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Quote of the Day

Some [men] kill because their faiths explicitly command them to do so, some kill though their faiths explicitly forbid them to do so, and some kill because they have no faith and hence believe all things are permitted to them. Polytheists, monotheists, and atheists kill – indeed, this last class is especially prolifically homicidal, if the evidence of the twentieth century is to be consulted. Men kill for their gods, or for their God, or because there is no God and the destiny of humanity must be shaped by gigantic exertions of human will . . .

Men will always seek gods in whose name they may perform great deeds or commit unspeakable atrocities . . . Then again, men also kill on account of money, land, love, pride, hatred, envy or ambition.

Does religious conviction provide a powerful reason for killing? Undeniably it often does. It also often provides the sole compelling reason for refusing to kill, or for being merciful, or for seeking peace; only the profoundest ignorance of history could prevent one from recognizing this. For the truth is that religion and irreligion are cultural variables, but killing is a human constant.

David Bentley Hart, Atheist Delusions, 12-13

 

Can anyone possibly doubt that these claims are true.  They are practically self-evident.  Thus, the currency of the “religion is the cause of all violence” dogma currently fashionable among the new atheists is all but inexplicable on rational grounds.

 

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261 Responses to Quote of the Day

  1. Are you kidding me? Do you seriously think that atheists are responsible for more killings than the religious? Do you have ANY data to back that up with? Or would you have to go with the usual lie – Hitler was an atheist?

    Also, you KNOW that “[...] some kill because they have no faith and hence believe all things are permitted to them” is completely and obviously wrong. How do you see that atheists doing whatever they want (unlike the real world, where atheists are just as responsible and caring as anyone else) is “self-evident”?

    How have I, as an atheist, managed not to kill or hurt anyone in my life if violence comes so easy to me? Can you explain that?

  2. How about “you have terrible aim”?

    More seriously, I think you’re missing the point of the post. Or maybe you want to change the subject lest yet another New Atheist talking point gets exposed as a bunch of garbage.

    The motivations to cause harm or kill are tremendous in number and damn diverse. As Barry says, what was posted was practically self-evident. Turning that into an accusation that you, personally, have killed someone is some impressive mental gymnastics.

    (As for data to back that up, The Irrational Atheist goes a long way in providing data, among other books.)

  3. What does this post have to do with intelligent design? Surely it just feeds into the argument that IDists are religiously – not scientifically – motivated.

  4. I agreed with most of that quote up until you strawmanned the new atheists. I don’t think any of the so-called “new atheists” would agree that “religion is the cause of all violence”. They might say that religion causes a lot of violence, but it would be ludicrous to say that it causes ALL violence. If it really is “dogma”, surely you can provide some quotes from prominent atheists to support your position?

  5. Barry Arrington:

    Thus, the currency of the “religion is the cause of all violence” dogma currently fashionable among the new atheists is all but inexplicable on rational grounds.

    Who among the “new atheists” has claimed that religion is the cause of all violence?

    Names and direct quotes, please.

  6. Well, that’s the ID way of making a point. Call Hitler an atheist and ignore the fact that nearly all of the 21st century killing is being done because of religion.

    Meanwhile, all of the human to human killing in the entire history of the human race falls far short of the death and destruction caused by the Black Plague, Influenza, Malaria and other epidemics.

    And, as Michael Behe says in “The Edge of Evolution”, “Malaria was intentionally designed.” I assume that goes for the Plague, Influenze and other disease causing organisms. No human made them, ID claims that Darwinian evolution couldn’t make them, that only leaves one source – and you worship Him.

  7. What is a ‘new atheist’ anyway? Does anyone actually know any?

    Most of my close friends are atheist, and have been for twenty/thirty years. Are they new or old atheists? Is there a cut-off point?

    Seems to me that all atheists nowadays are classed as ‘new atheists’ as it makes us all seem like shallow dimwits who all just read the God Delusion one day and decided to follow the herd.

  8. 8

    You said it BGOG. The “new atheists” are the herd you refer to.

  9. It’s great to see the recent surge in posts about religion, a refreshing alternative to science, which can get boring at times.

    But moderators should be alert to any insults to worshipers in The Church of Atheism.

  10. lol,

    “It also often provides the sole compelling reason for refusing to kill, or for being merciful”

    I must disagree with this bit, Buddhism is all about compassion towards others, because all others are practically yourself. As religion can defined to exclude Buddhism, then one must think that anyone that has religion as their “sole compelling” reason hasn’t really ventured into the wide world.

  11. Atheist Atrocities Frightening Stats About Atheists

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tP1KpNEeRYU

  12. Are you kidding me? Do you seriously think that atheists are responsible for more killings than the religious? Do you have ANY data to back that up with?

    Here you go.

    Don’t even have to mention Hitler who I would not call an atheist but rather a Jew and Christian hating pagan.

  13. DanSLO wrote:

    I don’t think any of the so-called “new atheists” would agree that “religion is the cause of all violence”. They might say that religion causes a lot of violence, but it would be ludicrous to say that it causes ALL violence. If it really is “dogma”, surely you can provide some quotes from prominent atheists to support your position?

    I think there is a logical path from religion to doing terrible things…. There’s a logical path that says, if you really, really, really believe that your God, Allah, whoever it is, wants you to do something–and you’ll go to heaven, you’ll go to Paradise if you do it–then it’s possible for an entirely logical, rational person to do hideous things. – Richard Dawkins

    It is somewhat trite, but nevertheless sadly true, to say that more wars have been waged, more people killed, and these days more evil perpetrated in the name of religion than by any other institutional force in human history. – Charles Kimball

    However, religious moderates are themselves the bearers of a terrible dogma: they imagine that the path to peace will be paved once each of us has learned to respect the unjustified beliefs of others. I hope to show that the very ideal of religious tolerance-born of the notion that every human being should be free to believe whatever he wants about God-is one of the principal forces driving us toward the abyss. – Sam Harris

    BGOG wrote:

    Seems to me that all atheists nowadays are classed as ‘new atheists’ as it makes us all seem like shallow dimwits who all just read the God Delusion one day and decided to follow the herd.

    Go to any site that allows comments on religion (Youtube is a good one) and read. You’ll find pretty much what you’ve described.

    If the prominent atheists like Dawkins, Harris, et al, don’t believe religion causes all violence, they’re doing a poor job of informing their sycophants of it.

  14. angryoldfatman,

    Not only do your quotes fail to support your thesis, but one of them isn’t even from an atheist. Charles Kimball is an ordained Baptist minister.

    Good job.

  15. The quote from David Hart makes a lot of sense. The part which seems to have raised hackles in certain quarters is this sentence:

    It [Religion] also often provides the sole compelling reason for refusing to kill, or for being merciful.

    Some readers took this to mean that Hart was saying that atheists had no reason not to kill. If he really meant that, then he was obviously wrong. Now, I haven’t read Hart’s book, but I very much doubt that this was what he meant.

    What Hart seems to be saying is that there are certain difficult situations in everyday life where killing someone might seem to make excellent sense from a non-religious perspective, on rational grounds, but where a religious person (and here I include Buddhists) would have to say, “No! That’s wrong.”

    Here are some cases that Hart may have had in mind:

    (1) Refusing to kill a severely disabled newborn or unborn baby whose “quality of life” is deemed to be low;

    (2) Refusing to kill an elderly Alzheimer’s patient who is no longer aware of his/her surroundings, and whose family is unable to foot the medical bill for his/her upkeep;

    (3) Showing mercy to a hardened, unrepentant young criminal who has killed innocent people on multiple occasions, by commuting his sentence from death to life imprisonment, in the hope that he will eventually come to his senses, repent of his sins, and spend the rest of his life behind bars witnessing to other prisoners and helping them to put their lives back together.

    I’m not saying that a secular humanist would do none of these things, but I am saying that I would expect such behavior only of a religious person.

    What about a Buddhist? Many Buddhists are not theists, but I certainly wouldn’t call them irreligious. Buddhists believe in an inherently moral universe where “What goes around, comes around,” and where evildoers are stuck on the roundabout of birth and rebirth, until they learn to conquer their self-centered desires.

    On the subject of religious atrocities, here are two articles I’d recommend to readers. The first article, written by a non-believer, is the humorous but very thoughtful article, “Which Has Killed More People – Christianity Or Gun Control?” by Matthew White (a researcher who has spent a lot of time investigating atrocities) at http://users.erols.com/mwhite28/gunsorxp.htm . White is not a scholar, but he is an impartial investigator, and he puts forward some very sensible criteria in his article for determining the degree to which a religion should be held responsible for a war or atrocity. Readers might like to check out what he says on Hitler and Stalin.

    (By the way, I just came across an interesting online extract here from William Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (1959), which makes a good case for the proposition that Hitler’s philosophy, including his view that the supreme leader is above the morals of ordinary men, owed much to the philosopher Nietzsche. “That in the end Hitler considered himself the superman of Nietzsche’s prophecy cannot be doubted,” writes Shirer. To be fair, the author points out that Hitler’s anti-Semitism cannot be attributed to Nietzsche, who “was never an anti-Semite.”)

    The second article I’d recommend is “Does Christianity Cause War?” by Nick Megoran at http://rfiaonline.org/extras/a.....-cause-war . Dr. Nick Megoran is a political geographer and a lecturer in human geography at Newcastle University. Dr. Megoran’s candor is evident in the following quote from his article:

    As a scholar largely preoccupied with the study of war and conflict, I regard the implication of religion in violence as the greatest intellectual challenge to the claim that God exists.

    I invite readers to peruse his article and draw their own conclusions.

    Some readers have asked for documentary evidence that atheists claim religion is the cause of all or even most wars. How about this article, “Religion – The Cause Of All Wars” by Dr. Charles Sabillon at http://www.buzzle.com/articles.....-wars.html ?

    Finally, readers who are looking for an academic study providing a rigorous attempt to quantify the number of deaths from the major wars in history and the degree to which organized religion is responsible might do well to check out a report entitled “God and War: An Audit and An Exploration,” compiled by Dr. Greg Austen, Todd Ktranock and Thom Oommen, at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/shared....._audit.pdf in response to a request by the BBC to investigate how many wars had been caused by religion. While I would disagree with some points made by the study’s authors, their research certainly represents a valuable addition to the debate on the role of religion in war. The authors conclude:

    [T]his study has concluded that very few if any wars in the past 100 years have been purely religious wars. Looking at the casualty figures for the past ten years, despite genocidal atrocities in Rwanda and Yugoslavia, there is clearly a transformation away from the levels of mass death reached during the great wars and revolutions of the early twentieth century. Despite the negativity around the role of religion in violent conflict, this study has demonstrated that the picture is much more complicated.

    Matthew White’s article “Blame and Responsibility” at http://users.erols.com/mwhite28/war-faq.htm#Blame is also worth reading for its discussion of the role of religion. He also gives some deatiled statistics on various estimates of massacre tolls throughout history at http://users.erols.com/mwhite2.....tm#20worst , http://users.erols.com/mwhite28/warstat0.htm and http://users.erols.com/mwhite28/warstatv.htm .

  16. 17

    The point of the post is obvious enough. Killers are motivated by a wide variety of causes, and thus the notion that religious belief must be singled out as the primary cause of violence is not only historically inaccurate, it is also logically absurd. All of the comments from the atheists (or at least those defending the new atheist position) validate the thesis of the post in spades – the new atheist position cannot be defended on rational grounds, which I will demonstrate in the next few comments.

    Let’s start with Nathaniel.

    Nathaniel asks if I seriously contend that atheists are responsible for more killings than theists. Strawman. Hart never said that. He merely pointed to the evidence of the 20th century to demonstrate that atheists such as Mao, Stalin and Pol Pot were “prolifically homicidal.” If tens of millions of dead bodies at the hands of these monsters is not evidence that Hart is correct, then you are hopeless and there is no sense in arguing with you further. “Who killed more” is not a question Hart asks. His point is that “both kill.”

    Then Nathaniel asks, “How do you see that atheists doing whatever they want (unlike the real world, where atheists are just as responsible and caring as anyone else) is “self-evident?” Another strawman. Hart never said that all atheists do whatever they want. He said that “SOME kill because they have no faith and hence believe all things are permitted to them.” Yes, this is self-evident, and I need point no futher than Mao, Stalin or Pol Pot, again, to prove the point.

    Finally, Nathaniel asks, “How have I, as an atheist, managed not to kill or hurt anyone in my life if violence comes so easy to me? Can you explain that?” Yet another strawman. Again, Hart never said that all atheists are killers, just that some of them are because they do not believe themselves to be constrained by morality.

    Nathaniel, it seems that the best you can do is to try to distract people away from the argument by setting up and knocking down one strawman after another. Thank you for proving my point.

  17. 18

    PaulT asks what this point has to do with science. Nothing in particular. Is that all you’ve got Paul?

  18. 19

    DanSLO and mauka, do not actually defend the atheists, but takes the hyperbole in my last sentence literally. Sorry guys; didn’t mean to throw you off. But see the angryoldfatman at [13] for examples (which could be multiplied endlessly) of the sort of thing my admittedly hyperbolic statement was aimed at.

  19. Those calling “outrage!” that atheists are more likely to kill are missing the point. I also think the statistics of who killed more, atheists or theists, is superfluous to the actual information. Richard Dawkins and other famous atheists try to spread naturalism, not to spread truth or knowledge, but because they hate religion and feel the world would be better without it. Go on Dawkin’s website and you see/read things like a picture of the WTC towers, standing gloriously, with the words “IMAGINE A WORLD WITHOUT RELIGION”.

    Today is the 10th aniversary of the school shooting at Columbine. The two kids, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, were not professed Christians, Jews (although one of them came from a Jewish family), Muslims. They just hated everyone. I don’t know if they were atheists, although Harris seemed to believe he would go on to some other form of his life. But Harris’ 30-40 page journal frequently talks about natural selection, and the shirt he wore the day of the killings read “Natural Selection”. If he had more knowledge about bomb building, the bombs he built would have killed hundreds. It would have been the 2nd worst attack in the continental United States ever, and would not have been religiously motivated. btw, I’m not saying “Darwinism” or “naturalism” is to blame.

    While I didn’t see the need for the the slant towards atheist murder in the original post, the general point stands perfectly clear, that people kill for many, many reasons, not just for religious motivations. Any honest, rational person can see this, and this basically defeats the entire motivation of the advancement of atheism of people like Dawkins. A world without religion would be filled with just as much murder as it is now.

  20. What does this post have to do with intelligent design? Surely it just feeds into the argument that IDists are religiously – not scientifically – motivated.

    Actually it just points to the fact that people like Richard Dawkins are religiously, not scientifically, motivated. This post has nothing to do with ID, but is a very interesting topic of conversation for most regular readers (from both sides of the debate), as shown by the passionate response.

  21. Barry, have you been drinking? Very little media boosterism is based on reason. If Mondays tend to make you think a little too fondly of bare bodkins, by all means stay away from HuffingtonPost et al today.

    MSM storylines, c. 2009: The New Atheists are champions of reason. ID is creationism. AGW is a proven scientific fact. Embryonic stems cells cure blindness. “Gay marriage” skeptics are hateful bigots. Racism and sexism are still thriving, despite the fact that 50% of the workforce is female and the President is black. Fidel is still a dreamer with a beard. The Rosenbergs are still innocent. God is still dead.

    And did anybody tell you that Bush knew about 9/11?

    The Boomer Left controls the MSM. Hard to tell whether the current contagion of exuberant irrationality is a sign of the apocalypse or its own immanent demise. On rainy days and Mondays, we lean toward the former.

  22. 23

    djmullen is seriously confused. He accuses me of calling Hitler an atheist. DJ, did you actually read the post to which you are responding? It does not even mention Hitler. Was he an atheist? I don’t know, but it seems likely that, as tribune7 points out, he was a Jew and Christian hating pagan. So, whether Hitler was a theist or an atheist is beside the point of the post. The point of the post, DJ, is that both atheists and theists kill. Thus, theism and atheism are variables; only killing is constant. Therefore, there is no good, far less compelling, reason to single out religious belief for censure. Write that down. Think on it. Then see if you can write a comment that actually responds to it instead of something that was never said or implied in the post.

  23. 24

    There’s nothing particularly controversial about the passage except for the comment that “this last class [of atheist] is especially prolifically homicidal,” which is a gratuitous slap at the non-religious. (No, Barry, he is not merely slamming a few maniacal dictators but atheists as a “class.”) Since the post ends with another such gratuitous slap by the author, the post and the quote are at least consistent.

  24. 25

    Adel DiBagno substitutes sneering sarcasim for reasoned argument. Way to go Adel. Thanks for helping to prove my point.

  25. There’s nothing particularly controversial about the passage except for the comment that “this last class [of atheist] is especially prolifically homicidal,” which is a gratuitous slap at the non-religious. (No, Barry, he is not merely slamming a few maniacal dictators but atheists as a “class.”) Since the post ends with another such gratuitous slap by the author, the post and the quote are at least consistent.

    First, I also didn’t like that slant against atheism in the post or quote. It hinders conversation of what really matters, that one is not more likely to kill just because one believes in God.

    It is not particularly controversial for anyone who is honest and rational, but there are people selling millions of books, touring the world, spreading the message that atheism is the only safe “belief” system. Dawkins’ website is a self-proclaimed “oasis of reason”, and he has books for sale there that feature titles such as “the enemies of reason”. It is nothing but deceitful glorification of his religion.

  26. 27

    David Kellogg’s response is reasonable enough except he suggests that Hart is attacking all atheists as prolifically homicidal, not just the maniacal dictators I mention above. Not so. Hart points to the history of the 20th century as evidence to support the statement. The most reasonable interpretation is that he is pointing to Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, and other communist, militantly atheist, dictators of their ilk.

  27. 28

    uoflcard, you’re arguing in favor of a post that doesn’t exist.

  28. 29

    Barry, the sentence says: “Polytheists, monotheists, and atheists kill – indeed, this last class is especially prolifically homicidal, if the evidence of the twentieth century is to be consulted.” He makes no mention of any specific event and does not distinguish between leaders and followers. Hart — and you — need to paint with a finer brush.

  29. 30

    My father, my brother, my sister, my sister-in-law, my brother-in-law — all these, twentieth-century atheists, are members of a “class” that Hart defines as “especially prolifically homicidal.”

  30. Okay, so Barry didn’t mean it when he wrote:

    Can anyone possibly doubt that these claims are true. They are practically self-evident. Thus, the currency of the “religion is the cause of all violence” dogma currently fashionable among the new atheists is all but inexplicable on rational grounds.

    So something that the “new atheists” don’t believe at all, much less dogmatically, would be inexplicable on rational grounds if they actually did believe it.

    Got it.

    And an ordained Baptist minister tells us that “more wars have been waged, more people killed, and these days more evil perpetrated in the name of religion than by any other institutional force in human history.”

    What was the point of this thread again?

  31. 32

    mauka, do you actually have something to say in response to the point of the post, i.e., that men kill for a wide variety of reasons and there is no reason to single out religious belief as the sole or even primary motivation for violence? If not, kindly move along to another site and let the grownups discuss the post.

  32. 33

    David Kellogg: “Hart — and [Barry] — need to paint with a finer brush.”

    Or perhaps you should not be so hyper-sensitive and always straining to take offense where where offense was neither explicitly intended nor implied on any reasonable reading of the text.

  33. Interesting. Recently there has been a string of posts to this website (most of them authored by Barry Arrington and Denyse O’Leary) to the effect that “Darwinism” is directly and causally linked to most of the atrocities of the 20th century. Now we have a post in which the stated thesis is that religion and irreligion are cultural variables, but killing is a human constant..

    So, when the allegation is that “Darwinism” is the source of all of the evils of the modern world, the vast majority of the commentators at this website heartily agree, but when religion is alleged to be the source of those same evils, the conclusion is that “religion and irreligion are cultural variables, but killing is a human constant.”

    So which is it: does “Darwinian atheism” or religion cause human depravity, or could it be that human depravity is caused by something else? Just curious…

  34. 35

    I think it would be simpler if you stopped posting outrageous statements and following them up with an aw shucks, little ole innocent me? attitude. (The same thing happened with the Hitler posts some weeks ago.)

  35. Re #16 vjtorley provides some very interesting links. I really liked

    “Which Has Killed More People – Christianity Or Gun Control?” by Matthew White at http://users.erols.com/mwhite28/gunsorxp.htm .

    White sensibly breaks down the crude question – did religion cause wars? into more detailed questions:

    Were the perpetrators Christian?

    Were the perps from a traditionally Christian society?

    Was the Christianity mainstream?

    Was the conflict mostly religious?

    Was the conflict partly religious?

    He gets mixed results. The crusades clearly answer YES to most of the questions. The first world war gives an answer YES to the first question but not to the others.

    Now replace these questions with their atheist equivalents and ask them of the 20th century communist wars and massacres.

    Were the perpetrators atheist? YES

    Were the perps from a traditionally atheist society? NO

    Was the atheism mainstream? not sure how to apply that to atheism.

    Was the conflict mostly atheist? NO

    Was the conflict partly athiest? hardly – it was about class, economics, and paranoia. Very few people were killed because they were religious.

  36. The original quote said of atheists, “and some kill because they have no faith and hence believe all things are permitted to them”

    This is both inaccurate and offensive.

    In a comment Barry writes,

    … where offense was neither explicitly intended nor implied on any reasonable reading of the text.

    I think a reasonable reading of the line I quoted is offensive.

    I’m an atheist, and I certainly don’t think all things are permitted.

  37. 38

    Mark Frank, I don’t think those questions are particularly answerable. But assuming the raw numbers for people killed are right (which I don’t for either set of numbers), can you express the killings as a percent of world population at the time?

  38. 39

    hazel, I agree. The claim that “and some kill because they have no faith and hence believe all things are permitted to them” is indeed offensive. It sounds like a bad summary of Rope, the Hitchcock movie inspired by the Leopold and Loeb case. But the real Leopold and Loeb were motivated by money.

  39. 40

    hazel and David Kellogg continue to strain to take offense at the following statement: “and some kill because they have no faith and hence believe all things are permitted to them”

    Again, the statement was aimed at neither of you personally. I can only imagine that you are straining to take personal offense as a way to score rhetorical (if not logical) points in the debate, because the statement is without the slightest doubt true for some atheists. Today marks the 10th anniversary of the Columbine massacres by atheists Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. One need look no further than the journals of the two killers for proof that they believed themselves to be beyond normal rules of morality and that belief was grounded in their atheism. QED.

  40. Hazel –I’m an atheist, and I certainly don’t think all things are permitted.

    Why?

  41. and some kill because they have no faith and hence believe all things are permitted to them

    And some have no faith yet do not kill because they have the capacity for empathy, and would not inflict on others what they would not want inflicted on themselves.

  42. But the real Leopold and Loeb were motivated by money.

    No they weren’t.

  43. Barry, perhaps I am parsing the sentence wrong. If the emphasis is on “some”, and is not meant to imply that everyone who has no faith believes that all things are permitted to them,” then I have misread the sentence.

    On the other hand, if it truly is meant to say all who have no faith believe that all things are permitted to them,” then I have read it correctly.

    Can you clarify? Do you agree that this sentence is not meant to imply that “all who have no faith believe that all things are permitted to them?”

  44. 45

    tribune7, you’re right. My apologies.

    Barry Arrington, Eric Harris was a classic psychopath and Dylan Klebold was a suicidal depressive. They were not motivated by anything rational.

    I’m not sure what makes you post things like this (or the Hitler posts earlier) beyond the desire to goad. Your protestations notwithstanding, you’re clearly smart enough to know they are simplistic and offensive. It’s come to the point where your basic tactic is to loosely link a perceived enemy (atheism, Darwinism) with some historical or present evil, then sit back and accuse others of jumping to conclusions.

  45. There are a few facts that we have to face here. Theists accept an objective moral roadmap in the form of the natural moral law; atheists don’t.

    With respect to life issues, the natural law provides both a positive and a negative component, because all aspects of morality exist as composite truths and are based on an objetive reality.

    Example:

    [A] Negative=Thou Shalt Not Murder;

    [B] Positive=Thou Shalt respect the inherent dignity of every human being

    In other words, we are not to commit murder BECAUSE humans have inherent dignity, and humans have human dignity BECAUSE they are made in the “image and likeness of God.”

    So, which belief systems acknowledge that human beings were made in God’s image?

    Judeo/Christianity—-Yes

    Islam———–no

    Atheism———no

    Some atheists establish a subjective moral code against murder, but they cannot justify it because most [Humanist Manifesto I] do not believe that humans have inherent dignity, and the few that do [Humanist Manifesto III] cannot ground it in anything. So atheists’ moral code, to the extent that they have one, has no intellectual force, and its moral destination is unclear.

    Given these facts, who is more likely to follow the roadmap and reach the moral destination? Is it the theists, who affirm the reality of the map but sometimes fail to follow it out of weakness.

    Or, is it the atheists who have no map at all and, therefore, have no idea about any kind of moral objective?

    The answer to that question illuminates difference between atheism and theism with respect to their treatment of other human beings and the actual number of people killed. The atheists have the bigger numbers by a factor of about a thousand to one.

  46. And, when the allegation is that atheism is the source of all of the evils of the modern world, the vast majority of the commentators at this website again agree, but when religion is alleged to be the source of those same evils, the conclusion is that “religion and irreligion are cultural variables, but killing is a human constant.”

  47. In #48 StephenB wrote:

    “The answer to that question illuminates difference between atheism and theism with respect to their treatment of other human beings and the actual number of people killed. The atheists have the bigger numbers by a factor of about a thousand to one.”

    So, morality is a function of quantity: if something (atheism/religion) results in harm and/or death to X, it is less morally reprehensible than something that results in harm and/or death to X+n, right? Ergo, according to StephenB’s view of morality, if he kills one person, that is 20 times less morally wrong than someone who kills 20 people? Terrific! He can now go out and randomly kill a dozen people, and justify this by pointing to Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot, right?

  48. Nathaniel:
    For some documentation on communist regimes and crimes against humanity, see:
    http://www.amazon.com/Black-Bo.....038;sr=8-1

  49. Re: 13

    I’m not familiar with Charles Kimball and the Sam Harris quote says nothing about violence, but instead is talking about how the idea of religious tolerance often stifles criticism of religiously motivated violence. (As a side note, Harris and others don’t advocate institutionalized religious intolerance or discrimination, but rather a kind of social intolerance and a culture people feel freer to criticize religion).

    Even the Dawkins quote supports the quote in the original post. He’s saying that religion can provide a motivation for violence, not that it is the ONLY one or that if we get rid of religion we will eliminate violence.

  50. The fact that if you believe that man is made in the image of God then you believe that people have inherent dignity does NOT imply that if you don’t believe that man is made in the image of God then you don’t believe people have inherent dignity.

    This is basic logic, taught in about 9th grade, I believe: the inverse of a conditional does not necessarily have the same truth value as the conditional itself.

  51. Hazel, what do you believe gives people inherent dignity? I don’t disagree with your logic, I’m just curious.

    I’m also interested in your response to tribune7 at 40.

  52. 53

    Allen MacNeill asks: “So which is it: does “Darwinian atheism” or religion cause human depravity, or could it be that human depravity is caused by something else? Just curious…”

    Your question is beside the point of the post. This post does not attempt to fathom the causes of human depravity. The point of the post is that the depravity of man is a constant. Religious belief and atheism are variable. Killers abound in both camps. Therefore, there is no reason to single out religious belief for special opprobrium. Do you acknowledge that?

  53. 54

    Dave Wisker writes: “And some have no faith yet do not kill because they have the capacity for empathy, and would not inflict on others what they would not want inflicted on themselves.”

    OK Dave. What is your point? That not all atheists are cold-blooded killers? Again, you are responding to an argument that was never made. No one said they were. Would you care to address the point of the post or do you concede it?

  54. Barry, you’re doing the exact same thing in the original post – you’re responding to an argument (“religion is the cause of all violence”) that was never made. If that was just hyperbole as you claim, then you should probably flesh out what exactly your point is before asking people to address it.

  55. In #53 Barry Arrington asks:

    “…there is no reason to single out religious belief for special opprobrium. Do you acknowledge that?”

    Of course I acknowledge that. Do you acknowledge that neither atheism nor “Darwinism” should be singled out for exactly the same kind of special opprobrium? Remember, the heart of the quote that heads this post is:

    “…religion and irreligion are cultural variables, but killing is a human constant.”

  56. The reason I ask is that you and Denyse O’Leary have posted multiple times on precisely this point: that both “Darwinism” and (especially) the atheism that you assert naturally follows from it are directly responsible for most of the human depravity of the 20th century (to the self-righteous applause of most of the regular commentators here). Do you now deny this, and if so, why?

  57. Barry, something else to remember:

    The command “Thou Shalt Not Murder” was not made in a vacuum. There was a reason for it. If murder was not a reality there would have been no reason for the command.

    Something for OT haters to ask: if the 6th Commandment should be repealed would their lives be safer?

  58. PaulT asks what this point has to do with science. Nothing in particular. Is that all you’ve got Paul?
    No, I was asking what this post has to do with intelligent design, and while there is nothing wrong in going off topic, posts like this only add fuel to those that charge that ID is a religiously motivated endeavour.
    But to answer your question – yes – that is all I am asking. Is brevity a problem here?

  59. And if you now deny this, then why post this comment (#40):

    “…the statement is without the slightest doubt true for some atheists. Today marks the 10th anniversary of the Columbine massacres by atheists Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. One need look no further than the journals of the two killers for proof that they believed themselves to be beyond normal rules of morality and that belief was grounded in their atheism. QED.”

    Because it is also “without the slightest doubt true” that Both Harris and Kelbold breathed oxygen and drank liquids containing water. Shall we therefore conclude (using your logic) that breathing oxygen and drinking water are causally related to being mass murderers? Because the logic of your statement (quoted above) is clearly that atheists “…believe themselves to be beyond normal rules of morality.”

  60. 61

    David Kellogg writes:

    “Barry Arrington, Eric Harris was a classic psychopath and Dylan Klebold was a suicidal depressive. They were not motivated by anything rational. I’m not sure what makes you post things like this (or the Hitler posts earlier) beyond the desire to goad. Your protestations notwithstanding, you’re clearly smart enough to know they are simplistic and offensive. It’s come to the point where your basic tactic is to loosely link a perceived enemy (atheism, Darwinism) with some historical or present evil, then sit back and accuse others of jumping to conclusions.”

    Mr. Kellogg, you are quite simply wrong as a factual matter. Columbine is something about which I know a great deal. You see, I represented the families of six of the children killed ten years ago today. In that capacity I spent literally hundreds of hours studying every aspect of the case. I read every word of Harris’ and Klebold’s written journals; listened to every minute of their audiotapes; and watched every moment of their videotapes. I know what I am talking about.

    Harris (and to a lesser extent Klebold) was a self conscious atheist and disciple of Frederick Nietzsche. Anyone who says otherwise is ignorant of the facts or a liar. Harris knew he was going to be world famous, and he spent an inordinate amount of time explaining his motivations for the benefit of posterity. Over and over and over again he talked about the stupidity of religious belief; the superiority of reason; and the futility of attempting to bind to a code of morality those, like him, who “knew” that right and wrong are meaningless concepts. He was smart, even brilliant, and he learned his lessons well. As if to put an exclamation point on this, he singled out religious believers for execution. He asked his victims, “Do you believe in God?” Those who said “yes” he shot in the head as he asked, “Why?”

    Don’t tell me Harris was crazy, that he was not motivated by anything rational. Just the opposite is true. He thought long and hard about the logical consequences of the ideas he had been taught. He reached conclusions – evil conclusions to be sure, but not irrational – and he acted on those conclusions. Don’t try to comfort yourself with the “he was just a crazy punk” theory. I know better.

  61. tribune7: How many murderers have been stopped by the 6th commandment? For that matter, if the 6th commandment somehow stops people from committing murder, then those cultures (and those time periods in our culture) in which the 6th commandment is unknown should be riddled with murderers, right? So it should be a fairly easy task to show that murderers now incarcerated in prisons have never heard of the 6th commandment, but those who have not committed murder have, right? Or am I missing something here – is there, in fact (demonstrated by empirical observation) a causal relationship between having been exposed to the 6th commandment and one’s tendency to commit murder, and if so, where is that evidence (direct citations to primary references please).

  62. 63

    In [55] DanSLO claims (or at least strongly implies) that he has no idea what I’m talking about when I say the new atheists want to point to religious belief as the root of all evil. The only response to that is, give me a break. If you do not acknowledge the self-evident, there is no point in talking to you.

  63. And Andrea Yates drowned her children in the bathtub, one by one, because of her religious beliefs, right?

    We can keep this up all day, and what does it “prove”? To me, it illustrates that “…religion and irreligion are cultural variables, but killing is a human constant.” Wasn’t that precisely the point of this thread?

  64. 65

    Barry, I know you were represented some of the families. That doesn’t make you correct. My view of Harris as a psychopath and Klebold as depressive comes from the new book by Dave Cullen, which has been very widely and well reviewed.

    As for targeting atheists. The New York Times review of Cullen’s book notes:

    A boy who witnessed the murders in the school library told people afterward that a slain student, a fellow evangelical named Cas­sie Bernall, was asked by one of the killers if she believed in God. “Yes, I believe in God,” he said she replied. Two other witnesses, both sitting near Cassie, heard no such thing, and Cullen goes on to say that a 911 tape from that day “proved conclusively” that she hadn’t uttered these words. It didn’t matter. The story caught the imagination of the evangelical world, and Cassie’s mother, Misty Bernall, wrote a book, “She Said Yes,” that has since sold more than one million ­copies.

  65. 66

    No, Allen, Yates was crazy, Harris was rational. See how that works?

  66. Haha, right, David, I forgot about that. Religious murderers are always irrational and insane and therefore their religion is not causally related to their murderousness, but atheist murderers are always rational and sane and therefore their atheism is causally related to their murderousness.

    Sorry I messed up on that one…

  67. Allen– How many murderers have been stopped by the 6th commandment?

    So you do think we would be better off without it?

    For that matter, if the 6th commandment somehow stops people from committing murder, then those cultures (and those time periods in our culture) in which the 6th commandment is unknown should be riddled with murderers, right?

    They are, Allen. The world B.C. (much less before Moses) was a much more violent place.

  68. Again, show some evidence to support your claims. The three quotes you posted earlier don’t support your claims at all. If it really is as self-evident as you claim, it should be easy.

    From my understanding of the new atheist position, they see religion as being divisive, encouraging tribalism and discouraging rational thought, which often leads to violence. That is not the same thing as claiming that religion is the sole root of all evil or whatever. I’m seriously not trying to be obtuse here, but you can’t make sweeping claims like you did earlier without backing it up.

  69. One slight correction: I think it would be more accurate to say that Harris and Klebold were both sociopaths, not psychopaths. The difference is important, as psychopaths are both irrational and insane, whereas sociopaths are usually neither. Andrea Yates was a psychopath, Harris and Klebold were sociopaths.

    Furthermore, it is not necessarily the case that sociopaths become mass murderers. They do whatever it takes to further their own interests to the exclusion of all others, even if their ultimate goal is to become the most famous mass murderer of all time. And of course sociopaths can do so within a religious framework just as easily as they can outside of one. Their religion, or lack thereof, is therefore not the causative factor in their sociopathy.

    To be as clear as possible: regardless of their religious beliefs (or lack thereof) sociopaths lack any form of human empathy, whereas psychopaths are sufficiently deranged that their capacity for empathy is monstrously misdirected. Andrea Yates, in her twisted frame of mind, believed that she was doing the right thing for her children by killing them, thereby saving them from a life of inevitable sin and an eternity in Hell. Harris wanted to be famous as the greatest mass murderer of his generation. There is a world of difference between the two.

  70. tribune7:

    According to your logic, the Judeo-Christian-Muslim-Mormon cultures should have a significantly lower rate of murder and all other violent crimes per capita than, say, Japan. True?

  71. I just realized that you didn’t actually post those quotes, it was “angryoldfatman”. Disregard that, but I think my point still stands.

  72. I don’t know what’s more frightening, (1) the idea that some atheists would kill because they don’t fear divine retribution or (2) the idea that the only thing keeping some religious people from killing is the threat of divine retribution.

    Are there any believers here who would admit to being in the second category? That is, would anyone honestly have killed someone by now if not for fear of divine retribution?

  73. 74

    To clarify, Harris did shoot one girl who said she believed in God. That was Valeen Schnurr, who survived (not Cassie Bernall). But they did not set out to target anybody; they planned to blow up the whole school. When the bomb failed, they went to plan B.

  74. 75

    Ludwig, I’ll add (3) Barry’s belief that Eric Harris’s motivation was “rational.”

  75. 76

    Barry Arrington [25]

    Adel DiBagno substitutes sneering sarcasim for reasoned argument. Way to go Adel. Thanks for helping to prove my point.

    Barry, you seem quick to make harsh judgments. What point did I help you prove and how did I help?

  76. 77

    Allen ManNiell,

    “So which is it: does “Darwinian atheism” or religion cause human depravity, or could it be that human depravity is caused by something else? Just curious…”

    Isn’t all of the above caused by Darwinian evolution ;) Evolution alone is supposed to account for everything, right? Isn’t religion caused by evolution? Isn’t atheism caused by evolution? It would seem that everything is caused and explained–if we are wholly explicable by evolution–by evolution.

  77. DanSLO wrote:

    I just realized that you didn’t actually post those quotes, it was “angryoldfatman”. Disregard that, but I think my point still stands.

    My comment at #13 was just quotes gleaned from five minutes with Google of (what I thought were) prominent atheists.

    Sidebar: I don’t know much about Kimball, but according to my five minute Goggle stint his book When Religion Becomes Evil is a favorite among atheists, along with of course The God Delusion, The End of Faith, Religion Poisons Everything, etc.

    These intellectuals attempt to mitigate their radicalism with soothing, disingenuous sop-throwing, but their message is consistent: religion (in particular Christianity) must be destroyed.

    Why must Christianity be destroyed if it is basically harmless, especially the form that the so-called “moderates” practice? Once again, the message from the atheist vanguard is clear: it is dangerous.

    Well, how is it dangerous? Let’s revisit the Dawkins quote:

    I think there is a logical path from religion to doing terrible things…

    (Context: The terrible things he’s talking about here are things like crashing loaded airplanes into populated skyscrapers.)

    This is the point pounded home time and time again in the New Atheist literature, even in this very thread – religion is dangerous because it incites otherwise normal people to do violence, particularly murder, and often mass murder.

    The simple-minded sycophants mentioned in my comment in #13 make the elementary logical steps necessary to believe that all violence is caused by religion. Just like Klebold, Harris, and Hitler (on whose birthday they purposefully planned their spree to celebrate) made the simple-minded, elementary logical steps linking Darwinian evolution to mass murder.

  78. —-Hazel: “The fact that if you believe that man is made in the image of God then you believe that people have inherent dignity does NOT imply that if you don’t believe that man is made in the image of God then you don’t believe people have inherent dignity.”

    It is not a case of believing, but rather a case of providing a rational justification for that which you believe. Have you got that yet? If you had read the comments thoroughly, you would know that. I made it clear that SOME atheists believe in human dignity, so it should be obvious that your objection is irrelevant.

    —-Hazel: “This is basic logic, taught in about 9th grade, I believe: the inverse of a conditional does not necessarily have the same truth value as the conditional itself.”

    I find that passage very irritating. I don’t want to be unkind here, but I thought I made it understood that I don’t accept you as an authority on logic, in spite of all your claims as an expert. Further, I think I also made it clear that I prefer to rely on my own training on that same subject, which is considerable. I would rather not wield my credentials, and I would prefer that you refrain from that resorting to that same tactic.

    Here is a clue: If you can do logic, you will not have to announce that fact to the world. If you can’t, no autobiographical references will save you. So, please just make your points without any references to logic 101, so I don’t have to call into question your own competency on the matter. Just make your case.

    If you would read the first paragraph more carefully, you would understand the concept of rational justification. Let me provide the sequence for you once again:

    Belief in the image and likeness of God >>>leads to a rational justification for inherent dignity>>>which leads to a positive reason to keep a negative mandate, Thou shalt not kill.

    As an atheist, you may well believe in inherent dignity, but you have yet to provide any rational justification for it. For all I know, you may actually have one that makes sense, and, if that is the case, I look forward to your explanation. It is all clear now?

  79. . . . the simple-minded, elementary logical steps linking Darwinian evolution to mass murder.

    It sounds like you’re saying that people who do bad things based on their understanding of “Darwinian evolution” tend to have a “simple-minded” understanding of it.

    Is that your position?

  80. If you really think that 5 minutes of Googling gives you enough perspective to criticize an entire movement, I don’t know what to say. As someone else pointed out, one of the people you quoted is not even an atheist – Kimball is a Baptist minister.

    If you are truly interested in these topics, I suggest you go read some of the new atheist literature. I think they get a bad rap mainly because of their inflammatory titles (no doubt encouraged by their publishers to sell more books) and from people who think they understand what they are saying but who haven’t actually read the books (as you and Barry are doing).

  81. 82

    Allen McNeill,

    “The reason I ask is that you and Denyse O’Leary have posted multiple times on precisely this point: that both “Darwinism” and (especially) the atheism that you assert naturally follows from it are directly responsible for most of the human depravity of the 20th century…”

    But isn’t it responsible? Isn’t Darwinism responsible for everything? Aren’t we all just the product of our evolution? Even if we admit that religious motivations are responsible for the atrocities, aren’t religious motivations a result of evolution? I thought that evolution accounted for everything, am I wrong? Is there a place where we can go where evolution is not the answer, and that part of us is not explainable by it, but rather by something else separate and apart from it?

  82. 83

    StephenB:

    As an atheist, you may well believe in inherent dignity, but you have yet to provide any rational justification for it. For all I know, you may actually have one that makes sense, and, if that is the case, I look forward to your explanation. It is all clear now?

    hazel can speak for hazel, but my position is based on the Golden Rule. I want to be treated as if I have dignity, and it would be unreasonable for me to treat others differently.

  83. Clive,

    Yes, in a way you are wrong. It is a common trap that many people fall into thinking that anything can be explained by Darwinian natural selection as long as you can rationalize that it provides some kind of benefit or advantage. Steven Jay Gould wrote about this problem quite a bit in many of his essays. If you haven’t read any Gould, I definitely recommend it.

  84. 85

    In [56] Allan MacNeill acknowledges there is no reason to single out religious belief for special opprobrium. It is good to know that Allan disagrees with Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris. Good for him.

  85. 86

    Allan MacNeill writes:
    “Do you acknowledge that neither atheism nor “Darwinism” should be singled out for exactly the same kind of special opprobrium? . . .The reason I ask is that you and Denyse O’Leary have posted multiple times on precisely this point: that both “Darwinism” and (especially) the atheism that you assert naturally follows from it are directly responsible for most of the human depravity of the 20th century (to the self-righteous applause of most of the regular commentators here). Do you now deny this, and if so, why?”

    Sigh. First, I will address the strawman set up and knocked over with such élan. I never said that atheism was responsible for most of the human depravity of the 20th century. I merely pointed out that tens of millions of bodies can be laid at the feet of atheists. Why do I point this out? Because tendentious anti-religious partisans like Dawkins, Dennet and Hitchens seem to believe that a world purged of religious influence would be a model of reason, peace, love, justice, beauty and light. I merely point out that the evidence – in the form of bodies stacked like cordwood – is to the contrary. The two largest experiments in militant atheism in the history of the world – Stalin’s USSR and Mao’s China – were drenched in blood.

    Pointing out this obvious fact is not the same thing as saying that most of the evil of the 20th century can be laid at the feet of atheists. I don’t know why you think it is.

  86. —-Adel Dibagno: “hazel can speak for hazel, but my position is based on the Golden Rule. I want to be treated as if I have dignity, and it would be unreasonable for me to treat others differently.”

    Yes, I understand that it is based on your wishes, but what if someone else’s wishes conflict with yours. Why should the wishes of those who prefer the golden rule be honored over the wishes of those who prefer “might makes right?”

  87. 88

    DanSLO,

    “Yes, in a way you are wrong. It is a common trap that many people fall into thinking that anything can be explained by Darwinian natural selection as long as you can rationalize that it provides some kind of benefit or advantage. Steven Jay Gould wrote about this problem quite a bit in many of his essays. If you haven’t read any Gould, I definitely recommend it.”

    I’m not “rationalizing any advantage or benefit” in my statement. Advantage and benefit are the product of evolution, but so is disadvantage and non-benefit. Everything is the product of evolution, those that live, and those that die, what we think, what we don’t think, what we believe, what we don’t believe, how we act, how we don’t act, etc. There is, apparently, no escape into any realm that isn’t wholly explicable by evolution, right? This includes believe in God and atheism, BOTH the product of evolution. Evolution becomes the standard for what standards are. It cannot be otherwise, UNLESS, we admit, that there is some province or domain within the whole of biological existence that isn’t ruled by evolution. Until we do admit this, evolution takes the brunt of everything, even though it made the standard of what constitutes taking the brunt of any judgment. I wonder, is there any other standard above and beyond evolution that evolution approximates to in what it considers its standards? The old Euthyprho Dilemma, normally advanced against God, now becomes “Does evolution make what is good? Or does evolution adhere to a standard above and beyond itself? It seems obvious that since evolution has dethroned God (sarcasm intended) then all of the old problems that were reserved for God are now applied to evolution. So how does evolution help us to find “real” values, that we can reference objectively, and use as our standard when condemning other aspects of evolutionary behavior? Hmmm?

  88. 89
    AmerikanInKananaskis

    Why can’t you atheists come to grips with the fact that you’re responsible for so much murder and eugenics?

    If you deny that atheism is responsible, how am I supposed to think that you’re aware that atheism tends toward genocide, and that you’ve taken precautions to ensure that you don’t slide down the same slippery slope?

    The reason atheists refuse to take stock is because they are moral degenerates. Even the ones who aren’t directly responsible for genocide just don’t give enough of a damn to care if it happens again in the future.

  89. —Allen: “Do you acknowledge that neither atheism nor “Darwinism” should be singled out for exactly the same kind of special opprobrium?” . .

    I think atheists should be singled out for the simple reason that they devalue life when circumstances create inconveniences and challenging circumstances. Very few people are whacked out enough to actually “want” to take someone else’s life.

    On the other hand, when the heat is on, that is when the real philosophy of life comes out. That’s when we say, “I’m personally opposed, but……… we must kill for the “greater good.” How many atheists do you know who will defend the life of an unborn baby?

  90. Clive,

    I don’t quite know how to respond to the first part of your post – I think we are talking about two different things. Maybe you can clarify what you mean by “explicable”.

    However, as to the point you raised at the end, evolution does NOT help us find real values. A society based on natural selection would be a terrible one indeed, and you’ll find that prominent evolutionary biologists (Dawkins, Gould) all say the same thing. We as humans are under no obligation to construct our moral values based on what we see in nature. Just because nature is brutal doesn’t mean we should not strive to rise above that.

  91. 92

    DanSLO,

    The difficulty runs deeper than I think most people grasp. It runs all the way down, even in to what constitutes brutality and non-brutality. We can’t take it for granted–as if our grantings are outside of evolution–and use anything that wasn’t also supplied by evolution even in order to claim that we should rise above any other evolutionary standard.

  92. 93

    DanSLO writes: “A society based on natural selection would be a terrible one indeed, and you’ll find that prominent evolutionary biologists (Dawkins, Gould) all say the same thing.”

    But of course Dawkins and Gould also say that evolution accounts for everything in biology.

    It is as if Dawkins and Gould think they can simultaneously sit on a tree branch and float in the air above the tree branch to examine it.

    I don’t know what is more amusing. Dawkins and Gould trying to have it both ways; or their followers quoting Dawkins and Gould trying to have it both ways without, apparently, seeing the self-referential incoherence of their masters’ arguments.

  93. How is that incoherent? Even if it were true that Dawkins and Gould say that evolution accounts for everything in biology, why does that preclude us from wanting to rise above that and build a better society?

  94. Your point about sitting on a tree branch and floating above it is rather interesting. It reminds me of one of the central premises of a book that I am in the middle of – GEB.

    We humans do seem to have the unique ability to “step out” of what we are doing and analyze our own place in the universe. Rather than being contradictory, it seems to be one of the defining features of being human.

  95. 96

    DanSLO,

    This is how it’s incoherent:

    The difficulty runs deeper than I think most people grasp. It runs all the way down, even in to what constitutes brutality and non-brutality. We can’t take it for granted–as if our grantings are outside of evolution–and use anything that wasn’t also supplied by evolution even in order to claim that we should rise above any other evolutionary standard.

  96. Allen–According to your logic, the Judeo-Christian-Muslim-Mormon cultures should have a significantly lower rate of murder and all other violent crimes per capita than, say, Japan. True?

    No. Japanese culture is based on religious traditions prohibiting murder.

    Remember, the claim being made is that religion leads to violence and murder. If we repeal the 6th Commandment will we be safer?

    Or if you want to make it universal, if we establish that there is no divine command not to murder, will we be safer, better off, more enlightened etc. as some seem to insist?

  97. 98

    Gould certainly did not say that evolution accounts for everything in human behavior, and of course human behavior is what we’re talking about here. See his “The Politics of Biological Determinism”:

    I regard the critique of biological determinism as both timeless and timely. It is timeless because the errors of biological determinism are so deep and insidious and appeal to the worst manifestations of our common nature. It is timely because the same bad arguments recur every few years with a predictable and depressing regularity.

    Over and over in his writings he argued that culture and consciousness cannot be reduced to evolutionary adaptations, and that the attempt to do so is both futile and wrong.

  98. 99

    DanSLO,

    In other words, there is no judge that is not also on trial if we use evolution as both.

  99. 100

    David,

    “Gould certainly did not say that evolution accounts for everything in human behavior”

    Then what does?

  100. Clive,

    I’m having a hard time understanding what you mean by that. Why are we prevented from using something that wasn’t supplied by evolution to want to transcend our own brutal nature? And even that is to assume that this desire was not supplied by evolution. What if the opposite is true? What if it is our own evolved capabilities for empathy and compassion that is driving our desire to create a better world?

  101. These discussions quickly break down because the discussants argue from within (at least) two very different frames of reference without accounting for that fact as they talk past one another. I am not in this post advocating either frame, but rather describing them and pointing to the disconnect that results.

    For example, when operating within the frame of reference of atheism, the choice is not between non-belief, and the resulting obligation to anchor ethics and morality in human judgement and conduct, and belief, with its attendant moral tether to a relationship with God. There is no such choice. The choice is seen as one between non-belief (and its consequences) and mistaken belief, and the necessary construal that what is taken by the believer to be a moral tether to God is both fictional and of human origins, its spiritual content notwithstanding. Because, within this framework, both moral systems are construed as of human origins – one explicitly so, the other equally human but cloaked in fictional origins – atheists prefer to reason about moral questions themselves, rather than accept moral reasoning originated by people who were remote both culturally and historically, at least not without examination and reformulation.

    Similarly, for those operating within the framework of belief, the choice is not between life in a universe created and given its moral center by God, on one hand, and life in a universe in which there is no God and no such moral center. There is no such choice. Rather, life is conducted under God’s eye and in relationship to that moral center regardless. Some have a relationship with God and the moral center God creates; others ignore God and his morality, and invent ethical systems of their own. God and his moral center obtain regardless. Moreover, the only moral system that counts is that which emanates from God; what the atheists claim as morality isn’t morality at all, but rather human foolishness.

    Conversation across these frames of reference is quite problematic, not the least because atheists construe believers very differently than believers construe themselves, while believers construe atheists very differently than atheists construe themselves.

    Further, arguments for the adoption of either frame of reference, advanced from within one or other of these frameworks, and based upon preferences for consequences of one system or another as interpreted from within one or other framework, often become exercises in futility. So the wheels come off.

  102. 103

    Clive, Gould believed that humans are really free to make their own destiny. That’s central to his arguments against Wilson and against Dawkins. I can’t give a one-sentence answer to summarize Gould’s views on this, but nobody who thinks Gould reduces everything to evolution knows what he’s talking about.

    Read in the Gould archive — anything responding to evolutionary psychology, or Wilson, or Dawkins, or Pinker, or the Bell Curve — and you’ll understand that.

  103. 104

    DanSLO,

    That’s my point. Evolution becomes the judge and the thing on trial. What I am calling evolutionary standards, could also be called Instincts for the purpose of the following illustration:

    “Telling us to obey Instinct [any standard provided by evolution] is like telling us to obey ‘people’. People say different things: so do instincts. Our instincts are at war. If it is held that the instinct for preserving the species should always be obeyed at the expense of other instincts, whence do we derive this rule of precedence? To listen to that instinct speaking in its own cause and deciding it in its own favour would be rather simple-minded. Each instinct, if you listen to it, will claim to be gratified at the expense of all the rest. By the very act of listening to one rather than to others we have already prejudged the case. If we did not bring to the examination of our instincts a knowledge of their comparative dignity we could never learn it from them. And that knowledge cannot itself be instinctive: the judge cannot be one of the parties judged; or, if he is, the decision is worthless….

    The idea that, without appealing to any court higher than the instincts themselves, we can yet find grounds for preferring one instinct above its fellows dies very hard. We grasp at useless words: we call it the ‘basic’, or ‘fundamental’, or ‘primal’, or ‘deepest’ instinct. It is of no avail. Either these words conceal a value judgement passed upon the instinct and therefore not derivable from it, or else they merely record its felt intensity, the frequency of its operation and its wide distribution. If the former, the whole attempt to base value upon instinct has been abandoned: if the latter, these observations about the quantitative aspects of a psychological event lead to no practical conclusion.”
    ~The Abolition of Man, C. S. Lewis

  104. Earlier Adel said,

    hazel can speak for hazel, but my position is based on the Golden Rule. I want to be treated as if I have dignity, and it would be unreasonable for me to treat others differently.

    I’ll agree to that as a good starting point.

    Later, there was this reply:

    Yes, I understand that it is based on your wishes, but what if someone else’s wishes conflict with yours. Why should the wishes of those who prefer the golden rule be honored over the wishes of those who prefer “might makes right?”

    I have the same problem with people whose justifications are religious: why should I prefer one religion over another when people on both sides (many sides) think they are right – that God is on their side – and who seem content to exercise their might on people on the other side.

    As Dylan famously said, “If God’s on our side, he’ll stop the next war,” and I haven’t seen that yet, so I’m pretty disinclined to believe that a God that represents my values exists.

    People’s religions conflict with other religions just as much as people’s wishes conflict with others, so I don’t think invoking a religious justification for one’s values adds anything. We all have to eventually choose what values and principles we want to live by. I don’t see that believing in God helps us escape that responsibility.

    And yes to what Diffaxial said.

  105. 106

    David,

    I’m not interested in what Gould believed. I’m interested in what else comes into play that takes us out of the torrent on evolution and provides something else, something beyond, that we adhere to IN SPITE of evolution when determining anything.

  106. 107

    With all due respect, Clive, you’re not interested in that in the least. You’ve already decided that an evolutionary perspective rests on some fundamental incoherence or contradiction and and are “interested” in proclaiming that as you have already done several times in this thread.

  107. Allen MacNeill @ 70:

    One slight correction: I think it would be more accurate to say that Harris and Klebold were both sociopaths, not psychopaths. The difference is important, as psychopaths are both irrational and insane, whereas sociopaths are usually neither. Andrea Yates was a psychopath, Harris and Klebold were sociopaths.

    Unfortunately, that is not correct. The terms psychopath and sociopath are often used interchangeably, both denoting exceptionally narcissistic persons whole are profoundly incapable of empathy and are entirely devoid of a conscience and attendant capacity for guilt. The distinction between these two terms that I have encountered most frequently is the suggestion that sociopaths originate as a result of social factors (poverty, violence, gang membership, etc.) whereas psychopaths appear to display their profound deficits from childhood regardless of upbringing and experience.

    Andrea Yates was neither. Yates was psychotic, probably paranoid schizophrenic IIRC, a sometimes terribly disabling mental illness that is reflected both in “positive” symptoms such as hallucinations, delusional and often disorganized thinking, formal thought disorder, etc., as well as “negative” symptoms such as loss of motivation and direction, aimlessness and inactivity, restriction in the range and intensity of emotional expression, limited fluency and productivity of thought, and loss of goal directed behavior.

    Psychopaths are not psychotic. The classic “Cleckley psychopath” can be identified by use of the Hare Psychopathy Checklist (a complex diagnostic instrument), which specifies several characteristics. These have been found to conform to two factors, by means of factor analysis:

    Factor one:
    - Glibness/superficial charm
    - Grandiose sense of self-worth
    - Pathological lying
    - Conning/manipulative
    - Lack of remorse or guilt
    - Shallow affect
    - Callous/lack of empathy
    - Failure to accept responsibility for actions

    Factor two:
    - Need for stimulation/proneness to boredom
    - Parasitic lifestyle
    - Poor behavioral controls
    - Early behavior problems
    - Lack of realistic, long-term goals
    - Impulsivity
    - Irresponsibility
    - Juvenile delinquency
    - History of revocation of conditional release

    PCL Items not included in factor scales:
    - Promiscuous sexual behavior
    - Many short term marital relationships
    - Criminal versatility

  108. Clive @ 106:

    I’m not interested in what Gould believed. I’m interested in what else comes into play that takes us out of the torrent on evolution and provides something else, something beyond, that we adhere to IN SPITE of evolution when determining anything.

    Tens of thousands of years of incredibly diverse cultural evolution and innovation come to mind.

  109. 110

    David Kellogg, so Gould wanted to have his evolutionary materialist cake and eat it too. What, pray, is your point? The fact remains that a materialist who says that there anything can be accounted for by non-material causes is talking out of both sides of his mouth, even if, as with Gould, he does so with great erudition.

  110. 111

    Diffaxial,

    “Tens of thousands of years of incredibly diverse cultural evolution and innovation come to mind.”

    I said “something else” other than evolution.

  111. 112

    I guess there’s no need to read what Gould actually wrote when you can proclaim his “self-referential incoherence” from a distance.

  112. 113

    David,

    I really am interested in what that is, from the perspective of folks that don’t yet see the fundamental incoherence and contradiction. So, I’d like to hear it. You’re not answering my question by talking about my motives.

  113. Clive @ 111:

    I said “something else” other than evolution.

    I take the “evolution” in “something other than evolution” as “biological evolution.” Ergo, “Something other than biological evolution.”

    Ratcheting cultural innovation (cultural evolution) is something quite other than biological evolution. Huge swaths of human behavior result from cultural innovation rather than biological evolution.

  114. 115

    David Kellogg, why do you assume I have not read Gould. I have. I am simply unconvinced. No matter how earnestly a materialist wishes it were otherwise, he cannot can sit on the branch of materialism and at the same time levitate above the branch and examine it from a non-determinist perspective.

    You should be skeptical too. That you are not is interesting, but not surprising. I miss Nietzsche atheists. Nietzsche’s world was bleak, as it necessarily had to be, but at least he had the courage to face it squarely and follow his logic where it led him instead of where his Christianized (in the socialization sense) sensibilities told him he should prefer to go. Modern atheists don’t seem to have the same courage.

  115. 116

    Diffaxial writes: “Ratcheting cultural innovation (cultural evolution) is something quite other than biological evolution. Huge swaths of human behavior result from cultural innovation rather than biological evolution.”

    What utter piffle. Go to the back of the class. You write this as if you have no idea that a culture is made up of nothing but the choices of its human members, which, if evolution is true, are in turn driven by nothing but mindless mechanical necessity and chance. Is this the best you’ve got? At the end of the day is there really no one able or willing to give us a serious argument to chew on?

  116. I’m an atheist, and I see no reason that therefore I have to be Nietzschian. For one thing, one can be an atheist but not a materialist, but that is secondary to the more important point.

    No matter who you are, theist, atheist, materialist or whatever, our values are grounded and nourished in much more than logic. Just because one believes that one’s values stem from some objective truth from God doesn’t mean that in fact either God or those objective values exist. Those who don’t believe in God have others way of understanding where our moral sense come – the fact that the theist’s logic finds our reasons deficient in their eyes doesn’t mean to much me because I don’t accept the theist’s framework.

    I don’t look at a person’ belief system – I look at their actions irrespective of how they frame the reasons for their actions. If one believes that it is important to be honest with others, for instance, then I don’t care why you think that – Christian, Muslim, Hindu, atheist, New age spiritualist, whatever, it’s how you choose to act that counts in my eyes.

  117. You act as if you have a coherent and compelling alternative. We’ve got about a dozen complex questions bouncing around here about morality, ethics, free will, culture, psychology and plenty more that people have puzzled over for thousands of years, and you’re surprised that its a bit murky? I don’t feel that religion solves any of the problems that have been raised, so your demand that we provide a solution is silly.

  118. 119

    Barry says:

    I miss Nietzsche atheists. Nietzsche’s world was bleak, as it necessarily had to be, but at least he had the courage to face it squarely and follow his logic where it led him instead of where his Christianized (in the socialization sense) sensibilities told him he should prefer to go. Modern atheists don’t seem to have the same courage

    Translation: “I wish atheists were as immoral as my worldview says they should be.”

  119. —-Hazel: “Just because one believes that one’s values stem from some objective truth from God doesn’t mean that in fact either God or those objective values exist. Those who don’t believe in God have others way of understanding where our moral sense come -”

    Why is it, then, that you and your colleagues cannot tell us where that place is?

  120. 121

    Good point DanSLO. Anybody who thinks Christians (for example) agree on, say, free will doesn’t know the first thing about religious history.

    That said, I must insist: my Christian view of free will is correct and coherent. Yours, however, is bunk.

  121. —-Diffaxial: “Ratcheting cultural innovation (cultural evolution) is something quite other than biological evolution. Huge swaths of human behavior result from cultural innovation rather than biological evolution.”

    That’s like saying that its the wet sidewalks that clean the streets and not the rain.

  122. Why is it, then, that you and your colleagues cannot tell us where that place is?

    I could discuss it, but you wouldn’t accept my reasoning and you’re not really interested in knowing who I am as a human being, I don’t think, and I don’t have black-and-white airtight logical answers (because I don’t believe such exist.)

    As Diffaxial said, we would just be talking past each other unless your goal was to really understand an alternative view rather than prove such an alterbative view was invalid.

  123. 124

    Barry writes:

    Dave Wisker writes: “And some have no faith yet do not kill because they have the capacity for empathy, and would not inflict on others what they would not want inflicted on themselves.”

    OK Dave. What is your point? That not all atheists are cold-blooded killers? Again, you are responding to an argument that was never made. No one said they were. Would you care to address the point of the post or do you concede it?

    No, Barry, that wasn’t my point, and had you included what I wrote in the context of the specific quote I was referring to, my point would have been immediately obvious.

  124. —-Hazel: “I could discuss it, but you wouldn’t accept my reasoning and you’re not really interested in knowing who I am as a human being, I don’t think, and I don’t have black-and-white airtight logical answers (because I don’t believe such exist.)”

    I was simply pointing out that your assertion that there are “other ways of understanding where our [your] moral sense come [from?]” is clearly not true since there is no place that it can come from.

    —-Hazel: “As Diffaxial said, we would just be talking past each other unless your goal was to really understand an alternative view rather than prove such an alterbative view was invalid.”

    Obviously, Diffaxial has the same problem that you have, i.e., neither of you can provide a rational justification for your moral code, so you are reduced to saying that you do have one but no one would understand or accept it. Both of you labor endlessly to launch illogical attacks on perfectly good arguments about objective morality, but when the time comes to provide an alternative foundation you retire into the shadows.

  125. 126

    StephenB, do you want, in hazel’s words, “to really understand an alternative view,” or do you merely want to “prove such an alternative view . . . invalid”? Your answer suggests the latter.

  126. In #82 Clive Hayden asked:

    “I thought that evolution accounted for everything, am I wrong?”

    Yes, indeed, you are wrong. There are a great many things in the universe, and in human behavior and thought that are not accountable by evolutionary biology. And thanks for giving me the chance to knock down yet another ridiculous straw man…

  127. As dissatisfying as that answer is to theists, I think that is the only honest thing to say. Its the same thing as my answer to people who ask me where the universe came from if there is no God. I respond with “I don’t know, but neither do you”. Just as invoking a god doesn’t immediately solve the problems of the origin of the universe, invoking a god doesn’t immediately solve the very real problems of free will and moral justification. The religious viewpoint is not automatically validated if I cannot provide a bulletproof comprehensive solution.

  128. I was simply pointing out that your assertion that there are “other ways of understanding where our [your] moral sense come [from?]” is clearly not true since there is no place that it can come from.

    Obviously there is no sense in talking to someone who is so certain that he is right, and so certain that I can’t possible be right. I believe I’ve bumped into this problem before.

  129. In #85 Barry Arrington wrote:

    “In [56] Allan MacNeill acknowledges there is no reason to single out religious belief for special opprobrium. It is good to know that Allan disagrees with Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris. Good for him.”

    Indeed, on this point I do disagree with Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris. Furthermore, I would like to point out that none of these people are evolutionary biologists. Daniel Dennett is a philosopher whose grasp of evolutionary theory is only slightly better than that of most philosophers (i.e. not all that great), Richard Dawkins is (for lack of a better term) an “evolutionary philosopher” (i.e. he has never done a field observation or laboratory experiment in evolutionary biology in his entire career), Christopher Hitchens is a journalist, and Sam Harris is a graduate student in neurobiology.

    By contrast, Stephen Jay Gould was one of the premier evolutionary biologists of the 20th century, and did not (and almost certainly would not) agree with any of the “new atheists” listed. Indeed, he was well known for his ongoing feud with Richard Dawkins, based at least partly on disagreements over precisely the topic of this thread.

  130. 131

    Allen MacNeill,

    “Yes, indeed, you are wrong. There are a great many things in the universe, and in human behavior and thought that are not accountable by evolutionary biology. And thanks for giving me the chance to knock down yet another ridiculous straw man…”

    Ummm, what do the number of things in the universe have to do with anything pertaining to our “evolved” sensibilities? And what, exactly, about human thought and human behavior are not accountable to evolutionary biology? I would love for you to knock down a straw man, but I haven’t seen one around lately. What does, exactly, account for the human behavior and thought if not evolution?

  131. IN #88 Clive Hayden asked:

    “So how does evolution help us to find “real” values, that we can reference objectively, and use as our standard when condemning other aspects of evolutionary behavior?”

    It doesn’t. The criteria upon which we base ethical and moral prescriptions cannot be derived from any “naturalistic” theory of human behavior. This was convincingly demonstrated by G. E. Moore a century ago, in his formulation of what is known as the “naturalistic fallacy”.

    Again, nice straw man, easily knocked down. Do you have any real arguments, or are you just in it for the rhetoricals?

  132. BarryA:

    What utter piffle. Go to the back of the class. You write this as if you have no idea that a culture is made up of nothing but the choices of its human members, which, if evolution is true, are in turn driven by nothing but mindless mechanical necessity and chance.

    The fact that you speak English rather than Chinese or the Indo-European protolanguage reflects the culture into which you were born rather than any choices you made. Countless other facts of your life similarly reflect immersion in other dimensions of your cultural heritage, which themselves emerged and changed over centuries, millennia, and tens of millennia, often accumulating techniques and technologies by means of what has been called “the ratchet effect” (See Tomasello’s book The Cultural Origins of Human Cognition). All of us are similarly immersed in an ocean cultural facts that, like languages, technologies, and kinship systems vary widely from society to society and over time. Cultural objects and behaviors such as davenports, baseball, haiku, foot binding, hang-gliding, barber shop quartets, beer, and governments have roots in cultural innovation, not biological evolution.

    Individual behavior inescapably reflects, in part, immersion in one’s culture. There is nothing inherently “materialist” or “non materialist” about this observation.

  133. In #97 tribune7 asked:

    “Or if you want to make it universal, if we establish that there is no divine command not to murder, will we be safer, better off, more enlightened etc. as some seem to insist?”

    Yes. To be very specific, there is no “divine” command in Buddhism not to murder, because there is no “divine” anything in Buddhism. Or are you arguing that Buddhists are, as a group, inclined to be depraved murderers?

  134. 135

    Diffaxial,

    “Ratcheting cultural innovation (cultural evolution) is something quite other than biological evolution. Huge swaths of human behavior result from cultural innovation rather than biological evolution.”

    I don’t see how, because in the end, at the point of anything being meaningfully understood as being right or wrong, happens on the individual level with each person, so you’ve still got the difficulty of explaining just how people come to any conclusion on anything other than whatever standards evolution has given them to work with. There is no universal consciousness. There is only individual, and that individual understanding of a culture or an innovation or a de-innovation is something provided by evolution. Taking the problem and making it aggregate doesn’t solve it.

  135. diffaxial in #108:

    Thank you: I stand corrected.

  136. A great deal of most people’s moral viewpoint is cultural – if you had been born and raised as an African bushman, you would have a different moral perspective, but you would have a moral perspective of some sort. All human cultures ever studied have deeply embedded ideas about what is right and wrong on many levels and in many areas. It is part of human nature to have a moral perspective (for all but a very small number of sociopathological individuals), but the nature of that perspective is very much a product of culture.

    However, there are elements of morality that seem to appear rather universally, especially in the wisdom traditions that arise as people of great intellect and moral insight address the issues of morality – there are common themes that are cross-cultural.A great deal of most people’s moral viewpoint is cultural – if you had been born and raised as an African bushman, you would have a different moral perspective, but you would have a moral perspective of some sort. All human cultures ever studied have deeply embedded ideas about what is right and wrong on many levels and in many areas. It is part of human nature to have a moral perspective (for all but a very small number of sociopathological individuals), but the nature of that perspective is very much a product of culture.

    However, there are elements of morality that seem to appear rather universally, especially in the wisdom traditions that arise as people of great intellect and moral insight address the issues of morality – there are common themes that are cross-cultural.

    Another major factor is that moral systems are usually limited in scope: what is moral within my group (tribe, nation, etc,) is not necessarily applied to people outside my group. Some individuals rise above this us/them moral split, and thus inspire others, but the majority apply a different set of moral rule to their group than they do to a least some “enemy” groups.

    All of what I have written is, I think, factually true, from an anthropological viewpoint.

    Another major factor is th

  137. In #131 Clive Hayden asked:

    “And what, exactly, about human thought and human behavior are not accountable to evolutionary biology?”

    The short list:
    • Aesthetics
    • Epistemology
    • Ethics
    • Law (common and legislative)
    • Logic
    • Mathematics
    • Metaphysics
    • Ontology
    • Religion (including philosophy of religion)

    That is, almost all of human thought, developed over thousands of years through cultural trial and error learning.

    But feel free to go back and set up your straw man again…

  138. StephenB: “How many atheists do you know who will defend the life of an unborn baby?

    Nat Hentoff – he is a journalist and atheist, and ardently opposes abortion (and euthanasia too I believe). He wrote very articulately on his views on abortion in a recent edition of Free Inquiry – he’s a frequent op-ed contributor. I wasn’t able to find it online, but there’s plenty of information about him on the web.

  139. In #135 Clive Hayden wrote:

    “…in the end, at the point of anything being meaningfully understood as being right or wrong, happens on the individual level with each person, so you’ve still got the difficulty of explaining just how people come to any conclusion on anything other than whatever standards evolution has given them to work with.”

    Evolution cannot provide any “standards” for right and wrong at all. Even attempting to do so is to commit the “naturalistic fallacy” of which G. E. Moore (and David Hume before him) warned. It is both illogical and illegitimate to derive an “ought” statement from an “is” statement.

    Ethical prescriptions are either justified deontologically (i.e. by their internal logical coherence and “universalizability”) or teleologically (i.e. by their effects), or both. Neither of these systems of ethical justification are based on any form of evolutionary determinism, nor are they necessarily based on any religious principles whatsoever.

  140. StephenB asked:

    “How many atheists do you know who will defend the life of an unborn baby?

    All of the atheists I know would do this, including my wife. We did everything we could to save the life of our unborn child, but lost her anyway. Her name was Cynara and she died in utero three years ago this month.

    So, stephenB, got any more self-righteous character assassination up your sleeve, or are you simply going to repeat the same baseless and insulting garbage over and over and over again?

  141. 142

    Allen MacNeill,

    At the bottom of it all, every sensibility on your list is the outgrowth the product of evolution, given that “culture” is just a collection of evolved beings. And any standard used to determine the veracity of any event, even on a cultural level, is, in the end, discerned on an individual and personal level–a man has nothing except evolutionary psychologically given standards to credit with all of his discernment as to what the culture should or shouldn’t do–to even get started on anything “evolving culturally.” Taking the difficulty to the collective doesn’t solve the problem, and there is no such thing as a collective conscience.

  142. Clive:

    I don’t see how, because in the end, at the point of anything being meaningfully understood as being right or wrong, happens on the individual level with each person, so you’ve still got the difficulty of explaining just how people come to any conclusion on anything other than whatever standards evolution has given them to work with.

    Take this into a domain less fraught with controversy. Your immersion in the traditions of western musical harmony equips you to make basic aesthetic judgments, very quickly, regarding particular compositions, relative to those traditions. An ineptly composed cord progression will simply sound “wrong” (which is not to say that some composers may exploit those expectations, violating them in certain ways to produce a particular effect.) Further, those traditions emerged and culturally evolved over time, reaching an important culmination in Bach’s Well Tempered Clavier. Your ability to make these judgements isn’t grounded in human biological evolution – rather it results from your immersion in and internalization of western culture. And in a very real sense the judgments you make (“this sounds wrong”) were already made long before you were born, at the time of the origination and consolidation of the system of western harmony. Meanwhile, you would be helpless to make similar judgments about, say, Japanese music.

    Surely you are not denying that we similarly internalize, and indeed are taught, the “values” of our enclosing cultures in a similar way, and that many of our individual judgments reflect our tutelage in those values, and in a sense are “pre-compiled” for us by our culture. (if you are denying it, what do you make of the movement to retain and teach our “traditional values,” a movement that appears to be deeply suspicious of individuals making individual judgments about issues such as sexual conduct?

  143. Clive Hayden:

    “At the bottom of it all, every sensibility on your list is the outgrowth the product of evolution, given that “culture” is just a collection of evolved beings. And any standard used to determine the veracity of any event, even on a cultural level, is, in the end, discerned on an individual and personal level–a man has nothing except evolutionary psychologically given standards to credit with all of his discernment as to what the culture should or shouldn’t do–to even get started on anything “evolving culturally.” Taking the difficulty to the collective doesn’t solve the problem, and there is no such thing as a collective conscience.”

    Your caricature of evolutionary psychology is beyond absurd. I am an evolutionary psychologist by training and avocation, and this doesn’t describe anything that I or any of the other practitioners of my discipline would say about our chosen field of study.

    Show me anywhere in the writings of any evolutionary biologist or human ethologist where any one of them makes a statement even remotely like this.

  144. 145

    Allen MacNeill,

    It seems rather obvious to say that the collection is just a lot of the individuals :) doesn’t it? If you and your colleagues don’t say that, I’m sorry, but I don’t have to quote anyone for anything this obvious.

  145. To be more specific, I can rephrase Clive Hayden’s baseless assertion:

    “At the bottom of it all, every sensibility on your list is the outgrowth the product of physical chemistry, given that “culture” is just a collection of evolved beings who are composed of atoms whose behavior can be described by the laws of physical chemistry.”

    Is it clear now why statements about natural processes cannot have any bearing on non-naturalistic (i.e. cultural) processes? The “laws” of cultural evolution (which are, in turn, based upon the “laws” of learned behavior) are not reducible nor derivable from “natural laws” such as those found in chemistry and physics. Why do you continue to conflate the two?

  146. In #146 Clive Hayden wrote:

    “If you and your colleagues don’t say that, I’m sorry, but I don’t have to quote anyone for anything this obvious.”

    My colleagues and I don’t say that, but I’m not convinced you are sorry in any way, as you continue to make such assertions without providing even a shred of evidence to support them. In my experience, anyone who says that something is “obvious” and therefore needs no evidence to support it is making an argument by assertion, plain and simple. And, in case you really are as clueless as your comments seem to indicate, arguments by assertion are logically fallacious by definition.

  147. I like diffaxial’s example of music, but perhaps another from mathematics would make the point as well. Is there anything “natural” about counting using a base 10 number system? If there is, I’d like to hear about it. Yes, we have ten fingers and ten toes, but that doesn’t necessarily make a base 10 number system any more “natural” than, say, a base 12 number system (my personal favorite since I was about eight years old). And while I know quite a few coders who like to think that a binary number system is more “natural” than any other, I believe that it is clearly the case that there is nothing “natural” about any number system. They are all human cultural constructs, and as such cannot be derived, either directly or indirectly, from any component of evolutionary theory, or any of the natural sciences for that matter (pun intended, of course).

  148. 149

    Allen MacNeill,

    Do I really need to quote someone else to say that a culture is a collection of individuals?

  149. When I was in Business School we were tested according McClelland’s theory of needs. It was a simple test, a series of pictures and everyone wrote a one page essay on what they thought was happening in the picture. Other students then graded the test based on criteria for McClelland’s three needs of achievement, affiliation and power.

    The second part of the experiment/test was to put into a room six people who were given an assignment to organize something. I was put into a room with the other five people and we represented 1 power, 2 affiliation and 3 achievement people. In less than 10 minutes we were fighting with the 3 achievers at odds with the 1 power oriented person and the 2 affiliation people trying to act as mediators. None of us had any clue as to what was happening. I was taken aback by what the person who was the power oriented one was trying to do, essentially to take over and give orders.

    So my point is that the world has been run by power oriented people since day 1. And I guess that no one here or very few are power oriented nor do many power oriented people go into academia. So I would not try to judge what an atheist or a theist would do who are affiliated or achievement oriented. I would look to those who are power oriented.

    So have fun and say what a good guy I am and so are the people I know but more than likely none of you will be power oriented. In the end you will be just a follower to some power oriented person unless there is a system set up to control who gets the power and how they can use it. If the power oriented person has no compulsion not to kill, whether raised with moral values or not the result will not be pretty. Hitler, Stalin, Lennin and Mao are 20th century models but there were many before them driven by power and this is what kills big time. The four I mentioned had no moral compunction against killing even though at least two of them were initially Christians and knew the prescription “Thou shall not kill.” If given opportunities they would have done a lot more. The number actually killed if one keeps score will be affected by the environment in which they operate. If there is no general world view not to kill then there will be no limit. They were pikers however compared to Timur whose statue stands in many places in Central Asia as an honor to this butcher. There are even restaurants in LA in honor of Mao and one of the more celebrated t shirts in the world is of Che Guevara, The Butcher of La Cabaña.

  150. —-JTaylor: “Nat Hentoff – he is a journalist and atheist, and ardently opposes abortion (and euthanasia too I believe). He wrote very articulately on his views on abortion in a recent edition of Free Inquiry – he’s a frequent op-ed contributor. I wasn’t able to find it online, but there’s plenty of information about him on the web.”

    I am aware of Nat Hentoff. Do you know of any others? We prove the rule by the exception.

  151. Sorry, Clive, I misunderstood your point about a culture being a collection of individuals.

    The problem with the term “culture” is that it can be used to mean the people who have learned a particular set of ideas and skills, or it can be used to mean that particular set of ideas and skills. I think that our misunderstanding came from the two different meanings of this single word. In the future I will try to be clearer about which meaning of the term I am using, so as to avoid such misunderstandings.

  152. 153

    Allen_MacNeill

    When I asked “So how does evolution help us to find “real” values, that we can reference objectively, and use as our standard when condemning other aspects of evolutionary behavior?”

    The answer, you correctly state, is that it doesn’t. That’s not a straw man, that’s just a dead man. The question remains, how do we, as evolved creatures (which I don’t believe for a second, mind you) get our sense of discernment, and act OPPOSITE of our evolutionary behaviors? Where does this come from? And cultural evolution won’t help you, because it just pushes the question back. So?

  153. 154

    Allen MacNeill,

    ““At the bottom of it all, every sensibility on your list is the outgrowth the product of physical chemistry, given that “culture” is just a collection of evolved beings who are composed of atoms whose behavior can be described by the laws of physical chemistry.”

    Is it clear now why statements about natural processes cannot have any bearing on non-naturalistic (i.e. cultural) processes? The “laws” of cultural evolution (which are, in turn, based upon the “laws” of learned behavior) are not reducible nor derivable from “natural laws” such as those found in chemistry and physics. Why do you continue to conflate the two?”

    That’s not what I said nor what I intended. I’ve noticed an argument technique from you that you believe that reducing the opponents argument down into reductionist terms, such as saying that I believe since we’re made of physical chemistry then all of the cultural phenomen must result from the laws of physics…..or The columbine killers also drank water that was liquid…….therefore it follows that all who are made up of atoms or who drink liquid do this………….I used to use this form of argument on my mom when I was little. It’s a caricature, it confuses facts with meaning. It’s like saying that love is only lust, thoughts are only biochemistry, religion only superstition, etc. And your solace in finding culture as some real entity that is not just the collective of individuals isn’t getting this discussion anywhere. We’re not advancing, if anything we’re retreating. The laws of cultural evolution are nothing more than the laws of individual discernment, which is only the outcome of evolutionary standards. So my statement that all things that are known are only known on an individual level is exactly correct and true. I’m not the one conflating laws of nature with behavior, but evolutionary psychology should tell you that our behavior is the product of evolution, and thus evolutionary standards.

  154. 155

    David Kellogg takes my comment [115) about nostalgia for Nietzsche atheists and says: Translation: “I wish atheists were as immoral as my worldview says they should be.”

    Swing and a whiff Dave. Just exactly the opposite is true. I wish atheists today were more honest, that they would confront the inevitable consequences of their worldview forthrightly and with courage instead of being all mealy-mouthed and trying to have it both ways like Hazel who says that being an atheist does not mean she has to be a materialist. Give me a break. No, I frankly wish atheists were more moral.

  155. BarryA@155,

    The problem is that any true “Nietzche atheist” would obviously reject morality, any real value of courage, and so on. If you think about it, it would be hard to tell the difference between one who was internally consistent and internally inconsistent. What one would do out of inconsistency, the other could do because it was advantageous.

    Though I do think it’s possible for an atheist to not be a materialist. At the same time, they’re so outnumbered it’s hard to pay attention to them nowadays – and ‘atheist non-materialists’ (especially atheist non-naturalists), in my anecdotal experience, usually end up embracing something that seems like the Godlike in everything but name. (Like, say, panpsychism, which is so close to panentheism I can practically smell the incense.)

  156. Maybe this discussion could advance a little if both theists and atheists took a long hard look at their belief systems, and then asked themselves the following question:

    Are there any metaphysical beliefs on my side of the fence which, when combined with theism or atheism, would prove harmful to public morality?

    As a theist, I’d like to nominate the following beliefs on my side of the fence:

    (1) Belief in a capricious God who can define morality as He/She sees fit – e.g. a God who could just as easily have commanded “Thou shalt kill” as “Thou shalt not kill,” or who could change the moral law on a whim (“Today’s Tuesday; killing is allowed today.”)

    (2) Belief in a God whose will is not subject to reason, and who commands expects unconditional obedience, even when His/Her commands appear to fly in the face of reason.

    (3) Belief in a militaristic God who approves the spread of religion by force.

    (4) Belief in a God who commands us to hate other people.

    (5) Belief in a God who claims to control our choices, for good or ill (absolute predestination of the virtuous and the wicked).

  157. 158

    Some people are born haters, predestined to denigrate others and the institutions others revere. Paul Zachary Myers comes to mind. His vitriol knows no bounds. The President of the United States is “asshole in chief.” The Holy Father is “what do we care what bennie thinks.”

    As for those who have challenged Myers’ congenital atheism, visit Myers’ “Dungeon” where, among many others, you will find me proudly shackled, one of his first victims, a charter member of his “Kill File.”

    Others, more civilized, like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, probably hate just as much, but express themselves in less personal terms, being content to present their congenital loathing on the sides of London buses or in scholarly articles in respected magazines and journals.

    It is hard to believe isn’t it?

    Not at all. There it is for all to see!

    “EVERYTHING is determined… by forces over which we have no control.”
    Albert Einstein, my emphasis

  158. 159

    There is another aspect to the subject of this thread.

    The late Percy Foreman, criminal defense lawyer, was once asked why can murderers sometimes get off scot free but cattle rustlers serve long prison terms. His reply went something like this -

    “Lots if people in Texas need killing, but no cattle need rustling.”

    Just a thought.

  159. 160

    “Atheism hits the spot.
    Three apostles, that’s a lot,
    Dickie, Chris and Pee Zee too, Atheism is the one for you.”

    To be sung to the tune of Pepsi Cola hits the spot.

    Dickie is Richard Dawkins, Chris, Christopher Hitchens and Pee Zee. Paul Zachary Myers.

    I love it so!

  160. John,

    Most readers of this blog are not going to recognize a radio jingle from the 1930′s.

    If you care.

  161. “Mealy-mouthed”? Nothing I like better than a nice civil discussion.

    Piffle.

  162. On a more serious note, of course you can be an atheist and not a materialist: Buddhists, Taoist, various sorts of New Age spiritualists, etc, believe that there is some metaphysical/spiritual aspect to the world, but that it isn’t consolidating into a divine willful entity. It is just a fact that such people and such belief systems exist. I don’t see what is “mealy mouthed” about pointing this out.

  163. to JohnADavison: I thought you were an atheist? I’m pretty sure that I saw a post where you said there was no monotheistic God.

  164. Clive:

    It’s a caricature, it confuses facts with meaning. It’s like saying that love is only lust, thoughts are only biochemistry, religion only superstition, etc. And your solace in finding culture as some real entity that is not just the collective of individuals isn’t getting this discussion anywhere.

    There is considerable irony in this statement, as stating that “culture is just [can be reduced to] the collective of individuals” is reductionist in exactly the way that “love is only lust” and particularly “thoughts are only biochemistry” are reductionist. There is more to thought than biochemistry, and there is more to the phenomenon of human cultural innovation, transmission and expression than sum of the actions of individuals. Again, I don’t see anything particularly “materialist” or “antimaterialist” about this assertion.

    Clive, don’t look now, but on this topic YOU are the reductionist (Barry too). And that is why you are unable to grasp that considerable individual human behavior can be best understood in light of the history of the culture into which the one is born and in which one is immersed.

  165. Barry Arrington says:

    I wish atheists today were more honest, that they would confront the inevitable consequences of their worldview forthrightly and with courage instead of being all mealy-mouthed and trying to have it both ways like Hazel who says that being an atheist does not mean she has to be a materialist. Give me a break. No, I frankly wish atheists were more moral.

    According to the definition of atheists, Hazel is, of course, entirely right.

    But what I was interested in here was the “inevitable consequences of their [the atheists'] worldview…” bit. I wonder how we could assess this.

    Perhaps a starting point would be looking at societies with the highest levels of disbelief in gods. Surveys on this are difficult, and depend on the questions asked, but we usually come up with places like Sweden and France.

    If we then look at the places where nearly all of the population are theists, we might be in Bangladesh, or various countries in Africa.

    So, should we encourage the former to become more like the latter, or the other way around?

    Then, if we look amongst the western countries, the United States has the highest level of theism. It also has the highest percentage of its population in prison, and the highest murder rate amongst those remaining outside.

    So, having visited Sweden and having lived for some years in France, I wonder how dire these inevitable consequences of the “atheist worldview” are?

    It’s also worth noting that atheists are merely people who don’t believe in any gods. Outside that, they can’t be said to share a worldview any more than a group defined by their lack of belief in fairies.

    Babies are atheists, and remain so unless or until corrupted.

  166. Diffaxial says, “Clive, don’t look now, but on this topic YOU are the reductionist (Barry too).”

    This is an interesting point. Believing that a proper understanding of a system involves understanding it at different levels, from the properties of the constituent parts up through higher levels of organization, is not a materialist or atheist belief, nor a theistic one.

  167. vjtorley in #157:

    I sincerely appreciate the clarity and logic with which you craft your posts. It’s a breath of fresh air here, and despite the fact that we sometimes disagree, I find reading your comments very rewarding, not least because you consistently avoid character assassination (something that I fight against in myself, sometimes unsuccessfully). Bravo!

  168. “I frankly wish atheists were more moral.”

    And I frankly wish that Christians were, as well, along with all other people. The problem is not that theists or atheists lack morals. Rather, the problem is that we all so often fail to live up to them.

    As an evolutionary psychologist, I am curious as to why this is the case, and find the answer that “it’s because of the Fall” singularly unenlightening.

  169. “At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilized races of man will almost certainly exterminate and replace throughout the world the savage races.” – Charles Darwin

    “No more than Nature desires the mating of weaker with stronger individuals, even less does she(nature) desire the blending of a higher with a lower race, since, if she did, her whole work of higher breeding, over perhaps hundreds of thousands of years, night be ruined with one blow. – Adolf Hitler

    “Darwin stood for me like a mightly doorkeeper at the entrance to the temple of the universe.” – Leon Trotsky, Communist, Soviet Union, starved peasants.

    “It would always be disagreeable for me to go down to posterity as a man who made concessions in this field. I realize that man, in his imperfection, can commit innumerable errors– but to devote myself deliberately to errors, that is something I cannot do. I shall never come personally to terms with the Christian lie. Our epoch Uin the next 200 yearse will certainly see the end of the disease of Christianity…. My regret will have been that I couldn’t… behold .” (p 278) – Adolf Hitler, Hitlers Secret Conversations, 1941-44.

    “Christianity is a rebellion against natural law, a protest against nature. Taken to its logical extreme, Christianity would mean the systematic cultivation of the human failure. (p 43)” – Adolf Hitler, 1941-44, Secret Conversations.

    “Sir Arthur Keith (1866-1955), who was knighted in 1921, came to Hitler’s defense, “Hitler is an uncompromising evolutionist, and we must seek for an evolutionary explanation if we are to understand his actions” [4] Keith reassured us, “The German Führer, as I have consistently maintained, is an evolutionist; he has consciously sought to make the practice of Germany conform to the theory of evolution.”"
    - Sir Arthur Keith, UK Evolutinary Anthropologist.

    “”We should hire three or four colored ministers, preferably with social-service backgrounds, and with engaging personalities. The most successful educational approach to the Negro is through a religious appeal. We don’t want the word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population. and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members.”" – Margaret Sanger’s December 19, 1939 letter to Dr. Clarence Gamble, 255 Adams Street, Milton, Massachusetts. Original source: Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College, North Hampton, Massachusetts. Also described in Linda Gordon’s Woman’s Body, Woman’s Right: A Social History of Birth Control in America. New York: Grossman Publishers, 1976.

    “The most merciful thing that a family does to one of its infant members is to kill it.” –
    Margaret Sanger (editor). The Woman Rebel, Volume I, Number 1. Reprinted in Woman and the New Race. New York: Brentanos Publishers, 1922.

    “Eugenics is … the most adequate and thorough avenue to the solution of racial, political and social problems.” – Margaret Sanger. “The Eugenic Value of Birth Control Propaganda.” Birth Control Review, October 1921, page 5.

    What all of this points out is atheist, pagans can be and are racist bigots as well. Some of them will justify anything, anytime, anywhere for their beliefs. So please spare me the righteous indignation from atheist. Let me know the next time Discovery Channel bashes athiest beliefs and actions, or that comedians mock athiesm wildly on major TV outlets for vast murders and destruction, stupidity and ignorance.

    Let me know the day all the major media directly connects Stalin, Sanger, etc., to the death of 10s of millions due to their beliefs in Darwinism and Eugenics.

    The reason it is important to point out the truth, is the prevailing education, media, and societal information today is largely mute on the truth of past atheist beliefs and actions in Eugenics and Darwinism to justify their cause of ultimate races, etc., and mass murder. Atheist who believed in Darwinism and Eugenics by and large get a pass in major media outlets.

    Few people know that a racist hater of African Americans started Planned Parenthood to abort “unfit” races and blacks. People have a right to know the truth behind the murder of 45 million babies in America alone. The truth about the Founder who had the worst intentions against anyone who she did not deem “fit” or in agreement with her philosophy.

    It does not mean that all atheist are like this. That is not the point. But many ignorant people repeat untruths ad naseum against Judeo-Christian past history to the point that many people believe that it is the root and cause of all evil. I see it happen all the time.

    As Hitler proclaimed, “If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed.”

    All of these people studied Darwinism and Eugenics, convinced of survial of the fittest. They looked to nature, rejected a Creator and favored state control over individual freedoms. Stalin after reading Darwin, rejected a Creator and Christianity.

    Words do have consequences, so do books and scientific fads. Just because atheist and theist in the civilized world today exercise restraint, does not mean the past did not occur for both sides. It would be good if there were equal criticism and open media coverage of how athist movements, eugenics and yes Darwinism rolled up crazed believers into madness of power.

    The masses bought into Hitlers master race. The masses also bought into Eugenics. Laws were made in America as well. Planned Parenthood was not started with good intentions. It was started at its very foundation as a racist hate-filled belief by its founder in Eugenics. The masses have bought into her agenda without even knowing it. The races she hated as “unfit?” They are largest population hit in percentages by her “plan.”

  170. In #156 nullasalus wrote:

    “…‘atheist non-materialists’ (especially atheist non-naturalists), in my anecdotal experience, usually end up embracing something that seems like the Godlike in everything but name.”

    Interesting; perhaps this is why some systems of non-naturalistic belief (e.g. Taoism) are very clear about the idea that the name doesn’t matter. Indeed, limiting the concept by giving it a name (and, even worse, a humanoid personality) is a form of idolatry, and therefore destructive of That Which Is.

  171. In #170 DATCG wrote:

    “The masses bought into Hitlers master race. The masses also bought into Eugenics. Laws were made in America as well. Planned Parenthood was not started with good intentions. It was started at its very foundation as a racist hate-filled belief by its founder in Eugenics. The masses have bought into her agenda without even knowing it.”

    And these “masses” in Germany and America, they were overwhelmingly atheists, right? That’s why they went along with Hitler and Sanger, because it agreed with and reinforced their atheism, right?

    Odd. I thought that Germany in the 1930s was overwhelmingly Lutheran (with Catholic running a distant second) and that America at the same time was overwhelmingly Protestant (again, with Catholic running a distant second). But, according to DATCG’s argument, the overwhelming majority of these Christian “masses” went right along with Hitler and Sanger’s atheism (and in America they still do; the majority of Christians support access to contraception and a woman’s right to choose, just as Sanger hoped they would).

    In other words, it seems as if one’s religious inclinations have virtually nothing to do with one’s behavior. Rather, people do what they are motivated to do, and then use their religion (or lack of it) as a rationalization after the fact. Again, that’s why as an evolutionary psychologist I’m interested in finding out why people do what they do, rather than why they say they do what they do (unless I’m interested in the human capacity for self-deception).

  172. Allen–Yes. To be very specific, there is no “divine” command in Buddhism not to murder, because there is no “divine” anything in Buddhism. Or are you arguing that Buddhists are, as a group, inclined to be depraved murderers?

    There is certainly a “divine” something in Shinto and that includes teaching murder to be a sin.

    And Buddhism certainly teaches that there is hell and heaven if you will, and that murder is evil.

    Further, “enlightenment” does not come from some material source. You’re not suggesting Buddhism denies an eternal soul or is unspiritual are you?

    And you really, really aren’t suggesting we abolish the 6th commandment, are you?

  173. In #154 Clive Hayden wrote:

    “The laws of cultural evolution are nothing more than the laws of individual discernment, which is only the outcome of evolutionary standards. So my statement that all things that are known are only known on an individual level is exactly correct and true. I’m not the one conflating laws of nature with behavior, but evolutionary psychology should tell you that our behavior is the product of evolution, and thus evolutionary standards.”

    Please cite an evolutionary psychology text where anything like your ridiculous caricature is asserted. I suggest you start with the following:

    Buss, D. (2007) Evolutionary Psychology: The New Science of the Mind, Allyn & Bacon, ISBN #0205483380, 496 pages, available here: http://www.amazon.com/Evolutio.....038;sr=8-1

    You could also try:

    Barrett, L., Dunbar, R., & Lycett, J. (2002) Human Evolutionary Psychology, Princeton University Press, ISBN #0691096228, 464 pages, available here: http://www.amazon.com/Human-Ev.....038;sr=1-1

    You might also take a look at:

    Richerson, P. & Boyd, R. (2006) Not by Genes Alone: How Culture Transformed Human Evolution, University of Chicago Press, ISBN #0226712125, 342 pages, available here: http://www.amazon.com/Not-Gene.....038;sr=1-1

    And BTW, quoting from an article in a popular magazine does not constitute “evidence” (unless I can do the same when criticizing your position).

  174. DanSLO @ 81 wrote:

    If you really think that 5 minutes of Googling gives you enough perspective to criticize an entire movement, I don’t know what to say.

    It’s a movement now? I’ve been told one of the great things about atheism is that it’s non-conformist, free-thinking, and liberating, without all that nonsense of groupthink and “movements”.

    As far as the five minutes go, I’m a layman who earns a living doing (something close to) real work. I don’t have the time nor inclination to write 150 page, deeply researched essays for every wet-behind-the-ears Dawkins lapdog who’ll just ignore them anyway and regurgitate their masters’ pabulum.

    As someone else pointed out, one of the people you quoted is not even an atheist – Kimball is a Baptist minister.

    And as I said earlier, his book is a favorite among the new atheists because of its wonderful message that “more wars have been waged, more people killed, and these days more evil perpetrated in the name of religion than by any other institutional force in human history”.

    And it’s very telling that you studiously ignore the other two quotes and don’t address any of the other points I made.

    (By the way, this is the part of the script where you say I didn’t make any points – or at least any worth addressing.)

  175. In #173 tribune7 wrote:

    “There is certainly a “divine” something in Shinto and that includes teaching murder to be a sin.”

    Shinto and Buddhism bear about as much relationship to each other as Protestantism and poker. In Shinto there are literally billions of “gods” (referred to as “kami”). In Buddhism there are absolutely no gods of any kind. Strictly speaking, therefore, Buddhism is an atheist religion. Only people whose definition of religion excludes everything except the Abrahamic religions would fail to grasp this point.

    “And Buddhism certainly teaches that there is hell and heaven if you will, and that murder is evil.”

    Buddhism most certainly does not teach any such thing. There is no “heaven” or “hell” in Buddhism, nor is there anything like the Platonic Greek/Christian “soul”. Try reading virtually any introduction to Buddhism, especially Zen Buddhism, and be “enlightened” as to this point.

    Further, “enlightenment” does not come from some material source.

    On this point (and only this point) I completely agree.

    You’re not suggesting Buddhism denies an eternal soul

    I’m not suggesting this, I’m stating it as a simple fact; there is no such thing as an “eternal soul” in Buddhism. Indeed, one of the “pillars” of Buddhism is the concept of anatman, Sanskrit for “no soul”. According to Buddhist metaphysics, our perception of a “soul” is an illusion; clinging to that illusion is the source of human suffering (“dukha”), which manifests itself in the endless field of cause and effect (“karma”) which has its origin in chaos (“anika”).

    “…or is unspiritual are you?”

    That depends on what you define as “spiritual”. If by “spiritual” you mean “having an immortal soul”, then the answer is yes, Buddhism is relentlessly “non-spiritual”. However, if by “spiritual” you mean “with reference to non-material things” then the answer is no: that which the Buddha points to is beyond all materialistic distinctions.

    “And you really, really aren’t suggesting we abolish the 6th commandment, are you?

    Not at all; what I’m suggesting is that the mere existence of the 6th commandment has virtually no bearing on whether people murder or not. What makes people do what they do is a complex blend of innate and learned (i.e. “cultural”) tendencies. What I and other evolutionary psychologists are interested in is just exactly what are these tendencies, how do they develop in the life of individuals and their societies, what environmental and genetic forces contribute to them, and (if we can figure these things out) what can we do about it?

  176. StephenB said,

    “On the other hand, when the heat is on, that is when the real philosophy of life comes out. That’s when we say, “I’m personally opposed, but……… we must kill for the “greater good.” How many atheists do you know who will defend the life of an unborn baby?”

    Good question. This does not appear to be a personal attack.

    Allen said,

    “All of the atheists I know would do this…”

    And I ask, do what Allen? Can you expand? For example, fight to elect Pro-Life judges? Vote for pro-life candidates? Give money to pro-life organizations? “All” of the atheists you know would do these things or some of them to protect the unborn? Protest in front of abortion clinics? March on Washington DC? What do you mean by the words, “would do this” Allen?

    Lets not make it personal. Fighting for the rights of the unborn is not limited to your peronal experience. It is a much larger picture and you know the issues. So, what would “all” the atheist do? And how many do you know that have done the list I gave you?

    Majority of atheist I know Allen won’t do jack for the unborn. However, if it is their child and they desire to have a baby, yes, that is much different and they’ll fight with all their life for the survival of their baby. If they want it.

    But thats much different than fighting for another innocent life, isn’t it Allen? I just want to be clear on what “all” your atheist friends do support, besides a personal experience that you mention.

    “So, stephenB, got any more self-righteous character assassination up your sleeve, or are you simply going to repeat the same baseless and insulting garbage over and over and over again?”

    Actually, it appears you are the one who is attacking Stephen. He merely asked a simple question about atheist you might know. As have I asked you simple questions that are not personal, but about what actions atheist take.

    I’ll say it again. All agnostics or atheist I’ve known, with the exception of one, would not fight for the unborn. And I was quite surprised this person did.

    Frankly, your experience with “all” the atheist you know, fighting for the rights of “other” unborn, ifnot in their family is an anamoly. Whereas Christians are all over the place depending upon diverse issues such as denominations or church attendence.

    Are your friends members of the Atheist and Agnostic Pro-Life Organization Allen?

    Atheist and Agnostic Pro-Life League

    I wonder how many members they have? I’m glad it exist. But I doubt it is 1% of Judeo-Christian organizations size.

    What do you think Allen?

  177. And, of course, Buddhism does indeed have an absolute prohibition against murder, which in many cases extends to all sentient beings. That’s why most Buddhists try to be strict vegetarians (although some of us backslide at times…)

  178. pardon the lost blockquote above comment.

  179. Allen, just curious but do you believe that organizations that perform abortions should receive public funding.

  180. DATCG wrote:

    “I wonder how many members [the Atheist and Agnostic Pro-Life League] have? I’m glad it exist. But I doubt it is 1% of Judeo-Christian organizations size.”

    Might that be because thee are many more Judeo-Christian-Muslim-Mormons than atheists/agnostics?

    As for the number of atheists that I know who are members of the organizations that you list, I don’t know. I find that most people I know do not push their beliefs on me, and so I don’t really know what organizations they support (or don’t support). As for myself, I support the American Friends Service Committee (the service arm of the Society of Friends/Quakers, of which I am a long-time member). Friends are very pro-life (including an absolute stand against the death penalty under any circumstances), but they are also committed to personal, usually silent, non-coercive witness for our beliefs. Does that answer your question?

  181. In #180 tribune7 asked:

    “…do you believe that organizations that perform abortions should receive public funding.”

    No, but I’m also a Libertarian, so I don’t think that any organization should have “public” funding, if by “public” you mean “money extorted from others through the use of deadly force”.

    BTW, if you think taxes are not extorted through the use of deadly force, try not paying yours and see if the guy who eventually comes to take your house and other property away from you has a gun on his hip.

  182. As to which candidates I vote for, I tend to support those whose positions are closest to the positions I believe in. During the last election cycle that was Dr. Ron Paul, but when he wasn’t nominated and chose not to run for POTUS (and the Libertarian Party put up a jerk with no real Libertarian credentials or history), I made my choice on the basis of which candidate I thought would be better for the nation in the long run. Who that was is none of your business (nor anyone else’s), at least until the secret ballot is repealed in America.

  183. For the record, I’m an atheist who is not a Dawkins fan in regards to his thoughts on atheism and religion. Don’t throw us all into the same bag.

  184. Just for fun:

    I toss these two into the pot:

    1] Hawthorne on ethics and evolutionary materialist atheism (the relevant kind):

    >> Assume (per impossibile) that atheistic naturalism [= evolutionary materialism] is true. Assume, furthermore, that one can’t infer an ‘ought’ from an ‘is’ [the 'is' being in this context physicalist: matter-energy, space- time, chance and mechanical forces]. (Richard Dawkins and many other atheists should grant both of these assumptions.) Given our second assumption, there is no description of anything in the natural world from which we can infer an ‘ought’. And given our first assumption, there is nothing that exists over and above the natural world; the natural world is all that there is. It follows logically that, for any action you care to pick, there’s no description of anything in the natural world from which we can infer that one ought to refrain from performing that action. Add a further uncontroversial assumption: an action is permissible if and only if it’s not the case that one ought to refrain from performing that action. (This is just the standard inferential scheme for formal deontic logic.) We’ve conformed to standard principles and inference rules of logic and we’ve started out with assumptions that atheists have conceded in print. And yet we reach the absurd conclusion: therefore, for any action you care to pick, it’s permissible to perform that action. If you’d like, you can take this as the meat behind the slogan ‘if atheism is true, all things are permitted’. For example if atheism is true, every action Hitler performed was permissible. Many atheists don’t like this consequence of their worldview. But they cannot escape it and insist that they are being logical at the same time.>> [Here]

    2] my own summary for training purposes:

    >> . . . [evolutionary] materialism [a worldview that often likes to wear the mantle of "science"] . . . argues that the cosmos is the product of chance interactions of matter and energy, within the constraint of the laws of nature. Therefore, all phenomena in the universe, without residue, are determined by the working of purposeless laws acting on material objects, under the direct or indirect control of chance.

    But human thought, clearly a phenomenon in the universe, must now fit into this picture. Thus, what we subjectively experience as “thoughts” and “conclusions” can only be understood materialistically as unintended by-products of the natural forces which cause and control the electro-chemical events going on in neural networks in our brains. (These forces are viewed as ultimately physical, but are taken to be partly mediated through a complex pattern of genetic inheritance ["nature"] and psycho-social conditioning ["nurture"], within the framework of human culture [i.e. socio-cultural conditioning and resulting/associated relativism].)

    Therefore, if materialism is true, the “thoughts” we have and the “conclusions” we reach, without residue, are produced and controlled by forces that are irrelevant to purpose, truth, or validity. Of course, the conclusions of such arguments may still happen to be true, by lucky coincidence — but we have no rational grounds for relying on the “reasoning” that has led us to feel that we have “proved” them. And, if our materialist friends then say: “But, we can always apply scientific tests, through observation, experiment and measurement,” then we must note that to demonstrate that such tests provide empirical support to their theories requires the use of the very process of reasoning which they have discredited!

    Thus, evolutionary materialism reduces reason itself to the status of illusion. But, immediately, that includes “Materialism.” For instance, Marxists commonly deride opponents for their “bourgeois class conditioning” — but what of the effect of their own class origins? Freudians frequently dismiss qualms about their loosening of moral restraints by alluding to the impact of strict potty training on their “up-tight” critics — but doesn’t this cut both ways? And, should we not simply ask a Behaviourist whether s/he is simply another operantly conditioned rat trapped in the cosmic maze?

    In the end, materialism is based on self-defeating logic . . . .

    In Law, Government, and Public Policy, the same bitter seed has shot up the idea that “Right” and “Wrong” are simply arbitrary social conventions. This has often led to the adoption of hypocritical, inconsistent, futile and self-destructive public policies.

    “Truth is dead,” so Education has become a power struggle; the victors have the right to propagandise the next generation as they please. Media power games simply extend this cynical manipulation from the school and the campus to the street, the office, the factory, the church and the home . . . . >> [here]

    Just for fun

    GEM of TKI

    PS: Jerry, add in the personalisation of the need for power and the highly machiavellian tendencies.

  185. To all and sundry:

    I sincerely apologize for the length of time it usually takes for my comments to appear, and for the fact that the numbers which I refer to are often incorrect. I write my comments almost immediately, but it sometimes takes several hours to more than a day for some of them to emerge from moderation (and some never do). Please understand that I am not purposefully ignoring your comments, nor am I deliberately scrambling my references to comment numbers. I have asked several times to be taken off moderation, so far to no avail.

  186. For those who are interested in what genuine evolutionary psychologists think about this issue, here are some direct quotes from Richerson, P. & Boyd, R. (2006) Not by Genes Alone: How Culture Transformed Human Evolution, University of Chicago Press, ISBN #0226712125, 342 pages:

    “Culture is crucial for understanding human behavior. People acquire beliefs and values from the people around them, and you can’t explain human behavior without taking this reality into account….Culturally acquired ideas are crucially important for explaining a wide range of human behavior — opinions, beliefs, and attitudes, habits of thought, language, artistic styles, tools and technology, and social rules and political institutions.”

    and

    “Culture is part of biology.…Much evidence suggests that we have an evolved psychology that shapes what we learn and how we think, and that this in turn influences the kind of beliefs and attitudes that spread and persist. Theories that ignore these connections cannot adequately account for much of human behavior. At the same time, culture and cultural change cannot be understood solely in terms of innate psychology. Culture affects the succes and survival of individuals and groups; as a result, some cultural variants spread and others diminish, leading to evolutionary processes that are every bit as real and important as those that shape genetic variation. These culturally evolved environments then affect which genes are favored by natural selection. Over the evolutionary long haul, culture has shaped our innate psychology as much as the other way around.”

    My only quibble with the latter quote is that I would reword the next-to-last sentence to read:

    “These culturally evolved environments then affect which heritable phenotypes are favored by natural selection.

  187. 188

    mauka, whoever that is and I am sure we will never know.

    “Pepsi Cola hits the spot, twelve full ounces that’s a lot” is hardly from the thirties. I am sure it is familiar to most adults.

    ____________________________________

    Hazel, whoever that is and I am sure we will never know.

    I became a Roman Catholic at the age of seventy and I was never an atheist at any time in my entire life. Atheism is a congenital deficiency disease for which no cure is yet available. So is political liberalism. I have concluded from my over half century in the halls of academe that they sre probably pleiotropic effects of the same hereditary defect.

    Speaking as a scientist, any person who is so out of touch with reality as to deny even the PAST existence of an unknown number of what we now call Gods, is in my mind a fool.

    The notion that life spontaneously originated and then evolved is absurd on the face of it. I thought Pasteur had laid that insanity to rest long ago, as had Redi and Spallanzani long before him.

    That it still persists in the minds of congenital atheists (Darwinians) is one of the great mysteries of the Twenty-first century.

    It is hard to believe isn’t it?

    Not at all. It is displayed right here for all to see.

    I love it so!

  188. For the record, I too tend to disagree with some of what Richard Dawkins writes, partly because I think he is arguing by assertion rather than on the basis of evidence, and partly because I think that his definition of evolution (i.e. that it ultimately reduces to changes in gene frequencies) is fundamentally flawed. Furthermore, I believe that the trend in current evolutionary theory is away from the Dawkins/”modern synthesis” definition of genetic evolution and towards a version more compatible with Gould’s (and Darwin’s) version of phenotypic evolution.

  189. Shinto and Buddhism bear about as much relationship to each other as Protestantism and poker.

    And to stay on point, they are the religions of Japan, which you are citing as an example of a place with a low murder rate that has not been historically subject to the 6th Commandment.

    “And Buddhism certainly teaches that there is hell and heaven if you will, and that murder is evil.” . . .Buddhism most certainly does not teach any such thing. There is no “heaven” or “hell” in Buddhism,

    Well, I’m not going to claim to be an expert in Buddhism but googling +buddhism +hell gets you 1.49 million hits and this definition seems to be a standard one:

    25. The concept of Hell(s) in Buddhism is very different from that of other religions. It is not a place for eternal damnation as viewed by ‘almighty creator’ religions. In Buddhism, it is just one of the six realms in Samsara [i.e. the worst of three undesirable realms]. Also, there are virtually unlimited number of hells in the Buddhist cosmology as there are infinite number of Buddha worlds.

    Again, to stay on point, the idea is that there is a revealed spiritual punishment for Buddhists who commit murder.

    I’m not suggesting this, I’m stating it as a simple fact; there is no such thing as an “eternal soul” in Buddhism.

    Again, I’m not going to claim expertise in Buddhism. It has always been my understanding the one’s soul is reborn until one reaches Nirvana. It looks like I’m wrong, and I’m happy to be corrected.

  190. No, but I’m also a Libertarian, so I don’t think that any organization should have “public” funding, if by “public” you mean “money extorted from others through the use of deadly force”.

    I agree 100 percent, and you are right that tax money is collected through deadly force.

  191. iconofid

    Then, if we look amongst the western countries, the United States has the highest level of theism. It also has the highest percentage of its population in prison, and the highest murder rate amongst those remaining outside.

    So, having visited Sweden and having lived for some years in France, I wonder how dire these inevitable consequences of the “atheist worldview” are?

    I think you must be referring to the study, Cross-National Correlations of Quantifiable Societal Health with Popular Religiosity and Secularism in the Prosperous Democracies by Gregory Paul.

    You should know that Paul’s research has been critiqued by Gerson Moreno-Riano, Mark Caleb Smith, and Thomas Mach in their article, Religiosity, Secularism, and Social Health and also by George H. Gallup, Jr. in his article, Dogma Bites Man and by Scott Gilbreath in his article From our bulging “How not to do statistics” file.

    On the social benefits of religion, the article, Bird’s Eye (God & Faith in our society and impact on personal lives) by Karl Zinsmeister, makes a sociological case for the benefits of religion. Although not a scholarly article, it certainly offers food for thought. The article discusses areas such as substance abuse, marriage and family life, sexual behaviour, altruism, health and happiness. Whereas the study by Gregory Paul compared sociological data between different First World countries (a procedure which is fraught with peril, as social conditions vary widely between different nations, and some countries lag behind others in terms of social trends), this report examined one country (the USA) and cited studies supporting the conclusion that socially aberrant behaviour correlated with lack of religiosity.

    In the interests of fairness, I should say that one major limitation of Zinsmeister’s article is that there are no references in the article to the studies he cites. Curious readers might want to email Zinsmeister.

    I have visited Sweden and France and very much enjoyed staying in both countries. (I also enjoyed back-packing around 34 states of the USA in three months, back in 1994/95, when I had nothing to guide me except my Greyhound bus schedule and my “Let’s Go USA” travel guide!) However, I do think that a fair-minded person would conclude that the sociological case religion is a weak one.

    Iconofid, I assume your comment about babies being born atheists was a facetious one. After all, babies are born lacking a “theory of mind,” too (see http://www.interdisciplines.or.....n/papers/1 ).

    Allen MacNeill (#168): thanks for your kind remarks.

  192. 193

    Barry,

    This is just an opinion, but I am convinced it is useless to try to reason with homozygous Darwinians like Allen MacNeill. You would have just as much luck with P.Z. Myers, Christopher Hitchens or Richard Dawkins. Those cowards are afraid to even show their faces outside their own personal little ghettos. They are also MacNeill’s heros judging from his blogroll.

    The other recommendation I offer is to stop allowing anonymous blowhards from commenting. If they had anything of real value to present they would be using their real names. I don’t allow that kind of intellectual cowardice on my weblog any more. It is the bane of rational communication and should never have been condoned in the first place. Comments from unknown sources shouldn’t even be acknowledged. I say delete them and those anonymous blowhards that respond to them. If that policy were enforced theyall would soon stop behaving as they do. All they really want is to see their pathetic little egos expressed in the ephemeral world of cyberdumb. They are pathetic.

    Just some thoughts.

  193. I left out a word in my preceding post.

    “However, I do think that a fair-minded person would conclude that the sociological case against religion is a weak one.”

    Sorry.

  194. I should also qualify my statements about Buddhism by noting that the version of Buddhism that I have practiced for most of my life is Zen Buddhism, Rinzai sect. And, as I have already noted in previous threads, I have been a member of the Ithaca Monthly Meeting of Friends (“Quakers”) for more than 30 years. Also, neither Zen nor Friends practice prohibit anyone from being members of other religions nor holding “unorthodox” beliefs, so long as those beliefs do not directly contradict the generally accepted precepts of Zen and Friends practice.

  195. 196

    For those that do not accept a congenital basis for atheism I recommend “Born That Way” by William Wright. There is no longer any question about which is the more important, Nature or Nurture. Nature wins hands down. That is why that book in on my side board under “Important Books.”

    I have another side board listing entitled “Darwinian Sorcery.” There you will find Pharyngula, Panda’s Thumb including After the Bar Closes, richarddawkins.net, EvC, The Evolution List, The Loom and others.

    The only way to deal with Darwinians is to respond to them with thigh-slapping hilarity, just as Adam Sedgwick did when he read Darwin’s book On the Origin of Species, hot off the presses!

    “The one thing we learn from history is that we don’t learn from history.”
    Anonymous?

  196. —David Kellogg: “StephenB, do you want, in hazel’s words, “to really understand an alternative view,” or do you merely want to “prove such an alternative view . . . invalid”? Your answer suggests the latter.”

    David, go to the back of the class with Hazel.

    To review again:

    View #1, (My view:)

    [A] Humans are made in the image and likeness of God, therefore, [B] they have human dignity, therefore, [C] they deserve to live and should not be murdered. [D] [That includes unborn babies]

    View #2, (Hazel’s view:)

    [A] ???????????????????therefore [B] Humans have inherent dignity, therefore, [C] they ought not to be murdered. [D] [Does that include unborn babies?]

    I am not, therefore, refusing to understand Hazel’s position; I am asking for her to ARTICULATE IT. That means filling the blanks named [A} and [D} Are we clear now?

    I would also be interested in hearing about your position on the matter, or do you prefer only to scrutinize and never be scrutinized?

  197. Re: angryoldfatman

    I didn’t ignore the other two quotes. I addressed both of them in my post #50, and neither of them supported your argument.

    I’m not even sure what to say about all the personal attacks against me in the rest of your post. I’m a layman too, yet somehow I still have time to read books, and I like to think that I am intellectually honest enough to avoid criticizing authors that I haven’t read. It blows me away that you’re still hammering away at this point and yet you still admit that you have no clue about what any of these authors actually wrote.

  198. vjtorley,

    It may be counter-intuitive but it is my understanding that Europe has stricter abortion laws than the U.S., and is far less weird about public displays of religion.

    I remember visiting Slovakia not long after the wall came down and seeing blatantly Christian memorials– built under the communists — that would have been prohibited by the courts here.

    Further it is my understanding that in many European countries — such as Sweden and the U.K. — they start the school day with prayer.

  199. 200

    Allan MacNeill writes: “BTW, if you think taxes are not extorted through the use of deadly force, try not paying yours and see if the guy who eventually comes to take your house and other property away from you has a gun on his hip.”

    Dang Allan. You and I may not agree very often on these philosophical issues, but I think we would be fast friends on fiscal issues. ;-)

  200. —-Allen: “BTW, if you think taxes are not extorted through the use of deadly force, try not paying yours and see if the guy who eventually comes to take your house and other property away from you has a gun on his hip.”

    Yes, indeed. The Internal Revenue Service is the business end of liberal compassion.

  201. Stephen writes to/about me:

    [A] ???????????????????therefore [B] Humans have inherent dignity, therefore, [C] they ought not to be murdered. [D] [Does that include unborn babies?]

    I am not, therefore, refusing to understand Hazel’s position; I am asking for her to ARTICULATE IT. That means filling the blanks named [A} and [D} Are we clear now?

    Earlier Stephen wrote to me,

    I was simply pointing out that your assertion that there are “other ways of understanding where our [your] moral sense come [from?]” is clearly not true since there is no place that it can come from.

    As I have said before, and don’t want to keep repeating, Stephen is absolutely convinced he is right and I am wrong, whatever my beliefs, and therefore I see no sense in trying to explain myself. I will start with “humans have inherent dignity.” Stephen can have his reasons for believing that, which I don’t agree with, and I have mine, which he doesn’t agree with.

    By the way, I did have some things to say on this topic back on 117.

    And in response to [D}, how do you feel about war and capital punishment, Stephen? Against them I assume, out of respect for human dignity?

  202. 203

    Allan MacNeil writes: “In other words, it seems as if one’s religious inclinations have virtually nothing to do with one’s behavior. Rather, people do what they are motivated to do, and then use their religion (or lack of it) as a rationalization after the fact.”

    Two occassions of agreement in one day. A record. This is undoubtedly true as a general rule. The first important question is, therefore, “what conditions result in the greatest number of people who are either not motiviated to do evil or are at least motivated to resist the motivation to do evil?” Refraining from evil is only part of an ideal ethic. A desire to perform active good is the second part. This is why “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is more sublime than “Do not do to others what you would not want them to do to you.” Therefore, the second question is “what conditions result in the greatest number of people who are motivated to do active works of good such as acts of charity.”

    It is clear that the answer to both questions is that overall a society thoroughly infused with not just religious belief, but with Christian belief (and by “Christian belief,” I mean the actual ethical beliefs taught by Jesus, the most important of which is “love your neighbor as yourself”) best deters evil and motivates good. How many atheist charities do you know? How many atheist hospitals, or orphanages, or third world medical missions or (exampls could be multiplied) do you know?

  203. DanSLO @ 194

    I didn’t ignore the other two quotes. I addressed both of them in my post #50, and neither of them supported your argument.

    Ah, pardon. Let’s see what you had to say:

    From #50 I’m not familiar with Charles Kimball and the Sam Harris quote says nothing about violence, but instead is talking about how the idea of religious tolerance often stifles criticism of religiously motivated violence. (As a side note, Harris and others don’t advocate institutionalized religious intolerance or discrimination, but rather a kind of social intolerance and a culture people feel freer to criticize religion).

    Even the Dawkins quote supports the quote in the original post. He’s saying that religion can provide a motivation for violence, not that it is the ONLY one or that if we get rid of religion we will eliminate violence.

    I’ll repeat what I said in #13: If the prominent atheists like Dawkins, Harris, et al, don’t believe religion causes all violence, they’re doing a poor job of informing their sycophants of it.

    Why do I say that? Because practically every “Four Horsemen” fanboy I’ve found on the internet has told me religion must be destroyed/eliminated to bring peace to the world.

    Are they reading the same books from Dawkins, Harris, Dennett, and Hitchens that you are? If so, they’re getting a radically different message back from them than you are.

    I’m not even sure what to say about all the personal attacks against me in the rest of your post.

    They’re only personal attacks if you fit the general description I gave.

    I’m a layman too, yet somehow I still have time to read books, and I like to think that I am intellectually honest enough to avoid criticizing authors that I haven’t read. It blows me away that you’re still hammering away at this point and yet you still admit that you have no clue about what any of these authors actually wrote.

    I’m criticizing the authors for the message I read/hear coming from the vast majority of their fanclubs. I’m also listening to the other things they say and do besides these handful of books they’ve written.

    Do you not want to eliminate religion, DanSLO? If you do, and it’s because it’s irrational and illogical but not dangerous, then you should push for tarot cards and horoscopes to be made illegal as well.

  204. Angryoldfatman,

    Can you please provide an example of where one of the “four horsemen” says that religion should “be made illegal”?

    I’ve never seen anyone make such a suggestion.

  205. Along with Hazel and Allen I’d like to offer my thoughts on Dawkins too.

    I do like a lot of what he has to say, but I also don’t agree with everything. I think especially that his ideas about eliminating religion are misplaced. I think sometimes he wants it both ways – on the one hand he will admit that religion could be an artifcat of an earlier evolutionary process. But then he may go on to berate people who believe such things and label them as uneducated or even stupid. I think that’s contradictory. The reality is that, human beings (or at least many of them) do seem disposed to be religious/spiritual. Why exactly that happens is probably not fully understood, but it does seem to fulfill a need (for some at least, but not at all for myself or others). It’s completely unlikely it’s going to disappear anytime soon (not in our livetimes at least). I wonder how much Dawkins really understands this.

    So while I respect Dawkins, I do not agree with him on all things. I also find his tone to be too shrill at times and not helpful to the debate.

  206. tribune7: “Further it is my understanding that in many European countries — such as Sweden and the U.K. — they start the school day with prayer.”

    I grew up in the UK and that was certainly the case (not so sure about today as I no longer live then). In fact it was more than prayer – it was complete 15-minute assembly, complete with hymns, prayers and often a religious talk. The Jewish and Indian kids stayed in their classrooms while we had assembly. And this wasn’t even a Church of England school, just a regular state-run school.

    But given the amount of religious participation in the UK today, one could argue that the best way to kill spiritual interest is for the state to interfere in such a manner. Certainly for myself and our classmates, because it was seen as an instutionalized obligation, it was something to discard and rebel against (and usually mess around in, often with alternative words to the hymns…)

  207. It is clear that the answer to both questions is that overall a society thoroughly infused with not just religious belief, but with Christian belief (and by “Christian belief,” I mean the actual ethical beliefs taught by Jesus,

    Very true Barry. Culture matters. Even Jefferson, who did not believe in miracles, was a proponent of a Christian society.

    Theology is not something one should impose on another but values are something that certainly should be.

    And anyone who wants to argue about it should remember that the claim “theology is not something one should impose on another” is a value.

  208. JTaylor –But given the amount of religious participation in the UK today, one could argue that the best way to kill spiritual interest is for the state to interfere in such a manner.

    You are right. OTOH, I grew up attending American schools and was pounded with evolutionary (and Freudian and various pop-psych) dogma with nary a nod towards any sort of respect for religious tradition.

    And this created an environment that led to massive drug abuse, suicides, loveless sex and a generally nihilistic atmosphere that eventually even resulted in murder.

    I’m convinced that starting the day with a quick voluntary prayer and maybe hearing a little scripture would have gone long way to making things a bit more pleasant.

    Granted, I may not have wound up quite so zealous in my Christian belief, but I would trade some of the zeal for avoiding a lot of the misery I saw.

    I think there is a middle road.

  209. tribune7:

    I started elementary school in the 1950s (in 1955, to be precise), and for my entire childhood we not only started each day with a prayer, we all went to religious instruction in the afternoon (the church was right across the street). Do the math: I’m a “boomer”, right? One of those people who, according to your description, “created an environment that led to massive drug abuse, suicides, loveless sex and a generally nihilistic atmosphere that eventually even resulted in murder.”

    So, how do you explain this? Furthermore, how do you explain the simple, empirical fact that crime rates have fluctuated wildly over the past 50 years, and have not been correlated in any way with the presence or absence of religious instruction in the public schools or the public square?

    As just one example, New England is widely recognized as one of the least religious regions in the United States. It also has one of the lowest regional crime rates and divorce rates in the United States. By contrast, the states of the former Confederacy have both the highest rates of church attendance and the highest crime and divorce rates in the United States. What I conclude from this is that there is no necessary relationship between religious belief, religious practice, and morality (as reflected in crime and divorce rates).

  210. 211

    This is for the Darwinians with which this thread is so blessed, especially those who are fans of Richard Dawkins.

    There is not a word in all of Dawkin’s books that ever had anything to do with the MECHANISM of an undeniable past organic evolution, not a word. The same can be said for “The Structure of Evolutionary Theory” by Stephen Jay Gould, “The Growth of Biological Thought” by Ernst Mayr and of course the fantasy that started this whole debacle, “On the Origin of Species” by Charles Darwin It has only been the MECHANISM that has ever been in question.

    What we have witnessed for the last century and half is nothing more than a prolonged mass hysteria fueled by six generations of congenital atheists who became convinced as part of the so-called “Age of Enlightenment” that God was no longer necessary to explain our origins.

    Nothing could be further from the truth. Everything we have learned since Darwin pleads for a planned, determined, ascending phylogeny in which chance played no role whatsoever, just as it played no role in ontogeny in the past as in the present.

    The recombination of genetic factors in sexual reproduction is INCOMPETENT to produce even new verifiable species, let alone any higher taxa. Mendelian genetics, random mutation and Natural Selection are all anti-evolutionary, serving only either to prevent change or to hasten extinction. Without extinction there could never have been any evolution. Past extinctions would have taken place with or without environmental catastrophes. Extinction was an integral feature of a planned phylogeny. These are not idle whims on my part but firmly established experimental realities as well as the silent testimony of the fossil record, the final arbiter of evolutionary reality.

    To debate the Darwinians is a monumental waste of time. They are impervious to debate, immune to reason and unconscious to the real world which surrounds them.
    They no longer even defend their silly proposition, knowing it is without foundation.

    Helpless “prescribed” ideologues that they are, they now do the only thing that they MUST do which is to relentlessly attack the only conceivable alternative to atheist Darwinism, a planned phylogeny which I believe terminated with the appearance of Homo sapiens no more than one hundred thousand years ago.

    They can’t help themselves. They are “born to lose” losers.

    Christ recognized such pathetic creatures -

    “Forgive them Father for they know not what they do.”

    Two thousand year later they still don’t. It is the forgiving that is the tough part. I find it most difficult myself as one can no doubt tell.

    “Orthodoxy means not thinking – not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness.”
    George Orwell. 1984

    “A past evolution is undeniable, a present evolution undemonstrable.”
    John A. Davison

  211. —-Hazel: “As I have said before, and don’t want to keep repeating, Stephen is absolutely convinced he is right and I am wrong, whatever my beliefs, and therefore I see no sense in trying to explain myself. I will start with “humans have inherent dignity.” Stephen can have his reasons for believing that, which I don’t agree with, and I have mine, which he doesn’t agree with.”

    In spite of all your protests, you have only stated what you believe but you have not told me why you believe it. I am not asking you to repeat anything. I am asking you to state for the first time why you think humans have dignity or where they get it or why we should believe that they do.

    —-Hazel: “By the way, I did have some things to say on this topic back on 117.” (On the rational justification for morality)

    Yes, you did say many things, but none of them had anything to do with my question.

    —-Hazel: “And in response to [D}, how do you feel about war and capital punishment, Stephen? Against them I assume, out of respect for human dignity?”

    Thank you. You have just answered my question with your silence. Even though you claim to believe in the inherent dignity of the human person, you are not willing to grant that status to the unborn baby.

  212. StephenB,

    Is a fertilized egg that has not yet implanted in the uterine wall an “unborn baby” under your definition?

  213. Stephen say, “In spite of all your protests, you have only stated what you believe but you have not told me why you believe it.”

    I am not protesting – I’m just telling you that I’m not going to try to explain to you why I believe what I do. That’s my privilege – like everyone else here I can choose what topics I want to discuss.

    Stephen writes, “Thank you. You have just answered my question with your silence. Even though you claim to believe in the inherent dignity of the human person, you are not willing to grant that status to the unborn baby.”

    No, I answered no question with my silence – that is a presumptuous thing to think. There are lots of questions you might ask me that I wouldn’t answer.

    Looking at this backwards, how do you feel about war? Is this a question you want to discuss with me? If not, should I honor your decision, or should I decide that by your silence I know what your answer is? Which of those two is the right thing to do, do you think?

  214. 215

    StephenB [87]:

    —-Adel Dibagno: “hazel can speak for hazel, but my position is based on the Golden Rule. I want to be treated as if I have dignity, and it would be unreasonable for me to treat others differently.”

    Yes, I understand that it is based on your wishes, but what if someone else’s wishes conflict with yours. Why should the wishes of those who prefer the golden rule be honored over the wishes of those who prefer “might makes right?”

    To keep the peace. To have a civil society. No gods needed.

  215. Re: angryoldfatman

    Then make it clear that you have no idea what the authors actually said, but that you are only criticizing their rabid fanboys (and there are a number of those, I will definitely grant you that).

    Do you not want to eliminate religion, DanSLO? If you do, and it’s because it’s irrational and illogical but not dangerous, then you should push for tarot cards and horoscopes to be made illegal as well.

    Well, yes, in the same way that everyone wishes the rest of the world acted and believed as they did. I certainly wouldn’t want to make religion illegal or anything ridiculous like that (and neither would Dawkins and the rest of them). I don’t like people wasting their time and money on religion any more than tarot cards and horoscopes either, but the proper way to do that is to educate people and change their minds, not by force. You’ll find that most reasonable atheists, including all of those authors we’re discussing, will hold some kind of view like this.

  216. 217

    Diffaxial,

    “There is considerable irony in this statement, as stating that “culture is just [can be reduced to] the collective of individuals” is reductionist in exactly the way that “love is only lust” and particularly “thoughts are only biochemistry” are reductionist. There is more to thought than biochemistry, and there is more to the phenomenon of human cultural innovation, transmission and expression than sum of the actions of individuals. Again, I don’t see anything particularly “materialist” or “antimaterialist” about this assertion.

    Clive, don’t look now, but on this topic YOU are the reductionist (Barry too). And that is why you are unable to grasp that considerable individual human behavior can be best understood in light of the history of the culture into which the one is born and in which one is immersed.”

    Stating that a culture is just a collection of individuals is not the same sort of reductionist argument that Allen MacNeill was making, for he was faulting me with claiming that the laws of nature produce an ought, a category mistake. It is not a category mistake to say that a culture is a collection of individuals at all. What seems to be missing from these “cultural evolution” of morality statements is the glaringly obvious fact that culture is only a group of individuals–and that if the individuals don’t already know how to behave, getting them into a group won’t bring it about. If there is any cultural morality it is because the individuals in the group are already moral, and act accordingly. Let’s keep first things first here. If there were no rules of football, it wouldn’t matter how many players you had on the field for goodness sakes. This is so obvious as to be comical.

  217. 218

    Allen MacNeill,

    “Please cite an evolutionary psychology text where anything like your ridiculous caricature is asserted. I suggest you start with the following:”

    That’s your answer? I could suggest a reading list for you too, but I won’t defer to others, I will actually argue the point. If we are evolved beings, how do we know what is right and what is wrong using evolution as our guide? And there is evolutionary psychology literature that claims that our sense of morality, our sense of dignity, freedom, our religious beliefs or lack thereof, are a result of evolution. How is evolution at once our guide and our trickster if it is to give us contradictory belief systems? By what scheme do you provide, what matrix, what standard applied, that discerns between what evolutionary standards of behaviour should be followed in the teeth of opposing standards? How do we bring to our study of behaviour which behaviours should be followed and which shouldn’t? I’m really interested in this answer, because I really do believe that evolutionary psychology itself is a non-starter when determining anything metaphysical.

  218. Yes, I understand that it is based on your wishes, but what if someone else’s wishes conflict with yours. Why should the wishes of those who prefer the golden rule be honored over the wishes of those who prefer “might makes right?”

    —-Adel Dibagno: “To keep the peace. To have a civil society. No gods needed.”

    But the tyrants don’t want a civil society, they want to make slaves of you and me. Why should they accept your golden rule when they have already decided that they need not abide by it. By what standard to you tell them that they have no right to enslave you? They say they have every right to do it because they have more power. You may prefer to be free, but they prefer that you should be a slave. People has always wanted to be free, but usually to no avail. Why should the tyrant honor your wishes?

  219. —-Hazel: “I am not protesting – I’m just telling you that I’m not going to try to explain to you why I believe what I do. That’s my privilege – like everyone else here I can choose what topics I want to discuss.”

    Hey, you are doing the driving. I explained that Christians have a meaningful rational justification for believing that humans have dignity. You attacked that argument on the grounds of its presumed exclusivity and insisted that atheists also have a rational justification for believing the same thing. So, naturally, I asked you what that might be. Since you obviously don’t have one, maybe you should have just remained silent.

  220. Clive:

    How do atheists and materialists derive any “ought,” for all that exists is the “is” by their scheme? I would really like to know the answer to this question.

    Referencing my comment vis incompatible frameworks that appeared on the “Quote of the Day” thread, the atheist response to your question, directed to the religiously inclined, is in the neighborhood of, “The same way you do.” Their response is to argue that religious assertions of “morality derived from God,” from organized religion, and from religious traditions are no less human inventions than explicitly humanist creeds – although they are burdened with fewer fictions and are more honest about their human and cultural origins. The bottom line, from this perspective, is that we are all in the same boat with respect to the human origins of moral codes of conduct – although some of us aren’t aware of it.

    Of course believers take umbrage at this argument. But it is internally coherent. Therefore the key question cannot be, “Which viewpoint yields a more valid and justifiable morality” – because the answer one gives depends upon the framework from which one answers. The key question really is, “do you believe in God” – e.g., which organizing framework do you accept. Everything else follows from your response to that question.

    If the answer I get is “from cultural evolution” that’s just another way of saying “from a bunch of individuals put together”–as if the fact of their being together magically produces the “ought” as an emergent quality of a group of more than one person. I don’t see how that would work, for any judgment of morality is only discerned by the individuals.

    As I noted in the previous thread, your view of culture is decidedly reductionistic, and, in a very real sense, materialist – much more so than my own. The notion that “thoughts are only biochemistry” should be quite congenial to you, as it reflects exactly the same sort of reductionism.

  221. —-Allen: “All of the atheists I know would do this, including my wife. We did everything we could to save the life of our unborn child, but lost her anyway. Her name was Cynara and she died in utero three years ago this month.”

    I am sorry to hear that, but your statement proves nothing. The issue is not how people act when they want a child; they issue is how they act when they DON’T. It is typically the ACLU atheists who insist that babies have no rights.

    —-”So, stephenB, got any more self-righteous character assassination up your sleeve, or are you simply going to repeat the same baseless and insulting garbage over and over and over again?”

    It is not a baseless charge. Atheists are less likely to defend life in the womb. This is news to you? Who do you think it is that does all the pro-life lobbying? It isn’t the atheists.

  222. Hey Stephen, I did not “insist that atheists also have a rational justification for believing the same thing.”

    In fact I started 117 by writing,

    No matter who you are, theist, atheist, materialist or whatever, our values are grounded and nourished in much more than logic.

    If I have “insisted” anything, it is that I don’t accept your ideas about “air tight logic,” “self-evident truths,” and so on. I don’t believe we need to keep coming back to that point. I believe that I have good reasons, based on a variety of rationales, for the values I hold, but as I have explained, since I don’t believe in the world of objective truths like you do, my reasons would never meet your standards.

  223. 224

    In [223] Hazel finally admits that she does not “believe in the world of objective truths.” Hazel, you are a deeply irrational person. This site is devoted to the search for truth through argumentation. Argumentation depends upon the application of reason to evidence. The process absolutely depends upon the existence of objective truth. You have stated that you do not believe in objective truth. All you want to do is make assertions, which you then refuse to defend on logical or evidential grounds. Thus, arguing with you is utterly pointless. Move along to another site.

  224. 225

    Is’t it intereting that Darwinians like Allen MacNeill freely invade the weblogs of Creationists but banish them willy nilly from their own bastions. How many Creationists (like myself) have survived Pharyngula, richarddawkins.net, EvC, Panda’s Thumb, The Loom or The Evolution List? I have been banished from them all only because I have discarded the Darwinian fairy tale as did every one of my sources. This has nothing to do with civility as MacNeill keeps whining. This is intellectual bigotry displayed in naked fashion. I don’t understand what Uncommon Descent hopes to gain by this unilateral policy of encouraging its mortal enemies to present their Godless convictions. There is only one way to deal with Darwinians. It is to continually expose them as congenital, rationally hamstrung victims of their predestined fate to be useless members of the scientific community. Both individually and as a group they have contributed absolutely nothing of value to our understanding of the twin mysteries of ontogeny and phylogeny, absolutely nothing.

    Neither have their mortal enemies the Biblical Fundamentalists.

    “Then there are the fanatical atheists whose intolerance is the same as that of the religious fanatics, and it springs from the same source… They are creatures who can’t hear the music of the spheres.”
    Albert Einstein

    There now, I feel somewhat better.

  225. Hazel, as I pointed out at 46, theists accept an objective moral roadmap in the form of the natural moral law; atheists don’t.

    I went on to explain how that works .

    Among other things, I exlained very carefully that Christians believe that humans are made in the “image and likeness of God.” It is on that basis that they hold to the “inherent dignity of the human persons.”

    To that you wrote,

    —-”Those who don’t believe in God have others way of understanding where our moral sense come”

    That statement either means something or it doesn’t. Your moral sense either comes from someplace or it doesn’t. If you have “your colleagues have you own ways of understanding where that place is” but cannot explain it to anyone else, then your own way is not very useful is it?

    Now you write:

    —–”I believe that I have good reasons, based on a variety of rationales, for the values I hold, but as I have explained, since I don’t believe in the world of objective truths like you do, my reasons would never meet your standards.”

    You either have rational reasons or you don’t. Naturally, I doubt that you do, but, who knows, life is full of surprises.

    —Hazel: “I don’t believe we need to keep coming back to that point.”

    It was you who raised the objection and issued the challenge.

  226. Barry says,

    In [223] Hazel finally admits that she does not “believe in the world of objective truths.” Hazel, you are a deeply irrational person. This site is devoted to the search for truth through argumentation. Argumentation depends upon the application of reason to evidence. The process absolutely depends upon the existence of objective truth. You have stated that you do not believe in objective truth. All you want to do is make assertions, which you then refuse to defend on logical or evidential grounds. Thus, arguing with you is utterly pointless. Move along to another site.

    Barry, I don’t know whether you’ve following any of the other threads I’ve been on, but my position from the beginning, last November I believe, is that as an atheist I don’t believe in any transcendental source of “objective truth,” and I’ve spent a lot of time discussing that position.

    I have defended many positions here on both logic and evidential grounds: my position is that you need both logic and evidence to get truth, and that that truth is always at least in theory provisional. You may disagree with these positions, but they are positions held by many, including other people who discuss here. Today I have asserted that I believe in inherent human dignity, but that I don’t want to get into the reasons for that with StephenB: I just finished being a part of a 700 post thread with him, and that’s enough for me for now.

    I’ll quit responding to his posts, if that helps.

  227. 228

    Barry write:

    This site is devoted to the search for truth through argumentation. Argumentation depends upon the application of reason to evidence. The process absolutely depends upon the existence of objective truth.

    The most important writers of the last century on argumentation (Chaim Perelman and Stephen Toulmin) suggest otherwise. There can be all sorts of agreement short of “objective truth.” In fact, every agreement is.

  228. Another point: the point of discussion doesn’t have to be argument. Sometimes it’s useful for people with differing viewpoints to just share, as best they can, what their viewpoint is without feeling like they have to argue for or against anything. This can be a constructive thing to do.

  229. How can we at once declare there are no objective truths yet science is supposedly based on the objective assessment of evidence? Am I mistaken here?

    If not, why the dichotomy?

  230. We have two different meanings of objective here, I think.

    1. When Barry et al speak of objective truths, I think they are talking about transcendental Truths, with a capital T, that not only exist apart from any one person but exist apart from physical reality entirely, probably in the mind of God. Such truths are self-evident to us by virtue of our God-given reason. If I have mischaracterized this position, I would be happier to here a better description.

    2. When one speaks of science as dealing in objective truths, I think we mean truths, with a decidedly little t, that have been reached by consensus based on empirical evidence, based on our senses of the external world.

    I think these are two fairly different meanings and usages of the word “objective.”

  231. Hazel, what you have yet to realize is that no amount of argument or evidence is enough to shake the blind and sneering confidence of those who believe that they possess the absolute, objective truth about all of reality. That is why this website clearly isn’t about science by any accepted definition of that term, because any well-trained scientist understands that all of our understandings about nature are provisional, not absolute, and that “truth” is a matter of relative confidence, not absolute conviction.

    So, if it makes you feel less like you’re pounding your head against the wall, you could leave. I, for one, will miss your posts, and I suspect that those silent readers of this website, whose minds are not absolutely, unshakably already made up, will miss your calm, reasonable, and compassionate voice here amid the raucous cacaphony of the smugly self-righteous.

  232. BarryA @ 32:

    mauka, do you actually have something to say in response to the point of the post, i.e., that men kill for a wide variety of reasons and there is no reason to single out religious belief as the sole or even primary motivation for violence? If not, kindly move along to another site and let the grownups discuss the post.

    BarryA @ 224

    Hazel, you are a deeply irrational person.. Thus, arguing with you is utterly pointless. Move along to another site.

    Barry, now I’m a little confused. You articulated a new moderation policy that stated, “As a general rule, so long as your comment is not defamatory profane, or a vicious personal attack, you can say pretty much what you want…if you keep your comments restricted to ideas and not attacking people, you should have no problems passing muster here.” Yet above you twice ask posters to leave UD because you don’t care for the content of their posts, and additionally insult hazel with “you are a deeply irrational person,” which is a purely ad hominem statement. Moreover, elsewhere posters have been ejected from UD since the articulation of your new moderation policy because of content posted on other blogs – although you explicitly stated that others with critical blogs are welcome, so long as they comport themselves appropriately at UD:

    I’m just wondering Clive,

    Let’s say a person such as, oh, PZ Meyers wanted to post here and he kept his language cordial and non-insulting, would he be welcome to post? I would be interested in reading what he has to say without all the hyperbole that is a part of his language in his own blog. I might enjoy seeing how others here would challenge him. Maybe I’m ignorant, but has he ever posted here?

    Barry Arrington
    03/13/2009
    10:41 pm

    I’ll answer that. If PZ — or anyone else — came here and minded his manners, he would be more than welcome. I’m not holding my breath though, because PZ does not appear to be able to rise above adolescent name calling.

    So, what IS the moderation policy at UD? Are you regretting some of the above? Whatever it is, it seems quite inconsistently applied, and you seem to reserve for yourself the right for, if not adolescent name calling, then mid-life name calling.

  233. Allen said,

    “Might that be because thee are many more Judeo-Christian-Muslim-Mormons than atheists/agnostics?”

    Yes, it is a determining factor in overal rates, but not actual rates of atheist pro-life or pro-abortion support. That is why I limited it to 1% or under. But the actual percentage of atheist in America is 5% of Americans in a quick search.

    My question still remains a legitimate one. Do atheist as a rule support pro-life movements? Or, are they more likely to support pro-abortion as a majority position?

    Note also that I was careful to say that the “religious” population is all over the place for various reasons.

    From an atheist website and Barna Group study in 2006:

    “47% of political liberals are unchurched(have not attended religious services in last 6mos), more than twice the percentage found among political conservatives(19%)”

    The study also showed 19% of conservatives are unchurched, making about 12 million conservatives who are likely candidates of libertarian, are social liberals or agnostics in social policy, maintaining a strictly fiscal conservative view of limited government spending.

    The point is media often reports, the great majority of Americans always quoted at high numbers of 80-90% are not active Christians. In fact, the atheist site estimated 73 million adults are unchurched, which when including children swells up to 100 million Americans. This paints quite a different picture and shows that over generalization of some stats regarding religious beliefs are misleading.

    This shows the population can be misunderstood at large.

    But Allen, are you arguing that Pro-Life advocates are a majority in the atheist demographic? Or, do you concede the point that your experience is an anamoly?

    “As for the number of atheists that I know who are members of the organizations that you list, I don’t know.”

    Fair enough. Then is it fair to say you instead of “all” your athesit friends defend the rights of the unborn(beside their personal family) is at the very least overstated on your part?

    “I find that most people I know do not push their beliefs on me, and so I don’t really know what organizations they support (or don’t support).”

    OK, to me this is a concession that not “all” your atheist friends defends the rights of the unborn. You simply are saying now, you do not know. Thanks.

    “As for myself, I support the American Friends Service Committee (the service arm of the Society of Friends/Quakers, of which I am a long-time member). Friends are very pro-life (including an absolute stand against the death penalty under any circumstances), but they are also committed to personal, usually silent, non-coercive witness for our beliefs. Does that answer your question?”

    I was not asking about your personal life. Your answer does explain more. Your Quaker friends are religious believers, not atheist. They believe in Christ teachings. And I am familiar with the information you provided about them.

    But yes, you answered my question orignially when you said that you “do not know” about your atheist friends. Which is a change from “all” your atheist friends defend the lives of the unborn.

    The point I am making again is that if what you said originally was true, then is was a rare anamoly of atheist.

    Again, are you suggesting otherwise?

  234. Allen, not sure if you were addressing the following to me or someone else…

    “Who that was is none of your business (nor anyone else’s), at least until the secret ballot is repealed in America.”

    I do not want to know who your vote, but was making a point about atheist voting along lines of liberal policy that usually includes pro-abortion stand. Libertarian stats I do not have at hand and no time to search, but I do appreciate you not wanting to spend federal funds on abortion around the world. Although, I’m not sure how that is consistent with your stance on federally funded embryonic stem cell research.

    There are some obvious famous names like Penn Jillette who defend Libertarian principles. We are most likely in agreement over the deceptively named Bill “Emloyee Free Choice Act” which lifts protections from workers rights to a secret ballot. I live in a Right to Work state.

    Sorry my responses are so late. And I just saw your response above to Atheist quotes which I may not get to tonight.

  235. 236

    Just as the atheist Darwinians have always pretended that they have no critics, so the Creationists pretend they have no allies. In each case it is either their way or the highway.

    Apparently here at Uncommon Descent it is far more important to “debate” than to discover, to declare and to conclude, which is what real science has always been about.

    Carry on, keep “debating.” I will go elsewhere to find a receptive audience for my heresies.

    “Facts which at first seem improbable will, even on scant explanation, drop the cloak which has hidden them and stand forth in naked and simple beauty.”
    Galileo

    Oh Galileo, if that were only true. One hundred and fifty years of much more than “scant explanation” has still failed to defeat the atheist Darwinian hoax. It is alive and thriving, attracting more and more dedicated followers as the forces of evil which it represents continue to dominate a Western culture which has lost its way.

    It is hard to believe isn’t it?

    Not at all. The proof is right here at Uncommon Descent and elsewhere. To challenge the biggest joke in the history of science is still regarded as a criminal offence.

  236. DATCG, I appreciate the fact that you properly reframed the prolife issue @177, @234, and @235. As you suggest, it was meant to be less about personal experiences and more about the atheist demographic.

  237. 238

    Allen MacNeill

    I realize that you are already on record that you will never respond to me again, a posture which gives me a decided advantage.

    There is nothing “provisional” about atheist Darwinism. The notion that phylogeny was intrinsic in the properties of prebiotic matter is the most absurd assumption in the history of science. If that were true, the production of metabolizing, reproducing and evolving life would have been achieved in the experimental laboratory long ago.

    I don’t subscribe to a “provisional” view of science either. All of science has proceeded based on absolute truths which may have been incomplete but never “provisional.” Just as ontogeny proceeds in a series of compulsory, predetermined, irreversible steps so has all of science done the same.

    “Everything is determined…by forces over which we have no control.”
    Albert Einstein

    The Darwinian fantasy is a “blind alley” as William Bateson described it, a “deceit” as Soren Lovtrup described it, “incompetent” as St. George Mivart described it and a “hoax” as I have described it.

    I think it is very amusing that you are willing to expose yourself to the kind of ridicule I am so very willing to heap upon you. Your atheist colleagues, Paul Zachary Myers, Wesley Elsberry and Richard Dawkins wouldn’t dream of leaving their “closed union shops” to expose themselves as you insist on doing here. Like yourself, they stifle all dissent in their own domains but at least have the good sense not to make fools of themselves by leaving the security of the “Alamos” that their intellectual ghettos have always been.

    Darwinism is dead as the proverbial hammer. That anyone with an IQ above 90 can still believe any of it is a mystery.

  238. John A Davison,

    I realize that you are already on record that you will never respond to me again, a posture which gives me a decided advantage.

    You write:

    I think it is very amusing that you are willing to expose yourself to the kind of ridicule I am so very willing to heap upon you. Your atheist colleagues, Paul Zachary Myers, Wesley Elsberry and Richard Dawkins wouldn’t dream of leaving their “closed union shops” to expose themselves as you insist on doing here. Like yourself, they stifle all dissent in their own domains but at least have the good sense not to make fools of themselves by leaving the security of the “Alamos” that their intellectual ghettos have always been.

    I think you may be overestimating the power of your ridicule, John.

    You also have your own “Alamo” blog, where you routinely delete and edit comments that you don’t like. There is a whiff of hypocrisy, there, I suggest.

  239. 240

    I see Alan Fox is responding to commments directed at Allen MacNeill, not Alan Fox.

    I have deleted virtually nothing on my weblog. As a matter of fact I collect insults, publish them and identify their sources whenever possible. Alan Fox’s comment #239 is a flagrant bald faced lie which should surprise no one. I also have never “edited” any comments other than my own, another bald faced lie.

    You talk about ad hominem attacks being frowned on here: what kind of hypocricy is that? Alan Fox has once again proved that he has nothing of substance to offer here or on any other forum where he is still allowed to speak. He has always been nothing more than a one man “goon squad” for Wesley Elsberry, Richard Dawkins and Paul Zachary Myers. He has followed me for years always with the same purpose, to make me look as awful as possible. He has a very special affection for me. It is called geriatrophilia. He likes old guys a lot, at least this one.

    If his comments are allowed to stand, it will only prove that blatant lying is acceptable here at Uncommon Descent.

  240. I have deleted virtually nothing on my weblog.

    Virtually is a bit of a stretch!
    One could compare this to this.

  241. 242

    I deleted Alan Fox and banished him from any further participation. Fortunately I was able to escape his evil clutches just in time, due largely to the help of AB, whoever that is.

    His history where I am concerned speaks volumes. He is also a regular at After the Bar Closes. Need I say more?

    I have nothing more to say about Alan Fox and wouldn’t have responded at all if he hadn’t lied.

  242. 243

    For an independent appraisal of Alan Fox I offer the following from my weblog -

    http://jadavison.wordpress.com.....mment-1853

    comments #498-500

  243. 244

    StephenF [219]:

    Yes, I understand that it is based on your wishes, but what if someone else’s wishes conflict with yours. Why should the wishes of those who prefer the golden rule be honored over the wishes of those who prefer “might makes right?”

    —-Adel Dibagno: “To keep the peace. To have a civil society. No gods needed.”

    But the tyrants don’t want a civil society, they want to make slaves of you and me.

    Who are these tyrants? Are you thinking of intellectual or political tyranny?

    Why should they accept your golden rule when they have already decided that they need not abide by it. By what standard to you tell them that they have no right to enslave you? They say they have every right to do it because they have more power. You may prefer to be free, but they prefer that you should be a slave. People has always wanted to be free, but usually to no avail. Why should the tyrant honor your wishes?

    I would not try to reason with a political tyrant. I would, by whatever political means available, as far as possible within existing law, work to overthrow the tyrant.

    In the intellectual sphere, I am free to disagree.

  244. 245

    Allen MacNeill,

    “That is why this website clearly isn’t about science by any accepted definition of that term, because any well-trained scientist understands that all of our understandings about nature are provisional, not absolute, and that “truth” is a matter of relative confidence, not absolute conviction.”

    Except when it comes to disbelieving ID and accepting evolution, right? But, I think you’re on to something when you say that “nature” in particular, and not “truth” in general, is provisionally known. For, we know such things as truth independent of nature–things like the law of non-contradiction. But, we have no equivalent knowledge of nature, for all we can do is study her effects. We have no knowledge of nature’s inner synthesis like we do with the knowledge of truth and logic. We can see why it is reasonable to send a pickpocket to jail–we take liberty from a man who takes liberties. But we have no equivalent insight into why a bird should fly and also lay eggs, or why any of the laws of nature are the way that they are and not some other way. We do not have this knowledge nor insight into nature.

  245. 246

    Barry has said that arguing with someone who does not believe in “objective truth” is “utterly pointless.” Therefore, one should never try to convince someone to believe in objective truth, since argument depends on their both accepting it.

  246. —Adel: “I would not try to reason with a political tyrant. I would, by whatever political means available, as far as possible within existing law, work to overthrow the tyrant.”

    Part of the political battle consists of mobilizing a group effort and persuading all concerned that you have the moral high ground. It is not enough, for example, to say, “this is a very unpleasant sitiation, let’s end it.” You have to say, “This isn’t right! I violates our dignity as a human beings.”

    You have to be able to look the tyrant in the eye and say, “My rights don’t come from you, they come from someone higher than you.” He may well not listen, but everyone else will be listening and many, maybe most, will be willing to fight for the principles involved. On the other hand, they will not likely fight for or even defend a risky proposition for the sake of someone else’s sentiments or carefully informed opinions.

    The American experience, for example, was founded on the proposition that God, not the state, or even popular will, that grants rights. What the state can give, the state can take away.

    Sadly, most on this thread neither approve of or even understand that principle, which means that their willful ignorance places my freedom in jeapordy.

  247. —-Allen MacNeil: ….truth” is a matter of relative confidence, not absolute conviction.”

    Are you absolutely sure about the truth of that statement. You have just refuted yourself by affirming a truth after declaring that truth doesn’t exist.

  248. 249

    StephenB,

    I appreciate your willingness to engage with me.

    Of course, I disagree with the premise of your post #247.

    The kernel of this disagreement is your requirement for an ultimate supernatural authority to compel or encourage solidarity on what I see as a secular issue.

    I think it comes down to a power struggle. Power of the people vs power of a tyrant or a tyrannical oligarchy.

  249. —-Adel: “I think it comes down to a power struggle. Power of the people vs power of a tyrant or a tyrannical oligarchy.”

    Here is the difficulty. Democracy is fine, but it can’t be just any old democracy. The people can be just as tyrannical as a tyrant, or as the founders feared, a “tyranny of the majority.” Only the “natural moral law” can arbitrate between all the competing “archy’s” and “isms” and “ocracys” including, dare I say it, the mobocracy or, as some have described it, “pure democracy.” Someone or something has to call the shots. If it isn’t the “principle of natural law,” which yields “natural rights,” it will be some person or persons who grant and take away rights at their own pleasure.

  250. DATCG @ 254: “My question still remains a legitimate one. Do atheist as a rule support pro-life movements? Or, are they more likely to support pro-abortion as a majority position?”

    A more accurate question would be, Do atheists support a mindless piece of flesh over a thinking being?

    I can’t speak for all atheists, but I put the spirit ahead of the flesh every time.

  251. 252

    Thank you, StephenB.

    You make authoritarian arguments when you invoke a super-human giver of natural laws and when you say “Someone or something has to call the shots.”

    Are Edmond Burke and Russell Kirk among your intellectual icons?

    Secular states seem to have thrived in recent history, and isn’t division of power a major factor in the success of parliamentary governments?

    I will now retire from this thread, and respectfully leave last words to you.

  252. 253

    I disagree with Allen MacNeill.

    Truth is not “provisional.” While it may be incomplete, it is invariably absolute.

    “Ascertainable truth is partial, piecemeal, uncertain and difficult.”
    Bertrand Russell

    Nevertheless, once attained it is absolute. That is what the “well trained” scientist beieves.

    “Facts which at first seem improbable, will, even on scant explanation, drop the cloak which has hidden them and stand forth in naked and simple beauty.”
    Galileo

    Darwinian mysticism is not a good example.

  253. Barry,

    It appears that the “Bleak Conclusions” thread has been closed to comments, but the “Materialist Concede” thread still says that it (Bleak Conclusions) is open for comments if anyone wants to meet your challenge.

    That doesn’t seem fair.

  254. It also still say,

    No one, not a single person, has attempted to rebut the conclusion. Therefore, we must conclude that there is no rebuttal. The materialists are silent; they cannot speak.

    which is wrong.

    The “materialists” (which is actually wrong, because most of us with opposing views are not materialists) were not silent, and we certainly had things to say in rebuttal. I know Barry doesn’t accept any of what we said as constituting a rebuttal, but it’s inaccurate to say that no one attempted a rebuttal, and that we were silent.

    So maybe Barry could could amend the post to be more accurate and fairly stated.

  255. This whole business of opening a new thread, declaring victory (against all evidence), and then closing comments before anyone could reply was a bit… strange.

  256. Wes Elsberry has a nice comment on how moral certainty contributed to the Holocaust.

  257. Off-topic:
    Gil, what happened to your LS-DYNA thread? There were already five or so comments. Now the post and the comments are both gone.

  258. Gil, what happened to your LS-DYNA thread?

    It is still available at

    http://www.overwhelmingevidence.com/oe/news

    Gil dismisses simulations of biological evolution which contradicts what Dr. Dembksi, Atom and others stated in the discussion of the Simulation Wars thread.

  259. Deleting a new thread is bad enough; deleting it after people have posted comments is unconscionable.

  260. I appreciate Hazel’s honest response on the other thread, and continue to ask Allen MacNeil to clarify.

    —–Hazel writes, “So, no I don’t believe the things that CS Lewis, or anyone, mentions are objective truths. They are human truths, filtered through the human condition, and subject to all the complexity of both our human nature and the circumstances in which we find ourselves.”

    That is an honest expression of a deeply held belief, and the contrast is fair enough. C.S. Lewis’s whole point was to prove that morality was not subjective or relative, but objective and universal, not conditional, but absolute. So, Lewis and Hazel disagree. Fine.

    Allen, however, claims to agree with Lewis’s proposition. Yet, there is a problem here. To disagree about the origin or source of the natural moral law is to disagree on matters of vital substance. If I understand him correctly, Allen believes that the “natural moral law” is a function of human interaction. But Lewis’s whole point was that the “natural moral law” is that toward which human interaction is to be ordered. It is not something humans create or socially construct; it is something that humans discover through the use of unaided reason.

    Also, Allen has stated many times that nothing is absolute, which means that the natural moral law would also have to be conditional. So, I question whether he believes in any kind of objective, unconditional morality appropriate to human nature, though I am sure he can disabuse me of that notion if I am wrong. Meanwhile, I don’t understand why he refers to Lewis’s exposition of the “natural moral law” as his position, since it appears that the only thing they do agree on is description of the code, which is something, but not nearly enough.

    If I am being unfair, I will acknowledge my error.

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