Saturday, October 03, 2009

Full of joviality

So late this week I was laughing at Darwinists, and before that I was laughing at atheists trying to express moral outrage. I'm gonna keep chuckling at the latter, embodied by Larry Clapp from CFI, today.

If you define something as "good" because God commands it, then it's arbitrary

Well, 'arbitrary' is sorta right. God has been and forever will be the same. So since He's always been this way, from eternity "ago", it kind of drains the meaning of arbitrary from the term. He is the only objective standard that I've encountered, and you certainly haven't presented one. God commands what is in accord with His nature, not out of some standard extraneous to Him.
Without Him, everyone is a morality of one, and can change their morality at will. THAT'S arbitrary.

But again and again (and again and again and again ...) he insisted on having reasons, which everyone took great delight in shooting down.

But again, you don't have a good reason to say "if you don't have a good reason and can't be consistent with your stated reasons, you should change your approach". Maybe he believes that it's moral and proper to act consistently inconsistently with his stated reasons. You have no access to that, and you can't tell him he's wrong. You're stuck, in a morass. The next time you encounter a pædophile in the middle of raping a child, all you can consistently do is say "I don't like that" and then infringe on his personal morality and rights by trying to stop him. When you do that, you're acting as if you were a Christian. And then you wonder why I scoff at atheism.

by definition, no atheist can be good, not even theoretically.

Now you're changing the topic. This has never been about atheisTs. It's been about your worldview.

Now let me tell you a story, similar to what you told me:
Long ago, men looked around and they saw that eating ice cream indiscriminately led to gaining weight, which they didn't like. They said "don't do that". They saw that eating broccoli led to lower weight, which they liked. They said "do that". They found that doing some things led to stuff they liked and other things led to stuff they didn't like. They encouraged the former and discouraged the latter. Somewhere along the way, they said "This isn't just me saying this, it's the gods saying this! You should obey!" Holy writ, and our "moral sense", is just (ha!) thousands of years of condensed good (and sometimes not so good) sense. But at its core it's just people talking to people, and people agreeing on certain things. Agreement. Between people. That is all.

Anyway, this is completely inadequate. You've begged the question (again) by using the word "good sense". You are unable to differentiate between current Western society, Nazi Germany, and my scenario. In fact, in my scenario, the exact same thing happened as you described, only what led to order and what the society liked was actually stealing little girls from other tribes, raping them, and killing them, leaving their bodies to rot in the jungle. So by your own logic, that's totally fine. Good luck with that.


NAL said...


God commands what is in accord with His nature, not out of some standard extraneous to Him.

If "good" is a value judgement, by what standard do you determine that God's nature is "good"? If "good" is not a value judgement, then the meaning is drained from the term.

Dr Funkenstein said...

God commands what is in accord with His nature, not out of some standard extraneous to Him.

this is essentially just saying 'god does whatever god does', as NAL said it doesn't tell us anything really about why that is good (or not)- it's a bit like saying 'this pill will work as a painkiller because of its analgesic nature'

Larry Clapp said...

Technical note: I do not work for the Center For Inquiry (CFI). Any views expressed were strictly my own (if that :) and do not necessarily reflect the views of any other person or organization with which I am affiliated.

Larry Clapp said...

So you admit that God's goodness is arbitrary. You admit that atheists can have values operationally equivalent to Christians. And you admit that good and bad are deducible from observed trends, like getting fat. Fascinating.

Rhology said...

And you admit that good and bad are deducible from observed trends, like getting fat.

Well, I was with you until there. They're not deducible from ANYthing except revelation from God. Not "trends".

The Jolly Nihilist said...

Hey, Rhology

Are you ever going to do a full-length review of the Jerry Coyne book about evolution, which you indicated you might several months ago?

I ask because, just recently, I put together a piece on my blog dealing with the evolution/creationism debate, and Coyne was one of my two principal sources, the other being Richard Dawkins and his latest tome.

I have read several books on evolutionary theory and, all bias aside, I think Coyne and Dawkins each did a magnificent job as far as laying out the evidence. And, indeed, I think creationists have a lot of questions that, at the very least, should leave them squirming.

In any case, if you really believe Coyne's evidence to be shoddy, I would be curious to know exactly how it is so--and why special creation fits what we find in nature better.


Rhology said...

Hi JN,

Well, I did finish Coyne, but I'd borrowed it from the library and personal circumstances didn't allow me the chance to write up a review before I had to return it.
My overall impression was that it was OK as evolutionary books go, but it didn't do an awful lot to anticipate counterarguments.
A whole bunch of half-baked "evidence" and a landslide of "creationists have no answer for this". I couldn't believe how many times he said that, and how many times I could think of a creationist answer with 5 seconds and a tiny bit of effort (it was alot; most of the time. The other times I had to think more like a few whole minutes!).

Anyway, I don't expect I'll get back to it, sorry, but I'll read what you said. I do have another review coming out sometime soon - of Ehrman's "God's Problem".

The Jolly Nihilist said...

I assumed a review was not forthcoming, given how long it has been since you mentioned the book on your blog. But I figured I would ask anyway.

For what it is worth, I thought Coyne and Dawkins’ books were about equally good. I would rate their treatments of vestigial organs and atavisms about equal. I would say the same of how each covered speciation, given the fact that both focused on the principal requirement for speciation to occur: geographic isolation of populations. Coyne’s masterwork, in my judgment, was his discussion of biogeography, but especially his explanation of continental versus oceanic islands. Jumping from the Hawaiian Islands to St. Helena to the Galapagos, I can honestly say I learned a great deal.

Dawkins, however, can lay claim to the best single chapter in either book. His treatment of “clocks”—how we know how old things are—was brilliant. He discussed dendrochronology and radioactive clocks in illuminating detail. He even helpfully gave an elementary chemistry lesson early on, so his reader would know precisely what a radioactive isotope is and how it decays into something stable. I highlight books as I read them, and this chapter nearly wore out my yellow marker.

I also thought Dawkins’ analogy of a hairpin was as good as I have ever heard, with regard to common descent. He explains how every species can be connected to every other by following one end of the hairpin back to the common ancestor (different, of course, in each case), rounding the bend and proceeding to the other end of the hairpin. What a great analogy!

P.S. Never read the Ehrman.

Rhology said...

Cool, thanks for that.

And don't bother reading that one from Ehrman. It was turribl (as Charles Barkley would say).
Seems to me that he's trying to make some bucks off his rep after making it big with "Misquoting Jesus", with his last two books. I don't begrudge him that, but when the product is crap, it's all too clear where his motivations are.

The Jolly Nihilist said...

I am not particularly impressed with Bart Ehrman. I, of course, have read "Misquoting Jesus." I think it's an important work, and has some valid information. But, it is rife with errors. (In my judgment, if a book has more than three errors, it is rife with them.)

Tim LaHaye has his name butchered in a couple of different ways. His co-author is embarrassingly misidentified as the elusive "Philip Jenkins." Even Hal Lindsey suffers a name misspelling.

My profession is that of a magazine editor in the trade field. Self-indulgent as I sometimes am about fine stylistic points, I recognize that what really matters, ultimately, is simple factual accuracy. Ehrman lost my trust a bit with his errors.

Those comments notwithstanding, his analysis was interesting.