Wednesday, January 21, 2015
The Atheist Web Presence As The Test Tube Of An Atheist Future
Well, the history of atheist government, the only real life example we have to go on is all in the other direction, which I will never tire of pointing out, the disaster those were being as enormous as they are. Though, come to think of it, I will use P. Z. Myers from her article to make my point.
Nonbelievers’ efforts to create a moral, happy life in the face of prejudice has created, for some, a kind of angry optimism. PZ (Paul Zachary) Myers, an associate professor of biology at the University of Minnesota, Morris, and one of the proprietors of the blog Pharyngula—where you can read his take on science, current events, and cephalopods—is one of the latest to revel in the “joys of reality” and the folly of faith. His new book, The Happy Atheist, is a gleeful, self-righteous celebration of life without belief. Much of Myers’s happiness, at least according to the book, is derived from mocking the spectacle of religious hypocrisy. But Myers seems distressed by the outsider’s perception that atheists subsist on glib patter. “What we atheists are saying,” he writes, “is that we need to turn away from the powerless rationalizations of the holy books, no matter how poetic they might be, and recognize that their power and their appeal flows from their humanity, not from their religiosity.” Far from missing the point, he proposes, atheists are even more deeply embedded in the sorrows and joys of human experience because they sidestep the “magical thinking” of religious belief.
Setting aside the exquisite richness of online atheists whining about prejudice, it occurred to me as I read those words that a good guess at what kind of morality and principle that we could expect from an atheist majority country would be the comment threads of atheist blogs, as informed by the atheist content of the webloids that host those. If you think that egalitarian democracy, a respect for difference, honesty, informed opinion, and a tolerance for those who disagree with you is anywhere in evidence on any atheist majority comment thread, I'd require links so I can see that unicorn for myself. Even in the article, Thomson-Deveaux is forced by reality to say
Myers won’t win brownie points from those who want the New Atheists to temper their tone. Near the end, he calls believers “lazy-minded”—for him, that’s charitable. In his last essay, he seems almost ready to call a truce: quoting from The Epic of Gilgamesh, he declares that grief is “the touchstone, the common element that atheists and theists share.” But he can’t bring himself to admit that the concept of God might be anything but comical.
Which brings to mind Hemant Mehta's "moderate" religion bashing blog "The Friendly Atheist" which is hardly friendly to anyone who isn't an atheist and, though I won't go into details, is hardly a haven of honest assertion. I would hazard to guess that's the best they can do because what you need to be nicer than that is entirely lacking in their shared ideology and the intellectual culture that results from that.
The extent to which being merely civil to each other is based in absolute moral obligations that are, frequently, not in our interest and the farthest thing in the world from what we feel from being is based on commandments contained in religious texts as commands from God needs to be considered seriously. That is THAT NEEDS TO BE CONSIDERED SERIOUSLY AS IF IT REALLY WERE IMPORTANT. Without that taken seriously as a moral obligation it will not be practiced, the increasing level of incivility contributing to a downward trend that only tends to get worse. I am as guilty of falling into that spiral as anyone, though I'm working on it.
There is no reason for someone who doesn't believe there is a real and binding moral obligation who believes they can get away with being a jerk to someone else to refrain from being a jerk. The named atheists in Thomson-Deveaux's article almost to a man became famous through being a rude, bigoted, dishonest jerk in the interest of atheism. No one in the world outside of Morris Minnesota would likely have heard of P. Z. Myers had he not been the king of atheist assholism on his "Scienceblog". And the star of most of them would either have set with their lagging careers if they hadn't turned to atheist invective or it would never have risen.
The extent to which intellectual integrity and honesty, as practice, are dependent on the real and effective belief in moral obligations to seek and speak the truth and not to deceive are, as well, founded in moral absolutes which atheism can't provide also needs to be taken more seriously. If someone who doesn't believe in a real and consequential obligation to tell the truth, they have nothing other than a fear of not getting away with it, to keep them from lying to their own benefit. I would really like to study the religious orientation of scientists who are found guilty of professional fraud though I can't find that has ever been studied. I'd like to know if the moral obligations contained in Christianity, Judaism, Islam have a real effect in lessening the commission of scientific fraud as compared to the merely conventional desirability to not lie, the best that atheism produces, on the basis of preference.
Only, as I'll point out to lead to the next paragraph, I don't know if that is the case because I don't have the evidence of it. Atheists sometimes don't let that keep them from asserting they do know such unevidenced things and calling it "science".
The typical response to those points is to make up some kind of evolutionary strategy that would turn getting away with doing bad things into some kind of reproductive disadvantage when there is absolutely no evidence in present day, observable life that being a rude and obnoxious jerk is more of a reproductive disadvantage than being polite and honest. Compare the number of offspring an Antonin Scalia has produced as compared to Stephen Breyer, John Sununu to Hamilton Jordan. There is no evidence that even the most dishonest jerks leave fewer offspring than nice people, so that "scientific" explanation, like all of those invented to ameliorate the savage amorality of natural selection is, in itself, dishonesty in the service of ideology whose promoters have every confidence they can get away with promoting. That it was a theory promoted, in every case I'm aware of, by atheists* who have tried to cover up the inescapable logical conclusion that natural selection destroys traditional morality says more about the nature of atheist morals than it does the mechanisms of evolution.
No, I think we should take the atheist web presence as our closest thing to a test tube we have of what we can expect if this new world of the new atheists happens and the political, legal, social and interpersonal ideals of religion give way to a world based on materialism and science. Hemant Mehta, Jerry Coyne, P.Z. Myers, Ophilia Benson, Greta Christina, and all the way down to TunderfOOt and the atheist comment communities they host are the future if atheism takes political control. It won't be tolerant, it won't be, polite, morals and ideals will be summarily denied as desired, except in the shifting, inconsistent, whimsical ways of those folks (WHO is dissing the Muslims is all that counts with them, as mentioned here last week, it's a question of ranking who is hated more at any given time.) And, given the track record of atheists with control of a government a military and the police, don't expect anything like democracy or a tolerance for different points of view or much in the way of restraint in summarily disposing of such folk.
* The problem of maintaining natural selection and traditional morality has been noted since the 1860s, with some, such as Darwin's closest German colleague, Ernst Haeckel, reveling in its destruction of morality while others such as Frances Cobbe were, rightly, horrified by the prospects of people taking that seriously. The history of natural selection in politics for the next century and on to today, proves Frances Cobbe was more realistic about that than the Peter Kropotkins who tried to make the to-the-death struggle of Darwinism go away. The more recent attempts under Hamilton's theories is no more successful and, as I've noted before, one of its main promoters, E. O. Wilson has taken the logical step of saying he'd been wrong about it. The political presence of evolutionary psychology has not been a noted success for the idea that all people are created equal and that laws should promote racial and gender equality.
Update: Well, you see, natural selection leads to the conclusion that people are subject to its amoral mechanisms as a part of material causation may be a necessary conclusion of materialism, if you accept that people aren't bound to act in accord with material causation because they are free not to, then there is no reason to assert that "survival of the fittest" is a law that applies to human conduct and human society. I'm trying to remember any assertion in the Jewish-Christian scriptures in which God tells the animals to do unto others as they would have done unto them, and I'm coming up dry.
Moral obligations, equally applied, are a gift to the human species, from God.
It is impossible to believe that natural selection governs the human population due to material causation and hold that you should do unto others as you would have done unto you - the rock bottom, on the basalt, foundation of egalitarian democracy. I have given up the a-historical lie that any progress we've made in that direction is not a direct result of taking that commandment as a binding moral obligation on the basis of religion.
Many of the most influential atheists in the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries have either explicitly denied the validity of that moral obligation or have tried to define it away in the method of Dawkins and Dennett.