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Monday, February 09, 2009

 

Sheer Stupdity

I'm not in a very good mood at the moment, so when Bishop Tom Frame, professor of Theology at Charles Sturt University says this unmitigated nonsense:
A dedicated Darwinian would welcome imperialism, genocide, mass deportation, ethnic cleansing, eugenics, euthanasia, forced sterilisations and infanticide. Publicly, he advocates none of them.
it briefly makes me want to grab him by the lapels and shout at him."Get a CLUE you fracking moron. If you are going to criticise Darwinism[1] at least LEARN a minute skerrik about the theory you have the temerity to mouth off about. A "Darwinian" would not welcome any of those things because they make no fracking sense from an evolutionary point of view, which you would realise if you had spent one nanosecond learning about evolutionary biology[2]. Go read this article which explains it in small words you might understand."

I will not though, if I do meet him, I will politely explain why he is wrong. But it peeves me that having spent decades trying to politely disabuse American creationists of their deep misunderstandings of evolutionary biology, a fracking Australian Professor WHO SHOULD KNOW BETTER (because we have a halfway decent education system here in Australia), comes out with a load of unmitigated nonsense. The rest of the article is pretty well rubbish too.

I don't mean to come on all PZ Myers here, rational dialogue between different viewpoints is my thing[3] but Bishop Frame, how much effort would it have taken to walk over to the biology library and crack open a textbook, really. If I said "Christians should welcome cannibalism" (transubstantiation, eating the host, oh never mind) Christians would rightly jump all over my ignorance. So why can't the good Bishop at least do us biologists the courtesy of getting his biology facts just a teeny bit right.

[1]Darwinism, no such thing (well, in the 50's it refered to a strict adaptionist view of naturla selection). It's evolutionary biology, and has been since the modern synthesis. What the heck is it with anti-evolution types that the keep on calling it "Darwinism", it's like calling Relativity "Newtonism" (ie WRONG)
[2] Imperialism? IMPERIALISM! WHat the heck does imperialism have to do with biology for fracks sake?
[3] I mean, I've kept my cool under torrents of scatological abuse, but eventually you reach your limit for nonsense.

Labels:


Comments:
I think he probably included imperialism because all the evils he cited are ways that the strong prey on the weak.
 
Bbbbbbut...
"Dr Frame brings several assets to Charles Stuart U: his profile as a public intellectual, his research scholarship"!
"...a very successful scholar"!
"...an effective public intellectual"!
"...the most published person within CSU"!
"..."CSU’s ‘trump card’ "!

"His most recent book, Church and State: Australia’s Imaginary War, argues that Australia does not have a constitutional separation of church and state."
Shocker!
 
The imperialism thing probably comes from Vernon Kellogg's book about his time with the German General Staff right before WWI, when the officers were enamored of a misreading of "survival of the fittest" as applying between nations. Gould wrote about it in “William Jennings Brian’s Last Campaign” in Bully for Brontosaurus.
 
I think the idea is that in a Universe in which there is no God, that is for the strict naturalist/materialist/atheist/whatever, there is no reason to prefer any of these alternatives. I think it would be kind of like Camus strange world in the "Stranger" in which the main character basically shrugs his shoulders at all options because they are all equally meaningless (i.e. absurd) in the grand scheme of things. Of course if this is the case then Darwinism (sorry..evolutionary biology) doesn't lead to anything, except maybe the choice to do or not to do these things. In that case we should not appeal to some "morality" to condemn or approve of these actions because in the materialist view of things the "oughts" of morals are more like the "likes" that we have for food. So the likes of one group leads to imperialism because the one's who have the bigger guns get to decide what is right,simply because they have the power over those who "like" things that they do not. In this case you and I may not like the Nazi Holocaust, but the Germans did. The only reason that the killing of 6million human beings was/is wrong is because those who did not have a taste for it won the war.

I think something along those lines is what he was aiming at.
 
Anonymous, that means the Bishop's argument is:

1) Slaughter of innocents is immoral.
2) Therefore, the bacterial flagellum was created by an intelligent designer.

Do you see that (2) does not follow from (1)?
 
A dedicated Gravitonian would welcome defenestration, marching crowds over cliffs, crushing minorities under great weights, and rolling babies down long flights of stone stairs. But those who believe in Gravity advocate none of these things publicly.
 
Thomas,

I think that he would, like most theist, link morality to the existence of God, which was Camus' point and the other Existentialist writers about the "absurd", and the denial of the an essence that preceded human existence.

The theistic evolutionist would not have a problem with evolution and morality, but atheism certainly does. I think that was the Bishops point... He probably did not phrase it well, but that is his problem.

Of course the way you phrased the argument the conclusion does not follow from the premises, but thanks for over simplifying.

As for the stupid Gravity comment... well no need to respond. Have a nice day.
 
Also note that my oringal comment never said that the Natrualistic Evolutionary Believer (NEB for short) had to condone actions of violence, nor that any actually do. The claim is not that the NEB is not moral, it is just that there is really no "reason" to be one way and not anotehr. The point is that, the NEB has no real non-subjective reason for preferring killing babies over splittin mangoes, or boiling potatoes.

In a valueless universe everything equals a big zeroe... of course if you do not like killing babies then that is your personal choice, but that is it.
 
Also note that my oringal comment never said that the Natrualistic Evolutionary Believer (NEB for short) had to condone actions of violence, nor that any actually do. The claim is not that the NEB is not moral, it is just that there is really no "reason" to be one way and not anotehr. The point is that, the NEB has no real non-subjective reason for preferring killing babies over splittin mangoes, or boiling potatoes.

In a valueless universe everything equals a big zeroe... of course if you do not like killing babies then that is your personal choice, but that is it.
 
Anonymous, there are two separate arguments here. The first is whether religion is necessary for moral behavior, and the second is that the theory of evolution tells people how they should behave. The answer to both questions is an unequivocal no.

Atheist are perfectly capable of having a strong moral compass; ask almost any atheist, and I'm sure that you will find their moral compass is largely in sync with your own. In fact, religious people are sometimes surprised to find that their moral compass is not as reliant on religion as they think. How many Christians and Jews can honestly say that they can read Numbers 15:32-36 without being bothered by it?

Furthermore, the theory of evolution is not a theory of how people should behave; it is a theory of how nature does behave. Understanding the way nature operates to create the diversity of life we see does not force any action upon us. We are still free individuals, capable of acting (and obligated to act!) according to our sense of morality.
 
Bishop Frame has no shame.
 
"The first is whether religion is necessary for moral behavior, and the second is that the theory of evolution tells people how they should behave."

Again, you have managed to miss the point. First, the argument is not that "religion" (whatever that maybe) is foundational for religion, as if the rituals and the incense and bells have a moral power. They are simply symbols pointing to a metaphysical first principle. A perfectly good moral ground of being. This is where we find the foundations for morals and ethics.

Second, my point actually is that Metaphyical Naturlistic Evolution CANNOT tell us what is right and wrong. It leaves us quiet before an amoral, arational universe. Our moral proclivities are subjective whims floating on history. In this sense your moral "sense" is no better than that of the Pentateuchal passage you pointed out above.

Third, you have shown that you did not read my other comment. I specifically said that what I said does not mean that atheist are not moral, it only means that they have no non-subjective criteria on what they base their morals and ethics on. It is more like your preference for Ice Cream, or boiling potatoes.
 
Anonymous, religion has its own problems in grounding objective morality: The Euthyphro Dilemma.

Not only does The Euthyphro Dilemma render morality grounded in religion as arbitrary, but there is no objective way to choose between all of the competing religions, or sects within the same religion. And there is nothing in the religious texts that deals with the hundreds of modern moral dilemma's, so a believer has no choice but to be influenced by secular philosophy.

For the claim that an atheist "has a problem with evolution and morality" to appear credible, you would need to refute all attempts to ground secular ethics. Clearly you haven't done that.

Heck, you haven't even shown why morality needs to be objective, in the first place. What you have said in this thread does nothing of the sort, and in fact reveals a rather naive and simplistic view of what morality and ethics are.

Morality grounded in religion — at least for some people — can erroneously fool them in to believing that there is no need to work at developing their moral character, because it's all written down in one book, and all that you need to do is refer to it. At least the atheist has the whole discipline of moral philosophy, which deals with modern moral dilemma's.

Of course, there is no evidence that believers are more moral than atheists, and that is all that matters in the end.
 
Anonymous, what neither you nor this idiot bishop seem to get is that evolution has absolutely zero to do with morality. It is a description of a process. Not any kind of model of morality. Period.

"Metaphysical Naturalistic Evolution"? What is that? Something painfully contrived, it seems to me. There are no metaphysics involved with evolution.

The ToE says nothing about any sort of deity, the origin of the Earth, the Universe, or purpose in life. The simple fact that it flies in the face of a literalistic interpretation of Genesis as history is irrelevant except to Creationists.

As for where atheists get their morality: They learn it from their parents, who learned it from theirs who learned it from theirs. The details depend entirely on the culture and environment that the society using them developed in. Simplky put: We are social animals. We need one another to survive. Behavior that is completely selfish or self-centered is frequently against the interests of the collective, so that behavior gets designated as "immoral" while actions that benefit the collective are "moral". The more harsh an evironment is, the more rigid and encompassing those rules tend to be: In the Middle East, survival was a daily struggle (still is in some places). Fewer resources means sricter behavioral requirements. In middle Europe, resources were more plintiful so the conventional morality tended to be more flexible.

Morality is defined and shaped by the needs of the community. No deity required.
 
"Anonymous, religion has its own problems in grounding objective morality: The Euthyphro Dilemma."

If only the horns of the "dilemma" were that difficult... Like Swinburne I take it that Morals, like the laws of logic are eternal. They are derived from the very nature of the deity, thus they did not precede, nor did He create them out of nothing. No arbitrainess there.

Sure you can choose between religous beliefs. It is simple you read about the different faiths just like you would any other discipline. After you have looked at the evidence you come to a rational conclusion. Just because everyone doesn't agree doesn't mean it is impossible to get at the truth.

Well it may be true that I did not refute every secular theory of ethics, but I did quote to Atheist thinkers who thought that morality and ethics is simply based on a decision. Nothing else.

Of course no one can show irrefutably that Morality is objective! How many things are absolutely certain? Not many... a few laws of logic, mathematics, and what else?

Of course if morality is not "objective" atheists need to stop bitching about immoral religious people.

It would be interesting to see how you would define "moral character", and why you would find the attributes of a "moral character" moral, if you are not so sure that ethics must be objective. It is also something of a strawman to say that religious people only look at the Bible, Koran, Bhagavad Gita, and etc. for morals and ethics. If you read Aquinas I am sure he used a lot of Aristotle. If you want a more modern example read some philosophy of religion.

And to correct someone again... I never said that believers were more moral than atheists. I do not think the the Old or New Testaments will say as much either. Maybe someone brought up Fundamentalist would believe something stupid like that, but I digress.

Thanks for the discussion it has been stimulating. I am currently reading Dan Dennett's "Darwin's Dangerous" Idea and I find it to be a good read. Not many people write as well as he does.
 
Frame's article is confusing and a mish mash of ideas. Then I noted it was distilled from his new book, Evolution in the Antipodes: Charles Darwin and Australia. Which suggest the book may be much of the same.
 

If only the horns of the "dilemma" were that difficult... Like Swinburne I take it that Morals, like the laws of logic are eternal. They are derived from the very nature of the deity, thus they did not precede, nor did He create them out of nothing. No arbitrainess there.
How does that get you out of the dilemma? If God cannot choose its nature, being eternal and perfect, then god does nothing more than act as a conduit of morality. That is one of the horns of the dilemma.
 
This argument of morality relative to evolution is sheer nonsense. Since biological evolution is a process which works through populations and not individuals, the individual benefits from the survival of the populations of which it is a member. So, working to actively destroy its own population, or to hasten its demise through inaction are both positions quite contrary to evolution.

Of course, non-human evolution is less conscious than human, so plants and animals and the other kingdoms don't make the decision to ensure their survival yet those who do act "morally" survive for longer periods than those who act "foolishly."

But of course, the good theologian was dealing in human evolution, wasn't he? We are more active in making group decisions based on allocation of resources, of course; we plan our distributions and fight other subgroups for resources. We still work on the premise that what is good for our group is good for the individual and that is where our morality comes from.

Why is this so hard to understand, especially for so-called "theologians?" Perhaps they do understand it, but are so unwillingly to give up the religious hegemony (which strengthens their own subgroup and ensures their survival rate,) that they either consciously or subconsciously put forth stupid arguments such as this "is-ought" moral fallacy.

This can also explain the tenacity of creationism despite the overwhelming evidence for evolution.

Theology, backed into its final corner, continues to lash out.
 
Anonymous,

If your solution to the Euthyphro dilemma succeeds, then theism has no advantage over atheism when it comes to the foundations of morality. After all, if theists are allowed to say it is an ultimate and inexplicable fact that God's nature sets the standard of moral good, then likewise atheists are allowed to say it is an ultimate and inexplicable fact that (e.g.) utility maximization sets the standard of moral good. Both sides are in the exact same boat.

The atheist thinkers you quote have no expertise in metaethics. You have dilated on the foundations of ethics while never bothering to inquire into the very field that focuses on the foundations of ethics. And philosophy of religion is not the place to look for discussions of moral character. Rather, those discussions are held in ethics, typically by proponents of virtue ethics.

And notice that your claim that one should cease and desist moral evaluation if there turns out to be no objective foundation for morality is itself a normative claim. To think that antirealists about morality will recognize an obligation to stop evaluating is to misunderstand the antirealist view at its root.
 
Anonymous,

Incidentally, if I'm not mistaken, Swinburne himself agrees that there is no good argument from the existence of objective moral truths to the existence of God.
 
"Morals ... are derived from the very nature of the deity, thus they did not precede, nor did He create them out of nothing. No arbitrainess there."

The very nature of the deity is the imagination of man. Each area's version of the deity, as are the ensuing morality, is spun of whole cloth according to the needs of the local populace. The arbitrainess here is the accident of birth that describes which deity an individual is destined by his native environment to learn to believe in.
 
"Morals ... are derived from the very nature of the deity, thus they did not precede, nor did He create them out of nothing. No arbitrainess there."

The very nature of the deity is the imagination of man. Each area's version of the deity, as are the ensuing morality, is spun of whole cloth according to the needs of the local populace. The arbitrainess here is the accident of birth that describes which deity an individual is destined by his native environment to learn to believe in.
 
Anonymous said: "I specifically said that what I said does not mean that atheist are not moral, it only means that they have no non-subjective criteria on what they base their morals and ethics on. It is more like your preference for Ice Cream, or boiling potatoes."

So what? If it's all we've got, it's all we've got. We don't get to pretend there is more simply because some people find the implications disquieting.

Frankly, I am continually amazed that so much time is spent on this nonargument. There is no there there. Once one dispenses with the presumption that morals must be absolute to have force, the entire circular argument crumbles.
 
"If only the horns of the "dilemma" were that difficult... Like Swinburne I take it that Morals, like the laws of logic are eternal. They are derived from the very nature of the deity, thus they did not precede, nor did He create them out of nothing. No arbitrainess there."

Apart from the fact that you have not one jot of evidence to back that up, it doesn't actually solve the problem. There is tons of evidence in the bible that God's nature actually changes (and that it is contradictory), and so too does what He asks of others.

Is something good because it is part of His nature, or is God's nature that way because it is good? If God's nature is cruel and unjust, as it is throughout the bible, then that would be good. You know as well as I do that there are many examples in the bible of God doing things that we (at least I hope) would consider utterly immoral. It's no good simply pointing to the fact that it also says that God is both love and unchanging, because the very same text contradicts that.

The only reason for supposing that God could not be cruel and unjust is that God's nature must exemplify some independent standard of goodness and this presupposes the second alternative.

"Sure you can choose between religous beliefs. It is simple you read about the different faiths just like you would any other discipline. After you have looked at the evidence you come to a rational conclusion. Just because everyone doesn't agree doesn't mean it is impossible to get at the truth."

And that very decision, no matter how you came to it, is subjective! So you've introduced an element of subjectivity in to the equation from the off. There's no way to get out of that.

And you haven't dealt with how you can choose between the different sects of the same religion (do you investigate every single aspect...really?). To make out that all that you have to do is rationally evaluate the evidence is an cop-out. What does that do to faith? It's not possible to arrive at the Christian God entirely through rational means, or pretty much everyone — at least in the more educated societies — would believe it.

It would be interesting to see how you would define "moral character", and why you would find the attributes of a "moral character" moral, if you are not so sure that ethics must be objective."

Because it's not possible to escape subjectivity. If it were, would we not expect all Christians, and especially those from the same sect, to believe the same things about morality? But that's not what we see in the real world — people have been arguing about this stuff for thousands of years. If there were truly objective standards, none of that would be necessary, and the moral zeitgeist would have remained the same. That simply isn't historically supportable.

So the best that you can do is claim that God's message is incoherent, but that casts doubt on pretty much everything — unless, as most people do, you appeal to faith (which leads to the problem of subjectivity in deciding which faith to believe).

"If you read Aquinas I am sure he used a lot of Aristotle. If you want a more modern example read some philosophy of religion."

Right, so you get it from exactly the same place as the atheist! Perhaps not all, but even if its only some, that blows your argument out of the water.

"And to correct someone again... I never said that believers were more moral than atheists."

I know that you didn't, but it should tell you something quite important. If atheists are as moral as their religious counterparts, that is fairly strong evidence that an eternal and objective standard of morality simply isn't necessary.
 
Your slam of PZ Myers is as dumb as anything Frame wrote.
 
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