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Quote of the Day

From a common argument:  “Evolution shows that human life does not have a privileged value”.

Say it’s true that the process of evolution gives no value to human life. It would be odd to think it was supposed to. The process of baking doesn’t set the value or price of chocolate cake either.
-- James Chastek


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 10th, 2010 08:39 pm (UTC)
Filthy commoners!
With their common arguments.


Would someone please tell me which of the professors of evolutionary science among the blue whales and sequoias offered this argument?

Jul. 11th, 2010 01:01 am (UTC)
Re: Filthy commoners!
I suspect that one of the people James was thinking of was Stewart-Williams:

Jul. 11th, 2010 04:24 am (UTC)
Re: Filthy commoners!
Okay, Stewart-Williams asserts some fairly tenuous "undermining" of the image-of-God and rationality theses.

While I am willingly to accept both as **models**, there's no real evidence for either exception, as I intimated in my somewhat jokey comment above.

He seems [within the context of a brief column] to have no grasp of what is meant by "image-of-God".

He also makes a howler with his application of "undermining" to spiritual mediums [media?] contacting, as if deceased, fictional characters or living people. How does a faulty production run of gears disprove pocket-watches?

Jul. 10th, 2010 09:35 pm (UTC)
Many of the cheap arguments against evolution are in fact perfectly valid against evolution as popularly conceived.
Jul. 11th, 2010 01:02 am (UTC)
While I would agree in principle -- using Donald Westlake's Dortmunder-series bar scenes as a template for [hilariously] flawed reasoning employed in counterargument to other flawed reasoning -- would you please, Mary, elaborate how that applies here?

I am being extraordinarily dense today.

Jul. 13th, 2010 09:10 pm (UTC)
A privileged value to whom? The cosmos does not value; and I don't think that there is a God who could value the cosmos or things within it. On the other hand, I value my particular human life quite a bit. I also value the lives of my girlfriend, my personal friends, and my cat. It seems to me that living beings that don't value their own lives don't survive, and thus evolution disfavors nonvaluing life. . . .
Jul. 13th, 2010 09:40 pm (UTC)
The cosmos does not value.... On the other hand, I value my particular human life quite a bit.

How is this possible? Are you not part of the cosmos?

...and thus evolution disfavors nonvaluing life.

Evolution! The theory that explains everything, ex post facto. OTOH, there is a lot of grass. Do grasses too value their lives? Ants? Codfish? Pine trees? How then does the "cosmos" not value?
Jul. 14th, 2010 12:40 pm (UTC)
Fallacy of composition and division, sir. Your argument is like that of James Lovelock, who effectively asserted that because many parts of the planet Earth are living organisms, the planet Earth itself is a living organism.

As to whether grasses value their lives, that must depend on what you mean by "value." I don't claim that grasses have consciousness of light, water, carbon dioxide, or anchorage to the soil, for example, being advantageous or desirable to them. But I do see them as acting to gain and/or keep those things. One of the things I took away from Ayn Rand was the idea, not merely that valuing is something that living organisms happen to do, but that living organisms only live by constantly valuing.
Jul. 15th, 2010 01:34 am (UTC)
Composition is not a formal fallacy at all:

All the tiles are green; therefore, the floor is green.
All the tiles are vinyl; therefore, the floor is vinyl.

Composition must be approached through material logic, not formal logic. That is, it matters what the matter is.

The "cosmos" is (as the name implies) the orderly arrangement of all things. To say "the cosmos does not value anything" is to say that nothing in that orderly arrangement values anything, including people, assuming that people are simply particles in motion like everything else is supposed to be.

That is why it is essentially silly for people to say things like "evolution does not place a special value on human life." Who would ever have supposed it was supposed to?
Jul. 15th, 2010 05:57 pm (UTC)
Well, yes, because evolution is not aiming at a specific end. However, I think you're wrong to say that "the cosmos does not value anything" is to say that nothing in the cosmos values anything. There is a difference between what an entity does as an organized whole and what constituents of that entity do. For example, I know that I am writing a comment to you, but it would be a misunderstanding to ask which specific neuron in my brain knows that it is writing a comment to you.
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )


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