Home » Atheism, Darwinism » Ideas have consequences: Jesse Kilgore

Ideas have consequences: Jesse Kilgore

Here’s a podcast with the father of 22-year-old Jesse Kilgore, who killed himself after reading The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins.

Too bad young Jesse did not give himself a chance to read Alister McGrath’s The Dawkins Delusion. My thoughts and prayers are with all who knew him. No doubt there was more going on than we know.

It’s a very sober reminder that, in a world where many believe that young people care only about text messaging aimless gossip, some take the critical questions deadly seriously.

In a very different chain of events a lttile over a year ago, a young Finnish social Darwinist killed himself and eight others , in an event reminiscent of Eric Harris at Columbine.

Significantly, when I reported on the Finnish school shooting, I received a storm of complaints from Darwinists who wanted me to know that their belief system was in no way implicated. I responded,

This tragedy has provoked an enormous outburst of protest from Darwinists on account of my noting that the shooter’s motive was social Darwinism. On the rare occasions when a shooter’s motive has been anti-abortion advocacy (Rudolph) or fundamentalist madness (Yates), I have NEVER been excoriated by an anti-abortionist or fundamentalist for openly discussing that fact. Indeed, these types of cases were openly discussed among Christian journalists at a number of gatherings in which I participated over the last decade, with conspicuously little defensiveness. We had long accepted that some forms of anti-abortion advocacy and fundamentalism are toxic.

So this storm of comments has been a real eye-opener for me (and I probably rejected more than I accepted, so readers never saw all the somniferous posturing as I did). The storm suggests that – despite claims – Darwinists have never dealt with the legacy of social Darwinism in an emotionally healthy enough way to just put it all behind them. Now that may be because the actual worldview of Darwinism necessitates social Darwinism. Or it may be because no one has said, “let’s just do it.” Or someone has said that, but the troops didn’t get it. It’s not really my problem though.

I shut off comments to that post. (And later to all posts at the Post-Darwinist, but for  unrelated reasons, to do with declining civil rights in Canada.)

Also just up at the Post-Darwinist

A science writer explains her interest in the intelligent design controversy to other science writers

Popular media and the intelligent design controversy: When reporters write what they “know”

Intellectual freedom in Canada: Moving toward a reasonable standard of evidence (hauntingly like ID)

  • Delicious
  • Facebook
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • Twitter
  • RSS Feed

28 Responses to Ideas have consequences: Jesse Kilgore

  1. It’s called “cognitive dissonance”. They hold a certain belief about right and wrong which contradicts their belief in Darwinism. This causes the reaction you witnessed.

  2. The Bible says you’ll be held to account for every word you say.

  3. 3
    EndoplasmicMessenger

    Denyse,

    Since you are Catholic, you might also be interested in this rebuttal of Dawkins.

  4. Dawkins has been (successfully) rebutted so many times, on so many points, in so many venues, it’s hardly worth talking about the guy anymore. Even his defenders at this point have largely moved on to ‘Well, he’s supposed to be on the level of guys like Lee Strobel’ as a defense.

    I remember the outcry the last time Denyse talked about this subject. My view is the same now as I believe it was then – I wouldn’t paint with too broad a brush on this point, but frankly we should be able to have an open discussion about what philosophies and thoughts drove these kids. Every bit as much as we’d talk about the same for an abortion clinic bomber.

  5. As Denyse wrote, there was probably a lot more trouble in Jesse Kilgore’s life (real or percieved) than we know about. Nobody is saying reading a book by Richard Dawkins drove someone to suicide.

    But there’s also a good chance that the book acted as a sort of catalyst, “On top of everything else now THIS”, style of thing. Jesse may have, by chance, been driven over the edge by something else, but you can’t say the book provided any consolation.

    The point, which many Darwinists seem miss, is that Darwinism can incite the same destructive behavior as any other religion, philosophy, or creed.

    And Darwinism has an infinitely bleaker message than most religions.

  6. And later to all posts at the Post-Darwinist, but for unrelated reasons, to do with declining civil rights in Canada.

    Did you stop posting at overwhelmingevidense.com for the same reasons?

  7. Nullasalus, you said,

    Dawkins has been (successfully) rebutted so many times, on so many points, in so many venues, it’s hardly worth talking about the guy anymore. Even his defenders at this point have largely moved on to ‘Well, he’s supposed to be on the level of guys like Lee Strobel’ as a defense.

    You probably didn’t mean anything, but I’d give a lot more credit to Lee Strobel than Richard Dawkins. At least Lee Strobel investigated on Christianity and science, unlike Dawkins who actually supported a move titled “The God Who Wasn’t There,” which actually suggests that Jesus never existed. Dawkins may be an intelligent biologist, but he’s not much else. At least Lee Strobel was willing to ask the hard questions and see what answers he got. Dawkins just ignores the hard questions.

    But anyway, I mean nothing against you by this, I just think Lee Strobel deserves more credit, and maybe I misunderstood you.

  8. That’s sad about Jesse Kilgore. :( I heard suicide rates increased in one particular country after Sam Harris released “The End of Faith”. I question why in the world atheists even care to give their opinion to anyone else. After all, what they do is of no importance according to their own world view, so convincing others to believe them does nothing in the end.

  9. Domoman,

    Honestly, I have never read Strobel’s books, or really read much of his writings period. And frankly I’m glad you called me out on this – I didn’t come across the way I wanted.

    Let me put it to you this way. The lately I normally see is, ‘Well, Dawkins is meant to face off against popularizers like Strobel. And Strobel is a complete lightweight!’ So the estimation that Strobel is low-grade isn’t mine – but the result still is a defense of Dawkins that amounts to ‘Well, he’s meant to wade in the kiddy end of the pool, not where adults go.’

    Hopefully that straightens out what I meant.

  10. Sure, ideas have consequences, Denyse. That isn’t a particularly novel or profound observation. The important thing is what is your proposed plan of action?

  11. ‘Well, he’s meant to wade in the kiddy end of the pool, not where adults go.’

    And to continue this even further, you can say about Dawkins that he wades into the kiddy end of the pool where he’s dunked by the five year olds. LOL.

  12. To make it clear, I think Strobel is a smart guy and no lightweight.

  13. Thankfully, someone has noted that there is certainly much more to this story, if it is not simply outright propaganda. Worldnet Daily is a less than reliable source. I’d check the facts in this article before I go believing it. It’s just good critical thinking, which ID proponents are big fans of. The “bookmark on the last page” thing particularly smacks of something that is a bit too convenient.

    Ideas have consequences? Undoubtedly. So is the implication that people should shut up if their ideas could possibly upset others, even if they believe those ideas are true? Remember, this is a two-edged sword.

    Domoman said: I question why in the world atheists even care to give their opinion to anyone else. After all, what they do is of no importance according to their own world view, so convincing others to believe them does nothing in the end.

    Wow, it’s hard to know where to start with this. Domoman, you ought to try engaging real atheists instead of setting up straw men on websites were atheists cannot respond freely to your contention. You might learn something if you do. No atheist I know believes that what they do is of no importance. You might argue that they ought to believe this, according to what you see as the logical implications of atheism, but atheists can and do mount some very compelling counter-arguments that this is in fact NOT the logical implications of atheism. Atheists have a right to act and interact with the world the way they see fit. You don’t really have either the logical support or the moral right to suggest they ought to shut up, which is what you just did.

  14. The father is a chaplain in the military. It’s probably safe to say he’s a disciplinarian and whatever religious beliefs his son had were taught to him by the father at an early age. In a World Net Daily interview the father tells us his son blogged under the name PKrapture because he believed in the rapture.

    The child grows up, does a hitch in the military himself, comes home, enrolls in community college, and takes a biology class.

    Presumably, according to sources who knew him, he gradually lost the faith that the Son of God was going to swoop down from heaven and save the world. Presumably, exposure to science in a college setting, is what caused the loss of faith. The loss of faith was too much for him so he walked out into the woods alone and killed himself with a gun.

    So who do we blame? The father, religion, science, college, guns, or Dawkins?

    I agree there’s almost certainly some other factor we don’t know about here. Well adjusted, healthy, bright, capable young men don’t walk out into the woods and take their own lives. Every day millions of young people with deep religious beliefs attend college science classes and don’t get so shaken up over what they learn that they commit suicide.

    But if we take it face value then if we remove any of the factors I listed above this might not have happened. Anyone who singles out Dawkins is no better than Dawkins who singles out the father. Dawkins is rather famous for saying that parents indoctrinating children into their religious beliefs constitutes child abuse. Advertising this case only gives Dawkins view more credibility.

    Of course no one in the ID movement ever listens to me about these things. So I’ll just add this onto the list of ill-advised things that ID proponents say that serve to undermine their own goals and prove the opposition right that it really is all about religion.

  15. FWIW, re:

    Popular media and the intelligent design controversy

    Intelligent Design is becoming a part of the public conscience. I watched an episode of the series called Heroes a couple of weeks ago called ‘Our Father.’ The theme of the show was the ‘evolution’ of special powers in humans. The choice of the name of the episode of ‘Our Father’ is interesting because, although it dealt with a couple of fathers in the show, the primary father character was attempting to create special abilities as a way to save the world. Well, we all know the christian prayer ‘Our Father’ is addressed to God. This is an allusion that would be easy to avoid if the program creators wanted to, but they kept the choice of words with the double meaning.

    This may be over-reaching, but another line from the show supports a double meaning. It is this sentence that is of interest to ID. One character comes to the lab where the formula for mutation is being created. He asks what is going on at the lab. Then another character answers: “We are doing Intelligent Design.” So it appears, not only do the creators of the show understand that new living creatures are intelligently designed by ‘Our Father,’ but more importantly, they expect a large number of their audience to understand this also. This seems to me that ID is making an significant impact in contemporary society. It may not be an instant, all out victory, but a gradual change in worldviews that will have significant impact. I think there is a lesson to be learned here. We must not give up. Regardless of the set-backs, i.e. Dover, etc., if we persevere we will succeeded because ultimately ID is a much better answer to our origins than unintelligent evolution.

  16. Gremlin,

    Wow, it’s hard to know where to start with this. Domoman, you ought to try engaging real atheists instead of setting up straw men on websites were atheists cannot respond freely to your contention. You might learn something if you do. No atheist I know believes that what they do is of no importance. You might argue that they ought to believe this, according to what you see as the logical implications of atheism, but atheists can and do mount some very compelling counter-arguments that this is in fact NOT the logical implications of atheism. Atheists have a right to act and interact with the world the way they see fit. You don’t really have either the logical support or the moral right to suggest they ought to shut up, which is what you just did.

    Hey, I never said atheists don’t have the right to act or interact the way they see fit. I said I don’t see the reason for their persistence in suggesting they are right. As, according to their world view, everything is without purpose and meaning. Sure, atheists can make up their own “meaning” and “purpose” but it would be completely arbitrary, as it does not really change anything.

    You also said,

    atheists can and do mount some very compelling counter-arguments that this is in fact NOT the logical implications of atheism.

    What do you think the logical implications of atheism are?

    As far as I see it, if atheism is true it holds that: everything is utterly meaningless, purposeless and therefore there is absolutely no value in anything because all of mankind, no matter what we do, will die. There is no better route, and all things will end the same. As such, it follows that there really is no right or wrong, no better or worse way to live, and ultimately no purpose in anything.

    I’m not building up straw-men, I’m speaking of the implications. If you don’t realize that if atheism is true then life has no ultimate meaning or value, then you obviously don’t comprehend the reality of that worldview.

  17. BTW, I think DaveScot makes a good point. We can’t just blame the situation on Dawkins. The situation could partially be because of Dawkins book, but we can’t just blame him.

  18. Several months ago I got in a little trouble on this site when I said that ID supporters (of which I am one) should “shut up” when they try to blame specific tragedies on the New Atheists and their writings.

    I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to repeat myself. We ID supporters should shut up when it comes to blaming specific acts of suicide or murder on Dawkins, Harris and others. Yes, ideas have consequences, but I don’t think you can apply this very well unless the individual who committed the act lives in the full light of history, such as Hitler, Stalin and others who committed evil and who also wrote of the influence that Atheism and Darwin had on their worldviews.

    We cannot know why this young man did what he did, and a maudlin interview of a grief-stricken father done with a manipulative musical backing track doesn’t help us to know. Trying to use a specific personal tragedy to score points seems kind of sick to me.

    If you disagree, then don’t be surprised or express disapproval if you see some pro-atheist sites blame this suicide on Christian belief and ID.

  19. Nullasalus,

    Ah, I get what you’re saying. That makes sense to me. You should check out some of Lee Strobel’s books sometime. He’s cool because he gathers basically the toughest of critiques against Christianity and Intelligent Design and then poses them to proponents of said groups. He might be considered “light weight” because he is not necessarily an expert in any particular field, but his investigations bring up answers to A LOT of questions.

    Keep it cool man,
    Domoman

  20. —–Dave Scot:

    —–Stuart Harris:

    The issue is not what causes suicide but rather what prevents it.
    I know of two studies done in the l960′s and one done in the 1990′s, each of which conclude three things:

    1) Religion fosters social integration, which in turn, provides a barrier to teen suicide.

    2) Vision in the afterlife seems to contravene self destructive impulses.

    3) Religious organizations offer networking and social support that discourage suicidal impulses.

    Unfortunately, some religious organizations do not play this role because they are either too liberal or too cultish. But the broader point remains. Orthodox religion, that is, a Christian community that takes its own teachings seriously, curbs suicidal tendencies.

    Also, there are studies which show beyond doubt that religion, the Christian religion at least, provides positive benefits for social order religion. We talked this out on a recent thread and I provided plenty of evidence that all objections to the contrary are misapplied.

    It follows that if religion helps society, then anti-reigion hurts it. So, forget about this or that example, and look at the macro picture.

  21. I should have said…provides positive benefits for the social order….

  22. Several months ago I got in a little trouble on this site when I said that ID supporters (of which I am one) should “shut up” when they try to blame specific tragedies on the New Atheists and their writings.

    Wasn’t that the post about the church shooting in Colorado? I seem to recall Barry wondering if they’d find any Dawkins among the shooters possessions. Did they ever release what they found?

  23. This tragedy is particularly poignant as I, at age 20, went through a similar crisis, though I’d grown up a naturalist, not a Christian.

    I’d also say the cause is peripherally related to ID since the Philosophical Materialism of Dawkins blatantly rejects any possibility of an intelligent Agent as the source for many striking phenomena of reality observed by science.

    Steven Weinberg’s dreary article “Without God” sums up where I was more than 30 years ago and apparently where young Kilgore wound up:

    “Worse, the worldview of science is rather chilling. Not only do we not find any point to life laid out for us in nature, no objective basis for our moral principles, no correspondence between what we think is the moral law and the laws of nature, of the sort imagined by philosophers from Anaximander and Plato to Emerson. We even learn that the emotions that we most treasure, our love for our wives and husbands and children, are made possible by chemical processes in our brains that are what they are as a result of natural selection acting on chance mutations over millions of years. And yet we must not sink into nihilism or stifle our emotions. At our best we live on a knife-edge, between wishful thinking on one hand and, on the other, despair.”

    Weinberg tries to put on a cheery face, even urging readers that they “must not sink into nihilism.” But as a remedy to despair this high-priest of naturalism offers, literally, NOTHING.

    “As religious belief weakens, more and more of us know that after death there is nothing.”

    The colossal insight provided by materialistic evolution was not “survival of the fittest,” but rather an unspoken, bleak realization of Death’s Domination, that “all living beings, fit and unfit alike, are doomed to everlasting annihilation.”

    This depressing outlook of Philosophical Materialism ought to be clearly presented in schools over against other philosophies since materialism is now the de facto basis of modern western Science.

    Many people committed to ID know the philosophical repercussions of materialism. Even Weinberg finds it wholly natural to believe that murderers in the name of religious laws are “evil” for obeying those laws. Wittingly or unwittingly, the realization that there are literally “evil” people in the world, coupled with the above observation of everlasting annihilation, leads to added depressing contemplation.

    1) Hitler and all his evil jack-booted Nazi henchmen are condemned

    2) All innocent victims of the Nazi regime, children, elderly, men and women, are awarded recompense

    The punishment and recompense are equally – everlasting oblivion by utter annihilation.

    So one may find the Agent of Theism hard to understand, but the brutal, farcical absurdity of unadulterated Philosophical Materialism is fraught with far more intellectual challenges.

    Most of the world is not upper middle-class, drifting along fat, dumb and happy. Multiplied millions struggle daily for mere survival. Many suffer rape, violent assault, torture and brutal murder. Yet the everlasting finale, according to Dawkins and Weinberg et al, is the same for happy-go-lucky prospering middle-class Americans and poverty-stricken Indian untouchables – oblivion.

    I’d say the grave absurdity of materialism, in conjunction with being told the faith he’d grown up with from youth was an illusion, was the one-two punch that drove young Kilgore to enter the supposed eternal oblivion.

    Doubtless most people in the middle of the bell-shaped curve do not resort to such drastic measures when their worldview is challenged. But I wholly identify with Kilgore’s crisis. After growing up with naturalism and the implied philosophical materialism, I reached the numbing realization at university that “Nothing” was the point of life and that nothing prevented me from ending it all (as StephenB in #21 points out). I sank into the debilitating despair Weinberg mentions and that resulted in flunking out of university. Thankfully as a last resort while in the USMC I reluctantly, but seriously, considered another philosophical paradigm from which to view reality, Theism. With a paradigm that postulates an Agent that brought forth the universe, and the corollary that physical death may not end one’s sentience and personal identity, then there was at least the possibility of judgment for human behavior, punishment and recompense, and that very prospect has been openly proclaimed for millennia. I have since become acquainted with the eternal “Someone” to whom everyone owes their loyalty, and to whom all will give an account.

  24. benkeshet,

    If you go to ASA there is a similar discussion going on though the condemnation of atheism is not as severe as yours. So far only a few people have commented.

    http://www.calvin.edu/archive/asa/200812/

    Go down to the thread identified as “Appeasing TE”.

    I agree with your assessment but never was in your position since I always believed in Theism. By the way, most of the ID people are Theists. They just disagree with some other Theists on how the “Someone” as you call Him operates/d.

  25. Thanks Jerry, I’ll take a look.

  26. Benkeshet, nice post (#24). Maybe you should talk to Gremlin. He suggests that there is logical reasons to think that pointlessness and nothingness isn’t at the core of atheism. I don’t think he understands his (or, I’m assuming its his) own worldview.

  27. One of the issues in Jesse’s tragedy is whether a college biology teacher can recommend a book like God Delusion to a student in a United States college. Shouldn’t he stick to teaching science as approved by the authorities?

    The Dover trial, and other trials before, condemned the school board because their attempt was supposedly a religion related issue, and as such it violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

    I am not a legal expert, but it seems to me that if the Establishment Clause is good for the goose, it ought to be good also for the gander. It might be worthwhile to subject the college school board, and in a wider sense Dawkins and atheism, to the same test.

Leave a Reply