Thursday, June 07, 2012

Has Peter Lawler Become a Darwinian Conservative?

I have often detected a tendency towards Darwinian conservatism in the writing of Peter Lawler.  That is evident in his recent "Big Think" blog post on Ed Wilson's new book, in which Peter suggests that Wilson's Darwinian view of sexuality and marriage has a lot in common with Thomistic natural law.

Compare Peter's post with some of my recent posts on Thomistic natural law as Darwinian natural right, which can be found here, here, here, here, and here.

Who knows?  Maybe some day Peter will even repudiate his Heideggerian existentialism.

Some of my previous posts on Peter can be found here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Peter has written a response to this post identifying me as an "evangelical Darwinian conservative," while also indicating that he believes Darwinian conservatism is at least partially true, but partially false.  The partial falsehood comes from the failure to account for the religious longings of the human soul for supernatural redemption from the natural world into which we have been thrown, longings that make us alien beings in the universe.  My response to this can be found in some of the posts indicated above.

It would help me understand Peter's position if he would explain what he believes it is that will finally satisfy our transcendent longings--eternal bodily punishment in Hell and rewards in Heaven?  In the spring of 2010, I wrote a series of six posts on Heaven and Hell expressing some skepticism about the traditional doctrines of Heaven and Hell, which came into Christianity from Egypt and from Plato.  Does Peter believe that this really is what human beings want?  He has said that I have "a rather traditional Southern Baptist view--'I'll fly away'--of heaven."  Does that imply that he rejects any "traditional" view of Heaven and Hell in the afterlife?  Does he believe that the longing for an afterlife is a longing for the impossible? 

My suspicion is that Peter is a secret writer who agrees with Leo Strauss that the religious belief in the afterlife is a pleasing delusion that most human beings need to protect themselves from the terrible truth that the cosmos is indifferent to human care.

Three of my posts on Heaven and Hell can be found herehere, and here.

By the way, I like Peter's comparison of me with Sheldon Cooper (of "The Big Bang Theory"). 

1 comment:

Empedocles said...

I have a question. The standard response to accounts of evolutionary ethics is to invoke the is/ought problem and say that just because something evolved to be a certain way doesn't mean that you can infer that it ought to be that way. But I've been thinking about the Shakers. The Shakers practiced celibacy and, surprise surprise, they went extinct. So someone might say you can't infer from "if your group practices celibacy they will go extinct" to "you ought not practice celibacy." Fair enough. But the result is the same, a world without the celibate group. It seems to me that the way is not to bridge the is/ought gap but just go around it. Values have survival value. You can't argue with the Shakers, or other self-destructive groups, but you can urge groups that want to stick around (wanting to stick around is itself a advantageous value) to do what will allow them to stick around. And so a new field of normative ethics (one that I think might eventually be the entirety) would be the study of adaptive/advantageous/enduring values. It doesn't replace the is/ought issue, it just renders it uninteresting the way that the Shakers' values, while interesting in an historical sense, are uninteresting when looked at from this view. Someone who wants to claim that your survivable values aren't "real" is free to go their own way and adopt poorly survivable values, but their values are doomed to die out. (Of course this renders the possibility that there might be conflicting values that have equal survival value.) Do you know of any other writers who have argued along these lines?