Monday, May 12, 2008

The Implications of Consistent Atheism

As has been noted several times throughout this blog, atheism is a philosophy that cannot sustain itself, but must borrow from other worldviews in order for it's proponents to even function. This point was brought to light in a recent New York Times article criticizing Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, which claimed that the movie failed to take into consideration the difference between “Scientific Darwinism” and “Social Darwinism”. What the article failed to do, however, is explain how one could hold to “Scientific Darwinism” and logically reject “Social Darwinism”.


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Peter Singer is one of the few atheists who nearly tries to live what he believes, yet I would dare say that even most atheists would find his views on human life objectionable. Here are a few goodies expressed by Singer, from Dinesh D'Souza’s article Atheism and Child Murder.

On how mothers should be permitted to kill their offspring until the age of 28 days: "My colleague Helga Kuhse and I suggest that a period of twenty-eight days after birth might be allowed before an infant is accepted as having the same right to life as others."

On why abortion is less morally significant than killing a rat: "Rats are indisputably more aware of their surroundings, and more able to respond in purposeful and complex ways to things they like or dislike, than a fetus at ten or even thirty-two weeks gestation."

On why pigs, chickens and fish have more rights to life than unborn humans: "The calf, the pig, and the much-derided chicken come out well ahead of the fetus at any stage of pregnancy, while if we make the comparison with a fetus of less than three months, a fish would show more signs of consciousness."

On why infants aren't normal human beings with rights to life and liberty: "Characteristics like rationality, autonomy and self-consciousness...make a difference. Infants lack these characteristics. Killing them, therefore, cannot be equated with killing normal human beings."

You can watch Dinesh D'Souza Debate Peter Singer at Biola University.

Whatever one thinks of Peter Singer’s radical belief system, at least he is consistent (to a certain point).
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11 comments:

  1. Note that I don't endorse with the morality sorceror advocates. I don't know what it is.

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  2. Free will is quite simply simply the dumbest idea ever invented. Why? Because your actions are determined either by nature, nature or chance. There is no magical element that changes this. Even if we had souls, we would not have free will- it would simply be nature in a new coat.

    Morality is making a choice. We can still make choices even if our actions are predetermined- what I was refering to was that doing actions under the threat of force is not morality. Even if every action can be plottedout we still make choices- WE don't know how everything will go!

    Morality is not genetic. We share the same genes people did a thousand years ago- and we are profoundly different.

    In a secular view, morality is not obeying divine commandments. It is about doing the right thing because you want to.

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  3. Sorceror,

    Let me be more specific with the Question. Jane Goodall’s original studies of apes show that they participate in “warfare," "gang attacks," "killing and cannibalism". An article in Discovery Magazine shows that chimps exhibit “disturbingly high levels of battering, rape, sexual harassment, and murder”.

    Are these apes acting immorally? What should be done about them? Should we treat them the same way as we do humans who commit such acts? Why or why not?

    See Of Apes and Men

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  4. More study would be needed to see if they are really acting immorally. It's not clear how much moral awareness primates have - we know it's dramatically less than in humans, but there does appear to be some awareness of at least some moral principles.

    We don't have to treat them the way we do humans, because they aren't human and can't live up to human moral standards, any more than they can understand Shakespeare or play chess. When they're in captivity, we owe them decent care and whatever moral guidance they can accept. A zookeeper should try to train the apes in their care not to kill or rape each other, for example.

    Our capacity for language and for moral awareness - for cooperation in long-term projects for mutual benefit, instead of short-term gratification - is what makes us uniquely human. No animal comes close. Chimps and apes (and a few other animals, like maybe dolphins) are in the foothills of mountains we've summitted, to borrow a phrase from Daniel Dennett.

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  5. "More study would be needed to see if they are really acting immorally. It's not clear how much moral awareness primates have - we know it's dramatically less than in humans, but there does appear to be some awareness of at least some moral principles."

    What is "moral awareness" and how do we account for it? What "moral principals" are they aware of? Are you in agreement with the previous article that you posted, that morality is merely conventional (despite it's deceptive title)?

    "A zookeeper should try to train the apes in their care not to kill or rape each other, for example."

    Why?

    "cooperation in long-term projects for mutual benefit, instead of short-term gratification"

    Why should one be concerned for mutual benefit instead of short-term gratification?

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  6. Sorry, I thought it was clear - I'm the author of the article I originally linked to.

    And morality isn't conventional - at least, in the sense you mean. Some conventions have an impact on morals - like driving on the right side of the road. Objectively, it doesn't matter which side of the road is chosen by convention - the U.K. does fine the other way - but once that's chosen, driving on the wrong side of the road (whichever that may be) puts yourself and others at risk.

    But a whole bunch of morality is not conventional. E.g. not stealing, not initiating violence, bearing false witness, etc. Those are the kinds of things you need to have any kind of functioning society at all.

    As to why one should be concerned with "mutual benefit instead of short-term gratification", there's whole "benefit" thing, whether or not it's mutual. We cooperate in long-term projects because the alternative is running naked in the woods fighting over scraps of food. As you yourself said, "those who cooperate are better off then those who do not".

    Do you want to be worse off?

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  7. Um... I argued in that article very specifically, and I thought with logic, why eugenics and other 'Social Darwinist' ideas are wrong. (The section titled "Genetic Moral Engineering", maybe you missed it...)

    As to returning $1000 to Bill Gates... well, aside from the network effects of general trustworthiness, I'd think that being friends with Bill Gates would be a longer-term benefit than a paltry $1K. So long as we're throwing hypotheticals around, y'know.

    Sure, cheating is tempting in short-term interactions. But that's not sustainable, long-term. Look at the societies where corruption is endemic, and compare them to societies where it's controlled and discouraged. Which ones are better off? Which ones would you like to live in?

    I suggest you reread the article - I did say what morals are: strategies. You seem to be unable to conceive them in any other way than as 'commandments', and that may be impacting your ability to get the point.

    And, of course, your position doesn't address any of the problems with "divine command theory" that was pointed out there.

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  8. Morality can't come from God- he is immoral.

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  9. First off you have been brainwashed by your own propaganda- stating God is immoral is NOT an emotional argument.

    Lets see... first God creates life and then punishes it for no reason. He inflicts pain, suffering and death because... his creation disobeyed him. Even though he knew it would do that.

    Heck- this applies to all Gods- they all create life that suffers, lives short painful lives and sometimes dies horribly. It is immoral to create that. It is even more so to not fix it.

    Moral standard? How about pain, suffering and death are bad and moral actions are ones taken to minimize them and increase, happiness, pleasure and life?

    Did I miss anything? I would think all this is obvious. And please, don't give me the "God uses a different standard". Where I live we call such a stand relativism.

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  10. Samuel,

    As expected, you have failed to explain how anything your wrote is "immoral". God Himself defines morality, and anything He does is, by definition, moral.

    If God so chooses, He could wipe out every human on the planet and send them straight to Hell, and be totally justified in doing so.

    So try again and explain how God is immoral, and please be objective rather then opinionated.

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  11. Euthrypo from that bastion of sound scholarship...Wikipedia.

    Anyway, the dilemma, and the subsequent refutation, fails because the premises are false.

    It assumes that God confers meaning and value on life arbitrarily, or He does so because it already has meaning and value independently of Him.

    Both of those are false.

    Christianity holds that human life has value and purpose because humans are intended to reflect God's very nature. So the value and purpose of human life, and therefore God's moral actions towards man, are neither arbitrary nor independent, but grounded in God's nature.

    Anyway, repeating the oft-refuted dilemma has not in any way answered the question asked of you before.

    On what basis, or by what authority, do you state that God is immoral?

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