Sunday, November 2, 2014
Bad Atheistic "Responses"
Another day, another bad atheistic commentary on religion.
Most of this stuff is irrelevant to most anyone's actual REASONS for believing in God. And, interestingly I think, it addresses almost none of what I talked about in my own apologetics project. There are two, however, that are relevant and are also bad enough that I just HAVE to say something about them.
The first is his #4. The truth is that I've offered a better argument against the naive moral argument than anything made here. In fact the mistake made in his examination of the moral argument for the existence of God is so bad, it makes one wonder whether it can possibly even come from an honest place within the writer. The article fails to make a very simple distinction between MORALITY and MORAL BELIEFS.
The writer pretends to give some quick, scientific account of morality, when in fact all he does is gives an account of why we believe some things to be moral. He talks about altruism helping us to survive, but in point of fact NONE of our behaviors could possibly exist unless they had survival value. Behaviors we label 'moral' and 'immoral' are all here with us because they EVOLVED.
Take rape. It is easy to see why humans evolved with the capacity for rape. That story, the evolutionary story of rape, is no different than the evolutionary story of, say, empathy. They both exist because they helped those who engaged in those behaviors to survive. Or rather, they were behaviors that helped the genes and memes that they are associated with, to survive. Rape is wrong. It isn't just that I believe or think rape is wrong, rather rape is wrong. But appealing to evolution to explain why I THINK rape is wrong, does not explain why rape is wrong.
The person who asks about the existence of morality, wants to know if there is ANY ground, any reason, to suppose that some behaviors are in fact better than others. I want to know if, right here, right now, there is any REASON beyond my own conflicting desires, to do the right thing rather than the wrong thing. The urge to steal, and the guilt that keeps me from stealing, both stem from evolution, and both are options for me because they have survival value. The question of morality is whether the two behaviors HAVE ANY SUBSTANTIVE DIFFERENCE. The evolutionary answer, in fact, dissolves the difference between the two options. There is no difference. They are just chemical reactions, that is all they are, just electrical impulses in the brain. They have the same substance. There is, in the end, nothing inherently BETTER about altruism than cruelty, there is only the fact that some people BEHAVE AS IF, altruism is better, and the evolutionary history as to why that belief exists.
I make a similar point here:
A better refutation of the naive moral argument, and a moral argument that the writer doesn't even address or consider can be found here:
By the way, the Euthyphro Dilemma can be made into a quick response very easily, it would've been a much better response than the one given.
Now, on to #7. His response to religious experience is simply terrible. All the jive about pattern recognition is easily shown to be of no substance, just see the Grand Apologetics Project linked to above, for an explanation why. Religious experience is a wide and varied thing, ranging from an inexpressible feeling, to the nature of phenomenal experience itself, to visions and voices. The idea that these NEVER point to anything veridical is so easy to disprove it is laughable. Has this guy never heard of Ramanujan? Or the Name Worshippers? Or Jeremiah, whose religious experiences led him to predict the Exile?
But the real problem is that the guy doesn't distinguish between all the different types of experience that religious people talk about. Psychologists don't generally, for instance, lump religious experience in with mental illness. Mental illness is DEFINED by dysfunction, and the very fact of visions and voices is not enough to lead to a diagnosis of, say, schizophrenia.
The real question is not, in the end, whether religious experience PROVES God exists. Very little we do in life is determined by the proof paradigm (see here:
)... Much like the moral issue, the writer doesn't seem to REALLY understand the issue at hand. For the real question when it comes to things like mystical experience is whether experiences like this can be reasonable grounds for belief FOR THE PERSON THAT HAS THEM. If someone experiences something that leads them down a journey of life that is religious in nature, and this journey consistently leads to more effective navigation of life as a whole, it is hard to see how this behavior can be seen to be irrational. As I said in my Apologetics project, LET IT HAPPEN TO YOU, and see how you react. In the end, determining proper rational response to a given experience is a rather deontological endeavor, and not one that is like to issue in certainties, on either side. See also: