Bender, indignant that anyone could take Darwin at his word, begins the chant: "Quote-mining, Quote-mining..."
And his proof that Weikart is "quote-mining"? A passage which not only does not contradict what Weikart said, but actually backs it up. For some reason which I cannot comprehend, Evil Bender thinks the following passage backs up his point that Darwin believed in fixed, immutable moral standards:
A man who has no assured and ever present belief in the existence of a personal God or of a future existence with retribution and reward, can have for his rule of life, as far as I can see, only to follow those impulses and instincts which are the strongest or which seem to him the best ones. A dog acts in this manner, but he does so blindly. A man, on the other hand, looks forwards and backwards, and compares his various feelings, desires and recollections. He then finds, in accordance with the verdict of all the wisest men that the highest satisfaction is derived from following certain impulses, namely the social instincts. If he acts for the good of others, he will receive the approbation of his fellow men and gain the love of those with whom he lives; and this latter gain undoubtedly is the highest pleasure on this earth. By degrees it will become intolerable to him to obey his sensuous passions rather than his higher impulses, which when rendered habitual may be almost called instincts. His reason may occasionally tell him to act in opposition to the opinion of others, whose approbation he will then not receive; but he will still have the solid satisfaction of knowing that he has followed his innermost guide or conscience.Wow. What a statement of fixed moral principles this is. "Feelings." "Desires." "Recollections." "Social instincts." This is the basis of moral absolutes? Since when is "the approbation of ... fellow men" and the "the love of those" with whom you live the basis of moral objectivity?
I suppose Evil Bender is hanging his hat on the last part of this quote, where he talks about those special occasions on which someone follows their "reason." And what, precisely, does Darwin mean by this? Apparently something having to do with one's "innermost guide or conscience." Now there's something solid and unchanging. Makes you feel like putting on a tie dye t-shirt and firing up the ol' bong.
If this is quote-mining, I hope people like Wiekart keep digging.
I haven't read Darwin's Autobiography, so I can't say what precisely Darwin did or didn't believe about the foundations of morality. But from this passage, it doesn't look terribly hopeful. We know as a matter of history that Darwin was a decent person. On that, as far as I can tell, there is no debate. The debate is over whether a theory that postulates that a completely naturalistic origin of man undermines the rational foundation of moral belief. On that question the answer seems fairly apparent to some of us--and passages like this don't do anything to make it any less so.