Friday, July 8, 2011

More on Morality

I have a google alert that emails me everytime the word "atheist" pops up somewhere on the internet. As one would expect, this often leads me to some relatively interesting articles on belief and nonbelief, many of which grind my gears. It seems strange that my gears are so easily ground by theistisc claims these days, as I hear them constantly. Honestly, I think the fact that these claims ARE so common are the annoying part of all this-- every single time a theist makes a claim in support of their religion, it's the same nonsense we hear constantly from every other theist regardless of religion. It's almost gotten to the point where I just want to tell every theist who posts on my YouTube channel, "Before making a claim, please go make sure it's not on Iron Chariots. If it is on Iron Chariots, feel free to read all of the reasons why you're wrong. If you can't find your arguments on Iron Chariots, go ahead and post".

But I'm getting off track. I was reading an SOS (same old shit) theistic blog entry by a Christian on the subject of morality today. Believe it or not, this article was spurred by the recent "Elevatorgate" debocle in the atheist community. (I'd once again like to give a sarcastic "thanks" to all of the nincompoops (INCLUDING Watson and Dawkins) who turned this little, personal incident into a scandal, thereby, making all atheists look worse than they already did.) We now must answer to the theists, like this one, who are laughing behind our backs. Let's get started, then.

This article starts off with a rather long quote from a guy named Craig Hazen (who is, apparently, the editor for the journal of something called the "Evangelical Philosophical Society". Note: Red flag here.). Hazen writes that Christians should challenge the assertion that "there can be good without God" by asking three questions of Atheists:

"• If everything ultimately must be explained by the laws of physics and chemistry, help me understand what a moral value is (does it have mass, occupy space, hold a charge, have wavelength)?
• How did matter, energy, time and chance result in a set of objective moral values? Did the big bang really spew forth “love your enemy?” If so, you have to help me understand that.
• What makes your moral standard more than a subjective opinion or personal preference? What makes it truly binding or obligatory? Why can’t I just ignore it? Won’t our end be the same (death and the grave) either way?"

Sometimes, I wish people could just say what they mean. There three questions can be summed up simply: "What are morals, where did they come from and why should we follow them?" If Hazen had phrased his questions as such, they would be perfectly valid instead containing a false dicotomy and a strawman that reveal Hazen's own brazen ignorance of the subject.

First of all, Hazen seems to be under the impression that either A. The source of morality MUST be a God (specifically the Christian one) or B. Everything must be subjective.

 This notion is wrong on several levels. Ifactions are moral or immoral because God said so, then they are NOT objective. By this logic, God could command literally anything and it would automatically become moral, no matter how atrocious the action would be. Whether or not God would actually command something atrocious is beyond the point. The mere fact that morality is arbitrarily decided by some being makes for subjectivity on some level. Besides, if you believe in the Biblical God, you cannot deny that your God, if He exists, sometimes commands atrocities. Read Hosea 13:16, to start. Also, even if morals DON'T come from divine command, it doesn't mean that they're just "someone's opinion". Certainly, there are personal problems, the solutions to which might very well be based largely on the situation. However, big issues such as rape and murder are almost universally condemned for very good reasons. But I'll address that further in a moment.

The strawman in these questions is the notion that atheists belive that the universe came into being "by accident". All I can say to this is "read a frickin' science book". You can't ask questions about "how something could have possibly arisen naturally" if you don't have a fundamental understanding of how nature actually works or you'll make yourself look like an idiot. Figure out what happened between the big bang and the arrival of human civilization and THEN come back to us with these questions.

The rest of the article focuses on how evolutionary means couldn't possibly have given rise to morality, therefore God done it. It includes such gems as:

"You can’t get love from selfishness. You can’t get marriage from survival of the fittest. Not rationally, anyway. And when the chips are down, and obligations clash with self-interest, reason has a major part to play in determining how we will act. Either you ground morality or you cave in to selfishness, and marriages don’t last when you have no reason not to be selfish."

My only reply to this would be simple You. Are. An. Idiot.

Do people honestly think that there has been no progress in biology since Darwin? A link provided after the article cutely titled "I wonder where this link leads" demonstrates that this may be tragically so. Let me break this down into chunks so that it might make a little sense:

Human beings evolved as a part of SOCIETY.

A single human being is essentially USELESS without other members of SAID SOCIETY.

There are certain anti-social behaviors that could potentially lead to the DOWNFALL OF SAID SOCIETY.

As social beings, most of us instinctively DO NOT KILL EACH OTHER.

This is not that complicated, people. Read up a little on evolutionary psychology. Read "The Selfish Gene". Read "Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution". Heck, have these people ever heard that there were secular moral philosophers even before Christianity was even a thought? Even if there are certain cultural "moral" values we don't know of instinctively, there exists powerful societal pressure for us to behave in accordence with the rules and mores of our civilization. Violators are thrown in jail or killed.  Again, THIS IS NOT COMPLICATED.

Morality in a stable, first world society is not subjective. Don't believe me? Read a book. Or watch "Why Do People Laugh At Creationists: Part 29".

The other think that irked me in this article is Hazen's bit about God inscribing morality "on our hearts". He claims that it's important, even if we don't need to believe to be good, to at least acknowledge the existance of the one who made you good. This notion is just as much utter crap as it was before this article. Even if we didn't understand as much as we do about the evolution of social behavior in animals, it would not mean that a God created morality. Not knowing how or why something works does not mean that we can make something up and call it a true answer. Indeed, you cannot assert that God does ANYTHING until you've proven that such a being even exists.

Some would reply to this by saying that morality itself is proof of God. Good try, but no cigar on this argument. To say "we know God exists because we're moral" and then saying "we know we're moral because God exists" is just as circular as saying that the Bible proves the Bible true. God cannot be proof of something that is proof of God without outside evidence that there is a God in the first place.

On another note, is anyone else bothered by the fact that theists are not called out by more people for questioning the morality of an entire segment of the population?