My Colleagues’ Residual Theism

WHY MY COLLEAGUES ARE IDIOTS

– Rant # 169 –

MY COLLEAGUES’ RESIDUAL THEISM

Look! I realize it takes time to adjust. But it’s been over a century and a half since you were offered the Darwinian turn. It’s time to shit or get off the pot.

Prior to Origin of the Species, the axiom underpinning our understanding of the world was intentionality. Everything, from the most sub of sub-electronic particles, to the orbit of the planets and beyond, was infused with the stuff, infused either with its own telos, as Aristotle thought, or with the capital-P Plan of some Author of It All, as many of our religions teach.

Darwin replaced all this with a simple mechanism called natural selection. There are things that perdure and there are things that replicate. In either case they do so not because they want to perdure or replicate, but because nothing destroys them before they do. And that’s all there is to it, because that’s all there need be to it.

But you can’t have it both ways. You can’t eschew the religious weltanschauung and still hold on to its explanatory schemata. You can’t talk about evolutionary progress, or one species being more advanced than another, or say anything, anything whatsoever, that even hints at teleology. Because if it hints at it it smacks of it. And if it smacks of it you’ve backtracked to that split in the road, you’ve rejected the turn, and you’ve retaken the straight road, the one that leads to either salvation or perdition, depending on whether you have or haven’t “paid mete adoration to [your] household god”. But definitely not to a Nobel prize in science.

Now then, I have a colleague who thinks it would be a shame if the human species, having advanced so far up the evolutionary ladder, should go extinct. ‘Advanced’ and ‘up’ are already dead giveaways, and to suppose there’s a species called humans is to reveal a realism about natural kinds that likewise smacks of teleology.

But it’s his notion of ‘shame’ that most intrigues me. In whose eyes would it be a shame? The only way that question makes sense would be if we change it to, In capital-W Whose eyes would it be a shame?

Now personally I’m just fine with the utterance, “It would be a shame if …” making no sense. But he’s not. And among my colleagues he’s not alone in this kind of cherry picking from someone else’s orchard. So this is the 169th reason my colleagues are idiots. Tomorrow I’ll offer you the 170th.

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