Friday, March 28, 2008

Richard Dawkins does not abuse children (that I know of)


See how much nicer I am, to give The Dawkins the benefit of the doubt? One will apparently wait in vain for the favor to be returned.

“Once, in the question time after a lecture in Dublin, I was asked what I thought about the widely publicized cases of sexual abuse by Catholic priests in Ireland. I replied that, horrible as sexual abuse no doubt was, the damage was arguably less than the long-term psychological damage inflicted by bringing the child up Catholic in the first place” (p. 317, The God Delusion).


This is indeed one of The Dawkins' most disgusting and ludicrous positions. We teach children not to drink window cleaner. We teach them not to eat rat poison or dirt. We teach them explicitly and implicitly, by example.
An atheist may or may not raise his children to be atheists. He may take them to atheism sunday school or not. Either way, he is at the very minimum exemplifying atheism to his kids. I may not like it. I may think it's a terrible thing. I may even be angry about it. But is it child abuse? Each side can throw that sort of invective back at the other, and it's 100% based on one's prior worldview commitments. Given a society like ours, how does this sort of thing help anyone?

So let's think about this:
If Christianity is true, it's not child abuse to teach a child Christianity.
If Christianity is true, it's not child abuse to teach a child atheism. It's sin, yes. It's regrettable, it's not preferable, etc. It's not child abuse.

If atheism is true, we've seen countless times that morality is based on nothing more than personal preference.
Whether anything, in this case child abuse, is right or wrong, worthy of praise or condemnation, is a moral stance. But atheism can't sustain anything of the kind beyond the statements "I don't like it" and "I like it".
Further, what it means to abuse something or someone is a moral stance. One could argue that abuse of, say, a computer would be to pour coffee onto its motherboard and drop its hard drive off a 100-meter cliff. This would be contrary to its designed purpose, its raison d'être. It is supposed to compute, and it can't if you pour coffee on it and smash it to smithereens.

Do children have comparable purposes? On atheism, no, of course not. They weren't designed, for one thing, so they have no end goal. The Dawkins might argue that their goal is to survive, to pass on their genes, but of course he has no way to know whether cruelty on a massive scale to children would enable them to perform that task better. Indeed, such seems to be an evolutionary stable strategy for quite a few other species of animal.

Do children come with instruction manuals? What, you mean like the Bible? On atheism, no, of course not.

So, what's the right way to treat a child? An atheistic system can't tell us, since that's a moral question. Thus, an atheistic system can't tell us what constitutes abuse either.
This means that --surprise!-- The Dawkins is just pulling moralistic platitudes and me-first self-righteous stupidity straight out of his rear end.

Thus we see that, if atheism is true, whether it is child abuse to teach a child atheism is based on every person's personal preference.
If atheism is true, whether it is child abuse to teach a child Christianity is based on every person's personal preference.

So why does The Dawkins insist on this position? Is he not shoving his beliefs down my throat? Why is he trying to indoctrinate me with this moral tyranny?
For one thing, he is making a lot of money these days being inconsistent with his own worldview. On the one hand, there's no Moral Authority. On the other, he is perfectly able to call out teaching Christianity to children as morally objectionable. Which one is The Real Dawkins? Don't ask me.

In an article on the topic, he seems to point to the teaching of the doctrine of Hell as that which constitutes abuse, mental abuse.
An extreme threat of violence and pain is precisely what the doctrine of hell is.
Of course, and it's amazing that one should have to keep saying this, on atheism, there is no morally good or bad. Hell is morally neutral, since there is no basis for morality. You may dislike Hell. Fine. I dislike broccoli.
The question of Hell is, by the way, well discussed here.

The Dawkins continues:
If you can sue for the long-term mental damage caused by physical child abuse, why should you not sue for the long-term mental damage caused by mental child abuse?
To be fair, The Dawkins goes on to say that he doesn't necessarily think that's the right course of action, but the concept remains. Yet could not someone come along and say the exact same thing about atheism?

"Your Honor, I was a happy, well-adjusted person until my coworker lent me his copy of The God Delusion. Its stunning and well-crafted argumentation, completely free from any pitiful misunderstandings of the limitations of atheism, unjustified assumptions, or vapid arguments against the weakest statements of its target religion (Christianity), destroyed the bedrock on which my life rested. Now I am bitter and angry, at I-know-not-whom. My life has no meaning. Other atheists say I should just create my own meaning, but I'm not that creative, so I'm stuck. I am just going to grow old and die and cease to exist, and my life will mean nothing at all since the universe will just go into total heat death in several tens of billions of years anyway. I scoff at things of beauty in churches and noble acts done by noble people of good faith b/c they are done b/c of a delusion as The Dawkins has taught me. They are meaningless. I am meaningless. But perhaps several million pounds sterling, if Your Honor would be so kind and just to award me for my suffering, would make my life slightly less meaningless."

What is a judge in a society like ours to do?
What would The Dawkins recommend? Don't we as a society remove children from their parents when they are being abused? Give them to other parents? Would The Dawkins recommend that? Would he then be OK with it if a Christian majority did the same to atheist parents?
Presumably, he would argue that, no, since atheism is true such should not be.

That gives me an idea, though! Since atheism is not true, we should sue him and ask him on the stand questions that would force him to state at some point that atheism is true. Then we can imprison him for perjury and freeze all his assets! And his children can be functional orphans. What? His children are grown, you say? OK, we'll throw his kids in prison too and make his grandchildren wander the streets and beg for bread. For good measure, we'll deport them to Greenland.

Why wouldn't we do that? B/c children need their families, such would be bad for society, and it is morally upright to allow even fools a degree of freedom of speech and not deprive even fools' children of their parents. For better or worse, we teach our children millions of data; calling sthg "mental abuse" without being able to justify it is despicable. May The Dawkins sell several dozen fewer books as punishment for his short-sightedness and wicked thinking.

I recommend this article also for your edification on this subject.

47 comments:

The Jolly Nihilist said...

I agree with you, Rhology, insofar as Richard Dawkins does seem to hold beliefs he would consider to be "moral facts," and I see no evidential basis for one to claim moral facts. They might exist somewhere...somehow...but there is no known way of proving them.

If Dawkins declares the doctrine of hell child abuse, and demands other people conform to his moral opinions, that is morally narcissistic authoritarianism. It would not be immoral behavior--nothing is provably so--but it would be incoherent. My claims to intellectual coherency stem from my renunciation of all claims to moral fact. Any moral statement I make is my opinion, and worth as much as any other opinion.

I absolutely disagree with Sam Harris and other "new atheists" who reject moral relativism. They decry "faith," but they have faith in their own arbitrary moral opinions.

Rhology said...

Any moral statement you make is your opinion, and worth as little as any other opinion.

Even if one were to stipulate that your opinion means nothing. That's the funny thing about moral relativism.

The Jolly Nihilist said...

I think my own analogy—that of my annual Top 10 film list—sums it up as well as possible. I can discount Roger Ebert’s list, and he can discount my own. His list has value to him, as well as those who value his opinion. My list has value to me, as well as those who value my opinion. But no list is objectively better than any other is. It’s just opinion.

I would like to be able to condemn acts as objectively immoral (such as 9/11, for instance, which, in my opinion, was horribly evil). However, I avoid descending into incoherency. After all, I also would like, in an objective sense, to call Mulholland Dr. the greatest film ever made. But I do not have the evidence to prove such.

Chris said...

Hi Rhology,

My understanding is that when Dawkins talks about bringing your kids up Christian, he is talking about the dogma being taught to kids as the truth, and that they're not allowed to question it. Whilst this isn't true of all Christians bringing up kids who turn out to be Christians, that's the subset which Dawkins believes is child abuse.

Atheists doing the same thing, not allowing questioning and investigations, would also be child abuse. But, without the threat of hell, and other physological damaging myths, it wouldn't be as abusive....


Rhology - a question for you. Do you think that the Muslims bringing up their kids to hate the jews and infidels is abuse ? How about when they teach them that the highest honour is suicide bombing to kill as many jews and infidels as possible ?

And Rhology, you're the one with the problem regarding "where does morality come from?". Dawkins knows very well where he broadly sits on that topic. There's just one Dawkins.

NAL said...

Rho: Any moral statement you make is your opinion, and worth as little as any other opinion.

Nice trick to avoid substantive arguments. Let me try: any of your moral statements are based on Bronze Age superstitions and are worth less than JN's.

Matt said...

Rhology,

Good post, with a nice touch of sarcasm - it always drives the point home better, in my opinion. As you pointed out, Dawkins can say that he thinks that Christians should not teach their children Christianity all that he wants to, but on what basis does he say that Christians should not do it? On what basis does he assert that it is, indeed, abuse? And how does this follow from his presuppositions? As you say, it ultimately reduces to personal opinion.

Just curious, Rho, but has anyone ever explained to you how an empirical epistemology can ground moral predication, or normative statements that apply to humankind in general? I'm still waiting myself for an explanation of how this can be done...

John Morales said...

Rhology: If atheism is true, we've seen countless times that morality is based on nothing more than personal preference.

That parses badly.

More to the point, your morality is no less based on personal preference than my own.

I've refined my ethics over my life, you've adopted dogma wholesale. In both cases, it was our own choice, our own personal preference.

There is no reason to believe your claim that Christian morality is objective. As evidence, I offer that its schismatic history shows Christians' mores have evolved over time.

As far as the title of your post, regarding the damage done by indoctrination versus that done by sexual abuse, it shows him, in some sense, less tolerant of abuse than you in that he condones neither.

And so you're in the interesting position of accusing RD for being less tolerant of abuse towards children than you are...

John Morales said...

Matt,
Just curious, Rho, but has anyone ever explained to you how an empirical epistemology can ground moral predication, or normative statements that apply to humankind in general? I'm still waiting myself for an explanation of how this can be done...

I don't subscribe to this, but I offer an effort at it.

Carrie said...

I dislike broccoli.

What??!!

That quote from Dawkins is unbelievable. I don't know much about him but I did hear him on a radio interview once and he denied the existence of Jesus altogether, even as just a man. From there I knew he was a clown - even secular historians don't doubt this.

It seems to me that he has no objectivity, he is just obsessed with opposing Christianity. Do atheists actually take him seriously?

Rhology said...

I see a lot of bloviating here, as if atheists can make any moral statement that could reasonably be applied to anyone else.

Except for the JN, and give him credit, for he embraces what his worldview can and can't do for him. Others of you would do well to take note.

John Morales then asserts that my moral system is just personal preference, and offers no argument. John, no it doesn't. Gratuitous assertion denies gratuitous assertion. Now, what's your argument?

And I love how he just doesn't get the point. And he's supposed to be the intellectually rigorous one, the one who's trained in logic and all that, or at least knows more than me. Yet he just ASSERTS that I like abuse more than The Dawkins, missing the whole point of the post. He'll have to do better in the future to be taken seriously.

And what specific article can you point to on the Atheist Ethicist site, John? Pointing to the whole index is not helpful. He's written a lot. Make sure the article answers that specific charge, make sure it's the best you got. I have a feeling it'll turn out like the rest, but I want the best argument from the other side to parse, unlike apparently The Dawkins.

Chris,

You can ask me questions about what I consider abuse, and it's fine, I'll answer them if I feel like it. But not if you keep missing the point, which is that The Dawkins can reasonably make NO normative claims to define child abuse for anyone but himself. He has no right, nor no rational way, to make that happen. His worldview lacks the mechanism necessary for such.

And that's probably child abuse, yes. Thing is, I can say yes or no. Atheists, to be consistent, must say "there's no such thing as child abuse."

Peace,
Rhology

The Jolly Nihilist said...

Given the current evidence available, I can conceive of absolutely no objective basis for morality if one takes evidentialism as one's First Principle. To me, any appeal to moral truth, given the current evidence, would be a faith-based appeal.

Consider the following statement: "Murder is immoral."

As a matter of opinion, I strongly agree with that statement. However, I still would respond: “Prove it.”

One might say, "Objectively speaking, murder causes suffering, of both the victim and his loved ones."

I would challenge such a contention in this manner: "Right then. Prove that suffering is relevant to issues of morality. Moreover, prove that human suffering is somehow ‘worse’ than hamster suffering or cow suffering. After all, humans are just another species of animal."

To say that morality and immorality...good and evil...right and wrong relate to some particular behavior or human experience is to make a faith-based claim. For an evidentialist—excepting only his First Principle—faith appeals are forbidden.

Objective morality might exist…somewhere out there…just waiting to be discovered. However, it seems doubtful and, at this point, we have not even approached the kind of evidence we would require.

Was 9/11 immoral? In my opinion, spectacularly so. Was the Inquisition evil? In my view, very much so. But, I cannot prove any of that.

Such is nihilism: We, for now, are bereft of moral truth.

NAL said...

Rhology: John Morales then asserts that my moral system is just personal preference, and offers no argument.

Yes he did. He argued that you chose your moral system. You could have chosen Buddhism or Islam, but you chose Christianity. That make Christianity, and it's corresponding moral system, a personal preference. Unless you don't have free will.

The Jolly Nihilist said...

Rhology makes one key mistake vis-à-vis morality. Although it is true that, given Rhology’s First Principle, he is entitled to make moral judgments about himself and everybody else—and those judgments, from his perspective, are more than mere opinion—he has no justifiable mechanism to impose his judgments on other people. After all, his moral assessments are derived from his personal First Principle: TgOTB exists and is revealed in the Bible. But given the fact that other people have different First Principles—such as mine, evidentialism—Rhology’s moral judgments are voided, as they are mere derivatives of his personal foundation.

Rhology said...

NAL,

Sorry, should've said a decent, halfway valid argument.
1) Atheism doesn't have a robust doctrine of freewill.
2) In fact, a far better argument is that atheistic, naturalistic evolution consigns man to blind 'subservience' to his biological pre-programming. None of us choose our moral systems.
3) And given the biblical view of unsaved man, I don't really think that my 'free will' had much to do with the fact that I believe the truth.
4) But the question centers around whether making moral judgments is anythg more than a personal preference in which worldview. Which worldview can sustain such judgments.


JN,

Correct, **I** don't have any mechanism to impose them, but the Giver of the moral law does have that right, that mechanism, and that ability.
Don't forget we've been talking about this for awhile around here. Here's a good refresher of what I mean.
And don't make the same mistake NAL made, which I correct in point 4 above.

Peace,
Rhology

John Morales said...

Rhology chides me thus: John Morales then asserts that my moral system is just personal preference, and offers no argument. John, no it doesn't. Gratuitous assertion denies gratuitous assertion. Now, what's your argument?

I note that earlier he posted:
Any moral statement you make is your opinion, and worth as little as any other opinion.

Even if one were to stipulate that your opinion means nothing. That's the funny thing about moral relativism.

as the entirety of a response.

I find hypocrisy.

What I wrote was There is no reason to believe your claim that Christian morality is objective. As evidence, I offer that its schismatic history shows Christians' mores have evolved over time.

It is clear I offer evidence, implicitly a form of argument.
Or, my gratuitous assertion plus evidence beats your gratuitous assertion alone. :)

And I love how he just doesn't get the point.

One of us doesn't.

And what specific article can you point to on the Atheist Ethicist site, John?

I was pointing to his whole site. However, doing some research on your behalf, I suppose you want these pages.

John Morales said...

Sigh. I suppose I should clarify a couple more points (for Rhology's benefit, I normally don't need to explain the obvious in excruciating detail).

"regarding the damage done by indoctrination versus that done by sexual abuse, it shows him, in some sense, less tolerant of abuse than you in that he condones neither."
is not congruent with
Yet he just ASSERTS that I like abuse more than The Dawkins, missing the whole point of the post.

Rhology, I could argue why "RD less tolerant of abuse than Rh" differs from "Rh likes abuse more than RD", but I think, given your track record, a graphical (sort of) representation of the claim is best:
Like----PP---don't care----Rh-RD--dislike.

Sigh.

PS: PP is Pedophile Priest.
PPS: I know the intended point of your post was to ramble about how atheistic morality is subjective and somehow below par; the irony is that RD is comparing the damage of two forms of mistreatment (and acknowledges that sexual abuse is horrible) whilst you apparently only see one form.

Just so it's clear to you, Rh.

The Jolly Nihilist said...

Rhology, you are correct in one respect: My evidentialist First Principle, at this point in time, does NOT allow me to declare anything to be objectively moral or objectively immoral…objectively good or objectively evil. Given the current absence of evidence, the most I can do with respect to morality is formulate opinions, which I liberally do. Given your biblical First Principle, you, indeed, can make moral judgments that, from your perspective, are objective. That is, from your standpoint, murder is objectively immoral, as opposed to being immoral in your opinion.

However, do remember that your moral judgments are clear derivatives of your First Principle—a metaphysical foundation that is specific to YOU. You could not justify, for example, preventing homosexuals from copulating. Even if, from your standpoint, such behavior is objectively immoral, you have no justification for subjugating other people to your First Principle or any of its derivatives.

Your worldview allows you to make objective moral judgments; it does NOT allow those judgments to be imposed coercively on others. You are entitled to a First Principle, but so is everybody else and, presumably, you would not want Muslims coercively to impose their First Principle (and its derivatives) on you.

John Morales said...

Just as an aside, even as you promote faith as a preferable worldview, which faith stands to gain most?

Think of the wind you're sowing...

Chris said...

You can ask me questions about what I consider abuse, and it's fine, I'll answer them if I feel like it. But not if you keep missing the point, which is that The Dawkins can reasonably make NO normative claims to define child abuse for anyone but himself. He has no right, nor no rational way, to make that happen. His worldview lacks the mechanism necessary for such.

And that's probably child abuse, yes. Thing is, I can say yes or no. Atheists, to be consistent, must say "there's no such thing as child abuse."


Rhology, I'm not the one missing the point. You keep bringing up this "atheists have no basis for morality" thing, and I have addressed it several times. Here I go again.

Atheists know that morality doesn't come from a god. That it's in some ways personal, but that humans share their morality to a large degree. "Such and such is immoral" is shorthand for saying "I think it's immoral", and also often indicates the person thinks that view will be shared my most people.

The fact that you have a hard time with accepting that the existance of morals doesn't require a god is a problem with your worldview, not ours.

Just understand what the shorthand is, ok, and you don't need to worry about bringing up this point again (and again, and again).


And John,
Don't worry that there are now more Mulsims than Catholics. Catholics aren't real Christians anyway apparently :)

Rhology said...

John Morales said:
RD is comparing the damage of two forms of mistreatment

Which assumes that there is a design from which to deviate, a correct treatment, abuse of which becomes MIStreatment. What would be your/RD's argument for that?


the JN said:
do remember that your moral judgments are clear derivatives of your First Principle—a metaphysical foundation that is specific to YOU

Correct, but God has said that His judgments, His laws, are binding on all human beings.
So ***if*** He had said that it is necessary to prevent homosexuals from copulating, it is every human's responsibility to do so.
He didn't say that, but if He had, then yeah.

you have no justification for subjugating other people to your First Principle or any of its derivatives.

You're imposing your 1st principle on me, which
1) I deny you have the right or justification to do, and
2) your own worldview provides no justification for you to do.

But mine DOES, since I parrot what God, the ruler of the universe, says.

but so is everybody else and, presumably, you would not want Muslims coercively to impose their First Principle (and its derivatives) on you.

What I want is irrelevant to this question.
And not everyone's 1st Principle allows for its imposition on others. Yours doesn't, for example.
Muslims' does, and that's why I think it's really important not to think their intentions are just happyhappyjoyjoy like lots of atheists seem to, when they focus all their energies on Christianity. Their doctrine is to kill you if you speak against their religion. My doctrine is to argue with you. And you spend all your time attacking me and my brethren.


Chris,

You keep bringing up this "atheists have no basis for morality" thing

I have never said anythg of the sort. Look, it's clear you're not getting this. Read it again. And then again. If you still think that's what I'm saying, read it again.
The point is that atheism gives no objective basis for morality, nothing beyond personal preference or at the most societal preference.
You need to understand a point before critiquing it.

Peace,
Rhology

Chris said...

Rhology,

I've reread a few times now, and I still can't see much difference between what I said which is "atheists have no basis for morality", and what you say which is "The point is that atheism gives no objective basis for morality...". Except the word "objective". Is that what you're picking on here ?

The rest of your sentence "nothing beyond personal preference or at the most societal preference" I specifically addressed and admitted.

So, colour me confused.

Please understand _my_ point. Which is :
So ? We know that already. Why keep banging on about it ? There's no objective morality. Deal with it.

Cheers,
Chris

Rhology said...

Yes, that's it Chris. The word "objective" is huge.
If you have no objective basis, then forget making prescriptive, normative statements that are supposed to apply to others.
Only The Dawkins did that in ascribing child abuse to threatening kids with Hell... in even using that term "child abuse", for reasons I described in my post.

There's no objective morality. Deal with it.

Then I fully expect you to deal with me in rational consistency with that point.
1) Don't make moral statements about anything, since nothing you say applies to anyone else.
2) Don't use terminology with moral implications and underpinnings like "child abuse" or "the actions undertaken by God in the Old Testament are horrible".

Deal?

Peace,
Rhology

merkur said...

I parrot what God, the ruler of the universe, says

Might I suggest to JN, JM, Chris and others that it probably isn't worth debating any points of substance with somebody who is arrogant enough to believe that they speak on behalf of God?

Rhology said...

Seems to me it'd be more arrogant to say that God hasn't spoken when in fact He has. I figure since He's spoken, He probably wanted it to be heard. Better off to follow His own intentions on that.

Of course, if you mean that I am saying with God's authority sthg other than what God has said, I'd be wrong, but you'd need to provide an argument to prove I'm doing so.

Rhology said...

And of course, not that being arrogant is bad. It just is.

See what I mean, Chris? These guys, these hardened atheists, admit the point and then can't go 10 seconds without breaking faith with consistent behavior. Far better off to hold to a worldview where it's at least possible to act consistently with its dicta.

merkur said...

Three simple questions:

1. Do humans make mistakes?
2. Are you human?

Does that help you to understand why your previous statement could be considered insufferably arrogant?

Rhology said...

You forgot the "3.". Mistake, right?

Anyway.
Yes, yes, maybe. If properly understood, the statement is not arrogant at all.
And I said WHY. Maybe you should deal with my already-given explanation.

Chris said...

Then I fully expect you to deal with me in rational consistency with that point.
1) Don't make moral statements about anything, since nothing you say applies to anyone else.
2) Don't use terminology with moral implications and underpinnings like "child abuse" or "the actions undertaken by God in the Old Testament are horrible".

Deal?


No deal. Because as I've said quite a few times, particularly in this very thread, I don't claim my morality comes from a god. I know where it comes from. I like it. I'm going to continue using it.

I can't help the fact that you want to base your own morals on your interpretation of a 2000 year old book, but it does you good to know how other people in society think.

Just remember. When I say "such-and-such is immoral", it's shorthand for saying that it's against my morals, and it's against the morals of the part of society I want to associate with.

Far better off to hold to a worldview where it's at least possible to act consistently with its dicta.
But we are consistent. It's your deliberate misinterpretation of what we say which is causing you to see inconsistencies.

merkur said...

"If properly understood, the statement is not arrogant at all."

Unfortunately yes it is, even when properly understood.

"Maybe you should deal with my already-given explanation."

You said "if you mean that I am saying with God's authority sthg other than what God has said, I'd be wrong, but you'd need to provide an argument to prove I'm doing so."

I didn't mean that; perhaps you should try reading what I wrote again, more slowly. I really tried to make it as simple as humanly possible, but I guess I failed. I think I'll take my advice to the others, to be honest.

------- Theo ------- said...

"My claims to intellectual coherency stem from my renunciation of all claims to moral fact. Any moral statement I make is my opinion, and worth as much as any other opinion."

Using the movie critic analogy, this can be an attractive notion--especially if one tends to disagree with most other "movie critics;" however, if it is to have any weight in a conversation aside from evoking an honest, "So what, That's not how I see it. My morality requires me to impose mine on you, and as the stronger person with the 'equally valid' moral paradigm, I will," as a valid response from observers, it must first demonstrate the truth of its underlying assumptions, to wit:

1) That "intellectual coherency" exists.

2) That proven 1, your idea of "intellectual coherency" is in fact "intellectual coherency."

3) That proven 1 and 2, your idea of "intellectual coherency" is any "better" than any other condition, anyway. This final point has the unfortunate problem of containing that pesky comparison, "better", thus implying at a minimum, a "natural law," by which this statement could be made. The possibility of natural law does not in and of itself claim Theism; however, it does acknowledge that humans assign value to particular states of being. So far, so good (so to speak).

If this “natural law” is “morality” in any sense, everything falls, and the appeal to “intellectual coherency” stemming from renunciation of all claims to moral fact becomes a self contradiction.

Of course proving 1 and 2 from the nihilist viewpoint is problematic, but by no means out of the realms of reasonable, philosophical thought. Number 3 is ontologically impossible; however, it potentially can be “redefined” depending on whatever “natural law” is defined to be apart from animal instinct—and it is not concretely defined. However, ontology aside, we’re not done, because one must then demonstrate:

4) That no purely "morality-based" notion meets the test of "intellectual coherency." You must prove that every moral “standard” if applied universally cannot stand up to the as of yet undermined test of meeting "intellectual coherency” (undetermined because we haven’t established "intellectual coherency” means anything.

When one denies all first principles, one not only knocks the ground out from under the feet of one’s philosophical opponent, one knocks it out from under himself.

Respectfully submitted,
I remain your servant in Christ,
--Theo

Anonymous said...

From Dawkin's point of view, he doesn't know if Christianity is good for the survival of the species.

If Christianity is Child abuse, that is good because evolution will wave its magic wand and reduce the survival of those predisposed to religious fantasies.

But what if Christianity is good for the species? All those teenage suicides who have nothing to live for, might not do so if they were Christian. All that murder and mayhem might not happen if they were Christian.

So Dawkins should support Christianity, even child abuse, if it is good for the survival of the species. But why is he trying to interfere in the work of the magic wand?

Rhology said...

Anonymous, you're spot on.
Evol by nat sel is tautological; any outcome is labeled as "the result of evol by mutation and nat sel!" just automatically.
Further and more to the point here, Dawkins has no idea whether conservative Reformed Babdistism is the best for children to grow and pass on their genes. Doesn't know if a terrible, paralysing fear of Hell would be better for that purpose. Doesn't know anythg like that, but it doesn't stop him from opening his ignorant mouth.

John Morales said...

... his ignorant mouth.

Ignorant maybe, but he is Chair for the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University.

Here's a link to his 16-page CV.

I wish I were as ignorant as he!

PS Merkur, I don't expect to achieve anything with Rhology. But some of his readers may have a more open mind, and letting nonsense stand unaddressed will certainly not help either. In fact, it was seeing approbatory comments regarding his cogency and erudition (yeah, I know!) that first led me to comment on one of his posts.

Besides, it's fun - Rhology is like one of those Weebles :)

merkur said...

JM - yes, that's the reason that I started posting here as well. BTW I'm going to appropriate the Weeble metaphor, if that's okay - it's entirely fitting.

Chris said...

Anonymous and Rhology,

You appear to think that because Dawkins "believes" in the theory of evolution as the way that life became as it is, that he therefore thinks that society should be run according to "evolutionary principles". Survival of the fittest, that sort of thing.

That is emphatically incorrect. He has explicitely stated on many occasions that he does not support that line of thinking. Quite the opposite. Just because evolution is how we got here does not mean that we are obliged in any way to help it along. If you need quotes I can get you some.

And Anonymous, if you think evolution is about the survival of the "species", you're wrong and need to read "The Selfish Gene" to understand that it's about survival of the genes.

Anonymous said...

"Just because evolution is how we got here does not mean that we are obliged in any way to help it along."

Well of course, there is no reality to the concept of an "obligation", in an atheist world view. No-one is "obliged" to do a damned thing. So Dawkins can advocate hindering evolution, but the question is why we should give a damn if he thinks something is child abuse? Child abuse is just evolution in action. Child abuse is a nothing in Dawkins world.

"And Anonymous, if you think evolution is about the survival of the "species", you're wrong and need to read "The Selfish Gene" to understand that it's about survival of the genes."

No, evolution is not "about" anything. To claim it is "about" the genes in opposition to the species, or vice-versa, is to overlay meaning onto a meaningless system.

Rhology said...

I'm starting to like this Anonymous guy.

John Morales,
You're getting less subtle in your hero-worship of The Dawkins.
Of course I would never claim The Dawkins is ignorant in areas of science and such.
But he's outside of his field of expertise on this, and it shows. Badly.

And of course my hope on this blog is not to convince the likes of John Morales and merkur. Our goals are virtually identical.


Chris,

he therefore thinks that society should be run according to "evolutionary principles".

He has no justification for making ANY "should" statements at all. That's the whole point.

need to read "The Selfish Gene" to understand that it's about survival of the genes.

I just finished that book, and you're 100% right.
Unfortunately, The Dawkins' own writings in that book serve to discredit his moral stances, like on child abuse. I'm being charitable when I accuse him of ignorance. It's either ignorance, wickedness, or utter inability to grasp the most basic of inconsistencies.


Peace,
Rhology

------- Theo ------- said...

I wrote:
"You must prove that every moral “standard” if applied universally cannot stand up to the as of yet undermined test of meeting 'intellectual coherency'..."

Correction:
In the above, "undermined" should have been "undetermined." I expect the context would have made that clear; however, one never knows.

Your servant in Christ,
--Theo

Chris said...

Anonymous says:
So Dawkins can advocate hindering evolution, but the question is why we should give a damn if he thinks something is child abuse? Child abuse is just evolution in action. Child abuse is a nothing in Dawkins world.

Child abuse is a lot in Dawkin's world. Where this is the only life those kids get, the abuse is infinitely more significant than in your worldview, where they live forever in heaven or hell afterwards.

The reason Dawkins cares is because he's a caring person who values the life and comfort of others.

The reason you should care about moral judgements made by others is because you are then more able to fit your own morals into those of society and not come across as monster with whom nobody wishes to associate.

No, evolution is not "about" anything. To claim it is "about" the genes in opposition to the species, or vice-versa, is to overlay meaning onto a meaningless system.

Must I spell things out such that you won't deliberately misinterpret just to be annoying? Natural selection acts at the level of the genes. Not at the level of the species.

He has no justification for making ANY "should" statements at all. That's the whole point.

Yeah, he does. JN and I have spelled it out multiple times in the past couple of days. When you finally get the idea that people can make moral statements without claiming to represent the creator of the universe, please let me know.

John Morales said...

I'm starting to like this Anonymous guy.

So it's a guy, eh?

This is the anon who began with "From Dawkin's point of view..." and then makes up stuff so as to conclude "...So Dawkins should support Christianity, even child abuse, if it is good for the survival of the species."

You do know what fallacy this is, don't you, Rhology? You accuse others of it often enough.

When Chris points out anon thinks evolution is about survival of the species by attributing this view to RD, anon responds "No, evolution is not "about" anything. To claim it is "about" the genes in opposition to the species, or vice-versa, is to overlay meaning onto a meaningless system.", thus masterfully repudiating anon's own original (if fallacious) thesis.

1. RD [evilutionist] should support Christianity, even child abuse, if it is good for the survival of the species.
2. evolution is not "about" anything.

What's not to like about the two claims in order? To first post something only to repudiate it at the next opportunity takes talent.

Rhology:
You're getting less subtle in your hero-worship of The Dawkins.
What on earth are you on about?
RD is neither my hero nor do I worship him in any sense. I have read two of his books.

You are the one who posted about RD, and it is this post I am addressing. You are the one who alleged ignorance. I considered the quote, I looked it up in context (did you even try that?*), I read the comment thread, I responded.

I didn't respond to this:
Further and more to the point here, Dawkins has no idea whether conservative Reformed Babdistism is the best for children to grow and pass on their genes. Doesn't know if a terrible, paralysing fear of Hell would be better for that purpose. Doesn't know anythg like that, but it doesn't stop him from opening his ignorant mouth. ... until now.

Oh, look - a classic strawman, like anon.
You too seem to know all about his views and what he does and does not know. And if that last comment isn't the very epitome of snide, it's right up there.
So, I did a search and looked at what came up. His CV, I think, made the point succinctly.

*Here is context:
----
Even without physical abduction, isn't it always a form of child abuse to label children as possessors of beliefs that they are too young to have thought about? Yet the practice persists to this day, almost entirely unquestioned. To question it is my main purpose in this chapter.
....
Once, in the question time after a lecture in Dublin, I was asked what I thought about the widely publicized cases of sexual abuse by Catholic priests in Ireland. I replied that, horrible as sexual abuse no doubt was, the damage was arguably less than the long-term psychological damage inflicted by bringing the child up Catholic in the first place. It was an off-the-cuff remark made in the heat of the moment, and I was surprised that it earned a round of enthusiastic applause from that Irish audience (composed, admittedly, of Dublin intellectuals and presumably not representative of the country at large**). But I was reminded of the incident later when I received a letter from an American woman in her forties who had been brought up Roman Catholic. At the age of seven, she told me, two unpleasant things had happened to her. She was sexually abused by her parish priest in his car. And, around the same time, a little schoolfriend of hers, who had tragically died, went to hell because she was a Protestant. Or so my correspondent had been led to believe by the then official doctrine of her parents' church. Her view as a mature adult was that, of these two examples of Roman Catholic child abuse, the one physical and the other mental, the second was by far the worst. She wrote:

"Being fondled by the priest simply left the impression (from the mind of a 7 year old) as 'yucky' while the memory of my friend going to hell was one of cold,immeasurable fear. I never lost sleep because of the priest - but I spent many a night being terrified that the people I loved would go to Hell. It gave me nightmares."

Admittedly, the sexual fondling she suffered in the priest's car was relatively mild compared with, say, the pain and disgust of a sodomized altar boy. And nowadays the Catholic Church is said not to make so much of hell as it once did. But the example shows that it is at least possible for psychological abuse of children to outclass physical. It is said that Alfred Hitchcock, the great cinematic specialist in the art of frightening people, was once driving through Switzerland when he suddenly pointed out of the car window and said, 'That is the most frightening sight I have ever seen.' It was a priest in conversation with a little boy, his hand on the boy's shoulder. Hitchcock leaned out of the car window and shouted, 'Run, little boy! Run for your life!' .... it is entirely plausible that words could have a more long-lasting and damaging effect than deeds. I am persuaded that the phrase 'child abuse' is no exaggeration when used to describe what teachers and priests are doing to children whom they encourage to believe in something like the punishment of unshriven mortal sins in an eternal hell.
----

So, RD writes a book in which is an anecdote illustrating his own opinion, and Rhology says:

So why does The Dawkins insist on this position? Is he not shoving his beliefs down my throat? Why is he trying to indoctrinate me with this moral tyranny?

You don't have to read the book or listen to him, you know.

This is how the Spanish Inquisition did its throat shoving to heretics:
"Torquemada documented some of his techniques. A favorite was tortura del’agua (or water torture), in which the victim was strapped to a rack, his mouth forced open with a rag, water was then forced down the throat so that the victim thought he was drowning."

Not exactly in the same league, is it? :)

** Hm, I wonder if it was at the University Philosophical Society, Trinity College, Dublin.
His CV shows he's an Honorary Patron of it.

Rhology said...

Oh, I don't know whether Anonymous is a guy. They're anonymous, after all.


Chris,

Your point about this-one-life vs eternity has force BUT is eviscerated by the complete lack of standard on atheism. What gives life significance on atheism? If you say something, I stipulate the contrary, as a fellow human being. Who's right and how do you know?
RD can care, but so what? What does that have to do with the questions I've been asking?

The reason you should care about moral judgements made by others is because you are then more able to fit your own morals into those of society and not come across as monster with whom nobody wishes to associate.

"Monster" and "with whom nobody wishes to associate" are simply expressions of statistics. Multiple people have the same preferences. So what? Multiple people have a WIDE variety of preferences.

When you finally get the idea that people can make moral statements without claiming to represent the creator of the universe, please let me know.

When you feel like answering the question of what gives you the right to
1) make any statements rather than just always keeping them to yourself
2) foist those statements on others (ie, calling someone else a "monster") with loaded moral terminology,
we can talk.


John Morales,

You do know what fallacy this is, don't you, Rhology?

Yeah, it's a nonsequitur. I didn't say I agreed with it, though I do think it's cheeky, so I think it's fun.

I considered the quote, I looked it up in context (did you even try that?*),

Um, yes. I got that quote from his own website and read the whole article. 'Twas this one. Maybe I should've just linked to it in the post but I didn't want to direct him any traffic. ;-)

Oh, look - a classic strawman

Just quoting the wrongheaded statement doesn't make it correct. What specifically is the strawman?

snide

Which is, let us remember, neither good nor bad, neither morally preferable nor non-preferable, on atheism. It just is.

And just look at the numerous moral statements that RD makes in this passage! They're all over the place, gushing out. He can't keep his hand out of the cookie jar.

"always a form of child abuse to label children"
"almost entirely unquestioned"
"horrible as sexual abuse no doubt was"
"damage was arguably less than the long-term psychological damage inflicted "
"two unpleasant things "
"had tragically died"
"he second was by far the worst"
"I am persuaded that the phrase 'child abuse' is no exaggeration"
"are doing to children"

If you don't see it, I don't know what else to tell you.


You don't have to read the book or listen to him, you know.

That is one of the stupidest things I've ever heard pass your lips. You should know better.
This man wields enormous influence on lives, hearts, AND VOTES. He is advocating labelling a fundamental plank of my worldview, which I will teach to my children and any other children and adults who enter my sphere of influence, as "child abuse".
Do you think RD doesn't think child abuse should be punished, LEGALLY? You think he's dumb enough to use the term "child abuse" without knowing EXACTLY what he's doing? Looks like I'm giving him more credit than you.


This is how the Spanish Inquisition did its throat shoving to heretics:

Look, you're being very dense. If you don't recognise ironic hyperbole when you see it, I'll explain it slowly.
Of course I don't think that expressing an opinion is shoving morals down someone else's throat. that is THE battle-cry of the Postmodern West. Anytime someone expresses an opinion that pertains to someone else's behavior or beliefs, like a truth-claim from a God who claims jurisdiction over everyone, that they don't like, the cry is "shoving down my throat!"
RD is at least indirectly part of that mindset, and so much the worse for him for not realising it if he doesn't.
Additionally, and less ironically, the atheist worldview does not acct, as I've been saying all along, for the application of one's moral opinions to anyone else. That's the whole point of my post. Maybe you could defeat that argument rather than trying to deal with its implications. You're prescribing aspirin to counter the joint pain brought on by Ebola.


University Philosophical Society

Why doesn't he demonstrate more philosophical astuteness then? (Maybe b/c it's Honorary?) Your guess is as good as mine, but again, I've taken the most charitable interpretation I could think of.0

Peace,
Rhology

John Morales said...

Rhology,

it's a nonsequitur

Close - it's a straw man argument.

I got that quote from his own website and read the whole article.

Given your source in the post is shown as (p. 317, The God Delusion), you might understand why by "in context" I meant as in the book.

I truly doubt that you sourced your quote in the post from the link you just posted.
Anyway.

What specifically is the strawman?

It is that you ascribe motives and beliefs to RD which you then decry.

Snide, yes.
Your response? That as an atheist I don't care about that and, anyway, RD did it first - both informal fallacies.
What you didn't do is deny it, and I give you credit for it.

This man wields enormous influence on lives, hearts, AND VOTES.

Hmm, you sure you're not the one with hero-worship?
He's just an academic, you know. Not exactly the Pope or a big-time televangelist.

Look, you're being very dense. If you don't recognise ironic hyperbole when you see it, I'll explain it slowly.

OK, I giggled.

I brought up the [expletive deleted] Spanish Inquisition's tortures for goodness' sake!

Of course, technically they're only hyperbole to this topic (they are, after all, historical) but, still!

I've taken the most charitable interpretation [of RD] I could think of

Cripes! Such charity!

PS
... Still chuckling quietly ...

John Morales said...

Cheer up, Rhology.

You've got friends in high places.


..."I have noticed that the family system has weakened and that atheism has increased. That is an unacceptable behavior to all religions, to the Quran, the Torah and the Bible," he added. "We ask God to save humanity. There is a lack of ethics, loyalty, and sincerity for our religions and humanity." Abdullah's call is significant. The Saudi monarch is the custodian of Islam's two holiest shrines in Makkah and Madinah, a position that lends his words special importance and influence among many Muslims.

Anonymous said...

"Child abuse is a lot in Dawkin's world. Where this is the only life those kids get, the abuse is infinitely more significant than in your worldview, where they live forever in heaven or hell afterwards."

In Dawkins world, people are just a vehicle for selfish genes to get their way. If children are abused, it's probably because of a problem with their parent's genes, which will no doubt be corrected if they flog their children to death. If we restrain their parents from flogging them to death, it won't improve the gene pool from a million generations of future kiddie floggers. I guess that doesn't matter either in an atheist world.

"The reason Dawkins cares is because he's a caring person who values the life and comfort of others."

And that is probably not a valuable attribute in the world of natural selection, where everything exists because of what is good for the selfish genes.

"The reason you should care about moral judgements made by others is because you are then more able to fit your own morals into those of society and not come across as monster with whom nobody wishes to associate."

Not coming across as a monster is something we can fake, if it proves necessary for my selfish genes. i.e. whether you abuse your kids probably depends a lot on whether you think you'll get caught, and thrown into jail where those selfish genes can't make progress.

"Must I spell things out such that you won't deliberately misinterpret just to be annoying? Natural selection acts at the level of the genes. Not at the level of the species."

That's meaningless nonsense. There is natural selection of organisms and communities of organisms. Genes survive if the host organism and its community survives, not because a particular gene molecule survives.

"What's not to like about the two claims in order? To first post something only to repudiate it at the next opportunity takes talent."

The whole problem is we're trying to attribute a moral basis to atheists which is inherently doomed to failure. We should simply ask atheists to shut up as soon as they make moral judgements, since they lack any known foundation to be making them.

Ok, I'll start with an attempt to be consistent. Dawkins, SHUT UP.

""Being fondled by the priest simply left the impression (from the mind of a 7 year old) as 'yucky' while the memory of my friend going to hell was one of cold,immeasurable fear. I never lost sleep because of the priest - but I spent many a night being terrified that the people I loved would go to Hell. It gave me nightmares."

And I'll continue with my consistency. SO WHAT? Is making other organisms feel "yucky" or fearful something anybody should care about generally?

John Morales said...

Wow, anon.

I could almost see the spittle frothing as I read your rant.

Please calm down, this can't be good for your blood pressure :)

Chris said...

In Dawkins world, people are just a vehicle for selfish genes to get their way. If children are abused, it's probably because of a problem with their parent's genes, which will no doubt be corrected if they flog their children to death. If we restrain their parents from flogging them to death, it won't improve the gene pool from a million generations of future kiddie floggers. I guess that doesn't matter either in an atheist world.

I pointed out already that the facts of our biological history do not necessitate we deliberately act in an analogous manner in our society. Desregarding the last sentence, your paragraph above has a fair amount of truth biologically speaking. Which has nothing to do with the fact that most people find the parents actions in the situation abhorent and would act to stop them. Atheist or not. (Atheists aren't compelled to stone unruly children by the way).

There is natural selection of organisms and communities of organisms. Genes survive if the host organism and its community survives, not because a particular gene molecule survives.

Ah, but originally you claimed selection of the species. At least now you're confining it to "organisms and communities of organisms", which is closer to the truth. I don't know why you're speaking of an "individual gene molecule", since I never mentioned that. Genes are the information coded in a particular sequence, not any individual molecule encoding that information.

Genes survive if the host organism survives, that's partially true. The organism also needs to reproduce. It doesn't require the community to survive. However, if the community is related, then those organisms probably have that same gene, so their survival and reproduction could be helpful.

Fundamentally, genes are the things which are competing. The organisms are just their ways of doing so. Read "The Selfish Gene".

Rhology said...

But Chris, you're still assuming that some goal exists, some enlightened, "good" purpose to strive towards. Such assumptions are the point of my post. The critique I've leveled on this topic lies mostly untouched.

(Atheists aren't compelled to stone unruly children by the way).

Neither are Christians. Nice strawman.
Atheists are compelled to do EVERYthing they do (behavior is biologically determined), however, so actually if any atheist does ever stone his child, then THAT ATHEIST was compelled to do so.

Peace,
Rhology