Category Archives: apologetics
Arguing with Lawrence about matters that don’t require the use of bunsen burners, the Hubble telescope or integrated calculus, is increasingly proving to be more than a bit sisyphean. The guy might be smart on matters scientific, but on everything else, he’s downright incapable of learning. As others have already written on his inimitable incoherence, I will, in this piece, skip his mistreatment of Kim Davis and Planned Parenthood, and concentrate on his central claim, which is that “all scientists should be militant atheists”.
Lawrence Krauss, as you might recall, is the author of A Universe From Nothing, where he purports to have solved how universes can come from nothing, only to say that ‘nothing’ is actually something, and in fact turns out to be a whole lot of something from which universes can emerge. That book itself is enough evidence that this guy is a hack. I mean, if I sincerely proposed that cars can come from nothing, only to say that by ‘nothing’ I actually meant large production assembly lines, I’ll be put into a mental asylum.
I won’t bother to link to his intellectually sloppy diatribe, you can google that for yourself, but let’s allow him to make his case and see if, like he claims, “all scientists should be militant atheists”.
So far as I can see (and, indeed, one would have to look past Himalayas of play-ground rhetoric) his primary argument for the claim is that science does not — indeed, cannot — have “sacred” ideas, as everything should be open to criticism, thusly somewhat precluding, by fiat, subscription to any religious idea. Therefore holding religious views alongside scientific ones (the case for a religious scientist) is to be cognitively dissonant at such an epic scale as to be laughable and worthy of not only dismissal, but outright derision.
Of course, Lawrence makes no distinctions — and is likely ignorant of the distinctions — between methodological and metaphysical naturalism. A fatal error, as we will see.
Since science is the study of nature, it is by it’s very nature methodologically naturalistic in that it needs to presuppose naturalism to work. That is because in science, for every phenomena under study, the required explanans is a natural one, and this axiomatically rules out the supernatural from the getgo. Again, that is simply how science is done, else it’ll cease to work and render us unable to build upon knowledge already acquired. Because a supernatural explanans, unlike a natural one, wouldn’t be within our ability to understand, let alone control, a scientist needs to find natural causes against which he can test and compare other natural facts about our universe. So, every scientist, to do science, needs to adhere to a strictly naturalistic methodology. That is simply what science requires — that scientists, to put it trivially, use the scientific method.
Lawrence, however, does a little sleight of hand, citing that very requirement and extrapolating it to argue for the philosophical position known as metaphysical naturalism, which is the position that only the natural, or in his case, only the physical, exists. This is, needless to say, illogical, since one simply cannot infer from study of the natural that the supernatural does not exist.
So, his conclusion that ‘metaphysical naturalism’ — atheism — is true, or that it’s a view that scientists ought to hold (making them, of course, atheists) is non sequitur.
Or to spell it out in simpler terms (let’s see if you can immediately spot the illogic): As per Lawrence, belief in naturalism is the logical entailment of presupposing naturalism to do science!
Again, here is what he’s saying, further simplified: To be a scientist, you have to believe science is the only way to describe reality.
Or here, again we can go on and simplify Lawrence’s claim until his logical misstep becomes clear to even the most moronic of individuals:
Scientist = Someone who believes science is the only way to describe reality.
Of course one could be pedantic and point out the self-refuting nature of that statement in that it is a statement that purports to describe reality but isn’t itself knowledge that was acquired through science, but let’s overlook such abstract arguments for now.
So far so good?
It is but incumbent then for us to investigate what it means to hold the view that science is the ‘only way to describe reality’. And I’d say the best way to do this is to look at the nuggets of wisdom these “militant atheist-scientists” impart.
On meaning and purpose:
“the more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless.” — Steven Weinberg, scientist; militant atheist.
“[The world] is physical and purposeless” — Jerry Coyne, scientist; militant atheist.
“DNA just is. And we dance to its music” — Richard Dawkins, scientist; militant atheist.
“Nihilism—even my “nice nihilism” is a public relations nightmare. Most of my fellow travellers think that if the scientific worldview saps morality of its truth, correctness, justification.. They might be right. It’s an empirical matter.” — Alex Rosenberg, Philosopher, Militant Atheist.
“The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.” — Richard Dawkins, scientist; militant atheist.
On freedom of the will:
“Sam Harris says the concept of free will is incoherent. Humans are not free and no sense can be given to the idea that we might be” — Paul Pardi, on (scientist and militant atheist) Sam Harris’ book Free Will.
“..but in the end we are simply federations of molecules, tissues, and neurons whose morphology, physiology, and behavior are determined by interactions between genes and environment..” — Jerry Coyne, scientist; militant atheist.
So, to be a “scientist“, these are, from the horses’ mouth, the logical entailments:
1. The universe is “pointless“, “purposeless“, any meaning we can derive from this “pointless” and “purposeless” universe can only be subjective (“personal” for Jerry Coyne), and ultimately as valid — that is to say, equally as “pointless” — as anyone else’s subjectively derived meaning.
2. We have no free-will — every belief we have and choice we make had been determined by temporally prior states that are essentially traceable to some initial state moments before the big-bang. In other words, it’s all an elaborate kabuki dance, as none of us are free to choose or believe anything.
3. Morality is an illusion; there is no good and evil. These feelings of right and wrong are merely illusory; sentimental predispositions that are the result of our particular evolutionary history.
Yet, suddenly — suddenly! — when it comes to religion, evil suddenly can exist, as long as it’s in the form of religion, of course!
Suddenly, we have purpose; to point out religion is evil.
Suddenly, there are moral absolutes! — religion is absolutely immoral.
And suddenly, meaning can be made to be objective, as the meaning derived from religion is often said by them to be objectively wrong.
And yet, according to Lawrence, we, the indoctrinated sheeple, seem to be afflicted with some debilitating form of cognitive dissonance.
[On evil not existing on naturalism:]
Actually, it does. Just like it does for you. Evil is simply a word you use to describe an action or outcome, such as large amounts of suffering. Just like a theist, we can recognize this suffering and label it.
[On morality as an evolutionary bi-product:]
I don’t understand why theists are so scared of this prospect – the idea that we are responsible for our own behavior and as a society or civilization or species, we decide what is ethical and unethical. If you looked around, you’d see this is already the case, since each country varies somewhat or in some cases, wildly in what they deem lawful.
Religious people subjectively pick and choose what they find to be evil or not in their respective holy books. One Christian might point to Leviticus and say gays are abominations, while another points out that Jesus said to Love your neighbor.
It’s okay, you can think for yourself. I know it seems easier to wish it was all written down in a book, but even that book is written by other human beings who are also writing what they found to be distasteful. They just happened to tell you that their societal or personal rules were backed by an almighty God and you bought it.
On the one hand soda fizzes, on the other, innocent people are killed. You might call the latter “evil”, but on naturalism, there is no ontological difference between the two, they are two ontologically indistinct events that merely have, as you say, different labels.
You might personally find one of those confluence of atoms distasteful. Someone else might not. If naturalism were true, the both of you might as well be arguing about which between chocolate or vanilla is tastier. Because, in the end, it’s merely your opinion that one particular atomical arrangement is better than the other. So the difference between you and someone else who prefers the other arrangement of atoms reduces to merely one of taste. Making every single one of your moral claims extend no farther than yourself.
Which invariably means that you objectively have no business telling others what they should or should not do. Or you could, if you want to, but with the qualification that anyone else’s opinion on the matter is as valid as yours.
And this is why it’s a bit amusing you think your “we decide what’s ethical and unethical” bit is an adequate and clever response. Since with this, you merely rebut your own argument in a manner you did not anticipate: Because if that is the case, then what the hell are you complaining about?
All those immoral things Christians do of which you speak are merely what they’ve decided was ethical. Why is their ethical decisions any less valid than yours when you admit all moral claims are merely what we “pick and choose” and “what we decide”? And if it’s just a matter of us “deciding what’s ethical and unethical”, then morality is simply a case of might makes right, in which case who are we to say someone like Chairman Mao, say, was doing it wrong? After all, he has simply “decided what’s ethical and unethical”.
That above is an atheist catchphrase that seems to never die, despite that it can very easily be demonstrated to be missing the salient point.
We’re not suggesting that people will be raping and pillaging with wild abandon the moment theistic ideas are jettisoned. Rather, we are pointing out the contradiction between what they say and what they believe.
They say they reject theism because of the lack of evidence. They believe absence of evidence is evidence of absence because of a prior metaphysical commitment to naturalism. In fact most intellectual atheists — or the more reflective of them, at least — admittedly subscribe to a naturalism of one sort or another.
Now, of course, with respect to the evidence for theism, I disagree, and that above is fine as far as it goes.
Until they deign to educate us on the immorality of our beliefs. Because the problem is that on naturalism, which is on which their atheism is predicated, good and evil simply do not exist.
What a naturalist sees as evil is really just a confluence of atoms that he happens to find personally distasteful. And he happens to find them personally distasteful because he’s been hardwired by evolution to do so, viz. his feelings of personal distaste, or any opinion he may have on what or what is not moral for that matter, are merely dispositions he had inherited that are the residue of an evolutionary history.
In other words, they are illusory.
He only has these set of moral opinions because they are, by mere chance, what made his ancestors, on the aggregate, survive. It thusly becomes not an objective fact of reality that, say, murdering babies for fun is wrong. In fact we can imagine an alien race having evolved in a way that would make them think that that’s a completely moral thing to do. Or a more terrestrial example would be the members of ISIS, say, who would opine to be moral that which we find immoral. And who are we to say they are wrong? Who are we to say they are evil? After all, these “evil” people are merely acting in accordance with how the atoms that comprise them happen to be arranged, and who, given naturalism, can say that one particular confluence of atoms is to be preferred over another?
So when an atheist-naturalist natters on about the ‘evils of religion’, it is a matter of logic that he might as well be nattering on about his choice of drapery, or about his choice of textile, or about the superiority of vanilla over chocolate. Because religion, or anything else for that matter, cannot possibly be evil in a universe where evil does not exist.
..because: these types of churchians (ex-pastor pictured above):
“I’ve been a deep believer my whole life. 18 years as a Southern Baptist. More than 40 years as a mainline Protestant. I’m an ordained pastor. But it’s just stopped making sense to me. You see people doing terrible things in the name of religion, and you think: ‘Those people believe just as strongly as I do. They’re just as convinced as I am.’ And it just doesn’t make sense anymore… If a plane crashes, and one person survives, everyone thanks God…..God saved her for a reason!’ Do we not realize how cruel that is? Do we not realize how cruel it is to say that if God had a purpose for that person, he also had a purpose in killing everyone else on that plane? And a purpose in starving millions of children? A purpose in slavery and genocide?… You say there is a purpose to their suffering. And that’s just cruel.”
His complete ignorance of key concepts of Christianity, it’s difference to mere churchianity, and of basic philosophical concerns in ethics and morality, which in no small part is why he’s able to readily say what he said, can actually be excused, because, like most everyone else, they are matters of which he knows not a single whit, but it necessarily calls into question the competency of the church, where people like him — who have a kind of faith that is miles wide and yet mere inches deep — can be ‘pastors’ to begin with.
Why should it surprise him that people do terrible things in the name of religion when it has been written that they would? And that they do, how is that an indictment of religion, or of Christianity in particular, and not of the people themselves, or of people in general? On this score, It would — it should — suffice to point out to him that there’s a difference between Christianity and mere churchianity.
He sees an implication where simply none exists, viz. he regards the actions (or the theological ignorance) of the religion’s self-proclaimed adherents as the standard against which the religion (or in this case, Christianity) should be judged.
But that is simply illogical, not to mention, un-biblical, since, contrary to what he surmises, it’s a confirmable fact that religious hypocrisy is one of the more pertinent themes of the bible:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ — Matthew 7 : 23-27
“If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” — Matthew 23:13
He (as do I, in fact) rightly sees cruelty in someone who pontificates on the nature of a divine plan that involves the death of the innocent. But that the average churchian is too unsophisticated to know any better than to blather on about things of which he has no idea should have been of no surprise, and should have again been, rather than an indictment of Christianity, a testament to the every-man’s ineptitude on matters theological. After all, he is a long-time pastor who ought to have known that theological consistency is not to be expected from your average churchian.
But the salient question is why this ex-pastor saw these things as forming a disproof for the truth of Christianity.
While a more salient one still, is how this man, whose understanding of Christianity barely even rises to the level of Narnia, and who cannot rationally be said to grasp fundamental aspects of Christian theology, was once a pastor.
And it’ll be less useful to call into question the rational basis for his rejection of Christianity than it would be to use him as reminder for the church that they are doing something wrong, but for which the remedy is simple: equip your churchians, and especially your leaders, with knowledge of the relevant philosophy.
Else, it’ll be for you — for us — the way of the dodo.
People often think that if someone — a scientist, perhaps — is able to adequately explain the manner by which particular mental states occur in the brain, then they’ve successfully called into question whether those mental states are objectively what we suppose them to be, if not outright proven they aren’t. They can’t be real, apparently, because they were the result of such and such neurons firing, or because of such and such materialistic explanations of how similar mental states occur. This is wrong-headed, of course, as it commits the genetic fallacy. Needless to say, what makes it doubly annoying is the fact that the people who make these logical fallacies claim to have lost their faith as a result of ‘rigorous thinking’.
So this atheist ex-pastor who wrote this blog post a friend of mine shared on fb is claiming, among other things, that the experience of the holy spirit — any ‘God experience,’ in fact — is merely a series of neurological events in the brain that’s been set off by some manner of hypnosis. This makes him conclude that it’s all superstitious foolery. I mean, it can’t be real — how can it be? — since we’ve got an adequate, step-by-step, causal account (from the words spoken by the evangelist to the very experience itself of the audience member) of how the experience came to be.
The problem here is that I can use that same kind reductionism and tell this guy he doesn’t actually love anyone; “Look, you don’t really love your wife — those are just the neurons firing!”
“Also, no, you’re not hungry — that is, again, just these other set of neurons firing!”
And reductio ad absurdum.
Of course, the more reflective will say, ah, but those neurons firing just is what we call love. Or those other neurons firing just is what we call hunger. But so can the silly chap who says he just experienced the holy spirit; he can likewise say that those neurons firing just is what happens when you experience the holy spirit!
I don’t even for one nano-second doubt that most, if not the overwhelming majority, of these claims to have experienced the holy spirit are nothing but a result of some kind of group hypnosis. I myself am skeptical of a lot of these claims. I think evangelists like Benny Hinn are frauds, and the people epileptically flailing-about around his pulpit have been duped, pretty much in the covert manner this ex-pastor describes. But to claim to have ‘debunked’ all ‘God experiences’ because you were able to give an account of how other experiences that can be mistaken for the genuine one can occur is just shoddy reasoning. Nobody but the sufficiently unintelligent is of the mind that people aren’t capable of being misled. And that people can be misled is the trite conclusion of this ex-pastor’s kilometric blog post.
Jerry Coyne, respected biologist, responding to a one Fr. Aidan, says:
“If you think there is a supernatural ‘being,’ first give me convincing evidence that it exists. And that evidence cannot be your personal revelation, or that of earlier theologians, but must be something that nearly all rational, objective, and skeptical observers would agree on. If you adduce Scripture as your evidence, then you’re also adducing the very kind of god you reject. Until you give me evidence as strong as that which I’d give you if you asked for evidence for evolution, I needn’t engage you or take your arguments for god seriously.”
O.K., Coyne. As you wish:
Firstly I’ll note with amusement that right-off the bat you misrepresent what our foremost theologians do. They do not, at least when arguing with your kind, cite personal revelation or scripture as evidence for theism. Remember, it’s you who prats on about there being no good arguments for theism, yet you show us that you are simply mostly unaware of them, or maybe pretend they either don’t exist or are unaware of them, as evidenced by what you imply most apologists do.
Convincing evidence that ‘a supernatural being’ (aka “God”) exists are the following: 1, The Cosmological Argument, 2, The Moral Argument, and 3, The Historicity of the man Jesus.
As far as I can gather, most of the rebuttals to these arguments are themselves unconvincing. For instance, one of the most popular objections to the cosmological argument is that it raises the question ‘who created God?’ That is of course not a serious objection as it is to wholly misunderstand the argument it attempts to rebut. Another objection to the cosmological argument is that the universe is simply a ‘brute fact.’ But that’s just to avoid the question and is no different from saying the universe just exists ‘magically’. In the case of the moral argument, one of the best objections that people from the new atheist cabal can give is that morality is an evolutionarily helpful illusion. Fine. It’s either an illusion or it is not. If it’s not an illusion, then some form of theism must be true (needs unpacking, but not here). So people can hardly be faulted for wanting to affirm morality to be objective, in fact Sam Harris, failingly, tries to do it all the time. On the historicity of Jesus, there have been many counter-hypotheses to the resurrection, some more unconvincing than others, like Jesus had a twin, or that the apostles — and hundreds of other people a lot of whom were previously skeptics — collectively hallucinated seeing Jesus. Of course, none of these are convincing. The only way they may seem more convincing is if, as Craig argues, one assumes naturalism from the onset. But if we don’t engage in the fallacious practice of begging the question, then the resurrection hypothesis clearly becomes the most explanatorily powerful given the background evidence (like Jesus’s prescient claims about himself, and so on).
Sure, some, mostly philosophers, do engage these arguments seriously. But you do not. And so do most others like you. So, unfortunately for you, Fr. Aidan Kimel is right: you don’t engage with the best arguments. I doubt it can even be said that you engage with any of the moderately intelligent ones, much less the best ones. In fact you, on one occasion, have made the very unintelligent (to put it mildly) remark that there are no arguments for God’s existence “that aren’t taken up and refuted in [the book] The God Delusion.” You actually seriously meant that Richar Dawkins’s book has ‘refuted’ all the arguments for the existence of God, which is, if you’ll excuse me, downright stupid (more about this and why below).
First of all, Dawkins never addresses the contingency part of the cosmological argument, except in an absolutely puerile manner. He mentions Aquinas’s 3rd way, yet demonstrates that he does not know what Aquinas even means as evidenced by the fact that he believes Aquinas was trying to show the universe had a beginning — Aquinas argues that it’s impossible to show the universe had a beginning! Dawkins even makes, perhaps even popularized, the ‘who created God’ objection, which is, as I soften say, not even a sightly serious objection to the cosmological argument, since the argument isn’t that ‘everything has a cause’, rather it’s that everything ‘contingent’ (or that had a beginning) has a cause. It simply beggars belief that someone who clearly does not have an atom of knowledge about the argument he is criticizing has been able to successfully refute it.
Dawkins, who you say wrote this book that had successfully refuted ‘all the arguments for the existence of God’ at one point even said: “No one has given any reason to think that the First Cause is all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good, etc”, which is, again, to show a complete bankruptcy of knowledge about the argument he attempts to refute. Aquinas, whom Dawkins is targeting, spends hundreds of pages exfoliating on this and getting those very characteristics of God from his first-cause argument. Other theologians like William Lane Craig, Samuel Clark, and Leibniz do the same thing. So to say that none of it had been done is simply wrong and shows that Dawkins — and, by extension, you — have zero idea, and have never actually read about the writers and theologians you both expend large amounts of energy criticizing. So addressing the best arguments for theism is something neither you nor Dawkins, or anyone like both of you for that matter, seem to do, or even want to do, or even will be doing in the future.
Contra the Moral argument, Dawkins, about whom you rather remarkably said had successfully refuted all the arguments for theism in existence, refreshingly admits that on atheism “there is at bottom no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pointless indifference..We are machines for propagating DNA.. It is every living object’s sole reason for being.”
Well, good luck with that. If that’s the case then religion isn’t the evil you claim it is, because, remember, as per Dawkins, “there is no evil, no good, nothing but pointless indifference.. We are machines for propagating DNA“!
I can go on about this book. But that, above, should suffice to show that Dawkins has not, like you claim, ‘refuted all arguments for God’s existence’. It should suffice to show that he (and you) do not understand, much less have successfully refuted, all, or even any, of the arguments for God’s existence. What he — you — was able to refute, and what Fr. Aidan claims you (and he) — and the likes of you and he — attempt to refute, are the strawman versions for the arguments for God’s existence, and not the arguments themselves.
So Fr. Aidan, 1, you 0.
Look, Jerry, clearly you’re an accomplished scientist. Evidence matters to you, I get it. But what’s also clear is that the evidence on this occasion is that when it comes to ‘tackling’ the arguments for God’s existence, you do not know what the hell you’re talking about.
A passerby courteously suggests that I may have, in this post, spoken out of the lower part of my alimentary canal (read: ass):
“Miguel, with all due respect, you’re talking out of your ass.”
Contra to my claim in the post, passerby says Aquinas does in fact use the idea “everything has a cause” as a starting premise for his cosmological argument, and is therefore open to the ‘what caused God?’ rebuttal.
Of course, Aquinas does no such thing.
Passerby quotes Aquinas himself to show that I have indeed been articulating out of my own posterior, but I won’t bore you with that, since none of what he quotes from Aquinas means what he says they mean.
And, of course, because I very much doubt passerby, or anyone else for that matter, will go through the trouble of scanning the Summa Theologica to see what Aquinas himself argues, these short quotes from the pages of Stanford’s philosophical encyclopedia that detail the history of the cosmological argument should suffice to show who between us is in fact verbalizing from his anus:
“Thomas Aquinas held that among the things whose existence needs explanation are contingent beings that depend for their existence upon other beings..
Aquinas argued that we need a causal explanation for things in motion, things that are caused, and contingent beings.
Once Aquinas concludes that necessary beings exist, he then goes on to ask whether these beings have their existence from themselves or from another. If from another, then we have an unsatisfactory infinite regress of explanations. Hence, there must be something whose necessity is uncaused.”
That all can be found here: http://stanford.io/1h5F2Gk
There it is from Stanford’s online Philosophical Encyclopedia itself.
Unfortunately for passerby, Aquinas, and no theologian in the history of Christendom for that matter, argues that “everything has a cause”. Rather, what they argue is that whatever begins to exist has a cause for it’s existence, or what ever is contingent has a cause.
So, yes, Sam Harris was strawmanning the cosmological argument. Deal with it already.
That’s all really quite simple to understand. You’d think it would all be something easily fathomable by the people who “fucking love science”.
Greg, a passerby, expresses bewilderment and requests an explanation:
If you believe that Sam Harris’s portrayal of the cosmological argument [for God’s existence] is a straw man, then I would be curious to hear your own interpretation of the argument.
As you wish, Greg.
But first let’s quote Sam for everyone else to see what his version (if it can even be called as such) of the argument actually is:
“The argument runs more or less like this: everything has a cause; space and time exist; space and time must, therefore, have been caused by something that stands outside of space and time; and the only thing that trascends space and time, and yet retains the power to create, is God… As many critics of religion have pointed out , the notion of a creator poses an inmediate problem of an infinite regress. If God created the universe, what caused God? To say that God, by definition, is uncreated simply begs the question”
For starters, the readily confirmable fact of the matter is that no respected theologian in the history of Christendom has ever concocted such an idiotic argument such as that. Not Craig, not Leibniz, not Aquinas, not Maimonides, not Avicenna, not Swinburne, not Plantinga, not anyone. Nobody in the history of the cosmological argument has ever begun the cosmological argument with the statement “everything has a cause.”
And the answer to that is actually quite simple. It is because none of them are, how shall we put it, dumb enough to ever argue anything so stupid. You’ll never be able to point to me one famous theologian who started off his cosmological argument in such a puerile manner.
What defenders of the cosmological argument actually defend is that what comes into existence has a cause, or that whatever is contingent has a cause, and not, as Sam likes to think, that everything has a cause. The difference between what actual defenders of the cosmological argument say and what Sam says they say is almost exactly like the difference between these 2 statements: 1, everything in the fridge is edible, and 2, everything is edible. If the differences between the 2 aren’t obvious still, then perhaps we could meet, as I’ve got this wonderful bridge to sell you which you can even pay in installments.
Defenders of the cosmological argument are not interested in showing that the cause of everything just somehow happens to be uncaused, leaving them open to being accused of special pleading. Rather, what they are (or were) interested in showing was that if there was to be an ultimate explanation of how everything came to be, then that explanation must be in principle uncaused. They argue, and don’t arbitrarily posit, for why this ultimate explanation must in principle be uncaused.
It is clear that Sam Harris, for his book, chose to consult infidel websites rather than the vast philosophical literature pertaining to the cosmological argument that exists.
Easter has been around for a long while that one can’t help but think the prevailing meanings attached to it as they are often told from the lectern to be not in the least bit insipid.
God, they say, gave his life for us.
“Rejoice,” suggest others, “for we now have eternal life!”
Well, awesome (not really).
Again, insipid. Barely even bland. Innocuous, at best. Because those feeble attempts to expressly explain what Easter is about, effete as they are, can scarcely enlighten, often just confounds, or even fatally misleads, as it woefully understates the grandeur of what God has accomplished.
Easter is as much about ‘being saved’ as medicine is about taking pills, which is to say it’s exactly about little if not zero of that. If you’re a Christian who’s already legally permitted to drink yet still think Easter to be all about your being ‘saved’ and being given ‘eternal life’ just on account of your ability to recite the proper incantations, then maybe it’s time you considered converting to atheism.
See, modern man has only Christianity to thank for the fact that we no longer look at with utter bewilderment the idea that man is an end in himself and not merely a means to one. Societies who predated Christianity for millennia happily estimated man’s worth to be close to nill, until Judaism comes into the picture and teaches that man was made in God’s image. Suddenly, this man whom they called the Christ comes along, was scourged till much of his flesh hung from bone while the thorns pressed into his scalp caused him excruciating pain, elevating man’s worth even further. Not only was man made in God’s image but so important was he that God condescended to man through Jesus.
So, Easter is about the divine repudiation of what the pagan infant-killers who preceded Christianity thought in their bones to be true, and what we lotus eaters now all seem to have forgotten is true absent the divine. And that is that we are, essentially, and without mincing words, animal shit.
Easter was the divine affront to that idea; it’s about God coming down and saying “No, [animal shit] you are not;” it’s about being the children of a God who loves us; it’s about the fact that life has objective meaning and purpose.
And that is why we rejoice this Easter.
Money, and, perhaps, fame, to the one who refutes, to Sam’s satisfaction, his contention that Science can determine moral values.
Really; Sam’s giving 2 thousand dollars to the winning essay — and, interestingly, 20 thousand dollars (inclusive of the matching pledge of one of his generous readers) to the essay that succeeds in changing his mind. Needless to say, changing his mind, or at least getting him to admit his mind had been changed, would be considerably more difficult then actually refuting his thesis — something which had been, as it were, refuted since 1739.
A few months ago, I entertained the thought of submitting one. The effort to do so, however, eventually seemed of scant worth, considering what would presumably be a large number of submissions unequivocally harping on the very argument I intended to make — indeed, the same argument, I think, everyone’s been making — against Sam’s thouroughly absurd thesis.
Sam is wrong; science does not — cannot ever — have the ability to determine moral values for precisely the reasons laid out by David Hume more than 200 years ago in A Treatise Of Human Nature.:
“In every system of morality, which I have hitherto met with, I have always remarked, that the author proceeds for some time in the ordinary ways of reasoning, and establishes the being of a God, or makes observations concerning human affairs; when all of a sudden I am surprised to find, that instead of the usual copulations of propositions, is, and is not, I meet with no proposition that is not connected with an ought, or an ought not. This change is imperceptible; but is however, of the last consequence. For as this ought, or ought not, expresses some new relation or affirmation, ’tis necessary that it should be observed and explained; and at the same time that a reason should be given; for what seems altogether inconceivable, how this new relation can be a deduction from others, which are entirely different from it. But as authors do not commonly use this precaution, I shall presume to recommend it to the readers; and am persuaded, that this small attention would subvert all the vulgar systems of morality, and let us see, that the distinction of vice and virtue is not founded merely on the relations of objects, nor is perceived by reason.”
Or, in short, Mr. Hume, in a rather overly verbose manner (as chaps of his time were wont to conduct themselves) is simply saying that one cannot derive an ought from an is; you cannot infer what ought to be from what is; or, if you like: since science merely describes what is, then it can hardly be able to tell us what ought to be.
Of course, that, above, should have been the whole story. Sadly, it isn’t for Harris.
Surprisingly competently, Sam realizes that moral goodness is a concept so amorphous as to be indeterminable (after all, people can’t always agree on what is good) so he substitutes (human) ‘well-being’ for ‘good’ because — or so we are told by him — ‘well-being’ as a metric succeeds in doing two things that can seemingly bridge Hume’s famous (or perhaps infamous) is-ought chasm: 1, it is something for which there can in principle be an objective unit of measurement, and 2, it proffers to actions a goal or purpose.
The obvious problem here is that well-being is, contrary to Sam’s claims, rather like moral goodness in that it is also objectively indeterminable. I mean, what is it? Sam simply puts the problem another step back, actually. How can we all even agree on what ‘well-being’ is?
Dahmer’s well-being, for instance, was predicated on the sodomization of young boys’ corpses. What would Sam’s answer be to this, one wonders. Dahmer was wrong because sodomizing corpses can hardly be said to add to someone’s well-being? But yes it can — people like Dahmer exist. Sure, we can cheerily rejoice in the fact that more people are of the opinion that sodomizing corpses reduces rather than increases ones well-being. But, on naturalism, that’s just an opinion, really — one that is, luckily, ascendant in society, but one that is an opinion no less.
Of course, Sam will argue that humans have evolved in such and such a way that makes us repelled by the sight of corpses, and therefore moreso with the prospect of having sex with them, making our collective anti corpse-sodomizing sentiments not merely an opinion but one for which a socio-biological component exists. Of course he’ll think this socio-biological underpinning furnishes us with a standard against which the morality of actions can be measured. But he’ll be wrong; for one can simply say that Dahmer was being unfashionable, or that Dahmer simply chose not to go with the flow, so to speak.
Swrong with that?
What, on naturalism, makes Sam able to say: “No, sodomizing corpses, bad!”, “Yes, well-being, good!”
Nothing, it seems.
Of course, this all poses zero problems for the theist who holds God to be good’s ontological base. After all, if the Christian God exists, then the universe was imbued with ‘oughts’ upon its very creation. Therefore theism furnishes us with a solid foundation for moral values and duties, while atheism, not so much.