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November 27, 2006

Comments

Ellen

I can't help but notice that racehorses which have been bred for speed for YEARS haven't really gotten all that much faster. But human beings, who breed very unscientifically, break swimming, running, and jumping records all the time.

Meg Q

Y'know - as Mark Steyn notes in his new book, why does it bother so many that we mess with genetically modifying foodstuffs, but we're cool with modifying human beings?

Another way to look at it: When you stop believing in a "Designer", you'll believe that "breeding" humans is perfectly okay.

Mark Adams

Looks like the Robinson review can be found here:

http://solutions.synearth.net/2006/10/20

craig

Sarcastic thought experiment:

Carrying strict Darwinist logic to its conclusion, if (a) mankind is randomly evolved toward no particular end and according to no particular design, then it follows that (b) religious belief cannot be considered either a positive or a negative trait apart from its contribution toward survival of the species; therefore, (c) since religious belief generally correlates to reproductive success, it is in mankind's own interest to breed for it selectively, and to cull atheists from the herd as unfit contributors to the gene pool.

Such would be un-Christian and I don't advocate it, but it is entirely logical and defensible according to atheist principles.

Kathleen Lundquist

Do go read the article - it's a little long, but rewards a close reading. Thanks for mentioning it, Amy - very helpful indeed.

Michael Joseph

Amy,

I'm glad to see another Catholic blogger posting on Dawkins. The amount of influence Darwinian evolutionary theory exerts in academia today has made real inroads into the social sciences, and Dawkins is increasingly becoming its poster boy. It's a theory that Catholic thinkers are going to have to eventually deal with on a larger scale.

I am currently reading Dawkins' The God Delusion on the heels of Daniel Dennett's Breaking the Spell. Both volumes, while certainly full of histrionics, do present formiddable challenges to conventual thinking on issues in philosophy, social science and theology.

I recently put up two posts on Dawkins and the growing momentum of Darwinian theory in academia:

"God vs. Science" - A Match Made in...

The Atheist Onslaught

For your readers who are interested in what scholars in the fields of mathematics, biochemistry and philosophy are saying in opposition to the explosion of Darwinian theory out of the science hub, I recommend the volume Uncommon Dissent: Intellectuals who Find Darwinism Unconvincing, edited by William Dembski. It's deep, smart stuff but well worth the effort.

Mike Koenecke

Someone ("meep") made what I thought was a very pithy comment on the Ace of Spades forums:

"Here's what I want to know: why are the most ardent Darwinists the people least likely to procreate? I guess they're just admitting they're not the fittest."

Interesting take, innit?

kate

There is an interesting and somewhat negative review of Dawkins' book by Kenan Malik, who describes himself as a fellow-athiest, in the Daily Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/arts/main.jhtml?xml=/arts/2006/10/08/bodaw01.xml

Donald R.McClarey

"Here's what I want to know: why are the most ardent Darwinists the people least likely to procreate?"

Because God has a keen sense of the ironic.

Donna

It seems to me human genius is much more mysterious and elusive than Dawkins is capable of comprehending. Take the case of Charles Dickens, for instance. Nobody breeding for literary ability ever would have put Dickens' parents together and yet they had a son who was able to capture the world of Victorian London like no other writer. Dickens in turn had a bunch of children - did any of them write at all, or produce anything worth reading?

Geniuses often arise from very humble or unlikely backgrounds and in most cases, their children are unexceptional talents. Contrary to what Dawkins seems to think, it isn't simply a case of jiggering with genetics.

Father Elijah

Sometimes science fiction can act like the parables of the Gospel (for those gasping here lol take a breath and read on lol) They get you to see reality through another 'looking glass', or to put it another way, to see and think things 'outside the box'-the usual way we see things....

For example, in Jurassic Park, the Doctor who studies chaos theory, when finally introduced to just how the 'flea circus' of Jurassic Park was created through genetic engineering said something like the following:

"God creates the dinosaurs.......
God 'kills' dinosaurs......
God creates 'man'.......
'man' 'kills God'........
'man' creates dinosaurs again

Or another----Jules Verne's "Time Machine"

The main character travels millenia into the future to a time when there are basically two races of 'mankind'..
One species is mild, decent, gentle, creative and procreative (natural conception and birth)

The other species, which the 'hero' discovers to his horror FEEDS off of the first species is genetically manufactured into the 'grunts' and the despicable but intellectually superior 'controllers'

It gets really scary when fiction becomes real.

We are the generation of human beings in human history (I will NOT use the term 'human evolution') that is in the process of making a massive and far reaching choice, a choice that seemingly will split the human species into two diverging species:
those naturally conceived and born (and died)
and
those manufactured !

What Verne and Crichton and others are trying to awaken us to---is the basic question, again spoken by the 'expert in chaos theory' in Jurassic Park but repeated again and again since Humanae Vitae in 1968.... [actually it is the fundamental moral question since Genesis]

"The real issue is not what we CAN do but what we OUGHT to do!"

allison

The communists didn't abolish God, they sought to replace Him with themselves. Atheists explain time and again on how they are successful at positing real moral systems from some simple first principles, and therefore how you don't need to believe in God to be humble about human failings. but sooner or later, you'll be forced to explain why human failings themselves shouldn't be removed, and you'll be hard pressed to maintain conviction to the answer "because".

Glenn Juday

An operational principle in conservation biology, with overwhelming empirical evidence in its favor, is that diversity of ecosystems, species, and genetics is vital for the long-term survival of organisms. Not helpful, but vital. Not very useful, but vital.

The body of empirical evidence in favor of genetic diversity (the harmful effects of inbreeding depression, etc) is perfectly consistent with evolutionary theory, Intelligent Design, or special creation. None of these interpretive frameworks is the issue.

Yet Dawkins and other enthusiasts for - well actually for what? - seem positively frantic to cross a threshold, to breach a barrier, to declare their freedom from restraint. And ironically, their target seems to be genetic diversity, an essential part of the survival capacity for virtually all higher organisms that has, by all the evidence he finds convincing, stood the test of vast amounts of time.

So now we are to believe that the subjective value judgments of a tiny slice of early 21st century elites will provide the wisdom necessary to dispose of the vast majority of the accumulated genetic diversity of the human species, in favor of a few traits they find appealing? Yes sir, trust the future of the species to an academic author, because, well, because ... why?

Dawkins doesn't have to believe in God to be able to understand that even if he relagates the history of life to a system of repeated interactions of genes versus environmental change and variability, there is an almost inexpressibly vast accumulated wisdom in the gene pool of the organisms who are the result of such a process. If he would just stop and think about it.

We as Jews and Christians, of course, start with the premise that God indeed is sovereign and in some particular way, willed the outcome - humankind as we are today. But one doesn't need to subscribe to Judeo-Christian cosmology to see that arbitrary fiddling around with the human gene pool is an assault on all of us - including future generations, and can in no circumstances be permitted to go unchallenged, much less accepted, much much less welcomed. Atheists and believers can positively and heartily unite on that common principle.

God save us from such intellects.

Katrina

Amy: nothing to do with that idiotic fellow-countryman of mine, Dawkins. But let's pray that a good proportion of those supposedly 3000 journalists mentioned below are plainclothes American security people. Please God that you Americans are helping out yet again. There are Catholics in Europe and Italy who are looking for B16 to have a heart attack or get blown up. Some of this junk is even appearing in the Italian newspapers.

Henry Dieterich

Is the deliberate breeding of human beings (or any other animal) natural selection or not?

If it is, it implies that all human activity, including technological activity, is part of the natural process of evolution. There is no difference between a man building a dam and a beaver building a dam. Therefore if species become extinct, or the climate of the earth is changed, because of human activity, it cannot be called "bad" any more than a volcanic eruption or a meteoric impact would be bad. In fact the phrase "moral difference," which Professor Dawkins has no trouble using, is entirely devoid of meaning.

If it is not, then the materialists have to explain how man could be the one organism outside of nature. They will also have to explain what is the source of the "ought" that Professor Dawkins, for one, clearly believes in. "Helpful for the survival of the species" doesn't make the grade, because it implies that the human species (or any other species) ought to survive. If that is true, then what is it about Homo sapiens that suggests that its survival is good, given the great number of species that appear not to have survived.

You can't have it both ways. This is not an argument against natural selection: but either there is something more than natural selection or the difference between Professor Dawkins and Hitler is that Hitler happens to be dead.

Leigh

Actually, it's likely that the worst problem won't comes from the likes of Dawkins, who are so in-your-face that they get people's backs up, but from a slow and creeping broadening of the boundaries of "theraputic."

For instance, say we agree that technique X is acceptable for repairing disfiguring malformations of the face. But where exactly do we draw the line between repairing disfigurement and making designer babies of idealized beauty? The extremes are obvious, and produce strong emotional reactions. But between them is a gray area where disfigured bleeds off into merely homely, into not particularly attractive and then into the various gradations of attractiveness. And there have been several studies that show a strong correlation between attractiveness and job opportunities, etc -- ergo, even just being homely is a definite handicap in social and economic terms, even if it isn't *physically* disabling like a gross malformation of the facial bones.

Yet at the same time, humans have a strong need to arrange themselves into heirarchies, whether the group represents the entire range of humanity in a given dimension, or only the top few percentiles. If society decides that homeliness is indeed a disfigurement that results in measurable decrease in important life functions (albeit socioeconomic rather than physical) and all the homely children all receive treatment so that there are no longer any homely children, soon the merely unattractive will be at the bottom of the social ladder, receiving all the social cruelties that were formerly the preserve of the homely. Treat them, and you just push the bar higher and higher, until eventually everybody is getting the treatment and you effectively have designer babies. But holding a line is going to be excruciatingly hard, because nobody really wants to be the one to have to tell loving parents that their child's appearance is just a little bit under the bar that some unseen and unefined authority figures have set for disfigurement, and the child will simply have to live with being homely.

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