Friday, February 25, 2011

Choice Is Mere Illusion. (Please, Pass the Salt.)

In the 19th Century, philosophers destoyed the Bible. In the 20th Century, philosophers destroyed God. In the 21st Century, philosophers (with the ardent help of others) destroyed Man.

In a related item, Wesley J. Smith cites a bolder, yet more honest admission than those usually given that the struggle to kill God and the struggle to kill Man are quite the same. It comes from a new book written by John N. Gray. Gray is a curmudgeonly type of fellow who insists that humanity is a particularly selfish and ravenous species bent on destroying all other forms of life. He also believes human will and morality are mere illusions.

Of course, like others who make such silly claims, Gray doesn't even attempt to live out his philosophy. He takes the antibiotics his doctor prescribes for him. He allows people to kill animals for him to eat. He swats flies. And as to choice and morality being illusion matter, Gray takes awhile to decide what to wear in the morning. He lingers over a menu. He willingly accepts the checks given him for his teaching and writing. Obviously, money and the perks it procures aren't all that illusory either. Furthermore, Gray shakes his finger at things he deems shameful; he tries to be cordial and well-liked by colleagues; he smiles and tips the waitress. Indeed, Gray ponders, loves, chooses, and makes moral judgments throughout his every day -- just as if they weren't illusions at all. Go figure.

But I'm getting away from the quotation that Wesley Smith pointed out. Sorry. It comes from a review of Gray's work in the New Statesman:

About ten years ago [Gray's] thoughts turned to metaphysics. Charles Darwin replaced Berlin as hero-in-chief, and Gray became fascinated by the idea that human history as a whole is no more than an accidental smudge on the surface of an undistinguished planet hurtling towards oblivion. He was not the only one to take such a turn around that time; but most of his fellow Darwinians – Christopher Hitchens, for example – believed that once the human race freed itself from religion it would be able to take control of its destiny at last.

Not so Gray; for him, Darwinism had dealt a fatal blow to “humanism”, or the idea that the human race, unlike everything else in the natural world, is capable of self-fashioning and self-redemption. In Straw Dogs and Black Mass, he argued that humanism is just a continuation of religion by other means, an attempt to smuggle a fanatical belief in transcendent salvation past the controls of natural science. We will never get rid of God, as Nietzsche realised long ago, until we get rid of human exceptionalism.

Again, John N. Gray is a phony. He doesn't try to consistently live out this philosophy. Nevertheless, because these ideas are taken quite seriously by others and end up influencing education, politics and the arts, he is a dangerous phony. So be on your guard and confront these ideas when you hear them. Don't be afraid to directly challenge the mystic, irrational and ultimately self-destructive philosophies that proclaim that Reason, Morality and even Man himself are mere illusion. You have the facts (including the lifestyle of your ideological opponent) on your side.

(P.S. You'll also find that reading some excellent presuppositional apologetics is also very helpful in this task. Francis Schaeffer would be my recommendation with honors also going to C.S. Lewis and Nancy Pearcey.)