Discoveroids: The Emptiness of Materialism

You may have considered the Discovery Institute to be just another bunch of creationists, albeit with a slippery veneer of “science” to cloak their primitive, pre-Enlightenment ideology.

If that’s what you thought, then get ready to re-think your opinion. Today the Discoveroids have posted what is likely to be the start of a whole new paradigm. It’s titled The Transcendental Treasury of Truth, Beauty, and Goodness.

It was written by Ann Gauger (a/k/a “Annie Green Screen”). She’s a “senior research scientist” at the Discoveroids’ Biologic Institute. Annie’s work is so sensitive that the interior of her lab must never be seen by outsiders. You can read all about that in Klinghoffer Defends Photo Trickery. Here are some excerpts from Annie’s post, with bold font added by us for emphasis, and occasional Curmudgeonly interjections that look [like this]:

If you want to cultivate a spirit of gratitude [Who doesn’t?], I’d like to suggest that you spend some time in meditation on truth, beauty, and goodness. They each represent gifts to us, things that make life possible, intelligible, and worth living. They are such essential qualities that we call them transcendentals. [Ooooooooooooh!] They transcend our everyday knowledge and point toward a source that is at least capable of truth, beauty, and goodness.

Open your mind, dear reader. Pay attention to what Annie says about transcendentals:

Why do we value them?
1. They are the foundations on which a life worth living is built.
2. They enable discovery, creation, and nurturing of others.
3. They are not wishful thinking.
4. They are transformative.
5. They are indicators that the world is rich, purposeful, and meaningful.
6. They are the product of a designer [Yes!] who knows truth, beauty, and goodness.

Your Curmudgeon is overwhelmed with transcendental squishiness. We are not ashamed to admit that we had our doubts about the Discoveroids’ designer — blessed be he! — but no longer.

Hey — don’t leave us yet. Annie isn’t done. She tells us:

Truth, beauty, and goodness are abstract concepts that nonetheless correspond to our deepest desires. They are not likely to have evolved by a neo-Darwinian process. [She’s right!] Rather, from neo-Darwinism I would expect an absence of beauty or a denial of it — an inability to appreciate it. The same for truth. [Right again!] What about goodness? If selflessness and generosity are taken as signs of goodness, should we expect goodness from the natural world? [Good question!] Let’s hold that thought, and return to it later.

We’ve got to skip an ark-load of Annie’s post because it’s just too powerful for us. However, we can’t omit this — it’s right at the end:

Scientific materialism is no match for beauty, truth, or goodness. These immaterial transcendentals give meaning to our lives. I hope that all those reading this have had some experience of goodness, truth, and beauty in their lives. If you have not, seek them out as guides to wisdom and as gifts given to us to help make life worth living.

So there you are, dear reader. This was a powerful addition to one of Annie’s earlier posts, about which we wrote Ann Gauger: The Argument from Beauty. We didn’t appreciate it at the time — but now we’ve seen the light.

Ponder carefully what Annie Green Screen is telling you. It will surely make you see the emptiness of your foolish Darwinist existence, and then, when that happens, you will experience The Truth.

Copyright © 2019. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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27 responses to “Discoveroids: The Emptiness of Materialism

  1. Our dear SC complains: “Annie’s work is so sensitive that the interior of her lab must never be seen by outsiders.”
    All the more you should rejoice that Annie Green Screen allows us a glimpse of her marvelous work.

    “what Annie says about transcendentals:”
    I’ve read it and for some reason I still don’t feel suicidal, despite not valuing any of Annie’s transcendentals. I will understand if Annie Green Screen wants to do research on me in her secret lab, but no, that idea would stir up my suicidial tendencies.

    “I hope that all those reading this have had some experience of goodness, truth, and beauty in their lives.”
    Sure. What’s more, thanks to this nice blog I’ve had many experiences of enjoying unintentional humour like produced by Annie Green Screen today. I sincrely hope this excellent blog post makes it to the top 10 of 2019, because it beats everything from last week.

  2. Has Ms Gauger really led a life so sheltered that she has not met falsehood, ugliness, and evil? Does she admire the truth, beauty, and goodness of a worm growing in a child’s eyeball? (David Attenborough’s example, IIRC)? To say nothing of Darwin’s parasitic wasp

  3. I have commented often about whether the spiritual (the non-material or non-natural) is any guarantee of truth. The famous Euthyphro Dilemma of Plato asks about goodness. Perhaps the same can be said about beauty.

    Behe has raised the question aboout what might be the Intelligent Designers:
    Possible candidates for the role of designer include: the God of Christianity; an angel—fallen or not; Plato’s demi-urge; some mystical new age force; space aliens from Alpha Centauri; time travelers; or some utterly unknown intelligent being.

    It does not seem to me that most of those have anything to make us think of truth, beauty or goodness.

    Langdon GIlkey talked about someting like this with regard to creatoinism in his testimony in the 1981 Arkansas creatoinism trial. He wrote about this in hs book, “Creatinism on Trial: Evolution and God at Little Rock”, page 104

    “Now this is precisely the early heresy of Marcion and the Gnostics (about 150 to 200 A.D.), who said that there were in fact two Gods, one a blind, cruel, but powerful God of creation (the God of the Old Testament), and the other a good, loving God of redempton (The God of the New Testament) – and thus that the creator God was not the same as the redeemer God.”

    The Gnostics tell us that belief in a creator spirit does not explain truth, beauty and goodness. If the advocates of ID want to bring up the issues of truth, beauty and goodness, then they have some (ugh!) work to do. It is not enough to complain about materialism.

    A small point which I want to make. There are lots of tings which do not atempt to explain truth, beauty and goodness. For example, the periodic table of the elements. The germ theory of disease. Euclidean geometry.
    Does Intelligent Design make an attempt to explain them, other than complaining about “materialism”?

  4. Michael Fugate

    She seems to be influenced by Thomas Dubay, a priest who wrote The Evidential Power of Beauty: Science and Theology Meet which is a design manifesto.

    As with Paul B, how does this account for ugliness? Ann comments on art, but often those works she admires came from ugliness – exploitation of models and artists, poverty, misery, mental illness and violence. A beautiful meal turns into feces, and yet feces are fertilizer for other beautiful meals. It does seem subjective after all, no? Why does art need to be about beauty? Can’t it be about truth? or goodness? How does she react to Picasso’s “Guernica”?

    She claims there is no earthly survival value in religion – in truth, beauty, and goodness – really? This from a person who purports to have used population genetics to guarantee a real Adam and Eve? If a bottleneck of two is possible, then isn’t something being possible good enough?

  5. Of course, the great irony is that Annie Green Screen and the rest of the Tooters trade in exactly the opposite of truth, beauty and goodness.

    All Tooters are dishonest, liars and deliberately avoid the truth.

    Their motives are impure and ugly; they are unprincipled, immoral authoritarians for whom corruption is beauty.

    As for goodness, you’d better watch out, you better not pout because the Tooters will fleece you, of that there is no doubt.

  6. Like the egg on the wall, the DI cult members continually redefine words to mean exactly what they really want them to mean.

    “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”

  7. “The Emptiness of Materialism”

    The irony of the vacuous claims about an alleged “spiritual” domain vs actual testable reality has never been acknowledged by true believers. They are intensely focused on looking backwards forever.

  8. @Zetopan, the right to define is an issue of power:

    ‘ “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”

    “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master – that’s all.” ‘

  9. @Michael Fugate, there may well be survival value in religion. Believers can more readily establish relationships of mutual trust, and the believers in certain religions (the Haredi version of Judaism is a notorious example, now affecting the religious versus secular demographic within Israel, with practical political consequences, and within UK Judaism, with educational consequences, since they are fervent evolution deniers) have more children.

    A Darwinian advantage that involves rejecting Darwin

  10. Ms GreenScreen says that ideas about truth, beauty and similar things “…point toward a source that is at least capable of truth, beauty, and goodness.” I agree, and that source is probably the human, and, fairly likely other animal, nervous systems.

  11. I have heard the speculaton that there is a survival value in having a practice which is absurd. The point being that only a reliable member of the group will engage in the practice. It can be as simple as effortlessly using certain vocabulary or pronunciation. Think of “dog whistle” language. Or as extreme as mutilation of one’s body.

  12. Michael Fugate

    They keep telling us that objective truth, beauty, and goodness exist, but no method for finding them. We get examples only and not everyone would agree (e.g. Christopher Hitchens The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice).

  13. @PaulB and MichaelF: “there may well be survival value in religion.”
    Organized religion (and humans being social religion is very rarely totally solitary) by definition is politics, ie is about the distribution of money and power. So it’s highly unsurprising that the content of various religious systems depends on social circumstances. The religion of hunter/gatherers differs from the religion of farmers, which differs from the religion of urban societies.
    What’s not clear is what’s cause and what’s effect as the development of religion is dynamic. But survival value is not necessary, though possible (eg in terms of social bonding), in an explanation of religion.
    Of course this insight means that I’m an incurable materialist, who is totally insensitive to Annie Green Screen’s appeal to the emotions connected to truth, beauty and goodness. Others already pointed out the obvious: hers is a feelgood “argument”. In the end.ut results in the well known creacrap law:

    Something good, beautiful, true? Praise the Lord.
    Something bad, ugly, false? Blame Homo Sapiens.

    It’s kicking in a wide open door when I say that the difference between the IDiots from Seattle and the ayatollah of the Appalachian is only marginal. It hardly matters for their “model” whether the Universe is 6000 or 13,7 billion years old.

  14. Any time I hear a “new” argument from the anti-evolutionists, I check with two responses:
    1. If we assume, for the moment, that this points to a genuine diifulty with evolution, does denying evolution solve the difficulty? Does creation by omnipotent gods, or intelligent design do any better than evolution – or materialism, naturalism, common descent or whatever? (A long-winded way of pointing to the Fallacy of the False Dilemma.)
    2. Does the difficulty apply with at least as much force to reproduction? (Pointing to the Fallacies of Compositon and Division. Evolution is about populations, reproduction is about individuals. In the 18th century, there were serious arguments against reproduction which used many of the same arguments used today against evolution.)

  15. Michael Fugate

    One does wonder, if butterflies, birds and flowers are beautiful now, then what were they like before the Fall?

  16. If the soaring flight of an eagle is beautiful, what was it like when it was not hunting?
    Tyger, tyger …

  17. Monty Python had a slightly different take on the transcendental:

    “All things dull and ugly,
    All creatures short and squat,
    All things rude and nasty,
    The Lord God made the lot.
    Each little snake that poisons,
    Each little wasp that stings,
    He made their brutish venom.
    He made their horrid wings.
    All things sick and cancerous,
    All evil great and small,
    All things foul and dangerous,
    The Lord God made them all.
    Each nasty little hornet,
    Each beastly little squid
    Who made the spikey urchin?
    Who made the sharks? He did!
    All things scabbed and ulcerous,
    All pox both great and small,
    Putrid, foul and gangrenous,
    The Lord God made them all.
    Amen.”
    Songwriters: John Du Prez / Eric Idle / Trad
    All Things Dull and Ugly lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Universal Music Publishing Group

  18. Dave Luckett

    It is this slipperiness of the concept of beauty that I find puts the skids under any idea that we are dealing with anything intrinsic. “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, we are told. I would say, beauty is entirely in that eye. That is, it exists only within our several and individual minds. It is not a property of anything in the Universe outside them. Any consensus is cultural. So for a description of what beauty is, let alone any kind of definition, we must look to what goes into our minds, and to that alone.

    I was driven to that position by my opinion of much of the art music and writing of the twentieth century, and this was sharpened recently by my experience of a performance of “The Rite of Spring” with a reconstruction of Nijinsky’s 1913 set, choreography, costuming and make-up. (You may be aware that this piece was originally a ballet, although it is often performed simply as an orchestral suite.) In the action, a tribe of pagans selects a maiden for human sacrifice to an idol, and she dances herself to death. It’s as brutal and as violent as it gets, for all that the conceit is transparently ludicrous. The dancing consisted mainly of a spastic jerking and jumping, done stiffly and without expression, like automata. Thick white makeup turned the faces into masks. The costuming, voluminous and opaque, made the dancers into rag dolls. It was bewilderingly inhuman, mechanical, and to me, appallingly ugly.

    The music is utterly hideous to my ear, and always has been. I first heard it sixty years ago – and it was a standard then. I loathed it then, I loathe it now. It does no good to reflect that the generations following Stravinsky did more and worse. That is true, but neither apposite nor consoling. I go back to it from time to time, for perhaps it is possible that I can find something in it, some indication that I am not so far at odds with my own culture. But no; as with Adams or Copland or Greenwood or Ives, my utmost endurance is fifteen minutes or so, usually less. I know I have to get out when active nausea sets in.

    But people say, and keep saying, that there is beauty in this, for them. I can’t believe it, but I must. I want to believe that this is the merest exceptionalism, that what they are really saying is that they think they have a refined artistic consciousness that far surpasses my naive tastes. There are times when I cannot muster the charity to think otherwise of them, but mostly I force myself to accept that they mean what they say, and that therefore I must be blind and deaf to some aspect of beauty. I can only regard that with regret and chagrin.

    And meet it with the position above. Annie Greenscreen is catastrophically wrong. There is nothing intrinsically beautiful about anything in the Universe. It’s all in our own minds – that is, the notion of beauty is in our minds, not beauty itself. As for truth, the word means a close alignment with observable fact. There’s no transcendental element to either. Yes, this is a retreat into mere materialism, essentially. But it’s either that or I’m insane, or else an entire population of my fellow human beings are.

    Given the events of the twentieth century, the latter conclusion is justifiable, perhaps. After all, the year after “The Rite of Spring” premiered, Europe plunged into a holocaust that made nonsense of objecting to a mere orchestral suite, however ugly. And did it again twenty years later, only this time it involved the entire world. But if we are insane, and beauty exists only in our own minds… what then?

    No. I won’t go there. It may be a mere personal preference, but I prefer to believe that I’m not insane, and that most human beings are not, either. That, incidentally, is the thin way out that leads me to a kind of acceptance of theism. If I saw evidence for the divine, I would believe it. I would not doubt my own senses, or mind.

    Now, I have not seen such evidence, but other people say they have. Am I to believe them? People say they see beauty in “The Rite of Spring”. Am I to believe that? I am told that I must. Reluctantly, I comply. So what about the divine, that people say they also see?

    People like Annie Greenscreen? No. But people like my sister or my mother?

    I don’t know. I just don’t know.

  19. One gets used to ironies when dealing with anti-evolution. But that they would complain about, all things, emptiness! Creationism was conceived in negativism, and Intelligent Design was the result of removing all noticeable content from Creationism!
    Do they have any explanation for anything, even anything tangible? And certainly not truth, goodness, beauty!!

  20. Another irony is that all this stuff (Annie Green Screen and the Tooters in general) is an attempt to justify the existence of the Soul ™. It’s the whole thing about mind/brain duality that the Egnorance goes on about, it’s the Grand Designer (blessed be he!), and all the mumbo jumbo teleological arguments unchanged from Aquinas, not to mention the Tooters obsession with exceptionalism. They are a sad, miserable lot, the Tooters, and they want us to be miserable, too.

  21. Yeah, except that the Tooters pay their bills with their misery while we won’t.

  22. Dave L speaks much truth, including “The music is utterly hideous to my ear, and always has been. I first heard it sixty years ago – and it was a standard then. I loathed it then, I loathe it now. ” Amen!!!

  23. Karl Goldsmith

    I think SC needs to do a run down of twenty year goals for the twentieth anniversary or The Wedge,

  24. DaveL:
    Disney improved “The Rite of Spring” – he added dinosaurs. Everything is better with dinosaurs!

  25. Michael Fugate

    docbill1351, for the conservative religious the glass is always half-empty – if not three-quarters so. Spending your life believing the world sucks and pining for the “good old days”when everyone in the US or Europe were Christians must be miserable indeed. If only we could send them back – to stop them from trying to drag everyone else along.

  26. “Say not thou, What is the cause that the former days were better than these? for thou dost not inquire wisely concerning this.”
    Ecclesiastes 7:10
    In the USA today, the “good old days” were they days when “those kind” knew their place. “They” knew what would happen to them if they were uppity.