Klinghoffer: Creationism and Morality

It’s always safe and easy to predict that something goofy and amusing will come our way from the neo-theocrats at the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture (a/k/a the Discoveroids). But rarely are such prophecies fulfilled so quickly.

It was only three days ago days ago that we wrote about an article by Casey Luskin, in which Casey, while discussing the joys of global warming denial, said:

Darwin’s defenders make heavy use of personal attacks, and Richards suggests we ought to consider skepticism “When ad hominem attacks against dissenters predominate.”

To which we responded:

Right, it’s the Darwin defenders who use personal attacks, never the Discoveroids. Hey, Casey — over at the next desk there’s a guy named David Klinghoffer. We’ve cataloged his gentle criticisms of Darwin on numerous occasions.

At the time, it never occurred to us that Klinghoffer would obligingly come forward and make our point for us, and certainly not so quickly — but that’s the situation in which we now find ourselves. And so we present to you, dear reader, some excerpts from Michael Ruse, the Charming Darwinian Atheist, which appears at the Discoveroid blog. It’s by David Klinghoffer.

Who’s he? Most of you know, so you can skip this indented paragraph:

David Klinghoffer, is a “Senior Fellow” (i.e., full-blown creationist) among the Discoveroids. He has written a series of essays attempting to link Charles Darwin to: Hitler, and communism, and Stalin, and the Columbine shootings, and Charles Manson, and Holocaust Museum shooter, James von Brunn, and the Ft. Hood Massacre, and Mao Tse-tung, and Dr. Josef Mengele, Angel of Death and “Devotee of Darwin”, and most recently Darwin at the Mountains of Madness: Evolution & the Occult.

Now you know why we pointed Klinghoffer out to Casey when Casey was having one of his fainting spells while contemplating that “Darwin’s defenders make heavy use of personal attacks.” Okay, this has been a long introduction. Now here are some excerpts from Klinghoffer’s post, with bold — and color — added by us:

Unlike the reptilian Dawkins, sinister Dennett, or smug Coyne, Michael Ruse is a prominent Darwinian atheist by whom it’s hard not to feel charmed.

No trace of ad hominem attacks, right? The essence of Klinghoffer’s piece is that Darwin killed God, and thus “Darwinism” is the death of morality, yet Michael Ruse is “charming” because he claims that we are, by our nature, moral creatures. Klinghoffer doesn’t like this idea of natural morality very much. Apparently, he thinks we’re all raving beasts (the Fall, you know), and Darwin’s theory releases us from all moral constraints.

With an attitude like that, it’s probably difficult to avoid ad hominem attacks against Darwin defenders. But David doesn’t even try to conceal his contempt.

Anyway, get ready for a parable (or something) that Klinghoffer relates to make some kind of point about morality. See what you make of it:

In fact, we know that some people have an easier time being good, while others feel tormented by their evil impulses on various fronts. The Talmud tells a relevant story. The sage Abaye observed an unmarried man and woman heading off across a lonely meadow together, apparently seeking privacy for a tryst. To keep them from sinning, the rabbi followed after the pair for some miles, only to observe them parting at the end with a friendly farewell. Abaye leaned his head and wept, knowing that in such a situation he himself would not have resisted the temptation. He was comforted when an old man found him and explained, “The greater the man, the greater his evil inclination” (Sukkah 52b).

What a delightful tale! A rabbi spied on a couple for miles “to keep them from sinning.” How disappointed he must have been! Let’s read on:

Perhaps an old person with a lifetime’s experience behind him would likelier grasp the point.

Hey, even your Curmudgeon gets the point. The rabbi would have been better off viewing some internet porn. He wouldn’t have wasted all that time trailing the couple, and he would have easily seen what he so obviously wanted to see. What does Klinghoffer get from this creepy voyeuristic tale? Here you go:

There is a spectrum of struggle. Some people do not have to work very hard to be kind, fair, and honest. Others have to work very hard and are subject to frequent internal battles and screw-ups.

What does this have to do with creationism? Here’s how Klinghoffer wraps up his little essay:

For the former [the naturally good people], whether an intelligent being designed life and accordingly provided a tradition describing transcendent standards of right and wrong — that might truly make no practical difference whatsoever. For the latter? Of course it does! What are you, crazy?

Ah, there it is. For those who just can’t seem to behave themselves, belief in creationism is essential — according to Klinghoffer.

We find it difficult to see how a belief in the literal truth of Noah’s Ark is going to stop Manson from being Manson, but we admit that we don’t have Klinghoffer’s deep moral insights. Nor do we see how a truly intelligent designer gave us Manson in the first place.

But wait — David explained that in an earlier essay. Manson was Darwin’s fault. All clear now?

Copyright © 2010. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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16 responses to “Klinghoffer: Creationism and Morality

  1. Can anybody make a coherent point about some Intelligent Designer(s) designing all of life, and the morality of individual humans? Or about accepting the natural events leading to the origins of individual living things (us humans in particular) and rejecting natural explanations for the origins of species? Somehow or other we’re supposed to believe that the morality of J. Doe is reliant on there being a “design” of The Lion, The Fly, and The Oak, rather than a natural relationship? If birds are related by common ancestry with dinosaurs, then there is no stopping us from sexual hanky-panky? There is a slippery slope from believing that the bacterial flagellum can be explained by natural means to going to movies on the Sabbath? But there’s no problem with being related to Torquemada and Jack the Ripper?

  2. Considering that religion and creationism doesn’t exactly have a stellar record of keeping people on the straight and narrow, from crusades, to witch hunts, to modern senators seeking sex in restrooms, I’m still at a loss as to how “Darwinism” can possibly be any worse. Guess that’s my evil humanism getting in the way of the TRVTH again.

  3. Morality isn’t in our DNA, nor in our societal/cultural contracts, it’s in a book, written by men more familiar with their goats and offspring than large communities, who needed to be possessed by the demon of religion before they could get along. Or so religionists such as Klinghoffer would have us believe.

    I’d like to stay and chat, but I have to go rape my neighbour’s young daughter, kill his dog ( or rape his dog and kill his daughter – I can never get that straight) and burn down his house before supper. One of my dozen wives, can’t remember her name, is cooking up a batch of BBQ baby fingers, which as all atheists know is a staple food source of evil buggers everywhere.

  4. Tundra Boy says: “I’d like to stay and chat, but I have to go rape my neighbour’s young daughter”

    Okay, as long as you have a good excuse, no problem.

  5. ohioobserver

    Darwin-bashing aside…did DK just state that humanity is divided into, seemingly mutually exclusive populations — the “naturally good” and the rest, who, I guess, are “naturally evil”? Whence cometh this “natural goodness”? Are these people that God has especially favored? The predestined, certain of heaven? Then what the f*** does working hard to be moral get you?

    It seems Mr. K is ladleing out heavy doses of Calvinist exclusivism.

  6. Gabriel Hanna

    @ohioobserver

    I’m sure what Klinghoffer means by “naturally good” are people who, by temperament, are nice and decent and don’t give trouble. Everyone knows people like that.

    Klinghoffer’s an Orthodox Jew, not a Calvinist. The things he says are ridiculous enough; we don’t have to make things up.

  7. Gabriel Hanna says:

    The things he says are ridiculous enough; we don’t have to make things up.

    It’s interesting to see how he departed from the mantra that “ID is science.” In his last paragraph he talks about: “an intelligent being designed life and accordingly provided a tradition describing transcendent standards of right and wrong.”

  8. Gabriel Hanna

    It’s interesting to see how he departed from the mantra that “ID is science.”

    As you’ve pointed out, and I didn’t discover until he started talking about astrology, he’s actually anti-science. He’ll concern-troll science, when he wants to fool the f**ks in the league office, but he is not fooling Jesus.

  9. @Gabriel Hanna, “…but he is not fooling Jesus.”

    As an Orthodox Jew, I doubt if Klinghoffer cares if he fools Jesus.

  10. Here’s the thing that I’ve never quite understood.

    Klinghoffer and his associates seem to believe that there are people who really do want to do terrible things, and who don’t act on these desires solely or largely because they believe they are being watched, and will be judged, by what I can only make out to be something like “personalized Goodness” (the Good is a Person).

    Now, this does not strike me as a plausible description of how anyone really thinks and feels. The psychology here does not plausible. Human motivation are much more complex than that. We don’t need science to tell us that — we have literature. We have Cervantes and Dumas and Melville and so many others.

    But I don’t how if I’m right in thinking that the oversimplified psychology is the truly weak point in the “Darwinists have no reason to not eat other people’s babies”-style argument.

  11. Gabriel Hanna

    @RogerE:

    As an Orthodox Jew, I doubt if Klinghoffer cares if he fools Jesus.

    You didn’t see The Big Lebowski? Obviously, you’re not a golfer. The “Jesus” I was referring to is Jesus Quintana.

    @Carl Sachs:

    The psychology here does not plausible. Human motivation are much more complex than that. We don’t need science to tell us that — we have literature. We have Cervantes and Dumas and Melville and so many others.

    If there were no speeding tickets, more of us would speed. I think this is what Klinghoffer is getting at. But most people who would speed when they know there are no cops around would stick at murder. And even murderers probably wouldn’t swipe a tip left on a restaurant table–a phenomenon my wife, who is from China, still doesn’t quite understand about American norms.

    Here’s the weak point in Klinghoffer’s argument: the consquences from disobeying God are neither apparent nor certain, much like the consequences of smoking. Most people who smoke are convinced they will give it up before they die of it.

    Even in Klinghoffer’s own faith, if we take it at face value, God appeared visibly, and punished His people terribly, for 2000 years before He made any change in their behavior.

  12. retiredsciguy

    Only Creationists, believing that God is the Creator, can claim that the Creator is also the author of morality.

    So when IDers claim that if we follow Darwin’s ideas we will have no morality, it reveals that ID is a religious belief and not a scientific theory, because they are saying that God is the Intelligent Designer.

    If ID truly is what they say it is, then for all they know, Satan could be their Intelligent Designer. Their going on about morality reveals they don’t believe that’s the case.

  13. retiredsciguy

    Gabe says,
    “Most people who smoke are convinced they will give it up before they die of it.”

    And they are absolutely correct — but unfortunately, it may be for only a month or so (or maybe a year or two) before they die of it.

  14. @Gabriel Hanna, “You didn’t see The Big Lebowski? Obviously, you’re not a golfer. The “Jesus” I was referring to is Jesus Quintana.”

    You’re right, I’m not a golfer, a very over-rated game. What has that got to do with “The Big Lebowski” whose characters bowled? As for Jesus Quintana, I doubt if he could even figure out what Klinghoffer was talking about.

  15. Gabriel Hanna

    @RogerE

    What has that got to do with “The Big Lebowski” whose characters bowled?

    Maybe you ought to watch it again. Because when Wu and the blond guy broke into the Dude’s house, they didn’t know what a bowling ball was, and the Dude said “clearly you’re not a golfer”.

    Jesus Quintana is a scumbag, but he’s pretty sharp. He knew what that day of rest s**t was all about–bush-league psych-out stuff, laughable. Klinghoffer wouldn’t stand a chance–he might fool the f**ks in the league office, but he wouldn’t fool Jesus.

  16. Can anyone imagine the Great Klinghoffer – or any anti-evolution activist for that matter – saying:

    “Who cares whether acceptance of evolutionary biology leads to bad behavior, it’s simply the wrong explanation, and here are the details of the correct one… Besides, God gave us free will, so it doesn’t matter what explanations, correct or not, have been proposed, evil people will always find a way to justify their evil behavior.”

    Heck, can anyone even imagine them saying “evolutionary biology” instead of their beloved “Darwinism”?