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The Unsuppressible Reflex

It's always bothered and/or amused me that believers in materialistic evolution can't seem to avoid saying that evolution, or nature, designs living things. Google the phrase "designed by evolution to" (include the quotation marks) and you'll see some examples. It seems to be a verbal reflex that's very hard to suppress, even though it sends a very unwanted message, like Peter Sellers's saluting arm in Dr. Strangelove. There's also a tendency to take the next step, and attribute some kind of consciousness to nature or life or evolution. In this excellent note by Wesley J. Smith at the First Things blog, I notice, among his quotations from materialists who seek to deny the special nature and significance of the human, this one: “We are all of us, dogs and barnacles, pigeons and crabgrass, the same in the eyes of nature, equally remarkable and equally dispensable.” Nature has no eyes, figurative or otherwise, nor any consciousness to look through them, or to regard anything as dispensable. Even the concept of indifference is too anthropomorphic to apply here. But people will postulate some kind of guiding hand in the world, and this cold blind one will have to do for those who won't have the living one.

Many years ago—something over twenty—I noticed and wrote about this peculiar lust to deny that there is anything special about human life. What baffled me then and still does is why many of those who push it seem to think it will lead to some sort of compassionate humanitarian improvement over those bad old religions. Smith is right, I'm pretty sure, to expect something quite other. I don't see why it should even, in the long run, make us nicer to animals to conclude that neither we nor they are genuinely significant.



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