The recent discussion on my post has been, if nothing else, illuminating and humbling. The criticisms, questions, and issues are overwhelming. While I unfortunately was unable to participate due to working two jobs and receiving major life news that kept me mentally occupied (more on that later, I think), it has been stretching to read through the comments. If the quality of Mere O’s readers is that high, then I suppose we must be doing something right.
The post itself was written in haste, as I was more interested in highlighting the article than anything else. To that end, I would offer a few (hopefully!) clarifications and questions of my own.
1) One of the major criticisms was levied against my parallel between Jesus and Darwin. While Darwinism (more on that in a second) is clearly separable from its founder, Christianity is not. The objection is duly noted. While I think Darwinism shares many elements of a religion, including religious fervor by some of its proponents, by virtue of its evolutionary (heh) nature it is clearly separable from its founder, unlike Christianity.
2) My use of “Darwinism” was clearly loose. As I was thinking of the “new atheists” (and of them, Dawkins), I was thinking of it as physicalism.
3) The erudite Falk made this excellent comment:
The basis of Darwinian evolution is natural selection, not manual selection. This distinction is important because eugenics concerns only the latter and not the former. Darwinian evolution cannot be intelligently used as support for eugenics.
It is an excellent distinction. But not one, I think, that saves Darwinian evolution from lending itself to eugenics. If “human nature” is not a fixed entity, if it subject to continual development and “progress” (contra Biblical or Aristotelian notions of human nature), then it seems refashioning human nature, and the human race, is morally permissible.
I’m holding this very tentatively, because it is obviously disputable and am still considering the issues.
Two perhaps unrelated questions, though, for the naturalists who read this blog: is the difference between animals and humans a difference of kind, or a difference of degree? What, if any, ramifications does this have for ethics?