Saturday, April 22, 2006

Russell on Design

"When you come to look into this argument from design, it is a most astonishing thing that people can believe that this world, with all the things that are in it, with all its defects, should be the best that omnipotence and omniscience have been able to produce in millions of years. I really cannot believe it. Do you think that, if you were granted omnipotence and omniscience and millions of years in which to perfect your world, you could produce nothing better than the Ku Klux Klan or the fascists? Moreover, if you accept the ordinary laws of science, you have to suppose that human life and life in general on this planet will die out in due course: it is a stage in the decay of the solar system; at a certain stage of decay you get the sort of conditions and temperature and so forth which are suitable to protoplasm, and there is life for a short time in the life of the whole solar system. You see in the moon the sort of thing to which the earth is tending -- something dead, cold, and lifeless."


traxus4420 said...

Yes, the natural order of things has never really had all that much to recommend it, has it?

I've always lazily lumped Russell into the category of 'Philosophy my Dad Could Love' but as time goes on I increasingly think of giving him another chance --

J said...

(I pared down my original comment).

Bertrand Russell was a rather complex figure, and I think anyone who has an interest in 20th century intellectual history should read a smattering of his writings, both logical-mathematical and political. He is assailed by both leftists and right-wingers these days: the marxist-postmod cadres don't seem to care for his criticisms of the bolsheviks and/or stalinism (he visited Soviet Russia in I believe 1920), or, I presume, for his analytical philosophy--I hardly think he would have approved of some hyper-freak such as Derrida (and read Derrida's bizarre attempts to sort of update CS Peirce's "science of signs" for laffs--Pierce was a thinker whom Russell admired, rightly); and the American yahoo doesn't care for his skepticism, attacks on Xtianity, or anti-Vietnam war stance.

Progressives could use a bit of the sort of focused intelligence characteristic of Russell.
As this quote indicates, he was fairly subversive and more liberal than you might think--in fact occasionally too British-liberal for me. This yawp, from a speech in the late 30s I believe (note also a fairly PC sensibility, for better or worse), will serve as a decent antidote to anyone advocating the "intelligent design" argument.

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