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Professor Derrick Bell's story, The Space Traders, posits that extraterrestrial beings arrive in the United States to propose a Trade: they will provide the means to enable the country to pay its debts, protect its environment, and ensure its energy supply, all in exchange for only one thing—to take all African Americans back to the aliens' home star. The story then recounts a frenzied sixteen days of politics, protests, and legal maneuvering, resulting in the forced deportation to an unknown fate of twenty million black men, women, and children: “Heads bowed, arms now linked by slender chains, black people left the New World as their forebears had arrived.”
This Article will consider several issues suggested by Bell's story. If one assumes that some readers would approve and others would disapprove of how the African Americans were treated, what might one say about the differing views? Are they simply different in the same way that one person might vacation in San Francisco while another person chooses New York City? Or is it possible to say that one view is wrong? And if one view is said to be wrong, is the meaning that the view actually is wrong or merely that it is wrong in the opinion of the person speaking? And even if every single person agrees as to whether or not the Trade should have been made, does this show that the consensus view is actually right? Are there any circumstances under which one could conclude that what was done was right or wrong in an absolute sense?
Copyright 2005 by Samuel W. Calhoun.
1. Bell, Derrick, Faces at the Bottom of the Well 158–194 (Basic Books 1992).
2. Id. at 194.
3. Tragically, Arthur Leff died in 1982 at the age of 46.
4. The most famous of these articles is Leff, Arthur A., Unspeakable Ethics, Unnatural Law, 1979 Duke L.J. 1229 [hereinafter Leff, Unspeakable Ethics]. One of Leff's colleagues calls the piece “justly celebrated.” Fiss, Owen M., Making Coffee and Other Duties of Citizenship, 91 Yale L.J. 224, 227 (1981). Professor Albert Alschuler says it is a “classic article.” Alschuler, Albert W., Law Without Values: The Life, Work, and Legacy of Justice Holmes 197 n. 22 (U. Chi. Press 2000). Professor Phillip Johnson describes as “brilliant” the lecture at Duke that led to the article. Johnson, Phillip E., Nihilism and the End of Law, First Things 19, 20 (03 1993). Interestingly, Leff's widow states that Leff was reluctant to write the Duke article, which “said what he knew about fundamental issues,” because he feared that to do so was “presumptuous unless disciplined by an enormous amount of sheer scholarship.” Leff, Susan Z., Some Notes About Art's Dictionary, 94 Yale L.J. 1850, 1851 (1985). The legal academy should be glad that Leff's humility did not prevent him from writing the piece, which “made a powerful impression upon a generation of legal scholars.” Johnson, supra at 21. It is easy to empathize with one of Leff's colleagues, who lamented the “intellectual loss” suffered when Leff's untimely death deprived us of the scholarship that would have followed Unspeakable Ethics. Cover, Robert M., Arthur's Words, 94 Yale L.J. 1848, 1848 (1985).
It should be noted that, despite what might be suggested by his widow's statement above, the Duke article in fact revisits issues that Leff earlier had already discussed in depth. See Leff, Arthur A., Economic Analysis of Law: Some Realism About Nominalism, 60 Va. L. Rev. 451 (1974) [hereinafter Leff, Realism About Nominalism]; Leff, Arthur A., Law and Technology: On Shoring Up a Void, 8 Ottawa L. Rev. 536 (1976) [hereinafter Leff, On Shoring Up a Void]; Leff, Arthur A., Memorandum, 29 Stan. L. Rev. 879 (1977) [hereinafter Leff, Memorandum] (reviewing Unger, Roberto M., Knowledge and Politics (1975)). Also see Dauer, Edward A. & Leff, Arthur A., The Lawyer as Friend, 86 Yale L.J. 573 (1977) (brief mention of the subject).
5. Leff, Unspeakable Ethics, supra n. 4, at 1230. For the exact quote, consult infra text accompanying n. 20.
6. Id. at 1230-1232. See Leff, Memorandum, supra n. 4, at 887-888. For unknown reasons, Leff'sometimes uses “sez” and other times uses “says.”
7. Leff, On Shoring Up a Void, supra n. 4, at 540.
8. Symposium, Lawyer Collaboration with Systems of Evil, 5 Roger Williams U. L. Rev. 19 (1999) [hereinafter Symposium].
9. The quotation is from the brochure, a copy of which is in the possession of the author.
11. Simon, Robert L., The Paralysis of “Absolutophobia,”Chron. Higher Educ. B5 (06 27, 1997).
14. Id. at B6.
15. I base this assessment on the published papers resulting from the symposium. See Symposium, supra n. 8.
16. Because Professor Simon's focus was on his students' unwillingness to call something “evil” and the symposium's focus was on lawyers' complicity in “evil,” one could argue that it was beyond the scope of the two projects to delve into the foundational question of how one recognizes “evil.” Still, it is surprising that no attention whatever was given to the underlying definitional issue. The omissions might be explained by the recognition, perhaps only on a subconscious level, that the subject of how to ground moral assertions is so troubling that it was best left alone. See Leff, On Shoring Up a Void, supra n. 4, at 538 (the issue is one we are “impelled to ignore”); Unspeakable Ethics, supra n. 4, at 1233 (we desperately try “not to come to grips with it”).
17. See infra text accompanying n. 250 (relating C.S. Lewis's point that one person's idea of New York City can be more or less true than another person's only if New York City is a real place rather than an imaginary one).
18. Leff, Unspeakable Ethics, supra n. 4, at 1232.
19. Id. at 1230.
21. Id. By “insulated,” Leff means “unchallengeable.” Id. See infra text accompanying n. 38.
22. Id. at 1232.
23. Leff, Memorandum, supra n. 4, at 880.
24. Id. at 881; Leff, On Shoring Up a Void, supra n. 4, at 540. Leff is “personally very fond” of this approach because “it makes it so easy to generate an infinity of propositions of identical form, all of which possess undeniable logical validity.” Leff, On Shoring Up a Void, supra n. 4, at 540.
25. Leff, Memorandum, supra n. 4, at 881.
26. Leff, Unspeakable Ethics, supra n. 4, at 1239.
27. Leff, On Shoring Up a Void, supra n. 4, at 544; and see id. at 539-540.
28. Leff, Memorandum, supra n. 4, at 881.
29. Id. at 882.
31. Id. Leff calls this the “‘God-is-me’ approach,” under which each person is a “Godlet.” Leff, Unspeakable Ethics, supra n. 4, at 1235-1236.
32. Leff, On Shoring Up a Void, supra n. 4, at 541. There is another serious problem with the “‘God-is-me’” approach:
[W]ho validates the rules for interactions when there is a multiplicity of Gods, all of identical “rank?” …. It is totally impermissible under such a conception for there to be … interpersonal comparisons of normativity: there is literally no one in a position to evaluate them against each other.
Leff, Unspeakable Ethics, supra n. 4, at 1235. Thus, under this view that Leff also calls “‘Personalism’[,] … everyone's individual normative system” is validated. Id.
33. Leff, Memorandum, supra n. 4, at 882.
34. Leff, On Shoring Up a Void, supra n. 4, at 543.
35. Id. at 542. Leff describes this query as “the ethically universal solvent.” Id. at 545.
36. Id. at 543.
37. Id.; and see Leff, Memorandum, supra n. 4, at 883. To Leff, it is “twaddle” to ground “an ethical system on what people [even all of them] in fact believe and do.” Dauer & Leff, supra n. 4, at 575.
38. Leff, Unspeakable Ethics, supra n. 4, at 1230.
40. Id. at 1230-1231.
41. Id. at 1231. Without God, mankind has what Leff calls “a Gödel problem: how to validate the premises of a system from within itself.” Leff, Memorandum, supra n. 4, at 887-888. See Nagel, Ernest & Newman, James R., Gödel's Proof (NY U. Press 1958). This is no more possible in ethics than it is “in any other system.” Leff, On Shoring Up a Void, supra n. 4, at 545-546. Any attempt “to make something in the world—mankind—into the good and still reserve the right to judge its goodness … [is] doomed.” Leff, Memorandum, supra n. 4, at 887. The effort suffers from a “necessary logical insufficiency.” Leff, On Shoring Up a Void, supra n. 4, at 539.
42. Leff, Unspeakable Ethics, supra n. 4, at 1231. See Leff, Memorandum, supra n. 4, at 888; infra n. 222.
43. The foregoing is but a summary of Leff's basic critique. In particular, only a few examples are given of the alternatives for grounding moral precepts that Leff rejects. Others appear elsewhere in this article. See infra n. 80 (rejecting reflectiveness as the test of moral truth); n. 95 and accompanying text (rejecting logical consistency as the test of moral truth); n. 215 and accompanying text (rejecting fervency of belief as the test of moral truth). Two other options rejected by Leff will be briefly mentioned here. The first is what Leff calls “Descriptivism,” a “‘whoever-wins-is-God’ approach.” Leff, Unspeakable Ethics, supra n. 4, at 1235. Because this view validates whatever normative system that in fact is in place, “it is impossible to say that anything ought or ought not to be.” Id. at 1234. The second rejected alternative is any concept of natural law “detached … from [an] unnatural lawgiver.” Leff, On Shoring Up a Void, supra n. 4, at 546. “‘[F]ound’” ethical precepts are dispositive only if they have “supernatural grounding. God's will is binding because it is His will that it be.” Leff, Unspeakable Ethics, supra n. 4, at 1232. There are no other circumstances under which “the unexamined will of anyone else [can] withstand the cosmic ‘says who’ and come out similarly dispositive[.]” Id. Dropping God as the basis of natural law leaves only
two choices, treating existence … as rightness itself, or smuggling into the universe a natural law which, though not trans-empirical, [is] somehow supervalid over other existing things—that is, creating a new “God” on the sly, keeping up the self-deception by keeping the referent linguistically shadowy.
Leff, On Shoring Up a Void, supra n. 4, at 546.
44. The logic of Leff's conclusion likewise is unassailable. See supra n. 41. As he argues: For evaluations you need an evaluator. Either whatever the evaluator says is good is good, or you must find some superior place to stand to evaluate the evaluator. But there is no such place in the world to stand. From the world, only a man can evaluate a man, and unless some arbitrary standards are slipped into the game, all men, at this, are equal.
Leff, Memorandum, supra n. 4, at 888 (first emphasis in original). See Leff, Unspeakable Ethics, supra n. 4, at 1229-1230 & 1230 n. 1 (apart from God, “there cannot be any normative system ultimately based on anything except human will”) & 1233 (“If we are trying to find a substitute final evaluator [to replace God], it must be one of us, some of us, all of us—but it cannot be anything else.”). Phillip Johnson states it this way: “Every alternative rests ultimately on human authority, because that is what remains when God is removed from the picture.” Johnson, supra n. 4, at 21.
Leff, of course, was not the first to recognize that to discard God is to create enormous, if not insurmountable, obstacles for grounding morals. A principal theme of Dostoevsky's work is that without God, there can be no such thing as right and wrong. See e.g. Dostoevsky, Fyodor, The Brothers Karamazov 80, 381 (Classic, Bantam ed. 1981). And Nietzsche, far from exulting that “God is dead,” knew that this fact would present the specter of nihilism: “When God and any supernatural sanction of our values are questioned, the bottom falls out of our values, and they have no basis anymore.” Kaufmann, Walter, Nietzsche 150 (4th ed., Princeton U. Press 1974); see id. at 101, 125-128.
45. Leff, Unspeakable Ethics, supra n. 4, at 1232.
46. Leff, On Shoring Up a Void, supra n. 4, at 538.
47. Id. at 539.
48. Posner, Richard A., The Problematics of Moral and Legal Theory, 111 Harv. L. Rev. 1638 (1998) [hereinafter Posner, Problematics]. The article was “a revised and expanded version of the [Oliver Wendell] Holmes Lectures delivered at the Harvard Law School on October 14 and 15, 1997.” Id. at 1638 n. a1.
49. Id. at 1639-1640. Posner subsequently published his critique in book form. Posner, Richard A., The Problematics of Moral and Legal Theory (Belknap Press of Harv. U. Press 1999).
50. Posner, Problematics, supra n. 48, at 1639-1640.
51. Id. at 1638.
52. Id. at 1645.
53. Dworkin, Ronald, Darwin's New Bulldog, 111 Harv. L. Rev. 1718 (1998); Fried, Charles, Philosophy Matters, 111 Harv. L. Rev. 1739 (1998); Kronman, Anthony, The Value of Moral Philosophy, 111 Harv. L. Rev. 1751 (1998); Noonan, John Jr., Posner's Problematics, 111 Harv. L. Rev. 1768 (1998); Nussbaum, Martha, Still Worthy of Praise, 111 Harv. L. Rev. 1776 (1998). Posner then replied to his critics. Posner, Richard A., Reply to Critics of The Problematics of Moral and Legal Theory, 111 Harv. L. Rev. 1796 (1998) [hereinafter Posner, Reply].
54. It is particularly appropriate that Posner would be one of the examples used to demonstrate the continued validity of Leff's critique of normative assertions. Posner is one of the theorists critiqued in Leff's classic Duke Law Journal article. Leff, Unspeakable Ethics, supra n. 4, at 1242-1245. Moreover, Leff's initial foray in this area was occasioned by his commentary on Posner's, Economic Analysis of Law (1973). Leff, Realism About Nominalism, supra n. 4. Leff began his critique by examining “the hidden darkness from which the lawyer's current lust for economic illumination springs (for when you see a drunk flinch, you will never understand his action unless you know about the pink viper whose fangs he is trying to avoid).” Id. at 453. Leff viewed the “pink viper” in this case as our inability “to tell (or at least to tell about) the difference between right and wrong.” Id. at 459. In view of our lack of “any rational and coherent way to express [our] intuitions,” id. at 482, economic analysis of law is alluring because it allows us to keep “on talking … [by slipping] in our normatives in the form of descriptives.” Id. at 459. To Leff, though, economic analysis's appeal was chimerical, “not notably likely to fill the echoing void.” Id. at 482. Interestingly, in this, his first article discussing the grounding of normative assertions, Leff does not specifically recognize “God says” as the only logical way to fill the normative void. In his second effort concerning these themes, however, Leff'states, “If God exists, and He has commands, and those commands are by definition righteous, and you know what those commands are, then you are ‘right’ to do them.” Leff, On Shoring Up a Void, supra n. 4, at 540.
55. Posner, Problematics, supra n. 48, at 1642. Assertions concerning morality assert only “local fact[s], in the same way that the sentence ‘It is 35 degrees Fahrenheit in Chicago today’ asserts a local fact.” Id. at 1643.
58. Id. at 1650. Even within a society which condemned infanticide, Posner would be unwilling to brand as really immoral a nonconformist who asserted the right to kill infants. Id. at 1644. He could only say such a person was “a lunatic, a monster, or a fool, as well as a violator of the prevailing moral code.” Id.
59. Id. at 1652.
62. Id. at 1644.
63. Id. at 1650.
64. Id. at 1656.
65. Id. at 1653.
67. Id. at 1652.
68. Id. at 1642.
69. According to Posner, some moral codes have vanished because they were: maladaptive …. If a moral code does not further the interests of the dominant groups in a society, or if it weakens the society to the point of making it vulnerable to conquest (even if only by arousing the fear or hatred of a stronger society), or if it engenders unbearable internal tensions, then either the code or the society will eventually become extinct; the moral code of the antebellum South, the moral code of the Nazis, and the moral code of the Soviet Union are all examples.
Id. at 1654; and see id. at 1641, 1652. But the disappearance of these codes cannot be called “moral progress.” Id. at 1654. They failed not because they “were immoral,” but because they were “unsound.” Id. Moreover, “[h]ad Hitler or Stalin succeeded in their projects, our moral beliefs would probably be different (we would go around saying things like ‘You can't make an omelette without breaking eggs’).” Id.
70. See id. at 1644, 1652. To Posner, disgust is one of those “intractable emotions” (another is “sympathy”) that are the source of “people's moral beliefs.” MacFarquhar, Larissa, Tiu Bench Burner, The New Yorker 78, 82 (12 10, 2001). This view of the origin of morals is very reminiscent of Justice Holmes, who wrote:
“all I mean by truth is what I can't help believing—I don't know why I should assume except for practical purposes of conduct that [my] can't help has more cosmic worth than any other—I can't help preferring port to ditch-water, but I see no ground for supposing that the cosmos shares my weakness.”
Alschuler, supra n. 4, at 24. Thus, to Holmes, “moral preferences [were] ‘more or less arbitrary …. Do you like sugar in your coffee or don't you? …. So as to truth.’” Id. at 1. Holmes also relied upon disgust to fill the gap left by the absence of moral absolutes:
“Disgust is ultimate and therefore as irrational as reason itself—a dogmatic datum. The world has produced the rattlesnake as well as me; but I kill it if I get a chance, as also mosquitos, cockroaches, murderers, and flies. My only judgment is that they are incongruous with the world I want; the kind of world we all try to make according to our power.”
Id. at 25.
The views of Posner and Holmes are similar enough that one is not surprised to learn that Holmes is Posner's hero. MacFarquhar, supra at 88. Posner, in his Harvard Law Review article, acknowledges his debt to Holmes (and its appropriateness since Posner was delivering the Holmes Lectures) by describing his own moral views as “similar to the general moral stance of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., as reconstructed from his fragmentary writings on morality.” Posner, Problematics, supra n. 48, at 1645. See Posner, supra n. 49, at vii (“one way to understand [his book] is as an extended homage to Holmes's ideas about morality and law”).
71. See Posner, Problematics, supra n. 48 at 1645. Although this Article focuses on morals rather than law, see infra n. 224 and accompanying text, it is nonetheless worthwhile briefly to comment on the relationship between Posner's disgust standard for evaluating conduct and his role as a judge. While Posner has stated that “‘[d]isgust when sufficiently widespread … is as solid a basis for legal regulation as tangible harm,’” MacFarquhar, supra n. 70, at 82, this belief has not led him automatically to uphold statutes so motivated against constitutional challenge. It is proper for Posner as a judge to frame his views in the language of the applicable constitutional standard. Nonetheless, there is reason to doubt that Posner can fairly apply constitutional limitations to statutes that prohibit conduct that disgusts a state legislature more than it disgusts Posner himself.
This suspicion is raised by Posner's dissenting opinion in Hope Clinic v. Ryan, 195 F.3d 857, 876 (7th Cir. 1999), which considered the constitutionality of Illinois's ban of partial-birth abortion, a procedure in which all but the head of a living fetus is extracted from the womb before the fetus is killed by having its head crushed. The court, with limiting injunctions restricting the statute's application, found the ban to be constitutional. Id. at 862, rev'd, 249 F.3d 603, 604-605 (7th Cir. 2001). See Stenberg v. Carhart, 530 U.S. 914 (2000) (finding Nebraska's partial-birth abortion ban to be unconstitutional). In his dissent to the 1999 Seventh Circuit ruling, Posner stated that to apply the applicable constitutional standard of undue burden, one must understand “the peculiar and questionable character” of the challenged statute. 195 F.3d at 878. He was especially impacted by the fact that the partial-birth abortion ban would not prohibit crushing a fetus's head while the fetus was “entirely within the uterus.” Id. at 879. Posner believes that “there is no meaningful difference between the forbidden and the privileged practice. No reason of policy or morality that would allow the one [killing the fetus while wholly within the womb] would forbid the other [partial-birth abortion].” Id. Posner therefore branded the ban as “irrational,” id. at 880, a pejorative label that led him (together with the lack of a health exception) to conclude that the ban imposed an undue burden upon women seeking an abortion. See id. at 880-885.
Posner plainly suggests that were there a “meaningful difference between the forbidden and privileged practice[s],” the ban would not be irrational. A “meaningful difference” is evident. In a partial-birth abortion, the fetus mostly is outside the uterus—born—before it is killed. The procedure therefore constitutes or closely approaches infanticide. See Stenberg, 530 U.S. at 106-108 (Thomas, J., dissenting). A partial-birth abortion ban therefore is rational, a completely appropriate way for a state legislature to express its disgust with infanticide. But Posner, because the ban does not prevent killing a fetus by crushing its head while the fetus is totally within the womb, insists that the partial-birth procedure is not “a particularly cruel or painful or horrifying mode of abortion.” 195 F.3d at 879. (Posner, J., dissenting). Posner's inability to grasp the distinction between the two procedures is unfathomable, since he himself acknowledges that “the line between feticide and infanticide is birth. Once the baby emerges from the mother's body, no possible concern for the mother's life or health justifies killing the baby.” Id. at 882.
Posner's position in fact appears disingenuous. He labels as “uninformed” those who view partial-birth abortion as “akin to infanticide; they didn't realize that the only difference between it and the methods of late-term abortion that are conceded all round to be constitutionally privileged is which way the fetus's feet are pointing.” Id. at 880 (emphasis added). The distinction plainly involves more than the direction of the fetus's feet. In the partial-birth procedure, the entire fetus, except the head, is outside of the uterus, see id. at 861, and a substantial portion, roughly from the waist down, protrudes into the open air, outside of the woman's body altogether. Yet Posner somehow is able to state that in the partial-birth procedure, only the fetus's feet are outside the uterus. Id. at 879. Posner's factual distortions render particularly ironic his decrying the irrationality of the legislatures that enacted partial-birth abortion bans. See id. at 879-880.
72. This is true not only for disagreements between cultures, but also for disagreements within a particular culture. See supra n. 58.
73. Leff was deeply distressed at our inability to ground ultimate moral assertions. See supra text accompanying n. 46 & infra nn. 347-351 and accompanying text. Posner, because he views disgust as a sufficient criterion for making evaluations, supra nn. 70-71 and accompanying text, presumably would not share Leff's distress.
There is one caveat to the statement that Posner does not believe in moral absolutes—he agrees with Leff that God not only could ground, but also that God is the only possible ground for universal moral judgments. See infra nn. 101-102 and accompanying text. Like Leff, however, Posner was conceding this point in the abstract only. See infra nn. 217 & 261.
74. Dworkin, supra n. 53, at 1719-1720.
75. Dworkin also fails to consider how to ground values in his criticism of “‘Darwinian pragmatism,’” the label he gives to an approach to morals (which Dworkin asserts is Posner's “intuitive but hidden conviction”) that relies upon “nature's ability … [to make] certain inclinations, attitudes, sympathies, and dispositions natural in different communities.” Id. at 1736 (emphasis added). He considers this “Darwinian moral biology,” id. at 1735, inferior to the moral system he favors, one in which we rely on “our own ability to identify appropriate norms and attitudes … [our own knowledge of] what is best for ourselves and our communities … [and our own effort to state] what goals we should collectively pursue, or what counts as an improvement.” Id. at 1735-1736. Strikingly missing are any criteria for making all the significant determinations that Dworkin posits.
76. 410 U.S. 113 (1973).
77. Dworkin, supra n. 53, at 1729 & n. 43. While Dworkin says that the Court decided only that an “early fetus does not have interests of its own that entitle it to constitutional protection,” id. at 1729-1730, it is incontrovertible that the Court in fact held that at no point in the pregnancy does a fetus have such interests. Under the Roe scheme, during the first trimester states could put no restrictions on abortion. During the second trimester, the only regulations allowed were those reasonably relating to the health of the mother. Even during the third trimester, the fetus was not accorded interests of its own. The Court held only that a State, to protect its own interests, could prohibit abortion, but not where the life or health of the mother would be jeopardized by prohibiting abortion. Roe, 410 U.S. at 164-165. Moreover, the broad nature of the health exception in effect meant that abortion was available on demand throughout pregnancy. See Calhoun, Samuel W. & Sexton, Andrea E., Is It Possible to Take Both Fetal Life and Women Seriously? Professor Laurence Tribe and His Reviewers, 49 Wash. & Lee L. Rev. 437, 440–441 (1992).
Despite his great erudition, Arthur Leff also erred in describing the impact of Roe. In the fragment of his law dictionary completed prior to his death, Leff, in the definition of “abortion,” stated incorrectly that the state, in very exceptional cases, could declare abortion illegal with respect to second-trimester fetuses. Leff, Arthur A., The Leff Dictionary of Law: A Fragment, 94 Yale L.J. 1855, 1867 (1985) [hereinafter Leff, A Fragment]. He also incorrectly stated that during the final trimester a state could approach “the previously prevailing criminal-law total ban on the practice of abortion.” Id. For a similar error by Posner, see Posner, supra n. 49, at 134-135.
78. It is impossible to decide that fetuses can be killed throughout pregnancy, see supra n. 77, without necessarily depreciating their moral status to something less than living human beings. Thus, the Roe Court's statement that it “need not decide the difficult question of when life begins,” 410 U.S. at 159, reveals a perspective that is stunningly obtuse.
79. Dworkin, supra n. 53, at 1729 n. 43. Posner argues:
Roe v. Wade left the moral issue exactly where it found it. To think otherwise is to suppose that the Dred Scott decision increased the moral worth of slavery, Plessy v. Ferguson the moral worth of racial segregation, and Bowers v. Hardwick the moral worth of antisodomy laws.
Posner, Reply, supra n. 53, at 1805.
80. Leff, Unspeakable Ethics, supra n. 4, at 1232. That Dworkin in his reply to Posner fails to grapple with how to ground moral claims does not mean that he has never done so. Consider how elsewhere he evaluates the proposition that “[t]here is no moral objection to exterminating an ethnic group or enslaving a race or torturing a young child, just for fun, in front of its captive mother.” Dworkin, Ronald, Objectivity and Truth: You'd Better Believe It, 25 Phil. & Pub. Aff. 87, 117–118 (1996). Although it would be “startlingly counterintuitive to think there is nothing wrong with genocide or slavery or torturing a baby for fun,” id. at 118, Dworkin assures us that he does “not mean that our convictions are right just because we find them irresistible, or that our inability to think anything else is a reason or ground or argument supporting our judgment.” Id. But then he immediately says the following:
[A]ny reason we think we have for abandoning a conviction is itself just another conviction, and … we can do no better for any claim, including the most sophisticated skeptical argument or thesis, than to see, whether, after the best thought we find appropriate, we think it so. If you can't help believing something, steadily and wholeheartedly, you'd better believe it. Not, as I just said, because the fact of your belief argues for its own truth, but because you cannot think any argument a decisive refutation of a belief it does not even dent. In the beginning, and in the end, is the conviction.
Have I missed something? Does not Dworkin finally ground moral precepts on the very foundation he says that he avoids? Moral truth, in the end, boils down to convictions that are thoughtfully-held. Leff's “sez who” response can be easily anticipated. Why should considered moral beliefs be given any more weight than those that are not? “Only if someone has the power to declare careful, consistent, coherent ethical propositions ‘better’ than the sloppier, more impulsive kinds. Who has that power and how did he get it?” Leff, Unspeakable Ethics, supra n. 4, at 1238. See infra nn. 95, 215 and accompanying text. This Leffian critique of Dworkin's reasoning is especially fitting because Dworkin's long article several times refers, with no attempt at evaluation, to the claim that without God there is no basis for morality. Dworkin, supra at 90, 91, 113, 123.
81. Kronman, supra n. 53, at 1756.
84. Two examples verify this statement. First, Kronman refers to Socrates' reminding “Thrasymachus in The Republic, that the greatest question for each of us is how we ought to live our lives as a whole—the question of what our ultimate values and loyalties and goals should be.” Id. at 1753. See id. at 1766 (Kronman asserts that to take the subject of moral philosophy seriously, “a person must confront the questions of ultimate ends that give his or her entire life its direction and form.”). But Kronman never even mentions, much less evaluates, Thrasymachus' contention “that ‘just’ or ‘right’ means nothing but what is to the interest of the stronger party.” Plato, , The Republic 18 (Cornford, Francis MacDonald trans., Oxford U. Press repr. 1968). The second example is Kronman's discussion of how reason supplements character by “filling the gaps and resolving the conflicts among our moral habits.” Kronman, supra n. 53, at 1757. He considers a clash between two moral obligations, to tell the truth and to give “back to others what one owes them,” and evaluates fact patterns in which the two principles conflict. Id. at 1756. Completely missing is any substantiation that following these two principles in fact constitutes acting rightly. Kronman simply asserts that “[e]very man and woman of good character presumably believes these things and acts accordingly.” Id.
85. Nussbaum, supra n. 53, at 1789.
86. Id. at 1789-1790. This view considers “the human being [to be] an animal” possessing such faculties. Id. at 1789. “Ethical judgments are regarded as deliverances of our normative faculties, just as perceptual judgments are deliverances of our perceptual faculties.” Id.
87. Id. at 1790-1791. Reason guides the search for a “life plan.” Id. at 1790. Selecting this “general end” for one's life results from “seeking coherence and fit within the scheme of one's ends taken as a whole.” Id. at 1791. This approach to normativity is an example of what Fried calls “the method of reflective equilibrium.” Fried, supra n. 53, at 1747-1748.
88. According to Nussbaum's description of the “‘reflective-naturalist’” view, rightness is an irrelevant issue. “Justification … requires reflectively sorting out the various deliberations of our faculties until we find the view that satisfies us …. [U]ltimate ends [are regarded] as dictated by our desires, which … [are] relatively inflexible and lacking in cognitive content.” Nussbaum, supra n. 53, at 1790.
89. As seen, Leff demonstrates that reflectiveness fails as a convincing arbiter of moral truth. See supra n. 80.
90. It is illuminating that Nussbaum, while acknowledging that “ends” are essential to the “‘reflective-eudaimonist’” approach, see supra n. 87 and accompanying text, says nothing whatever about substance i.e., what is the content of those ends? Kronman is an example of how ends are sometimes sneaked into a value system premised in reason. See supra nn. 81-84 and accompanying text.
91. Nussbaum, supra n. 53, at 1791.
93. Kant, Immanuel, Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals xiii (Beck, Lewis White trans., The Liberal Arts Press, Inc. 1959).
94. Fried, supra n. 53, at 1747.
95. Leff insists that the one who wants the freedom to act differently from everyone else cannot be shown to be wrong:
Nor is it “immoral” to say “All people are identical, so treat all of them identically except Morris Fleischfarb”—even though that one is pretty ugly as “rational” propositions go. Briefly, logical coherence is logical coherence; it becomes something else—right, or good—only if so stipulated.
Leff, On Shoring Up a Void, supra n. 4, at 544. See Leff, Memorandum, supra n. 4, at 881 (here the moral individualist is “Herman Shwelb”); Leff, Realism About Nominalism, supra n. 4, at 478 n. 70 (“Morris Schwelb”).
96. Fried, supra n. 53, at 1747.
97. Noonan, Jr., supra n. 53, at 1768.
99. Id. at 1768 n. 2.
100. Leff, Unspeakable Ethics, supra n. 4, at 1232; Leff, On Shoring Up a Void, supra n. 4, at 538, 540. See supra nn. 43-47 and accompanying text.
101. Posner, Problematics, supra n. 48, at 1649.
102. Posner, Reply, supra n. 53, at 1813. Thus, Posner apparently recognizes “that moral claims without a foundation in God cannot make that difficult philosophical movement from ‘is’ to ‘ought.’” Smolin, David M., The Limits of Theory, First Things 56, 57 (08/Sept. 1999) (reviewing Posner, supra n. 49). It is important to note, however, that Posner's references to God are in the abstract only. See infra n. 261.
103. Is Everything Relative? A Debate on the Unity of Knowledge, Wilson Q. 14–49 (Winter 1998) [hereinafter Is Everything Relative?].
104. Toison, Jay, The Many and the One, Wilson Q. 12, 12 (Winter 1998).
105. Id. As evidence, the editor relies, in part, on Professor Robert Simon's experiences with his students. Id. See supra nn. 11-13 and accompanying text.
106. Toison, supra n. 104, at 13.
108. Is Everything Relative?, supra n. 103, at 15.
109. Wilson, Edward O., Resuming the Enlightenment Quest, Wilson Q. 16, 16–17 (Winter 1998).
110. Id. at 16. “Consilience … means the alignment (literally, the ‘jumping together’) of knowledge from different disciplines.” Id. The term also supplies the title to the book that his Wilson Quarterly article previews. See Wilson, Edward O., Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge (Knopf 1998) [hereinafter Wilson, Consilience].
111. Wilson, supra n. 109, at 17.
113. Id. at 18.
114. Id. at 17.
115. Id. at 18.
116. Id. at 21.
117. Id. at 24.
118. Id. at 17. See id. at 24.
119. Id.. at 17-18. See id. at 21, 23.
120. Id. at 23.
122. Id. at 18.
124. Id. at 17-18. See id. at 24.
125. See supra text accompanying n. 121.
126. Id. at 23.
127. Id. at 27. It is interesting, to say the least, that Wilson does not even try to satisfy the editor's hope that a firm ground for liberal values might be found. See supra nn. 104-107 and accompanying text. That hope was puzzling from the outset, however, since the editor recognizes that “consilient knowledge” does not “propose moral ends and absolutes.” Toison, supra n. 104, at 13.
128. Wilson, Edward O., The Biological Basis of Morality, A. Mthly. 53 (04 1998).
129. Id. at 53.
130. Id. at 54.
131. Id. at 57.
132. Id. at 58.
133. Id. at 54.
134. Id. at 58.
135. Id. at 54.
136. This represents an apparent change in Wilson's views. In 1978, he wrote:
Given that humankind is a biological species, it should come as no shock to find that populations are to some extent genetically diverse in the physical and mental properties underlying social behavior. A discovery of this nature does not vitiate the ideals of Western civilization. We are not compelled to believe in biological uniformity in order to affirm human freedom and dignity.
Wilson, Edward O., On Human Nature 50 (Harv. U. Press 1978) [hereinafter Wilson, On Human Nature]. Why affirm the “ideals of Western civilization” unless those ideals are morally superior to differing ideals? (I will skip here making Leff's “says who?” challenge to Wilson's assertion.) Twenty years later, however, Wilson states, in reply to the assertion of some philosophers that “[y]ou really can't pass from is to ought”: “[I]f ought is not is, what is? To translate is into ought makes sense if we attend to the objective meaning of ethical precepts.” Wilson, supra n. 128, at 56-57. While this passage is difficult to interpret, it suggests that Wilson no longer believes that a supervening “ought,” like Western ideals, exists. But how would he now handle cultural diversity? When cultures differ there are conflicting “is's.” What establishes “ought” then?
139. Id. at 56.
140. See id. Wilson describes such ethical codes as “wise.” See id. at 54.
141. See id. at 54.
142. It is fascinating that Wilson himself seems intuitively to recognize this issue. After offering an explanation of how biological and cultural evolution gave “rise to moral sentiments,” he says that there is a “dark side of the inborn propensity to moral behavior … xenophobia.” Id. at 59. While one would expect Wilson to consider whether xenophobia leads to stability in a culture (as he subsequently does, see id. at 62-63), his choice here of the word “dark” is surprising. It suggests moral condemnation—that xenophobia is wrong. Since Wilson rejects ethical evaluations in terms of right and wrong, supra nn. 134-141 and accompanying text, what possibly could justify this conclusion?
143. Consider a person who commits incest, thereby violating one of the epigenetic rules of human mental development. See supra text accompanying nn. 120-121. Wilson presumably would only be able to say that such a person did not share the common aversion to incest. At most, if incest violated a norm of that particular culture, see supra text accompanying nn. 125-126, Wilson could add that the person had violated a cultural norm. But Wilson could not say that what the person had done was wrong.
144. Rorty, Richard, Against Unity, Wilson Q. 28, 32 (Winter 1998).
145. Id. at 33-34.
146. Id. at 34.
148. Id. at 36.
149. See supra n. 24 and accompanying text.
150. Rorty, supra n. 144, at 37.
151. Establishing what is right by sheer assertion is not new for Rorty. Consider, for example, his recommendation for how Western liberals should respond to the charge that their belief in human equality is only “a Western eccentricity,” rejected by “most of the globe's inhabitants”: “‘So what? We Western liberals do believe in it, and so much the better for us’ ….” Rorty, Richard, On Ethnocentrism: A Reply to Clifford Geertz, 25 Mich. Q. Rev. 525, 531 (1986). This statement could easily be misunderstood as just another manifestation of Posner's argument that all moral precepts are local. See supra n. 55 and accompanying text. Rorty in fact does believe that moral standards “are parochial, recent, eccentric, cultural developments.” Rorty, supra at 532. But Rorty differs from Posner in a significant respect. Posner openly abandons any attempt to label the varying standards of different cultures as either right or wrong. See supra nn. 72-73 and accompanying text. Rorty, on the other hand, states: “Our moral view is, I firmly believe, much better than any competing view …. It is … [false to say] that there is nothing to choose between us and the Nazis.” Rorty, Richard, Trotsky and the Wild Orchids, in Wild Orchids and Trotsky 29, 44 (Edmundson, Mark ed., Penguin 1993). Posner, it will be recalled, would say only that the Nazis disgusted him, not that they were wrong. See supra nn. 59, 69-71 and accompanying text. Posner's position is more internally coherent than Rorty's. Posner, believing that there are no universal moral standards, recognizes that one can no longer make moral judgments trans-culturally. Rorty, while agreeing with Posner that cultural norms are merely local, still insists on making cross-cultural moral assessments. But he does so with no foundation other than his own “say so.”
152. See supra text accompanying n. 80.
153. Gross, Paul R., The Icarian Impulse, Wilson Q. 39, 48 (Winter 1998). Astonishingly, Gross asserts that it was science that made possible the elimination of slavery. Id. But as Posner points out, “[t]he abolitionist movement was powered much more by religious enthusiasm than by Enlightenment rationality, which diluted its universalistic moral principles with ‘scientific’ racism.” Posner, supra n. 49, at 42 n. 66.
154. Gross, supra n. 153, at 48.
155. Id. at 49.
156. Pinker, Steven, Why They Kill Their Newborns, 6 N.Y. Times 52 (magazine) (11 2, 1997). In 2003 Pinker moved from MIT to Harvard University.
158. Kelly, Michael, Arguing for Infanticide, A23 Wash. Post (11 6, 1997).
159. Ferguson, Andrew, How Steven Pinker's Mind Works, Wkly. Stand. 16 (01 12, 1998).
160. Pinker, Steven, Arguing Against Infanticide, Wash. Post A26 (11 21, 1997); Pinker, Steven, A Matter of the Soul, Wkly. Stand. 6 (letter to the editor) (02 2, 1998). While Pinker in his original article did clearly condemn infanticide, his discussion of the traits of newborns comes close to suggesting that it is permissible to kill them. He says, for example, that “immature neonates” do not possess “morally significant traits … any more than mice do.” Pinker, supra n. 156, at 54. At the very least, such a statement makes one wonder why in the world Pinker still objects to killing newborns.
161. Pinker, Steven, How the Mind Works 21 (W.W. Norton & Co. 1997) [hereinafter Pinker, How the Mind Works].
162. Pinker, supra n. 156, at 52.
166. Id. at 53-54.
167. Id. at 52.
168. Pinker, How the Mind Works, supra n. 161, at 50.
169. Pinker differs from Wilson's current view. Wilson once viewed morals in a way similar to Pinker's present position. See supra n. 136.
170. Pinker, How the Mind Works, supra n. 161, at 52.
171. Id. at 55. Pinker's perspective is cited by Fried to support the position that a rigorous and unremitting “evolutionary account of the human mind” does not render “ethical reflection … meaningless and unavailing.” Fried, supra n. 53, at 1749. It will be shown that Fried's confidence in Pinker is misplaced.
172. Pinker, How the Mind Works, supra n. 161, at 47.
173. Id. at 56.
174. Id. at 46.
175. Id. at 47. Pinker's position here is very similar to Rorty's. See supra text accompanying nn. 144-147.
176. Pinker, How the Mind Works, supra n. 161, at 55.
177. Ferguson, supra n. 159, at 21.
178. Pinker, Steven, The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature (Viking 2002) [hereinafter Pinker, The Blank Slate].
179. Id. at 163; see id. at xi, 103, 141-142, 164, 422.
180. Id. at 165-166.
181. Id. at 166.
182. Id. at 364. As will be shown, Pinker in fact strongly condemns rape. He fails, however, to provide any satisfactory ground for his opposition. See infra nn. 201, 205-206 and accompanying text.
183. Id. at 187.
184. Id. See id. at 168-169, 192-193.
185. Id. at 193.
186. See Id. at 187.
187. See id.
189. See supra n. 95 (showing Leff's rejection of logical consistency as the test of moral truth). The moral principle being discussed in this paragraph of the text is, of course, the Golden Rule. Pinker embraces this principle, but provides it with only the chimerical grounding of flat assertion. He thus ignores the Golden Rule's only meaningful foundation—the will of God. See infra n. 357.
190. Earlier, supra n. 151, Posner's view of morals was shown to be “more internally coherent” than Rorty's. Posner's approach is also logically superior to Pinker's “pure assertion” approach to moral evaluation. This is clearly shown by considering what each says about moral progress. Posner recognizes that any reference to moral progress is meaningless without “an objective order of morality that … enable[s] moral comparisons to be drawn between us and our predecessors.” Posner, supra n. 49, at 23-24. Posner's point is undeniable. As C.S. Lewis states (in a different context):
If things can improve, this means that there must be an absolute standard of good [for comparative purposes] …. There is no sense in talking of “becoming better” if better means simply “what we are becoming”—it is like congratulating yourself on reaching your destination and defining destination as “the place you have reached.”
Lewis, C.S., Evil and God, in God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics 21, 21 (Hooper, Walter ed. 1970). See infra text accompanying n. 250. Since Posner believes that no objective morality exists, supra nn. 55-73 and accompanying text, “there is no moral progress in any sense flattering to the residents of wealthy modern nations—that we cannot think of ourselves as being morally more advanced than head shrinkers and cannibals and mutilators of female genitalia.” Posner, supra n. 49, at 23; see supra n. 69. Pinker, on the other hand, refers to “the obvious [moral] progress that has taken place over millennia.” Pinker, The Blank Slate, supra n. 178, at 166. But given his complete failure to establish any objective criteria of morality, Pinker's rosy view of human history is self-deceived.
191. Pinker, How the Mind Works, supra n. 161, at 50. Pinker argues as well “that a victim of discrimination experiences it as a uniquely painful sting … that a group of victims is liable to react with rage … [and] that discrimination tends to escalate into horrors like slavery and genocide.” Id.
192. The same thing can be said for Pinker's other justifications, supra n. 191, for calling racial discrimination wrong. What if a person likes to cause others pain and see them “react with rage”? And while Pinker labels slavery and genocide “horrors,” what if another person believes these to be morally commendable?
193. Pinker, The Blank Slate, supra n. 178, at 145.
194. Id. at 119.
195. Id. at 120.
196. Id. at 150-151.
197. Id. at 153.
198. Id. at 189.
199. Id. at 205.
200. Id. at 274.
201. Id. at 269. In view of Pinker's rejection of God as the basis of morals, infra text accompanying n. 209, what could he possibly mean by “transcendent”?
202. Id. at 337.
203. Id. at 398.
204. Id. at 425. Pinker's grounding is an interesting contrast to Jefferson's, who grounded “unalienable rights” in endowment by a Creator. The Declaration of Independence para. 2 (U.S. 1776).
205. I also do not in any way question Pinker's good faith in the positions he holds.
206. Another example demonstrates this definitively. Pinker states that we can distinguish “between a defensible moral position and an atavistic gut feeling … [because] with the former we can give reasons why our conviction is valid. We can explain why torture and murder and rape are wrong ….” Pinker, The Blank Slate, supra n. 178, at 274. But what explanation does he give? To Pinker, “good reasons for a moral position are not pulled out of thin air: they always have to do with what makes people better off or worse off, and are grounded in the logic that we have to treat other people in the way that we demand that they treat us.” Id. at 274-275. Could there be reasoning any more circular (Something that Pinker elsewhere criticizes in others. Id. at 309.)? Who says that conduct is moral if it “makes people better off or that it is immoral to reject a principle of reciprocity? See supra nn. 183-189 and accompanying text. Pinker obviously does, but his methodology of flat assertion is an archetype for pulling moral principles “out of thin air.” As has been shown, Rorty, see supra nn. 150-151 and accompanying text, and Gross, see supra text accompanying n. 155, adopt the same assertion-premised approach to morality. Taken together, the three men provide strong corroboration of Leff's thesis that the most common grounding for moral precepts is “‘It is right to do X because it is right to do X.’” See supra n. 24 and accompanying text.
207. Pinker, The Blank Slate, supra n. 178, at 270.
208. Id. at 193.
209. Id. at 187. Ironically, the moral feelings that Pinker stresses are in fact one powerful indication that God actually exists. See infra nn. 252-257 and accompanying text.
210. The illusory nature of Pinker's foundation for morals has another important consequence. In the book's last chapter, Pinker, in a warning to postmodernists, says:
It is ironic that a philosophy that prides itself on deconstructing the accoutrements of power should embrace a relativism that makes challenges to power impossible, because it denies that there are objective benchmarks against which the deceptions of the powerful can be evaluated.
Id. at 426. Another irony is that Pinker, to whom the “notion of objective truth,” id., is so important, fails to recognize that under his arguments objective truth remains only a notion. Only if objective truth actually exists are there “benchmarks” to evaluate “the deceptions of the powerful.” And, as Leff'shows, the only possible grounding for such “benchmarks” is God.
211. Leff, On Shoring Up a Void, supra n. 4, at 538. See supra text accompanying nn. 43-47. Leff found this conclusion terrifying. See supra text accompanying n. 46 & infra nn. 347-351 and accompanying text.
212. Leff, Unspeakable Ethics, supra n. 4, at 1249.
213. Id. Mark Tushnet calls this passage “Arthur Leff's famous prose poem.” Mark V. Tushnet, The Left Critique of Normativity: A Comment, 90 Mich. L. Rev. 2325, 2327 (1992). For Leff's propensity to assert moral claims, see infra text accompanying n. 238 & infra n. 243.
214. Phillip Johnson calls this dilemma
the modernist impasse. Modernism is the condition that begins when humans understand that God is really dead and that they therefore have to decide all the big questions for themselves. Modernism at times produces an exhilarating sense of liberation: we can do whatever we like, because there is no unimpeachable authority to prevent us. Modernism at other times is downright scary: how can we persuade other people that what they want to do to us is barred by some unchallengeable moral absolute?
Johnson, supra n. 4, at 19-20. Leff confirms the accuracy of Johnson's description:
If we are trying to find a substitute evaluator, it must be one of us, some of us, all of us—but it cannot be anything else. The result of that realization is what might be called an exhilarated vertigo, a simultaneous combination of an exultant “We're free of God” and a despairing “Oh God, we're free.”
Leff, Unspeakable Ethics, supra n. 4, at 1233; see id. at 1229.
215. The quotation's “Sez who?” suggests that Leff realizes this point. There is, however, that opening “Nevertheless.” Also, Leff uses the words “bad,” “wicked,” “depraved,” “deserving of damnation,” and “evil.” Such strong condemnatory language reveals his powerful convictions. In the end, though, Leff recognizes that these provide insufficient grounding for moral claims:
I do believe that the style of a belief or action, its burning, corruscating power in someone's life, is irrelevant to its validity—at least as that term is used here. In other words, authenticity has no bearing on logical sufficiency. A deeply felt conviction is a different matter of fact from a flip and casual one, but both are still just matters of fact. And it will not do to say that the “right” is that which one considers the right with one's whole heart and soul, for the last clause amounts to nothing other than a new definitional variation, no more “valid” (though no less) than any other.
That does not mean 1 deny the existence of deep and passionate beliefs, facts that stir people to their depths. All I deny (and it may not be much) is that these deep beliefs about the nature of the right and the good are logically any different from shallow ones.
Leff, On Shoring Up a Void, supra n. 4, at 545.
It is interesting that here Leff uses the phrase “logical sufficiency.” Just as the deep/shallow distinction between moral beliefs makes no difference in this regard—to ground normative assertions—earlier it was shown that to Leff the logical/illogical distinction is similarly irrelevant. See supra n. 95 and accompanying text.
Consequently, despite the confusion potentially generated by his famous conclusion, Leff's bottom line critique stands inviolate—without God's saying so, there is no satisfactory grounding for moral assertions. Thus, Alan Dershowitz is misguided to desire ‘“[a] world in which people do good things because that's the right thing to do, not because God says to do it.’” Dershowitz's, AlanPerfect World, Harv. Mag. 25 (01/Feb. 2003). Without God, there are no such categories as “good” and “right.” Philip Bobbitt is also mistaken in his discussion of “the pricelessness of human beings.” Bobbitt, Philip, Reflections Inspired by My Critics, 72 Tex. L. Rev. 1869, 1966 (1994). Humans have this value “because of all earthly things, [they] are capable of love[.] To maintain this belief in the face of the inevitable pricing of human worth requires faith.” Id. For Bobbitt, though, it is not essential that this “faith” involve belief in God. Id. at 1966-1967. It is certainly possible to believe in human “pricelessness” by faith that lacks a transcendent object, but without a God who has accorded mankind this attribute, such faith is an illusory ground for valuing human beings. Finally, Lance Morrow makes a fatal error in his recent reflections upon evil. Morrow, Lance, Evil: An Investigation (Basic Books 2003). Although his otherwise insightful book contains numerous references to God, Morrow fails to recognize God's indispensability to moral judgment. See e.g. id. at 104-105, 109-110.
216. Leff, supra n. 4, at 1232.
217. It is, of course, impossible exactly to ascertain Leff's personal beliefs concerning God's existence. Certain passages in his work seem to refer to God as real. His Stanford piece, in discussing the possibility of God's existence, states (the speaker is The Devil in a hypothetical letter to Roberto Unger): “My own opinion is that the Hand that holds you suspended over my fiery pit doesn't abhor you, but has forgotten completely that It has anything in It.” Leff, Memorandum, supra n. 4, at 888. This, at most, suggests only that God exists, with nothing to imply that God has any interaction whatever with mankind. Elsewhere, Leff is even more skeptical: “It may once have been awful to contemplate the possibility that the hand which held you suspended over the fiery pit despised you. It may be worse to contemplate the probability that there is nothing in that awful notion.” Leff, On Shoring Up a Void, supra n. 4, at 548; see infra nn. 237-240 and accompanying text. In this same piece, Leff'states that it would be astonishing
to think we have successfully traversed the three discontinuities of Copernicus, Darwin, and Freud, and are no longer seriously troubled at having learned that we are inconsequential in the universe, unexceptional among anmials [sic], and non-autonomous as rational beings.
Leff, On Shoring Up a Void, supra n. 4, at 548. Leff elsewhere explains that games appeal to humans because in “‘real life’” it is difficult “to determine how one came out.” Leff, Arthur A., Law and, 87 Yale L.J. 989, 1001 (1978) [hereinafter Leff, Law and]. “[I]t is a joy independent of victory to be engaged in an activity that allows for a determinate result. Even clearly losing may, at least some of the time, be a pleasant alternative to a lifetime of never knowing.” Id.; and see Ackerman, Bruce A., Agon, 91 Yale L.J. 219, 221 (1981).
All in all, the written record is highly suggestive that Leff did not believe in God. This conclusion is supported by Leff's colleague, Owen Fiss, who implies that Leff was hardly enthusiastic about Fiss's “search for objective truth.” Fiss, supra n. 4, at 228. Fiss also characterizes Leff's scholarship as “veer[ing] off in the direction of nihilism.” Id. at 227. Leff himself tried to convince Fiss that his (Leff's) office “was some sort of nihilist abyss.” Id. at 228. Finally, however, one cannot be sure. Fiss himself believed that Leff's “professed nihilism was … inconsistent with all that [he] knew about him.” Id. Fiss often told Leff that in expressing such “substantive views … [Leff] was only pulling [his] leg.” Id. If Fiss is correct, Leff's masked rejection of nihilism could reflect undisclosed theism (although not necessarily, because non-religious persons can reject nihilism too, at least in their subjective beliefs. As Part I argues, however, and as Leff himself so plainly understood, only God can substantively ground a repudiation of nihilism).
218. The 2003 New York Times Almanac reports that of a world population of just over six billion, id. at 448, there are 15 million Jews, id. at 485, 1.3 billion Muslims, id. at 486, and 2 billion Christians. Id. at 485.
219. See Conkle, Daniel O., Religion, Politics, and the 2000 Presidential Election: A Selective Survey and Tentative Appraisal, 77 Ind. L.J. 247, 253–256 (2002). For example, Lieberman “cited God's creation—and the human equality that it implies—in support of civil rights and nondiscrimination policies.” Id. at 254.
220. Such cynical reasons would include gaining political advantage by appealing to the faithful.
221. Any God who is fabricated by humans obviously will not do as a grounding for morals. This type of feckless God (because actually non-existent) apparently is the kind of God Stephen Jay Gould had in mind in his effort to reconcile science and religion. Gould, “America's unofficial evolutionist laureate,” Wright, Robert, The Accidental Creationist, The New Yorker 56, 56 (12 13, 1999), argued that science and religion really were not in conflict because they “operate in complementary (not contrary) fashion in their totally different realms: science as an inquiry about the factual state of the natural world, religion as a search for spiritual meaning and ethical values.” Gould, Stephen Jay, Dorothy, It's Really Oz, Time 59 (08 23, 1999). While this seems conciliatory on first reading, what does it mean to say that God has nothing to do with “the factual state of the natural world”? Is this not a subtle way of saying that science deals with facts, while religion deals with myth? See Johnson, Phillip E., The Wedge of Truth: Splitting the Foundations of Naturalism 95–102 (InterVarsity Press 2000). That this was in fact Gould's view is supported by Robert Wright, who says that Gould “bolsters … [the] caricature of … [Darwinism] as an atheist plot” by his depiction of “evolution as something that can't possibly reflect a higher purpose.” Wright, supra at 56. Because Gould in a television interview stated that religion is “‘just a story that we tell ourselves,’” Kenneth Miller comes close to accusing him of being duplicitous in expressing respect for religion. Miller, Kenneth R., Finding Darwin's God 169–170 (1999) [hereinafter Miller, Finding Darwin's God].
In discussing whether God really exists, this Article will focus on a God who matters to humans i.e., a God who is involved with mankind. This is the kind of God believed in by Jews, Muslims, and Christians. See supra n. 218 and accompanying text. There are, of course, other conceptions of God. Edward Wilson, for example, states that he leans “toward deism …. The existence of a cosmological God who created the universe (as envisioned by deism) is possible ….” Wilson, Consilience, supra n. 110, at 263. See Wilson, On Human Nature, supra n. 136, at 1, 191-192, 205. Steven Pinker states that he too “does not argue against the existence of God.” Pinker, The Blank Slate, supra n. 178, at 187. He points out that some biologists speak favorably of “a sophisticated deism.” Id. Wilson and Pinker, however, both reject the concept of a personal God in relationship with human beings. See Pinker, How the Mind Works, supra n. 161, at 554-558; Wilson, Consilience, supra n. 110, at 263, 287-288. Subpart A of this Part will demonstrate that their arguments fail.
222. A famous example in which these three presuppositions are evident is Lincoln's Second Inaugural, in which he calls the Union, “with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right … [to] strive on to finish the work we are in.” 8 The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln 333 (Basler, Roy P. ed., Rutgers U. Press 1953). What Lincoln urged makes sense only if he looked to a God who actually exists and who has communicated about right and wrong. See Sanford Levinson's views, infra n. 311, for general support of the proposition that God-premised truth claims rest upon these three presuppositions.
It might be argued that God-grounded truth claims require yet another presupposition—that God can be trusted to know what is right. What if God actually is evil? See Pinker, The Blank Slate, supra n. 178, at 189. But, if as shown in Part I of this Article, no definitive judgments about right and wrong can exist without God, there is no possible grounding for calling evil something that God says is good (and vice versa). Leff puts it this way, in the context of a discussion of a God-given command, “‘Thou shalt not commit adultery“‘:
[I]n a God-based system, we do not define God's utterances as unquestionable, the way that we might state that a triangle has three sides and go on from there and only from there. We are not doing the defining. Our relationship to God's moral order is the triangle's relationship to the order of Euclidean plane geometry, not the mathematician's. We are defined, constituted, as beings whose adultery is wrong, bad, unlawful. Thus, committing adultery in such a system is “naturally” bad only because the system is supernaturally constituted.
Leff, Unspeakable Ethics, supra n. 4, at 1231 (emphasis in original).
223. Christianity is my focus for illustrative purposes because it is my own faith and thus the one with which I am most familiar.
224. For my own thinking on this subject, which has changed over time, see Calhoun, Samuel W., Conviction Without Imposition: A Response to Professor Creenawalt, 9 J. L. & Relig. 289 (1992) (written first, but delayed in publication); Calhoun, Samuel W., Misreading the Judeo-Christian Tradition and the Law: A Response to Professor Smolin, 15 U. Dayton L. Rev. 383 (1990) (written second); Calhoun, Samuel W., Book Review, 16 J. L. & Relig. 405, 411–413 (2001) (reviewing Mensch, Elizabeth & Freeman, Alan, The Politics of Virtue: Is Abortion Debatable? (1993)) (my most recent thoughts on the topic).
225. For a brief essay giving some of my thoughts on this subject, see Calhoun, Samuel W., Are Religious Arguments Appropriate in Civil Discourse?, 9 Christian Leg. Socy. Q. 32 (1988).
226. Leff, Unspeakable Ethics, supra n. 4, at 1232.
227. Id. at 1249. See supra n. 217.
228. As Phillip Johnson puts it, “Leff in effect placed the death of God in the place of God.” Johnson, supra n. 4, at 22. Eliminating God by presuming His non-existence not only lacks intellectual rigor. The consequences of God's non-existence are devastating (Leff found them to be terrifying, see supra text accompanying n. 46 & infra nn. 347-351 and accompanying text). Why then presume God's non-existence, which necessarily saddles one with that dire impact?
229. Uff, On Shoring Up a Void, supra n. 4, at 540.
230. Phillip Johnson argues that Leff would have found it impossible seriously to evaluate whether God exists because Leff, as a modernist—one who believes “that God is really dead,” see supra n. 214—could not call “modernism's founding premise” into question “without ceasing to be a modernist.” Johnson, supra n. 4, at 22.
231. This passage is especially surprising because here Leff does what he once criticized Posner for doing. In Leff's 1974 critique of Posner's Economic Analysis of Law, he labels the new discipline “American Legal Nominalism” because “its basic intellectual technique is the substitution of definitions for both normative and empirical propositions.” Leff, Realism About Nominalism, supra n. 4, at 459. It is unfortunate that Leff followed this same path by “defining” the issue of God's existence—an issue that Leff himself declares to be of crucial importance—as non-debatable.
232. Webster's New World Dictionary of American English 445 (3d college ed., Pearson Prentice Hall 1991).
233. Of course, as pointed out by Kenneth Miller, under this definition Darwinism would also be classified as non-empirical. See Miller, Finding Darwin's God, supra n. 221, at 21-22 (Miller repudiates this narrow definition of scientific inquiry, which “rejects the very idea that any theory about the past can be scientific.” Id. at 22. He argues convincingly that “scientific inquiry” can be conducted about the past—although we cannot “witness the past directly … we can reach out and analyze it for the simple reason that the past left something behind.” Id. at 22-23.). Christians believe that one day God's existence will be empirically proven i.e., every knee will bow and every tongue confess. See Phil 2:10-11 (All Biblical cites are from New Intl. Version.).
234. See supra n. 217.
235. Leff, On Shoring Up A Void, supra n. 4, at 548. Leff also mentioned Freud, who showed that humans are “non-autonomous as rational beings.” Id. Discussing Freud is beyond the scope of this Article. Elizabeth Mensch and Alan Freeman have noted, however, that Freudianism, one of the three “great isms of the twentieth century that sought to replace religion as the source of human meaning and possibility,” is a “rapidly fading blip on the screen of history.” Mensch, Elizabeth & Freeman, Alan, The Politics of Virtue: Is Abortion Debatable? 154 (Duke U. Press 1993) (so are the other two purported replacements for religion, Marxism and existentialism, id.).
236. The discussion that follows in the text is also meant to contest Mark Tushnet's characterization of religion. Tushnet admits that religion provides one ground for making normative evaluations, but believes that it is not a ground “easily called rational.” Tushnet, supra n. 213, at 2328.
237. Leff, Realism About Nominalism, supra n. 4.
238. Id. at 481.
239. Id. at n. 76.
240. See supra n. 217.
241. Johnson, supra n. 4, at 22. (Here Johnson was actually commenting on the famous ending to Leff's 1979 Duke piece, see supra text accompanying n. 213; I believe that this is the wrong example to use, see infra nn. 242-243 and accompanying text.).
242. See supra text accompanying n. 213. Mark Tushnet says that Leff “was too sophisticated to believe that the judgments he uttered were simple statements of brute fact about the world.” Tushnet, supra n. 213, at 2328.
243. Thus, in my opinion, Johnson's argument is flawed to the extent that he relies upon the conclusion to the Duke piece to ground his criticism of Leff. Leff's dictionary fragment, however, contains several definitions with assertions concerning morality that, standing alone, could readily be taken as expressing moral judgments in the absolute sense. It states: (1) in the definition of “abnormal,” Leff, A Fragment, supra n. 77, at 1865, that “[a]n ‘abnormal’ Nazi Storm Trooper … would most likely be a much better person than the ‘normal’ variety”; (2) in the definition of “abstraction,” id. at 1878, that “all persons are entitled to equal treatment by a legal system despite the actual differences among them”; (3) in the definition of “accommodation,” id. at 1891, that “[n]ot all conflict is a bad thing, for it frequently comes from a refusal to learn to live with evil, which refusal may be a good thing even counting the discomfort caused the refuser”; (4) in the definition of “allies,” id. at 1999, that “[i]n the Second World War, ‘the Allies’ referred to the good guys … ‘the Axis’ to the bad guys”; (5) in the definition of “argumentum ad hominem,” id. at 2056, that “adulterers and thieves” are lacking in virtue (stated implicitly); (6) in the definition of “artifice,” id. at 2064, that “sneakiness” is a “pejorative” description; (7) in the definition of “atrocity,” id. at 2090, that “the intentional machine-gunning of noncombatant women and children by armed forces in a war zone” is “[a]n instance of particularly revolting brutality”; (8) in the definition of “bondage,” id. at 2191, that certain sexual practices are “a species of perversion.” (One issue on which I wish there was more available information concerns Leff's views on abortion. Such evidence as there is suggests that he found the practice to be morally problematic. See id. at 2016 (the definition of “analogy”) (see infra n. 344), 2146 (the definition of “begging the question”); Leff, Law and, supra n. 217, at 1007 n. 45; Fiss, supra n. 4, at 228 n. 4. Leff might have been even more troubled by abortion had he not, as the evidence also suggests, misunderstood the impact of the Roe decision. See supra n. 77.).
If Leff intended the foregoing statements to connote the existence of moral absolutes, then he subjects himself to Johnson's critique. See supra text accompanying n. 241. It might be argued, though, that Leff, when he made these moral assertions, implicitly (or at least in his own mind) attached the qualifier “sez who?” to each one. See supra n. 242 and accompanying text. Leff also might have meant only to convey in strong language his own feelings about particular subjects. For example, in saying that shooting women and children was “revolting brutality,” perhaps Leff meant only that he found the practice to be revolting, not that it was revolting in an absolute sense. This latter interpretation gains support from Leff's definition of “bad”: “The opposite of good i.e., a general pejorative evincing disapproval of whatever is so labelled Leff, A Fragment, supra n. 77, at 2115. Dworkin, however, argues that any such “‘non-cognitivist’” or “[e]xpressivist” interpretation of moral statements is “dramatically revisionist”:
People who say that it is unjust to deny adequate medical care to the poor do not think that they are just expressing an attitude or accepting a rule or standard as a kind of personal commitment. They think they are calling attention to something that is already true independently of anyone's attitude, including theirs, or of whether anyone, including them, has ever accepted any particular rule.
Dworkin, supra n. 80, at 108-109. See Posner, supra n. 49, at 11. Of course, if Dworkin is correct—if Leff's moral judgments were absolutist instead of merely expressivist—then Johnson's criticism of Leff's failure to acknowledge God's existence stands.
244. Leff, Unspeakable Ethics, supra n. 4, at 1249. See supra text accompanying n. 213. It is worth asking why Leff even feels compelled to frame his argument in moral language. Why not simply say that he does not prefer that babies be napalmed? Pinker argues that the human mind is so constituted that it “cannot help but think in moral terms.” Pinker, The Blank Slate, supra n. 178, at 193; see supra text accompanying n. 208. Why are we “so constituted”? Is this not suggestive of a God who created us, a God whose existence is necessary to give right and wrong any meaning?
245. Lewis, C.S., Mere Christianity 3 (MacMillan Co. 1943, 1945, 1952).
246. Id. at 4.
248. Id. at 5. See Dworkin, supra n. 80, at 113 (“the degree of convergence over basic moral matters throughout history is … striking”). Lewis, supra n. 245, at 5, points out that he provides evidence for this claim in the appendix to another of his books, The Abolition of Man. That appendix cites specific sources (including, among many others, Jewish, Christian, and Hindu) to show that moral norms have been shared across a variety of cultures and eras. Lewis, C.S., The Abolition of Man 97–121 (paperback ed., Macmillan 1955) [hereinafter Lewis, Abolition]. Lewis refers to eight categories: (1) the law of general beneficence; (2) the law of special beneficence; (3) duties to parents, elders, and ancestors; (4) duties to children and posterity; (5) the law of justice; (6) the law of good faith and veracity; (7) the law of mercy; and (8) the law of magnanimity. Id.
While Lewis's evidence of common norms is impressive, it leads Lewis to a conclusion in Abolition that I do not accept. His main point is that we must, without requiring proof of any kind, simply accept these traditional moral principles as valid, in fact as constituting what it means to be human. See id. at 52-53, 56, 60-61, 76-77.
The direct frontal attack “Why?”—“What good does it do?”—“Who said so?” is never permissible; not because it is harsh or offensive but because no values at all can justify themselves on that level. If you persist in that kind of trial, you will destroy all values, and so destroy the basis of your own criticism as well as the thing criticized.
Id. at 60-61. Lewis basically says that to talk about values at all, we must assume that traditional values are true, not because their commonality proves it, id. at 95, but simply because we need some criteria—a starting point—by which to evaluate our lives. But if traditional values are not in fact true, why should they be given precedence just because they are backed by the weight of historical acceptance? Also, if Lewis refuses to justify traditional values substantively, what is the basis for his viewing with alarm the consequences of abandoning them? See id. at 67-91. How can one say about the substitutes that Lewis abhors anything more than that Lewis dislikes them? Without some uncontrovertible grounding, one cannot. In this regard, it is puzzling that Lewis says that “no values” can be justified at the level of “Why?.” If in fact God exists and has spoken values, the “Why?” question has been definitively answered. Lewis recognizes this full well, as elsewhere he relies upon shared values as evidence that such a God indeed exists. See infra nn. 253-257 and accompanying text. In Abolition, though, Lewis expressly states that he is not “attempting any indirect argument for Theism.” Lewis, supra at 61. Here, he is not concerned with whether his “position implies a supernatural origin.” Id. By jettisoning God as its source, however, Lewis totally debilitates his defense of traditional morality.
249. Lewis, supra n. 245, at 10.
250. Id. at 11. Posner, of course, argues this very thing—that, as Lewis put it, there is “no sense in saying that the world could ever grow morally better or morally worse.” See supra n. 190.
251. See supra nn. 33-37 and accompanying text.
252. Common moral norms, for example, may simply embody and endorse behavior that has been found conducive to a functioning human society, and “functioning” has no necessary correlation with moral correctness. This is plausible, but common moral norms could logically imply something quite different. See infra nn. 253-257 and accompanying text.
253. Lewis, supra n. 245, at 19.
257. Id. at 20; see supra n. 244. In other words, the commonality of moral norms does not establish their validity, but rather points to a validating source outside of mankind. It might then seem to follow that, given this external validation, the moral norms themselves would necessarily be true. As will be argued later, however, common morality, despite the fact that God does write His laws on the hearts of men, cannot be considered as inevitably correct. The consciences of men, although given by God, are tainted by sin and thus unreliable as the sole arbiter of right and wrong. See infra n. 324 and accompanying text.
Given “Something … directing the universe,” moral rules can also be viewed as “directions for running the human machine. Every moral rule is there to prevent a breakdown, or a strain, or a friction, in the running of that machine.” Lewis, supra n. 245, at 55. This is a logical alternative to the view that common moral norms suggest nothing about moral correctness, but merely embody and endorse behavior that has been found conducive to a functioning human society. See supra n. 252. That moral norms facilitate human interaction could be by design rather than by chance.
258. The fact that billions believe in God, supra n. 218 and accompanying text, is not, in itself, dispositive evidence for God's existence. Thus, Posner is correct that it would “mistake rhetoric for reality … [to treat] as evidence for the existence of God the fact that believers talk about God as existing.” Posner, supra n. 49, at 21. There are, however, powerful arguments that a personal God exists. Several recent compilations are (1) William Craig's sections in a published debate on the subject, Craig, William Lane & Sinnott-Armstrong, Walter, God? A Debate Between a Christian and an Atheist (Oxford U. Press 2004); (2) Barr, Stephen M., Modern Physics and Ancient Faith (U. Notre Dame Press 2003) [hereinafter Barr, Modern Physics]; (3) Strobel, Lee, The Case for Faith (Zondervan Publg. House 2000) [hereinafter Strobel, Case for Faith]; and (4) Glynn, Patrick, God: The Evidence (Forum 1997). Importantly, however, all four authors acknowledge that reason alone cannot lead to belief in God. Craig & Sinnott-Armstrong, supra at 28 (Craig's view); Barr, supra at 13; Strobel, supra at 253-256; Glynn, supra at 11-12, 19. The Bible is in accord, if “belief is understood to mean a personal relationship with God. Such a relationship is impossible without His enabling power. See Matt 11:25-27; 1 Cor 2:14.
259. Stephen Barr says that it is best not to talk in terms of proof:
The materialist's story [the worldview of scientific materialism] had a moral, but it did not constitute proof of materialism. There was no experiment that proved that only matter existed, nor was there any calculation that proved that the universe had no purpose. Nor did the materialist really ever claim that there was. What he claimed was that there were two pictures of the world, the religious and the materialist, and that the progress of science has revealed a world that looks more and more like the materialist picture, and less like the religious picture. It was a question, in other words, not of proofs but of expectations. Science, it was claimed, had fulfilled the materialist's expectations and confounded the religious believer's.
Barr, Modern Physics, supra n. 258, at 29. For an example of this type of materialist reasoning, see Feynman, Richard P., The Relation of Science and Religion, in The Pleasure of Finding Things Out: The Best Short Works of Richard P. Feynman 249–250 (Robbins, Jeffrey ed., Perseus Books 1999).
Barr claims that in fact the opposite is true, that “recent discoveries have begun to confound the materialist's expectations and confirm those of the believer in God.” Barr, Modern Physics, supra n. 258, at 29. One prominent example is “[o]ne of the most dramatic discoveries in the history of science … that the universe began in an explosion that took place about 15 billion years ago.” Id. at 33. “[T]his ‘Big Bang Theory’ … is no longer seriously questioned.” Id.
[I]f it is true that the Big Bang was the beginning of time itself, as at least appears to be the case, then one of the central beliefs of Jews and Christians has been confirmed, and one of the assumptions that had prevailed among scientific materialists [that the universe was eternal] has been overthrown.
But as Barr states, confirmation of theistic expectations is not the equivalent of proof. According to Christian theology, a time will come when it would be proper to talk about proof. See supra n. 233.
260. Ultimately, of course, the non-existence of God can never be proven. It is impossible to prove a negative. The arrogance of one who makes the attempt is breathtaking—such an argument contends that nothing exists or can be known outside the knowledge of the particular speaker. See infra n. 274. Our focus, though, is on a God who is in relationship with humanity. See supra n. 221. This subpart will reveal the shallowness of arguments denying the existence of a theistic God.
261. Posner, the third primary subject of Part I, does not criticize the concept of a God-based moral system. As previously noted, Posner believes that a supreme lawgiver is the only plausible grounding for a universal moral law. See supra nn. 101-102 and accompanying text. Like Leff, however, Posner states this only as a matter of abstract logic. His position that there is no such thing as right and wrong presupposes the non-existence of God. That Posner believes this personally is suggested by The New Yorker profile in which, in explaining his attraction to Nietzsche, Posner describes his own personal philosophy as one “of self-assertion, [freed] from oppressive frameworks such as that created by religion or other dogmas.” MacFarquhar, supra n. 70, at 86. To me, these facts suggest that Judge Noonan is incorrect in concluding that Posner is open to the possibility of “the existence of a deity.” Noonan, supra n. 53, at 1774.
262. For Leff's acceptance of this position, see supra nn. 234-235 and accompanying text.
263. Wilson, Consilience, supra n. 110, at 32.
264. Wilson, On Human Nature, supra n. 136, at 171. Recall that Wilson is willing to entertain the possibility that a deistic God exists i.e., one who may have somehow initially set things in motion, but then withdrew and no longer intervenes in human affairs. See supra n. 221.
265. Gleick, James, Isaac Newton 108 (Pantheon Books 2003). See infra n. 267. Like Wilson, however, others have misconstrued Newton. A 1998 Newsweek article states that Newton's “gravitational theory … [which] completes the mechanistic vision of the cosmos … leaves in a sliver of God—as the ‘first cause’ of the universe.” Begley, Sharon, Science Finds God, Newsweek 46, 49 (07 20, 1998). Richard Lewontin calls this perspective “a cliché of intellectual history.” Lewontin, Richard, Billions and Billions of Demons, The N.Y. Rev. of Books 28, 31 (01 9, 1997) (book review). Frederick Crews believes that Newton (together with Copernicus and Galileo) warrants the label deicide. “After all, the subsiding of faith might have been foreseeable as soon as the newly remapped sky left no plausible site for heaven.” Crews, Frederick, Saving Us From Darwin, The N.Y. Rev. of Books 24, 24 (10 4, 2001) (the ludicrousness of this argument is apparent—how does a more accurate understanding of celestial motion refute the possible location of heaven in the physical realm, the entire universe, much less in a spiritual realm?).
266. Wilson, Consilience, supra n. 110, at 32.
267. There is some indication, though, that Newton in his lifetime was aware that secularized versions of Newtonianism were beginning to undermine “the religious-scientific world-view that [he] had created.” Manuel, Frank E., The Religion of Isaac Newton 49 (Clarendon Press 1974). Newton would have been “mortified” had he fully foreseen how his discoveries would be used “to transform the religious outlook of the West,” id. at 4, for at age seventy-one, at a time when others “were advertising the irreligious implications of Newton's system … [he] proclaimed his belief in a personal God of commandments with plain words that harken back to the primitive sources of Judaic and Christian religion.” Id. at 16.
It is puzzling that Wilson argues for God's displacement in view of his assertion that it was the Chinese's lack of a concept of “a supreme being with personal and creative powers” that principally explains the failure of Chinese scientists to discover “universal principles …. In the absence of a compelling need for the notion of general laws—thoughts in the mind of God, so to speak—little or no search was made for them.” Wilson, Consilience, supra n. 110, at 33-34. Wilson's point is stark refutation of Frederick Crews's assertion that
intelligent design lacks any naturalistic causal hypothesis and thus enjoys no consilience with any branch of science. Its one unvarying conclusion—“God must have made this thing”—would preempt further investigation and place … science in the thrall of theology.
Crews, supra n. 265, at 27. Crews's comment in fact reveals a stunning ignorance of the history of scientific progress, which is pervaded with people of religious faith striving to understand the world they believe that God made. For examples, see Barr, Modern Physics, supra n. 258, at 8-11; infra n. 268.
268. Barr, Modern Physics, supra n. 258, at 24. Barr argues that science has revealed increasing depths of order in the universe. One fascinating example involves the movement of heavenly bodies. Even “ancient astronomers” observed order in the heavens, but were confounded by the apparently irregular movement of the planets. Id. at 88. Johannes Kepler in the seventeenth century observed that the planets in fact moved in an orderly fashion—in elliptical orbits. Id. (Kepler, by the way, believed that his laws of planetary motion were “only a few representatives of the harmonies he saw” in the universe—“he was primarily a cosmographer enraptured by the aesthetic delights of God's creation.” Gingerich, Owen, The Eye of Heaven: Ptolemy, Copernicus, Kepler 329 (Am. Inst. Physics 1993)). Newton in turn explained that this elliptical structure resulted from the laws of physics, in particular the “‘inverse square law’” of gravitational force. Barr, Modern Physics, supra n. 258, at 89-90. Newtonian science, however, did not “explain away the ‘order in the heavens.’ Quite the contrary. What Newton showed is that there is a more profound order pervading all of nature, which reveals itself in a particularly transparent way in the celestial motions.” Id. But the order does not stop here:
This inverse square law is a very special kind of law that results from the fact that the carrier of the gravitational force, the so-called “graviton” particle, is exactly massless. This masslessness of the graviton, in turn, is due to a very powerful set of symmetries called “general coordinate invariance” and “local Lorentz symmetry,” …. It is not important for the reader to understand what these symmetries are, just to know that the elegant elliptical shapes found by Kepler are only the tip of a huge iceberg of symmetric structure hidden in nature's laws.
Id. at 90-91. To Barr, nature's extraordinary orderliness is no reason to reject the existence of a theistic God. See infra n. 269 and accompanying text. To Wilson, however, if theoretical physicists ever achieve “the Theory of Everything, T.O.E., a system of interlocking equations that describe all that can be learned of the forces of the physical universe,” science will have “taken us very far from the personal God who once presided over Western civilization.” Wilson, Consilience, supra n. 110, at 287-288. It will be shown that Wilson's own metaphysical views, not science, are what actually lead him to abandon the concept of a personal God. See infra nn. 288-298 and accompanying text.
269. See Barr, Modern Physics, supra n. 258, at 3, 17-18, 29. The argument for God's existence “based on the order exhibited by the cosmos as a whole” is “the Cosmic Design Argument.” Id. at 69. Barr contrasts this with “the Biological Design Argument,” which concerns “the bodies or parts of bodies of living beings.” Id.
270. Steven Pinker, A Matter of Soul, supra n. 160, at 6. This is Pinker's derogatory characterization of the argument by Patrick Ferguson that neonaticide is abhorrent because “‘human beings [are] persons from the start, endowed with a soul, created by God, and infinitely precious.’” Id. (quoting Ferguson, supra n. 159, at 24).
271. Id. Pinker elsewhere states that “the belief … that morality rests on God's endowing us with an immaterial soul … [is] becoming [a] rearguard struggle against the juggernaut of science.” Pinker, The Blank Slate, supra n. 178, at 299. See Wilson, Consilience, supra n. 110, at 263 (a God who “intervenes in human affairs (as envisioned by theism) is increasingly contravened by biology and the brain sciences”), & 288 (“Science has taken us very far from the personal God who once presided over Western civilization.”).
272. See supra text accompanying n. 271; Pinker, The Blank Slate, supra n. 178, at 129-130.
273. Pinker presumably would respond that he has not begged the question because, after all, “brain science has shown that the mind is what the brain does.” See supra text accompanying n. 271. But who says that the soul is a physical emanation of the mind? Moreover, just as with Wilson, Pinker's basic point that scientific advances supplant God is not convincing. In The Blank Slate, Pinker describes at length progress in cognitive science, cognitive neuroscience, behavioral genetics, and evolutionary psychology. Pinker, The Blank Slate, supra n. 178, at 30-58. To Pinker, these developments exorcize what he calls “the ghost in the machine,” id. at 31, a concept that includes not only the soul, id. at 10, 42, 43, 58, but also any belief that “there must be more to us than electrical and chemical activity in the brain.” Id. at 10. Even if one assumes that Pinker's description of these developments is accurate, they do not substantiate his position. Any discovered properties of the brain could simply reflect God's design, just as Newton believed that “his discoveries in physics” were an aspect of a “search for knowledge that God had placed within his grasp.” Dyson, Freeman, A New Newton, The N.Y. Rev. of Books 4, 6 (07 3, 2003) (book review). See Begley, Sharon, Searching For the God Within, Newsweek 59, 59 (01 29, 2001) (concerning findings allegedly showing “that religious experiences are the inevitable outcome of brain wiring,” Begley notes the believer's “retort: the brain's wiring may explain religious feelings—but who do you think was the master electrician?”).
In addition, it is interesting that Pinker notes increasing support for the view that the human mind has “a universal complex design.” Pinker, The Blank Slate, supra n. 178, at 55. Humans have “[a]n intuitive engineering, which we use to make tools and other artifacts. Its core intuition is that a tool is an object with a purpose—an object designed by a person to achieve a goal.” Id. at 220. But Pinker says that we must “unlearn this intuitive engineering, which attributes design to the intentions of a designer.” Id. at 223. The “signs of engineering that pervade the natural world” are just a “simulacrum.” Id. at 51. While “divine design” is one of only two possible explanations for our “nonrandom, complex, and useful” “[c]ognitive and emotional faculties,” id. at 52, Pinker opts for the second option, natural selection. Id. at 52, 55. But not only does natural selection leave key points about our universe unexplained, see supra n. 259 & infra nn. 277-278 and accompanying text, but also acceptance of natural selection does not automatically exclude God. See infra nn. 279-287 and accompanying text.
274. It is ironic that Pinker, trying to be so scientific, in making such a statement is not behaving like a scientist at all. As C.S. Lewis points out:
Science works by experiments. It watches how things behave. Every scientific statement in the long run, however complicated it looks, really means something like, “I pointed the telescope to such and such a part of the sky at 2:20 A.M. on January 15th and saw so-and-so,” or, “I put some of this stuff in a pot and heated it to such-and-such a temperature and it did so-and-so.” Do not think I am saying anything against science: I am only saying what its job is. And the more scientific a man is, the more (I believe) he would agree with me that this is the job of science—and a very useful and necessary job it is too. But why anything comes to be there at all, and whether there is anything behind the things science observes—something of a different kind—this is not a scientific question. If there is “Something Behind,” then either it will have to remain altogether unknown to man or else make itself known in some different way. The statement that there is any such thing, and the statement that there is no such thing, are neither of them statements that science can make. And real scientists do not usually make them …. After all, it is really a matter of common sense. Supposing science ever became complete so that it knew every single thing in the whole universe. Is it not plain that the questions, “Why is there a universe?” “Why does it go on as it does?” “Has it any meaning?” would remain just as they were?
Lewis, supra n. 245, at 18.
Lewis is incorrect to state that science works only by experiment. See supra n. 233. Even eminent Darwinian scientists, however, have agreed with Lewis's point that assertions about possible spiritual realities are not within the proper realm of scientific inquiry. See e.g. Miller, Finding Darwin's God, supra n. 221, at 184-191.
275. See Pinker, The Blank Slate, supra n. 178, at 2, 30, 51-52; Wilson, Consilience, supra n. 110, at 263, 271; Wilson, On Human Nature, supra n. 136, at 3. It will be recalled that Leff also gave Darwin as a reason for believing in God's displacement. See supra nn. 234-235 and accompanying text.
276. See supra n. 275 and accompanying text. Stephen Jay Gould states;
[E]volution is as well documented as any phenomenon in science, as strongly as the earth's revolution around the sun rather than vice versa. In this sense, we can call evolution a “fact.” (Science does not deal in certainty, so “fact” can only mean a proposition affirmed to such a high degree that it would be perverse to withhold one's provisional assent.).
Gould, supra n. 221, at 59. While one is naturally hesitant to place oneself in a category another considers “perverse,” I do withhold my assent because of substantial gaps in the theory's explanatory power. See supra n. 259 & infra nn. 277-278 and accompanying text.
277. With respect to biological development, two particularly challenging issues are (1) the origin of life; and (2) the Cambrian explosion.
(1) Natural selection cannot answer the critical question of “how the first living thing originated.” Barr, Modern Physics, supra n. 258, at 74. “[F]or natural selection to operate there already has to be life—that is, self-reproducing organisms able to pass on their traits genetically.” Id. As Andrew Knoll puts it, in Darwinism, “the raw material of life is life.” Knoll, Andrew H., Life on a Young Planet 72 (Princeton U. Press 2003). But “sometime, somewhere, in the earliest days of our planet, our first ancestors had to arise from something else”—that is, from something non-living. Id. at 173. “‘[T]he origin of such a sophisticated system that is both rich in information and capable of reproducing itself has absolutely stymied origin-of-life scientists.’” Strobel, The Case for Faith, supra n. 258, at 100 (quoting Walter L. Bradley). Evidence of this dilemma comes from a July 2003 display (sponsored by the Foundation for Global Community) on the campus of Washington and Lee University, entitled “A Walk Through Time … From Stardust To Us.” Dozens of huge posters presented a Darwinian explanation of life. A poster labeled “Primordial Soup” ends like this: “Absorbing solar energy, as well as organic matter from Earth, comets, and asteroids, these pre-life forms become increasingly complex. Growing, maintaining, and self-regulating, they transform subtly, amazingly into living cells.” The key word here is “amazingly,” for, while various theories are mentioned, no definitive explanation is given for exactly how this transformation occurred. The reason is that no one “can yet present a detailed, step-by-step account of the origin of life from nonliving matter.” Miller, Finding Darwin's God, supra n. 221, at 276. Knoll believes that the answer ultimately will be found in “chemistry that was both probable and efficient,” but admits that at present “[w]e are not close to solving the riddle of life's origins.” Knoll, supra at 88. An especially thorny aspect of the riddle is the “origin of the genetic code,” which Knoll calls “biology's mystery of mysteries.” Id. at 82. See Strobel, The Case for Faith, supra n. 258, at 97-106.
(2) “About 570 million years ago, virtually all modern phyla of animals made their first appearance in an episode called ‘the Cambrian explosion’ to honor its geological rapidity.” Gould, Stephen Jay, Bully for Brontosaurus: Reflections in Natural History 242 (Norton 1991). Richard Dawkins says that “[i]t is as though they were just planted there, without any evolutionary history.” Dawkins, Richard, The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design 229 (new paperback ed., Norton 1996) [hereinafter Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker]. The “Walk Through Time” campus display on evolution, supra, says that “[t]he great discoveries of Cambrian fossils suggest an explosion of life from virtually nowhere.” “[T]he major animal groups ‘appear in the fossil record as Athena did from the head of Zeus—full blown and raring to go.’” Wells, Jonathan, Icons of Evolution: Science or Myth? 41 (Regnery Publg. 2000) (quoting Jeffrey Schwartz). One attempted explanation, based on molecular clock analysis, is that phyla divergence occurred much earlier than the fossil record reflects. See Freeman, Scott & Herron, Jon C., Evolutionary Analysis 675–676 (3d ed., Pearson/Prentice Hall 2004). This theory “is captured in the quip that the Cambrian explosion had a ‘long fuse.’” Id. at 676. Even if one accepts the general validity of molecular clock analysis (which is not free from controversy, see Knoll, supra at 200-202), one still must explain “the discrepancy between the fossil record and the predictions of the molecular clock.” Freeman & Herron, supra at 676. The standard explanation requires “[o]ne simply to accept that the earliest … [species] were rare, gossamer, or minute organisms not likely to be preserved (or at least recognized) in the fossil record.” Knoll, supra at 204. See Freeman & Herron, supra at 676 (Darwin himself gave gaps in the fossil record as the probable explanation of the Cambrian explosion; see Darwin, Charles, The Origin of Species 252–255 (Modern Library Ser. 1993)). Simple acceptance of a faulty fossil record, however, is problematic. See Johnson, Phillip E., Darwin on Trial 54–56 & 54 n. 3 (2d ed., InterVarsity Press 1993); Knoll, supra at 204; Wells, supra at 42-45. Small wonder then that the “‘long fuse’” theory remains only a “hypothesis,” see Freeman & Herron, supra at 676, and that the Cambrian explosion remains not only “one of the most stunning events in the history of evolution,” Futuyma, Douglas J., Evolutionary Biology 172 (3d ed., Sinauer Assoes. Inc. 1998), but also a “problem,” id. at 174, even a “knotty problem,” id. at 710, for evolutionary biology.
278. Barr, Modern Physics, supra n. 258, at 109. See supra nn. 268-269 and accompanying text; infra n. 279. Recall that to Newton himself, the Cosmic Design Argument did not entail the idea that God set the universe in motion and then turned away. See supra nn. 265-267 and accompanying text.
279. Menand, Louis, The Metaphysical Club: A Story of Ideas in America 121 (Farrar, Straus & Giroux 2001). Strong general support for this view comes from Stephen Barr, in commenting on Richard Dawkins's description of the universe as the “Blind Watchmaker.” In Dawkins's book of that name, he argues that “complicated things,” while having “the appearance of being designed for a purpose,” actually are formed by “the blind forces of physics …. Natural selection, the blind, unconscious, automatic process that Darwin discovered … has no purpose in mind …. If it can be said to play the role of watchmaker in nature, it is the blind watchmaker.” Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker, supra n. 277, at 1, 5. Dawkins chose this metaphor because of William Paley's famous 1802 argument for design based on one's natural reaction to finding a watch on the ground: the intricacy of the watch would lead one to think “‘that the watch must have had a maker: that there must have existed … an artificer or artificers, who formed it for the purpose which we find it actually used to answer; who comprehended its construction, and designed its use.’” Id. at 4. According to Barr:
[w]hat Dawkins does not seem to appreciate is that his Blind Watchmaker is something even more remarkable than Paley's watches. Paley finds a “watch,” and asks how such a thing could have come to be there by chance. Dawkins finds an immense automated factory that blindly constructs watches, and feels that he has completely answered Paley's point. But that is absurd. How can a factory that makes watches be less in need of explanation than the watches themselves?
Barr, Modern Physics, supra n. 258, at 111.
To Barr, “that nature has the capacity to do these things should arouse wonder and puzzlement. It forces us to confront the question of whether there is something special about the laws of nature themselves that makes it possible.” Id. And, in fact, nature's laws “are indeed very special. A slightly different set of laws would … have led to a completely lifeless, sterile universe.” Id. Barr here is referring to what he calls “‘anthropic coincidences,’ .. certain characteristics of the laws of physics [that] seem to coincide exactly with what is required for the universe to be able to produce life, including intelligent life like ourselves.” Id. “[I]f the constants of nature—unchanging numbers like the strength of gravity, the charge of an electron and the mass of a proton—were the tiniest bit different, then atoms would not hold together, stars would not burn and life would never have made an appearance.” Begley, supra n. 265, at 48. While such an approach is “[s]ometimes lampooned as [a] ‘Goldilocks’ hypotheses] because [it] require[s] everything to be ‘just right’” for life to evolve, Knoll, supra n. 277, at 241, Barr argues that such “very special” natural laws mean that “Darwinian evolution, far from disproving the necessity of a cosmic designer, may actually point to it. We now have the problem of explaining not merely a butterfly's wing, but a universe that can produce a butterfly's wing.” Barr, Modern Physics, supra n. 258, at 112.
Do such coincidences prove that God exists? Knoll argues that the “‘Goldilocks’” approach wrongly “assume[s] that because the conditions that facilitated our own evolution are particular, they must be rare.” Knoll, supra n. 277, at 241. Even if only “one in a million” solar systems contained Earthlike planets, “[g]iven the dimensions of the universe, this would provide untold millions of potential incubators for intelligent life.” Id. True enough, but as of yet there is no evidence that life in fact exists elsewhere in the universe. Even if life is present only on Earth, Barr acknowledges that mere chance could explain it if one posited an “infinitely large” universe with “an infinite number of planets.” Barr, Modern Physics, supra n. 258, at 74-75. But this argument does nothing to explain the origin of the universe itself. See supra nn. 259 & 274. Moreover, Barr notes “[h]ow ironic” it is that to explain the origin of life without divine intervention, “it may be necessary to postulate an unobservable infinity of planets.” Barr, Modern Physics, supra n. 258, at 75. Barr notes the same irony concerning a very similar alternative theory offered to explain the anthropic coincidences—that there are an infinite number of universes and therefore it is “no surprise [that] by chance one of them ha[s] conditions propitious for life,” id. at 150—“to abolish one unobservable God, it takes an infinite number of unobservable substitutes.” Id. at 157.
280. Any such view would be totally contrary to Darwin's purpose in writing On the Origin of Species. According to Menand,
[w]hat was radical about … [the book] was not its evolutionism, but its materialism. Darwin wanted to establish something even his most loyal disciples were reluctant to admit, which is that the species—including human beings—were created by, and evolve according to, processes that are entirely naturalistic, chance-generated, and blind.
Menand, supra n. 279, at 121. This is accurate if “wanted to establish” is not meant to imply that Darwin from the beginning of his research wanted to displace God. The evidence is clear that Darwin was a creationist during his voyage on the Beagle. E.g. Keynes, Randal, Darwin, His Daughter, & Human Evolution 30 (2001) (the author is Darwin's great-great-grandson) [hereinafter Keynes, Darwin, His Daughter]. Darwin's discoveries, however, largely on metaphysical grounds, eventually led him to abandon creationism. See infra n. 285. Thus, it is accurate to say that “Darwinian evolution is a theory about how nature … [alone is responsible for life's diversity] without assistance from a supernatural Creator … ‘[E]volution’ in the Darwinian sense is by definition mindless and godless.” Johnson, Phillip E., Defeating Darwinism 15–16 (1997). See Crews, Frederick, Saving Us from Darwin, Part II, The N.Y. Rev. of Books 51, 52 (10 18, 2001). Theistic evolutionists reject the premise that evolution necessarily must have occurred godlessly.
281. At one extreme is the view that evolution is “a God-ordained and sustained” process that God used, purposefully, “to create all the glorious life that we see on this planet today.” Lamoureux, Denis O., Evangelicals Inheriting the Wind: The Phillip E. Johnson Phenomenon, in Johnson, Phillip E. & Lamoureux, Denis O., Darwinism Defeated? The Johnson-Lamoureux Debate on Biological Origins 9, 26 (Regent College Publg. 1999) (Lamoureux prefers to be called an evolutionary creationist rather than a theistic evolutionist. Id. at 14.). At the other extreme is the belief that God did not use evolution intentionally to create particular life forms (including mankind). Rather, it just so happened that evolution had the results that we observe today. See Miller, Finding Darwin's God, supra n. 221, at 232-239. Also see Begley, supra n. 265, at 50 (for other examples of advocates of the “just so happened” version of theistic evolution). To fully discuss theistic evolution is beyond the scope of this Article. I do not, however, agree with Knoll that
the reconciliation of traditional truths and science is almost trivially simple, requiring only that God, if present, be great enough to mix immanence into the nascent universe, enabling it to unfold over the eons, obedient to the laws of special relativity, nuclear chemistry, and population genetics. Science's creation story accounts for process and history, not intent. Accepting its ancient [theological] counterparts as parables, then, eliminates conflict.
Knoll, supra n. 277, at 245. For the Christian, who believes God to be all powerful, the question is not whether He could have used evolution to create, but whether He did use it. This inquiry will inevitably be affected by how one views and interprets the Bible. Some theistic evolutionary perspectives are far removed from traditional understandings of the Scripture, see Hunter, Cornelius G., Darwin's God: Evolution and the Problem of Evil 165–173 (2001), and by “Scripture,” I do not refer exclusively to what Knoll would call a “parable,” a reading of Genesis that requires a literal six-day creation. Even conservative Christian denominations have acknowledged that there are various acceptable interpretations of this passage. See Report of the Creation Study Committee (received by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America, 06 2000). For an argument that all versions of theistic evolution are contrary to “the whole flow of events crucial to the gospel,” see Rendle-Short, John, Green Eye of the Storm 247–248 (The Banner of Truth 1998).
282. Richard Dawkins is not so sure. After describing some of the ways in which theistic evolutionists try to “smuggle God in by the back door,” he criticizes these approaches (which he acknowledges cannot be disproved) for assuming
the existence of the main thing we want to explain, namely organized complexity …. If we want to postulate a deity capable of engineering all the organized complexity in the world, either instantaneously or by guiding evolution, that deity must already have been vastly complex in the first place.
Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker, supra n. 277, at 316. To Dawkins, postulating God is not sufficient—he wants an explanation of God's existence. See id. at 316 & 141. Whether God exists clearly is a central question, as this subpart demonstrates, but it is absurd to demand an explanation for God. Given the gap between the divine and the human, that would be akin to asking a bowl to explain the existence of the potter who made it. See Rom 9:20-21; cf. supra n. 222 (showing the irrationality of human questioning of God's normative judgments).
283. Another benefit is to defuse Wilson's argument that “sociobiology can account for the very origin of … [religious belief] by the principle of natural selection acting on the genetically evolving material structure of the human brain.” Wilson, On Human Nature, supra n. 136, at 192. Wilson suggests that religious beliefs are undermined by the ability to explain them naturalistically. See id. at 3. But if theistic evolution (the teleological variety) is true, then God used the evolutionary process to lay the groundwork for religious belief.
If theistic evolution is untrue, Wilson's proffered naturalistic explanation for religious belief must be addressed. Wilson believes that religious belief is “instinctual … and … hereditary, urged into birth through biases in mental development encoded in the genes …. There is an hereditary selective advantage to membership in a powerful group united by devout belief and purpose.” Wilson, Consilience, supra n. 110, at 281-282. But Wilson himself admits that the possibility of imagining “the biological construction of a mind with religious beliefs” does not in itself “dismiss transcendentalism or prove the beliefs themselves to be untrue.” Id. at 282. See supra n. 274. An additional argument is needed—the fact that
much if not all religious behavior could have arisen from evolution by natural selection …. Propitiation and sacrifice … near-universals of religious practice, are acts of submission to a dominant being. They are one kind of a dominance hierarchy, which is a trait of organized mammalian societies.
Wilson, Consilience, supra n. 110, at 282-283. Wilson's analogizing religious faith to the dominance rituals of wolves and rhesus monkeys, id. at 283, no doubt shocks many readers, but the question is whether his contention is valid. Would an alien behavioral scientist, noting
the semiotic resemblance between animal submissive behavior … and human obeisance to religious … authority … conclude, correctly, that in baseline social behavior, not just in anatomy, Homo sapiens has only recently diverged in evolution from a nonhuman primate stock[?]
Id. Wilson's argument is pure speculation. First, he assumes anatomical evolution. Second, with respect to behavior, that human and animal activity both involve submission does not prove that the former originated in the latter. Such superficial similarity certainly does not disprove a divine origin for the religious impulse in humans. See supra n. 273.
284. Cornelius Hunter convincingly demonstrates that God's alleged ineptness as a designer has from the beginning been a mainstay of Darwinism. For example, “God, according to Darwin, would not have made … the bat that we find in nature [because similar bones form its wing and leg, so different in purpose].” Hunter, supra n. 281, at 46-47. To Stephen Jay Gould, the orchid's allegedly improvised composition belies a master designer. Id. at 47 (Gould's obituary in Newsweek stresees Gould's reliance on the Panda's thumb, formed in an allegedly “roundabout way,” to critique the concept of “an omniscient God … [who] created according to some intelligent plan.” Adler, Jerry, Evolution's Revolutionau, Newsweek 59, 59 (06 3, 2002)). Steven Pinker joins this aseembly of critice by noting the purported defective design of the human eye. Pinker, The Blank Slate, supra n. 178, at 51. See Hunter, supra n. 281, at 83. Theistic evolution automatically rebuts such criticism. If God did not specially design, but used evolution to create, then His alleged deficiencies as a designer are hardly an issue. Theistic evolution, however, is not needed to defend God against this particular attack. Hunter points out that all such criticisms “rely on an unspoken premise about the nature of God and how God would go about creating the world …. [S]uch speculations are religious, not scientific, for they hinge on one's personal concept of God.” Id. at 84. Consequently, these critics offer only metaphysical, not scientific, reasons for rejecting the concept of a Creator. Moreover, their reasoning is not compelling. All such critics of God as designer are subject to the same criticism leveled at Gould—“Who is he to set the intellectual standard for God's creation[?].” Adler, supra at 59. See Hunter, supra n. 281, at 113 (“It is remarkable how often evolutionists feel free to dictate what God should and shouldn't do.”).
285. See e.g. Miller, Finding Darwin's God, supra n. 221, at 16 (relating George Williams's questioning God's goodness based on the infanticidal mating practices of monkeys), 171 (relating Richard Dawkins's view that an evolutionary universe portrays “‘blind, pitiless indifference’”), 185 (relating David Hull's view that “‘evolutionary theory … [reveals a God who] is careless, wasteful, indifferent, almost diabolical’”); Pinker, The Blank Slate, supra n. 178, at 130 (evolution is “wasteful and cruel”); Wright, supra n. 221, at 65 (“Among the key ingredients in natural selection's creative energy are death and suffering, the casting aside of the ‘unfit.’”). Arguments such as these have a distinguished lineage—they exerted a tremendous influence on Darwin himself, who, in propounding his theory of natural selection, was profoundly influenced by his beliefs about God:
Darwin repeatedly argued that God would never have created the world that the nineteenth-century naturalists were uncovering. Shortly after going public with his theory, Darwin wrote to a friend:
There seems to me too much misery in the world. I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the [parasitic wasp] with the express intent of their feeding within the living bodies of caterpillars, or that the cat should play with mice.
Hunter, supra n. 281, at 12. Hunter labels such arguments “negative theology,” a metaphysical concept “because it requires certain premises about the nature of God. A great irony reveals itself here: evolution, the theory that made God unnecessary, is itself supported by arguments containing premises about the nature of God.” Id. at 11. See supra n. 284. Hunter also reveals another irony. For Darwin, the ruthlessness of nature was not used to impugn God's character. Rather, it had precisely the opposite effect—by contributing to Darwin's formulation of the theory of natural selection, a theory that he believed saved God's reputation by attributing the brutality of nature to natural processes alone, forces that operated independently of God. See Hunter, supra n. 281, at 9-10, 12-16, 116-17, 131, 141; Keynes, Darwin, His Daughter, supra n. 280, at 56-57, 94-95, 304, 337 (it became more difficult for Darwin to excuse God for the harshness of life after he was compelled to grapple with the 1851 death of his beloved ten-year old daughter, Annie; see id. at 269-271, 335). Rather “than lay all that carnage at God's door,” Darwin forsook his Christian faith. Crews, supra n. 265, at 24. For another metaphysical argument that significantly influenced Darwin, see infra n. 298.
It is obvious that there is nothing scientific about such theological arguments. Moreover, to the Christian, Darwin's repudiation of the Christian God is unjustifiable. Despite harshness in nature and human tragedy, God's reputation does not need whatever protection lies in removing Him from an active role in the world. Concerning nature's brutality (a challenge that confronts not only theistic evolution, but also the theory that God created by design, see Wright, supra n. 221, at 165 [“to note the ample dark side of evolution is simply to re-state the problem that any honest religion must confront: the problem of evil”]), Darwin apparently ignored the effects of the Fall, which the Bible teaches had a profound effect on the created order, Rom 8:19-21, as well as on mankind and our relationship with God. As for the death of loved ones, Christians experience grief as intensely as non-Christians, but understand that God uses even such hardships to work “for the good” in the lives of those who believe, that is, to conform us to the character of Christ. Rom 8:28-29.
286. Some have used nature's harshness to invoke “God's blessing” on social Darwinism, a public policy premised in “survival of the fittest.’” See e.g. Wright, supra n. 221, at 59-60. Darwin himself “was particularly unhappy with the argument linking social progress with harsh treatment of people who were ‘unfit’ to survive in the struggle for life.” Keynes, supra n. 280, at 326-327.
287. Interestingly, Frederick Crews suggests that the impulse to assert theistic evolutionary theories originates in a desperate desire to leave room amid the findings of science for God's existence—a presence believed necessary as a foundation for morals. See Crews, supra n. 280, at 51, 52. Part I of this Article has shown that God indeed is essential as a grounding for morality. The conclusion to Crews's essay offers further corroboration of this fact. After detailing mankind's destructive impact on the environment, Crews expresses the hope that Darwinism (the nontheistic version) could lead “toward a wider ethics commensurate with our real transgressions, not against God but against Earth itself and its myriad forms of life.” Id. at 55. One can almost hear Leff's “sez who?” retort to Crews's use of the label “transgressions.”
288. See supra n. 262 and accompanying text (It should be recalled that this argument also influenced Leff. Id.). Perhaps the most direct repudiating evidence is a recent survey of several hundred scientists showing that about forty per cent believe in a personal God and in personal immortality. Freeman & Herron, supra n. 277, at 64. In fairness, though, it should be acknowledged that it is indisputable that on occasion scientific discoveries have shaken religious faith. See supra n. 267. A prime example is the devastating impact of Darwinism upon Victorian Christianity. See Rendle-Short, supra n. 281; Wilson, A.N., God's Funeral: The Decline of Faith in Western Civilization (Norton, W.W. & Co., Inc. 1999). (For a convincing argument that this destructive effect largely resulted from Victorian Christianity's pre-existing deviation from a fully Biblical concept of God, see Hunter, supra n. 281, at 15-16, 127-133, 139-140, 148). Moreover, some contemporary Christians have expressed a similar point as a fear. Lee Strobel, for example, once was worried “that if scientists could convincingly demonstrate how life could emerge purely through natural processes, then there's no need for God.” Strobel, Case for Faith, supra n. 258, at 92. See ‘Saving Us from Darwin’: An Exchange, The N.Y. Rev. of Books 63, 64 (11 29, 2001) (Frederick Crews notes Alvin Plantinga's observation that increased knowledge risks squeezing God “‘out of the world altogether, thus making more and more tenuous one's reasons … for believing that there is such a person as God at all.’”). This view of God as a “,god of the gaps’” relegates God to “whatever dark corners science ha[s] not yet brought to rational light.” Woodward, Kenneth L., How the Heavens Go, Newsweek 52, 52 (07 20, 1998). A chief purpose of Kenneth Miller's Finding Darwin's God is to repudiate this perspective, which Miller says has been pervasive. See Miller, Finding Darwin's God, supra n. 221, at 16, 169, 190, 193, 210, 215-218. Miller points out, for example, that “[w]e could, if we wished, hold up the origin of life … as an unexplained mystery [see supra nn. 277 & 279], and find in that our proof of God at work.” Id. at 275. But Miller argues
that there is no religious reason … for drawing a line in the sand at the origin of life. The trend of science is to discover and to explain, and it would be foolish to pretend that religious faith must be predicated on the inability of science to cross such a line …. [P]eople of faith believe their God is active in the present world, where He works in concert with the naturalism of physics and chemistry. A God who achieves His will in the present by such means can hardly be threatened by the discovery that He might have worked the same way in the past.
Id. at 276-277.
A discovery that natural processes can produce life would not prove God's non-existence. What was the origin of the inert elements from which life allegedly derived? See supra n. 259. And what lies behind the laws of physics that allowed life to develop? See supra n. 279; also see supra n. 274. Moreover, as Miller states, such a finding also would not prove that God, should He exist, has withdrawn from involvement in the world. It would, though, undermine an important affirmative proof that God in fact exists. See infra n. 298. Again, however, this Article's focus is not to prove that God exists, but to examine the claim that science disproves the existence of a theistic God. See supra nn. 260 & 221.
289. Wilson, Consilience, supra n. 110, at 6-7. “[T]he immanent, caring God of the Western monotheisms may never have been more than a fiction devised by members of a species that self-indulgently denies its continuity with the rest of nature ….” Crews, supra n. 265, at 24.
290. Id. One of the “appalling fears” that a “scientific worldview” has fostered is “that our universe may lack any discernable purpose.” Crews, supra n. 265, at 24.
291. Wilson, Consilience, supra n. 110, at 281; Wilson, On Human Nature, supra n. 136, at 27, 205.
292. Wilson, Consilience, supra n. 110, at 281.
293. Id. at 273, 277. This could be viewed as simply a more extreme example of what Posner believes to be a common human trait: “[W]e like to dress up our preferences and intuitions in universalistic language, giving a patina of objectivity to a subjective belief or emotion.” Posner, Problematics, supra n. 48, at 1653.
294. Rulers enhance their position via the supernatural sanction given to the rules of behavior they prefer. Wilson, Consilience, supra n. 110, at 277. The power of religious leaders grows as they “claim special access” to God. Id. at 284.
295. Pinker, How the Mind Works, supra n. 161, at 560. “[I]f the world unfolds according to a wise and merciful plan, why does it contain so much suffering? As the Yiddish expression says, If God lived on earth, people would break his windows.” Id. The flavor of this criticism of God is captured in Leff's definition of “act of God” as “‘that which no reasonable God would do.’” Leff, A Fragment, supra n. 77, at 1915-1916 (quoting J.A. MacLachlan).
296. Pinker refers to “mothers who drown their children so they can be happily reunited in heaven,” Pinker, A Matter of Soul, supra n. 160, at 6, and to “how such beliefs embolden suicide bombers and kamikaze hijackers.” Pinker, The Blank Slate, supra n. 178, at 189. Wilson worries that “‘[with] a second life waiting, suffering can be endured—especially in other people. The natural environment can be used up. Enemies of the faith can be savaged and suicidal martyrdom praised.’” Wilson, Consilience, supra n. 110, at 268.
297. According to Pinker,
God has commanded people to do all manner of selfish and cruel acts: massacre Midianites and abduct their women, stone prostitutes, execute homosexuals, burn witches, slay heretics and infidels, throw Protestants out of windows, withhold medicine from dying children, shoot up abortion clinics, hunt down Salman Rushdie, blow themselves up in marketplaces, and crash airplanes into skyscrapers.
Pinker, The Blank Slate, supra n. 178, at 189. See Pinker, A Matter of Soul, supra n. 160, at 6. Wilson refers to the “genocidai wars” recorded in the Old Testament. See Wilson, Consilience, supra n. 110, at 6, 267, as well as “colonial conquest, slavery, and genocide.” Id. at 262; and see id. at 267.
298. See supra n. 271. There is nothing new in Darwinists' relying on metaphysical arguments to reject concepts of God that they cannot accept. See supra n. 284. Darwin himself ultimately rejected the Christian God in part because of his distress over the doctrine of a final judgment. See Moore, James R., Of love and death: Why Darwin ‘gave up Christianity’, in History, Humanity and Evolution 197, 203, 220–221 (Moore, James R. ed., Cambridge U. Press 1989). Some Darwinists reject the concept of God altogether for purely metaphysical reasons. Richard Lewontin, for example, writes:
It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.
Lewontin, supra n. 265, at 31.
Kenneth Miller notes what is impossible to miss—Lewontin's “prior commitment to philosophical materialism.” Miller, Finding Darwin's God, supra n. 221, at 186. See Johnson, Phillip E., The Unraveling of Scientific Materialism, First Things 22, 24 (11 1997) (“For scientific materialists [like Lewontin] the materialism comes first: the science comes thereafter.”). The significance of prior commitment is also evident in Frederick Crews's comment on Richard Dawkins's statement that “Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.” Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker, supra n. 277, at 6. To Crews, Dawkins meant
not that Darwinism requires us to disbelieve in God. Rather, if we are already inclined to apprehend the universe in strictly physical terms, the explanatory power of natural selection removes the last obstacle to our doing so … showing in principle that order could arise without an artificer.
Crews, supra n. 265, at 24. In other words, “organized complexity,” Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker, supra n. 277, at 5, must be accounted for somehow, and mutation and natural selection are offered as the explanatory processes in the presumed absence of a Creator. It thus is easy to understand why Darwinism is aggressively defended. Darwinism simply must be true if “organized complexity” is to be explained apart from God. (Unless one posits, along the lines of Sir Francis Crick's theory that aliens “sent a rocket ship to seed life on earth,” Behe, Michael J., Darwin's Black Box 248 (Free Press 1996), that aliens also are responsible for life's “organized complexity.” See id. at 248-249. This approach, however, leaves unexplained the origin of the aliens.) The proper question, though, is whether Darwinism in fact is true. Only then can it replace a Creator.
As previously stated, see supra nn. 259 & 277-278 and accompanying text, I believe that Darwinism fails to explain many important questions (I use Darwinism in its original sense as referring to a godless, naturalistic process; see supra n. 280). I realize that by including myself within what Posner calls the “substantial minority of Americans” who reject evolution, I also subject myself to his lumping me with those who “believe in astrology, UFOs, reincarnation, fortune-telling, diabolism, faith-healing, and other scientifically specious theories, phenomena, and practices.” See Posner, Problematics, supra n. 48, at 1680. Posner, though, thinks that despite the fact that evolution “cannot be confirmed empirically … various forms of indirect evidence …. together with the absence of an alternative theory for which there is any good evidence, cumulatively provide strong support for the theory of evolution.” Id. at 1646-1647. To the contrary, the evidence shows Darwinism's explanatory inadequacies, whereas there is strong evidence for an alternative theory—God.
299. Wilson's basic approach is to suggest that because the concept of a theistic God has certain perceived benefits for mankind, mankind likely fabricated the idea of a personal God to reap those benefits. See supra nn. 289-294 and accompanying text. As a general proposition, this argument proves nothing. That mankind might have fabricated God obviously does not establish that He does not exist, in the same way that the possibility that I have only imagined that my wife loves me (to reap the psychic benefits of being loved) does not establish that she does not actually love me. I will comment specifically on only two of Wilson's points. His argument that the notion of God helps mankind confront the fear of death, see supra n. 291 and accompanying text, is a logical possibility, but hardly convincing. It is just as logical to say that people resist the idea of a God to avoid contemplating the prospect that there is an ultimate authority to which they will be answerable for their lives (this same point can be made about Darwin's rejection of Christianity because he could not bear the concept of Hell. See supra n. 298). Wilson's contention that mankind creates a personal God to provide a supernatural sanction to our moral precepts, see supra n. 293 and accompanying text, deserves special attention. A principal purpose of this Article is to demonstrate that without God right and wrong are meaningless concepts. Might not then the temptation be great to manufacture God to give an illusion of certainty to our moral views? See supra n. 287. Logically this is a possibility, but, as noted, supra n. 244, the very fact that we typically argue in moral terms is suggestive of God's existence. Moreover, Wilson's speculation about this possible motive for man's creation of God proves nothing. It is just as logical to say that people (like Wilson) resist the idea of a personal God because they prefer a universe in which there are no unequivocal rules of conduct. See Leff, Memorandum, supra n. 4, at 889 (“[I]f there is a God, it's even more terrifying, because then some things are not permitted, and men have got to find out which are which.”). Wilson's assertion, however, is helpful in emphasizing a crucial point. If mankind did in fact fabricate God, this make-believe God does nothing whatever to ground moral propositions. This can be accomplished only by a God who actually exists. See supra n. 221.
Human suffering, stressed by Pinker, supra n. 295 and accompanying text, does not disprove a theistic God. See supra n. 285. And neither does a related fact of our world, the evil done by men (which in part explains human suffering). Leff indirectly questions the concept of a personal God on this basis in Memorandum, which is styled as a letter from The Devil to Roberto Unger. Leff, Memorandum, supra n. 4, at 879. The Devil's final advice to Unger is: “Look around you at your species, throughout time and all over the world, and see what men seem to be like. Okay? Now take this hint from what you have seen: If He exists, Me too.” Id. at 889. Based on Leff's own views as detailed in Part I, the circularity of any such critique is clear. Without God-given morals to begin with, how can it be said that what one condemns as evil actually is evil? See supra n. 222. Such attacks on the existence of God also give insufficient weight to human agency. The evil being condemned is that done by humans, whose free will and responsibility could quite logically be part of God's plan for mankind.
The negative effects of a belief in an afterlife, supra n. 296 and accompanying text, do nothing to disprove that an afterlife in fact exists (and denial could well reflect a desire to avoid confronting the implications for one's life). They could just as easily result from distorted thinking by the adherents of the religious faith in question. With respect to Christianity, Wilson's list of negatives, supra n. 296, reveals a complete misunderstanding of fundamental Christian doctrine. Christians are called to: (a) alleviate the suffering of others, not remain indifferent, see e.g. Gal 6:10; (b) be stewards of God's creation, see Nagle, John Copeland, Playing Noah, 82 Minn. L. Rev. 1171, 1226–1230 (1998); and (c) love our enemies, see e.g. Matt 5: 43.
That religious people have committed evil acts, supra n. 297 and accompanying text, also does not disprove a theistic God. First, as just noted, apart from God, there is no ground for labeling any conduct evil. Second, Pinker too readily asserts that God commanded the acts that he condemns. See supra n. 297. That religious people attribute their behavior to God's command does not mean that God in fact commanded it. Christians, for example, have often claimed that the Bible requires conduct that is in fact contrary to Biblical principles. Pinker does, however, cite one example, the massacre of the Midianites, that suggests a serious issue that the Christian must squarely confront. While “massacre” arguably is an incorrect description for God's command that the Midianites be struck down (they are, after all, described as invaders), see Judg 6-7, Old Testament history does contain descriptions of God-commanded massacres, such as the sacking of Jericho (this may be one of the “genocidai wars” that trouble Wilson. See supra n. 297). See Josh 6. Since God, a holy Being, Isa 6:3, commanded it, the Christian necessarily must conclude that the act was not evil. See Schaeffer, Francis A., Joshua and the Flow of Biblical History 65–68 (1975) (the conquest of Canaan was God's judgment on the wickedness of its inhabitants). Thus, I would differ from Pinker as to the correct result in what he calls a “thought experiment”:
What would be the right thing to do if God had commanded people to be selfish and cruel rather than generous and kind? Those who root their values in religion would have to say that we ought to be selfish and cruel. Those who appeal to a moral sense would say that we ought to reject God's command. This shows—I hope—that it is our moral sense that deserves priority.
Pinker, The Blank Slate, supra n. 178, at 189. As previously shown, Pinker fails to establish any persuasive grounding for morality. See supra nn. 176-210 and accompanying text. Moreover, Part I of this Article has demonstrated that God alone can ground moral precepts. Consequently, to reject God's command (assuming that one is referring to the God who actually exists and that one has correctly understood God's instructions) is to guarantee that one will be acting wrongly.
300. See supra nn. 262-288 and accompanying text.
301. Wilson, On Human Nature, supra n. 136, at 169.
302. Wilson, Consilience, supra n. 110, at 263. Some religious perspectives, such as Buddhism and pantheism, do not even involve the concept of a transcendent God.
303. Letter from Mark Vlosky to the Atlantic Monthly, A. Mthly. 8 (07 1998).
304. Dawkins exemplifies this type of irrationality in commenting on various creation stories positing “a conscious designer”:
It would obviously be unfairly easy to demolish some particular version of this theory such as the one … spelled out in Genesis. Nearly all peoples have developed their own creation myth, and the Genesis story is just the one that happened to have been adopted by one particular tribe of Middle Eastern herders. It has no more special status than the belief of a particular West African tribe that the world was created from the excrement of ants.
Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker, supra n. 277, at 316. What exactly is Dawkins's argument here? That the mere fact of inconsistency between the two versions proves that both are untrue? This is fallacious reasoning. Under this approach, if one person says that the ocean contains salt water, but another argues that it contains milk instead, neither view can be true.
305. The Old Testament captures this idea wonderfully in God's statement to Moses: “I am who I am.” Exod 3:14.
306. This is a sobering fact for mankind—a reminder of how critical it is that one be looking to the God who actually exists, not only to ground moral values, but also for every aspect of life. Assuming that there is in fact a God (the premise of this subsection), our conviction that our concept of God is correct will not protect us from the consequences of error should we in fact have been focusing our lives upon a non-existent God.
307. The key word here is “ground.” It is possible that looking to a false God could supply correct moral principles, but only the true God can ground those principles. See infra n. 308.
308. See supra text accompanying n. 303. Thus, I believe that Muhammad Ali, a devout Muslim, created an erroneous impression when he was asked for his feelings about other religions. His response? “Rivers, ponds, lakes and streams. They have different names, but all contain water. Religions have different names but all contain truth.” Face to Face With Ali, Reader's Dig. 90, 93 (12 2001) [hereinafter Face to Face]. Ali's answer suggests that to some extent it does not matter what religion one believes. But the various religions differ profoundly on a host of significant subjects, including the nature of God, the nature of man, and how God relates to man. How then is it feasible to say that it does not matter what God one believes in? This “one idea is as good as another” approach would make sense if by “God” we mean “whatever delusional idea concerning transcendence that helps one get through life.” Under this view of God, any palliative for life's challenges that works is fine, regardless of contradictions among the alternatives. But the premise of this subpart is a God who actually exists, not different Gods manufactured according to varying human preferences. Cf. supra text accompanying n. 250 (C.S. Lewis makes the same point concerning moral assertions).
Ali, though, was more nearly correct in his statement that all religions “contain truth.” It has been previously noted that there is a similarity of moral precepts among many of the great faiths of the world. See supra nn. 244-248 and accompanying text. This commonality is highly suggestive of a God who created all mankind with a common conscience. See supra nn. 253-257 and accompanying text. Commonality in itself cannot satisfactorily ground moral precepts. That can be done only by the God who actually exists. See supra nn. 251-252 and accompanying text. But a religious faith whose basic concept of God is incorrect could nonetheless teach moral precepts that overlap (because of mankind's common origin or because the moral principles God has established actually “work” in human society) with principles revealed by the true God. To the extent of this overlap, even a false religion can “contain truth,” although it can never serve to ground truth. For an interesting discussion of such matters from a Christian perspective, see McDermott, Gerald R., Can Evangelicals Learn From World Religions? (2000).
309. As previously noted, I am a Christian. See supra n. 223.
310. See e.g. McDowell, Josh, The New Evidence That Demands A Verdict (T. Nelson 1999); Strobel, Lee, The Case for Christ: A Journalist's Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus (Zondervan 1998).
311. Concerning how one of another faith could be expected to react to such a claim, I can conceptualize this best by honestly acknowledging my own response should those of a non-Christian faith claim that moral truth is grounded only in the teachings of their God. I would view their faith-based claims as irrelevant for the purpose of grounding moral truth. I would be interested in their views from sheer intellectual curiosity. I also believe that I could very well gain insight into moral truth by becoming knowledgeable about their beliefs. See supra n. 308 (I believe that I could learn in similar ways from people without religious faith). But as a grounding for moral claims, their views would not be persuasive to me.
Concerning the likely reaction by those of no faith, the views of Professor Sanford Levinson are helpful. Levinson describes himself as a secularist, a liberal, and an agnostic. Levinson, Sanford, The Multicultures of Belief and Disbelief, 92 Mich. L. Rev. 1873, 1876 & 1880 n. 41 (1994) (book rev.). He powerfully states his readily understandable reaction to the suggestion “that listeners of the religious discourse of others who do not share their religious premises should nonetheless accept or, indeed ‘cherish’ … that mode of speech”:
If someone argues to me that God requires X, whether X be social justice for the poor or the prohibition of eating pork, it simply cannot count as a reason for my doing X unless I share a view of the world that includes both the ontological reality of God's existence and the epistemological possibility of ascertaining divine desire. In the absence of the requisite ontology and epistemology, the statements predicated on them simply can have no real meaning for me. Similarly, that Scripture declaims about the creation, morality, or the occurrence of miraculous events provides no reason whatsoever for me to accept the particular account offered.
Id. at 1879. Levinson's view is more colorfully summed up in his statement that he does not believe that divine revelation “is any more ‘real,’ ontologically,” than a “presumed message received from Venusian spaceships.” Id. at 1880 & n. 41. Because, however, he is “an agnostic rather than an atheist,” he would accord greater respect “to the believer in religious revelation than to the hearer of commands from Venus.” Id. at 1880 n. 41. He would not dismiss the former “as being necessarily deluded,” but he is “not so generously disposed” to the latter. Id. Levinson is thus more charitable in his opinion of theists than Professor Daniel Dennett, an atheist, who equates believing in God to believing in “the Easter Bunny” and “black magic.” Dennett, Daniel C., The Bright Stuff, N.Y. Times A11 (07 12, 2003).
312. A common objection to Christianity is that Christians often do evil. As has been shown, Pinker and Wilson both condemn the behavior of Christians as part of their rejection of a theistic God. See supra n. 297. We Christians have a number of cogent responses to such critiques. First, there is the circularity point already made—without God, how do Pinker and Wilson know that what they call evil actually is evil? See supra nn. 222 & 299. Second, we can stress all the evil that has been done in the name of secular philosophies, with Communism being a prime example. Third, we can point to all the good that Christians have done over the centuries. See Kennedy, D. James & Newcombe, Jerry, What If Jesus Had Never Been Born? (Thomas Nelson 1994). Fourth, we can stress that much of the evil done in the name of Christianity may have been committed by those who were not actually Christians or by Christians who were wrongly applying the faith. See supra n. 299. As will be shown, infra n. 318, Muslims now use such an argument to defend Islam against the criticism generated by the actions of Islamic terrorists. Fifth, we can argue that the failures of actual Christians do not logically call into question the existence of the Christian God—a core concept of the faith is that Christians will continue to sin as we struggle against our sinful natures as long as we live. See Rom 7:15-23. The fact remains, however, that Christians at times sadly have fallen short of the conduct that Jesus calls us to. See 1 Pet 2:12 (“Live such good lives among the pagans that … they may see [our] good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.”). As Francis Schaffer stated, “All too often people have not been wrong in saying that the church is ugly.” Schaeffer, Francis A., The Church Before a Watching World, in 4 The Complete Works of Francis Schaeffer: A Christian Worldview 113, 152 (2d ed., Crossway Books 1985). While such failures do not constitute disproof, they clearly undermine any effort to persuade others to look to the Christian God as the only grounding for moral truth. (Despite the importance of Christians' fidelity to Jesus' example as a testimony to non-Christians, ultimately whether another person becomes a Christian does not depend on this type of evidence or any other type of logical argument. See supra n. 258.).
313. See supra n. 7 and accompanying text.
314. Leff, Memorandum, supra n. 4, at 889. Leff believes that humans need do this only if God still cares. Id. at 888-889. I agree. One example of a non-caring God would be a God who exists, but is silent—He has communicated no information about right and wrong. If this were the case, God's existence would provide mankind no advantage in knowing right and wrong over God's non-existence i.e., as demonstrated by Part I, humanity would be left in a condition of total ignorance in classifying good and evil. Each person's view would be purely idiosyncratic and non-authoritative. The major monotheistic religions, however, believe that God has communicated. This subpart assumes that they are correct, but will show that even so obstacles remain to ascertaining moral truth.
315. Leff, Unspeakable Ethics, supra n. 4, at 1247 (Leff here is explicitly referring to the Constitution, but he says that his point is descriptive of “all divine pronouncements.”). Leff realizes that such disagreements have often manifested themselves in extreme behavior. See infra n. 328.
316. Leff, Unspeakable Ethics, supra n. 4, at 1230-1231 (Leff uses the example of the command, “‘Thou shalt not commit adultery.’”). Obedience is requisite because God commands it (“I ought not [commit adultery] because He said I ought not ….” Id. at 1231).
317. Id. at 1230. Leff here is not explicitly referring to a God-based system, but he is referring to a system whose normative propositions are “immune from further criticism.” Id. To Leff, only a God-based system could satisfy this criterion. See supra nn. 38-44 and accompanying text.
318. This debate, of course, intensified following the September 11 terrorist attacks. On one side is the view that Allah blesses such violence. The hijackers themselves had this perspective, as revealed by their written instructions found at the crash site of Flight 93: “‘God, I trust in you. God, I lay myself in your hands. There is no God but God …. We are of God, and to God we return.’” Beamer, Lisa, Let's Roll! 194 (Tyndale House Publishers 2002). The contrast with Muhammad Ali's belief is stark, as shown in an interview he gave on September 11, a few hours after the attacks:
Killing like that can never be justified. It's unbelievable …. Islam is a religion of peace. It does not promote terrorism or killing people …. People say a Muslim caused this destruction. I am angry that the world sees a certain group of Islam followers who caused this destruction, but they are not real Muslims. They are racist fanatics who call themselves Muslims, permitting this murder of thousands.
Face to Face, supra n. 308, at 92-93.
319. See supra n. 223.
320. What does one make of the fact, for example, that the Catholic and Protestant Bibles are not identical in content? For a helpful discussion of these matters, see Bruce, F.F., The Canon of Scripture (InterVarsity Press 1988).
321. John Shelby Spong is one who holds the latter view. See Spong, John Shelby, Why Christianity Must Change or Die 107-108, 131 (Harper San Francisco 1998). Even a cursory review of Spong's book, however, shows that he debunks Christianity's core principles, those that for centuries have been the heart of the Christian message. See id. at 3-19 (where Spong methodically repudiates the Apostles' Creed). Applying the label “Christianity” to Spong's beliefs is like applying the label “baseball” to a game from which pitching and hitting have been eliminated.
322. One contemporary controversy concerns whether the Apostle Paul's proscription of women as religious teachers, 1 Tim 2:12, and his requirement that church elders be men, 1 Tim 3:2 and Titus 1:6, apply today to prohibit the ordination of women.
323. For a penetrating analysis that substantiates the primacy of the Bible, see Packer, J.I., Fundamentalism and the Word of Cod: Some Evangelical Principles (Eerdmans Publg. Co. 1958). For an example that accords significantly less weight to the Bible, see Cox, Harvey, A Schism Averted?, Wall. St. J. A12 (08 12, 2003).
324. For centuries, many have argued that there exists a natural law:
principles and norms that have prescriptive force for human choosing, norms and principles that do not depend for their existence or validity upon human choice or decision. Natural law refers to what reason can discover about rectitude in human choosing; these discoveries are not the product of revelation or the decrees of authority. Natural moral law might simply be called reason; observing it is a matter of doing what is “reasonable.”
Bradley, Gerard V., Natural Law, in Christian Perspectives on Legal Thought 277 (McConnell, Michael W., Cochran, Robert F. Jr., & Carmelia, Angela C. eds., Yale U. Press 2001). The recent explosion of scholarship on this topic demonstrates its continuing significance. See e.g. Budziszewski, J., What We Can't Not Know: A Guide (Spence Publg. Co. 2003); Written on the Heart: The Case for Natural Law (InterVarsity Press 1997); George, Robert P., In Defense of Natural Law (Oxford U. Press 1999); Hittinger, Russell, The First Grace: Rediscovering the Natural Law in a Post-Christian World (ISI Books 2003); Propter Honoris Respectum, 75 Notre Dame L. Rev. 1597–1892 (2000) (symposium issue honoring John Finnis). This subject is too large for extended comment here, but I will make several observations. First, I share Leff's critique of any secular notion of natural law i.e. one not ultimately premised in God. See supra n. 43. The only version of natural law that I find at all plausible is theistic. Bradley, for example, supra at 277, refers to revelation as the source of natural law “in the extended sense of revelation indicated by the notion of its being ‘written on their hearts.’ This sense is that God is the author (creator) of all there is, including what humans discover ‘on their hearts’ by using their (created) capacity to reason.” Second, 1 believe that God has endowed mankind with a conscience, see Rom 2:14-15, and that the resulting common moral norms, across time and culture, are persuasive evidence for God's existence. See supra nn. 253-257 and accompanying text. Nonetheless, I have misgivings about following Bradley in relying upon what “reason [unaided by special revelation] can discover about rectitude in human choosing.” Doing so, in my view, gives insufficient weight to human sinfulness. See e.g. Jer 17:9; Rom 3:9-19; supra n. 257.
325. This refers to the argument, common with respect to the homosexuality issue, that the principal lesson of Jesus' life is his commitment not to exclude anyone. For example, He reached out to the outcasts of his day, such as Samaritans, women, lepers, and the deranged. See Spong, supra n. 321, at 122-125. This example is said to outweigh particular passages that appear to condemn homosexuality. See id. at 129-130. Spong's perspective, of course, reveals a much deeper disagreement about the very nature of Jesus and of the Scripture. The orthodox Christian view (which Spong rejects, see supra n. 321) is that Jesus came to fulfill the Law, not to change it. The very idea that the example of Jesus could contradict Scripture is incompatible with the notion that God is the author of Scripture and that Jesus is God.
326. Viewing the Bible as God's Word would lead one necessarily to repudiate this approach—God would not contradict Himself.
327. Clearly not. The Bible says nothing explicit, for example, about genetic testing or stem cell research. These gaps do not mean that something is missing that God wanted us to know. He gave us all the information He wanted us to have, even though sometimes we may wish for more. As will be demonstrated, infra n. 331, the foundational principles that the Bible contains do provide guidance in resolving issues that are not specifically addressed.
328. 8 The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln 333 (Basler, Roy P. ed., Rutgers U. Press 1953). The Civil War seems to be grim confirmation of Leff's observation that “determining just what it is that God says has a few epistemological difficulties strewn in its path, of sufficient breadth and depth that whole peoples have been decimated as the question was debated in practice.” Leff, On Shoring Up a Void, supra n. 4, at 540.
329. And what does one do with the fact that the Bible not only does not flatly condemn slavery, but commands slaves willingly to obey their masters? See e.g. Eph 6:5-8; Col 3:22; 1 Tim 6:1-2. It seems that the Southern clerics were on solid ground in their arguments that the Bible in general sanctions slavery. See e.g. Stringfellow, Thornton, A Scriptural View of Slavery, in Slavery Defended: The Views of the Old South 86–98 (McKitrick, Eric L. ed., Prentice-Hall 1963). Given that I believe that the Bible is God's Word, must I accept the moral permissibility of American slavery, even though everything in me recoils at the idea? Not at all. First, as emphasized by Mark Noll:
[A] hidden hand had to function in the exegetical process if the Bible were to justify the racial slavery that existed in the United States—and if faith in America's Bible-only literalism were to be preserved. That hidden hand was the widespread, deeply ingrained, thoroughly American—though hardly biblical—conviction that among the peoples of the earth only Africans were uniquely set apart for chattel bondage.
Noll, Mark A., The Bible and Slavery, in Religion and the American Civil War 66 (Miller, Randall M., Stout, Harry S., & Wilson, Charles Reagan eds., Oxford U. Press 1998). See Noll, Mark A., America's Cod: from Jonathan Edwards to Abraham Lincoln 417–421 (Oxford U. Press 2002). Second, beyond racism, there were several characteristics of the practice of American slavery— including brutal treatment, literacy laws that denied access to the Bible, and the failure to protect slave marriages and families—that were contrary to Biblical commands. As demonstrated by Eugene Genovese, this disobedience led many Southern clerics to call for reform in the years prior to the Civil War. Genovese, Eugene D., A Consuming Fire: The Fall of the Confederacy in the Mind of the White Christian South 9-12, 23, 67 (U. Ga. Press 1998). During the War, the cries for reform intensified, as clerics warned that the South's sins could well bring God's judgment in the form of a Northern victory. Id. at 54-57, 59-60.
330. In Derrick Bell's fable, The Space Traders, see supra nn. 1-2 and accompanying text, Christians disagreed about the proper response to the Space Traders' offer. While some opposed the Trade, Bell, supra n. 1, at 177-178, television evangelists urged that rejecting the Trade would be blasphemous because the Trade was God's chosen method for blessing America. Id. at 184. Interestingly, the only Christian opposition to the Trade that Bell describes is by a black Baptist minister (and even he does not make an argument explicitly premised in Christian principles). See id. at 177-178. Bell apparently believes that not one white Christian would oppose such a Trade. For my own view as to what Christianity would require, see infra nn. 357-360 and accompanying text.
331. It must be said, though, that on some issues disagreement does not reflect confusion in the moral guidance that the Bible provides, but deviation from that fidelity to the Bible that orthodox Christianity requires. I consider Christian disagreement on abortion an example of this phenomenon. Even though the Bible nowhere directly condemns the practice, the Bible does plainly teach that God created human life in His image. Gen 1:27. The Bible also teaches that God is sovereignly active in conception. E.g. Gen 21:1-2; and Job 31:15. “It would therefore be a willful act of defiance against the Creator intentionally to kill an unborn child whose conception is so intimately a Divine as well as a human act.” Report of the Ad Interim Committee on Abortion, Adopted by the Sixth General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America 1 (1978). Moreover, the Bible plainly teaches that God does relate personally to individual human lives while still in the womb. Ps 51:5; 139:13-16; Jer 1:4-5. Finally, “‘the personal life of the Son of God on earth begins not when he was ‘born of the Virgin Mary,’ but when he was ‘conceived by the Holy Spirit.’ His human history, like ours, began at conception.’” Wingard, Charles, The OPC and Abortion, New Horizons 19 (12 1997); see Matt 1:18; Luke 1:35. Consequently, the wholesale slaughter of preborn life occurring in the United States today can under Christian principles be termed nothing less than a moral abomination.
332. Christianity also provides principles essential to an aspect of the search for truth distinct from the end-product of the search—the search process itself. These include the duties to love one another, even to love our enemies (John 13:34; Matt 5:44); to forgive as we have been forgiven (Eph 4:32); to consider others better than ourselves (Phil 2:3); and to be humble (Col 3:12). For the Christian, evidencing these qualities is at least as important as the correctness of the position one takes on the specific moral issue in dispute. One of the most significant aspects of my Christian life at Washington and Lee has been my relationships with Christian colleagues with whom I have disagreed on a variety of substantive moral issues. At times, it has been a challenge for us to maintain the bond of brotherly affection to which we are called as Christians, but by God's grace we have done so. This is a moral victory more sweet than had we reached consensus on the contested moral issue. This same challenge has occurred in my relationships with non-Christian colleagues with whom I have disagreed. Being loving in my attitudes and conduct, even (especially) in the midst of disagreement, is a clear demand of the faith.
In addition, Christianity provides the answer to the failures of various sorts that are sure to occur in the search for truth: (1) the failure to treat one's fellow-searchers for truth (Christian and non-Christian) in accord with Biblical standards; (2) the failure correctly to ascertain the truth; and (3) the failure to live by those correct moral precepts that we do ascertain. (This Article addresses how to know right from wrong. Doing the right is perhaps an even more formidable challenge. See Lundgaard, Kris, The Enemy Within: Straight Talk about the Power and Defeat of Sin (P. & R. 1998).). Christians know that such failures and others are inevitable and are blessed by the knowledge that the Bible also reveals that God has redeemed us from our many shortcomings.
333. Exod 20:13; Rom 13:9.
334. Although this section of the Article assumes both that there is a God and that the Christian God is He, for the Bible to ground the moral norm against murder the Biblical prohibition would have to be God's revelation to mankind on that subject. If the Bible is anything less, if, for example, it only records the religious experiences of its human authors, see supra n. 321 and accompanying text, it is of no use in grounding moral precepts.
335. One thinks of the Nazi camp commander in the movie, Schindler's List, who enjoyed randomly shooting prisoners, or the S.S. members in the movie, The Pianist, who tossed a wheelchair-bound elderly gentleman off of a balcony. Without God's prohibition of murder, no one could convincingly demonstrate that it would be evil to adopt either of these activities for one's chief recreation. Simply ascribing to a prohibition against murder a “transcendent and universal warrant,” without a divine source, as does Pinker, The Blank Slate, supra n. 178, at 269, not only makes a mockery of the word “transcendent,” see supra n. 201, but also accomplishes nothing worthwhile in grounding the principle. Posner suggests that not much would be lost because a prohibition against murder is only “tautological” anyway: “‘Murder is wrong,’ where ‘murder’ means ‘wrongful killing.’” Posner, Problematics, supra n. 48, at 1640; and see id. at 1650. The Bible, however, offers guidance on the meaning of “‘wrongful killing,“‘ distinguishing, for example, between unintentional killing and killing with malice aforethought. Deut 19:4-5, 11-13; see Exod 21:12-14.
336. Exod 20:15; Rom 13:9.
337. Exod 20:14; Heb 13:4.
338. 2 Thess 3:10; 1 Tim 6:17-18. See Eph 4:28.
339. E.g. Eph 4:32. See Gal 6:2.
340. E.g. Gal 5:22; Eph 4:32. See Gal 6:9-10.
341. E.g. Eph 4:2; Phil 2:3.
342. E.g. Gal 5:22; Eph 4:2.
343. See supra n. 334 for what is necessary for the Bible to provide a satisfactory ground for these moral norms.
344. Such difficulties will necessarily exist in any system in which God does not communicate directly with each person to supply specific instructions on each and every moral question.
The abortion controversy is often cited as an example demonstrating that questions of application remain even if one knows a foundational principle. Both sides generally acknowledge that murder is prohibited. But is killing a fetus murder? Leff's definition of “analogy” states the issue like this:
Men and dogs are both “living” beings. Should intentionally killing a dog be “murder”? No, one says, dogs are dogs and men are human beings. Granted. How about men and foetuses? Well, they are both living instances of the same species but, well, the foetus isn't born yet, and may not be able to live outside the womb …. When is something so like something else that it should be treated the same, or so unlike that it should not[?].
Leff, A Fragment, supra n. 77, at 2016. However difficult such questions may be, based on God's revelation one can at least approach them from the premise that murder is wrong. See supra nn. 333-334 and accompanying text. The abortion debate would differ significantly if a disputant matter-of-factly stated that his governing principle was to murder as much as possible. See supra n. 335 and accompanying text. (As previously shown, my own view is that other Biblical concepts unequivocally demonstrate that abortion is a moral evil. See supra n. 331.). The Biblical prohibition of murder also demonstrates that killing abortionists is morally wrong.
345. See supra n. 332.
346. Cf. Lewis, supra n. 245, at 5 (Lewis, to strengthen his argument that there has been consistency in moral codes across different cultures, asks his readers to imagine a country “where a man felt proud of double-crossing all the people who had been kindest to him”). As to how we know that double-crossing is inconsistent with love, see 1 Cor 13:4-7 for the Biblical definition of love. See Edwards, Jonathan, Charity and Its Fruits; Christian love as manifested in the heart and life (Banner of Truth Trust ed., Banner of Truth Trust 1969) (1852) (a series of sermons on 1 Cor 13).
347. See Leff, Unspeakable Ethics, supra n. 4, at 1229-1230 & 1230 n. 1.
348. Id. at 1233.
349. Leff, On Shoring Up a Void, supra n. 4, at 545.
350. See id. at 538. Leff'says “banal” is apt because we all know deeply “this critical nothingness” (he therefore eschews calling himself its “discoverer”). Id. “Horror” is apt “because, motivated by its terror,” we are all “impelled to ignore it.” Id. See supra n. 46 and accompanying text.
351. See id. Hence the tragedy and futility of Washington and Lee University's campus evolution display, see supra n. 277, that ended with the moral exhortations of the Earth Charter. Because the display's creators fail to premise their normative assertions in God, their concluding manifesto is a prime candidate for Leff's “sez who?” For other examples of concluding moral assertions that do not recognize God's indispensability, see Knoll, supra n. 277, at 246; Morrow, supra n. 215, at 266; Crews, supra n. 280, at 55 (see supra n. 287).
352. See supra nn. 1-2 and accompanying text.
353. Leff, Unspeakable Ethics, supra n. 4, at 1249.
354. See supra n. 213 and accompanying text. The same thing can be said of any moral claim, including Dworkin's assertion that it is evil to torture babies for fun in front of their captive mothers. See supra n. 80.
355. See supra n. 213 and accompanying text.
356. See supra nn. 217, 237-240 and accompanying text.
357. One other example is Jesus' command to “[d]o to others as you would have them do to you.” Luke 6:31; and see Matt 7:12. Presumably, none of those forcing the African Americans to leave earth would have welcomed that fate for themselves.
It is crucial to note that Jesus' command adequately grounds the Golden Rule only if Jesus' statements are revelatory of God's will. One clearly can still believe in the Golden Rule without premising it in a divine source. See Feynman, supra n. 259, at 251; supra n. 189 (Pinker). But those who do so are deluding themselves. To discard the Rule's divine origin is to discard the only basis for accepting the Rule as enjoining morally correct behavior.
358. Matt 22:39.
359. Luke 10:25-37 (the Parable of the Good Samaritan). The Bible thus provides the essential grounding for Pinker's pure assertion that we should love everyone in the world. See Pinker, The Blank State, supra n. 178, at 245.
360. See supra n. 346.
361. Leff, Unspeakable Ethics, supra n. 4, at 1231. Leff's approach would not require that the God in question be the Christian God. But the same three presuppositions would have to be true for condemnation of the Trade to be viewed as a moral absolute: (1) God exists; (2) one believes in the true God; and (3) this true God has communicated principles that brand the Trade as evil.
362. Id. at 1249.
363. It is critical to recall that this Article rejects the idea of fabricating a God to ground moral propositions. See supra n. 221 and accompanying text & n. 299. Grounding for moral premises is a consequence, not the cause, of God's existence.
* Copyright 2005 by Samuel W. Calhoun.
† Professor of Law, Washington and Lee University School of Law. The generous (and long-suffering) assistance of the Frances Lewis Law Center, Washington and Lee University, is gratefully acknowledged. Thanks also to those who read earlier drafts and to those who helped me develop my thoughts on the relationship between morality and faith: Dorothy Brown, Paul Carter, David Caudill, Maureen Cavanaugh, Bill Geimer, Peter Hoadley, Steven Hobbs, Lyman Johnson, John Knox, Lash LaRue, Uncas McThenia, Brian Murchison, Colleen Murphy, Jim Phemister, Louise Teitz, Job Seese, Tom Shaffer, Betty Rae Stevick, Earl Stevick, Mark Trapp, Joe Ulrich, Brad Wendel, and several members of my family. I would also like to thank the participants in a 1997 Washington and Lee School of Law faculty workshop and the participants in a workshop at the 2002 Christian Scholars' Symposium. Special thanks are due to Mark Grunewald and Rick Kirgis, who have provided significant help to this project in its various permutations over many years.
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