Stealing From God: A Rebuttal for Morality and Evil

So my current project is Stealing From God by Frank Turek, a philosophical apologetic mostly targeted at the New Atheist. I haven’t finished yet, but I am currently chewing through the section on morality and evil, and I gotta say it is a tough read for the thinking man.

A mistake almost constantly made by theists and atheists trying to make their case is to rely on the evidence that convinced themselves as true. In the case of Frank Turek, the evidence that convinces him that God is real is the idea that justice has to be a concept defined, written in stone, unchangeable through all time; he does not understand Justice unless Justice is spelled out objectively. I would tend to characterize his version of justice as that of a child being told something is wrong and to not do that thing; he has no intuitive grasp of it except for what he is told, and to an extent he has a point. The problem is how simple he wants the rules to be, and that is where I take umbrage.

“There is justice,” goes the thought, “Because I want there to be. How else would a child rapist who escapes the law be punished?”

But this is an incredibly spurious argument to someone who does not believe in an afterlife, though it could be a good argument to help solidify the belief of someone who believes in a just universe. The thing about me is that I don’t believe “There is no God,” I simply believe that “if there is a god, I don’t think he particularly cares about each individual person.” I have lots of evidence that Turek does not touch directly, but that is at least partially understandable; you can’t cover everything in a single book–even I have written more on morality than fits in a single book, and I would hardly consider myself a prolific writer.

The problem is that he only challenges the easy parts, he only challenges the parts for which the Bible gives him the words to use; murder is wrong, child rape is wrong, and the fallen nature of man makes us sinful and corrupts the laws of God writ upon our soul. Not only is that argument easy, but the spurious claim that “We wouldn’t even know it was wrong if we didn’t have something to compare it to,” is another philosophical argument used to prove, in his mind, that God exists. I do not understand how it is “intuitive” and “obvious” to him that we need to compare to a moral absolute, and that the only moral absolute is God, I simply do not.

But what about the hard questions? Yes, God had to make a world where evil exists so that we could have true free will. I can even get behind that assertion, I can believe in it; I understand that evil is a part of the universe in that way, and that people will be awful to other people… But what about the less obvious things that God did that are just terrible? Terrible design, designing in seemingly needless suffering.

To echo Stephen Fry, what about children born with bone cancer, who live a 7 year life in a hospital, largely in pain, then die?

What about the child of a loving couple, born with severe Down’s Syndrome, destined to live a short life then die? In severe cases, it may be a vegetative life, the whole time through?

The child of a mother with AIDS? The child of a heroin addict? The child of an alcoholic?

In every one of the above cases, though with the possible exception of Down’s Syndrome, the child will suffer terribly, through no fault of their own. In all of those cases, it is a case of God designing the world such that children have no choice, no chance but to suffer.

It gets even worse, actually, if you consider Down’s, for as per Psalm 139:13 “For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb.” That is some shoddy workmanship; children born blind, children born with one eye, children born missing organs, miscarriages… If you believe that God literally forms each person in the womb by hand, then you have to accept that he is very prone to mistakes.

Where it comes to morality he is much in the same boat, but I have to repeat the same point; why does he believe there has to be a moral absolute? While I hate to echo Dawkins, for whom Turek has obvious disdain, but this comparison was made “If a man can fart and it can stink, does that mean that there is a truly preeminent stinker, and we must call him God?” Why do we need to compare it to an absolute? I don’t understand that leap, and I will keep reading in the hopes that something becomes clarified to me, but I believe Turek is so secure in his beliefs that he will not challenge the questions that would help me clarify mine.

I just needed to get a few of these thoughts out of my head while I was thinking them; I am sure I’ll post something more complete as I read further.

But why?

So I was watching the new episode of Creation Today and I just… Am so sad at what they think of how lowly they think of other human beings. The episode itself is about pain and suffering, but for the most part they focus on the low hanging fruit, ignoring what others would consider the real issue.

They talk about how pain is important for our survival, citing a child with CIP (does not feel pain) who constantly injures herself as a result. “Obviously,” their reasoning goes, “pain is important. Case closed.”

What’s really funny is that they opened the episode with Stephen Fry asking why God would give children bone cancer, but ignore that point. “Christianity is the only religion that explains why pain is important.” They never touch on how children with cancer improve our world, but they do argue that general pain does. I mean, often the YEC will resort to misdirection, but they are the ones who brought up Stephen Fry, they are the ones who highlighted this clip of him lamenting children who live short, painful lives, then die, and then they are the ones who completely ignore the point they brought up. That is quite odd, even for them.

The weird part is where they get into ethics; “Atheists just think we are matter doing things to other matter, and why should that matter? Atheists really believe there is nothing wrong with murder!” Why do you get to say that? Why do you think there are no scientific reasons for morality and ethics? Why do you so strongly think you know what I believe more than I do?

I am sad that they think so little of people who are not Christian. They will tell you that they love all people, that they want to spread the word, that they want to convert people… And it works on some, but their methods are so insidious. “You are worthless except to God,” goes their logic, “Your morals are bad, your ethics are bad, you are going to hell, you are ignoring science, facts, and knowledge, you are looking at the world wrong, your thoughts are wrong. So join us, and all of that goes away!”

Wow. I am glad you think so highly of me. I am glad you are so reasonable.

They go further, in the episode; “Forest fires kill hundreds of humans, destroy life, damage habitats. So we should stop them, right? WRONG! Ecosystems require forest fires to thrive!” That is correct, of course; many lives, many trees, many ecosystems rely on forest fires for their regenerative purposes, for clearing out the old to make way for the new. We cannot stop them, and many will die in the future, many homes lost, many lives destroyed, because there is a greater good that comes from it.

But why?

Why did God create the ecosystem, as they would assert, that requires the destruction of so much, the death of so many? Is that pain good? Is it required? Did He have to create it that way? They tackled the question of forest fires from only the first level, assuming they are a given, but why should they be a given in a world created by an all loving, all caring creator? I am not attacking the fact that God did create these forest fires, the true question is “Why?” Why did God create an ecosystem that not only kills His Chosen people, but requires killing.

To me, it is always odd when people cite The Exodus as a reason that God loved his Chosen people. “He went to bat for us! He destroyed the Egyptians! He helped us escape oppression!”

First, he helped you escape after 400 or more years of oppression, by your own count. Second, once you escaped, he didn’t give you a home–you wandered for 40 years in the desert. Not only that, but He, the God who loves you, put strange, almost crazy restrictions on the Chosen people, the people that He loved. Dietary restrictions? You know it! Restrictions requiring the painful and occasionally horrific modification of male genitalia? Absolutely! How about we go back even further, because right out of the gate, even long before this, He cursed all women to monthly menstrual cycles and the pain of child birth, due to them eating a fruit! And, if one thinks about this at even the shallowest level, you have to remember that Eve did not know it was wrong. She and Adam had not yet eaten of the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, which means they would not have known their actions were evil. Oh, they may have found it odd that they were going against something God said, but all people go against their parents via our apparently God-given instincts. What do you do if your child disobeys you for the VERY FIRST TIME? Do you punish them slightly? Ground them? Get unhappy with them?

I am going to assume you would not curse their entire gender. I would say their entire species, but that isn’t true, is it? God is not good at targeting His curses, for He hit the females of every animal species because of Eve. Those are not the actions of a loving God. Those aren’t the actions of a stable God. Those aren’t the actions of a sane God.

This might seem an unjust attack on Christianity, or on a loving God, but that isn’t what I intended. I wanted to build context. “Why do you believe God loves us?”

Is it the Exodus? We covered that, the Exodus took his “Chosen” people from 400 years of slavery into 40 years of starvation and thirst. During that, His people were subjected to harsh Laws and restrictions. Hell, in Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he calls what God did “The curse of the Law.” That’s right, God saved His chosen people… Then immediately cursed them. Did He curse the Chinese, who did not know of him? The North American Native peoples? The Mayans? No, He did not curse those people. He cursed His chosen, but not any of his non-Chosen, except for the Egyptians… But thinking about that, they rebounded FAR BETTER than the Jewish people.

During any point in history prior to, and for several years after, Jesus Christ, being a Chosen Person of God was TERRIBLE. It was a curse, a hamper, it required pain and suffering. Pain and suffering of the kind that no other people had to suffer.

Hell, even after Christianity was accepted as the official religion of Rome, being a chosen person of God was awful. Right up through World War 2, where Hitler killed so many Jews, following that ancient religion has been a burden more terrible than God has set out for His non-Chosen. Being a Christian was not flowery, either, for there was the wars with the Muslims, the Crusades, the Inquisition. I hope you were born believing the right version of being God’s Chosen, because even being a Christian could get you killed by other Christians. There is a saying that I love that goes back many decades, and I do not know the original source, but it basically states that prior to the eighteenth century, Muslims were more tolerant of Christians than Christians were tolerant of other Christians.

“But for our pain, we are granted eternal paradise!” But why would God require you to suffer for the blink of an eye, for 10 or 20 or 70 years under oppression and pain, then give you eternal life? That seems such an odd choice.

And then, of course, come the odd questions–if someone has never heard of Christianity, will they go to Heaven? There is an old joke about African Missionaries converting pagans to Christianity. A pagan woman asks “If I become a Christian, will I go to Heaven?”

“Yes,” replies the Missionary.

“But,” continues the woman, “Would I have gone to Hell if I had never heard of your Christianity?”

“No,” the Missionary answers, “You would have been judged by your works, since you had never heard of God, He would not have punished you for it.”

“Then why,” the woman says, exasperated, “Did you tell me about your God?”

It’s sort of funny, but it’s more sad. Do you not read the implication there? In what the Missionary said? “You would have been better off had you never heard of our God, for you would not have had to Believe this particular story to go to Heaven.”

Again, not only are God’s own people punished, but people who are not of His own flock are rewarded for never having heard of his flock. And God loves His Chosen?

It sounds like He loves everyone except His Chosen.

So why?

But why?

Why?

Why do you believe God loves you? Why do you believe God cares? I simply do not have the tools at my disposal to answer that question for myself.

The Odd Problem with Learning from your Mistakes…

… is that your opponents will remember your mistakes long after you are dead.

This isn’t only about religion, but it comes up a lot in religious debates–between religious people and atheists, or religious people and other religious people, between atheists and other atheists, and I think it is setting everyone back, setting the whole human race back.

I don’t have the citation on me, but an article I read recently criticized so called “liberal views of morality” by saying “in the late 19th century, atheists were racists.” I’ve spoken about that idea extensively in previous posts, noting that “so were the religious among us,” because most people in that era were racist. Most people today are racist to some degree, though obviously not as bad as say… Turn of the century American South.

That being said, the whole argument is moot, isn’t it? “Remember that time when you were four and you peed in that guy’s shoe? You’re 28 now, and I still don’t trust you around my shoes.”

That statement is absurd, so why is it not considered absurd to say “19th century atheists were sometimes bigots,” or “But look at the crusades!”? Those were mistakes, they will forever be considered mistakes, and you will be hard pressed to find someone involved in main stream politics who says “The crusades were justified!” So why do things like this even come up?

Why do we talk about how a 19th century liberal philosopher was a racist? Why does that same 19th century philosopher undermine my ability to posit a better moral outlook today? The author I spoke at great length about in my previous series of posts seemed to think I am culpable for what other atheists have done (and his article can be read here). That completely ignores that fact that we have, as a society and as a whole, grown up.

Saying that the Bible, a book canonized in the third and fourth centuries, is the final word on morality is just a like a twenty-eight year old saying “Peeing in shoes at four was good enough then, so it’s good enough now.”

And saying “Some humans got it wrong 120 years ago, so you have it wrong today,” is grossly disingenuous.

So I’ll say it again; let’s work together, maybe? Find a better moral code, a moral code that improves the happiness of everyone? A moral code that does not accept or endorse bigotry towards people who have caused no one harm?

Or we can complain that old timey people were racist, and argue that this is somehow relevant.

Maybe that works, too?

Correlation vs Causation (2015 edition, Part 3)

Alternate title: Nietzsche’s Problems with Scientific Racist Nazis

The third section of this article starts off with a bang leveling so many unfounded claims that the Bullshit Per Sentence ratio in that first paragraph reaches Fox News levels.

The problem with having the answer to a question asked is that so often you are ignored. I am not the first to posit a morality based on mutually assured survival (one would think the acronym MAS would resonate a little with the religious crowd, no?). Given Evolution seeks survival, and people working together survive best, I can’t see why I should have so much trouble selling this as a sort of prevailing morality.

Anyway, this author is stuck to the idea that saying you do something “Because Science,” is some sort of binding holy oath, and if one person happens to say “Science shows racism is the cool thing to do,” all other scientists are now (for some reason) obligated to agree.

I don’t understand the thought process here. As I’ve mentioned before, saying you’ve done something in the name of science does not indicate that any science has, in fact, been done. (Yes, I will use science as a verb. You can’t stop me.) While Nazis may have claimed their racism has roots in science, no data was shown. Where were the experiments? The predictive capabilities? Oh, the Nazis did plenty of experiments, but very little data was found regarding racism. We did learn a TON about the human body, and you are welcome to throw that out if moral grounds require it of you — I don’t condone what the Nazis did, but it cannot be undone, and their actions (ironically) have probably saved or improved more lives than World War II ended. That, dear author, was done in the name of science. Science gone mad, science gone wrong, but that is science — experiments were done, data was collected, predictions made, and treatments for a huge variety of diseases or conditions were created.

And in all of that, nothing data-wise to show that the Aryan Race was genetically anything other than “A bunch of white guys.”

Another issue I take with this author is his use of “liberal morality” as some sort of talisman, as if it is liberals only who have a different idea of morality, as compared to conservatives. Please allow me to paint a picture, using only a few words, and you can tell me why it is liberal or conservative, or why my version of morality is in some way skewed.

Evolution has a goal of continued survival -> Survival is easier in groups -> Larger groups survive better -> To have a large group, you must get along (more or less) -> To get along, you must help each other.

The terminating point there is more important than I can probably ever describe. What I do, to make others happy, to try to get along, to empathize and help, to love and like and assist, all of that moves towards a goal of social cohesion, of group survival. But it doesn’t have to end here — if we accepted those of other nationalities, of other creeds, of other social groups, we could ensure the survival of not just our group but of our planet. If the Russians and Americans and Chinese would just treat each other with due respect, give each other the benefit of human decency, we wouldn’t have to be afraid of any wars — a year from now, ten, one hundred, one thousand. That is why I will try to press my morality against yours, against those who would quote Leviticus and hate gays, over those in all centuries up to and including the 21st, who quote the Bible as supporting their right to own foreign slaves, to those who enforce border guarding with force–that force extending to murder.

Is there really anything so futile as killing people because of invisible lines that someone several hundred years ago drew? This isn’t purely about religious morality, this extends beyond it, to being a kind human to those even if the Bible doesn’t tell you that you have to.

And there’s the rub; people will be nice to those they grew up with, hate those that the Bible tells them to hate (As the WBC has informed me), and then treat with general indifference, to the worsening of our entire planet, anyone outside of the above two groups.

And my “liberal morality” is “highly questionable” as per the article. I can’t even describe how sad that thought process makes me.

The author then makes a claim that the New Atheists wish for a world where religion never existed, but this is purely academic. It doesn’t matter if they want that or not, they can’t have it, so let’s not even waste breath and distract each other with talking about it. I don’t want a world where religion never existed–I don’t even care for a world in which religion doesn’t exist going forward… All I want is a world where all humans are just decent to each other, regardless of race, religion, creed, nationality, gender, sexual orientation… How about we treat each other decently based on the highest order thing we all share; species. We are all humans, and as far as your God is concerned, I think we are all equally human and equally culpable for our own actions.

The problem I have is that too many people rely on religion for their horrible motivations. Oh, I realize that saying “I do this for God,” is just as vacuous to you as “I do this because science,” is to me. The problem is that while science has strict codes of conduct regarding what actually counts as science, the Bible is a mess, a hodgepodge of conflicting language and ideas–it makes it easy for you to quote a Bible verse regarding your own morality while I can counter with a Bible verse supporting my own version. As far as Biblical morality, perhaps it is you who will settle the ages old argument that Jesus and Paul had as to whether or not Christians should follow Jewish law. (And for those who have not read the Bible recently, Jesus unequivocally says during the Sermon on the Mount that, and I am quoting here, “17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.19 Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:17-21)) Now, some have claimed that “until all is accomplished” means “Until Jesus died and was resurrected,” but that point was clarified with “Until Heaven and Earth disappear,” which has obviously not happened. Some people even like to quote Matthew 5:17,18.5, completely ignoring the part about Heaven and Earth. 

So until I see you sacrificing Doves every day you are ill, we can both agree that what counts as righteous and even moral in the Bible is no more immune to scrutiny than my own version.

And here, speaking directly of Nietzsche’s atheism, there is another correlation/causation fallacy. To go one level deeper, it is a chicken first or egg first debate. Did modern moral ideals come from religion, or did religion merely codify existing modes of thought? I know I don’t know the answer, but it has been a very long time since an evangelical elephant preached to me, but I know that an elephant sacrificed himself for the goodness of his herd in 1894, and there is not one iota of evidence to show that he was Christian. If morals come universally from religious texts, I would challenge the religious apologetic to tell me by what method birds were taught the methods of reciprocal altruism. One may say that they were put in birds by God during creation, but then I have to raise the same point as I did in part 2; how did God select which species got morals that humans would identify with, and which species are morally bankrupt? Again, evolution ties this ribbon beautifully, but I am certainly open to your making an attempt at it.

“The idea that the human species is striving to achieve any purpose or goal – a universal state of freedom or justice, say – presupposes a pre-Darwinian, teleological way of thinking that has no place in science.”

I don’t even know where to start with this sentence. Religion does not exist in a bubble, free from scientific principles–evolution existed before Darwin wrote of it, and whether religious adherents recognized it or not, they were agents of that overarching idea through all of history. Remember how I mentioned that evolution favors group survival tactics in many species? What is religion if not a group of like-minded individuals. Also, this sentence tries to place some sort of overarching goal on us of the author’s devising, despite the fact that a master goal already exists: To Survive.

Below that overarching master goal there are group goals and personal goals, but there is no other species-wide goal save to survive and pass our genes on to the next generation of survivors.

Since the goal of which he speaks doesn’t exist, one can brush away his assertion of presupposing a pre-Darwinian way of thinking. To quote Ron Swanson “Everything I do is what an award winner would do, for I have won an award.” Religion has a huge place in evolution, a place without which the human species may have fractured and died — but that does not forgive the Crusades, or the Inquisition. That does not forgive 9/11, or any of the subsequent bombings. That does not forgive the 2011 Norwegian Massacre. And just because we did need religion does not mean we do need religion.

Please permit me a metaphor:

When learning to swim, I needed water wings. Later in my life, I did not require water wings.

Religion is our moral water wings, but now we are racing against people who are good at swimming. Anyone wearing a flotation device can tell you that swimming at speed is almost impossible while wearing it–it may have helped before, but relying on the Bible for morals has been holding us back in recent decades. I am not saying abolish religion, but perhaps you can take off the water wings for a lap and see how moral you can be without the Book of Leviticus and its many Abominations.

It is at this point that I have to point out why my version of morality is so likely to succeed and make predictions based on that assertion. In a racist morality based on “science”, it can be predicted that only one race should survive, and that requires the death of many other humans, not of your selected race. How do you prove that those humans are less deserving of life than you? You cannot, therefore you reach a brick wall, a place where no amount of posturing and rhetoric can unstick you.

With an evolutionary morality based on mutually assured survival, and strong group cohesion within the entire human species, where is the brick wall? Where do I have to make an unfounded assertion requiring the rhetoric of a salesman to break through? As the group of morally bound people slowly grows, eventually all are members of the group, cared for and appreciated by every other member of the group. Mutual care and appreciate leading to mutual happiness. Eventually, the happiness of all members, in a perfect world.

I realize the world isn’t perfect, but in the morality of group happiness, I think malefactors will be punished very similarly to how they are today. There will still be racism, I know I can’t stamp that out with flowery optimism. But without set boundaries (you can only live with us if you accept our God(s)), I think the global community could grow much more quickly than it is today.

That being said, religion (despite its strict dogmas and threats of hell) has been unable, over 10000 years or more of human history, to curb our tribal instincts and desire to kill — and I doubt my way would have any greater success. The only thing that would be gained by eliminating religion would be to remove one more reason fanatics use to kill each other. And that is my pessimistic thought for the day.

Correlation vs Causation (2015 edition, Part 1)

I think I may have used this title for a blog post before, but I’ll bet I spelled it differently, thus it is COMPLETELY UNIQUE.

In any case, this specific post is in relation to this article, whose author claims to know what has New Atheists all up in a tizzy. I — it is difficult to know where to start. Going through the article from top to bottom has proven surprisingly lacking in usefulness. I am going to start with a line that the author got amazingly correct, and I assure you, by reading context it was obviously accidental.

“In fact there are no reliable connections – whether in logic or history – between atheism, science and liberal values.” That is perfectly correct. I am an atheist. I am also a liberal. Further to that, I also believe science holds the answers to many questions over which religion attempts to claim absolute dominion. That being the case, and all of that being true, I would still never say my atheism led me to science, that my science led me to being liberal, or any other iterations of that web. These are independent areas of my life.

What led me to losing God was the inability of Christians to answer my questions. For my long time readers, you will remember (I hope) that I am still open to returning to the fold, should I receive satisfactory answers to so many of my questions. If you want to bring me back to the Light, I’d recommend starting with my blog post from yesterday, and answering what it is that would allow for men and women to be born with psychopathy; a complete lack of empathy, and almost no morals to speak of built into them. It’s ok, I’ll wait.

Back to the core point, though; why should my atheism ever be brought into the conversation when we are talking about human rights, or politics, or anything else? I do not support human rights because I am atheist, in the same way I hope your religion is not the only reason you support human rights. Were I to show incontrovertible proof that God did not exist, would you immediately support torture programs? To flip that, if you were to show me incontrovertible proof that God does exist, it would not affect my life. I like to live a good life, give to charities where I can afford it, show empathy to those in pain. That would not change, God or no, and even I would not accuse the average person, saying thus: “You are only moral because of God!”

So why is it so easy for so many Evangelical Christians to say “You support eugenics because you are an Atheist?”

That brings me, then, to the title. Atheists have done some awful things in the past. They have said some awful things. So have Christians. For some reason, many Evangelical Christians are oddly comfortable with saying “Stalin was an atheist, and look at what he did,” but will completely reverse their stance when you say “The Pope was a Christian, and look at the Spanish Inquisition!”

“Obviously,” they reply, “That Pope was a bad Christian.” Or, another tack, “We’ve made mistakes, but we’re better now!” They are allowed to say this, but when I say “I am in no way related to Stalin, I do not support Stalin’s views and methods, and I do not follow some core doctrine of atheism,” I am accused of at least one of several things. The first is the odd accusation of “If you don’t believe in God, how can you believe in anything! If you don’t believe in anything, you will believe everything!” (I think that is one of Eric Hovind’s favorite quotes.) I am accused of being some kind of passive atheist, that if I don’t have some kind of leadership in my beliefs, I can, again, believe in anything. That I am subject to my own whims. That my violent, baser nature can be curbed only by God, and that (this next one is a little bit hyperbole) I am a murderer waiting to happen because I don’t have God in my life to stop me.

I will concede that, as an atheist, there is no higher power to stop me from killing a hundred people then myself. There is no afterlife, no eternity in hell. That being said, what about Jim Jones and the Jonestown Massacre? In the name of God those men and women died. Oh, a corrupted version of God, not any recognizable form of Christianity, but that leads me to my next point.

People have been good in the past without God, and people have been evil in the past with God. Going into the future, people will do good in the name of God, and in the future people will do good in the name of humanity.

But that’s the rub; if someone supports eugenics, there seems to be some press to put a religious spin on it. But it can exist completely independent of religion. While you may have a block that prevents this thought from occurring to you, I would like to walk you through a thought experiment.

Imagine a world where there is no cancer. We never found a treatment for it, it just went away. There is no ALS, there is no Huntington’s disease. Not one person is born with Down’s Syndrome, not one person born with a deformity. The average life expectancy is pushing 100 years, and in the later stages of life a 95 year old is easily as spry and active as a 55 year old today.

This is all easily achievable in two generations, by my own layman’s estimation. All it requires is some light selective breeding on the part of humans. Maybe a taste of Eugenics.

Do I support eugenics? No, not personally. That being said, independent of religion, I understand that the benefits of it could be vast.

So why does an article like the above linked exist? Why is it that anyone today is allowed to say “Well, Haekel was an atheist, therefore everything he said and did was done and said because of his atheism”?

The author continues, hitting another accidental mark if only because of phrasing, “When organised as a movement and backed by the power of the state, atheist ideologies have been an integral part of despotic regimes that also claimed to be based in science, such as the former Soviet Union.” (Emphasis mine.)

I can say “I am murdering you for science!” I could say that, and it would be meaningless. Equally meaningless were Stalin’s plans, his policies, where he tried to back them with science. Where Haekel claimed that “… Other races are inferior scientifically,” he produced no evidence. He had no scientific standing.

His statement held as much water under scrutiny, an EQUAL AMOUNT, to when Jim Jones said “I do this because God told me to.” There is no evidence, no backing. No reason to take that statement as anything other than the idle personal speculations of a man who did not have the data he required (or had a surplus of crazy, as the case may be). Was Haekel an atheist? Yes. Were there racist atheists? Yes. But, and this may surprise you, there were also racist Christians. Please, keep yourself calm, these types of revelations can change your world–but it’s OK, everything will settle down with time.

The funny thing is that while Haekel baselessly claimed his racism had scientific backing, the Christian racists backed their racism in various Old Testament verses. Some of them believe that skin color (specifically, darker skin color) may even be the Mark of Cain! (And before you tell me that it is only Mormons who believe that, my Catholic Grandfather will preach the same idea to his death, I am sure.) And yet, so many seem blind to the apparent blatant cognitive dissonance.

The article linked is very long, and there is a lot to cover yet — and I will, again, put Part 1 up and then never follow up. There is much more to be said, and I hope I find time to say it all.

The Way Things Are

“Don’t worry, guys! I am writing a series! I won’t take a 1 week break!” And it wasn’t even a lie, because I accidentally took 2.5 weeks off. Goood times.

Some days, my head is in worse condition than others, and while this blog has generally been my own personal self-therapy, I just couldn’t make myself write. It isn’t even that I haven’t been writing, I have just been so unsatisfied with what I was writing that I couldn’t bear to publish it. Also, I hate that WordPress moved the settings and options to the left when it used to be on the right.

As Facebook has proven, the smallest changes cause the most irrational anger, for at least a week or two, then everything is ok again. Well, theoretically–I’ve been using the left side bar for a few weeks now, and I still hate it.

My complaining aside, I couldn’t actually publish a post without content, and Creation Today hosted a blog post that was everything I have been talking about since I started this blog, but inverted. I tried to find the original version of that post (pingbacks are the heart of blogging) but it seems to be hidden somewhere.

Onto the meat, though, in that this is a very intelligent writer who, unfortunately, seems very prone to literal application of rhetoric. The part that irked me so was his understanding of morality, and his literal application of “Stardust shooting holes in stardust.” If you’ve not read it, I believe he is referencing the legendary quote by Carl Sagan that “We are all star stuff,” so shooting each other should have no bounds in morality–but this shows a complete lack of understanding in evolutionary morality. I really wanted to link to the source article because I had hoped that it would give my article even the smallest chance of being read by the original author–I think he is capable of critical thought, the switch is just stuck in the off position.

Again, in the off chance that he may read this post some day, I will explain morality from a purely scientific standpoint (though Sam Harris has done it better, in his own militant New Atheist kind of way). Dawkins has also tackled the issue more indirectly, though it is a vein of silver that runs through all of his books and ideas.

The short version is this: evolution is about survival. Our world is complicated and difficult to survive in. Therefore, to maximize chance for survival, we must live in groups. To live in groups, we must have something akin to a ruleset of morality. Throughout the over 3 billion year history of evolution, most, but not all, immorality has been thrown out. That being said, there are some glaring oversights in evolution’s wide scope, and I think they prove evolution rather than prove morals inscribed upon our soul by an Almighty God.

The first is sexual infidelity. Males are generally more susceptible to this, and evolution explains it very well where “morals placed upon our soul by God” does not. If God put these morals in our soul, why are so many so quick to violate them? Why are clergymen prey to them so easily? Why would God write such a power of lust into us that it overrides the morals He put into us?

Evolution explains it well, and it even explains why males tend to be more susceptible. Women are susceptible, too, but to a lesser extent. Women are only capable of reproduction during a certain percentage of the time, a relatively small percentage–and once successful reproduction has occurred, they are unable to reproduce continually while pregnant. For a woman, instinctually, it is preferable to have a male counterpart who will remain present to assist in the upbringing of a child. Males, however, are capable of almost constant reproduction from the time they hit puberty until the time they die, and evolution wants them to. If they could impregnate 1000 women, their progeny would almost guarantee the survival of his genes. For a man, successful reproduction is less about caring for a single offspring as is it is about having enough offspring that (to quote an American colloquialism) their genes are “Too big to fail.”

To that end, men’s eyes wander, searching for more potential mates.

It is not a romantic notion, I have to agree. That being said, it explains why men and women must fight with their own sexual urges, rather than merely relying on God given morality. Science explains our sins, if sins they be, where religion just raises at least one further question: Why did God do such a hack job of making moral humans?

Oh, you can quote The Fall, the Curse of Sin all you want–the reason that argument does not hold water for long is simple: if God is omniscient, He knew humans would eat of the tree before He created humans… And yet He created us in the Garden, by the Tree anyway? That is a parent leaving a 15 year old at home alone, saying “Don’t go into the liquor cabinet, which we’ve left unlocked, and that you can reach easily!” And, of course, with similarly predictable results.

Now we move on to the Monkeysphere. For those not familiar with it, it is currently the modern distillation of Dunbar’s Number, which describes the number of people in your life that you are capable of truly caring about. Before you get up in arms, saying I can’t put a number on such a thing, describe to me your reaction to the thought (or, if it has happened, the event) of your mother dying. Now describe to me your thought of, say, Bill O’Reilly dying. I’ll bet one is outright anguish, and the other is… Well, I suppose that depends on your political leanings. The point is this; if our morals are universal, granted by God, what is it that should cause me to care more about my dogs than, say, cousin Chuck who lives in Albuquerque? (Oh yes, I know about your cousin Chuck!)

The answer, again, lies in evolution. As before, we are programmed to survive in groups by our survival instincts, but we evolved only to live in groups about 100 large. In a world of universal love impressed upon my soul by God, why should I cry more for the death of my cat than I did for the 200,000 who died in the Indonesian Tsunami of 2005? Cry more for the ills felt by my dog than for the 800,000 who were left homeless and starving? And before you call me callous or cruel, did you cry? What was your reaction to 9/11, if you were old enough to have truly been aware of it? I am sure it was a bit of stunned shock, but not nearly so much as the stunned shock you felt when your first pet died. If you never had a pet, then the death of a beloved family member. If you have never felt either of those losses, wait–they will come, and you will realize that love is not universal, it cannot be, by the limits set upon our human brains by evolution.

I think I’ve covered this in implication, but I’d like to cover it explicitly. The author writes “Some will then go on to argue that right and wrong is just what is beneficial to society. But why is benefiting society right?”

The reason is this: the entire goal of evolution is survival of the species. Through 3 billion years of mixing genetic code (FOR SCIENCE!) evolution has come to the conclusion that survival depends on more than just you and your monkeysphere. Protecting the survival of the gene is the highest order goal of evolution, therefore evolution has programmed into us a sense of empathy. The thing about evolution is that while it is masterful at what it does, genetics is complicated enough that other things slip through the cracks; psychopathy, sociopathy, people simply lacking in empathy, a callous disregard for the well being of other humans independent of the above conditions… I can explain those, using both recessive genes and large numbers, allowing for undesirable traits to continue to replicate. The most unfortunate part is how our empathy does not just allow for replication of undesirable traits, but how our empathy enables it. I am not here to preach for the application of Eugenics, my own personal sense of empathy would never allow for it, but the coldly logical part of my brain does realize that the human race could be drastically improved by … Well, if I complete that sentence I know it will be held against me, despite my not agreeing with it.

The funny thing is how much evolution is often in conflict with the teachings of the Bible. Homosexuality is an easy one, a low hanging fruit for me to grasp, and wow–that sentence got weird quickly. In any case, there is evidence that homosexuality may exist at the gene level. This next part is hilarious to me; the stance of the Church that homosexuality is a choice, and the idea that they can be forced to be heterosexual, is basically allowing the homosexual gene to not just propagate in the species, but spread and grow. I’d be willing to bet the percentage of the homosexual population in the Church is a growing statistic, though I don’t have that number.

Man, if it turns out definitively that homosexuality is genetic, and the Church has been forcing homosexuals to reproduce against their instincts… Man, the Church will have so much egg on its face.

“There is no logic behind this, because there is no explanation as to why benefiting society is the correct thing to do.” No, Mr Writer, that is not true — and even a cursory reading of only the most popular books on evolution (A great place to start, as always, is “The Selfish Gene” by Richard Dawkins. It is a book purely on science, lacking most of his later vitriol) will show you that even in the 1970s we had an idea of why benefiting society is a personal benefit to the survival of the entire species. We don’t just know, at this point, we’ve plumbed those depths at length.

“But what about the atheist? If it was simply stardust blowing holes in stardust, then what reason is there to cry? What reason is there to demand justice?” Oh dear, we are getting deep into the rabbit hole now, aren’t we, Alice? Most atheists witnessing a random murder will not cry, I will give you that, but shock and horror, disgust, and empathy for the victim? Those, certainly, we will feel at witnessing this–for we have empathy as well as you do. The only difference is that varying strengths of empathy, various emotional dispositions are easily explained by evolution, where I have never heard of a good reason why a psychopath should exist in a world where morals and emotions are impressed upon our soul by God.

To clarify, a psychopath will often have no empathy at all, their actions have no mental repercussions. They are not someone who made poor choices and ended up doing something awful–they were born without the ability to understand why what they do is awful. Did God just miss them? Forget to give them morals? Some serial killers who turned out to be psychopaths, who killed 10 people, each of those with 50 friends and family to mourn their losses… God just forgot to give them morals like the rest of us, and because of that a rough guess at 500 lives being ruined? Explain that.

I can explain it through evolution, but can you explain it through God?

Slightly too Complicated for Children

More reading down the anti-science hole, I came across a blog post by Ken Ham (PBUH), prophet of the Young Earth Movement. I didn’t find it overly offensive for the most part, it mostly was just him reiterating the Young Earth Script–but eventually I came across a line that kind of caught my attention: “… Children can easily see that complicated life can’t be built up on the basis of mistakes…”  Yes, but can they see why kids love the taste of Cinnamon Toast Crunch?!

The reason that line jumped out at me is that it is so disingenuous it hurts, as though Ken Ham is trying to imply that all complicated science should be understood by children. I would argue this isn’t the case. An example, perhaps: Spacex is launching a rocket with a probe on it, and I am sure kids don’t understand the physics that go into that. You know what that means, right? It means God did it. God launched that rocket. The thousands upon thousands of man hours that went into it? NASA just made those man hours up. Kids could launch a rocket, if they just something something GOD.

Or how about the drastic oversimplification of the theory of evolution? I know how they do love to stand on the crutches of “Observational Science,” but there are some deep flaws in their idea of what constitutes this version of science that they themselves created. First, they seem to be of the mind that since we have never seen it, it can’t happen. Life from non-life? That’s crazy. Life from the word of the mouth of an eternal being? Totally a more viable solution. Again, though, the subtext is important; “We have the answer so YOU HAVE TO STOP LOOKING FOR AN ANSWER.”

They are right, we haven’t managed to create life in the lab yet. We don’t necessarily know how it started. But ignorance is both the best friend of science, and its worst enemy; ignorance lets us know where we have to look to find new knowledge, but it is also something to be eradicated over time. Science has been a powerful force for only 150 years; in the grand scheme of cosmic evolution, I would need to invoke a LOT of leading zeroes to give you the percentage of history that covers. Even in your 6000 year cosmology, we have only really been using science (as we’d understand it in the modern era) for only 2.5% of history, and you expect us to have all of the answers? And of course, if we admit even once that we don’t have the answer, you claim some sort of victory, as though the sum of all human discourse has all of the maturity and gravity of some middle school playground.

The funny thing, the thing that makes me laugh, is the petulance on display. If they would just sit back and let us “do science,” as the common parlance goes, maybe we’d discover that they were right all along. Obviously, I think that is (at best) very unlikely, but if they are so overwhelmingly confident, why do they act like they are being pushed around so badly? Theirs is the type of confidence (arrogance) that should be able to step aside, a knowing glint in their eye, as the children find all the answers on their own. Surely, with that level of confidence, they could trust that we would all arrive at their conclusion eventually.

And there’s the rub, there’s the whole thing, they know (deep in their hearts) that science is coming closer and closer, inexorably, from invalidating their world view. Of course, the confidence they have will not be pricked by evidence (that is already clear), and they will believe as they do in full opposition of irrefutable evidence. That’s ok, I just think it is ironically hilarious that I could so easily employ a simple word replace and make Romans 1:18-21 say exactly what is happening.

18 The wrath of [science] is being revealed from [humans] against all the [ignorance] of people, who suppress the truth by their [ignorance], 19 since what may be known about [science] is plain to them, because [humans have] made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world [science has] been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

You know what? I actually like that set of verses. I might actually print them off, because I think they say a lot about the human condition, our ability to stand by our beliefs in the face of evidence, of statistics, of physics, of history. I am not immune to it, though I do try to step back and validate my beliefs regularly. Like any human, I know I fail to recognize all of my failings, but dammit, I give it a strong effort.

Young Earth Creationists do not give an effort to find their failings, but that is not to take away from the fact that they put a huge amount of effort; the amount of man hours they put into creation science is stunning… And almost admirable. The only problem is that the only way they manage to keep their ship floating is through disingenuity. One major example is the formation of fossils and stalagmites; they have created it rapidly under a rigidly defined set of conditions, and reproduced that in the lab. They are right, of course, calcification can be a rapid process, in some conditions–you’d be hard pressed to disprove that. But then they make a huge leap; they have decided since it could happen quickly that it did happen quickly.

I think a far more egregious example is that of the discovery of dinosaur soft tissue. As soon as it was discovered, it was hailed as the final piece of the puzzle proving recent dinosaur life by young earth creationists. Why, how could you have soft tissue surviving for 65 million years? That is just absurd. And then scientists tried to explain it! THE GAUL OF THEM! Can’t they clearly see the answer? There is no process that could possibly make this happen, and even by looking the scientists are showing that they are stupidheads, and anti-religion, and scientifically ignorant!

Except in a short order, they discovered a function of high iron content that could have allowed this to happen. Quietly, the YECs stopped trumpeting that discovery, though it still has a place (as last I heard) in the Creation Museum in Kentucky, there to deceive the ignorant. Of course, that isn’t an insult; they are ignorant because people have a vested interest in keeping their blindfold on, and the fact that soft tissue is still in the Young Earth playbook, despite its having been explained by science, is proof of that.

So let’s stop pretending you are doing science. You are accusing scientists of viewing evidence with a presupposition of the age of the Universe, while you grab evidence, look at it through a magnifying glass that has mirrors and dials in it that read “6000 years old” then interpret that evidence accordingly.

The fewer mirrors you put in the way, the fewer assumptions you make about the evidence, the more you realize that 10,000 different threads in the weave of time paint a similar picture — and it is only through your smoke and mirrors, young earth creationist, that you are able to even create the illusion of a 6000 year old world.

So let’s not kid ourselves (heh… Kid) into saying evolution is silly because a child could say it is wrong. That’s not even an argument. That’s not even a thought.

Let’s all go back to the scientific lab of our choice, make as few assumptions as possible, and do some science.