Saturday, December 18, 2010

God's Quality Control 3.10

Here I continue my review of the discussion guide published by the Prestonwood Christian Academy as a companion to the Hitchens-Dembski debate on November 18, 2010. The honorary author of this section of the guide will be Gwen Hobbs, Prestonwood's Senior Director of Curriculum & Instruction. I encourage you to share this video with Ms Hobbs on behalf of all those kids who are being deliberately misled for the sake of filling Ms Hobbs' pockets. I see a lot of thumbs up on my videos, and I really appreciate that. But I'd gladly trade my puffed-up ego to see these people made aware that their predations on children are not going unnoticed.
  • p.16 In the section entitled "Natural Law – everyone without an excuse…" there is a long quote from the illustrious C.S. Lewis. It's far longer than it need be, as it boils down to something like this:
    • I used to assert that there is no god, based on my observation that the universe is cruel and unjust.
    • I have the moral wherewithal to identify cruelty and injustice.
    • This wherewithal must be of supernatural origin.
    • Therefore, I was wrong, and there is a god.
  • Unfortunately, Mr Lewis started his argument with an absolutely untenable proposition: that the cruelty and injustice we see proves (or implies) that there is no god. Where did he come up with this? It's indefensible. If that is an indicator of the depth of his thinking, then it's no wonder he fell in with bad company and converted to superstitionism. Now if he'd started with something like, "There is no good god," then he might have made some progress. Instead he tripped himself up and ended up wasting his energies on superstition. Not that he would have made much contribution to the world even if he had kept his wits about him. It seems that if he'd remained asuperstitionist he would have convinced people for the wrong reasons, with insupportable arguments.
  • More importantly than Lewis' weak starting position is his claim, echoed by so many superstitionists, that if we have any sense of morality at all it must be of supernatural origin. Based on what factual knowledge? Why would anyone assume this? I'll take a guess: it has to do with sexual repression. Superstitionists see animals having sex with no regard for human decency. Looking inside themselves, they see lust and conclude that they are just like the animals with respect to sex. No problem so far, because that's all true. The problem arises because they are ashamed of their feelings of lust, seeing them as something to be stifled. They think to themselves that only something on the outside could possibly contain all that animal urge going on inside. A shot from the hip, but I wouldn't be surprised if it were close to the truth.
  • What superstitionists don't realize is that our morality started in the same way as it does in all other social animals. Watch the way they behave, and you'll see that all social animals have some form of morality: they generally cooperate, and they obviously tend to obey a set of rules. The rules might differ from species to species, but the rules are there nonetheless. Surely our morality started there too, with a set of rules that differed from those of other species, but served a good purpose for our ancestors. Part of this rudimentary morality in social animals is a rudimentary capacity for empathy. An individual will have some sense of the pleasure or suffering he witnesses in other individuals of his group, and this sense will have an effect on the way he behaves toward his fellows. Add to that a gigantic cerebral cortex that runs elaborate simulations of the mental and emotional states of your group-mates, and empathy for others grows to freakish proportions. Add civilization, and especially writing, and each generation of humans starts on the shoulders of the previous generation. Empathy is extended outside the tribe, outside the village, even outside the species. Human morality is a result of human empathy, not any supernatural force.
  • p.17 "Why would man deny the existence of God if he “knows” that God exists?" You guys often charge us with being arrogant, but then you come up with stuff like this, presuming to know what's going on in our minds. You don't seem to realize that you imply that we are lying, either to you, or to ourselves. It's one thing to show me a flaw in my train of thought, once I've described my thinking to you, or once you've inferred my thoughts by observing my behavior. It's another thing entirely to pretend that you know what my thoughts are with no more basis than your ancient texts that are full of wild, unfounded assertions.
  • p.17 "[T]he requirements of the law are written on our hearts." What they're saying here is that if you ever have a guilty conscience about something you've done, it's a clear sign that the objective morality that emanates from their god is operating in your heart. Again, their failure to think critically has blinded them. How many people feel guilty about not pursuing the career path that their parents wanted them to? Is it wrong not to live your adult life according to your parents' wishes? A friend of mine recently cooked a dish for me that I didn't like at all. I'm forcing myself to eat it because I can't tell her that I don't like it: that would make me feel guilty. Is it wrong to tell your friend that you didn't enjoy her gift? My daughter feels guilty every time I get irritated with her, but almost every time my irritation is due to my own issues and has nothing to do with her. Is it wrong for her to be who she is? I've known kids who seem to feel guilty about everything they do, simply because their parents have trained them to feel that way. A guilty conscience is not necessarily evidence of wrongdoing. You guys just aren't thinking enough.
That's 3.10. Thanks for watching.

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