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Skeptic: Worldviews, Crazies and Natural Selection

In response to Conversations with a Skeptic Podcast.

The Pastor talks a lot about "worldview" during the sermon. He says that happiness garnered from your worldview isn't important. The only important part of your worldview is that it matches up with what is actually true. I couldn't agree with that statement more... unfortunately, we hold different stances on what is "actually true."

He says that if your worldview is a Naturalistic one, then you aren't accountable to anyone. My first impression when I heard him say this was, "Ok, and?" His perspective (and one I'm sure many Christians hold) is that there is inherent goodness in being held accountable to someone else and that person's rules. Why? He doesn't make a case for this because I don't really think he's asking himself that question. It's just something he takes for granted as true. Perhaps if the goodness of being held accountable to someone is directly related to the goodness of the accountant, then when your accountant is the greatest of all good then it's good to be accountable to them.

Of course, a big problem with this is that I don't really think the God in the Scripture is all that good. Yes, God is love and offers forgiveness (sorta), but he's also vengeful and hateful to groups outside of the "chosen people." He's a jealous God and wrathful. He considers women to be lesser creatures than men. This God doesn't sound all that good to me. At the very least he's a combination of goods and bads and so if we return to my potential premise (I don't know if this is how the Pastor thinks) that the goodness of being accountable is based on the goodness of the accountant, well then the goodness of this accountant is suspect. I don't know if that's his feeling though, but regardless I don't have reasoning for any sort of inherent goodness in being accountable to someone else.

A Crazy in Every Pot

He takes a few minutes to talk about crazy people of all groups. He admits that there are crazy Christians, just like there are crazy Atheists. He has harsh words for the wrongs done by Christians (the Inquisition, the Crusades, pedophilia in the priesthood, etc) and I was really on board because it's good to be able to see the bad in your own group as well as the bad in the other group.

Then he finished with a quick "but your crazy people are worse" type of statement. The big strawman in this part of the sermon is that due to the lack of accountability to a divine being in our morality system we "can't even say anything" to someone like Stalin or Hitler because we have no moral authority. It's a silly argument, because ethics easily exist outside of divinity. Laws exist outside of divinity and when someone does something "wrong" (i.e. in violation of those laws and/or ethics) then we can easily confront them and resolve the situation.

Based on this unaccountability, he returns to the idea I mentioned in the previous entry that there is no moral code. He asserts that there are ONLY three possible responses to the Naturalist worldview:

1) Despair: You just curl up with alcohol or drugs and self-medicate until you die.

2) Create a Society: Interestingly, he puts this forward as a really bad idea. He uses his loud, angry, atheist voice when he talks about it, but the idea is that you attempt to form an ethical structure and live within it. He mentions this again later and both times he frames it in getting angry and picking up a megaphone and being an activist... as if activist is a dirty word. It's very psychologically interesting.

3) Hedonism: Just do whatever makes you happy. If a nice little house on the beach sipping wine is what you want, then do it. If raping women is what you want, then do it, because there's no accountability so who cares?

I think these are amazingly interesting choices that he offers. I could probably write an entire book on the psychology that goes into breaking up the possibilities into these options, especially since he presents all 3 as negative. He doesn't find any worth in any possible outcome of a Naturalistic viewpoint. What was that you said in the first part, Pastor, that once your make your decision that your viewpoint is framed within that mindset? Perhaps a little more open-mindedness and you would be able to see the positive aspects available.

Can't buy Natural Selection

He approaches a moment where he's going to talk about evidence.. but when we get there we only have strawmen. :( He talks again about the Naturalist/Atheist viewpoint being that the world is conceived in randomness (a gross misrepresentation as noted before) and uses the following example to show how absurd that viewpoint is:

(paraphrased) If I walk in to a forest and I see a note pinned on a tree that says, "Hi Brian, have you finished writing that sermon yet?", there is no possible way that I could reasonably believe that random motions of physics brought that note into being.

Well, duh. This example is just as bad as the Blind Watchmaker example in which a vast sandy and rocky beach is described. In this beach, all of the component materials exist to make a watch (sand for the glass, minerals in the rocks for the metal, etc). However, no reasonable person could expect to be walking along the beach and stumble on a working pocket watch that just happened to be the random combination of available materials. You know why no reasonable person could believe that?

Because it's unreasonable.

It's a strawman argument, just like all of this Pastor's arguments. Natural Selection and Evolution talk about subtle and small changes over time in a statistical group. A note with your name and a reference to your profession is completely outside of the scope of assertions contained within Evolution and Natural Selection. It's the same with the Blind Watchmaker. Evolution and Natural Selection don't say that a fully-formed and completely working watch sprang forth out of component atoms! A closer analogy would be walking along a beach covered in pocket watches in which the stem used to wind it is square at the end.... but you wander along and find a different one which is hexagonal at the end of the stem. It's still got good traction, but it's a little easier to spin between your figures because it's a little closer to circular. THAT is what Evolution and Natural Selection talk about. Small changes over time in a population that provide some kind of benefit.

The next bad argument he uses is one of irreducible complexity. He gives the tired assertion that the human eye is irreducibly complex, because all of its parts are absolutely mandatory and they all work in a finely tuned balance and if any of those parts are out of balance then BAM the whole thing falls apart and doesn't work.

If you consider all of those parts and how they intermingle together and you have sight, to remove any of those sequences you have no sight, so tell me the developmental process of evolution to cause rods or cones or optic nerves to develop but they have nothing they connect. It's the bridge to nowhere.

The reason this argument is so bad is because of the ease with which it is toppled. There are many different types of eyes of more complex and less complex structures that provide sight. You can even read about them on Wikipedia's entry on the Eye. Some eyes use no lenses, some eyes use lenses but no fluid for refraction, some eyes use both lenses and fluid for refraction. Boom, already shown to be false. Need more? Ok. Color blindness. Some humans have either a genetic trait passed on to them or experience trauma when they are young and the 3 types of cones (color receptors in the eye) do not form properly and only 2 of them work (or only 2 of them work en masse). Those people still have sight, but they have trouble distinguishing between red and green.

I'm trying to find a more official source, but in my research on color blindness there are many people who reference that the military has found in studies that people with red-green color blindness are able to see people usually concealed by wearing green camouflage. The idea is that there might be some survival benefit granted by the ability to see a predator or a meal hiding among the foliage. Regardless, the point is that color-blind eyes have one less functioning unit and those people still have sight. So the argument doesn't stand.

Stay tuned for tomorrow's entry!

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