Thursday, February 16, 2006

Enemy Reinforcements Identified as Another Rant of the Same Type

Just felt the need again. It's an old bit of nonsense, but Creationists* are still repeating it, and getting more annoying each time: That evolution is the root of slavery, war, racism, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera, even though it seems their deity invented the stuff millennia before Charles Darwin came into the world.

An annoying tangent of this nonsense is the idea that atheists/Biblical non-literalists/evolutionists can't be moral because evolution eliminates the need for deities or messes up the whole Original Sin thing. I continually fail to understand how the leap from "This is my well-developed theory of how the world works" to "I'm going to be a short-sighted sociopath" occurs. Evolution, like all of science, is descriptive: It tells us how the world is. Morality, not to be confused with religion, is about how the world should be: It's proscriptive.

Another annoying canard: That because us evilutionists perceive human beings as being descended from animals, we are animals, and should be treated as such. First off, which animals? If I thought people should be "treated like animals," would that mean I should go around trying to give people tummy rubs and kibble ('n bits 'n bits 'n bits)? Does it mean I should grab them with a Puffs-brand tissue and drop them in the garbage or out the door? Does it mean that I should run in terror, for fear of being gobbled down like those people in Jurassic Park? "Animal" is a very broad term. It's also meaningless to me, since I don't base my morality on trivial taxonomic labels. Lieutenant Commander Data is a machine. If he were to walk into my room right now (after I got over being starstruck), I'd treat him the same way I'd treat a biological human being: He's sapient, sentient, and even though he spends a lot of time denying it, emotional. It doesn't matter if he's powered by the consumption of other organisms, photosynthesis, or a super-compact fusion generator.

I find it kind of ironic that I base my morality on abstract, possibly subjective concepts like sentience, intelligence, and emotion, while something trivial and physical like arbitrary taxonomic grouping is apparently so central to these Creationists' views.

*The literal Biblical kind of Creationist

P.S.: A cookie for whoever can guess the source of the title of this entry. It's probably a little more obscure than most of these sorts of thing, so I might just order you a real cookie.

14 comments:

Prup (aka Jim Benton) said...

I keep running into the argument that 'an atheist can't be moral because he doesn't believe in Heaven and Hell." (Original Sin is only an argument in some bracnches of Christianity, and I get int discussions with believers from other religions as well, particularly Muslims.) A suggestion, next time you get that one.

Ask the person to demonstrate the truth of this by comparing the crime rates, or general level of behaviour (excluding 'sexual morality' which the two of you may not agree on at all) between secular and religious socities. If his theory is correct, a secular society such as England or most of Western Europe MUST demonstrate a much higher level of unethical behaviour than a religious one. (It's even possible to compare, say crime rates in the US between Bible Belt cities and areas in the Great Blue NorthEast.)

Hmm, this has possibilities, if I work on it for my blog, to be a possible submission to a Skeptic's Circle.

I personally believe an ethical/moral sensibility is so obviously a survival trait that, like communication and cooperation, it must have been an evolved trait of humanity.

Prup (aka Jim Benton) said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Bronze Dog said...

Can't believe I forgot to include one of the most obvious canards they like to bring up: The old Heaven and Hell routine. Kind of cheapens your good deeds if you're only after divine brownie points.

Doing good makes me feel good. Morality is very natural for me, and it doesn't involve some guy with a thunderbolt hovering over my shoulder.

When I make a decision while driving, the question "Is there a cop around?" never crosses my mind. I know the rules of the road were intended for efficiency and safety. I follow them because I don't want to be thought of as a jerk, and besides, personal experience suggests that speeding/aggressive driving only frustrates you. I can keep up with speeders because they don't seem to realize that speeding only gets you to the next "knot" of cars or red traffic light slightly faster. It's much like everything else in life.

Anonymous said...

" f I thought people should be "treated like animals," would that mean I should go around trying to give people tummy rubs and kibble ('n bits 'n bits 'n bits)? Does it mean I should grab them with a Puffs-brand tissue and drop them in the garbage or out the door? "

That's beautiful! Simply beautiful.

Re - doing the right thing because a) reward/punishment, vs. b) want to be well regarded and c) it's for the good of society - great demonstration of Kohlberg's stages of moral development. Amusingly, "I must be good or I'll get in trouble" is considered the very first stage of moral reasoning - how little kids (and very limited adults) think . . .

-Dan S.

Bronze Dog said...

Thanks, Dan. I thought my joke with a point was good, too.

And yeah, those stages of moral development seem to cover it well. I try to do what will benefit society, but if I can think of an additional self-interest excuse, all the better.

Anonymous said...

Evolution caused slavery??? Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha-----unreal. Truly unreal. Who were the biggest slave owners? Religious people who won wars, I think. No- us thinking that we have the right to walk in on anyone whomp em around a bit because something is different-insert whatever here- and then have them be in servitude to us, is what causes slavery.

Maybe war really is peace too??

Wow- people who don't believe in evolution have obviously never read their bibles, as it is full of references to slavery after war. Even the Israelites were slaves. It was because the dominating ideology of the day won with bigger weapons and more people, usually.

Bronze Dog said...

Annoyance that I think plays a big role in this whole nonsense: Religiously-originating hierarchy: God > Angels > Men > Women > Some animals > Other animals.

Evolution has no such hierarchy, except maybe "Living > Dead."

Anonymous said...

Evolution has no such hierarchy, except maybe "Living > Dead."

Exactly. I love that. Living, Dead. So I'm asking a serious question now. Why aren't you all out there searching for religion? You're content with the thought that you're going to die, and that'll be it? That's ok with you? 'Nother question I had. Society defines moral behavior. Moral behavior is typically that self-gain at the expense of others is wrong. Why is that? Moral behavior only benefits the WEAK. Those who can't or won't fight for what they want. Why should we help them?

Bronze Dog said...

So I'm asking a serious question now. Why aren't you all out there searching for religion? You're content with the thought that you're going to die, and that'll be it? That's ok with you?

How sould searching for religion change the existence or non-existence of an afterlife? If you've got evidence for one, please show us. The only reason I'm not looking for one is that all the leads I've ever had have dried up.

'Nother question I had. Society defines moral behavior. Moral behavior is typically that self-gain at the expense of others is wrong. Why is that? Moral behavior only benefits the WEAK. Those who can't or won't fight for what they want. Why should we help them?

You don't pay very much attention to society, do you? Altruism with reciprocation is a very effective means of reaching selfish goals.

A world of "you scratch my back, and I'll scratch yours" features more scratched backs.

Anonymous said...

That is true, except that we get nothing back for the money we pour into welfare and providing clean needles for addicts and so on and so forth. They are not scratching our backs. They are a sinkhole of taxpayers money. Everywhere you can find examples of scum who take advantage of the generosity of others. Those others have something to contribute to society. The scum don't. Giving them our hard-earned cash so they can waste it doesn't seem very beneficial to me.

Bronze Dog said...

There you have the imperfections of the strategy. Altruism isn't always rational, but it's effective enough that that particular negative doesn't outweigh all the benefits. Additionally, if you'll forgive the reification, evolution didn't foresee societies as massive as the ones we have today.

Also, thanks to the concept of reputation, a person can pretend to be altruistic and gain disproportionate benefits from that appearance. That's how some politicians work.

Anonymous said...

Ah. I see. Well, I think it sucks. Let's go back to the stone where what you saw was what you got. "evolution didn't foresee societies as massive as the ones we have today" Evolution didn't foresee ANYTHING. It's random chance, puny little organisms that, over billions of years, somehow, in an absolutely astonishing outcome, became us. A bloated, destructive, altruistic mass entity.

Well, guess what. Evolution has taken us as far as it can. Human beings are responsible for themselves now. We can't rely on random chance to make things turn out right. What is your ideology? You'll ask, "why do we need an ideology?" We are reaching the point where we can design ourselves. Screw evolution. It's a moot point. According to you, what is 'right' is what benefits the race as a whole. At this point, altruism will get you killed. The world is too cynical for it. So what is right?

Anonymous said...

Correction. *stone AGE

Bronze Dog said...

Ah. I see. Well, I think it sucks. Let's go back to the stone [age] where what you saw was what you got.

No thank you.

"evolution didn't foresee societies as massive as the ones we have today" Evolution didn't foresee ANYTHING. It's random chance, puny little organisms that, over billions of years, somehow, in an absolutely astonishing outcome, became us. A bloated, destructive, altruistic mass entity.

Aside from a slight exaggeration of the role of random chance, you've got that right.

Well, guess what. Evolution has taken us as far as it can.

It probably still has a few tricks left, but yeah, I don't see it taking us much farther.

Human beings are responsible for themselves now. We can't rely on random chance to make things turn out right.

That's why technology is a wonderful thing. We've moved (almost) beyond gene evolution into meme evolution.

What is your ideology?

I tend to dislike labels, but I supposed "secular humanism" is the best fit I can think of right away.

You'll ask, "why do we need an ideology?"

No, I won't.

We are reaching the point where we can design ourselves. Screw evolution. It's a moot point.

Yeah. I watched "Robosapiens" this weekend. It was cool.

According to you, what is 'right' is what benefits the race as a whole.

I never said that.

At this point, altruism will get you killed. The world is too cynical for it. So what is right?

Sorry, but altruism and reciprocation still works. Thanks to it, I'm able to hand over some sheets of paper and metal discs to get a meal, rather than fight and likely get killed for it.

What is right roughly is acheiving your goals through means that cause the least interference with other people's goals.