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02/04/2013

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One of the Largest and Most Visited Sources of Philosophical Texts on the Internet.
Evans Experientialism Evans ExperientialismSEARCH THE WHOLE SITE? SEARCH CLICK THE SEARCH BUTTON
Athenaeum Library of Philosophy
The Academy Library The Athenaeum Library The Nominalist Library
Michael Ruse
 
Michael Ruse, Ph.D. is Professor of Philosophy and Zoology at Florida StateUniversity. The author of many books including
Mystery of Mysteries: Is Evolution aSocial Construction? 
 
Monad to Man: The Concept of Progress inEvolutionary Biology 
,
The Philosophy of Biology 
, and
Taking Darwin Seriously.
Newpublications forthcoming include
Can a Darwinian be a Christian? 
 
The RelationshipBetween Science and Religion,
 
The Evolution Wars,
and
Cloning 
(edited volume). He is also thefounder and editor of the journal
Biology & Philosophy,
and editor of the "Cambridge UniversityPress Series in the Philosophy of Biology."
 
By
Tamler Sommer 
Reprinted from:
The Believer 
 
The Believer ships US mail and a subscription lasts for 10 issues, roughly one year. Shipping isincluded in the $45 price for subscriptions in the US. Foreign subscriptions will be charged $30 whenthey choose the USPS International shipping option, which is the option recommended by McSwys.
 
"There is no ultimate truth about morality. It is an invention—an invention of thegenes rather than of humans."Things that we do, despite the possibility of Darwin-inspired moral nihilism: Playbackgammon Eat good meals Drink with friends Commit adultery (maybe) Dig our gardensWe all have strong moral beliefs and make confident moral judgments. Terroristsare evil; discrimination is wrong. But where do these beliefs come from? Oneanswer is that there are moral facts out there in the world waiting to be discovered,and rational creatures like us are capable of discovering them. Another is thatthese moral beliefs are part of a specific human psychology that has developedduring the course of evolutionary history. According to this view, the urge to helpthy neighbor is a result of the same evolutionary process that produced the urgeto sleep with thy neighbor's wife. Both urges are adaptations, like the human eyeor the opposable thumb, and have evolved because they conferred higher fitnesson the organisms that possessed them.For more than thirty years, the philosopher Michael Ruse has championed thislatter view. His 1986 book Taking Darwin Seriously is a full-length defense of theposition that the theory of natural selection has a lot to tell us about our morallives. Since then, Dr. Ruse—professor of philosophy at Florida State Universityand an absurdly prolific author—has written numerous books and articlesclarifying and expanding his purely naturalistic approach to morality, religion, ande istemolo . His most recent book is called Darwin and Desi n: Does Evolution
 
 Have a Purpose?Ruse and other like-minded theorists have generated excitement with their viewsand a fair amount of controversy as well. Criticism of evolutionary ethics is abipartisan affair. From the left come attacks from a large and vocal contingent of academics, who range from being baffled to being appalled by the claim thathuman nature is not entirely a social construction. (The great evolutionarybiologist and entomologist E. O. Wilson—coauthor of a number of articles withRuse—was known to certain university activists as "the prophet of the right-wingpatriarchy." During the course of one of Wilson's lectures, a group that called itself "Science For the People" dumped a bucket of ice water on his head and thenchanted "You're all wet.") On the right, there are the hard-line moral realistsengaged in their search for "moral clarity." To them, Darwinism introduces anelement of subjectivity that threatens to undermine the certainty they bring toethical affairs. And of course there are the religious fundamentalists, who objectnot only to a Darwinian approach to ethics but to the truth of evolutionary theoryitself. Ruse got a taste of this brand of anti-Darwinian sentiment during hisinvolvement in the infamous Arkansas creation trial. I began our interview—whichtook place over email and over the phone—by asking about this experience.—Tamler Sommers
THE INTERVIEW:
 The Believer:In 1981 the state of Arkansas passed a law requiring science teachers who taughtevolution to give equal time to something called "creation science." The ACLUsued the state, and you served as one of their expert witnesses. First of all, whatexactly is creation science?MICHAEL RUSE:Well, it's a form of American fundamentalism and biblical literalism. It's the belief that the Bible, particularly the early chapters of Genesis, are a reliable guide tohistory, including life history. Creationism itself is not a new phenomenon—it goesback certainly to the nineteenth century. The basic tenets are: the world is 6,000years old, there was a miraculous creation, a universal flood, that sort of thing.Creation science as such is a phenomenon of the 1960s and seventies; it waspolished up in order to get around the U. S. Constitution's separation of churchand state. And that's why they call it creation science. Because they want to claimscientifically that Genesis can be proven.The Believer:What role did the ACLU want you to play in overturning the law?MICHAEL RUSE:I was one of the expert witnesses called to testify against the law. Technicallyspeaking, they were just trying to show that creation science is not science. So my job as a philosopher was to testify as to the nature of science and the nature of religion, and show that evolution is science, and creation science is religion.The Believer:And so because of that, it did not deserve equal time in the classroom.MICHAEL RUSE:It's not a question of what it deserves. The Constitution forbids the teaching of religion in publicly funded schools in America.The Believer:In your book But Is It Science?, you describe the trial, and you talk about thedeposition you gave to the assistant attorney general of Arkansas, DavidWilliams—it sounded like quite a grilling. At one point he asks you how you regardmorality. You respond, "I intuit moral values as objective realities." Fortunately,you say, Williams didn't ask what you meant by that. But since it's relevant to thetopic of this interview, what did you mean exactly?MICHAEL RUSE:I'm not sure, really. I don't think of that as accurate, exactly, as to what my positionreally is. I think if you look at books that I wrote, like Sociobiology: Sense andNonsense, I certainly didn't think that morality could be reduced to evolutionarybiology, in those days. I'm not sure if I've changed my mind, or come to a fuller understanding of the issue. I think I would still say—part of my position on morality
 
 is very much that we regard morality in some sense as being objective, even if itisn't. So the claim that we intuit morality as objective reality—I would still say that.Of course, what I would want to add is that from the fact that we do this, it doesn'tfollow that morality really is objective.The Believer:I like your account of the "hospitality room" the afternoon before the trial. It wasyou, a bunch of religion witnesses, and an open bar. But they were witnesses for the ACLU, right?MICHAEL RUSE: Yes, they were there to testify that it certainly isn't traditional religion to be forcedto accept a literal reading of the Bible. Bruce Vawter, a Catholic priest, pointed outthat if you go back to St. Augustine and earlier, they've all argued that one shouldbe able to interpret the Bible metaphorically if science and the facts dictateotherwise, and so it follows that the Bible taken literally isn't necessarily true. Thetheologian Langdon Gilky was arguing this, too, but from a contemporarytheological perspective. Most theologians today, he said, do not believe in anabsolutely literal interpretation of the Bible. And there was also George Marsden,an eminent historian who talked about the development of the fundamentalistmovement and how it came into being. And again, trying to show very much thatthis is not traditional Christianity, but rather an indigenous form of AmericanProtestant Christianity.The Believer:But you say that the lawyers for the ACLU may have made a mistake in having anopen bar right before the rehearsal.MICHAEL RUSE:Well, I think they were worried that we'd all be sloshed or hung over before theactual trial. I mean, open bar… Well, we may have had a few gins, but it wasn't likea…The Believer:Fraternity party.MICHAEL RUSE:Or even a meeting of the APA. 1The Believer:So the rehearsal suffered a little, but then in court the testimony went quitesmoothly.MICHAEL RUSE:It did.The Believer:And the judge used a couple of your points in his decision against the state of Arkansas.MICHAEL RUSE:Not just a couple of my points. If you look at the judge's decision in But Is ItScience?, his five or six criteria for what counts as science are taken preciselyfrom my testimony. And you know, I'm not showing off—but that's what he did.And in fact, this is what got people like Larry Laudan2 hot under the collar.The Believer:There were some other well-known expert witnesses, too. Francisco Ayala,Stephen Jay Gould. In your book, you write a nice passage about them. You say"to hear Ayala talking lovingly of his fruit flies and Gould of his fossils was torealize so vividly that it is those who deny evolution who are anti-God, not thosewho affirm it." What exactly are you saying here?MICHAEL RUSE:I'm saying that if in fact you're Christian then you believe you were made in theimage of God. And that means—and this is traditional Christian theology—thatmeans that you have intelligence and self-awareness and moral ability. So what Iwould say then, that not to use one's intelligence, or to deny it or not to follow it, isat one level a heretical denial of one's God-given nature. And so this is the point Imade—that in being a scientist, far from being anti-Christian or anti-God, you areutilizing the very things that make one God-like, in the Christian perspective. Of course, on the other hand, Christians are always caught up in this business of faith versus reason. And they love to argue that the most childlike among us can

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