Friday, November 30, 2007

New Age atheism

New Agers tend to go by deep intuitive convictions, and if I sound like I'm being overly left-brained or something, many will stop listening immediately. I can't steer anyone away from mystical and paranormal beliefs, but I still have the vain hope that I can discourage them from abusing physics when making their case.

I had a particularly bad encounter of this sort last week...At some point in the conversation, I had to remark that reality perhaps didn't give a damn about how we felt about things, and that an anthropomorphic imagination was more of a hindrance in understanding how physics works. The response I received was something like "oh, wow!" As if it was such a strange and novel notion that the universe didn't care about our feelings. I hope the grinding of my teeth wasn't too audible.

http://secularoutpost.blogspot.com/2007/11/quantum-magic.html

The ironic thing about this statement is that Edis is unwittingly describing the very same attitude we find among militant atheists like Hitchens, Dawkins, and Harris. They have intuitive moral convictions about what the world is supposed to be like. They inveigh against the God of the Bible because he doesn't defer to their preconception of reality. It never occurs to them that how they feel about things is irrelevant to the way things are. The reality of God doesn't submit to their anthropomorphic projections.

The only point at which I'd part company with Edis is that reality does, indeed, give a damn. Reality quite literally gives a damn about what folks like Hitchens and Dawkins think and say and do—as Bertrand Russell discovered the moment he passed into the great beyond. The "grinding of teeth" is a very apt metaphor (Mt 25:30).

34 comments:

  1. “They inveigh against the God of the Bible because he doesn't defer to their preconception of reality.”

    Got any quotes to back this up?

    “It never occurs to them that how they feel about things is irrelevant to the way things are.”

    How do you know this?

    “Reality quite literally gives a damn about what folks like Hitchens and Dawkins think and say and do—as Bertrand Russell discovered the moment he passed into the great beyond.”

    Steve the Great Judge hath spoken!

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  2. I wonder wheter Stephen Crane was an atheist.

    Got any quotes to back this up?

    Would you settle for Spong quotes?XD

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  3. Steve, stop lying. You don't know if Bertrand experienced anything at all after dying.

    Typical scare tactic.

    YAWN

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  4. Anonymous,

    Stop lying. You don't even know if Bertrand Russell existed in the first place.

    Typical stupid response.

    YAWN

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  5. Thanks Pike, you validated my comment!

    Good one tater-head!

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  6. steve said:
    pemenex said...

    “Got any quotes to back this up?”

    Plenty to choose from, starting with, let us say, chap. 7 of Dawkins’ God Delusion or chapters 7-8 of Hitchens’ god is not Great—to take just two illustrative examples.

    Dawkins and Hitchens both contend that the God of the Bible couldn’t exist because he commands, commits, or permits various things that offend their moral sensibilities. So they’re guilty of reasoning that reality—in this case, the reality of God—must conform to their anthropomorphic preconception of what the world is supposed to be like.

    “How do you know this?”

    By reading what they say (see above).

    “Steve the Great Judge hath spoken!”

    Cute rather than acute. Russell underwent no deathbed conversion. So the presumption is that he died an unbeliever. In that case, he went to hell.

    anonymous said...

    “I wonder wheter Stephen Crane was an atheist.”

    As I recall, he was an apostate. A P.K. who left the faith.

    “Would you settle for Spong quotes?XD”

    Yes, Spong is Dawkins with a clerical collar.

    anonymous said...

    “Steve, stop lying. You don't know if Bertrand experienced anything at all after dying.”

    I know the Bible is God’s word, and I know what the Bible has to say about the afterlife.

    And if, for the sake of argument, there is no afterlife, then it’s irrelevant whether or not I’m a liar. The morgue doesn’t distinguish between crooks and straight-arrows.

    “Typical scare tactic.”

    As a Darwinian, you ought to appreciate the survival value of fear. I’m disappointed by your loss of faith in evolutionary biology. I guess you’ve been reading too much Dembski.

    And just as paranoia doesn’t mean you really aren’t being followed, a “scare tactic” doesn’t mean there really isn’t something to be afraid of.

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  7. Steve, cute response.

    But you don't know that the Bible is God's word.

    Nice to hope and dream though.

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  8. Anonymous said:

    "But you don't know that the Bible is God's word."

    You don't know that I don't know the Bible is God's word. I've presented detailed arguments for my belief-system. Where are your comparable counterarguments?

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  9. Victor Victorious12/01/2007 12:32 PM

    Steve: “They inveigh against the God of the Bible because he doesn't defer to their preconception of reality.”

    Pemenex: “Got any quotes to back this up?”

    Steve: “Plenty to choose from, starting with, let us say, chap. 7 of Dawkins’ God Delusion or chapters 7-8 of Hitchens’ god is not Great—to take just two illustrative examples.”


    Steve answers by pointing to sources which allegedly contain relevant quotes, but he gives no quotes. Pemenex asked for quotes. Steve fails to produce a single one.

    **********************************

    Steve: “Dawkins and Hitchens both contend that the God of the Bible couldn’t exist because he commands, commits, or permits various things that offend their moral sensibilities. So they’re guilty of reasoning that reality—in this case, the reality of God—must conform to their anthropomorphic preconception of what the world is supposed to be like.”

    Again, quotes please. Your garbled translation is not sufficient. Please quote where “Dawkins and Hitchens both” present the argument “the God of the Bible couldn’t exist because he commands, commits, or permits various things that offend [my] moral sensibilities.” I’ve not seen this argument presented in their material. It may be the case that you have simply misunderstood (which wouldn’t surprise me).

    ************************************

    Steve: “It never occurs to them that how they feel about things is irrelevant to the way things are.”

    Pemenex: “How do you know this?”

    Steve: “By reading what they say (see above).”

    Where does either author you attack make the autobigraphical statement “It never occurred to me that how I feel about things is irrelevant to the way things are”?

    You attribute such an argument to them, and yet you don't produce any evidence to support this. Again, quotes, Steve. Quotes!

    **********************************

    Steve: “Reality quite literally gives a damn about what folks like Hitchens and Dawkins think and say and do—as Bertrand Russell discovered the moment he passed into the great beyond.”

    Pemenex: “Steve the Great Judge hath spoken!”

    Steve: “Cute rather than acute. Russell underwent no deathbed conversion. So the presumption is that he died an unbeliever. In that case, he went to hell.”

    A lot of assumptions in there. How do you defend them? How do you know that, after Russell died, he “discovered” anything to begin with? You offer no argument here, just prejudicial and tendentious assertions.

    Miserably weak, Steve.

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  10. "You offer no argument here, just prejudicial and tendentious assertions."

    Why would he need to produce an agument when an observation will do?

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  11. On p272 of the God Delusion Dawkins says:

    "The whole household escaped, with the exception of Lot's unfortunate wife, who the Lord turned into a pillar of salt because she committed the offence - comparatively mild one might of thought - of looking over her shoulder at the fireworks display"

    Because Dawkins thinks that disobeying a direct command of an angel is 'mild', then that makes it so.

    On p274

    "God disapproved of this cosy arrangement and sent plagues on Pharaoh's house (why not on Abraham?)"

    Dawkins would have instead sent plagues on Abraham (or no one). And since Dawkins knows better than God, therefore God is immoral (rather than Dawkins).

    Steve, what do you think of Dawkins' argument against
    monogamy?

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  12. It's sad to see how difficult it is for folks like Victork to connect the dots. Anyone at all familiar with Dawkins works, such as The Selfish Gene and how Dawkins coined the word "meme" would understand Dawkin's view of morality, and his argument (particularly present in The God Delusion) that religion warps morality.

    When Dawkins spends time, such as in The Root of All Evil? arguing how the Old Testament admonitions against homosexuality, etc. are barbaric, it's pretty obvious that he is indeed "inveigh[ing] against the God of the Bible because he does't defer to [Dawkins's] preconception of reality."

    "The total amount of suffering per year in the natural world is beyond all decent contemplation. During the minute that it takes me to compose this sentence, thousands of animals are being eaten alive, many others are running for their lives, whimpering with fear, others are slowly being devoured from within by rasping parasites, thousands of all kinds are dying of starvation, thirst, and disease. It must be so. If there ever is a time of plenty, this very fact will automatically lead to an increase in the population until the natural state of starvation and misery is restored. In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won't find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference." ("God's Utility Function", Scientific American November, 1995, p. 85).

    "Over the centuries, we've moved on from Scripture to accumulate precepts of ethical, legal and moral philosophy. We've evolved a liberal consensus of what we regard as underpinnings of decent society, such as the idea that we don't approve of slavery or discrimination on the grounds of race or sex, that we respect free speech and the rights of the individual. All of these things that have become second nature to our morals today owe very little to religion, and mostly have been won in opposition to the teeth of religion." (quoted in Natalie Angier, "Confessions of a Lonely Atheist" New York Times Magazine January 14, 2001.

    "It is fashionable to wax apocalyptic about the threat to humanity posed by the AIDS virus, "mad cow" disease, and many others, but I think a case can be made that faith is one of the world's great evils, comparable to the smallpox virus but harder to eradicate." (The Humanist, Vol. 57, No. 1.)

    I could go on, but everyone else already got the point hours ago.

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  13. Good one Pike, I mean tater-head!

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  14. Thanks for the "I know you are but what am I?" level response, Anonymous. You continue to live down to my expectations.

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  15. I would appreciate it if you left out the "give a d---" part. The language was offensive (Eph. 4:29). There are better words to use than curse words. Be mindful of your readers.

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  16. The Seeking Disciple said...
    I would appreciate it if you left out the "give a d---" part. The language was offensive (Eph. 4:29). There are better words to use than curse words. Be mindful of your readers.

    ****************

    I disagree. I'm taking what is commonly used as a curse word and restoring its correct theological usage as a divine judgmental category.

    The Biblical concept of imprecation is deeper than popular curse words. It involves the notion that an agent either has the divine or diabolical power to put a curse on some one (e.g. an evil spell). Gen 3:14 is an example of the former, while Balaam is an example of the latter.

    To hex someone is not the same thing as swearing at them.

    In addition, while it's possible to profane the holy, it is not possible to profane the unholy.

    I am mindful of my readers. And my readers need to learn how to distinguish between modern cultural conventions and Biblical categories.

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  17. victor victorious said...

    “Steve answers by pointing to sources which allegedly contain relevant quotes, but he gives no quotes. Pemenex asked for quotes. Steve fails to produce a single one.”

    This is not a command performance. Permenex is not my boss or superior officer. He doesn’t pay the bills around here. I’m under no moral or intellectual obligation to cut-and-tailor my answers to fit his agenda.

    I documented my claims by giving two specific sources, well-known and widely available.

    “Again, quotes please. Your garbled translation is not sufficient. Please quote where “Dawkins and Hitchens both” present the argument “the God of the Bible couldn’t exist because he commands, commits, or permits various things that offend [my] moral sensibilities.” I’ve not seen this argument presented in their material. It may be the case that you have simply misunderstood (which wouldn’t surprise me).”

    I see you don’t know your own side of the argument. Very well, then, I’ll walk you through Militant Atheism 101.

    There is such a thing as the argument from evil. Hitchens’ book is almost entirely an argument from evil, while that also figures prominently in Dawkins’ book. Both men go through the Bible and cite various things which offend their moral sensibilities. They then use that material as the minor premise for an argument from evil.

    In so doing, they are making their moralistic feelings the yardstick of what reality can or cannot be like. This is directly parallel to what Tanner Edis said about New Agers.

    “Where does either author you attack make the autobigraphical statement ‘It never occurred to me that how I feel about things is irrelevant to the way things are’? You attribute such an argument to them, and yet you don't produce any evidence to support this. Again, quotes, Steve. Quotes!”

    Are you really that obtuse? Naturally a writer like Hitchens or Dawkins is not going to admit that his argument is fallacious. His admission, or lack thereof, is irrelevant to whether or not his argument is, in fact, fallacious.

    “A lot of assumptions in there. How do you defend them? How do you know that, after Russell died, he ‘discovered’ anything to begin with? You offer no argument here, just prejudicial and tendentious assertions.”

    I don’t repeat myself every time I do a post. You’ll find the supporting arguments in the archives.

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  18. This reminds me of atheists wanting to have meaning while stating there really is no meaning.

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  19. Speaking on the 10 commandments and how they undermine the truth of Christianity, Hitchens says,

    "Finally, instead of the condemnation of evil actions, there is an oddly phrased condemnation of impure thoughts (note - he means, 'coveting'). One can tell that this, too, is a man-made product of the alleged time and place, because it throws in "wife" along with property... More important, it demands the impossible ... [o]ne may be forcibly restrained from wicked actions, or barred from committing them, but to forbid people from contemplating them is too much." - Hitchens, p.100.

    *******

    IOW, this just can't be true! For any religion to be true it must agree with my assessment of what a God could command. To command the impossible isn't what fits with my liking, thus it just can't be true!

    This was one example of the hundreds we could marshal, How coem the atheists don't bother to read Christian theology before they critique it, and how come they don't read their own before they defend it?

    {We should also note that Hitchens just misses it, doesn't he. The point of the law is to show how far short you come of being perfect. How you can't pull yourself up by your boot straps and earn your way into heaven. Hence the sending of Jesus into the world, the one who did do the impossible. So this is a two-for-one quote. It shuts up the atheists in this combox, and shows how yet another atheist is pig ignorant of the subjects he tries to "refute." No wonder we laugh at you guys. HAW HAW}

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  20. "No wonder we laugh at you guys."

    I know I'm just a pig ignorant unbeliever...but I never have really understood the whole humor of this situation.

    So...God creates some people for destruction...doesn't cause their hearts to be renewed...those people spew out ignorance....and the 'saved' laugh at them.

    Huh?

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  21. So anonymous, are you an incompatibilist?

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  22. Mark, I have no idea how to answer your question.

    What was incorrect in what I said in my comment?

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  23. anonymous said...

    “I know I'm just a pig ignorant unbeliever...but I never have really understood the whole humor of this situation. So...God creates some people for destruction...doesn't cause their hearts to be renewed...those people spew out ignorance....and the 'saved' laugh at them. Huh?”

    i) We’ve discussed the compatibility of Reformed determinism and human responsibility on multiple occasions on this blog. You are raising a stock objection to Calvinism that I and many others have addressed time and again.

    ii) That perennial debate is not the point of this particular thread.

    iii) Manata’s peripheral one-liner is simply an impersonation of Uncle Jesse’s stock response. So, if you disapprove of Manata’s riposte, do you also disapprove of Uncle Jesse’s modus operandi?

    iv) I’d add that this is also tangential to Manata’s main point as well.

    v) To get us back on track, Tanner Edis is an outspoken atheist. He recently criticized the attitude of New Agers. I, then, drew a parallel between New Agers and militant atheists—using his criticism as my springboard.

    The question at issue is whether an atheist who ransacks the Bible for various things that he personally finds morally unacceptable, and then cites these examples to formulate an argument from evil, is guilty of the very same thing that Edis rightly faults New Agers for doing.

    When an atheist does this, he is claiming that the God of the Bible is unreal because he commands, commits, or permits various things that offend the anthropomorphic moral feelings of the atheist. So the atheist is guilty of restricting the scope of reality to the scope of his subjective convictions. Reality cannot include God because the God of the Bible is at variance with what the atheist deems to be right and wrong. He is measuring the extent of reality by his own moralistic opinions, and by that yardstick, God cannot exist.

    That’s the “situation” we discussing, here.

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  24. Anonymous said...

    "Mark, I have no idea how to answer your question. What was incorrect in what I said in my comment?"

    Mark is simply making the point that your objection would only have traction if you could make a case for soft incompatibilism (i.e. libertarian freedom). If, by contrast, either compatibilism or hard incompatibilism is true, then determinism of that sort is not a bar to moral responsibility.

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  25. Define "moral responsibility" objectively.

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  26. Anonymous said:

    Define "moral responsibility" objectively.

    *****************************************

    Define "objectively."

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  27. I'm not the one that needs to. You're the one using the term who claims to know what it is.

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  28. Anonymous said:

    "I'm not the one that needs to. You're the one using the term who claims to know what it is."

    Defining terms is a two-way street. If you ask me to define moral responsibility "objectively," then you need to define your criterion. Evidently you can't.

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  29. I never framed the issue in terms of "objectivity." But if you don't think moral responsibility is "objective," then the atheistic argument from evil (to disprove the existence of God) goes down the tube.

    And the next time you plan to post a comment, watch your language.

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  30. Do you think there is objective morality or not? Just answer the question. Good grief.

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  31. Anonymous said:

    "Do you think there is objective morality or not? Just answer the question. Good grief."

    There are moral absolutes. Some things are intrinsically good or evil, regardless of what individuals or cultures happen to think.

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  32. Steve, is that an objective statment? Come on, Steve.

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  33. Anonymous,

    Why ask Steve about objective *morality* and *responsibility* and when he answers you, you ask about the objectivity of *statements.* Are you just here to play the part of the iterative skeptic?

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  34. Anonymous said:

    "Steve, is that an objective statment? Come on, Steve."

    Anonymous, is that an objective question? Come on, Anon.

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