Tag Archives: Feelings

A lesson about men for marriage-minded women from the movie “High Noon”

Marine prays with his wife on their wedding day
Marine prays with his wife on their wedding day

One of my favorite movies for explaining the differences between men and women is “High Noon” (1952).

Here’s the summary from IMDB:

Former marshal Will Kane (Gary Cooper) is preparing to leave the small town of Hadleyville, New Mexico, with his new bride, Amy (Grace Kelly), when he learns that local criminal Frank Miller has been set free and is coming to seek revenge on the marshal who turned him in. When he starts recruiting deputies to fight Miller, Kane is discouraged to find that the people of Hadleyville turn cowardly when the time comes for a showdown, and he must face Miller and his cronies alone.

The main theme of the film concerns Amy’s decision to break her wedding vows the very day that she makes them. She tells her new husband that he must bow to her will, and give up his male role as protector. When he explains his reasons for standing his ground to her practically (Miller will hunt them down) and morally (he has a duty protect the town), she dismisses both. She tells him that if he doesn’t run away from Miller and his gang with her, that she will get on the train and leave town by herself.

The intro of film shows the member’s of Miller’s gang assembling, and the words of the song explain the central conflict between husband and wife:

Here’s the part of the lyrics we care about:

The noonday train will bring Frank Miller.
If I’m a man I must be brave
And I must face that deadly killer
Or lie a coward, a craven coward,
Or lie a coward in my grave.

O to be torn ‘twixt love and duty!
S’posin’ I lose my fair-haired beauty!
Look at that big hand move along
Nearin’ high noon.

He made a vow while in State’s Prison,
Vow’d it would be my life or his’n
I’m not afraid of death, but O,
What will I do if you leave me?

Do not forsake me O my darlin’
You made that promise when we wed.
Do not forsake me O my darlin’
Although you’re grievin’, I can’t be leavin’
Until I shoot Frank Miller dead.

What’s interesting is that his new wife Amy apparently does not understand the meaning of wedding vows or the natural roles of good men as protectors of the weak, and fighters against evil. Although she vowed to stick by him and help him, the minute anything threatening appears that makes her feel unhappy, she abandons her vows and abandons her man. Let’s break down her mistakes now, using actual conversations from the movie.

First, she doesn’t understand or respect the man she married as a man:

Kane: [while riding out of town] It’s no good. I’ve got to go back, Amy.

Amy: Why?

Kane: This is crazy. I haven’t even got any guns.

Amy: Then let’s go on. Hurry.

Kane: No, that’s what I’ve been thinkin’. They’re making me run. I’ve never run from anybody before.

Amy: I don’t understand any of this.

Kane: [after looking at his vest watch] Well, I haven’t got time to tell ya.

Amy: Then don’t go back, Will.

Kane: I’ve got to. That’s the whole thing. [He turns the buggy around and rides back into town]

Her feelings and her desires for the world to be a happy place for her are so strong that they cloud her judgment.

Second, she doesn’t understand the threat posed by evil men:

More:

Kane: I sent a man up five years ago for murder. He was supposed to hang. But up North, they commuted it to life and now he’s free. I don’t know how. Anyway, it looks like he’s coming back.

Amy: I still don’t understand.

Kane: He was always wild and kind of crazy. He’ll probably make trouble.

Amy: But that’s no concern of yours, not anymore.

Kane: I’m the one who sent him up.

Amy: Well, that was part of your job. That’s finished now. They’ve got a new marshal.

Kane: He won’t be here until tomorrow. Seems to me I’ve got to stay. Anyway, I’m the same man with or without this. [He pins his badge on his vest]

Amy: Oh, that isn’t so.

Kane: I expect he’ll come lookin’ for me. Three of his old bunch are waiting at the depot.

Amy: That’s exactly why we ought to go.

Kane: They’ll just come after us, four of ’em, and we’d be all alone on the prairie.

Amy: We’ve got an hour.

Kane: What’s an hour?…What’s a hundred miles? We’d never be able to keep that store, Amy. They’d come after us and we’d have to run again, as long as we live.

Amy: No we wouldn’t, not if they didn’t know where to find us. Oh Will! Will, I’m begging you, please let’s go.

Kane: I can’t.

Amy: Don’t try to be a hero. You don’t have to be a hero, not for me.

Kane: I’m not trying to be a hero. If you think I like this, you’re crazy.

Instead of recognizing how her feelings are deceiving her about the threat and trusting her husband, she tries to force him to accept her mistaken view of reality by threatening to abandon him.

One of Kane’s ex-girlfriends has a talk with Amy, which helps her to understand who Kane is, and what is expected of her:

Amy: That man downstairs, the clerk, he said things about you and Will. I’ve been trying to understand why he wouldn’t go with me, and now all I can think of is that it’s got to be because of you…Let him go, he still has a chance. Let him go.

Helen: He isn’t staying for me. I haven’t spoken to him for a year – until today. I am leaving on the same train you are…What kind of woman are you? How can you leave him like this? Does the sound of guns frighten you that much?

Amy: I’ve heard guns. My father and my brother were killed by guns. They were on the right side but that didn’t help them any when the shooting started. My brother was nineteen. I watched him die. That’s when I became a Quaker. I don’t care who’s right or who’s wrong. There’s got to be some better way for people to live. Will knows how I feel about it.

Helen: I hate this town. I always hated it – to be a Mexican woman in a town like this.

Amy: I understand.

Helen: You do? That’s good. I don’t understand you. No matter what you say. If Kane was my man, I’d never leave him like this. I’d get a gun. I’d fight.

Amy: Why don’t you?

Helen: He is not my man. He’s yours.

Helen understands the need for a wife to stand by her man. But Amy’s response to evil is to shut her eyes and focus on feeling good and being happy. Notice that her “better way” is unspecified – it’s just a feeling she has that pacificism and no-violence will somehow “work” to stop evil. But in reality, pacifism is not a “better way” of dealing with evil – it does not work. Her pacifist response not only does not make evil go away, it actually encourages more evil. Weakness emboldens evildoers, and laying down your arms provokes them to do more evil. Will Kane knows this, but she won’t listen to him.

You can watch the final gunfight here, as well as Amy’s final decision:

So, this is why I really recommend this movie as a discussion-starter when you like a girl and are thinking of marrying her. It clarifies the essential problem with many young women today not being ready for marriage. To be fair, most women come around to respect their husbands and his different roles after they get married. However, the risk of divorce is so dangerous that it makes sense to bring it up for discussion before the marriage happens. Marriage is supposed to be an engine to serve God, and the success of that enterprise cannot be left to chance. You can’t just rely on the fact that she says the words of the vow, you have to check to see if she has a habit of keeping her promises when it goes against her own self-interest.

Ask yourself: Who are you, as a man? And does your woman accept that you have obligations to stand up to evil and do good ? Will she support you in your battle against evil, or will the marriage just be about her feelings and desires? I would especially beware of women who think that God is speaking to them through their feelings and desires. Look at her friends: are they practical and successful? Or are they irresponsible, unaccountable and reckless? Look at her father: does he have a plan for her, and does he lead her to be practical, frugal and hard-working? If you are not going to get an ally and a supporter in a wife, then you will not be able to serve God well, as a married man. Think about it.

New study: the majority (69%) of divorces are initiated by women

Is it OK to tell women they are wrong?
Is this “I’ll do what I want” attitude compatible with life-long married love?

This new report from Live Science gives us some numbers about who initiates divorces most frequently.

It says:

Women are more likely than men to initiate divorce in the United States, but they are no more likely than men to initiate breakups in a dating relationship, a new study finds.

“The breakups of nonmarital heterosexual relationships in the U.S. are quite gender-neutral and fairly egalitarian,” study author Michael Rosenfeld, an associate professor of sociology at Stanford University, said in a statement. “This was a surprise because the only prior research that had been done on who wanted the breakup was research on marital divorces.”

Previous research had found that women are more likely to initiate divorce, at least in the United States, Europe and Australia. In the new study, Rosenfeld compared divorces to nonmarital breakups, in an effort to understand the driving forces behind each type of breakup.

To investigate, he looked at data from the 2009 to 2015 waves of How Couples Meet and Stay Together, a nationally representative survey spearheaded by Rosenfeld and his colleagues. The new study includes 2,262 adults, ages 19 to 64, who reported having opposite-sex partners in 2009. By 2015, 371 of the participants had broken up or gotten divorced.

Women initiated 69 percent of the 92 divorces, Rosenfeld found. But there was no statistically significant difference between women and men when it came to nonmarital breakups, regardless of whether they were living together, he said.

The Ruth Institute reports on a few studies:

Female unions seem to have the highest divorce rates, followed by male unions, followed by opposite sex unions.

“For Sweden, the divorce risk for partnerships of men is 50% higher than the risk for heterosexual marriages, and that the divorce risk for female partnerships is nearly double that for men.”

“For Norway, divorce risks are 77% higher in lesbian partnerships than in those of gay men.”  (The Norwegian data did not include a comparison with opposite sex couples.)

In California, the data is collected a little differently. The study looks at couples who describe themselves as partners, whether same sex or opposite sex. The study asks the question, how likely is it that these couples live in the same household five years later. Male couples were only 30% as likely, while female couples were less that 25% as likely, as heterosexual married couples, to be residing in the same household for five years.

It really seems as if there is something about women in particular that causes them to be unable to keep to commitments in their actions, despite what they might say with their words.

So I am seeing a couple of problems in young, unmarried women that might explain this.

Feminism is bad

First, there is the feminism. Feminism was the driving force behind no-fault divorce. Today, young unmarried women are being taught to view marriage as stifling to their freedom. So if they do get married, they are often resolved that marriage should not affect their freedom in any way. That is just not the way marriage works, though – both spouses need to be equally ready to have their freedom infringed upon by things that HAVE TO GET DONE. Lots of things that have to get done will not be fun, thrilling or amusing – and that’s why it’s good to be prepared to do them before you marry.

My friend Dina says that she only knows one happily married couple from among her friends. The most frequent case she sees is wife is working in order to pay for big house, two cars, etc. and wife is denying husband sex, which makes him disengage from the marriage. A working wife tends to not be as responsive to the needs of husband and kids as a non-working wife, probably in part due to work stress. There is an epidemic of sex-withholding by women, and it causes men to disengage from marriage because they feel unloved. Although women tend to rebel against the idea that the man’s bad behavior is their fault, and that there is a “contractual” nature to marriage, that is how marriage works. You cannot stay married, women, by just doing whatever you feel like, and NOT doing whatever you DON’T feel like. Men will disengage when their needs are not supplied, and that’s no fault of theirs. It’s your fault. Denying relationship obligations causes men to underperform.

Feminism is often linked closely to “independence”. There is a lot of confusion over what the word independence means among young, unmarried women. A man uses that word to mean “lack of financial dependence on parents, the state, etc. because of good decisions in education, career and finances”. But a woman means “not having to care about the needs of a man and the leadership of a man, or the needs of children while still getting what I want from men and children”. That attitude is not compatible with life-long married love.

Emotions are bad

Second, emotions. In my experience, young, unmarried women are less likely to have reasoned out their own life plan in a practical step-by-step manner. Instead, they tend to do whatever makes them feel good moment-by-moment without any realistic plan. One Christian woman was recently telling me how attracted she was to an atheist moral relativist who had been promiscuous from the age of 15. She explained that her emotions were kindled by his GQ looks, 6-pack abs, mysterious European accent, seductive manner and witty conversations. Although she is apparently a Christian, she doesn’t take Christianity seriously in her decisions about relationships and marriage.

Peer-approval and culture play a large part in determining what women think is attractive in a man, as well as their life goals, and women are driven by these cultural standards more than men who focus on honoring their commitments regardless of their emotions. In my experience, women struggle to make their day-to-day actions match their socially-acceptable goal of getting married “some day”. Marriage is for “some day” for today’s busy women, but fun and thrills is for today. “Live in the moment”, they often tell me. If you try to talk to them about roles and responsibilities in a marriage, they will withdraw and rebel. But marriage is about each spouse doing his or her job, and feeling content about what the couple is building together. You can’t make life-long married love from emotional craziness and pursuing fun and thrills with seductive promiscuous moral relativist atheists.

How to pick a woman who won’t divorce you

Young men, I advise you to choose wives who have had to do things that they did not feel like doing. That can involve things like getting a STEM degree, getting a job in STEM, moving out of her parents’ house, getting a “boring” job that helps her pay off her debts, keeping commitments when she doesn’t feel like it, and caring for other people and even animals.

Basically, the more the woman has ground down any narcissism and hedonism she may have, by having to do nasty calculus and horrid lab work, the better. The more accustomed she is to constraints, responsibilities, expectations and obligations, the less likely it is that she’ll divorce you for unhappiness. And all of this goes for men, as well. STEM degree, STEM job, save money, serve others, give to charity.

Marriage is not the time for people to be carried away by their emotions. It’s an enterprise, and it works when both people are rational, practical, hard-working and self-controlled.

New study: decline in mainline church attendance linked to progressive theology

Church attendance for progressive denominations in free fall
Church attendance for progressive denominations in free fall

I’m shocked and delighted to see this new study reported in the Weekly Standard, of all places. I guess everyone has an intuition that conservative churches that focus on the Bible have been growing in attendance. And progressive churches that focus on feelings and peer approval are in decline. But now we have some numbers that link the changes in attendance  to specific theological beliefs.

Excerpt:

A literal reading of scripture and faith in an interventionist God strengthen church attendance. According to a new academic study of what drives a mainline Protestant church to die out or succeed, preaching these two theological precepts makes all the difference.

The forthcoming article, entitled “Theology Matters,” confirms a truth universally acknowledged, or reasonably intuited anyway. The Christ-optional, Gospel-as-metaphor, liberal-progressive mainline Protestantism borne of our secular age keeps so loose a lock on wandering souls that they wander away—choosing boozy brunch, perhaps, over pew-sitting.

The authors, Drs. David Haskell, Kevin Flatt and Stephanie Burgoyne, used five years’ data gathered from 2,255 attendees of Anglican, Lutheran, Presbyterian and United Church of Canada parishes across the province of Ontario. (The United Church of Canada boasts an ongoing, unsurprising self-parody in an atheist minister no one seems to have ginned up the nerve to defrock.)

Approximately half of the authors’ subjects belong to growing parishes within these three mainline denominations, the other half to shrinking ones. Their most striking survey result finds churchgoers at shrinking parishes more doctrinally committed than their ministers.

That’s true about the atheist woman who is leading one of the denominations into decline:

An ordained minister with the United Church of Canada is resisting efforts to oust her from the pulpit because she is an atheist.

“I don’t believe in … the god called God,” Gretta Vosper told the Globe and Mail. “Using the word gets in the way of sharing what I want to share.”

She said that she believes the Bible is “mythology,” and denies that Jesus is the Son of God.

The United Church of Canada has majored in progressive politics . Progressive politics is more important to them than apologetics and theology. From what I’ve read, their ministers are more likely to affirm the writings of progressive atheists like John Dominic Crossan and Marcus Borg as “infallible” than the Christian Scriptures. We have similar problems in the USA with ELCA, PCUSA, ECUSA, and other far left denominations.

Church attendance by denomination, ages 23-35
Church attendance by denomination, ages 23-35

Mainline Roman Catholicism, which focuses less on the Bible and more on political goals like Obamacare, climate change alarmism and amnesty is also in decline. They are declining faster than any other denomination.

Here’s a quote from the study that breaks down the theology by change in church attendance:

When asked to agree or disagree with the statement “Jesus rose from the dead with a real, flesh-and-blood body leaving behind an empty tomb” 93% of growing church pastors agreed, 83% of growing church attendees agreed, 67% of declining church attendees agreed, and just 56% of declining church pastors agreed.

When asked if “God performs miracles in answer to prayer” 100% of the growing church pastors agreed, 90% of the growing church attendees agreed, 80% of the declining church attendees agreed, and just 44% of the declining church pastors agreed.

I think the problem is that when a minister quotes the Bible and espouses traditional theology, people can sense that this teaching is from God, because it is at odds with their selfish desires. They understand the authenticity of it, because it calls them higher. Progressives like Greta Vosper tell people that their current sinfulness is just fine, since the goal of spirituality is to look inside yourself for guidance so that you feel good. But does sinfulness really deliver results over the long term? We were designed by God for righteousness, not selfishness. I am pretty sure that Jesus knows a little more about human nature than Greta Vosper does.

Consider the words of Daniel 2:

1 In the second year of his reign, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; his mind was troubled and he could not sleep.

2 So the king summoned the magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and astrologers to tell him what he had dreamed. When they came in and stood before the king,

3 he said to them, “I have had a dream that troubles me and I want to know what it means.”

4 Then the astrologers answered the king, “May the king live forever! Tell your servants the dream, and we will interpret it.”

5 The king replied to the astrologers, “This is what I have firmly decided: If you do not tell me what my dream was and interpret it, I will have you cut into pieces and your houses turned into piles of rubble.

6 But if you tell me the dream and explain it, you will receive from me gifts and rewards and great honor. So tell me the dream and interpret it for me.”

7 Once more they replied, “Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will interpret it.”

8 Then the king answered, “I am certain that you are trying to gain time, because you realize that this is what I have firmly decided:

9 If you do not tell me the dream, there is only one penalty for you. You have conspired to tell me misleading and wicked things, hoping the situation will change. So then, tell me the dream, and I will know that you can interpret it for me.”

10 The astrologers answered the king, “There is no one on earth who can do what the king asks! No king, however great and mighty, has ever asked such a thing of any magician or enchanter or astrologer.

11 What the king asks is too difficult. No one can reveal it to the king except the gods, and they do not live among humans.”

12 This made the king so angry and furious that he ordered the execution of all the wise men of Babylon.

13 So the decree was issued to put the wise men to death, and men were sent to look for Daniel and his friends to put them to death.

14 When Arioch, the commander of the king’s guard, had gone out to put to death the wise men of Babylon, Daniel spoke to him with wisdom and tact.

15 He asked the king’s officer, “Why did the king issue such a harsh decree?” Arioch then explained the matter to Daniel.

16 At this, Daniel went in to the king and asked for time, so that he might interpret the dream for him.

17 Then Daniel returned to his house and explained the matter to his friends Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah.

18 He urged them to plead for mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that he and his friends might not be executed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.

19 During the night the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision. Then Daniel praised the God of heaven

20 and said:

“Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever;
wisdom and power are his.

21 He changes times and seasons;
he deposes kings and raises up others.
He gives wisdom to the wise
and knowledge to the discerning.

22 He reveals deep and hidden things;
he knows what lies in darkness,
and light dwells with him.

23 I thank and praise you, God of my ancestors:
You have given me wisdom and power,
you have made known to me what we asked of you,
you have made known to us the dream of the king.”

24Then Daniel went to Arioch, whom the king had appointed to execute the wise men of Babylon, and said to him, “Do not execute the wise men of Babylon. Take me to the king, and I will interpret his dream for him.”

25 Arioch took Daniel to the king at once and said, “I have found a man among the exiles from Judah who can tell the king what his dream means.”

26 The king asked Daniel (also called Belteshazzar), “Are you able to tell me what I saw in my dream and interpret it?”

27 Daniel replied, “No wise man, enchanter, magician or diviner can explain to the king the mystery he has asked about,

28 but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries. He has shown King Nebuchadnezzar what will happen in days to come. Your dream and the visions that passed through your mind as you were lying in bed are these:

29 “As Your Majesty was lying there, your mind turned to things to come, and the revealer of mysteries showed you what is going to happen.

30 As for me, this mystery has been revealed to me, not because I have greater wisdom than anyone else alive, but so that Your Majesty may know the interpretation and that you may understand what went through your mind.

People can see right through progressive “spirituality”. They see that this is man-made humanism designed to make people feel better. They know that this is just one person’s opinion, and not from God. The blind leading the blind, as the Bible says. Greta Vosper isn’t deriving her worldview from a truth-centered investigation of science, history or logic. It’s feelings all the way down, and that’s not useful to people who are looking for objective truth and purpose.

The meaning of marriage: a lecture at Google by Tim Keller

Painting: "Courtship", by Edmund Blair Leighton (1888)
Painting: “Courtship”, by Edmund Blair Leighton (1888)

Disclaimer: I have reservations about Tim Keller. I consider him to be too liberal for my tastes, especially on scientific (intelligent design) and political/economic issues. However, I think he did a good job explaining marriage in the lecture below.

Here’s the the video:

Details:

Timothy Keller visits Google’s New York, NY office to discuss his book “The Meaning of Marriage.” This event took place on November 14, 2011, as part of the Authors@Google series.

Timothy J. Keller is an American author, speaker, preacher, and the founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. He is the author of several books, including “The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism.”

“The Meaning of Marriage” touches on topics that all readers can relate to, starting with the role of marriage in our culture, its history and the pessimism that is often associated with it. The Kellers also discuss the feelings of and acts of love, romantic relationships, gender roles, singleness, and the role of sex in a marriage.

I saw a lot of things in his lecture that echo my own views. One point where we agree is on not just looking for traits and virtues in the other person, but in seeing how they handle conflict and solve problems with you.  You have to give the other person things to do and see if they make progress and work cooperatively with you. The most important thing to look for is someone who sees potential in you and is committed to helping you realize it. You want someone who won’t give up on you, no matter how hard things get. There are fun and happy times in a marriage, but those come naturally – the real question is how well two people stick together to get things done when it’s hard. I definitely recommend Keller’s book on marriage, it’s such a good vision of what marriage could be.

Here’s an article entitled “You Never Marry the Right Person“, that discusses one of the points in the lecture.

Excerpt:

In generations past, there was far less talk about “compatibility” and finding the ideal soul-mate. Today we are looking for someone who accepts us as we are and fulfills our desires, and this creates an unrealistic set of expectations that frustrates both the searchers and the searched for.

[…]The Bible explains why the quest for compatibility seems to be so impossible. As a pastor I have spoken to thousands of couples, some working on marriage-seeking, some working on marriage-sustaining and some working on marriage-saving. I’ve heard them say over and over, “Love shouldn’t be this hard, it should come naturally.” In response I always say something like: “Why believe that? Would someone who wants to play professional baseball say, ‘It shouldn’t be so hard to hit a fastball’? Would someone who wants to write the greatest American novel of her generation say, ‘It shouldn’t be hard to create believable characters and compelling narrative’?” The understandable retort is: “But this is not baseball or literature. This is love. Love should just come naturally if two people are compatible, if they are truly soul-mates. “

The Christian answer to this is that no two people are compatible. Duke University Ethics professor Stanley Hauerwas has famously made this point:

Destructive to marriage is the self-fulfillment ethic that assumes marriage and the family are primarily institutions of personal fulfillment, necessary for us to become “whole” and happy. The assumption is that there is someone just right for us to marry and that if we look closely enough we will find the right person. This moral assumption overlooks a crucial aspect to marriage. It fails to appreciate the fact that we always marry the wrong person.We never know whom we marry; we just think we do. Or even if we first marry the right person, just give it a while and he or she will change. For marriage, being [the enormous thing it is] means we are not the same person after we have entered it. The primary challenge of marriage is learning how to love and care for the stranger to whom you find yourself married.

Hauerwas gives us the first reason that no two people are compatible for marriage, namely, that marriage profoundly changes us. But there is another reason. Any two people who enter into marriage are spiritually broken by sin, which among other things means to be self-centered—living lifeincurvatus in se. As author Denis de Rougemont said, “Why should neurotic, selfish, immature people suddenly become angels when they fall in love … ?” That is why a good marriage is more painfully hard to achieve than athletic or artistic prowess. Raw, natural talent does not enable you to play baseball as a pro or write great literature without enduring discipline and enormous work. Why would it be easy to live lovingly and well with another human being in light of what is profoundly wrong within our human nature? Indeed, many people who have mastered athletics and art have failed miserably at marriage. So the biblical doctrine of sin explains why marriage—more than anything else that is good and important in this fallen world—is so painful and hard.

When you are courting, don’t worry about appearances and feelings and passion so much, because that is all subject to change over time, and those things won’t help you with the real challenges you’ll face in a marriage. Worry about whether they are the kind of person who can make commitments and love other people self-sacrificially – even if they are unlovable. In the long run, their ability to read and understand issues, to care for others and serve them, to keep promises, to be respectful and supportive, to argue respectfully and reasonably, and to solve problems constructively, will all be far more important than appearances and feelings and passion.

During the courtship, give the other person things to do that challenge them and see how they handle being given responsibilities – giving a person hard things to do is a much better way to test a person than recreational nights out with recreational drinking, recreational dancing and recreational sex. Marriage means commitment and hard work, not recreation. And that’s what you should test for – the ability to work hard at the relationship and to keep promises and commitments and to communicate reasonably and to work through difficulties fairly. The most dangerous thing you want to avoid is self-centeredness. You don’t want someone who is primarily interested in minimizing your feelings, and then getting her friends to agree with her that this is legitimate for whatever reasons. You want a person who has had a hard enough life that responsibilities and obligations are natural to her, and who doesn’t try to wiggle out of self-sacrificial acts of love when she doesn’t feel like doing it. Each person needs to invest in the other, so that both can have fuel to do their job in the relationship.

Mark D. Linville: does Darwinian evolution make morality rational?

A conflict of worldviews
A conflict of worldviews

Have you ever heard an atheist tell you that naturalistic evolution is an answer to the moral argument? I have. And I found a good reply to this challenge in the book “Contending With Christianity’s Critics“. The chapter that responds to the challenge is authored by Dr. Mark D. Linville. It is only 13 pages long. I have a link to the PDF at the bottom of this post.

First, a bit about the author:

Blog: The Tavern at the End of the World
Current positions:

  • PhD Research Fellow
  • Tutoring Fellow in Philosophy

Education:

  • PhD in Philosophy with a minor in South Asian Studies and a specialization in Philosophy of Religion, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • MA in Philosophy, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • MA in Philosophy of Religion, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
  • MA in Theology, Cincinnati Christian Seminary
  • BA in Biblical Studies, Florida Christian College

Here is his thesis of the essay:

Darwin’s account of the origins of human morality is at once elegant, ingenious, and, I shall argue, woefully inadequate. In particular, that account, on its standard interpretation, does not explain morality, but, rather, explains it away . We learn from Darwin not how there could be objective moral facts, but how we could have come to believe—perhaps erroneously—that there are.

Further, the naturalist, who does not believe that there is such a personal being as God, is in principle committed to Darwinism, including a Darwinian account of the basic contours of human moral psychology. I’ll use the term evolutionary naturalism to refer to this combination of naturalism and Darwinism. And so the naturalist is saddled with a view that explains morality away. Whatever reason we have for believing in moral facts is also a reason for thinking naturalism is false. I conclude the essay with a brief account of a theistic conception of morality, and argue that the theist is in a better position to affirm the objectivity of morality.

And here’s a sample to get your attention:

But even if we are assured that a “normal” person will be prompted by the social instincts and that those instincts are typically flanked and reinforced by a set of moral emotions, we still do not have a truly normative account of moral obligation. There is nothing in Darwin’s own account to indicate that the ensuing sense of guilt—a guilty feeling—is indicative of actual moral guilt resulting from the violation of an objective moral law. The revenge taken by one’s own conscience amounts to a sort of second-order propensity to feel a certain way given one’s past relation to conflicting first-order propensities (e.g., the father’s impulse to save his child versus his impulse to save himself). Unless we import normative considerations from some other source, it seems that, whether it is a first or second-order inclination,one’s being prompted by it is more readily understood as a descriptive feature of one’s own psychology than material for a normative assessment of one’s behavior or character. And, assuming that there is anything to this observation, an ascent into even higher levels of propensities (“I feel guilty for not having felt guilty for not being remorseful over not obeying my social instincts…”) introduces nothing of normative import. Suppose you encounter a man who neither feels the pull of social, paternal or familial instincts nor is in the least bit concerned over his apparent lack of conscience. What, from a strictly Darwinian perspective, can one say to him that is of any serious moral import? “You are not moved to action by the impulses that move most of us.” Right. So?

The problem afflicts contemporary construals of an evolutionary account of human morality. Consider Michael Shermer’s explanation for the evolution of a moral sense—the “science of good and evil.” He explains,

By a moral sense, I mean a moral feeling or emotion generated by actions. For example, positive emotions such as righteousness and pride are experienced as the psychological feeling of doing “good.” These moral emotions likely evolved out of behaviors that were reinforced as being good either for the individual or for the group.2

Shermer goes on to compare such moral emotions to other emotions and sensations that are universally experienced, such as hunger and the sexual urge. He then addresses the question of moral motivation.

In this evolutionary theory of morality, asking “Why should we be moral?” is like asking “Why should we be hungry?” or “Why should we be horny?” For that matter, we could ask, “Why should we be jealous?” or “Why should we fall in love?” The answer is that it is as much a part of human nature to be moral as it is to be hungry, horny, jealous, and in love.3

Thus, according to Shermer, given an evolutionary account, such a question is simply a non-starter. Moral motivation is a given as it is wired in as one of our basic drives. Of course, one might point out that Shermer’s “moral emotions” often do need encouragement in a way that, say, “horniness,” does not. More importantly, Shermer apparently fails to notice that if asking “Why should I be moral?” is like asking, “Why should I be horny?” then asserting, “You ought to be moral” is like asserting, “You ought to be horny.” As goes the interrogative, so goes the imperative. But if the latter seems out of place, then, on Shermer’s view, so is the former.

One might thus observe that if morality is anything at all, it is irreducibly normative in nature. But the Darwinian account winds up reducing morality to descriptive features of human psychology. Like the libido, either the moral sense is present and active or it is not. If it is, then we might expect one to behave accordingly. If not, why, then, as a famous blues man once put it, “the boogie woogie just ain’t in me.” And so the resulting “morality” is that in name only.

In light of such considerations, it is tempting to conclude with C. S. Lewis that, if the naturalist remembered his philosophy out of school, he would recognize that any claim to the effect that “I ought” is on a par with “I itch,” in that it is nothing more than a descriptive piece of autobiography with no essential reference to any actual obligations.

When it comes to morality, we are not interested in mere descriptions of behavior. We want to know about prescriptions of behavior, and whether why we should care about following those prescriptions. We are interested in what grounds our sense of moral obligation in reality. What underwrites our sense of moral obligation? If it is just rooted in feelings, then why should we obey our moral sense when obeying it goes against out self-interest? Feelings are subjective things, and doing the right thing in a real objective state of affairs requires more than just feelings. There has to be a real objective state of affairs that makes it rational for us to do the right thing, even when the right thing is against our own self-interest. That’s what morality is – objective moral obligations overriding subjective feelings. I wouldn’t trust someone to be moral if it were just based on their feelings.

The PDF is right here for downloading, with the permission of the author.