Metro State Atheists

Promoting Science, Reason, and Secular Values

Food for Freethought 2010

What is “Food for Freethought”?

Food for Freethought, inspired by the Center for Inquiry’s Campaign for Free Expression, is a food drive that also encourages freethought, freedom of expression, and free inquiry.  We plan to accomplish this by giving “Banned” and Freethought books away in exchange for non-perishable food donations that will be going to Food Bank of the Rockies, during “Banned Books Week”, September 27 – October 2 (specific dates below).  Our goal is to raise an enormous amount of food for those in need.  Most food drives are done during the holidays and tons of food is raised and distributed.  That is all well and good, but what about the majority of the time that it isn’t the holiday season?  The hungry don’t stop being hungry after the holidays, they are hungry now too!  Given the existing goals of Metro State Atheists, it is only natural that we would attempt to help the hungry by promoting freethought, freedom of expression, and free inquiry.  With the proper support,  we can  have an immeasurable positive community impact!

The event will be taking place at the Auraria Campus (1201 5th St, Denver, CO 80204).   September 28-30th, 9am-4pm (Times Subject to Change)

Metro State Atheists will have SIGNED COPIES available at Food For Freethought 2010 by the following authors:

Hemant MehtaDaniel Dennett , James RandiMichael ShermerDan Barker, and…RICHARD DAWKINS!. If you’d like to obtain any of these signed copies, donate food!

Largest donors receive signed books!

Metro State Atheists would like to formally thank the above and the following groups  for their support:

The James Randi Educational Foundation

The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science

The Center for Inquiry

Secular Student Alliance

Skeptic Magazine

Freedom From Religion Foundation

How can I help?

AMAZON.COM Wishlist

Click here and check out the Food for Freethought 2009 wishlist.  From there you can buy the books directly and they will be sent to us!

A special thanks to Tanya J. Higgins of Boulder, CO for setting this up.

Donate Books:

If you have any of the books on the banned book list (http://banned-books.com/bblist.html) and would like to donate it to the cause, please email Joel Guttormson at metroatheists@hotmail.com to set up pick up/delievery of your donation.


July 28, 2009 Posted by | Art, Astrology, Astronomy, atheism, Awards, Bacteriology, Bible, biology, Blurb, Books, Calculus, Censorship, Center For Inquiry, Charity, Chemistry, Christianity, Chromatography, creationism, Differential Equations, Epistemology, Events, evolution, First Century, god, Group Theory, Guest Bloggers, Humor, Interview, Jesus, Jesus Christ, Jesus is Lord, Language, Lecture, Mathematics, Medicine, Metro State Atheists, Microbiology, Morality, Movies, New Testament, News, Newsletter, Noah Mann-Engel, Old Testament, Organic Chemistry, Party, philosophy, Pictures, Poetry, Politics, Poll, Press Release, Pseudomedicine, Pseudoscience, Qoutes, religion, Resume, Rome, Sam Singleton, Sarah Schoonmaker, Satire, science, Scientology, Sirius, Skepticism, splendid elles, The Holy Bible, The Reed Secular Alliance, The Trickster, Troy Conrad, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Joel on MetRadio June 8, 2009

President of  Metro State Atheists, Joel Guttormson, will be on the MetRadio show, “Take Issue”, on June 8, 2009 from 2pm-3pm .  Joel will be on for 45 mins, the first 15 mins are for news.  You may listen to the show on the Auraria Campus on 91.7; best reception is in the Tivoli.  Metro State Atheists is a Center for Inquiry affiliate.  MetRadio is the radio station of Metropolitan State College of Denver.

If you are not on the Auraria Campus you must listen to the show online.

LISTEN TO THE SHOW: (You will need Real Player, get it here)

IN YOUR BROWSER

ON YOUR COMP W/ REAL PLAYER

-SUBSCRIBE TO THE METRADIO PODCAST HERE

June 2, 2009 Posted by | Astrology, atheism, Bible, Blurb, Books, Censorship, Center For Inquiry, Chemistry, Christianity, creationism, Epistemology, Events, evolution, First Century, god, Interview, Jesus, Jesus Christ, Jesus is Lord, Language, Lecture, Metro State Atheists, Morality, New Testament, News, Newsletter, Old Testament, philosophy, Politics, Press Release, religion, Scientology, Skepticism, The Holy Bible, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Pro-Choice+Pro Life=Common Goal?

Abortion is one of the most controversial issues of our time.  Like most controversies, there exist two main sides that seem diametrically opposed to each other.  However, I believe that in this conflict there is a way for both sides to work together towards a common goal that will benefit both human life and society for the long term.  Before continuing it is important to clarify where each side stands.  Those on the “pro-life” side assert that abortion is morally wrong.  This is usually, but not always, based on the assertion that God (usually the Christian god) has a purpose for all human beings and that the soul enters the zygote at the moment of conception.  If one holds these assertions as truth it isn’t difficult to feel some sympathy to for their position.  For those who stand on the side of being “pro-choice”, abortion is seen as primarily a medical procedure.  Further, most “pro-choicers” would say that it should be a last resort only after all other options and factors such as personal socioeconomic situation and health have been carefully considered.  This is because abortion, by its very nature, is intrusive, can lead to irreparable damage to the reproductive abilities of the woman and can have severe emotional side-effects (similar to those of women who have miscarried, ie. natural abortion).  Therefore, they see abortion as a choice but one that should be used sparingly.

One side feels it is absolutely wrong while the other sees it as treatment and thus not completely wrong. Most of the “pro-choice” and “pro-life” individuals I have known through the years would generally agree with this summary of their general views on the subject. However, there are extremists on both sides. Carl Sagan[i] said of them, “doubtful arguments are trotted out as certitudes”. Thus, it would appear that there is little possibility of reconciliation between the sides. One side feels it is absolutely wrong while the other sees it as treatment and thus not completely wrong.  How then could they be convinced to work together?  To what common goal could they possibly work towards? To begin, I point out that both sides can agree that abortion is at minimum, undesirable.  With this minor agreement as a foundation let us consider other procedures past and present that have either been eradicated from medical practice or are presently being phased out due to current medical therapies/treatments/advances.

For simplicity, let us consider another undesirable medical practice that is less controversial, at least ethically; amputation.  Surgical amputations “date back at least to the time of Hippocrates (c.460-375 B.C.), amputating limbs to save lives did not become widespread until the sixteenth century.”(Source)  Obviously, amputations “were performed mainly to remove tissue that was already dead. The reason for this limitation is that early surgical techniques could not control the blood loss.” (Source)  Advances were made in surgical practices to prevent this hemorrhaging such as tying off the arteries. (Source)  Amputation is an extreme medical practice which, over time given medical advances, decreases in use relative to the population.  In a 1998 article in the journal “Diabetes Care”, Andrew D. Morris, MD et.al.[1] found that “rates in the U.S. Amputation rates appear to have decreased significantly since 1980–1982.”(Source)  The reason given for the decrease was education about diabetes and advances in care.  Another study found that “[t]he frequency of major amputations in the country in 1986-87 of 40.9 per 100,000 per year declined by 25% to 30.9 per 100,000 per year in 1989-90.”(Source), stating further that “vascular surgery reduces the number of major lower limb amputations.”(Source)  Given these and many other examples, it is clear that medical advances both in practice and education are responsible for a great deal of the reduction in the use of such an invasive, life-altering, and extreme medical procedure.

How does this relate to abortion?  Not only is abortion undesirable, it is also invasive, life-altering and extreme.  Thus, just as with the case of amputation; where instead of targeting the practice itself the causes were targeted, we should strive to eliminate the causes of abortions as much as possible.  Abortion is obviously necessary in certain cases such as fallopian-tube babies, that if left to go to term, would kill the mother.  Furthermore, just as education about diabetes helped in the reduction of amputations, so too can better sex education and the elimination of “abstinence-only” education reduce the need for abortions among ignorant or accident-prone young people. The following quote from Carl Sagani drives this point home: “Shouldn’t opponents of abortion be handing out contraceptives and teaching school children how to use them? That would be an effective way to reduce the number of abortions.”  Though it is true that you can’t prevent or solve all amputations, so too will we not be able to end all abortions. That is where technology and research is vital.  However, we can, if we work together instead of fighting about who believes what, we can end most abortions by using sound judgment and trusted preventative practices to treat the causes rather than the treatment.

At this point I anticipate some resistance from those extreme pro-lifers who view contraception as evil and won’t have anything to do with it citing that it is God’s will that we end abortion.  This argument seems fraught with logical problems.  1) If God chooses when we are born and when we die, then why couldn’t abortion be a tool of God? 2) If it’s God’s will that abortions end then shouldn’t he be offering a solution to us without us asking? 3) If it’s God’s will that we end abortion, could it be that his will includes research as described above and through His divine grace provide us an answer via data collected in such studies?  In any case, it would seem to be in the best interest of even the most hardcore pro-lifer to work together with pro-choicers and to utilize sound and moral science to reduce the number of abortions. Instead of killing abortion doctors why not try putting them out of business in a more constructive and less violent way, and donate to an organization or research project that is attacking one of the many causes of abortions.  That will accomplish far more than squabbling amongst each other about who’s right and who’s wrong.  The truth is, neither group is right by themselves, they are only right together.

In summary, my hope is that I’ve made it clear to pro-choicers that pro-lifers are not all a bunch of scripture-spouting nut-bars that are out to turn the country into a theocracy.  Also, pro-lifers are truly concerned about human life, just as much as any pro-choicer. The problem lies in the question of when “human” life begins. This question is not as clear-cut as both sides would like it to be, therefore the concerns of the pro-lifers about ending human life is a painful decision that is not completely baseless from a scientific point of view.  Also, I’ve hope I’ve made it clear to pro-lifers that not all pro-choicers are malicious baby killers that care only for the reproductive rights of women and care nothing of potential human beings.  There isn’t a single person that is truly for abortion, but one way to rid ourselves of it as much as possible is embracing science and giving medical research a chance to find the cure for the causes of abortion in an effort to greatly reduce the practice.­


[1] ANDREW D. MORRIS, MD; RITCHIE MCALPINE, BSC; DOUGLAS STEINKE, BSC; DOUGLAS I.R. BOYLE, BSC; ABDUL-RAHIM EBRAHIM; NAVEEN VASUDEV; COLIN P.U. STEWART, MD; ROLAND T. JUNG, MD; GRAHAM P. LEESE, MD; THOMAS M. MACDONALD, MD ; RAY W. NEWTON, FRCP.


[i] In an article that first appeared in Parade magazine on April 22, 1990 entitled “The Question of Abortion: A Search for Answers”, quoted here from his book Billions and Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death the Brink of the Millennium (1997). The article appears as Chapter 15 entitled “Abortion: Is it Possible to be both Pro-Life and Pro-Choice?

April 23, 2009 Posted by | atheism, Bible, biology, Christianity, creationism, Epistemology, evolution, First Century, god, Jesus, Jesus Christ, Jesus is Lord, Metro State Atheists, Morality, New Testament, Old Testament, Pseudomedicine, Pseudoscience, religion, science, The Holy Bible, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 29 Comments

Joel’s Commentary on appearance on Bob Enyart Live 1/7/09

Introduction

As many of you know, I was a guest on the KGOV program, Bob Enyart Live.  Bob is the pastor at Denver Bible Church and host of the show bearing his name.  If you missed the show you can listen to it here.  Since the show is only half an hour, there were things I didn’t get to explain or talk about in the detail I would have liked.  Further, since Bob is the host, he is obviously going to control the speaking time and thus I was left with less than he had, further added to the lack of time I had to explain and expand on my points.  However, this is not way a swipe at Bob or the way he conducts the show, it’s the way it is with any radio show regardless of topic.  The topics I wanted to address are: the discussion towards the end relating to my statement that design and beauty are subjective, that “Bob and Joel agreed that Christians do not assert that God came into existence with the writing of the Bible. Thus inconsistencies, even if they were shown to exist in Scripture, would not disprove God’s existence.”(Source: http://www.kgov.com), and that “being a person has more to do with the non-physical realm of ideas, logic, relationships, and reason, than it does with chemistry and physics.” (Source: http://www.kgov.com).  I was going to tackle the Einstein quotation, but a comment left on a previous blog addresses the topic/point well enough that I don’t not feel that further elaboration is necessary.

1. Beauty and Design are subjective

“The eye may be useful, and apparently well adapted for vision, however it could also serve as a moderately good tetherball for some appropriately sized people or sophisticated mice.”

As previously stated, this discussion occurred toward the end of the show and left neither I nor Bob the sufficient amount of time necessary to address each other’s point to the extent they deserved.  In an effort to state this correctly I will quote directly, both myself and Bob.  Bob begins by claiming “there is a universe of extraordinary beauty and sophistication and obvious design”.  To which I responded “…everything you just said, design and beauty, those are subjective claims”, to which Bob said “design is not subjective”.  Here is where the discussion prematurely ended due to time constraints.  Thus, this is where I’d like to begin my expansion of my claims and a refutation of Bob’s.

Bob and I agreed that beauty is subjective but disagreed with me about my assertion that design is.  When it comes to object of human manufacture, this is true.  However, to reverse the ‘watchmaker’ example, suppose one does in fact come upon a watch.  One who is ignorant of clocks and watches and possibly the idea of time itself may derive a alternative idea of what the device, that we call a watch, is designed for.  This may be stretching a bit, given we must assume the person finding the watch is more or less an idiot.  Therefore, let us examine my claim only using examples to drive the point home.  When I say design is subjective, I obviously do not mean it literally.  What I mean when I say that is observations of some structure or object cannot lead one to infer design automatically or because something “looks complicated”, which is what Bob and most creationists mean when they say something is designed.  Further, if design isn’t subjective then creationists should stop using the term as in the following sentence: “the eye looks designed”.  The word “looks” has a contextual sense of subjectivity; its a word that, used in this context, implies that the viewer/speaker is offering his/her opinion of the observation, not stating a fact of any kind.  However, one need not include the work “looks” in the statement;  such is the case with Bob’s statement “there is a universe of extraordinary beauty and sophistication and obvious design”.  He means design in the way I described above.  This is, in fact, a subjective use of the word design.  Bob used the eye example, like most creationists do.  He says that the eye is designed for vision.  That’s a subjective claim, because evolution wasn’t trying for an eye that has vision, per say.  Vision is an incidental by product of the arrangement of the different “parts” of the eye working together.  I will now attempt to drive home my point using my own example.  Let us suppose we have an ordinary hammer.  There are those that would say that a hammer is “designed” to drive nails into wood, or some other equally pliable material.  Now, suppose further that we happen to find this same hammer used as an axle for a toy truck.  Now, although the hammer works as an axle for the toy truck, it wasn’t designed for this purpose; or was it?  The fact that it works as the axle for the toy truck might be used as evidence that the hammer was, in fact, designed for this purpose.  However, this assumption is baseless and is flawed because it is fraught with the bias of seeing it work this way in this particular, specialized instance.  To bring this back to the famous eye example brought up by Bob; the eye may be useful, and apparently well adapted for vision, however it could also serve as a moderately good tether ball for some appropriately sized people or sophisticated mice.  So, to wrap up my point.  The appearance of design can be and is, most of the time, quite deceiving.  This is precisely because the human brain is wired such that it seeks out patterns and logically systems in things that may not have them at all, such as clouds.  Therefore, it will also seek out a “reason” for something being the way it is; its design.

2. Biblical/Scriptural inconsistencies do not disprove God’s existence

“God is then, at best, reduced to a highly intelligent extraterrestrial capable of creating life on a planet and futilely attempting to affect that life by writing a book.”

This, on the surface, appears to be true.  In fact, on some level it is.  This is useful for getting out of the circular logic of “God wrote the bible, the bible asserts that God exists, therefore God exists”; for if God didn’t write the bible, then what it says about God’s existence is irrelevant to some degree  and since it’s the not the foundation of the argument for his existence, one has broken free of the circle.  However, Bob asserts that the bible is “the infallible word of the living God”.  Starting with this premise, the following are also true (written in order of implication): God exists, God is perfect and thus infallible, God wrote the bible, the bible then is perfect and infallible as a prefect being cannot beget imperfection.  Therefore, any imperfection, however slight, would ,at minimum, call God’s perfection into question.  But, following the implications of this, we see that the following would then be true if any imperfection were discovered in the bible: God exists, God isn’t perfect or infallible, God wrote the bible, the bible isn’t perfect or infallible.  Thus, we’re left with an imperfect, fallible God.  What good is this?  God is then, at best, reduced to a highly intelligent extraterrestrial capable of creating life on a planet and futilely attempting to affect that life by writing a book.  In other words, God would be a super intelligent cosmic mad scientist bent on power, self satisfaction and the cessation of boredom.  Of course, this doesn’t disprove God exists but it sure lends quite a bit of doubt.  In fact, it creates enough doubt to make it more reasonable not to believe in such a deity.  (Notice that this line of reasoning can be applied to all three monotheisms, not just Christianity.)

3. Being a person has more to do with the non-physical realm…than it does with chemistry and physics

“Then with this 60% of soul and spirit, shouldn’t all dogs go to heaven? “

This is hefty claim, even by theological standards.  I’ll start by taking a tally of those things “about us” that are physical, aka comprised of tangible matter and energy.  Our DNA, made of amino acids, which are molecules composed of atoms; our nervous system is made of nerves and energy in the form of electrical impulses which are generated by internal and external stimuli which are themselves are physical; lastly, and most importantly, our brain, composed of tissue, fluid and neurons which are themselves are physical matter. Further, these neurons “communicate” with one another via chemical and electrical signals, which are also physical.  The brain receives information about the world via stimuli provided by the aforementioned nervous system and its various specific subparts (ie eyes, ears).  So far, we’re looking like pretty material beings.  However, Bob asserts that things like memories, personality, consciousness and ideas are non-physical and thus are proof of, at least, a realm beyond the purely material.  I attempted to point out on the show that memories are stored in the brain via the chemical and electrical impulses that the neurons use to communicate with each other.  Personality can be seen in what is commonly referred to the “animal kingdom” (though I don’t care too much for this distinction as it implies that we’re higher than animals when we clearly are animals).  For instance, any individual of our closest evolutionary cousin the chimpanzee exhibits what we recognize as personality.  To “move down” , so to speak, the “animal hierarchy” (again these terms are misleading) to our more distant relatives; dogs are said to have personalities of their own.  Their owners tend to use words and emotional descriptors usually and generally reserved for humans.  Some dogs also have a uncanny memory that we humans have attempted to harness via artificial selection.  So if dogs have memories and personalities, shouldn’t they have, at least 2/3 of soul and spirit, as Bob claims we do because we have these properties.  Then with this 60% of soul and spirit, shouldn’t all dogs go to heaven?  No.  They don’t because they haven’t accepted Jesus Christ as their personal savior.  Poor dogs.   But I digress. The only property, as far as science can tell thusfar, that we have attained that is different from the rest of the animals that cohabit this planet, is consciousness.  What is consciousness exactly?  Its not easily defined, is it?  Let us examine what it means, according to the Oxford English Dictionary. Consciousness is “The state or faculty of being conscious, as a condition and concomitant of all thought, feeling, and volition; ‘the recognition by the thinking subject of its own acts or affections’” and “The state of being conscious, regarded as the normal condition of healthy waking life”.  What is conscious, you might ask?  It is “having internal perception or consciousness: a. of a fact. b. of one’s sensations, feelings, thoughts, etc.”  However, as far as science can tell us to this point, this is also a manifestation of the matter and energy of the brain;  similar to memories and personality, described earlier.  This leads to an interesting thought concerning the story of Adam in the bible.  In the traditional bible story, Adam and Eve are walking around naked without a care in the world.  That is until, according to the story Eve eats the apple and all the sudden they become “aware” of themselves.  So one could in a sense posit that Adam and Eve weren’t conscious until this point.  According to Bob consciousness is an important, if not the most important part of what he called the soul and spirit.  So, Adam and Eve weren’t conscious human beings until they ate from the tree of knowledge.  The last of the non-physical things Bob brings up is ideas.  It is true that ideas are nebulous.  However, what can be said is that not all ideas are 100% original.  Ideas stem from combining, sometimes consciously and subconsciously, memories, stimuli, and logic.  Thus, like the other things our brain does ideas are also is a manifestation of physical matter.

Conclusion

I hope this has helped clarify some of my points and my refutations of Bob’s points.  This isn’t in anyway intended to be an attack on Bob Enyart, his show or anyone close to him.  I don’t want this to be misconstrued as me “getting back at him” nor is it saying that I was shortchanged during the show in terms of time.  This was simply an expansion of my views and thoughts on certain topics of the show I didn’t feel got enough explanation or attention.

January 11, 2009 Posted by | atheism, Bible, Center For Inquiry, Christianity, creationism, Events, First Century, god, Interview, Jesus, Jesus Christ, Jesus is Lord, Language, Metro State Atheists, Morality, New Testament, Newsletter, Old Testament, philosophy, Politics, religion, Rome, science, The Holy Bible, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Joel Guttormson on Bob Enyart Live 1/7/08

In case you missed the show, you can listen to it online here.

Soon, Chalmer and I (Joel) will have blogs up commenting on different aspects of the show.  Watch this page tomorrow as we’ll be posting links to the blogs in this post, in case you don’t see them on the main page.

Joel’s Commentary

Chalmer’s Commentary

Thank you!

Joel

President

Metro State Atheists

January 8, 2009 Posted by | atheism, Bible, Calculus, Center For Inquiry, Christianity, creationism, Differential Equations, Events, First Century, god, Interview, Jesus, Jesus Christ, Jesus is Lord, Lecture, Mathematics, Metro State Atheists, Morality, New Testament, News, Newsletter, Old Testament, philosophy, Politics, Press Release, religion, science, The Holy Bible, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Joel Guttormson debates radio show host Bob Enyart (AM 670)

From Theology Online:

“Atheist Billboard spokesman, Joel Guttormson, (“Don’t Believe in God, You’re Not Alone”) will debate Radio talk show host Bob Enyart this Wednesday on Bob’s radio and Internet show (AM 670, Internet www.KGOV.com) .

Both sides have been sent information on the other (Bob’s show with his interview of Dan Barker was sent to Joel, and Joel’s website https://metrostateatheists.wordpress.com/ was sent to Bob).”

The show will at 3pm MT, Wednesday January 7th.

Here is the  link to Bob’s interview with our friend Dan Barker.

Commentary on the show can be viewed by using the links below:

Joel’s Commentary

Chalmer’s Commentary

Metro State Atheists

January 6, 2009 Posted by | Art, Astrology, Astronomy, atheism, Bacteriology, Bible, biology, Blurb, Calculus, Censorship, Center For Inquiry, Chemistry, Christianity, creationism, Differential Equations, Events, First Century, god, Humor, Interview, Jesus, Jesus Christ, Jesus is Lord, Language, Lecture, Mathematics, Medicine, Metro State Atheists, Microbiology, Morality, Movies, New Testament, News, Newsletter, Old Testament, Organic Chemistry, Party, philosophy, Pictures, Poetry, Politics, Poll, Press Release, Pseudomedicine, Pseudoscience, Qoutes, religion, Rome, Satire, science, Scientology, Sirius, splendid elles, The Holy Bible, The Trickster | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Materialism and Morality

So, according to Michael Humphrey from The Daily Everygreen Online, atheism precludes the possibility of having morals. I thought I would take some time address some of the claims made in his article.

Pure materialism rejects the existence of anything beyond matter and its interaction. When all events in the universe are reduced to the colliding of atoms, there’s no room for good or bad. These interactions are purposeless and irrational.

Though it may be without purpose, it is far from being irrational. The interactions of matter are consistent. If one is rational, it means their opinions are consistent with and logically derived from established facts and observations. The interactions of matter are determined by the properties inherent to the matter itself. Matter never deviates from its own nature, and never reaches irrational conclusions. The material world never actually reaches any conclusions, nor does matter apply reason to anything because matter is not aware of facts and it doesn’t make observations. Matter has no need to derive truth from itself, because the properties of matter, and energy, dictate what truth is.

Because of this reductionism of everything, materialists argue that humans are the same as animals, thus taking away the dignity humans have.

I’m not so insecure that I think my worthiness of esteem and respect is somehow robbed if I’m not the product of divine inspiration. Dignity is only lost if your standard for dignity requires that the entirety of the universe revolves around our tiny little lives. Besides, why should truth conform to the whims of our discontentions. Reality need not think you speacial in order to remain real.

This line of thinking is severe and deadly. Let’s consider whether it is evil or not to kill an animal. If it is evil to indiscriminately kill an animal, then it is also evil to indiscriminately kill humans. However, the unfortunate side effect of this is that we must stop washing anything, because killing bacteria – animals – is just like killing people.

The other option is that indiscriminately killing animals is not evil, but then killing humans indiscriminately isn’t evil either. So the worst atrocities of human history are nothing more than just washing your hands.

In either case, the final issue is that the Holocaust becomes morally equivalent to cleaning a dirty bathroom.

This is a very simplistic view of morality because it does not take into account the reasons why we consider killing in some circumstances wrong and not in others. The killing itself is not inherently wrong and, for most people, the moral implications of the act are based on other factors such as necessity and sentience.

Then things such as altruism are only believed to be “good” because they benefit the species and forward our evolution. However, altruism and self sacrifice are actually a detriment to our progress. If the weak are procreating, they only pollute the gene pool and ultimately damage the species. If Dawkins is right about memes and morality developing in an evolutionary way, then all forms of altruism will quickly exterminate themselves, since it is disadvantageous evolutionarily.

Altruism need not be applied only to the weak and, as a social species, our certain weaknesses can be more tolerated in the population. When a parent cares for her children or her relatives, he/she is helping to ensure that members of the species sharing at least some of his or genome are more likely to survive. While altruism might perpetuate certain weaknesses, such as strength, it selects for intelligence and strengthens the group by cultivating problem solving skills. Altruistic behavior is even present at the cellular level. In multicellular organisms, a process of cell destruction called apoptosis occurs. Apoptosis can be mediated by the organism, or by the cell to be destroyed. In one case we see murder, but in the other we see self-directed cellular suicide. When the cell poses a threat to the organism, it quite literally takes one for the team. I’m fairly certain Dawkins discusses social evolution in more than a few of his books, and he addresses this very concern. If Humphery read Dawkins work at all, he might have been aware of that.

Furthermore, this type of thinking on morality can lead some to justify atrocities. If we take Dawkins at his word about the evolution of morality, then for the sake of the species almost every corner of the world has found it acceptable to enslave, exterminate and sterilize humans at some point.

The behavioral parameters we have are not absolute, because our circumstances are not absolute. Many societies have also deemed slavery not acceptable. Why should we assume that one circumstance is inherently implied while the other is not? Evolutionary pros and cons exist for societies advocating slavery and those not advocating slavery. Ultimately, slavery is less beneficial. Freedom allows for the persistence of genetic diversity and increases the likelihood that a beneficial characteristic will be have a chance to enter the population. Freedom is potentially beneficial for every member of our species, while slavery only favors the few. Humphery also seems to think that those who use slavery are so capable because they are superior. Slave drivers usually have a weapon, something their genetics know nothing about. Technology has changed the course of evolution. Almost anyone, regardless of their genetic “inferiority”, can pull a trigger.

It was once legal and morally acceptable to own slaves, yet Western civilization considers freedom to be an inalienable right. But from Dawkins’ point of view, it could be prudent for our species to enslave the weak for survival of the strong.

Slavery does not favor the strong. With a weapon, even a child is potentially deadly. Also, if I were to advocate slavery, I would have to acknowledge the potential that I might be enslaved. Not only is it in the best interest of our species to remain free, but it is in the best interests of the individual.

These conclusions, once illuminated for what they are, morally corrupt – lose their creditabilty. They are simply a gross oversimplification of the human condition. We are more than biological programs.

This reasoning is completely circular. Humphery correctly implies that certain atrocities such as slavery are neither morally right or wrong, but then arbitrarily decides that such a a conclusion is unacceptable. In other words, he’s assuming the existence of absolute moral truths, and using them as evidence that moral relativism is irrational. Humphery deems the implications of moral relativism unacceptable by applying them to his as yet unjustified absolute moral standards. Humphery’s argument establishes nothing, it requires that moral absolutes already exist. His argument is as follows:

Slavery is wrong, moral relativism implies otherwise, therefore moral relativism is wrong.

That Slavery is absolutely wrong, or that moral absolutes even exist, is never established and the assumption never actually justified.

God gave us stewardship over creation not to exploit, but to tend it as a servant tends his master’s vineyard.

I may have spoken to soon. It seems Humphery feels that servitude is morally acceptable. How ironic…

-Chalmer

October 7, 2008 Posted by | Morality, philosophy, religion | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment