We Are The Change We Seek
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2009-10-28 4:08 PM
Skeptic: Naturalism vs Creationism and the Moral Consequence
In response to Conversations with a Skeptic Podcast.
One of the first large points in the sermon is the choice between believing in a Natural World or an Intelligently Designed World. He spends a great deal of time talking about having the "courage" to accept whatever logically follows from that first choice and I'll reference the "courage" bit later. I agree, if you make a choice one way or the other, then you should have the integrity/courage/whatever to follow through to the logical conclusion.
He says that you have to look at the evidence and decide what seems reasonable to you. Unfortunately he doesn't really talk about any evidence, he just skips that part and says that he feels the evidence obviously points to a Creator. The part where I think this section gets a little sketchy is when he starts describing the two choices.
He offers the atheist framework of the Natural World as mostly just randomness. He does mention Natural Selection as the 3rd or 4th influence on the formation of the world, but overall I think he misrepresents it. Random mutation certainly has an effect on an evolving system, but the people who believe in Evolution and Natural Selection don't believe that everything came about primarily from randomness. Natural Selection is a theory about very un-random selection due to survival pressures (environment, diet, competition, etc). It's understandable that he would focus on the random mutation part though, because it's the easiest to disregard and if I'm making a case against Creationism you can bet that I'll be choosing to focus on the parts that are easiest to topple.
The focus on randomness is understandable to a point, but then he goes too far I think. He describes a "naturalist" as someone who sees the world as random occurrence. When he starts talking about the Creationist viewpoint he talks about a person who sees order in the world, distinction of species, interdependence of species, etc. The problem is that Naturalists see all of those things too and have natural explanations for them instead of Super-Natural explanations for them. So, his argument is a bit disingenuous here.
He also discusses that once you've made your decision on which side to choose that you will then see everything else within the perspective of that framework. This certainly bears some truth because if I assume someone is a bad person, then all of their actions are going to be framed within that thought and even mundane, neutral behaviors will tend to take on a malevolent look. The argument works in both ways. Naturalists will look for natural explanations and Supernaturalists will look for supernatural ones.
No Morality in the Natural World
He says the logical conclusion of a naturalist view of the world is that "no moral code exists" because everything is just a chemical or electrical response.
I can shoot you or I can marry you, it makes no real difference.
If our world is just a natural world, then there is no "meaning" to life and that there won't be anything after death. He emphasizes how empty this view is and this is where I come back to "courage." He takes time to describe how empty and alone the naturalist/atheist view of the universe is and how warm and loving and secure the supernaturalist/religious view of the universe is but this part of the sermon is encouraging the choice that is the happy, loving, secure choice which is not the courageous choice. If indeed it does take courage to follow through with your choices, then the possible lack of "meaning" in life or lack of after-death experience isn't relevant to the argument. Truth is the relevant issue when it comes to viewing the universe, not whether it makes you feel secure.
He addresses the obvious response to the claim that "no morality" exists, which is that you can live a loving, philanthropic, good life without a supernatural moral code... but he makes the argument poorly. His disagreement with creating our own ethical and moral code is that we have...
... no authority, no substance, no moral code better than anyone else's. Literally to enforce yours you have to use 'might makes right'...
There are major problems with this statement. First is that we all have to agree on the same moral code and second is that we are required to enforce that moral code on others. I have a different ethical and moral standard than other people. I like mine the best, that's why I follow it, but you get to choose the moral code that works the best for you. In fact, its against my moral code to enforce my moral code on others. I would like them to behave according to my moral code, but I can't force them. We all have free will and we choose to make our own decisions.
The US Govt considers it to be immoral to murder another person. You are not forced to agree with this and you aren't even forced to abide by it. You have the freedom to move somewhere else. By exercising your free will and choosing to live in this country, you are agreeing to the social contract that includes restrictions on behavior regarding murder and other crimes. So I take great issue with the assumption that there has to be a universal moral code and that it must be enforced upon everyone. If your ethical structures allow you to lie to people, that's your deal. My ethical structures do not allow lying to people. I can't stop you from lying, but I can control my own actions and choose not to associate/do business/etc with you.
His argument is that we need someone outside of ourselves to set the rules for us. I think we can easily set rules for ourselves. If you can't set rules for yourself, then you scare me a little bit. If a supernatural authority figure is the only thing standing between you and murder/rape/theft/etc... then you scare me a little bit because if in the future you suddenly lose your faith and stop believing in God then you're about to spiral down into an amoral, uncaring monster. When the Pastor talks about having the courage to think through the logical consequences of your beliefs, this is what he's talking about. If you play the mental chess starting from the position that we as humans have no moral code without God, then if you lose your faith in God, you are no longer restricted by his authority and will become an amoral monster. Do you think that of yourself? If you stopped believing in God, would you indiscriminately kill people because it didn't matter?
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