john w. loftus said...
“One last illustration. Karl Popper argues that scientific knowledge progresses by conjectures (or guesses) which are in turn refuted for better conjectures (or guesses). He claims science progresses because we learn from our mistakes. In fact he claims all knowledge progresses in the same way, and I agree. We have learned from our mistakes. That's why our morals have developed into that which makes for a safer, more productive, and less barbaric people than in ancient times, which is reflected in the Bible.”
I’ve already pointed out several problems with this appeal. But let’s consider it from one more angle.
As I’ve said on several occasions, there’s more to human rights than moral absolutes. Even if, for the sake of argument, the unbeliever could ground moral absolutes, that, of itself, does nothing to show that human beings are entitled to certain rights or immunities. For a human being might not be the sort of entity which it is possible to wrong.
It would be an easy matter to turn Loftus’ argument on its head. For a philosophically stringent atheist could argue thusly:
Traditionally, we used to believe that human beings had certain inalienable rights because they were made in God’s image. But enlightened unbelievers now know that that conclusion is predicated on a false premise.
For one thing, the notion of the imago Dei is a relic of Bronze Age superstition. And if there is no God, then no one is made in God’s image.
Moreover, modern science has shown us that a human being is just a robotic survival machine, blindly programmed to preserve its selfish genes. Not only that, but Dawkins has also said that a human being is just a bacterial colony.
Furthermore, as Paul and Patricia Churchland have pointed out, pain and suffering are illusory. That’s a relic of folk psychology.
Hence, moral regress is the logical corollary of scientific progress. For the stately progress of scientific knowledge has taught us that the whole notion of human rights is founded on an antiquated and superstitious view of human nature. How can you wrong a robot? How can you abuse a bacterium? How can you mistreat a biochemical organism which is incapable of pain and suffering?
True, we have moral intuitions. But as Michael Ruse and Edward Wilson have explained to us, natural selection has conditioned us to entertain these delusive scruples because altruism confers a survival advantage.
All things considered, it’s high time for us to set aside these adolescent and obsolescent notions of human dignity so that we may embrace the logical conclusion that man has no more rights than a broomstick.