Thursday, November 09, 2006

Responding to More Anti-Christian Emotional Arguments

Recently in the the combox of an article posted on our church blog titled "Can Atheistic Materialism Provide An Objective and Universal Moral Code?", a fellow by the nickname of Freezbee took issue with my arguments against Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris because I showed that given their assumed materialism, they have no rational justification for moral realism (objective morality). He said in response to my article on his blog quoting Richard Dawkins,

QUOTE++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

"On p. 127 of The Blind Watchmaker, Dawkins writes:

DNA gets the best of both worlds. DNA molecules themselves, as physical entities, are like dewdrops. Under the right conditions they come into existence at a great rate, but no one of them has existed for long, and all will be destroyed within a few months. They are not durable like rocks. But the patterns that they bear in their sequences are as durable as the hardest rocks. They have what it takes to exist for millions of years, and that is why they are still here today. The essential difference from dewdrops is that new dewdrops are not begotten by old dewdrops. Dewdrops doubtless resemble other dewdrops, but they don't specifically resemble their own 'parent' dewdrops. Unlike DNA molecules, they don't form lineages, and therefore can't pass on messages. Dewdrops come into existence by spontaneous generation, DNA messages by replication.

That is, while DNA molecules are material, genes = DNA patterns are not, though each concrete instance needs to exist in a material form. Genes therefore violate premise 2 of Segers' Syllogism Two. DNA molecules are particular entities; but DNA patterns are not.

Therefore, Dawkins is not a materialist, at least not according to Segers' definition."

END QUOTE ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Freez's quotation above would do nothing to call into question Dawkin's supposed philosphical materialism nor does it necessarily contradict premise 2 of the syllogism that he referred to in the original article on our church blog. Here's the syllogism again:

1. Objective moral laws are universal entities that apply to all people, places,
and times.

2. Materialism holds that only particular entities have ontological existence.

3. No material thing is a universal entity.

4. Objective moral laws are not material things.

5. Therefore, objective moral laws do not exist.


So, Freez took issue with premise # 2 above and went on to state,

QUOTE ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

"
[this] is not Dawkins' position. He distinguishes between DNA molecules and DNA patterns = genes, where only the first are "particular entities". It doesn't mean that he would necessarily accept an objective moral standard; but he cannot count as a materialist either."

END QUOTE ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Rebuttal

1. Freez says that Dawkins makes a distinction between DNA molecules and the collective pattern of those molecules via genes, and that this supposedly shows that he doesn't believe that only particular entities have ontological existence. However, this does nothing whatsoever to undermine a physicalistic understanding of the universe because individual, particular, entities being viewed as a collective, patterned whole does not automatically cause one to assume a Platonic view of the universe. It just shows that the materialist can recognize an individual particular having ontological existence as well as a collective group of said particulars having ontological existence.

2. If Dawkins et. al. aren't materialists, then we simply can refute their Platonism in the same way that Aristotle's did. So, we would come back full-circle to refuting materialism once again because they are left with an arbitrary, culturally relative morality that has no epistemological justification other than mere opinion and preference.

3. Freez referred to "memes" in his blog article. As far as "memes" go, this extended quote from Sarfati and Matthews is sufficient to show the absurdity of such a concept,

"Memes

Dawkins said on PBS 6, ‘The Mind’s Big Bang’:

The only kind of evolutionary change we’re likely to see very much of is not genetic information at all, it’s cultural evolution. And if we put a Darwinian spin on that, then we’re going to be talking about the differential survival of memes, as opposed to genes. [PBS 6]

Dawkins proposed the meme idea long ago in his book The Selfish Gene, and psychologist Sue Blackmore of the University of West of England has been one of his recent champions. She said on PBS 6:

Memes are ideas, habits, skills, gestures, stories, songs—anything which we pass from person to person by imitation. We copy them … . just as the competition between genes shapes all of biological evolution, so it’s the competition between memes that shapes our minds and cultures.

Nowadays I would say that memetic evolution is going faster and faster, and it has almost entirely taken over from biological evolution … .

The more educated you are, the less children you have. That is memes fighting against genes. [PBS 6]

Now memes have apparently found a new home, the internet, and it has actually enslaved us, we are told.

Blackmore even believes that the idea of the ‘self’ is an illusion produced by competing memes in the brain. But under her own system, we must ask her, ‘Who is (or rather, what are) actually proposing this idea?’!

But it becomes ridiculous when things such as the internet, birth control, any invention, insulin, are called ‘memes.’ A term that describes everything really describes nothing. All that she’s done is apply the same label to just about anything, but this adds nothing to our knowledge.

It’s no wonder that the evolutionist Jerry Coyne called Blackmore’s book ‘a work not of science, but of extreme advocacy.’ He says that memes are ‘but a flashy new wrapping around a parcel of old and conventional ideas.’ Coyne also believes that evolutionary psychology is non-science (and nonsense). Coyne is no creationist sympathizer but an ardent—but ineffective—opponent of creation.9

The Discovery Institute critique of the PBS series points out that, if the likes of Eugenie Scott were truly concerned about non-science being taught in the science classroom, she would oppose evolutionary psychology and memetic evolution as well, and certainly not support the use of this PBS series in science classrooms.10 No, what she’s opposed to are challenges to her materialistic faith."

4. In Freez's blog article, he goes on to chide me for arguing that the materialist has no basis for moral realism and then tries to shift the burden of proof back onto me via an attempted internal critique by arguing that Yahweh must have contradicted Himself when He ordered Saul to exterminate the Amalekites in 1 Sam. 15ff.

The Amalekites were justifiably exterminated and God ordering Saul to do so didn't violate the 6th commandment for several reasons:

i. The Hebrew word used for the prohibition of murder in the sixth commandment (Exodus 20:13 and Deut. 5:17) is not the usual word for killing (haraq). The word used in both sets of the Ten Commandments is the word ratsach, which specifies murder. Hence, a proper translation of the sixth commandment is found in such modern English translations as the NASB, NKJV, NIV, and ESV. Thus, Exodus 20:13 and Deut. 5:17's command to "not murder" is not a command to avoiding killing other people through just war nor is it a command against capital punishment (Exodus 21:12). Thus, there is no contradiction in the Mosaic Law between the command for men not to commit murder and the command that the civil magistrate of the theocratic kingdom of Israel could justifiably carry out capital punishment and declare war, especially if that declaration came from God Himself.

ii. The Mosaic Law was given to instruct the theocratic kingdom of Israel how to obey God. In the case of the sixth commandment, it's purpose was to regulate fellow Israelite-to-Israelite interpersonal conduct, not to serve as the model for nation-to-nation conduct in warfare. Murder, as intentioned in the apodictic law of Exodus 20 & Deuteronomy 5 has to do with the unjustified taking of the life of another person. The extermination of the Amalekites was not unjustified, but was called for by God. These were wicked people who opposed God's people by casting a stumblingblock before them many times (1 Sam. 15:2; Exodus 17:8-16; Numbers 24:20; Deuteronomy 25:17-19; Judges 6:3-5), and there is good evidence that they practiced child sacrifice like the other nomadic, war-tribes of their day. See Miller's in-depth historical background essay on such issues regarding 1 Sam. 15ff here.

In conclusion, Freez's attempt at an ethical internal critique fails since (1) the extermination of these wicked people was justified per God's order/law, (2) their extermination isn't a biblical definition of murder per a proper understanding of the OT Levitical law (assuming a biblical worldview of course), and so Freez's misunderstanding of the Mosaic Law and it's ethics does not cause that objective moral standard to contradict itself as he supposes.

Pastor Dustin S. Segers

6 comments:

  1. Why don't you go execute some more heretics Dusman?


    :::YAWN!!!:::

    ReplyDelete
  2. And your ad hominem proves what?

    ReplyDelete
  3. Did I try to prove anything, oh heretic killer?

    Is every comment a proof?

    ReplyDelete
  4. This recent lecture by Alister McGrath may be of interest: Is God a Delusion? Atheism and the Meaning of Life.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Can someone pause in killing a heretic long enough to tell me what AFR means?

    Thanks.

    Continue.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I would take a guess that it means "Argument From Reason", but I could be way, way off. My second guess would be "Another Fine Raspberry", but that doesn't make as much sense, contextually speaking.

    ReplyDelete