Mr. Barker responded essentially by sidestepping the objection. Instead of addressing the point made by Mr. Goldstein, Mr. Barker asserted that the God of the Bible is a tyrant, a claim he attempted to support by taking a number of Old Testament texts out of context. He then further asserted that Hitler had misused Darwin. He then proceeded to misconstrue Jefferson in much the same way he often does the Bible.
First of all, Mr. Barker claims that when Jefferson, as a Deist, used the word "Creator" in the Declaration of Independence he meant something less personal than the biblical God, something more akin to "nature" rather than "Jehovah." He then goes on to make the extraordinary assertion that "when Jefferson claimed that all people are 'endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights,' he could not have meant 'endowed' in the sense of a sovereign granting a privilege that might be denied" (p. 218). Mr. Barker tries to support this dubious contention by asserting that "if something can be endowed, then it can be un-endowed," and therefore is not inalienable. According to Mr. Barker, and "inalienable right" that is "endowed" is an oxymoron.
Mr. Barker then goes on to say that "a 'natural right' is a claim to a freedom, privilege or power that you possess inherently, by nature . . . " (Ibid.). According to him, what Jefferson really meant was that "we are 'endowed by nature' with common human needs," and are therefore "justified in expecting society to honor our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" (p. 219).
Part of the problem here is that Jefferson and Mr. Barker are working with entirely different conceptions of "natural law." When Jefferson used the phrase, "the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them," what he had in mind was a concept that had a long history in Western thought. As explained by the great 18th Century English jurist Sir William Blackstone, the "law of nature" consists of "the eternal, immutable, laws of good and evil, to which the Creator Himself in all His dispensations conforms: and which He has enabled human reason to discover, so far as they are necessary for the conduct of human actions. Such, among others, are these principles: that we should live honestly, should hurt nobody, and should render to everyone his due . . ."
But Mr. Barker's view of natural law is far different. "I learned that relativism is all we've got. Human values are not absolutes – they are relative to human needs. The humanistic answer to morality, if the question is properly understood, is that the basis for values lies in nature. Since we are a part of nature, and since there is nothing 'beyond' nature, it is necessary to assign value to actions in the context of nature itself" (p. 210). "'Value' is a concept of relative worth. And since concepts, as far as we know, exist only in our brain, which are material things, it is meaningless, even dangerous, to talk of cosmic moral attributes" (p. 211).
Mr. Barker claims that nature has endowed us with common human needs, and that therefore we are "justified in expecting society to honor our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." But since when are "liberty" and " the pursuit of happiness" human "needs"? It is entirely possible biologically to survive without them, and the great masses of mankind have, in fact, done so. And since when does a "need" constitute a "right" to have something? Why are others obligated to "respect my right" to have something?
The incongruity of Mr. Barker's assertions are especially apparent when we consider his view of nature itself: "Living organisms are the result of the mindless uncaring reality of natural selection" that uses "the blunt process of weeding out failures, which are denied the opportunity to reproduce by being eaten, starved, frozen, killed in competition, or not being chosen as a mate, and so on" (p. 106). In this context it is ludicrous to speak of "rights."
Mr. Goldstein was right: had Jefferson been influence by Darwin instead of Locke, Joseph Stalin's views would been deemed progressive, and in a Darwinian universe truth does rest on the whims of whatever despot happens to be in control. Rights are inalienable only when they are sanctioned by a higher law, a law that transcends all human authority. If God had not said, "Thou shalt not kill," there would be no "inalienable right to life," and the U.S. Supreme Court amply demonstrated in Roe v. Wade. There would only be "nature, red in tooth and claw" (Tennyson).