Nazis, Evolution, and the Theo-Illogical Mind

I was reading a recent blog post by Dinesh D’Souza in which he manages two such flagrantly appalling misapplications of logic, that I feel compelled to review them…

The first is an example of the backwards Appeal to Nature fallacy that I pointed out the other day. I think I will start referring to this as the “Unappeal of Nature” fallacy. The typical Appeal to Nature fallacy is usually employed to make moral judgments about acts based on their natural- or unnatural-ness. That which occurs in nature is considered “good” and that which does not is “bad.” When it comes to evolution, however, the fallacy is twisted in an odd way.

As an argument against the acceptance of evolution D’Souza states: 

Nazis repeatedly invoked Darwinian evolution and that Nazi doctrine used “survival of the fittest” as a virtual recruiting phrase.

Linking evolution to Nazis is a fairly common technique of creationists. The general argument follows these lines:

  1. Evolutionary theory asserts that competition in nature accounts for the “passing-on” of certain traits by individuals who are more successful or better adapted to their environment. 
  2. Less successful Individuals die-off in the continuous competition for food and resources.
  3. Since this competition occurs in nature, it must be “good” and therefore “right” to copy in human society (this is known as Social Darwinism).
  4. As it turns out Social Darwinism is not very good for our society, and it has been used by some very bad people as justification for their own narrow goals (e.g. Nazis).
  5. Therefore evolution must be wrong.

Clever, huh? The odd twist is the assertion that evolution must be wrong because applying what is “natural” blindly is not good for us. Maybe the problem is that the argument is built on a FALLACY? I mean, this logic is about as bad as it comes — it’s like saying, “If we copy something from nature and it turns out to be bad for us, then it doesn’t really happen in nature”… what?

Okay, that was just the first insult to logic — the next one is even insultier.

You may have heard of the “Cosmological Argument” for God. It asserts that since every effect has a cause, a First Cause is required to get everything started — the First Cause is God.

D’Souza finds this argument endlessly compelling. Richard Dawkins, on the other hand, doesn’t think too much of it. He argues that God’s existence, an existence more complex than the universe, an existence that can step in an out of space and/or time, that can create everything, keep an eye on it, tweak it now and again, and generally be everything to everyone forever and for always — that explaining how such a being came into existence is far harder than positing a simple solution like evolution to account for life as we know it today.

In a fine example of theo-illogical doublespeak D’Souza replies:

But consider the argument itself more closely. Is it really true that Complex Explanation A [God] for Complex Phenomenon B [modern life] only works if we can give a full account of A? Actually it is not true. Gravity may account for why objects fall at a certain pace, but this does not require that we give an account for where gravity comes from or why it exists in the first place. If we find various signs of intelligent life on another planet we can conclude that there are aliens on that planet without having any idea of who created them or where they came from. In summary, the best explanation for something does not require that we also provide an explanation for the explanation.

Did you get that?! Let me rephrase it for you: God requires no explanation because God is the explanation!

WOW! 

It must really be gratifying to operate inside the theo-illogical mind; it is so easily satisfied by its own circularity, credulity, and laziness… If gravity exists, it is because gravity exists! Done… no further explanation required.

The beauty of evolution is that such a simple theory can explain so much. And yes, it also raises some deep and interesting questions such as: “Where does the compulsion to replicate come from — and how did it get started?” But unlike the explanation “God did it,” these are questions for which we can attempt to find answers, and science is pursuing those answers.

D’Souza already has all the answers he needs — now his efforts are merely to shutdown the questions.

6 Responses

  1. It has been my experience to find that those committed to believing in God are also those who still use and accept “Because I said so” as a valid explanation. So what you say does not surprise me. They don’t want to be challenged because it feels safer to just believe in these illogical ideas based on “faith” because someone else said so first. I was recently in church with my family and it was commented that the “Blessed Sacrement” was on the alter – AFTER the mass. I challenged the person who told me this saying that the bread does not become the body until it is consecrated in the mass and nothing that is blessed is left after the service. The response, “Well, it’s there. Father just said so.” I’ve had friends I grew up with who would refuse to engage in any conversation that may question why she believed what she believed in any way and “because I do” was the ready answer.

    I stopped accepting the ol “because I said so” answer around the time I realized my parents were not always right and that didn’t really answer why.

  2. I think that maybe the alterntive is just too overwhelming for many people. Idon’t mean it in the “we atheist are a hearty lot who can handle the worlds truths…” but in that its just so fucking depressing to think that this is it. this ‘now’ is all we have got and when its over, thats it.

    Religion is comforting. I agree, circular and illogical but comforting. Existentialism is bleak and long and tedious.

    Maybe its natural for us to label each other and ourselves. People like to belong and its natural, apparently because so many peopole do it, the natural assumption that ifyou are in a category and are happy that others must be too.

    and as an aside, I think this is one of the best thought out and complete posts you have done so far. I like seeing inside your head, now that you are a grown up.
    xx

  3. aww shucks, thanks for the props! In any case, I would like to point you to an essay by Sarte (considered to be among the most “depressing” of the existentialists)… It is called “Existentialism Is a Humanism”, you may find it not so depressing afterall…

    http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/sartre/works/exist/sartre.htm

  4. Ditto on the “like seeing inside your head, now that you’re a grown up.” And double ditto on the well done. Keep shining that light on the rigorous requirements of logic.

    But wait. Ok. So I just had another thought bubble up [contrarian–cause that’s my nature now] … which leads to a question [more related to your previous and last posts than this one]. What then of poetry? Is there not a place in public discourse for poetry? [mr. former? rilke]. So, here’s my question … in the unholy union of religion in politics, must all religious language be discarded simply because of it’s association with, um, religion? [ha! i make myself laugh] But seriously, can’t it be reclaimed just because it’s grand, flowery and appeals to someplace on our collective, amoeba-monkey brain stems–just because it’s so old, ripe and historically part of our growing up experiences? Whether or not we’re “believers” as adults. Makes for more thrilling speeches [and commercials] than a logic lesson … even if one’s religion IS logic. Cause face it, if you want humans to collectively DO anything, HEAD anywhere, usually an appeal to the amoeba-monkey in us all works best. But I guess that’s your point, huh?

  5. You are too right about poetry, words with the power to stir us emotionally, to tickle us where we are not often tickled… in fact I wrote something about emotion/reason a few posts ago, and I would contend that emotion motivates us far more often and intensley than reason… but my complaint about the religious imagery in the Obama ad, had nothing to do with “language” per se. I object to the manipulation of people’s religious fears in political ads, the comingling of very “real” and other-worldly concerns as a tool to garner votes… in fact, i would say they did this pretty artlessly and unpoetically…

    so in any case, the involking of religious “style” is different than involking religious desires/fears… the latter is what I find so… er… problematic!

  6. […] European Jews were killed by German Nazis and their … Saved by cyberpupy5 on Thu 02-10-2008 Nazis, Evolution, and the Theo-Illogical Mind Saved by nanotod on Wed 01-10-2008 Irena Sendlerowa Truly Deserved The Nobel Peace Prize that […]

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