Tuesday, December 9, 2014

So Much Rests On Belief, Including All Of Our Lives

In reading this interview of John Figdor, the Humanist Chaplain at Stanford,  the problems with his atheist religion, "Humanism" were so obvious that it's astonishing that a Harvard boy teaching at its west coast equivalent didn't see them for himself.   In the intro, Michael Schulson gives two of the Figdor 10 atheist commandments as:

Commandment IV: “All truth is proportional to the evidence.” Commandment V: “There is no God.”

There is a rather large problem with those two statements, well at least two problems.  To start with, there is no evidence to support the contention "There is no God", so its "truth" as measured by that rule would have to equal zero.   But the problem is even more fundamental because there is no evidence that that rule for measuring truth by evidence is true.   I mean, this is a Harvard product coming up with this stuff while on staff at Stanford, getting it into a major media source, as well as into a book.

As to how well Figdor intends to put that into practice, here's one of many questions and answers that could be used to test that.

You specifically call them “Ten Commandments for the 21st Century.” What is it about this particular historical moment that invites a rewrite? Or what is it about your version of the Ten Commandments that’s specifically adapted to the 21st century? 

Again, we’re trying to point out that the original Ten Commandments were written in, like, very early history. We’re talking Stone Age texts. There’re many points at which we probably should have updated the Ten Commandments. When we understood the germ theory of disease, we probably should have reworked the Ten Commandments. When we figured out the printing press, we probably should have worked them out. When we figured out basic evolutionary biology, all of these moments where we learn something new, we ought to reflect on our previous beliefs and say, “Do these still seem true? Do these still seem valid to us?”

To start, "Stone Age texts"?   Geesh, didn't his major have any requirement that would have at least led him understand the incompetence, not to mention inaccuracy of that statement?   Nothing that could have kept him from, not only the anachronism "stone age" - since Iron is mentioned in Genesis, but the absurd phrase "Stone Age Texts"? And, remember, this is a guy who is supposed to be all about evidence and, here's the kicker, the revealed truth of science.   Apparently the geological and archaeological evidence that could have informed this, uh, experts thinking didn't cause him to rework the tripe he picked up from bull sessions at the  Secular Student Alliance and never bothered to test against science.

Apparently his Masters in "Humanism and Interfaith Dialogue" from Harvard Divinity School didn't include him reading things in which such matters were considered, going back to the advent of science.   I'd suggest the boy go through Teilhard de Chardin, if he's able to read it.  Especially "The Phenomenon of Man".

I will give the guy credit for refusing to go along with the Sam Harris style tripe that says that you can derive morality with science but his admiration for Harris wouldn't give me any confidence that he has any deeply held sense of morality.

I have huge respect for Sam Harris, and my position is actually extremely similar to Sam Harris’. We just come to two different conclusions. Sam Harris’ position is, broadly, that we can look at something called the neurotypical behavior of human beings, and we can understand that when you have serotonin in a certain volume, or you have dopamine in a certain volume, this means that there’s something positive going into your brain. So he has this standard for valuing things. A neurotypically derived version of utilitarianism.

Sam Harris has this view where we’re able to generate an objective answer out of this. [Lex Bayer and I] don’t think that it’s objective, because ultimately it’s based on the beliefs, experiences and preferences of individuals.

Which, again, is problematic for his fourth commandment as it admits that morality is not merely the product of "evidence".  But Sam Harris is a moral vacuum, a bigot, an atheist-jihadist in the Hitchens mold, not to mention many areas of moral atrocity.   You'd think some of that evidence, in Harris's own words, would be at least worthy of mention.

I used to buy the line that there was no "objective" morality and that morality was the product of social agreement, I don't believe that any more.  While there are a large number of problems, in real life, as well as in the scholarly imaginings and musings we have been duped into valuing above real life, the evidence of history and personal experience forces the truth on me that unless it is believed in absolutely, any asserted moral position can be set aside in favor of personal desire or gain.   Without some real AND EFFECTIVE belief that there is an obligation imposed on us to act morally, against our desires or benefit, then that obligation will, more often than not, be pushed aside.

What we see all around us is the result of a disbelief in just the kind of morality that Fidor wants to assert, even as he wants to deny the only basis on which that morality will be followed.  Which is one of the bigger problems with atheism and other forms of materialism.   An atheist, a materialist, has no reason to not do exactly what they want if they think they can get away with it.  As I've mentioned, that some contented, academic atheists are pleasant guys to be around only shows that some atheists don't want to or figure they can't be bothered to do things we would know were evil.  The absence of the desire, in that case, renders the lack of restraint moot.  If they suddenly wanted to, say, kill a rival for a position and knew they could get away with it and that no one would ever know, would you want to be that rival?

In one of the most putrid lines ever put into an opera, Four Saints in Three Acts, the putrid Gertrude Stein has "Saint Settlement" ask,  If it were possible to kill five thousand chinamen by pressing a button would it be done?  To which her character Comere says, "St. Teresa not interested."  As Stein's own history would show, the sloth and inertia that kept Stein from doing more than excluding people from her salon and badmouthing them wouldn't rouse her to be more interested in the people slaughtered all around her during the Nazi occupation of France while she enjoyed the protection of the Vichy government, which she roused herself to do some work for.  That example and the cover up of her by exactly the kind of academic, secular folk welcomed by the "Humanists" as some form of progress serve me as evidence that the whole thing is worse than hogwash, it's the bulwark of a new and far more horrible dark age.  But, apparently, you can get a graduate degree from Harvard Divinity without that inconvenient truth being presented for testing with evidence.


  1. The "Ten Commandments" are pretty much of interest only to Charlton Heston fans and to people who think morality is all about "Thou shalt not," where "thou" doesn't mean them.

    So the very idea that a "new" Ten Commandments is needed, is damned silly. It's not even a summation of the law and the prophets. It's importance is emphasized by people who don't know what they're talking about, and don't want to know.

    Which fits this "humanist chaplain" to a "T", I'd say.

  2. I'd say is a summation of flaws in search of profits.