February 25, 2005

Creationism and moral decay

In the previous posting, I said that the reason that there is such hostility to the teaching of evolutionary theory by ID advocates and young-Earth creationists is that they feel that it implies a lack off special status for human beings, which leads to atheism, which has led to the current state of moral decay in the US from a more wholesome past. They feel that eliminating the teaching of evolution is the first step on the road to moral redemption.

There are many flaws in this line of reasoning but for the moment I want to look at one feature and pose the question as to why such people think that the moral state of America is in worse shape now than it was in the past.

It becomes clear that the reason is that the word ‘morality’ as used almost exclusively in relation to sex and nudity. Those who see us as currently living in a moral swamp use sex and nudity as the yardsticks for measurement.

Even taking this narrow view of morality, it is not clear that America is any less moral now than it was, say, fifty or more years ago. On the one hand, there is clearly a lot of public discussion now of sex-related issues and more nudity and sex in films and on television. But all that this might indicate is that things that were done and spoken in private in the past are now more in the open. In other words, we don’t have more sex. We simply have less secrecy and hypocrisy.

It is not that public piety and hypocrisy about sex and nudity has disappeared, as can be seen by the ridiculous flap over the Janet Jackson Super Bowl incident, which was portrayed as if it had irreparably damaged the nation’s psyche. In fact, America is a curious mass of contradictions when it comes to sex and nudity, publicly deploring it while relishing titillating stories in the media.

But it is hard for me to accept that we are in a worse state of morals than we were in the past when that word is used in a more meaningful and broader sense.

For example, it was only fifty years ago or less that civil rights legislation was enacted giving blacks the legal rights that white people had. Lynchings, beatings, fire hosing of peaceful marchers, Jim Crow laws, open discrimination in all areas of life, are all in the living memory of people. Was that a more moral time to live in?

Similarly, the status of women just one hundred years ago was no picnic either. Women had no vote, few career choices, and little hope for advancement or being taken seriously in the scientific, business, and professional worlds. They were seen as primarily homemakers and mothers and little else. Was that a more moral time to live in?

And one has to only go back to about two hundred years to get to the era of slavery and genocide against Native Americans. Was that a more moral time to live in?

While equality has still not been attained, it is only those who are looking at the past with blinkers who could see golden ages then and wish to return to them.

I think that there is a strong case to be made that in some ways morality has increased over time so that even if one were inclined to make this kind of correlation between morals in a broad sense and the passage of time since the publication of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species in 1859, one would have to conclude that morals have actually improved with the advent of evolutionary theory.


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While equality has still not been attained, it is only those who are looking at the past with blinkers who could see golden ages then and wish to return to them.

I have to wonder if it's really blinders, or if there isn't a loss-of-power issue there. The people for whom life has improved since then are, to make sweeping generalizations, not the people looking back nostalgically to the "morality" of past decades and centuries.

This is kind of a half-formed, fuzzy thought at the moment, but there seems to be a fairly forceful sense of entitlement coming from people in that general region of the political and religious spectra: "People like us used to run this country, therefore we should still run it today." I hear this all the time when I'm holding discussions with people on the religious right. Their view appears to be that an America that's not run by people like them isn't America at all, so I tend to be rather cynical about their motives and their true view of "morality," at least on the part of the movement's leaders. The followers, as I think you've observed in another post, tend to be more sincere (though obviously, in my opinion, far from correct).

Now that I'm done babbling... thanks for starting the blog! I appreciate the opportunity to read commentary from you.

Posted by Mark on February 26, 2005 03:25 AM

There is a lot in what you say and this fear of "others" running things instead of "us" is not unique to America. This is why true democracy is so hard to attain. Countries (even those that are known as democracies) are generally ruled by a select group that create structures that perpetuate their influence. They tend to try and block attempts to widen the pool of active participants because that is threatening.

In the US, the two major parties prevent broader access by restrictive ballot access provisions and creating structures that require huge amounts of money to enter, thereby shutting put any grass-roots movements.

Posted by Mano Singham on February 28, 2005 09:47 AM

What Is "Scientific Progress"
What Is Needed To Advance Science

A. What is "Scientific Progress"?

What and whereto progresses in "Scientific Progress"?

Answering this requires meticulous pondering. This subject is not one quaint aspect within our present 21st century technology culture. This subject is THE essence and foundation of the course and goal of our existence, of our life as individuals and members of our phenosociety and of Earth's genohuman group.

B. Please look, even if again, at "Western Culture Wavers At 2008 Junction"

Science-based Enlightenment started in the 18th century and was the basis-foundation of Western culture-civilization. It came to a grinding slow-down in the 20th century, and systematic basic study of life ceased by the 21st century. It ceased because the quest for enlightenment has been gradually replaced during the 20th century by the pursuit of technology-capital-greed values-attitudes-morals-ethics of the 21st century technology culture.

C. "Scientific Progress" is the continuous promotion

of the pursuit by science, of convincing, ever closer approaching, approximate models of the real world including life and ourselves. This is furthering Enlightenment's inherent philosophy and attitudes in regards to individualism, universal human progress and, most important to humanity, the applications of reason.

D. So What Is Needed To Advance Science

Again and again, as long as Science and Technologhy are considered and handled, conceptually and administratively, as one realm and one faculty the disregard of science in favor of technology cannot and will not be overcome. This conception and attitude is THE CORRUPTION OF SCIENCE BY THE 21st CENTURY TECHNOLOGY CULTURE. I reckon that most, if not all, readers of this post associate science and technology conceptually, demonstrating the tight hold of the 21st century technology culture on their mentality-concepts-attitudes.

Dov Henis

(Comments From The 22nd Century)

Posted by Dov Henis on January 7, 2009 03:06 AM