Coming Soon:

The following books by Robert Paul Wolff are available on Amazon.com as e-books: KANT'S THEORY OF MENTAL ACTIVITY, THE AUTONOMY OF REASON, UNDERSTANDING MARX, UNDERSTANDING RAWLS, THE POVERTY OF LIBERALISM, A LIFE IN THE ACADEMY, MONEYBAGS MUST BE SO LUCKY, AN INTRODUCTION TO THE USE OF FORMAL METHODS IN POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY.
Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.

NOW AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE: LECTURES ON KANT'S CRITIQUE OF PURE REASON. To view the lectures, go to YouTube and search for "Robert Paul Wolff Kant." There they will be.

To contact me about organizing, email me at rpwolff750@gmail.com




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Sunday, March 21, 2010

A MEAN-SPIRITED THOUGHT

I try, I really do, to be high-minded. Always in the back of my mind is the question, WWKD? [i.e, What would Kant do?, my non-believing version of WWJD?] But again and again, I fall from grace, and twenty years of psychotherapy have taught me that denial is not healthy.

All of this provoked by my reaction to the book I am now reading -- Richard Dawkins' latest, The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution. Dawkins is beside himself at the fact that 40% of Americans report themselves as believing that the earth was created 10,000 years ago. That is, give or take a handful of cashews, 120,000,000 nuts within the borders of the lower forty eight [and God alone knows how many more lurking up there in Alaska or out in the Pacific in Hawaii.]

When I encounter facts like that one, my first reaction is simple denial. "They cannot mean it," I tell myself. "Surely they are no more serious in their belief than the vast number of people who claim to expect the Rapture any moment but also buy life insurance and put money away for their kids' college expenses."

Nevertheless, I must confess that I have the following mean-spirited thought: Every time one of those one hundred and twenty million shows up at a hospital with a life-threatening condition that is treatable by modern medicine, he or she should be asked, "Since this treatment we are about to give you assumes, for its efficacy, either directly or indirectly, the truth of evolution, are you prepared to forswear your absurd beliefs as a condition of having us save your life?" If the answer is no, then turn them out into the street and let them pray to their god for relief.

Now, that is about as low and mean spirited as you can get, I realize. And if I were a hospital administrator, I would not dream of enforcing such a rule. But, Lord forgive me, I would be tempted.

4 comments:

Brenda said...

I've had the same thought about denying treatment to government employees who vote against health bills.

Gavin said...

"Since this treatment we are about to give you assumes, for its efficacy, either directly or indirectly, the truth of evolution..."

In my view, this seems a false assumption.

An argument in support of this bold assertion would actually make a nice post.

NotHobbes said...

Hi Gavin

I suggest you read "Principles of Evolutionary Medicine" by Peter Gluckman

Robert Paul Wolff said...

Let me suggest just a few lines of possible argument, Gavin.

First: Any use of radioactive medicine, either diagnostically or therapeutically, relies on the facts of half lives of radioactive elements, which in turn imply an age of the earth that is incompatible with new earth creationism.

Second: all of the efforts to combat the mutation of pathogens through the development if new anti-biotics presupposes the understanding of mutation, natural selection, etc. that lies at the heart of modern evolutionary biology.

My knowledge of these things is too fragmentary to give more detailed examples, but this is the sort of thing I have in mind.