Merit, Morals and Race
Roger Oliver

Recently I received an email with a commentary on the causes of the deterioration of the quality of engineering these days. The author mentioned the recent Titan catastrophe. Two miles under the sea looking to show millionaire tourists the sunken Titanic, the carbon fiber craft imploded. It was a disaster waiting to happen. The owner/pilot who died in the accident had been warned. Instead of paying attention to the report by an experienced engineer, he fired him. He had also fired other stodgy older engineers because they weren’t “inspirational.” Engineers aren’t paid to be inspirational; they are paid to be right.

The author went on to mention failing bridges and railroad derailings blaming them on a hatred of white men who have kept the country running. Their replacements have been hired for reasons other than merit, their proven ability to do the work. Hiring the best man for the job has been replaced by hiring for the sake of equity. The underprivileged need a chance, they say. Some of the airlines have announced they will be hiring a certain percentage of pilot trainees based on their membership in underprivileged classes as determined by Marxist critical theory. No white men allowed.

Conservative pundits have written a good deal about the death of the meritocracy. They warn of a future of incompetent doctors, pilots and engineers. Our successful social and economic order was built on merit, they say, and merit is being cancelled. But merit knows no race or class. You either know your stuff or you don’t. We thought the equal opportunity laws were meant to overcome prejudice so the very best could always be recognized and rewarded. Didn’t happen.

What they mean by merit is technical ability without considering morality or ethics. Morality and ethics are synonyms for discerning right from wrong, good from evil, justice from injustice. By what standard? Some time ago I listened to a video podcast by a pedantic professor in Spain that was assigned to high school students in Mexico. The professor went to great lengths to assert that ethics and morals were different. Morality, he said, was private, ethics were public. He claimed that since there were so many different private moralities the State had to respect, then the State had to legislate ethics by which people would live their public lives. That fits the long history of public education in Mexico. Dr. Gabino Barreda, the first director of public education under the public education law of 1867 said, “It is the obligation of the State to educate the people, so morality must necessarily be a matter of the State, not of the Church.” So much for the difference between morals and ethics.

Merit sans ethics/morals is not a firm foundation on which to build a social order. Morality is. The ethics of Marxist critical theory is an acid that destroys the very foundations of civilization. Mad scientists have merit enough to occupy high positions in the alphabet soup of federal health agencies. Their ethics of power and money drives them to do great evil with their knowledge and ability. Many of them are old white males.

The 6th commandment, thou shalt not kill, is the foundational ethic of engineering. What drove the engineer to risk his job by writing the report warning that that Titan submersible was unsafe? Ethics, not merit. Of course, he had to know his stuff to identify what was wrong with the craft but the courage to speak the truth came from the ethic of respect for human life and the drive to do a right thing in a right way.

Ethics knows no race or class. You either have the courage to do a right thing in a right way or you don’t. The plague of engineering disasters is a result of abandoning the Christian ethic. It has nothing to do with race. If it is true that white men have been the preponderance of competent engineers, it is because the Christian ethic was still part of the culture when older engineers were trained. Abandoning the Christian ethic results in sloppy work done by incompetents who have not been taught even the 10 commandments. 

Competent older engineers are mostly white in part due to the simple facts of the census. They are part of the majority. It is the same majority that gives more of its children to die on the battlefields in faraway places with a doubtful relationship to our security and freedom. Nevertheless, ancient prejudices had something to do with getting the opportunity to train in the first place, but we passed laws to overcome this. Thomas Sowell has written a good deal about why the government’s attempts at affirmative action have failed.

Statist legalism, salvation by passing laws, never saved anyone nor ever changed a man’s heart. There is no salvation in any other name under heaven than in the Lord Jesus Christ. The divine law that prohibits endangering lives was given by the God that is no respecter of persons. “Be holy as I am holy,” he said. My race is Christian. Period.

Conservative commentators are alarmed that our Western culture is falling apart. Most of them say the successful Western civilization was built on ideas from the Rational Enlightenment, merit being one of them. I read an op-ed recently by one of these conservative pundits that pointed out that pride is a sin. He was writing against pride month. Not surprisingly knowing his humanist worldview, he started his piece with an apology. “I have friends who are gay, nice people who have done good things.”

I posted a comment to his piece pointing out that the same Bible he quoted saying that pride goes before a fall also calls sodomy an abomination to God. He wrote back once again referring to the “nice guy” standard of right and wrong, as murky as Aristotle’s Nicomachean ethics. Then he said he agreed with Ira Gershwin quoting a line from Porgy and Bess, “What is says in the Bible, it ain’t necessarily so.” Not so much ironic as consistent that Gershwin put those words in the mouth of Sportin’ Life, a drug dealer bent on seduction. Think I’ll stick with, “Thus saith the Lord.”

Whatever good there is in Western civilization was built on Christianity and its ethics defined by the Law of God in the Bible. The Rational Enlightenment has always been hostile to the Christian faith and openly sought to overthrow the Christian social order. The disintegration of Western culture and institutions is the fruit of the seeds planted by the Rational Enlightenment with its relativist ethics. It isn’t about merit alone. It isn’t about race. It’s about ethics or morals, the standard by which we discern right from wrong, good from evil. Whose ethics will rule our hearts, God’s or autonomous man’s? What we embrace as a people will determine our future, whether we collapse on the dust heap of the Towers of Babble or recover our footing in the firm foundation of the Law/Word of God.

The LORD said to his people:

    “You are standing at the crossroads. So consider your path.

    Ask where the old, reliable paths are.

    Ask where the path is that leads to blessing and follow it.

    If you do, you will find rest for your souls.”

    But they said, “We will not follow it!” Jeremiah 6:16

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