Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Collective judgment

A brief debate I had on Facebook:

I'm open to a designer of this nature. But if that's the case it would blow apart Clay Jones's articles on God's order for soldiers to kill babies.

Jones touts 400 years as a reasonable metric as God "waits patiently for all people to turn to him." He is "slow to anger" after all. 

But a designer of the wonders described in Shapiro's article works methodically, millennia upon millennia. It seems absurd for a being of that nature to give a "point of no return" to a culture after 400 years. And grievously absurd to mark that anniversary with mass slaughter. 

If you're given to a designer of wonders, that's great. If you're given to capital punisher that includes infants, that seems weird. But it is truly inconsistent to try reconciling one with the other.

The fundamental issue isn't so much how or when people die, but human mortality in general. Whether that's by divine command or divine providence isn't a morally all-important distinction.

There seems to be a distinction between adult punishment after choosing poor paths, and infants being slaughtered by soldiers. 

If there wasn't a moral distinction between these two concepts, Clay Jones wouldn't have written on the topic so extensively.

You seem to be assuming that the death of children by divine command is punitive. If so, that doesn't follow. 

Because humans are social creatures, adults cannot be harmed without harming children who depend on adults (or elderly relatives who depend on able-bodied grown children to care for them).

What's the alternative? Leaving the children orphaned, to fend for themselves? To die of starvation? 

The death of children is a side-effect of executing their adult caregivers. Keep in mind, too, that this is because the Canaanites didn't self-evacuate. 

As a former Marine, when you kill adult combatants, there will often be innocent people who suffer as a result. People who were dependent on fathers and sons who died in combat. Unless you think your former profession was immoral, you yourself admit that it isn't always possible to draw nice distinctions.

BTW, Jonathan's post has nothing to do with the fate of the Canaanites. And even if you wish to drag that red herring into the discussion, there's no reason we have to frame the issue in just the way Clay Jones does. (Which is not necessarily a criticism of his approach.)

If we want to marvel at a designer who spends millennia building DNA, it seems inconsistent to imagine that same designer ordering mass baby slaughter, especially in the form of telling adult human soldiers to do it. 

I'm testing for consistency, and the parameters from Shapiro's article do not seem to match the parameters from Jones's. 

As for whether the mass baby slaughter was punishment, I'm not necessarily assuming punishment. I'm just saying the mere act of soldiers slaughtering babies seems out of line of a designer of DNA. 

And yes, I was a former Marine. And yes, there are often non-combatant casualties. But there is still a moral distinction between that and soldiers actively targeting babies.

I used Clay Jones because Jonathan posted it the other day. I try to keep my critique limited to material posted by this page.

You yourself raised an ethical objection, but then you duck the implications of your own position. Suppose a Marine kills an enemy combatant. Presumably, you believe there are situations where that's justifiable. 

But in some, or many cases, by killing the combatant, you deprive his wife of a husband, deprive his kids of a father, and deprive his parents of a son they were counting on to care for them in their old age.

So the distinction between "actively targeting" innocents and the inevitable consequences of harm to innocents isn't morally clear-cut.

I'm not defending collateral innocent deaths at war. But I am saying there's no wiggle room for targeting all the babies in a city specifically to kill them all. 

And this is not about me. I'm a person. This is about how a designer of the universe would treat infants.

What do you mean when you say you're not defending collateral innocent deaths in war? Presumably you're not a pacifist. So you regard that as morally defensible–a tragic, but necessary side-effect of winning a just war.

You've asserted that there's no wiggle room, but your distinction is ad hoc. You're not engaging the counterargument.

How is the fact that you're a person germane? God is a personal agent, too.

I'm just not allowing you to change the argument. You don't have to address my original argument if you don't want. 

I'm seeing a lack of consistency between claims. That's all.

I addressed your original argument by demonstrating that your original argument overlooks moral complications. It's your position that lacks internal consistency.

I expect me to be inconsistent. I would not expect a designer of the universe to be inconsistent.

What's that supposed to mean? If your objection is inconsistent, then why should that be taken seriously?

Whether the designer of the universe is inconsistent is the very issue in dispute. I've presented several counterarguments to your position, which you continue to duck.


  1. "But a designer of the wonders described in Shapiro's article works methodically, millennia upon millennia...If we want to marvel at a designer who spends millennia building DNA, it seems inconsistent to imagine that same designer ordering mass baby slaughter, especially in the form of telling adult human soldiers to do it...I'm just saying the mere act of soldiers slaughtering babies seems out of line of a designer of DNA."

    1. Regarding DNA:

    a. Ironically, James Shapiro's own published works significantly undermine neo-Darwinism. Sure, Shapiro refuses to relinquish the neo-Darwinian paradigm, to give up its ghost. But again that's in stark contrast to his own arguments exposing key deficiencies in neo-Darwinian theory. For example, see Shapiro's back and forth with Dembski.

    b. One need not subscribe to "a designer who spends millennia building DNA". For example, creationists can believe God instantly instantiated DNA.

    c. As an aside, DNA isn't built in a vacuum. How can DNA be built without all the various molecular machines and cellular structures upon which DNA is built?

    d. In any case, I don't see where the inconsistency is supposed to lie?

    1. 2. Regarding "baby slaughter":

      a. Just to set the scene. The Amalekites were and always had been Israel's implacable enemies. They had always wanted Israel's utter obliteration. How do you deal with an enemy whose every single man, woman, and child hates you and your people, and wants you all dead, and has felt this way for generations, and who will always desire your people's entire destruction or genocide? Who refuse to relent, no matter how gracious your overtures and negotations and so forth are? What will you do if the only two viable choices are all your people dead (including your children) or all their people dead (including their children)?

      b. Saul didn't kill the king of the Amalekites, and thus one of his descendents, Haman, almost committed genocide against the entire Jewish people, as the Book of Esther relates.

      c. It seems possible to interpret 1 Sam 15:33 ("As your sword has made women childless") as saying the king of the Amalekites and presumably the Amalekites as a whole had little issue with killing other people's children. Granted, another interpretation seems to be to make a woman infertile (e.g. female genital mutilation). In any case, the Amalekites sacrificed their own children. I've read children as old as 4 years old were engulfed in the flames of the Amalekites' gods.

      d. If the Amalekites had their way, then Israel would have been wiped off the map. Mass genocide including Israel's children. If this happened, then other peoples present and future could ask, why did God allow the Amalekites to slaughter all the Israelites including their children?

      Moreover, if the Amalekites successfully wiped out all of Israel, then there would be no good to come from the Jewish monotheistic faith. No Messiah to redeem humanity. Instead, we'd potentially have a pagan world. It's possible it'd be a ruthless world. A world in which we cannot sit here and armchair philosophize about the morality or immorality of "baby slaughter," for "baby slaughter" would likely have been accepted without question, as it was with the Amalekites.

      Instead, people can ask, why did God allow or command the Israelites to slaughter all the Amalekites including their children? Again, that's quite possibly not a question a world significantly influenced by the Amalekites but without Israel could or would ask.

      e. In fact, secular liberal Camille Paglia is a self-professing Roman pagan. She has written much about her admiration for ancient Roman beliefs and virtues. As an example, Paglia has justified abortion on grounds of limiting overpopulation which in turn threatens the survival of the human species due to scarce resources (here).

      f. A liberal pro-choice female feminist once said if she knew her baby would grow up to become an irredeemably evil person (e.g. a serial rapist and a serial killer), then she would abort him. She would kill him. That doesn't necessarily justify abortion. At this point, it's just interesting to note how a secular liberal's sentiments about "baby slaughter" can be so different from a Marine's sentiments. Should we put much stock in such sentiments?

    2. By the way, 1 Sam 15:33 could also mean Agag killed many male soldiers, which made their mothers childless. But I'm not sure why the text uses women rather than mothers. But that seems to be another possible interpretation.