On Sunday morning, I attended church at Anaheim Vineyard to hear Dr. J.P. Moreland speak on anxiety, an issue I’ve dealt with repeatedly the last eight months. In his sermon, he argued that Darwin and the adoption of scientific naturalism has led to an irreconcilable difference between our need for permanence and transcendance (see: funerals) and the impossibility of any such concept in a cosmological framework that denies teleology. In other words, without purpose to events, there’s no purpose to life.
On Sunday night, I found (thanks to Timothy Sandefur, who is currently blogging on Jon Rowe’s site) a blog post addressing that exact issue. Larry Arnhart, author of Darwinian Conservatism, points out Leo Strauss’s (a man that I can trace my intellectual lineage back to, though I do not consider myself a ‘Straussian’) contention that the concept of natural rights as developed by Aristotle depends upon a cosmological teleology that modern science rejects. While I have not read Arnhart’s book, nor does he elaborate, he claims that he tries to bridge the gap between a comprehensive natural science (i.e. modern science that lacks teleology) and the inherentally teleological structure of the ‘science of man.’ He does this by advocating an ’emergent naturalism’:
I recognize the irreducible complexity of nature in which novel properties emerge at higher levels of organization that cannot be reduced to lower levels, so that the uniqueness of human beings comes from the emergent properties that distinguish the human species–most notably, the size and complexity of the frontal lobes of the human brain as a product of primate evolution.
This would directly oppose Moreland’s (non-Straussian) argument that purpose depends upon theism (or deism). I’ll reserve comment until I can read Arnhart’s book (or until he clarifies his position a bit more). Metaphysical questions are lurking, but Arnhart’s attempt to preserve teleology from an atheistic perspective is interesting and definitely worth reading.