyone who has different views than they do.
Here’s another article from Evolution News.
Almost 500 Emory faculty and students have expressed their dismay that their commencement speaker on May 14 does not toe the ideological line on evolutionary biology. Yes, gasp, the renowned Johns Hopkins neurosurgeon Ben Carson does not believe in evolutionary theory. Not only that, but biology professors at Emory and their supporters also accuse Carson of committing a thought crime because he allegedly “equates acceptance of evolution with a lack of ethics and morality.”
Since I am a historian who has studied and published on the history of evolutionary ethics, I was rather surprised by the Emory faculty’s consternation over Carson’s belief that evolution undermines objective ethics and morality. Last summer I attended a major interdisciplinary conference at Oxford University on “The Evolution of Morality and the Morality of Evolution.” So I am well aware that there are a variety of viewpoints in academe on this topic. Nonetheless, many evolutionists — from Darwin to the present (including quite a few at that Oxford conference) — have argued and are still arguing precisely the point that Dr. Carson highlighted: they claim that morality has evolved and thus has no objective existence.
One of the keynote speakers at the Oxford conference was a leading philosopher of science, Michael Ruse, who stated in a 1985 article co-authored with Harvard biologist E. O. Wilson: “Ethics as we understand it is an illusion fobbed off on us by our genes to get us to co-operate.” Why do biologists at Emory try to make Carson appear foolish for asserting that evolution undermines ethics, while one of the leading evolutionary biologists and one of the leading philosophers of science admit that evolution destroys any objective morality? Wilson in his book Consilience (1998) argued: “Either ethical precepts, such as justice and human rights, are independent of human experience or else they are human inventions.” He rejected the former explanation, which he called transcendentalist ethics, in favor of the latter, which he named empiricist ethics.
Atheists who think about these issues agree – on a materialist interpretation of nature, ethics is arbitrary, made-up nonsense.
Even atheists like Richard Dawkins think so:
The total amount of suffering per year in the natural world is beyond all decent contemplation. During the minute that it takes me to compose this sentence, thousands of animals are being eaten alive, many others are running for their lives, whimpering with fear, others are slowly being devoured from within by rasping parasites, thousands of all kinds are dying of starvation, thirst, and disease. It must be so. If there ever is a time of plenty, this very fact will automatically lead to an increase in the population until the natural state of starvation and misery is restored. In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.
(“God’s Utility Function,” Scientific American, November, 1995, p. 85)
Surprise! Atheism, which assumes that matter is all there is, implies the complete destruction of rationally grounded morality – including moral standards and human rights. This is denied by no one who has thought about this problem for more than 5 seconds. If you are talking to an atheist, you are talking to someone who thinks that any statement about right and wrong is as true as it’s opposite. On atheism, the morality of rape or slavery is as arbitrary as fashion or food. Any statement that rape is wrong has as much reason behind it, on atheism, as the statement that rape is right. Any statement that slavery is wrong has as much reason behind it, on atheism, as the statement that slavery is right. And that’s what atheists mean by morality, on their view. It’s just like picking which side of the road that people will drive on in different groups of people in different places in different times. That’s “atheist morality”. And when they die, there is no accountability in the afterlife for anything they’ve done and managed to escape judgment for in this life.
And, in point of fact, you can see it right now in the way that they are treating Dr. Carson.
What to do about it
If you are not happy with the actions of the Darwish Inquisition at Emory University, then please sign the petition!
And any atheists who are reading this post and don’t support Carson’s right to speak, please understand why theists have the opinion that atheism is nothing more than the practice of running from debates and silencing (one way or another) anyone who disagrees with you. That’s our experience of dealing with secular humanists like Richard Dawkins – no debates, just insults and coercion. To us, secular humanism is just a phrase that means totalitarianism and censorship. That’s our experience.
If you disagree, then sign the petition and prove us wrong.
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