The internet at my place isn’t working reliably (it cycles through phases of working, working a little bit, and not working at all for several days), I’m up to my ears in work and schoolwork, and hit another minor depressive patch which is sapping my energies. As a result, I’m not really having the energy and motivation to write or to even come up with anything coherent to say (I still owe Walton a response to one of his posts. it’s sitting there on my laptop, almost finished, staring at me accusingly *sigh*). I thought going to the “Theism vs. Atheism: Which is the More Reasonable Worldview?” debate on Saturday would help me get over the listlessness, but it really didn’t. Most of the debate was frustrating since it was just one “I don’t understand the science, therefore it’s rational for me to believe in the christian god” after another, sprinkled with “i don’t know, and god says I don’t need to know; but luckily, neither do you, so it’s more reasonable for me to believe than for you not to believe”. Apparently Occam’s Razor is another one of these sciency things Pastor Ronn Johnson doesn’t know anything about.
There were really only three noteworthy things about the debate, and none of them good.
1)He started out with the argument that maybe humans just don’t really understand what “evil” is; that natural evil (natural disasters etc) are necessary for the world to be habitable for humans. This is interesting only because it’s not a version of the “god knows what he’s doing” argument before. The oldest version of this argument I’ve actually heard in church when I was younger, and smartly enough in involved an angel doing seemingly evil things to good people, and vice versa. I’m saying “smartly”, because angels aren’t supposed to be all-powerful, so they’re in a way bound by the principle of “lesser evil” the same way people are. So anyway, here’s a new version, saying that we need certain natural features to survive, and they are accomplished by (or have as side-effects) natural disasters which harm people. ok, but that means god isn’t all-powerful, or else he could magically make it so the necessary conditions could be achieved without the nasty consequences. Also, this is the evil twin of the fine-tuning argument: it’s not that we need certain conditions, and gee, doesn’t it suck that to achieve them we get natural evil as a side-effect; it’s that we evolved on a planet that has these natural disasters and natural conditions, and we’ve adapted to them, sometimes to the point where now they’re necessary for us. the pastor used the four seasons*, which yes, many northern hemisphere plants (and by extension, we, since we eat them) need to germinate. But: tropical plants don’t need winter for anything, so winter is not actually a necessity of any sort.
2)In the section on morality, he actually managed to put in a big, fat, honking bitches ain’t shit argument! It came in two parts, the last part in the Q&A at the end, but I’ll combine this a bit. He was arguing that an evolved morality is “utilitarian”**, and that therefor rape can only be considered wrong in such a morality because it would lead to the rapist being punished by a brother, father, etc. of the rape victim. And that therefore, atheist morality couldn’t possibly construe the rape of an orphan*** as a bad thing, since “nobody”**** would know that she was raped and thus there would be no one to endanger the reproductive fitness of said rapist. Because that’s how utilitarian and/or atheist morality works: “might makes right”, “procreation is sacred”, and “orphan girls = nobody”. Wait, no, that actually sounds like Christian ethics; guess someone was doin’ some serious projecting here!
3)In the Q&A, a creationist programmer asked an interesting (in the “oh, oh! I know this one!” sense) question: he said that when he programs, even a single misplaced comma fucks up his code into unworkability, so how can nature’s mutations not do the same? This is interesting mostly because this plays right into my interest with resilience based on redundancies. Coding doesn’t do redundancies, it’s inelegant and expensive. Nature does. Hence, nature doesn’t completely break down with a single introduced fault. Yay for redundancies!
hmm…. ok, so this turned out to be a sizable post, after all. But maybe it’s a fluke :-p
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*I’ll ignore for a moment that he said earthquakes have something to do with creating the seasons; I already said the man is scientifically illiterate.
**not “utilitarian” in the sense anyone actually familiar with utilitarian ethics would use the word. The dear pastor also can’t tell an is from an ought, and so he thinks that because we say that human sense for morality evolved because it was beneficial to our ability to procreate, all secular morality has as its utility the goal of increasing procreation of the morally acting individual. Except, he phrased it as “impregnating a female”, because apparently only half of humanity are moral agents.
***the orphan was assumed to be a girl. Boys don’t get raped, you see; or they can defend themselves. Fuck if I know.
**** PZ even pointed out to him that the orphan herself would know; he shrugged that off, and repeated that “nobody would know”.