The Problem with Moral Philosophy as Applied Science


In my article for the Alfred the Great Society titled,  'Defending Christendom With Good Manners', I had occasion to mention the joint article written by Biologist Edward Wilson and philosopher of biology, Michael Ruse. Their article was titled ‘Moral Philosophy as Applied Science’ and contends that all our knowledge, beliefs, appreciation of beauty, sense of personal identity and our perception of right and wrong, are mere illusions caused by our genes and brain neurons. But this is not a bad thing, they say, for human beings function better if they are deceived by their genes into thinking that there is a disinterested objective morality binding upon them, which all should obey.

But hold on. Proving that our brains have tricked us into thinking that we ought to be moral is a long stretch from establishing that we actually ought to be moral. Moreover, it completely undercuts the project of finding an objective basis for ethics since it relegates all morality to a neurological deception. What would we say to a rapist or pedophile who, confronted over his heinous crimes, replied, “I did those things because my brain didn’t deceive me into thinking I ought to be moral.”

A further problem arises from the fact that the evolutionary explanations for the positive spectrum of human behavior can also be used to explain the negative spectrum of human behavior. If being kind  is a survival mechanism for some, why can’t it also be true that being brutish is a survival mechanism for others? If evolution works itself out in some societies being moral, civilized and ethically conscious, might it not be equally true that evolution works itself out in some societies being cruel, barbaric and asserting the will to power?

While the evolutionary account may be brought forward to explain both sets of behavior, it leaves us with no standard for adjudicating which set is right and which is wrong. Indeed, it does not even provide an adequate base for asserting that there is such thing as right or wrong in the first place. It may explain what I in fact do, but it does not answer the question, “what ought I to do?”

Read more about this in my article, 'Defending Christendom With Good Manners.'

International Women’s Day

Tuesday two weeks ago was the one hundredth anniversary of “International Women’s Day”, which occurs every year on March 8. On this day, various organizations throughout the world sponsor celebrations which, in the words of the Wikipedia, “[range] from general celebration of respect, appreciation and love towards women to a celebration for women's economic, political and social achievements.” That sounds legitimate enough. After all, who wouldn’t want to celebrate the achievements of women or the respect and appreciation we owe them? I began to get suspicious, however, when the name Marie Stopes kept popping up in association with this year’s festivities. A birth control pioneer in the early 20th century, Stopes is best remembered today for her views on “family planning.” But she is also distinguished by having an international chain of abortion clinics named after her.

Freedom of Food

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I recently had the privilege of interviewing Ryan Close about a Declaration of Health Freedom that he drafted.  He wrote the Declaration in response to new laws that are threatening the freedoms that Americans enjoy to make their own health decisions.

During the interview he pointed out that Codex Alimentarius (a collection of international  standards)
now threatens our freedom because it subjects our access to vitamin and herbal supplements to the decisions of unelected international bodies, thus mitigating the power of local government and self-government. By delegating authority to make laws the sovereignty of the United States is undermined. Furthermore, it is not clear whether there are conflicting interests controlling this secretive international commission.

Under the tradition of Common Law, upon which our nation’s legal system is based, anything not prohibited is permitted. This means that there are more things that are legal than illegal. Most things that people want to do or grow or eat should be lawful. Only a finite number of prohibited activities or products are illegal. This goes along with the principal of limited government that circumscribes the powers of government while leaving all remaining un-enumerated powers to either self-government or the authority of local governments.

Under Codex, only those foods on a finite list will be legal. All foods will be guilty until proven innocent.

Health freedom has been a concern of mine ever since 2009 when I wrote “An Historic Perspective on the Health Care Debate”. In that article I used the example of Germany under Hitler and America under Woodrow Wilson to show that when a government succumbs to the totalitarian temptation, one of the first impulses is to assert authority over the food and health of its subjects, thereby gaining control of their physical bodies.
The concerns I raised in 2009 are now becoming a reality. As Ryan mentioned during my interview with him, reports have been pouring in from all over America of armed raids from police to confiscate honey, milk and other products, in addition to banning a variety of perfectly harmless foods. Moreover, under recent health care legislation, Americans could soon be forced to buy commercial products aimed at keeping them healthy.
To learn more about this, read my interview with Ryan Close.

Sexualizing Britain’s Youth

Earlier this month, BBC Panorama ran a program titled “Too much too young.” The program explored whether Britain’s children are being encouraged to become prematurely sexualized.
Although the program tended to downplay the seriousness of the issue, there has been a string of reports in the newspapers recently highlighting the urgency of the matter. Music videos, displays in High Street shops, lap-dancing kits, padded bras for primary school girls, playboy-branded pencil cases and features in teen magazines are merely some of the tools which are helping to sexualize Britain’s youth at alarmingly young ages.
There have even been reports in the newspapers about a pajama set aimed at ten year olds with “Porn Star” written on it.
But it is not just parents who have been concerned. Government has weighed in with five initiatives in three years in an attempt to respond to the issue. Their latest plan, according to a BBC news report, is “to explore whether rules should prevent the marketing of items such as ‘Porn star’ T-shirts or padded bras…. A code of conduct on ‘age appropriate’ marketing and a new watchdog are among plans being considered by the review.”
Prime Minister David Cameron, himself a father of three, has made this issue a personal concern after discovering beds marketed towards six-year-olds with a “Lolita” branding (Lolita is a novel about a paedophile).
So far the debate over the sexualisation of children has centred primarily on quantitative questions. Are our young people being exposed to too much sex? Does this exposure happen at too young of an age?
Now certainly questions like these are important, especially when we ask who profits from the sexualisation of a 13 or 14 year-olds. I think few would doubt that the beneficiaries include the growing network of pedophiles in Britain.
What I find interesting, however, is that by framing the debate solely in terms of the above questions, the discussion has excluded crucial qualitative distinctions we need to be making. In an article I recently wrote for the Telegraph website, I have used the Panorama program as a springboard to explore what some of these qualitative distinctions are. I suggest that instead of being worried about our youth being sexualized too early, we should give attention to the way they are being sexualized, and in particular the way that they are being subtly influence to adopt a particular narrative about sex.
Click here to read more.

A fundamental human right?

The Center for Reproductive Rights has stated that its mission is to advance the cause of “reproductive freedom as a fundamental human right that all governments are legally obligated to protect, respect, and fulfill.”

But we should ask what the Center means by “Reproductive Freedom”?

According to their website, the “fundamental human right” of “reproductive freedom” includes both access to birth control and safe abortion.

Now this is just the thing to get a fellow wondering. We may well ask at what point in human history abortion and birth control suddenly became a fundamental human right. Suppose we say they became a fundamental human right as soon as the technology made them possible. But this is problematic, because in that case, their existence as ‘rights’ is not absolute but contingent – contingent on technology.

But what about other contingencies? Suppose access to abortion and birth control was so expensive that it would bankrupt the entire world to provide these ‘services’ for even a single individual? In that case, would it still be a universal right?

It should be clear that these, so called, ‘rights’ are not free-standing, absolutes, but contingent on factors that may or may not exist. Now here’s the rub: can ethics be one of those factors as well?

I merely raise the question.

Childermas and the Sanctity of Life


In an article I recently wrote titled, “The Magi, the Massacre and Herod the Horrible", I explored the history of Herod the Great and his family, suggesting some reasons why Herod found the Christ-child to be such a threat after learning about His existence from the travelling Magi.

The topic is particularly relevant at the moment. After all, today is the Feast of the Holy Innocents, when Christians have traditionally remembered the baby boys in Bethlehem that King Herod ordered to be massacred. A week from tomorrow will be the Feast of Epiphany, when Christians remember the journey the Magi took to Jerusalem to seek the Christ-child.

Important as these two events are within Western religious history, the historical details surrounding them are often overlooked. And that is a shame, since these events have relevance for the issues over the sanctity of life that we are facing today.

Does a baby have inherent value by being created in the image of God, or is his worth derivative from the ‘choice’ of someone else? Does the state have the authority to facilitate the slaughter of innocent children in order to meet needs within the adult community? Questions such as these are at the forefront of today’s abortion controversy and they very also the issues were raised when Herod massacred all the infant babies in Bethlehem in order to satisfy his own selfish needs.

Today has traditionally been set aside for remembering these Holy Innocents. The Feast was instituted between 400 and 500 AD by the Latin speaking church and intentionally placed within the octave of Christmas to emphasize that the Holy Innocents – considered by many to be the church’s first martyrs – gave their life for the newborn Savior.

The Feast is a time when the church annually reaffirms her commitment to the sanctity of life. As George Grant recently observed,

It has long been the focus of the Christian Church’s commitment to protect and preserve the sanctity of human life–thus serving as a prophetic warning against the practicioners of abandonment and infanticide in the age of Antiquity, oblacy and pessiary in the Medieval epoch, and abortion and euthanasia in these Modern times.