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Moral Absolutes:
An Exchange With Atheist Paul Baird.

The following is an exchange excerpted from the Debunking Atheists blog, in particular a discussion on the issue of absolute truth and absolute morals, between UK atheist Paul Baird and Gary. This page is devoted solely to the exchange between Paul Baird and myself (Paul Gosselin). On this blog, I’ve gone by the profile, “pogo”.

Posts are in chronological order, beginning with Baird’s opening statement. Posts are preceded by the person’s name posting the message, followed by the date, then the message. To follow this exchange I’ve resorted to the stupid/simple standard email text format. Quotes are preceded by “>” and previous exchanges are preceded by “>>”. A line separates one post from another. Because posts have bounced around from one site to another, I may have missed a post. This discussion has been hard to follow...

Issues addressed in the exchange:
The implications of moral relativism
Frederick Nietzsche on ethics outside the Judeo-Christian world-view
The destructive influence of the Enlightenment in the West
Is the Judeo-Christian world-view the direct source of ALL morality?
Is Christianity the source of anti-Semitism?
Evolution as an origins myth
Divine right of Kings
Extrapolating "micro-evolution" to macro-evolution
A contribution from Jerry Bergman (On Martin Luther’s Anti-Semitism)
Church-State relations in the "Christian" West
Papal infallibility
Enlightenment influence in pre-WWII Japan
Oddball thoughts on death





Paul Baird said... (November 23, 2010 11:44 AM)
Ok, my worldview is that
absolute truth does not exist
absolute morality does not exist
absolute laws of logic do not exist
I'm pretty certain that someone will absolutely misunderstand my worldview.
It is not enough to simply question my worldview as part of any countering response.
Please take each part and briefly refute it.
If we can keep the posts brief but pertinent then the exchanges should be more fruitful.
Thanks.


Pogo said (November 30, 2010 12:19 PM)

Paul Baird stated :

> Ok, my worldview is that
>
> absolute truth does not exist
> absolute morality does not exist
> absolute laws of logic do not exist

First off I’d say that this is a consistent position to adopt if one is a materialist or a Darwinist. If there is no Creator, to whom we have to account, then morals are inevitably an individual matter. If there is no Creator, it is entirely logical to state that absolute truth or morality do not exist. Of course coercive political leaders may impose their own morality on others, but that is just an expression of their political power, no more. Under Stalin, the Stalin personality-cult was a Big Thing. No dissent was tolerated. Now that Stalin’s gone, it’s just a curious footnote to the history of ideologies. Seeing your expressed position, I assume you would agree with a statement by William B. Provine, an evolutionist and professor of biology at Cornell University on the social and philosophical impact of the theory of evolution (1990: 23):

"(...), when he [Darwin] deduced the theory of natural selection to explain the adaptations in which he had previously seen the handiwork of God, Darwin knew that he was committing cultural murder. He understood immediately that if natural selection explained adaptations, and evolution by descent were true, then the argument from design was dead and all that went with it, namely the existence of a personal god, free will, life after death, immutable moral laws, and ultimate meaning in life. The immediate reactions to Darwin's On the Origin of Species exhibit, in addition to favourable and admiring responses from a relatively few scientists, an understandable fear and disgust that has never disappeared from Western culture."

Now my interest here is to explore the implications of PB’s statements about his worldview (his statements about truth and morality in particular). In my experience materialist’s behaviour and discourse are rarely consistent with their stated worldview, but there are a few exceptions. One of these exceptions is a cheerful fellow who lived a few hundred years ago called Donatien Alphonse François, the marquis de Sade.

In a previous note Gary briefly alluded to de Sade, but the critical issues about de Sade never got any serious attention. If the marquis de Sade is unknown to some here, try the pertinent Wiki article.

As a pre-Darwinian materialist, de Sade considered that if the gods are dead, where do humans turn to for moral standards? His solution to this dilemma was simple; imitate nature. Here is how he worked out the implications of his moral system in regards to relationships between men and women. (Sade 1795/1972: 112, my comments in brackets)

"If it is undisputed that we [men] have received from nature the right to express our [sexual] desires indifferently to all women, it equally true that we have the right to require them to submit to our desires, not on an exclusive basis [Sade is thinking of marriage for life here], I should be contradicting myself, but on a temporary basis. It is undeniable that we have the right to establish laws requiring her [the woman] to submit to the passion of he who desires her. Violence is one of the implications of this right and we are entitled to use it legally. But why not !? Nature itself has proven that we have this right in that it has endowed us with superior strength with which we may submit them to our desires." (my translation)

Now I have a question for PB, do you agree with the Marquis de Sade who basically states that because Nature has made men stronger than women, this justifies men doing absolutely ANYTHING they want with/to women? If you agree with de Sade, then I would say that you are being logical and consistent with your worldview. That said, I do NOT agree with Sade’s materialism, nor his view of male/female relationships, but I do agree he is at least being consistent within his worldview. However if you disagree with de Sade’s view of male/female relationships, then I would demand you to justify your disagreement and indicate to the other participants of this forum what the BASIS for your disagreement is.

----
Refs
Provine, William B. Response to Phillip Johnson. (Letter) pp. 23-24
in First Things mag no. 6 (October 1990)

Sade, Marquis de; & Blanchot, Maurice (1795/1972) Français, encore un effort si vous voulez être républicains_. (extrait de La Philosophie dans le boudoir”) précédé de L'inconvenance majeure. Jean-Jacques Pauvert Paris (collection Libertés nouvelles; 23) 163 p. (has been translated, Philosophy in the Bedroom)



Pogo sais (Wednesday, 1 December 2010)

Sure I’m real, really…

PB switched to another blog to respond to my question about de Sade’s morality, but seeing the discussion is here, I will respond here. PB responded:

> “Was it morally right within it's paradigm - yes. I do not accept that the
> Serfowners or Slaveowners viewed their actions as immoral within their
> setting.
> Is it morally right within my moral paradigm - no. As a society we have
> changed our views towards serfdom and slavery and we now hold both practices
> to be immoral.

Ok, Paul, so you don’t agree with de Sade’s views about male-female relationships. Fine, but WHY you disagree is NOT clear at all. Hiding behind “society” doesn’t cut it either. Perhaps you have a different line of moral thinking than de Sade’s. Great, then bring it out in the open where we can all see it, get it out of the closet. I assume you are a rational person, then it shouldn’t be such a big deal to explain what you believe and WHY you believe it.


 

Paul Baird said ( Wednesday, 1 December 2010)
Response to Pogo #2

Same format as before

pogo has left a new comment on the post "A Discussion": Wednesday, 1 December, 2010 16:53:55

> PB switched to another blog to respond to my question about de Sade’s
> morality, but seeing the discussion is here, I will respond here.

PB responded:

“Was it morally right within it's paradigm - yes. I do not accept that the Serfowners or Slaveowners viewed their actions as immoral within their setting.
Is it morally right within my moral paradigm - no. As a society we have changed our views towards serfdom and slavery and we now hold both practices to be immoral.

> Ok, Paul, so you don’t agree with de Sade’s views about male-female
> relationships. That's fine, but WHY you disagree is NOT clear at all. Hiding
> behind “society” doesn’t cut it either. Perhaps you have a different line of
> moral thinking than de Sade’s. Great, then bring it out in the open where we
> can all see it, get it out of the closet. I assume you are a rational person,
> then it shouldn’t be such a big deal to explain what you believe and WHY you
> believe it.

It's difficult to see how someone can read the many posts that I've made and still not comprehend what I've written. The suspicion is that the misunderstanding is either feigned or some sort of weird verbal trap.

Anyway - first go to my original post <http://patientandpersistant.blogspot.com/2010/12/response-to-pogo-1.html> where I attempted a response to Pogo's Marquis de Sade's 'basic statement'.

Next look at an earlier post wherein I gave an explanation of my morality
Paul Baird has left a new comment on the post "A Discussion":

- continued

> Gary also wrote:
>
> "In my opinion the ...is child abuse.
>
> Why?
> What's "wrong" with doing what ever one wants wishes to children?"

Great question.
This is the crux of the issue of relative morality - how do I determine what is right and what is wrong, and then extend that to the concepts of kin, group, and society.

I begin by asking a simple question

"How would I feel if that action or inaction were directly applied to me ?"

Then I extend the question
"How would I feel if that action or inaction were applied to my kinfolk (starting with my immediate family) ?"
from that I have a sense of ethics and morality relating to myself and my immediate family.
I can then extend the question to my social group, and to my wider culture and society.
Thus I can make ethical and moral judgements, and also accept that those ethics and morals can change.
I would have thought that that was enough - perhaps Pogo can let me know and answer the question that I in turn asked him
What would be interesting is for Pogo to answer whether or not the practice is absolutely right or absolutely wrong, and why.

Over to you Pogo.




Pogo said (Dec. 8th 2010)
In his previous note, Paul Baird commented:

> It's difficult to see how someone can read the many posts that I've made and
> still not comprehend what I've written. The suspicion is that the
> misunderstanding is either feigned or some sort of weird verbal trap.

Well I am a latecomer to the discussion on Debunking Atheists and must admit I haven’t read all the posts here, so I may have missed a thing or two. But as for traps, perhaps the real trap is of your own making. But more on that later…

Quoting a previous post of his, PB made the following points about his moral perspective.

> This is the crux of the issue of relative morality - how do I determine what
> is right and what is wrong, and then extend that to the concepts of kin,
> group, and society. I begin by asking a simple question: "How would I feel if
> that action or inaction were directly applied to me ?"
>
> Then I extend the question
> "How would I feel if that action or inaction were applied to my kinfolk
> (starting with my immediate family) ?"
> from that I have a sense of ethics and morality relating to myself and my
> immediate family.
> I can then extend the question to my social group, and to my wider culture and
> society.
> Thus I can make ethical and moral judgements, and also accept that those
> ethics and morals can change.

Ah, now we’re getting somewhere! So based on what you’ve said here, boiling your ethical stance down to it’s essence, one could say that you base your conception of right/wrong on how you feel. This is your ultimate ethical standard or reference point. Oh, of course, I shouldn’t misrepresent your statement as you did also say that action or inaction should be judged on the basis of it’s effect on you and/or your kinfolk/family. That’s all fine, but it does remind me of something I’ve heard before. Where did I hear something like that???

Something about “Golden”… Was it the Golden Pond or the Golden Ratio or the Golden Age?? Oh, I remember now, it was the Golden Rule, wasn’t it? “Do unto others as you would” and all that stuff… Well, it is rather shocking to discover that Paul Baird is a closet Judeo-Christian after all… It’s a shame really after making such a strong case for atheism up until now. Being a consistent atheist isn’t quite as easy as it would seem I suppose.

Many years ago, Frederick Nietzsche made some rather snide comments about similar behaviour he’d observed in his own time. In his essay Twilight of the Idols (ix.5), he cynically remarked:

"G. Eliot. They are rid of the Christian God and now believe all the more firmly that they must cling to Christian morality. That is an English consistency; we do not wish to hold it against little moralistic females à la Eliot. In England one must rehabilitate oneself after every little emancipation from theology by showing in a veritably awe-inspiring manner what a moral fanatic one is. That is the penance they pay there.
"We others hold otherwise. When one gives up the Christian faith, one pulls the right to Christian morality out from under one's feet. This morality is by no means self-evident: this point has to be exhibited again and again, despite the English flatheads. Christianity is a system, a whole view of things thought out together. By breaking one main concept out of it, the faith in God, one breaks the whole: nothing necessary remains in one's hands. Christianity presupposes that man does not know, cannot know, what is good for him, what evil: he believes in God, who alone knows it. Christian morality is a command; its origin is transcendent; it is beyond all criticism, all right to criticism; it has truth only if God is the truth--it stands or falls with faith in God.
"When the English actually believe that they know 'intuitively' what is good and evil, when they therefore suppose that they no longer require Christianity as the guarantee of morality, we merely witness the effects of the dominion of the Christian value judgment and an expression of the strength and depth of this dominion: such that the origin of English morality has been forgotten, such that the very conditional character of its right to existence is no longer felt. For the English, morality is not yet a problem."

Now setting aside issues of coherence raised by PB’s borrowings from the Judeo- Christian tradition, there is a further matter. PB says that once his rule is established, he feels free to extend it to others. Now this is an interesting step. In the Judeo-Christian world-view such is step is rationally justified by the belief that ALL men are made in God’s image and thus worthy of respect and justice. But PB is not operating in this framework so he cannot extend his rule in such an off-hand manner without first justifying this extension. Could you please provide us with this justification Paul B? You can’t reject the JC world-view and parasite it’s moral system at the same time.

But suppose one did allow you, for sake of argument, to extend your moral judgements first to your family, then to your social group, and from there on to the wider culture and society. That’s fine, but at best this will only result in tribalism. My ethics are good/applicable to my tribe. Hitler for example was fine with a tribal moral system (the Aryan race was his tribe). Other tribes were excluded from his moral system. The problem is that a tribal moral system does not logically exclude slavery of other groups, nor genocide. If you want universal rights and justice, then tribalism can’t take you there.

But getting back to the basis you offered for moral judgements (feelings), you stated:

> “Thus I can make ethical and moral judgements, and also accept that those
> ethics and morals can change.”

But seeing how you reject fixed moral codes of any kind, how can you determine if you are actually making “moral judgements”, as opposed to just having an emotional reaction to a situation? This is not clear. In the context of your rejection of moral absolutes, talking about “moral judgements” then seems little more than mouthing empty words… In the Judeo-Christian context, emotions do obviously come into the picture, but there is more to it than that. In this context, the subjective emotional issues raised by the Golden Rule (or the Good Samaritan parable) are essentially pedagogical tools allowing us to get a very personal grasp of moral absolutes. On their own, our emotions take us nowhere. But in your system, you can’t get beyond subjectivity. That is the trap.

As you said, “morals can change”. And they have... A hundred years ago divorce and abortion were if not practically unheard of, very limited in scope in the West. Back then discussion of gay rights or gay marriage would also have been unconceivable. Now the “unconceivable” is part of daily life. But, we cannot stick our heads in the sand. Your concept of “morals can change” has potential for further change. Today it is unconceivable that slavery for example be reintroduced, but if marketing issues were taken care of, based on “morals can change”, slavery could well be reintroduced and easily justified by invoking “the greater economic good” or some such rationale. If one allows that “morals can change” is a paramount principle, there is no obstacle to slavery being reintroduced. If you find Paul that your Golden Rule and your statement that “morals can change” are in conflict, which will you discard? In the West, the politically correct marketing machine has gotten VERY adept at breaking down past scruples and engineering behaviour and attitude changes. It would be stupid to underestimate its capacity for social and moral change in the West. The seed is there, the only question what end result will be considered desirable by our elites and will this seed be nourished and allowed to fully mature?

But suppose for a moment we went back to de Sade and his view of male/female relations. Today you reject de Sade’s perspective on human relations and his conclusion that Nature having made men (generally) stronger than women, this justifies men doing absolutely anything they want to/with women. But when you state that “I can make ethical and moral judgements, and also accept that those ethics and morals can change”, logically this does not exclude you from agreeing with de Sade tomorrow. Though distasteful, excluding marketing concerns, I see no real barrier (beyond peer pressure) to such a switch within your “moral system”. Seeing that feelings are the ultimate reference point in your moral system, perhaps tomorrow, you may “feel like” agreeing with de Sade after all. Can you see that?

Ending your last note, you requested a response to a question you’d asked me. Something about whether or not “the practice” is absolutely right or absolutely wrong, and why. I’m afraid I lost track of your original question. Were you referring to slavery or the feudal/serf system or to de Sade's abuses of women?

PS: Besides de Sade, I would also consider animal rights activist and philosopher Peter Singer as one of the very few logically consistent materialists. Nietzsche comes close, but only talks (in Also Spoke Zarathustra ?) about "dancing at the edge of the Abyss", whereas de Sade and Singer actually dove in… Përhaps I should throw in Existentialist philopher Albert Camus who wrote brutally in The Rebel (1951):

If we believe in nothing, if nothing has any meaning and if we can affirm no values whatsoever, then everything is possible and nothing has any importance. There is no pro or con: the murderer is neither right nor wrong. We are free to stoke the crematory fires [participate in the Final Solution PG] or to devote ourselves to the care of lepers. Evil and virtue are mere chance or caprice.

Another example that comes to mind is evolutionist Mark Hauser, author of Moral Minds: How Nature Designed a Universal Sense of Right and Wrong? (2006, a book on evolutionary ethics. Since the publication of this book Hauser has had to face accusations of scientific misconduct in his research and publications.Why am I not surprised??

---
Refs.
Nietzsche, Friedrich
Twilight of the Idols. 1895 (translation by Walter Kaufmann and R.J. Hollingdale)


Paul Baird said: (December 8, 2010 8:45 AM )
Pogo - I missed the whole Provine quote first time around - apologies.

> He understood immediately that if natural selection explained adaptations, and evolution by descent were true,
> then the argument from design was dead and all that went with it, namely the existence of a personal god, free will,
> life after death, immutable moral laws, and ultimate meaning in life.

I don't know that I could agree with that - it's a bit of a blanket statement. To my eyes, evolution is an explanation of what we see. To go further and propose that it is some God killer or Theistic refuter is a bit naive.
What it does have issues with is any explanations of how life came to be that is not supported by the evidence, and the one explanation that is in real trouble is a literal reading of Genesis 1 and 2. I think that theism is in more trouble from the field of Western Philosophy than from evolution.

Later on in your blog you say

> Now setting aside issues of coherence raised by PB’s borrowings from the Judeo- Christian tradition, there is a further matter.

Now that is a teensy bit naughty, Pogo.
You have fallen into the trap of asserting that Judeo-Christianity is the fount of all morality. Which begs the question - in pre-Christian societies what was the source of their morality ? And, in the absence of a Judeo-Christian moral code why did those societies not collapse in immoral anarchy ?
Oops.
Pre-Christian societies had moral codes, any society needs mores and norms in order to function as a group.
You are making the mistake of assuming that the only possible source of such is Judeo-Christianity.
It isn't.
I'll post a fuller response later on tonight.


Paul Baird said: (December 8, 2010 8:52 AM)

Pogo, later on you write:

> But when you state that “I can make ethical and moral judgements, and also accept that those ethics and morals can change”
> logically this does not exclude you from agreeing with de Sade tomorrow. Though distasteful, excluding marketing concerns,
> I see no real barrier (beyond peer pressure) to such a switch within your “moral system”.

Yes, and I don't see a problem with that.
However distasteful from todays paradigm, I cannot prejudge what may be acceptable in future paradigms. Who knows, maybe slavery and serfdom may come back.


Pogo said (December 10, 2010)


Quoting Paul B.

> Pogo - I missed the whole Provine quote first time around - apologies._
>
> He understood immediately that if natural selection explained adaptations, and
> evolution by descent were true, then the argument from design was dead and all
> that went with it, namely the existence of a personal god, free will, life
> after death, immutable moral laws, and ultimate meaning in life.
>
> I don't know that I could agree with that - it's a bit of a blanket
> statement. To my eyes, evolution is an explanation of what we see. To go
> further and propose that it is some God killer or Theistic refuter is a bit
> naive. What it does have issues with is any explanations of how life came to
> be that is not supported by the evidence, and the one explanation that is in
> real trouble is a literal reading of Genesis 1 and 2_I think that theism is
> in more trouble from the field of Western Philosophy than from evolution.

I would say it all depends how you look at Provine’s statement. If you look at it from a sociological perspective (as you do), then it is quite true that theists of various stripe have accomodated to the theory of evolution. But whether this is coherent with their stated worldview is another matter. If one persues the sociological perspective on this observable fact, then during the course of the 20th century the evolutionary cosmology has become the dominant origins myth. As it has loudly claimed the status of “scientific theory” it has become in the eyes of many untouchable and thus many see no other recourse, but to “adapt” to this "fact" (rather than question it’s status). In marketing the evolutionary cosmology to theists, the stances of such “useful idiots” are touted by many materialists as evidence that evolution and christian religious belief can peacefully coexist, even if these materialists in fact despise the actual beliefs of these evolutionary theists. Though sociologically you have a case, in logical terms Provine is right. Perhaps your own philosophical/ideological journey is the best demonstration of this. It all depends on whether “acceptability” or coherence is considered the highest good. Even Darwin took out the remarks about the Creator that appeared at the end of the first edition of the Origins. After the initial shock of the publication of the Origin had subsided, they were no longer needed. Marketing, marketing...

> Later on in your blog you say "Now setting aside issues of coherence raised by
> PB’s borrowings from the Judeo- Christian tradition, there is a further
> matter." Now that is a teensy bit naughty, Pogo. You have fallen into the
> trap of asserting that Judeo-Christianity is the fount of all morality. Which
> begs the question - in pre-Christian societies what was the source of their
> morality ? And, in the absence of a Judeo-Christian moral code why did those
> societies not collapse in immoral anarchy? Oops. Pre-Christian societies had
> moral codes, any society needs mores and norms in order to function as a
> group. You are making the mistake of assuming that the only possible source
> of such is Judeo-Christianity.
> It isn't.

Yes, admittedly that was a bit naughty. I have to admit I did overstep my argument somewhat there. If invoking the Golden Rule doesn’t make you a Christian, the question remains though; does it make you a consistent materialist? I’m not sure that it does... As far as I can tell, the Golden Rule is just one many possible moral outcomes. It is true as well that other, non Judeo-Christian societies have developed recognizable moral systems with concepts similar to the Golden Rule. This is something another Brit (CS Lewis) discussed in his booklet Abolition of Man. He put this under the concept of the “Tao”, that is a universal form of basic morality that ALL men inherit due to their being created in God’s image (not much to do with taoism). So there is a Christian explanation for this phenomenon.

Yes, I am quite aware on the other hand that there is Darwinian explanation for human moral behaviour as well. Societies implementing certain rules for interpersonal behaviour survived better or out-competed societies that did not implement such rules. Evolution did it! Of course..., but I would have to point out that logically this statement is not based on empirical observation so it must be put in the same metaphysical category as Christian statements that “God did it!” (about some aspect of Creation). At best, statements that “Evolution did it!” create the illusion that the evolutionary cosmology provides an “scientific” explanation for the world as we know it, but these statements don’t actually prove anything or have anything to do with science... tho they may be interesting from a literary point of view.

In discussing pre-Christian societies, you asked “And, in the absence of a Judeo-Christian moral code why did those societies not collapse in immoral anarchy?”, but seeing your position on moral absolutes, how would you ever make that judgement call? How would you recognize “immoral anarchy” if you saw it? The Mayans, for example, developed a high level of civilisation that flourished for many hundreds of years. They even had a calendar that was as accurate as our own, but also had an ideology that demanded human sacrifice. Nazi Germany also developed a high level of civilisation. Their autobahns are still good examples of German technical know-how. These societies did not (quickly) descend into anarchy, but functioned for quite a while (hundreds of years actually in the case of the Mayans). Though you might find Mayan human sacrifice or the Nazi Final Solution “distasteful”, do you have a solid basis for judging these societies cases of “immoral anarchy”?

Perhaps the real issue here is what happens when whole societies apply the Darwinian/materialist cosmology and attempt to build a civilisation on this basis? Stalinist Russia and communist China come to mind... These are not exactly shining examples of great culture, freedom of expression, nor admirable defenders of religious or human rights. Even in economic terms they’ve been a failure as the Iron Curtain has fallen and of late China has become more of a capitalist state with one party rule...

But as to Lewis’ Tao concept, I would tend to be more pessimistic than he was. Lewis seemed to advocate the idea that all humans would (instinctively) promote the Tao and attempt to live by it. But in my view, the 20th century has demonstrated that even as an abstract ideal, the Tao (including the Golden Rule) has been hugely eroded in the West. For example, Germany has given us great scientists, philosophers, musicians such as Bach and Beethoven, but also Hitler and the Final solution. In his essay Grammars of Creation, UK literary critic George Steiner made some telling comments about this époque when Enlightenment concepts were used to build a new civilisation.

The catastrophe which overtook European and Slavic civilization was particular in another sense. It undid previous advances. Even the ironists of the Enlightenment (Voltaire) had confidently predicted the lasting abolition of judicial torture in Europe. They had ruled inconceivable a general return to censorship, to the burning of books, let alone of heretics or dissenters. Nineteenth-century liberalism and scientific positivism regarded as self-evident the expectation that the spread of schooling, of scientific-technological knowledge and yield, of free travel and contact among communities would bring with them a steady improvement in civility, in political tolerance, in the mores of private and public business. Each of these axioms of reasoned hope has been proved false. It is not only that education has shown itself incapable of making sensibility and cognition resistant to murderous unreason. Far more disturbingly, the evidence is that refined intellectuality, artistic virtuosity and appreciation, scientific eminence will collaborate actively with totalitarian demands or, at best, remain indifferent to surrounding sadism. Resplendent concerts, exhibitions in great museums, the publication of learned books, the pursuit of academic research both scientific and humanistic, flourish within close reach of the death camps. Technocratic ingenuity will serve or remain neutral at the call of the inhuman. The icon of our age is the preservation of a grove dear to Goethe within a concentration camp. (pp. 4-5)

If this could happen to such an advanced society as Germany, why expect the West should be immune from such a fall? As I look upon the world in this generation, an Orwellian One-world future does NOT seem out of the question (with perhaps a bit of Huxley’s Brave New World thrown in the mix). Just as race and survival of the fittest were a hugely powerful concepts in the early 20th century, one-worldism is a hugely powerful concept for the power-hungry in our time. Add to the mix, the increased power of mass-media (compared to what the nazis had), the hugely increased power of tracking individuals and economic transactions and the pandora’s box of genetic engineering. What will our post-modern elites do with such power? The present economic vulnerablity of most Western nations (due to the huge debts they are carrying) may soon open a door, tranforming the one-world pipe-dream into reality. Reminds me of the ancient Chinese curse: “May you live in interesting times...” Ok, enough pessimistic ramblings... God have mercy on our souls.

But getting back to the issue of morals, as a Social Anthropologist, the observable phenomenon of universal human development of moral codes is actually excellent evidence for man’s uniqueness in the animal world. Humans have this strange tendancy to make up verbal (or written) codes or rules for human interaction rather than relying on instinct. And if man is unique in this regard, then where does this uniqueness come from? Unfortunately, the Judeo-Christian worldview has an answer for that (as well as for his stupidity, inhumanity and inablity to live up to these moral codes). Of course, from an evolutionary point of view this phenomenon can be “explained” (as always), but it is NOT expected.


But now on to your 2nd post of Dec. 8th.

> But when you state that “I can make ethical and moral judgements, and also
> accept that those ethics and morals can change”, logically this does not
> exclude you from agreeing with de Sade tomorrow. Though distasteful, excluding
> marketing concerns, I see no real barrier (beyond peer pressure) to such a
> switch within your “moral system”.

> Yes, and I don't see a problem with that.
> However distasteful from todays paradigm, I cannot prejudge what may be
> acceptable in future paradigms. Who knows, maybe slavery and serfdom may
> come back.

Oh boy... Logically if “ethics and morals can change”, then tomorrow you may also agree with Pol-Pot, Osama ben Laden or Stalin or the neighborhood rapist... Here again, in logical terms there are no real barriers (beyond peer pressure) to such a switch within your moral system. Just to be clear. Though your world-view would not exclude the morality of Mother Theresa, of Albert Schweitzer or of Martin Luther King, neither would it exclude the views of Hitler, de Sade or of Pol-Pot. It doesn't exclude (or demand) anything. it is completely open-ended. If you know of an escape hatch from this equation (within your world-view), please enlighten us.

As a parting shot on moral absolutes, here is a quote from philosopher Peter Kreeft, a fictional, but instrudtive dialogue between Thrasymachus and Socrates (Kreeft 1996: 77):

Thrasymachus, suppose I say that you have proved that you are right, that you have convinced me that morality is only a man-made thing, but I am going to bow down to it anyway and worship it as if it were the voice of God, and I will feel guilty whenever I transgress it, and I shall teach others to do the same. What would you say about me then ?"
"That you are a fool, Socrates. And a lying fool at that."
"So, I would then be wrong ? Really wrong ?"
"Uh-oh. There's that word again."
"See ? If, as you hold, there is nothing right or wrong but thinking makes it so, then I think it's not really wrong to be dishonest and lie and to teach that to others, then it's not really wrong. So why are you so 'judgmental' against me now for my being 'judgmental'? Why are you preaching if you have no faith ? "


Refs.

Jerry Bergman (2011) Darwinism Inspired the Chinese Communist Holocaust. Creation Matters vol. 16 no. 1 pp. 1; 7-8

Darwin, Charles On the Origin of Species: The Preservation of Favoured Traces. (table comparing the texts 6 editions of the Origin with all omissions and modfications)

Dylan, Bob (1983) Man Of Peace [Album : Infidels]

Gosselin, Paul (1979) Myths of Origin and the Theory of Evolution.

Kreeft, Peter (1996) The Journey: A Spiritual Roadmap for Modern Pilgrims. InterVarsity Press Downers Grove IL 128 p.

Lewis, C.S. (1946/1978) The Abolition of Man: Reflections on education with special reference to the teaching of English in the upper forms of schools. Collins Glasgow 63 p. (or etext version)

Pfeiffer, Eric (2012) Charles Darwin’s notes on marriage and children, ‘better than a dog anyhow’. Yahoo! News | The Sideshow – Tue, Aug 14

Steiner, George (2001) Grammars of Creation. Yale U. Press New Haven & London 347p.

Wiki article - Human sacrifice


Paul Baird (Saturday, 11 December 2010)

>> Pogo - I missed the whole Provine quote first time around - apologies._
>>
>> He understood immediately that if natural selection explained adaptations,
>> and
>> evolution by descent were true, then the argument from design was dead and
>> all
>> that went with it, namely the existence of a personal god, free will, life
>> after death, immutable moral laws, and ultimate meaning in life.
>>
>> I don't know that I could agree with that - it's a bit of a blanket
>> statement. To my eyes, evolution is an explanation of what we see. To go
>> further and propose that it is some God killer or Theistic refuter is a bit
>> naive. What it does have issues with is any explanations of how life came to
>> be that is not supported by the evidence, and the one explanation that is in
>> real trouble is a literal reading of Genesis 1 and 2_I think that theism is
>> in more trouble from the field of Western Philosophy than from evolution.
>
> I would say it all depends how you look at Provine’s statement. If you look at
> it from a sociological perspective (as you do), then it is quite true that
> theists of various stripe have accomodated to the theory of evolution. But
> whether this is coherent with their stated worldview is another matter. If one
> persues the sociological perspective on this observable fact, then during the
> course of the 20th century the evolutionary cosmology has become the dominant
> origins myth. As it has loudly claimed the status of “scientific theory” it
> has become in the eyes of many untouchable and thus many see no other
> recourse, but to “adapt” to this "fact" (rather than question it’s status). In
> marketing the evolutionary cosmology to theists, the stances of such “useful
> idiots” are touted by many materialists as evidence that evolution and
> christian religious belief can peacefully coexist, even if these materialists
> in fact despise the actual beliefs of these evolutionary theists. Though
> sociologically you have a case, in logical terms Provine is right. Perhaps
> your own philosophical/ideological journey is the best demonstration of this.
> It all depends on whether “acceptability” or coherence is considered the
> highest good. Even Darwin took out the remarks about the Creator that appeared
> at the end of the first edition of the Origins. After the initial shock of the
> publication of the Origin had subsided, they were no longer needed. Marketing,
> marketing...

This is a late edit - it was only when going back after a couple of hours that I realised I'd missed this opening exchange.

To me evolution is a practical theory that explains a great many things, and which also asks a great many questions. If the theory is then used to question explanations of the origins of life then I don't see a problem.

To describe evolution as the 'dominant origins myth' is, I think, unnecessarily emotive.

The question that one should ask is rather simple - does it work ?

ID advocates seem to insist, based on questionable evidence, that it does not. However when asked to substantiate their alternative theory by citing examples of how their theory has produced ANY results the answer appears to be lacking.

Yet everyday, in laboratories up and down the UK (particularly in places like Stevenage) evolutionary theory is applied and produces pharmacological results.

Some complain, some protest, others just get on with it.

>> Later on in your blog you say "Now setting aside issues of coherence raised
>> by
>> PB’s borrowings from the Judeo- Christian tradition, there is a further
>> matter." Now that is a teensy bit naughty, Pogo. You have fallen into the
>> trap of asserting that Judeo-Christianity is the fount of all morality. Which
>> begs the question - in pre-Christian societies what was the source of their
>> morality ? And, in the absence of a Judeo-Christian moral code why did those
>> societies not collapse in immoral anarchy? Oops. Pre-Christian societies had
>> moral codes, any society needs mores and norms in order to function as a
>> group. You are making the mistake of assuming that the only possible source
>> of such is Judeo-Christianity.
>> It isn't.
>
> Yes, admittedly that was a bit naughty. I have to admit I did overstep my
> argument somewhat there. If invoking the Golden Rule doesn’t make you a
> Christian, the question remains though; does it make you a consistent
> materialist? I’m not sure that it does... As far as I can tell, the Golden
> Rule is just one many possible moral outcomes. It is true as well that other,
> non Judeo-Christian societies have developed recognizable moral systems with
> concepts similar to the Golden Rule. This is something another Brit (CS Lewis)
> discussed in his booklet Abolition of Man. He put this under the concept of
> the “Tao”, that is a universal form of basic morality that ALL men inherit due
> to their being created in God’s image (not much to do with taoism). So there
> is a Christian explanation for this phenomenon.

You would have to prove that the source of the 'Tao' was only God. Sure, it could be God, heck why not ? However, you would also have to accept that other sources are available, including evolutionary behaviour.

If Christianity is correct then it must be the only source of morality, which is actually what a great many Christians claim. The fact is that it is not.

> Yes, I am quite aware on the other hand that there is Darwinian explanation
> for human moral behaviour as well. Societies implementing certain rules for
> interpersonal behaviour survived better or out-competed societies that did not
> implement such rules. Evolution did it! Of course..., but I would have to
> point out that logically this statement is not based on empirical observation
> so it must be put in the same metaphysical category as Christian statements
> that “God did it!” (about some aspect of Creation).

Ok, Pogo you accept that there are also non-Christian expanations for the rule, which, as I've already pointed out, is a bit simplistic in it's framing compared to it's application.

We can also test the mechanism, how it might start and how it might evolve to produce a cohesive social structure. If you give me enough time I'll try to source any papers and trials that have been done. In popular terms there have been any number of social experiments that show that any society without a cohesive social structure will fail. So, the premise does not belong in the same metaphysical category as Christian statements that "God did it!".

> At best, statements that “Evolution did it!” create the illusion that the
> evolutionary cosmology provides an “scientific” explanation for the world as
> we know it, but these statements don’t actually prove anything or have
> anything to do with science... tho they may be interesting from a literary
> point of view.

I'm not sure what point you're trying to make there.

> In discussing pre-Christian societies, you asked “And, in the absence of a
> Judeo-Christian moral code why did those societies not collapse in immoral
> anarchy?”, but seeing your position on moral absolutes, how would you ever
> make that judgement call? How would you recognize “immoral anarchy” if you saw
> it? The Mayans, for example, developed a high level of civilisation that
> flourished for many hundreds of years. They even had a calendar that was as
> accurate as our own, but also had an ideology that demanded human sacrifice.

Yes ! So, explain how they did that without a Judeo-Christian foundation to their morality ! I used the term 'immoral anarchy' to demonstrate what YOU would expect to see in the absence of a Judeo-Christian foundation for their moral code. I would expect to see a cohesive society, I would make no moral judgement without prefacing such with an acknowledgement that I would doing so from within my own paradigm and not from any absolutist standpoint, which could be viewed as colonial. "Oh, look at how the beastly natives behave, little better than animals. What they need are jolly good Christian values."

> Nazi Germany also developed a high level of civilisation. Their autobahns are
> still good examples of German technical know-how. These societies did not
> (quickly) descend into anarchy, but functioned for quite a while (hundreds of
> years actually in the case of the Mayans). Though you might find Mayan human
> sacrifice or the Nazi Final Solution “distasteful”, do you have a solid basis
> for judging these societies cases of “immoral anarchy”?

Are you serious, Pogo ? Germany had a vibrant civilisation BEFORE 1933 and it was still anti-semitic ! As for describing hundreds of years as 'quite a while' - I did have to smile. When Christians cite the Prophecies of Ezekiel they do a similar thing - they hold a period of 250 years, including a period therein when Tyre was ruled by outsiders, as a continuous timescale, which goes to prove the prophecy correct !

> Perhaps the real issue here is what happens when whole societies apply the
> Darwinian/materialist cosmology and attempt to build a civilisation on this
> basis? Stalinist Russia and communist China come to mind... These are not
> exactly shining examples of great culture, freedom of expression, nor
> admirable defenders of religious or human rights. Even in economic terms
> they’ve been a failure as the Iron Curtain has fallen and of late China has
> become more of a capitalist state with one party rule...

Pogo, I had hoped you wouldn't bring this line of argument up - not because I don't have an answer for it, but because it's both lazy and inaccurate.

Again, if you want to go into post-war history then do let me know. I'll start a seperate thread. I find the whole period fascinating.

> But as to Lewis’ Tao concept, I would tend to be more pessimistic than he was.
> Lewis seemed to advocate the idea that all humans would (instinctively)
> promote the Tao and attempt to live by it. But in my view, the 20th century
> has demonstrated that even as an abstract ideal, the Tao (including the Golden
> Rule) has been hugely eroded in the West. For example, Germany has given us
> great scientists, philosophers, musicians such as Bach and Beethoven, but also
> Hitler and the Final solution.

Ok, Pogo - then let me ask you a question about anti-semitism. Has it disappeared from Europe ? If not why not ? Was there a prior history of anti-semitism before Hitler came to power ? So, did Hitler harness the endemic anti-semitism of Europe or did he cause it ? Please remember that Europe was a series of Christian countries before Hitler and again after the War or after the fall of the Warsaw Pact.

> In his essay Grammars of Creation, UK literary critique George Steiner made
> some telling comments about this époque when Enlightenment concepts were used
> to build a new civilisation.
> The catastrophe which overtook European and Slavic civilization was particular
> in another sense. It undid previous advances. Even the ironists of the
> Enlightenment (Voltaire) had confidently predicted the lasting abolition of
> judicial torture in Europe. They had ruled inconceivable a general return to
> censorship, to the burning of books, let alone of heretics or dissenters.
> Nineteenth-century liberalism and scientific positivism regarded as
> self-evident the expectation that the spread of schooling, of
> scientific-technological knowledge and yield, of free travel and contact among
> communities would bring with them a steady improvement in civility, in
> political tolerance, in the mores of private and public business. Each of
> these axioms of reasoned hope has been proved false. It is not only that
> education has shown itself incapable of making sensibility and cognition
> resistant to murderous unreason. Far more disturbingly, the evidence is that
> refined intellectuality, artistic virtuosity and appreciation, scientific
> eminence will collaborate actively with totalitarian demands or, at best,
> remain indifferent to surrounding sadism. Resplendent concerts, exhibitions in
> great museums, the publication of learned books, the pursuit of academic
> research both scientific and humanistic, flourish within close reach of the
> death camps. Technocratic ingenuity will serve or remain neutral at the call
> of the inhuman. The icon of our age is the preservation of a grove dear to
> Goethe within a concentration camp. (pp. 4-5)
>
> If this could happen to such an advanced society as Germany, why expect the
> West should be immune from such a fall?

Pogo, let's ignore Germany's struggle for a louder voice on the European stage too shall we ? Let's ignore Bismarck's motivations for creating a United Germany too. The whole analysis ignores the national, regional and international politics of the day.

> As I look upon the world in this generation, an Orwellian One-world future
> does NOT seem out of the question (with perhaps a bit of Huxley’s Brave New
> World thrown in the mix). Just as race and survival of the fittest were a
> hugely powerful concepts in the early 20th century, one-worldism is a hugely
> powerful concept for the power-hungry in our time.

Pogo - utter crap. If you want to discuss in more detail then I'll add this to one of the new threads I mentioned above.

> Add to the mix, the increased power of mass-media (compared to what the nazis
> had), the hugely increased power of tracking individuals and economic
> transactions and the pandora’s box of genetic engineering. What will our
> post-modern elites do with such power? The present economic vulnerablity of
> most Western nations (due to the huge debts they are carrying) may soon open a
> door, tranforming the one-world pipe-dream into reality. Reminds me of the
> ancient Chinese curse: “May you live in interesting times...” Ok, enough
> pessimistic ramblings... God have mercy on our souls.

Up the revolution, just don't forget the white goods.

> But getting back to the issue of morals, as a Social Anthropologist, the
> observable phenomenon of universal human development of moral codes is
> actually excellent evidence for man’s uniqueness in the animal world.
> Humans have this strange tendancy to make up verbal (or written) codes or
> rules for human interaction rather than relying on instinct. And if man is
> unique in this regard, then where does this uniqueness come from?
> Unfortunately, the Judeo-Christian worldview has an answer for that (as well
> as for his stupidity, inhumanity and inablity to live up to these moral
> codes). Of course, from an evolutionary point of view this phenomenon can be
> “explained” (as always), but it is NOT expected.

From popular sites source1 <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/4166756.stm> , source2 <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/2622101.stm> and more interestingly source3 <http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn18342-chimps-dance-suggests-a-mental-grasp-of-fire-.html> . When you state 'not expected' what are your grounds ?

But now on to your 2nd post of Dec. 8th.

>> But when you state that “I can make ethical and moral judgements, and also
>> accept that those ethics and morals can change”, logically this does not
>> exclude you from agreeing with de Sade tomorrow. Though distasteful,
>> excluding
>> marketing concerns, I see no real barrier (beyond peer pressure) to such a
>> switch within your “moral system”.
>> Yes, and I don't see a problem with that.
>> However distasteful from todays paradigm, I cannot prejudge what may be
>> acceptable in future paradigms. Who knows, maybe slavery and serfdom may
>> come back.
>
>
> Oh boy... Logically if “ethics and morals can change”, then tomorrow you may
> also agree with Pol-Pot, Osama ben Laden or Stalin or the neighborhood
> rapist... Here again, in logical terms there are no real barriers (beyond peer
> pressure) to such a switch within your moral system. Just to be clear. Though
> your world-view would not exclude the morality of Mother Theresa, of Albert
> Schweitzer or of Martin Luther King, neither would it exclude the views of
> Hitler, de Sade or of Pol-Pot. It doesn't exclude anything. If you know of an
> escape hatch from this equation (within your world-view), please enlighten us.

Sorry, Pogo, but this is emotive nonsense.

Would you like to explain the moral rationale of water-boarding or extraordinary rendition ? These are current examples, from the USA, where it is arguably a very small step from those practices to the more extreme examples that you cite above.

George W Bush still, even now, does not believe that he was acting immorally when he authorised those actions. Do you believe that he was ? Do you believe that a significant proportion of the population of the USA agree with him ? Do you believe that any of the former Presidents of the USA would have made similar choices under the same circumstances ?

He was able to do it and to have the majority of public opinion back him because the moral views of US society changed.


Pogo said (December 16th 2010)

Reacting to my comments on evolution as an origins myth Paul B stated


> To me evolution is a practical theory that explains a great many things, and
> which also asks a great many questions. If the theory is then used to question
> explanations of the origins of life then I don't see a problem.
>
> To describe evolution as the 'dominant origins myth' is, I think,
> unnecessarily emotive.

Ah, I see... Deconstructed, this would mean you don't like where this is going... If one allows one's credulity to lapse, then one can see many holes in the “scientific status” of evolution. This is the ultimate shield that evolutionists use to protect their myth from serious criticism. But on anthropological grounds there is ample justification to consider it a myth. Basically, when looked at in terms of the social functions it fills, in the West evolution operates just like an origins myth, a materialistic myth to be sure, but myth nonetheless. For starters check out my 30 year old article Myths of Origin and the Theory of Evolution. And of late I've published a 600 page book in French (Fuite de l'Absolu, volume 2) on this issue, but chances are you don't read French.

And you say “evolution works”, but never define exactly what that means. If perhaps you meant that the term “evolution” is often quoted in scientific literature, then you are certainly right, but if you mean that it produces actual advances in science, then I think you need to supply some very clear and unambiguous evidence for that. There is no logical link between the two. In any case, your statement is contradicted by an editorial in science journal BioEssays by geneticist and evolutionist Adam S. Wilkins: (2000: 1051):

On this issue, you could also check out chemist Philip .S Skell's article Why Do We Invoke Darwin? (The Scientist 2005, 19(16):10). In most of the scientific literature, you could replace the word “evolution” with “blip” and suffer no serious loss... Typically the use of the term “evolution” in science research papers is obeisance to the herd mentality. A researcher systematically excluding the term may eventually attract suspicion on his “orthodoxy”. On the "Creationist threat" to scientific orthodoxy, also check out:

Lessl, Thomas M. (1988) Heresy, Orthodoxy, and the Politics of Science. pp. 18 34 Quarterly Journal of Speech;, v. 74, n. 1, Feb.

Discussing the source of ethical behaviour and discourse in humans, PB commented

> If Christianity is correct then it must be the only source of morality, which
> is actually what a great many Christians claim. The fact is that it is not.
>
> If Christianity is correct then it must be the only source of morality, which
> is actually what a great many Christians claim. The fact is that it is not.

This argument seems empty. Specifically, what Christians are you actually talking about? In any case the argument is incorrect. Christians never claimed their religion is unique in terms of morality. Christ himself stated that he had not come to abolish the (Mosaic) Law, but to fulfil it. In terms of morality, Christianity borrows heavily on Mosaic Law, in particular on the 10 commandments rather that the 613 rules of the ceremonial Law. The one area I can think of where Christ innovated had to do with divorce. He made divorce a LOT more inaccessible than it had been under the Law of Moses (see Mark 10 : 2-12 ; Matthew 5 :31-32). Unfortunately this has been widely ignored of late by many Christians. In actual fact, Christianity's uniqueness is based not on it's moral system, but on it's claim that Christ fulfilled all of the Law, bearing the consequences of each of our transgressions on the cross. Moral systems are common, but coherent moral systems, less so, I would contend.

Paul B. stated:

> We can also test the mechanism, how it might start and how it might evolve to
> produce a cohesive social structure. If you give me enough time I'll try to
> source any papers and trials that have been done. In popular terms there have
> been any number of social experiments that show that any society without a
> cohesive social structure will fail. So, the premise does not belong in the
> same metaphysical category as Christian statements that "God did it!".

That's a lot of “mights” you have there... Framed in such a vague manner, you'll be testing nothing except perhaps the evolutionists endless capacity for framing observable human behaviour in evolutionary terms (also called “story-telling”). So your argument is that because “a number of social experiments show that any society without a cohesive social structure will fail” and this observable phenomenon has what logical or empirically demonstrated link to evolution? I see none. Anthropologists have long known that humans have a universal tendency to develop social structures with moral codes to support them and in turn, these moral codes are anchored in the group's world-view, which finds it's basis in its cosmology or origins myth. It's all linked. But adding statements such as “this moral capacity has evolved in the course of human evolution” to the conclusion of a research paper in Social Anthropology does not prove anything, but it will give us a good idea of the author's cosmology. Evolutionists get a LOT of mileage by confusing facts and interpretations... So I think my earlier statement that “Evolution did it!” should be put in the same metaphysical category as that “God did it!” still stands.

>> In discussing pre-Christian societies, you asked “And, in the absence of a
>> Judeo-Christian moral code why did those societies not collapse in immoral
>> anarchy?”, but seeing your position on moral absolutes, how would you ever
>> make that judgement call? How would you recognize “immoral anarchy” if you
>> saw it? The Mayans, for example, developed a high level of civilisation that
>> flourished for many hundreds of years. They even had a calendar that was as
>> accurate as our own, but also had an ideology that demanded human sacrifice.
>
> Yes ! So, explain how they did that without a Judeo-Christian foundation to
> their morality ! I used the term 'immoral anarchy' to demonstrate what YOU
> would expect to see in the absence of a Judeo-Christian foundation for their
> moral code. I would expect to see a cohesive society, I would make no moral
> judgement without prefacing such with an acknowledgement that I would doing so
> from within my own paradigm and not from any absolutist standpoint, which
> could be viewed as colonial. "Oh, look at how the beastly natives behave,
> little better than animals. What they need are jolly good Christian values."

I do not believe that humans are incapable of developing moral systems unless it is based on the Judeo-Christian world-view. A Christian view is that humans are all made in God's image and simply develop moral codes as a result. You could say it is “built into” the human condition. This is first discussed in the Epistle to Romans. (The other) Paul states:

This indicates that there seems to be an innate human moral urge (but don't ask me what “innate” means... that would bring us into huge debates on nature vs. nurture in anthropology). These moral codes may be more or less coherent and more or less humane, but they do attempt to impose certain restrictions on human behaviour (individuals as well as societies) and these restrictions are linked to certain conceptions of good and evil. Humans are the only animals known to develop world-views and moral codes. You won't find one animal saying to another, “Hey that's not fair!”, as “fairness” refers to a (oral/written) code.

>> Nazi Germany also developed a high level of civilisation. Their autobahns are
>> still good examples of German technical know-how. These societies did not
>> (quickly) descend into anarchy, but functioned for quite a while (hundreds of
>> years actually in the case of the Mayans). Though you might find Mayan human
>> sacrifice or the Nazi Final Solution “distasteful”, do you have a solid basis
>> for judging these societies cases of “immoral anarchy”?
>
> Are you serious, Pogo? Germany had a vibrant civilisation BEFORE 1933 and it
> was still anti-semitic ! As for describing hundreds of years as 'quite a
> while' - I did have to smile. When Christians cite the Prophecies of Ezekiel
> they do a similar thing - they hold a period of 250 years, including a period
> therein when Tyre was ruled by outsiders, as a continuous timescale, which
> goes to prove the prophecy correct !

The critical issue, it would seem to me, is whether Nazis anti-Semitism was coherent with their worldview and was the anti-Semitism of pre-Nazi Germany Christians coherent with their worldview? I would hold that the anti-Semitism of pre-Nazi Germany Christians was not coherent with their professed world-view. In any case, it would be extremely naïve to consider that early 20th century Germany was a bastion of exemplary or coherent Christianity. Your argument would hold if pre1933 Germany was monolithically Christian, but I think that such would be a very naïve view of this time period. The Enlightenment world-view had long ago sunk deep roots in Germany and in the 19th century Germany had heavily bought into evolution as widely promoted by Ernst Haeckel. And if memory serves, the Romantic movement promoted the “volk” (us against them) concept that the Nazis found useful later. The Nazi party did not appear in a vacuum. Though a superb politician, Hitler was a rather unoriginal ideologue and liberally borrowed from ideas then in fashion. Though both Catholic and Protestant Germans did join the Nazi party and participate in anti-Semitic acts, I would hold that parts of the Confessing Church or individuals like Corrie ten Boom, at great price to themselves, would be examples of more consistent Christians of this time period. The Confessing Church at least did gain the respect of the Jewish physicist, Albert Einstein who said (Anonymous 1940: 38):

Of course anti-Semitism has long been present in the “Christian” West, but in actual fact it long precedes the Christian era as the Romans persecuted the Jews as well. And well before the Christian era, during the deportation (after the Fall of the kingdom of Judah), Jews faced genocide, as documented in the book of Esther and Psalm 83: 2-8. I would then contend that anti-Semitism has it's roots outside of the core Christian beliefs though there is no question that Christians have picked up such beliefs and been advocates of anti-Semitism, but I would hold they did so in contradiction to the core Christian beliefs that they professed to hold.

Your last comment on the hundreds of years of Mayan civilisation and linking that to the prophecies of Ezekiel eludes me... What was that about?


> Pogo - utter crap. If you want to discuss in more detail then
> I'll add this to one of the new threads I mentioned above.

So you don't share my Orwellian fantasies? That's ok. Time will tell.


>> Unfortunately, the Judeo-Christian worldview has an answer for that (as well
>> as for his stupidity, inhumanity and inablity to live up to these moral
>> codes). Of course, from an evolutionary point of view this phenomenon can be
>> “explained” (as always), but it is NOT expected.
>
> From popular sites source1, source2 and more interestingly source3. When you
> state 'not expected' what are your grounds ?

My argument is simply that written/oral moral codes commonly developed by humans are “unexpected” from an evolutionary point of view as typically other animals resolves such issues on the basis of instinct. That humans do otherwise is not predicted then in this sense by evolutionary theory, though an evolutionary “explanation” can be had of course. I wouldn't claim this is my strongest argument here.

>> Oh boy... Logically if “ethics and morals can change”, then tomorrow you may
>> also agree with Pol-Pot, Osama ben Laden or Stalin or the neighbourhood
>> rapist... Here again, in logical terms there are no real barriers (beyond peer
>> pressure) to such a switch within your moral system. Just to be clear. Though
>> your world-view would not exclude the morality of Mother Theresa, of Albert
>> Schweitzer or of Martin Luther King, neither would it exclude the views of
>> Hitler, de Sade or of Pol-Pot. It doesn't exclude anything. If you know of an
>> escape hatch from this equation (within your world-view), please enlighten us.
>
> Sorry, Pogo, but this is emotive nonsense.
>
> Would you like to explain the moral rationale of water-boarding or
> extraordinary rendition ? These are current examples, from the USA, where it
> is arguably a very small step from those practices to the more extreme
> examples that you cite above.
>
> George W Bush still, even now, does not believe that he was acting immorally
> when he authorised those actions. Do you believe that he was ? Do you believe
> that a significant proportion of the population of the USA agree with him ? Do
> you believe that any of the former Presidents of the USA would have made
> similar choices under the same circumstances ?
>
> He was able to do it and to have the majority of public opinion back him
> because the moral views of US society changed.

Ah, why do I feel like you're avoiding the real question here? Does George W Bush have anything to do with the issues I raised ? Oh well... I guess I'll let others judge whether your response is adequate or not.

As an aside, philosopher Peter Kreeft has raised an interesting issue related to the consequences of the rejection of absolutes. Kreeft observes that the rejection of absolutes in the West logically results in total conformism, masses easily manipulated by the elite and the end of serious social criticism. Kreeft's discussion takes the form of a Socratic dialogue, Libby playing the part of the relativist and ‘Isa, the absolutist (Kreeft 1999: 74-75)

Journalist and ex-atheist Peter Hitchens (brother of well-known UK atheist Christopher Hitchens) notes :

So without moral absolutes of some kind (supported by a coherent world-view) then all the masses can do before an abusing tyrant is whine. There is no higher authority to which they can appeal to. And in The Abolition of Man, CS Lewis gives us an idea what effect the rejection of moral absolutes (Lewis uses the term 'Tao') will have on the 'Conditioners', that is the elite and those who hold power (1943/1982: 38):

The Conditioners, then, are to choose what kind of artificial Tao they will, for their own good reasons, produce in the Human race. They are the motivators, the creators of motives. But how are they going to be motivated themselves?
For a time, perhaps, by survivals, within their own minds, of the old `natural' Tao. Thus at first they may look upon themselves as servants and guardians of humanity and conceive that they have a duty to do it good. But it is only by confusion that they can remain in this state. They recognize the concept of duty as the result of certain processes which they can now control. Their victory has consisted precisely in emerging from the state in which they were acted upon by those processes to the state in which they use them as tools. One of the things they now have to decide is whether they will, or will not, so condition the rest of us that we can go on having the old idea of duty and the old reactions to it. How can duty help them to decide that? Duty itself is up for trial: it cannot also be the judge. And `good' fares no better. They know quite well how to produce a dozen different conceptions of good in us. The question is which, if any, they should produce. No conception of good can help them to decide. It is absurd to fix on one of the things they are comparing and make it the standard of comparison.




Refs.

Anonymous (1940) German Martyrs. Time magazine 23 Dec., vol. 36 no. 26 pp. 38-41

Hitchens, Peter (2010) How I found God and peace with my atheist brother: PETER HITCHENS traces his journey back to Christianity (Mail Online, updated at 9:43 AM on 15th March 2010)

Kreeft, Peter (1999) A Refutation of Moral Relativism: Interviews with an Absolutist. Ignatius Press San Francisco CA 177 p.

Lewis, CS (1946/1978) The Abolition of Man: Reflections on education with special reference to the teaching of English in the upper forms of schools.
Collins Glasgow 63 p.

Wilkins, Adam S. (2000) Intro (issue on Evolutionary Processes). pp. 1051-1052 BioEssays vol. 22 no.12 December


Paul Baird (December 20, 2010 4:30 AM)


Response to Pogo #5

To be honest I had hoped for better. Paul's initial postings were novel lines of argument and responding to them was a pleasure. Unfortunately Paul has now lapsed into the more familiar lines that most theists rely on, and which refuting is my bread and butter.
In a change to previous practices I'm just going to post Paul's argument in blue and my refutation in purple.
Ok, so the source of the piece

> Ah, I see... Deconstructed, this would mean you don't like where this is
> going... If one allows one's credulity to lapse, then one can see many holes
> in the “scientific status” of evolution. This is the ultimate shield that
> evolutionists use to protect their myth from serious criticism. But on
> anthropological grounds there is ample justification to consider it a myth.

Sadly, Paul is now becoming even more unhinged. I had stated in my prior response that his view of evolution was emotive and now he's just getting worse.
To state, without qualification, that evolution has many 'holes', is to make an emotive statement, or at least an unsubstantiated assertion. To then cite anthropological grounds is quite unfounded.

> Basically, when looked at in terms of the social functions it fills, in the
> West evolution operates just like an origins myth, a materialistic myth to be
> sure, but myth nonetheless. For starters check out my 30 year old article
> Myths of Origin and the Theory of Evolution. And of late I've published a 600
> page book in French (Fuite de l'Absolu, volume 2) on this issue, but chances
> are you don't read French.

I'm not sure that you undertand what a myth is, and if you do then you need to justify, and not merely assert, it's use in this context.

> And you say “evolution works”, but never define exactly what that means. If
> perhaps you meant that the term “evolution” is often quoted in scientific
> literature, then you are certainly right, but if you mean that it produces
> actual advances in science, then I think you need to supply some very clear
> and unambiguous evidence for that.

This is a very peculiar standpoint - even the most ardent ID or Creation Science advocate accepts evolution within species. The issue from their standpoint appears to be a non acceptance of evolution producing new species from older species. As for 'actual advances' in science, my response would be one of incredulity. Firstly you do not define your terms of reference, ie how do you define an advance, which scientific fields you are referring to and what evidence you are looking for.
Sorry, Paul, but that is plain lazy.

> There is no logical link between the two. In any case, your statement is
> contradicted by an editorial in science journal BioEssays by geneticist and
> evolutionist Adam S. Wilkins: (2000: 1051):

A link to the whole article would be nice - I've seen enough cases of a scientist being quoted out of context.

> In most of the scientific literature, you could replace the word “evolution”
> with “blip” and suffer no serious loss... Typically the use of the term
> “evolution” in science research papers is obeisance to the herd mentality. A
> researcher systematically excluding the term may eventually attract suspicion
> on his “orthodoxy”.

Once more the emotive langauge appears, Paul. This is not what I hoped or expected from you. I expected something alot better.
As an example could you actually post an article on evolution where you've carried out this exercise and produced the predicted result ?

> This argument seems empty. Specifically, what Christians are you actually
> talking about? In any case the argument is incorrect. Christians never claimed
> that their religion is unique in terms of morality. Christ himself stated that
> he had not come to abolish the (Mosaic) Law, but to fulfil it. In terms of
> morality, Christianity borrows heavily on Mosaic Law, in particular on the 10
> commandments rather that the 613 rules of the ceremonial Law. The one area I
> can think of where Christ innovated had to do with divorce. He made divorce a
> LOT more inaccessible than it had been under the Law of Moses (see Mark 10 :
> 2-12 ; Matthew 5 :31-32). Unfortunately this has been widely ignored of late
> by many Christians. In actual fact, Christianity's uniqueness is based not on
> it's moral system, but on it's claim that Christ fulfilled all of the Law,
> bearing the consequences of each of our transgressions on the cross. Moral
> systems are common, but coherent moral systems, less so, I would contend.

Actually I could post many, many, many examples of a wide range of Christians who do advocate that Christianity is the sole source of human morality. Christianity borrows, as all religions do, from other belief systems, not simply from older Judaic traditions.
Your last sentence does not make much sense, and without substantiation too. It begs some questions
'what is an incoherent moral system ?'
'how would an exterior observer of an incoherent and a coherent moral system determine which is which ?'

> That's a lot of “mights” you have there... Framed in such a vague manner,
> you'll be testing nothing except perhaps the evolutionists endless capacity
> for framing observable human behaviour in evolutionary terms (also called
> “story-telling”). So your argument is that because “a number of social
> experiments show that any society without a cohesive social structure will
> fail” and this observable phenomenon has what logical or empirically
> demonstrated link to evolution? I see none. Anthropologists have long known
> that humans have a universal tendency to develop social structures with moral
> codes to support them and in turn, these moral codes are anchored in the
> group's world-view, which finds it's basis in its cosmology or origins myth.
> It's all linked. But adding statements such as “this moral capacity has
> evolved in the course of human evolution” to the conclusion of a research
> paper in Social Anthropology does not prove anything, but it will give us a
> good idea of the author's cosmology. Evolutionists get a LOT of mileage by
> confusing facts and interpretations... So I think my earlier statement that
> “Evolution did it!” should be put in the same metaphysical category as that
> “God did it!” still stands.

Once more you put forward an emotive response, even when presenting your own admission about anthropology ! It raises the question whether there is any evidence that you would be prepared to accept. Perhaps this is because of your own 'cosmology' ?

> I do not believe that humans are incapable of developing moral systems unless
> it is based on the Judeo-Christian world-view. A Christian view is that humans
> are all made in God's image and simply develop moral codes as a result. You
> could say it is “built into” the human condition.

But, once again, that view is confusing as on the one hand it accepts a lack of Christian exclusivity as the source of human morality and then on the other puts forward an exclusive explanation ie moral codes develop regardless, but they do so because we are all made in God's image.

> This indicates that there seems to be an innate human moral urge (but don't
> ask me what “innate” means... that would bring us into huge debates on nature
> vs. nurture in anthropology). These moral codes may be more or less coherent
> and more or less humane, but they do attempt to impose certain restrictions on
> human behaviour (individuals as well as societies) and these restrictions are
> linked to certain conceptions of good and evil. Humans are the only animals
> known to develop world-views and moral codes. You won't find one animal saying
> to another, “Hey that's not fair!”, as “fairness” refers to a (oral/written)
> code.

Aside from the last two sentences you seem to be accepting moral relativism based on group mores and norms. I disagree with your last two sentences, my views on higher order primates differ from yours somewhat but that is by the by.

> The critical issue, it would seem to me, is whether Nazis anti-Semitism was
> coherent with their worldview and was the anti-Semitism of pre-Nazi Germany
> Christians coherent with their worldview? I would hold that the anti-Semitism
> of pre-Nazi Germany Christians was not coherent with their professed
> world-view.

Sources, and I will want LOTS.
Perhaps you could also explain why Edward I expelled all of the Jews from England, and why after Cromwell allowed them to come back, the merchants of England petitioned Charles II to reinstate the expulsion ? This is part of a long history of English anti-semitism.
Perhaps you haven't read of Polish inter-war antisemitism ?
As you write in French I presume you've heard of L'Action française ?
(“French Action”) Influential right-wing antirepublican group in early 20th-century France, whose views were promoted in a newspaper of the same name. The Action Française movement, led by Charles Maurras, espoused the antiparliamentarian, anti-Semitic, and strongly nationalist views inspired by the Alfred Dreyfus Affair. The movement peaked after World War I, when nationalist feeling was strong. It was denounced by the papacy in 1926, and ceased to exist after World War II because of its association with the collaborationist Vichy government (see Vichy France).

Let's not forget Romania and Hungary.
Romania was described even by Hitler as a country that outdid Germany in the severity of its dealings with the Jewish population. Romanian concentration camps were run by the Romanians, not the SS, which led Eichmann to demand at the German foreign office in April 1942 that they stop these unorganized and premature Romanian efforts "to get rid of the Jews." 22
Marshal Ion Antonescu, the leader of Romania, was the first in Europe to deprive all Jews of their nationality and to initiate large scale massacres. He was responsible for the Odessa massacre -- in which 26,000 Jews were killed in three days -- in retaliation for a bomb that killed 220 Romanian and German army personnel in Odessa on October 22, 1942.23
Antonescu also pre-empted Germany in his attempts to sell the Jews -- a year before Himmler's "blood for trucks" proposals to the Red Cross. 24It can be argued, therefore, from the history of anti-semitism in Romania, that the ideology of Nazism was not the major cause of the breakdown of moral standards in the rest of Europe. The fact that Romania, acted independently of Germany against the Jews reinforces the thesis that such a moral breakdown can occur anywhere -- given the right circumstances.
Sorry, but I'm really losing my rag with this line of argument, I read it all too often in theistic exchanges. The sad fact of the matter is that the Nazis took advantage of an already existing anti-semitism and the Nurembourg Laws and even Kristelnacht continue in the same vein. What changes is the industrialisation of the extermination process in the Final Solution after the Wannsee Conference. Also see my later comment about Martin Luther.

> In any case, it would be extremely naïve to consider that early 20th century
> Germany was a bastion of exemplary or coherent Christianity. Your argument
> would hold if pre1933 Germany was monolithically Christian, but I think that
> such would be a very naïve view of this time period.

I haven't said that. What I have said is that anti-semitism was rife within Germany in particular and Europe in general before WW2 such that to infer that it was the creature of the Nazi Party is incorrect.

> The Enlightenment world-view had long ago sunk deep roots in Germany and in
> the 19th century Germany had heavily bought into evolution as widely promoted
> by Ernst Haeckel. And if memory serves, the Romantic movement promoted the
> “volk” (us against them) concept that the Nazis found useful later. The Nazi
> party did not appear in a vacuum. Though a superb politician, Hitler was a
> rather unoriginal ideologue and liberally borrowed from ideas then in fashion.
> Though both Catholic and Protestant Germans did join the Nazi party and
> participate in anti-Semitic acts, I would hold that parts of the Confessing
> Church or individuals like Corrie ten Boom, at great price to themselves,
> would be examples of more consistent Christians of this time period.

So, instead of blaming the Nazi party you're now blaming the Enlightenment ?This would work if you show that it was restricted in influence and effect to just Germany, or even Europe. However the USA was also influenced by the Englightenment (arguably more so as it did not have the same medieval feudal systems to overcome), and yet that nation did not descend into the same anti-semitism. Perhaps there were other influences ?

Your use of the concept of 'volk' is, I think misguided, as you are now invoking German nationalism. I fail to see how German nationalism differs from British (the Empire on which the sun never sets) nationalism, or French, or Italian or Russian for that matter. You are also failing to address another nation where the influence of the Enlightenment was like a flamethrower in a wheat field in terms of the dramatic changes that it introduced in a very short period of time, and where anti-semitism as opposed to a more general loathing of all foreigners was not apparent - Japan.

> Of course anti-Semitism has long been present in the “Christian” West, but in
> actual fact it long precedes the Christian era as the Romans persecuted the
> Jews as well. And well before the Christian era during the deportation (after
> the Fall of the kingdom of Judah), Jews faced genocide, as documented in the
> book of Esther and Psalm 83: 2-8. I would then contend that anti-Semitism has
> it's roots outside of the core Christian beliefs though there is no question
> that Christians have been advocates of anti-Semitism, but I would hold the did
> so in contradiction to core Christian beliefs that they profess to hold.

I think you're on very shaky ground with that line of argument. In terms of pre-Roman anti-semitism you would need to provide sources. It's one thing to advocate a warring relationship between the Jewish nation and another, but that, I suggest is based on 'normal' usage of the final diplomatic option. As for Roman anti-semitism, again I'd need to see specific texts wherein a Roman official advocates a particular mode of action based solely on the faith of the Jews over a period of time as opposed to an immediate response to a particular event.
I would also like some further explanation of how you would see these Christians morally justifying their actions that are so in contradiction to core Christian beliefs.
I'd like to read your explanation for Martin Luther's anti-semitism too. Was he acting in contradiction to his core Christian beliefs ?

> Your last comment on the hundreds of years of Mayan civilisation and linking
> that to the prophecies of Ezekiel eludes me... What was that about?
It's not important - one for another day.
> So you don't share my Orwellian fantasies? That's ok. Time will tell.
On other matters, perhaps, but not on this one. Is there a time limit for time to tell ?
> My argument is simply that written/oral moral codes commonly developed by
> humans are “unexpected” from an evolutionary point of view as typically other
> animals resolves such issues on the basis of instinct. That humans do
> otherwise is not predicted then in this sense by evolutionary theory, though
> an evolutionary “explanation” can be had of course.

Really ? I can think of several animal species that have evolutionary codes of what we might term morality. Any particular species of animal that lives in a pack would be a good place to start.

> Ah, why do I feel like you're avoiding the real question here? Does George W
> Bush have anything to do with the issues I raised ? Oh well... I guess I'll
> let others judge whether your response is adequate or not.

Ah, but he does. I've cited a morally unacceptable practice and the circumstances under which that practice becomes morally acceptable. If the practice is absolutely morally wrong then it would remain so under all circumstances.

> As an aside, philosopher Peter Kreeft has raised an interesting issue related
> to the consequences of the rejection of absolutes. Kreeft observes that the
> rejection of absolutes in the West logically results in total conformism,
> masses easily manipulated by the elite and the end of serious social
> criticism. Kreeft's discussion takes the form of a Socratic dialogue, Libby
> playing the part of the relativist and ‘Isa, the absolutist (Kreeft 1999:
> 74-75)
>
> Libby: (...) We liberals are always the progressives, and we're the
> relativists. You conservatives are always the absolutists. You've got it all
> backwards.
> 'Isa: No, you have it backwards. If you're a relativist, that means you think
> values are relative to cultures, right?
> Libby: Yes...
> 'Isa: So you have no universal law, no higher law, no higher standard than
> culture, right?
> Libby: Right. We don't claim to have a private telephone line to heaven, like
> you.
> 'Isa: So you can't criticize your culture, then. Your culture sets the
> standard. Your culture creates the commandments. Your culture is God. "My
> country right or wrong." That doesn't sound like progressivism to me. That
> sounds like status quo conservatism.

Just because it is my culture does not mean that I or indeed other members of that culture are passive servants of that culture. The group and the individual are in constant dialogue. So Isa's point is a false one.

> Libby: You're confusing me. You make everything stand on its head.
> 'Isa: No, you do. Or your media do, and you've been suckered by them. It's a
> big lie; it's pure propaganda.

This is emotive nonsense, and doesn't move the premise of the dialogue forward at all.

> If you just stop and think for yourself for a minute, you'll see that it's
> really just the opposite of the media stereotypes. Only a believer in an
> absolute higher law can criticize a whole culture.

This is yet another bit of nonsense that walks straight into the Eurythpro dilemma. I can criticise my culture because I am not a passive servant. Anyone believing in absolutes does not have that freedom, because the standard is absolute.

> He's the rebel, the radical, the prophet who can say to a whole culture,
> "You're worshipping a false God and a false good. Change!" That's the
> absolutist; and that's the force for change.

Not if the standard is absolute - how can an absolute be changed ? You're making the argument for relativism.

> The Jews changed history more than anyone because they were absolutists — the
> conscience for the world, the Jewish mother who makes you feel guilty about
> not calling her, not calling on God, not praying.

Yet more emotive nonsense. By what critieria is this person making those value judgements ? Once again it ignores any non-Judeo-Christian systems of morality or even the existance and achievements of their civilisations !

> Or guilty about vegging out in front of the TV instead of going out and
> getting an education and getting a job and changing the world.

Yep, bring on the stereotypes. Have you ever watched "Everyone loves Raymond ?", they were Italian Americans though, not Jews, so I suppose it doesn't count.

> Libby: Not fair! The relativist is for change too.

The relativist has no choice, because relativism, by it's nature, is dynamic.

> 'Isa: But he has no moral basis for it.

Again, a statement is simply asserted without any foundation.

> All a relativist can say to a Hitler is, "Different strokes for different
> folks, and I like my strokes and I hate yours." The absolutist can say, "You
> and your whole society are wrong and wicked, and divine justice will destroy
> you, inescapably, unless you repent." Which of those two messages is more
> progressive? Which one is the force for change?

Whose divine justice - The Jew ? The Muslim ? The Christian ? The Scientologist ? The Mormon ? The Jehovah's Witness ?

> Libby: OK, there is a problem here: How does a relativist generate moral
> passion for changing a culture without a natural law above that culture? I
> guess...

See above. I have to say that I was very disappointed by this, I had expected better, but it's much the same old stuff.
Peter Hitchens and a link to The Daily Mail - how to score two own goals in easy succession. Peter recorded a programme for Premier Christian Radio that managed to damage theism quite nicely and he used to be a regular contributor to Sunday morning TV discussion programmes in the UK, so I know his views and his lines of advocacy quite well. I'm actually a bit surprised you didn't also quote Cristina Odone too. Linking to The Daily Mail made me smile. I'm not sure if you're aware of the reputation of the paper here in the UK. Great right wing journalism for small minded people.

> Being Christian is one thing. Fighting for a cause is another, and much easier
> to acknowledge - for in recent times it has grown clear that the Christian
> religion is threatened with a dangerous defeat by secular forces which have
> never been so confident. Why is there such a fury against religion now?
> Because religion is the one reliable force that stands in the way of the power
> of the strong over the weak. The one reliable force that forms the foundation
> of the concept of the rule of law. The one reliable force that restrains the
> hand of the man of power. In an age of powerworship, the Christian religion
> has become the principal obstacle to the desire of earthly utopians for
> absolute power.

So, let's ignore the following :
Christianity is the established religion of the UK. The monarch is Defender of the Faith.
There are 26 reserved places in the second chamber of the bicameral Parliament of the UK for Bishops.
Sunday working hours are restricted in the UK as a direct result of Christian pressure.
Thought for the Day (a 10 minute radio broadcast on Radio 2 and Radio 4 twice each day) has never been opened up to any non-religious broadcaster and is predominantly Christian in tone.
School assemblies in the UK are mandated to be Christian in tone. This is the most widely flouted religious law in the UK.
The 1701 Act of Settlement is religiously intolerant, and is still in force. It forbids the monarch marrying a Catholic or a Catholic ascending to the throne.
Would you like more examples ? What Peter and all of the other Christians are wailing and moaning at is the increasing tendency of the great British Public to ignore the utter irrelevance and hypocrisy of the Christian Church. The people are voting with their feet for freedom and people like Peter want them to stay in chains.

> So without moral absolutes of some kind (supported by a coherent world-view)
> then all the masses can do before an abusing tyrant is whine.

Again, and again you put this assertion forward and it simply does not stand up to scrutiny. Look at the French Maquis in WW2, did they just whine ? Look at the non-violent campaigns of Gandhi and Martin Luther King too. Did they all just whine ?

> There is no higher authority to which they can appeal to. And in The Abolition
> of Man, CS Lewis gives us an idea what effect the rejection of moral absolutes
> (Lewis uses the term 'Tao') will have on the 'Conditioners', that is the elite
> and those who hold power (1943/1982: 38):

Where would theists be without C S Lewis - thinking for themselves perhaps.

> The Conditioners, then, are to choose what kind of artificial Tao they will,
> for their own good reasons, produce in the Human race. They are the
> motivators, the creators of motives. But how are they going to be motivated
> themselves?
> For a time, perhaps, by survivals, within their own minds, of the old
> `natural' Tao. Thus at first they may look upon themselves as servants and
> guardians of humanity and conceive that they have a duty to do it good. But it
> is only by confusion that they can remain in this state. They recognize the
> concept of duty as the result of certain processes which they can now control.
> Their victory has consisted precisely in emerging from the state in which they
> were acted upon by those processes to the state in which they use them as
> tools. One of the things they now have to decide is whether they will, or will
> not, so condition the rest of us that we can go on having the old idea of duty
> and the old reactions to it. How can duty help them to decide that? Duty
> itself is up for trial: it cannot also be the judge. And `good' fares no
> better. They know quite well how to produce a dozen different conceptions of
> good in us. The question is which, if any, they should produce. No conception
> of good can help them to decide. It is absurd to fix on one of the things they
> are comparing and make it the standard of comparison.

I've already answered this nonsense earlier on, and I see nothing new in Lewis' piece.
I do hope that in your next response you give me something that I can get my teeth into. My moral relativism is still intact.


Pogo said (December 20, 2010 9:43 AM)


Just got back from walking my dog (pee and poop expedition) and did take a quick look at Paul Baird's last response in our exchange. Will attempt to get back to this, but quite likely will be in the New Year as other concerns are on the radar presently.
That said your (PB's) comments about Enlightenment influence in Japan (likened to a "flamethrower in a wheat field") caught my attention. Was unaware of this. Do you have a reference (print or web) up your sleeve? This is interesting.

take care all!


Paul Baird said (December 20, 2010 10:25 AM)

The effect of the Enlightenment was felt wherever Western thought was exported to.
Japan emerged from it's Shogunate isolation and was exposed to these ideas in the mid 19th century.

1869: Yukichi Fukuzawa's "Conditions in the West" launches the wave of Westernization
Mar 1869: Chushu, Satsuma, Hizen and Tosa voluntarily offer their territories to the emperor
1869: The Confucian school of Edo becomes a Western-style university (later renamed University of Tokyo)
1870: Meiji dismantles the feudal system and forbids the lords from retaining private armies
1870: The first newspaper
1871: The yen debuts
1871: The revolutionary government dismantles the feudal system and forbids the lords from retaining private armies
1872: the first railway line between Tokyo and Yokohama is inaugurated
1872: Western dress is prescribed for official ceremonies
1873: Japan grants religious freedom and adopts the Gregorian calendar
1873: Japan adopts conscription so that the central government can have an army of its own
1873: Shigenobu Okuma becomes minister of finance
1873: Japan revokes the ban on Christianity
Japan passed the Meiji Constitution in 1889. This was a form of constitutional monarchy based on the Prussian model.

If you can find any pre-WW2 history of specific Japanese anti-semitism then I'd be interested to read of it.

 


Pogo said (December 24, 2010 7:23 AM)

I did Google Fukuzawa's Conditions in the West and found a lot of fascinating stuff. Thanks for that reference. In particular I checked out an ebook by Alan Macfarlane (Yukichi Fukuzawa And The Making Of The Modern World) which gave me a peek into this time period. It appears Fukuzawa was heavily influenced by Enlightenment influences, authors such as JBS Mill and Neitschze. Macfarlane observes (2007: 42)

Thus the 1870s saw the publication of his [Fukuzawa] major philosophical works heavily influenced by Guizot, Mill and Buckle, and hence stemming from the French and Scottish Enlightenment.

There are no Christian influences in Fukuzawa's works at all as far as I can tell. Yes Japan has always been a VERY tough nut to crack as far as Christian missionary efforts go, so perhaps that should not be much of a surprise, but it is odd that though for the most part Christianity got the cold shoulder from the Japanese as a "Western religion", yet the Enlightenment (an even more Western ideology, since Christianity was imported from the Middle-East) should make so many easy converts among the Japanese. It is a bit paradoxical. And though your "flamethrower in a wheat field" analogy was rather dramatic, Japan did in fact go through a huge world-view change in the course of just a generation or two, going from feudalism to modernity. That does seem unprecedented. The perception that Japan had to "catch up" to the West seems to have played a HUGE part in this transition. Perhaps only the North American First Nations had a more traumatic cultural encounter with Western culture. From hunter-gatherer economies to modern technology.

As to Japanese anti-Semitism, I am not aware of any, but then this begs the question: Has Japan ever had a significant Jewish population? In any case, I've heard plenty of rumours about Japanese xenophobia. In Asia, apparently the Chinese look down on the Japanese and the Japanese look down on the Koreans, Philippinos and everyone else...


Pogo said (December 24, 2010 18:10 PM)

 

Pogo said (23/12/2010)

Hmm... it would seem that exchanges like this are a bit like a bag of chips. Once you start, VERY hard to stop. Perhaps, I'll have “just one more”... Oh well, here I go again...

Response to Paul Baird

> To be honest I had hoped for better. Paul's initial postings were novel lines
> of argument and responding to them was a pleasure. Unfortunately Paul has now
> lapsed into the more familiar lines that most theists rely on, and which
> refuting is my bread and butter.
>
> Ok, so the source of the piece
>
>> Ah, I see... Deconstructed, this would mean you don't like where this is
>> going... If one allows one's credulity to lapse, then one can see many holes
>> in the “scientific status” of evolution. This is the ultimate shield that
>> evolutionists use to protect their myth from serious criticism. But on
>> anthropological grounds there is ample justification to consider it a myth.
>
> Sadly, Paul is now becoming even more unhinged. I had stated in my prior
> response that his view of evolution was emotive and now he's just getting
> worse.

Could this possibly mean my arguments are causing you unpleasant "emotions"? That would explain a lot.

Ah gee, couldn't resist...

>
> To state, without qualification, that evolution has many 'holes', is to make
> an emotive statement, or at least an unsubstantiated assertion. To then cite
> anthropological grounds is quite unfounded.
>
>> Basically, when looked at in terms of the social functions it fills, in the
>> West evolution operates just like an origins myth, a materialistic myth to be
>> sure, but myth nonetheless. For starters check out my 30 year old article
>> Myths of Origin and the Theory of Evolution. And of late I've published a 600
>> page book in French (Fuite de l'Absolu, volume 2) on this issue, but chances
>> are you don't read French.
>
> I'm not sure that you undertand what a myth is, and if you do then you need to
> justify, and not merely assert, it's use in this context.

Your impatience with my "bald assertion" (about evolution=myth) is quite understandable. But seeing my view here does depart from "common knowledge", backing up it up will take more than a line or two to address. I have to admit that if you do rely on the dictionary definition of “religion” or “myth”, then you would be right about evolution not being a myth, but dictionaries happen to be about a 100 years behind on research in the Social Sciences so on critical issues like this they are of no use.

When the media or power-brokers in the judicial or educational system talk about "religion" they usually refer to the dictionary definition, which says something like: "Religion is belief and/or ritual involving a superhuman controlling power (the supernatural), particularly a personal God or gods."

Over time anthropologists have realised that opposing the natural to the supernatural world is a Western reflex and that many other societies do not have such a dualistic view of reality. Since WWII, many social scientists have slowly discarded the old dualistic approach and consider that, at it's core, religion is simply a belief system (i.e., a set of beliefs) providing meaning for human life. Social scientists now use the terms "religion", "ideology", "belief system" or "world-view" interchangeably. Just to give you an idea how the issue is now approached, here is a widely accepted definition proposed by the American anthropologist Clifford Geertz (1973: 90) :

"A religion is (1) a system of symbols which acts to (2) establish long-lasting moods and motivations in men by (3) formulating conceptions of a general order of existence and (4) clothing these conceptions with such an aura of factuality that (5) the moods and motivations seem uniquely realistic."

So from this perspective, whether a religion involves belief in gods and goddesses, or denies their existence, is irrelevant. The fundamental issue is that a religion offers beliefs/presuppositions that provide meaning to human life. You can throw in ritual in the mix if you like, but it isn't necessary. Under this definition, Marxism, for example can be considered a religion, a materialistic religion (with a materialistic form of "salvation") obviously, but religion nonetheless. Seen this way the Enlightenment then becomes a religious movement with lots of little spin-off sects and hitting its maximum influence in the mid-20th century. On such issues I have observed that anthropologists are afflicted with a strange form of cognitive dissonance. They are fine with applying such concepts to non-Western societies, but not to their own and still less to their own world-views. But now we go to a subset of religion; cosmology and myth.

A cosmology is the part of a religion that deals with the BIG QUESTIONS: How did we get here? Why are things as they are? Why are there wars, cancers, death?

These are the questions that annoying little 3-4 year old kids like to ask as soon as they've learned to talk. These are the "why" questions. Kids ask "Why do people get sick?", "Why do people get divorced?". These questions are annoying because they can make even a Phd professor look stupid if the kid responds to every adult explanation with another "why" question (and does this more than 2-3 times in a row). Answering these questions is annoying because they demand that we dig down to our most very basic understandings of the world in which we live. And the answers to these questions can only be found in our cosmology. In most cases religions have what is called an "origins myth". An origins myth is simply a narrative/story that tells us how our world/universe got started. It is thus a pedagogical device, encapsulating a religion's beliefs about origins. You could say it is cosmology in narrative form. Most religions have at least one origins myth. Some can get along with no origins myth of their own and borrow an origins myth from some other society or package their cosmological presuppositions in in some other form instead (ritual), but that is less common. The origins myth seems to be a very efficient and widely used mechanism for packaging cosmological presuppositions. Now obviously, if religion and myth are no longer strongly linked to belief in the supernatural, then things quickly get messy... In Western media and courts the old definition of religion is still widely in use. Why is this the case? I would hold that this is because the old definition of religion is quite useful in ideological terms as a protection mechanism.

Even though it is bad marketing, nonetheless a number of evolutionists have admitted the mythological function/status of the theory of evolution. For example, in the early 80s, creationists were attempting to chip away at the evolutionary monopoly in the US public school system and in Arkansas had introduced a law demanding "balanced treatment" on origins in the school system. Creation would be taught along with evolution in science classes. But this could not be tolerated and a court case ensued. George Marsden, a history professor was called to witness for the evolution side in the Arkansas trial, and said:

'In any case, creation scientists are correct in perceiving that in modern culture "evolution" often involves far more than biology. The basic ideologies of the civilization, including its entire moral structure, are at issue. Evolution is sometimes the key mythological element in a philosophy that functions as a virtual religion.'

In the early 80's Canadian philosopher of science Michael Ruse also testified for the evolution side at the Arkansas trial. Later he admitted the evolution=science and creation=religion dichotomy, one of the main evolutionary defenses against the creationist heretics, was unravelling as far as he was concerned (1993: 6):

"(...) and if I could go back ten years to Arkansas I'd just reverse everything. I think that you can do it. I mean I think you can't do it in just a gung-ho, straightforward, neo-Popperian way: here we've got science on the one side, here we've got religion on the other side, evolution falls on the science side, creationism falls on the other side, and you know, never the twain shall meet. I think you've got to go at different ways, things like, as I mentioned, pragmatism, for instance."
"Evolution is promoted by its practitioners as more than mere science. Evolution is promulgated as an ideology, a secular religion -- a full-fledged alternative to Christianity, with meaning and morality. I am an ardent evolutionist and an ex-Christian, but I must admit that in this one complaint -- and Mr. Gish is but one of many to make it -- the literalists are absolutely right. Evolution is a religion. This was true of evolution in the beginning, and it is true of evolution still today."

Of late, Ruse has been even more blunt about his views on the evolution=religion equation and noted (2005: 3)

"In particular, I argue that in both evolution and creation we have rival religious responses to a crisis of faith—rival stories of origins, rival judgments about the meaning of human life, rival sets of moral dictates, and above all what theologians call rival eschatologies — pictures of the future and of what lies ahead for humankind."

Now I understand Ruse when he says that "Evolution is a religion", but I would beg to differ. His background is in Philosophy of science not Social Anthropology. Technically, evolution is NOT an overarching belief system, giving meaning to to all aspects of human life (and offering some form of "salvation" or dealing with the ills of this world) nor does it involve ritual, but it is quite appropriate from an anthropological point of view to view it as an origins myth (as it is focussed on the issue of Origins), a part of religion or a subset of beliefs in a mature belief system. That evolution is a materialistic origins myth is of no consequence at all. Now of course evolution does not typically take on the narrative form so characteristic of most myths, but that is not such a big deal either. From time to time, the theory of evolution can be presented in narrative form, especially in popularized versions for the masses, or it is implicit in illustrations of the evolutionary chain of life. Misia Landau, in a book called Narratives of Human Evolution has explored this issue and notes (1991: ix-x)

"There is a group of sciences committed to narrative in a more discursive style than physics and on a different time scale. They seek to reconstruct sequences of events in the past — sequences presumed to be unique or so hugely cyclic that they are beyond experiment: Cosmology and geology are such sciences. Paleontology, or the study of the origin of living things on earth, and paleoanthropology, the study of human evolution, are further examples, in descending order of taxonomic scope and of time scale. Ideally, they should all fit together in a coherent epic account of our world: how it came to be and how humankind came to have its particular place in it. This book is concerned with the most intimate of the narrative sciences, paleoanthropology. It addresses a group of classic texts in paleoanthropology beginning in the generation of Charles Darwin. It asks what happens if we look at these texts as narratives, leaving aside issues of truth or justification. What it finds is that these texts are determined as much by traditional narrative frameworks as by material evidence."

Ernst Mayr, one of the twentieth century's foremost biologists, actually noted that narrative is at the core of the theory of evolution (1997):

But Mayr could not leave such a comment "as is" and though he recognized that evolution does not meet the demands of the traditional definition of empirical science, Mayr then concludes (1997) that this situation demands that the traditional definition of science be discarded so as to include evolution! (1997)

Though CS Lewis' academic speciality was Medieval literature (yes, your favorite author again), he was also an avid reader of mythology and in a little-known essay had some rather thought-provoking insights on evolution as myth:

This will give you a basic idea what my "evolution as myth" claim is about, but there is a LOT more to be said about this (for example I have not considered here the scientific status of evolution from an epistemological point of view, but I would point out that this status is far more tenuous than what evolutionary agitprop would claim). Creationist "bulldog" debater Kent Hovind is fond of saying that the fact that one can find evolution in many science texts does not make it "scientific" any more than finding beer commonly served at football games and then claiming this makes it "athletic". The two are not linked.

Now though there is ample evidence justifying considering the theory of evolution as a (materialistic) origins myth, it is quite understandable that evolutionists will continue to make this a taboo issue and stick with old out-dated definitions of religion and myth as these ensure that unsettling questions about their theory will not get asked/heard... One must understand that there is a lot at stake here as numerous sociological and psychological theories and ideologies are based on the theory of evolution. Admitting the mythological character of evolution would have dramatic consequences on its social status (not to mention funding issues for evolutionary studies in the university context). The whole separation of Church and State that evolutionists have used for so many years to exclude creationism and ID in the States to prop up their ideological monopoly in education and academia would come back at them with a vengeance...

>> And you say “evolution works”, but never define exactly what that means. If
>> perhaps you meant that the term “evolution” is often quoted in scientific
>> literature, then you are certainly right, but if you mean that it produces
>> actual advances in science, then I think you need to supply some very clear
>> and unambiguous evidence for that.
>
> This is a very peculiar standpoint - even the most ardent ID or Creation
> Science advocate accepts evolution within species. The issue from their
> standpoint appears to be a non acceptance of evolution producing new species
> from older species. As for 'actual advances' in science, my response would be
> one of incredulity. Firstly you do not define your terms of reference, ie how
> do you define an advance, which scientific fields you are referring to and
> what evidence you are looking for.
>
> Sorry, Paul, but that is plain lazy.

I note you are playing with two different definitions of "evolution" here... All are agreed about variations within species. This is an undisputed, empirically observable phenomenon. Finch beaks size/shape varies, as does the colouring of speckled moths fluttering around the English country-side, as do bacterial eating habits in a Petri dish (one day Kraft dinner, another day nylon, then pizza...) and so on. But seeing the paucity of evidence supporting molecules to man evolution, it is understandable that evolutionists find themselves resorting to exploiting these variations as important "proofs" of their theory, extrapolating from these rather minor variations to infer the whole molecules to man theory of evolution. Now this extrapolation may be a tenet of evolutionary faith, but it is NOT empirically demonstrated. For example, though observing a bird fly to the top of a 20m tree may be an empirical fact that all can agree upon, extrapolating that, if "given enough time", this bird will then fly to the moon is neither empirical, nor rational and requires a naked “act of faith”. If one disallows this one critical step, the extrapolation from “micro-evolution” (variation within species) to macro-evolution, then the best evidence for the whole theory becomes irrelevant. In this context, insinuating that micro-evolution "demonstrates" molecules to man evolution, is plain lazy, if not dishonest.

Again confusing facts and interpretation/extrapolation seems essential here...

>> There is no logical link between the two. In any case, your statement is
>> contradicted by an editorial in science journal BioEssays by geneticist and
>> evolutionist Adam S. Wilkins: (2000: 1051):
>
> A link to the whole article would be nice - I've seen enough cases of a
> scientist being quoted out of context.

It would appear unfortunately that you have to buy the Dec. BioEssays issue. Here's the link. Perhaps if you have access to a university library you can download or access the article there.

>> In most of the scientific literature, you could replace the word “evolution”
>> with “blip” and suffer no serious loss... Typically the use of the term
>> “evolution” in science research papers is obeisance to the herd mentality. A
>> researcher systematically excluding the term may eventually attract suspicion
>> on his “orthodoxy”.
>
> Once more the emotive langauge appears, Paul. This is not what I hoped or
> expected from you. I expected something alot better.
>
> As an example could you actually post an article on evolution where you've
> carried out this exercise and produced the predicted result ?
>

Sorry, I have no reference at hand on this one at this point in time. Does that “disprove” my point?

>> This argument seems empty. Specifically, what Christians are you actually
>> talking about? In any case the argument is incorrect. Christians never
>> claimed
>> that their religion is unique in terms of morality. Christ himself stated
>> that
>> he had not come to abolish the (Mosaic) Law, but to fulfil it. In terms of
>> morality, Christianity borrows heavily on Mosaic Law, in particular on the 10
>> commandments rather that the 613 rules of the ceremonial Law. The one area I
>> can think of where Christ innovated had to do with divorce. He made divorce a
>> LOT more inaccessible than it had been under the Law of Moses (see Mark 10 :
>> 2-12 ; Matthew 5 :31-32). Unfortunately this has been widely ignored of late
>> by many Christians. In actual fact, Christianity's uniqueness is based not on
>> it's moral system, but on it's claim that Christ fulfilled all of the Law,
>> bearing the consequences of each of our transgressions on the cross. Moral
>> systems are common, but coherent moral systems, less so, I would contend.
>
> Actually I could post many, many, many examples of a wide range of Christians
> who do advocate that Christianity is the sole source of human morality.
> Christianity borrows, as all religions do, from other belief systems, not
> simply from older Judaic traditions.

You say you could post "many, many, many examples of a wide range of Christians who do advocate that Christianity is the sole source of human morality"? Then why not provide just 2-3 examples then, WITH references? And make sure you're not quoting anyone out of context. That would be "naughty"...

In any case, it would seem rather odd (and incoherent) to me for a Christian to claim that Christianity specifically was the source of all morality. I hope you're not confusing the general claim that ALL men are made in God's image and carry an innate moral capacity as a result and the more specific claim that Judeo-Christianity is the direct and sole source of ALL morality? At most, it may be claimed that the 10 commandments have had a VERY wide influence (especially in the West), but going beyond that...

Do any of this "wide range of Christians" claim that Christianity has made any particular innovative contribution to ethics or morals?

> Your last sentence does not make much sense, and without substantiation too.
> It begs some questions
>
> 'what is an incoherent moral system ?'
> 'how would an exterior observer of an incoherent and a coherent moral system
> determine which is which ?'
>

Well just off the top of my head, having a world-view with a demanding moral system and gods that screw around as they please... (as did the ancient Romans and Greeks) would qualify as a case of incoherence. Another example that comes to mind would be the Islamic concept of "Taqiyya" which allows the coexistence of one ethical system for governing interaction between Muslims and another (less altruistic) one for interaction between Muslims and non-Muslims (infidels). For example, though the Quran says (Surah 40:28;, "Truly Allah guides not one who transgresses and lies", in the Hadiths, Mohammed allowed one of his followers to lie in order to accomplish the assassination of a Jewish poet who's only crime was criticising Mohammed. Here is the hadith:

The present political implications of this doctrine is examined in the following article.

How Taqiyya Alters Islam's Rules of War
by Raymond Ibrahim
Middle East Quarterly - Winter 2010, pp. 3-13


>> That's a lot of “mights” you have there... Framed in such a vague manner,
>> you'll be testing nothing except perhaps the evolutionists endless capacity
>> for framing observable human behaviour in evolutionary terms (also called
>> “story-telling”). So your argument is that because “a number of social
>> experiments show that any society without a cohesive social structure will
>> fail” and this observable phenomenon has what logical or empirically
>> demonstrated link to evolution? I see none. Anthropologists have long known
>> that humans have a universal tendency to develop social structures with moral
>> codes to support them and in turn, these moral codes are anchored in the
>> group's world-view, which finds it's basis in its cosmology or origins myth.
>> It's all linked. But adding statements such as “this moral capacity has
>> evolved in the course of human evolution” to the conclusion of a research
>> paper in Social Anthropology does not prove anything, but it will give us a
>> good idea of the author's cosmology. Evolutionists get a LOT of mileage by
>> confusing facts and interpretations... So I think my earlier statement that
>> “Evolution did it!” should be put in the same metaphysical category as that
>> “God did it!” still stands.
>
> Once more you put forward an emotive response, even when presenting your own
> admission about anthropology ! It raises the question whether there is any
> evidence that you would be prepared to accept. Perhaps this is because of your
> own 'cosmology' ?

And this begs the more basic question: What counts as evidence?

"Smart" comments aside, world-views and cosmologies may be judged and compared in terms of their capability of addressing the various phenomena in the world around us, but critically the human condition. World-views should also avoid self-contradiction.

>
>> I do not believe that humans are incapable of developing moral systems unless
>> it is based on the Judeo-Christian world-view. A Christian view is that
>> humans
>> are all made in God's image and simply develop moral codes as a result. You
>> could say it is “built into” the human condition.
>
> But, once again, that view is confusing as on the one hand it accepts a lack
> of Christian exclusivity as the source of human morality and then on the other
> puts forward an exclusive explanation ie moral codes develop regardless, but
> they do so because we are all made in God's image.
>

Yes, I suppose you may feel I am using a "I win, you lose" type of argument. But my assertion only works if the truth of Christianity is assumed. In other words, it is entailed by the logic of the Judeo-Christian cosmology. You are under no obligation to take that step, but you should still be able to recognize that it is NOT logically inconsistent for a Christian to espouse such a view. If all men are made in God's image and God cares about moral issues, then it should not come as a surprise that all men should care about moral issues (and yes, Fallen men inevitably do this in a fallen, screwed-up manner).

>> This indicates that there seems to be an innate human moral urge (but don't
>> ask me what “innate” means... that would bring us into huge debates on nature
>> vs. nurture in anthropology). These moral codes may be more or less coherent
>> and more or less humane, but they do attempt to impose certain restrictions
>> on
>> human behaviour (individuals as well as societies) and these restrictions are
>> linked to certain conceptions of good and evil. Humans are the only animals
>> known to develop world-views and moral codes. You won't find one animal
>> saying
>> to another, “Hey that's not fair!”, as “fairness” refers to a (oral/written)
>> code.
>
> Aside from the last two sentences you seem to be accepting moral relativism
> based on group mores and norms. I disagree with your last two sentences, my
> views on higher order primates differ from yours somewhat but that is by the
> by.
>
>> The critical issue, it would seem to me, is whether Nazis anti-Semitism was
>> coherent with their worldview and was the anti-Semitism of pre-Nazi Germany
>> Christians coherent with their worldview? I would hold that the anti-Semitism
>> of pre-Nazi Germany Christians was not coherent with their professed
>> world-view.
>
> Sources, and I will want LOTS.
>
> Perhaps you could also explain why Edward I expelled all of the Jews from
> England, and why after Cromwell allowed them to come back, the merchants of
> England petitioned Charles II to reinstate the expulsion ? This is part of a
> long history of English anti-semitism.
>
> Perhaps you haven't read of Polish inter-war antisemitism ?
>
> As you write in French I presume you've heard of L'Action française ?
> (“French Action”) Influential right-wing antirepublican group in early
> 20th-century France, whose views were promoted in a newspaper of the same
> name. The Action Française movement, led by Charles Maurras, espoused the
> antiparliamentarian, anti-Semitic, and strongly nationalist views inspired by
> the Alfred Dreyfus Affair. The movement peaked after World War I, when
> nationalist feeling was strong. It was denounced by the papacy in 1926, and
> ceased to exist after World War II because of its association with the
> collaborationist Vichy government (see Vichy France).
> Let's not forget Romania and Hungary.
> Romania was described even by Hitler as a country that outdid Germany in the
> severity of its dealings with the Jewish population. Romanian concentration
> camps were run by the Romanians, not the SS, which led Eichmann to demand at
> the German foreign office in April 1942 that they stop these unorganized and
> premature Romanian efforts "to get rid of the Jews." 22
>
> Marshal Ion Antonescu, the leader of Romania, was the first in Europe to
> deprive all Jews of their nationality and to initiate large scale massacres.
> He was responsible for the Odessa massacre -- in which 26,000 Jews were killed
> in three days -- in retaliation for a bomb that killed 220 Romanian and German
> army personnel in Odessa on October 22, 1942.23
>
> Antonescu also pre-empted Germany in his attempts to sell the Jews -- a year
> before Himmler's "blood for trucks" proposals to the Red Cross. 24It can be
> argued, therefore, from the history of anti-semitism in Romania, that the
> ideology of Nazism was not the major cause of the breakdown of moral standards
> in the rest of Europe. The fact that Romania, acted independently of Germany
> against the Jews reinforces the thesis that such a moral breakdown can occur
> anywhere -- given the right circumstances.
> Sorry, but I'm really losing my rag with this line of argument, I read it all
> too often in theistic exchanges. The sad fact of the matter is that the Nazis
> took advantage of an already existing anti-semitism and the Nurembourg Laws
> and even Kristelnacht continue in the same vein. What changes is the
> industrialisation of the extermination process in the Final Solution after the
> Wannsee Conference. Also see my later comment about Martin Luther.

On this issue, check out a brief note from Jerry Bergman (On Martin Luther’s Anti-Semitism). As I've mentioned before there is no doubt that Luther did make anti-semitic comments and write anti-semitic tracts. The real issue remains are these views coherent with Christianity? Christianity is not Luther's invention. Unfortunately, just as North American Christians are often just as materialistic as other non-Christians North Americans, here too Luther's later writings on the Jews uncritically reflected the culture of his time.

>
>> In any case, it would be extremely naïve to consider that early 20th century
>> Germany was a bastion of exemplary or coherent Christianity. Your argument
>> would hold if pre1933 Germany was monolithically Christian, but I think that
>> such would be a very naïve view of this time period.
>
> I haven't said that. What I have said is that anti-semitism was rife within
> Germany in particular and Europe in general before WW2 such that to infer that
> it was the creature of the Nazi Party is incorrect.
>
>> The Enlightenment world-view had long ago sunk deep roots in Germany and in
>> the 19th century Germany had heavily bought into evolution as widely promoted
>> by Ernst Haeckel. And if memory serves, the Romantic movement promoted the
>> “volk” (us against them) concept that the Nazis found useful later. The Nazi
>> party did not appear in a vacuum. Though a superb politician, Hitler was a
>> rather unoriginal ideologue and liberally borrowed from ideas then in
>> fashion.
>> Though both Catholic and Protestant Germans did join the Nazi party and
>> participate in anti-Semitic acts, I would hold that parts of the Confessing
>> Church or individuals like Corrie ten Boom, at great price to themselves,
>> would be examples of more consistent Christians of this time period.
>
> So, instead of blaming the Nazi party you're now blaming the Enlightenment
> ?This would work if you show that it was restricted in influence and effect to
> just Germany, or even Europe. However the USA was also influenced by the
> Englightenment (arguably more so as it did not have the same medieval feudal
> systems to overcome), and yet that nation did not descend into the same
> anti-semitism. Perhaps there were other influences ?
>
> Your use of the concept of 'volk' is, I think misguided, as you are now
> invoking German nationalism. I fail to see how German nationalism differs from
> British (the Empire on which the sun never sets) nationalism, or French, or
> Italian or Russian for that matter. You are also failing to address another
> nation where the influence of the Enlightenment was like a flamethrower in a
> wheat field in terms of the dramatic changes that it introduced in a very
> short period of time, and where anti-semitism as opposed to a more general
> loathing of all foreigners was not apparent - Japan.
>

Perhaps you may be right that the Romantics did not contribute in any significant way to anti-Semitism in 20th c. Germany.

>
>> Of course anti-Semitism has long been present in the “Christian” West, but in
>> actual fact it long precedes the Christian era as the Romans persecuted the
>> Jews as well. And well before the Christian era during the deportation (after
>> the Fall of the kingdom of Judah), Jews faced genocide, as documented in the
>> book of Esther and Psalm 83: 2-8. I would then contend that anti-Semitism has
>> it's roots outside of the core Christian beliefs though there is no question
>> that Christians have been advocates of anti-Semitism, but I would hold the
>> did
>> so in contradiction to core Christian beliefs that they profess to hold.
>
> I think you're on very shaky ground with that line of argument. In terms of
> pre-Roman anti-semitism you would need to provide sources. It's one thing to
> advocate a warring relationship between the Jewish nation and another, but
> that, I suggest is based on 'normal' usage of the final diplomatic option. As
> for Roman anti-semitism, again I'd need to see specific texts wherein a Roman
> official advocates a particular mode of action based solely on the faith of
> the Jews over a period of time as opposed to an immediate response to a
> particular event.
>
> I would also like some further explanation of how you would see these
> Christians morally justifying their actions that are so in contradiction to
> core Christian beliefs.
>
> I'd like to read your explanation for Martin Luther's anti-semitism too. Was
> he acting in contradiction to his core Christian beliefs ?
>
>> Your last comment on the hundreds of years of Mayan civilisation and linking
>> that to the prophecies of Ezekiel eludes me... What was that about?
>
> It's not important - one for another day.
>
>> So you don't share my Orwellian fantasies? That's ok. Time will tell.
>
> On other matters, perhaps, but not on this one. Is there a time limit for time
> to tell ?
>
>> My argument is simply that written/oral moral codes commonly developed by
>> humans are “unexpected” from an evolutionary point of view as typically other
>> animals resolves such issues on the basis of instinct. That humans do
>> otherwise is not predicted then in this sense by evolutionary theory, though
>> an evolutionary “explanation” can be had of course.
>
> Really ? I can think of several animal species that have evolutionary codes of
> what we might term morality. Any particular species of animal that lives in a
> pack would be a good place to start.
>
>> Ah, why do I feel like you're avoiding the real question here? Does George W
>> Bush have anything to do with the issues I raised ? Oh well... I guess I'll
>> let others judge whether your response is adequate or not.
>
> Ah, but he does. I've cited a morally unacceptable practice and the
> circumstances under which that practice becomes morally acceptable. If the
> practice is absolutely morally wrong then it would remain so under all
> circumstances.
>

Well, honestly this still seems to me like a convenient way to avoid the more serious questions you've been asked, but just for fun, seeing you've already conceded that though presently you disagree with de Sade's view of human male/female relations you may agree with him later on, the logic of your position would entail that though today you despise Bush (and his lies about weapons of mass-destruction in Irak), perhaps tomorrow you will have revised your position and become a great admirer of Bush and of his policies. Why not?

Unless of course your likes and dislikes happen to be subliminal absolutes?

And in any case, why should it matter to you if Bush lied according to your worldview? If you are just rearranged pond scum, lying is never wrong in any absolute sense. Within your worldview it is incoherent to complain about lying. You are cheating. You have to assume the Bible is true (or at the very least assume that Moral Absolutes do exist) to make a coherent judgment on the morality of lying. And if Moral Absolutes do exist, then the issue of where they come from must be addressed... You are trespassing on God's ground.

>
>> As an aside, philosopher Peter Kreeft has raised an interesting issue related
>> to the consequences of the rejection of absolutes. Kreeft observes that the
>> rejection of absolutes in the West logically results in total conformism,
>> masses easily manipulated by the elite and the end of serious social
>> criticism. Kreeft's discussion takes the form of a Socratic dialogue, Libby
>> playing the part of the relativist and ‘Isa, the absolutist (Kreeft 1999:
>> 74-75)
>>
>> Libby: (...) We liberals are always the progressives, and we're the
>> relativists. You conservatives are always the absolutists. You've got it all
>> backwards.
>> 'Isa: No, you have it backwards. If you're a relativist, that means you think
>> values are relative to cultures, right?
>> Libby: Yes...
>> 'Isa: So you have no universal law, no higher law, no higher standard than
>> culture, right?
>> Libby: Right. We don't claim to have a private telephone line to heaven, like
>> you.
>> 'Isa: So you can't criticize your culture, then. Your culture sets the
>> standard. Your culture creates the commandments. Your culture is God. "My
>> country right or wrong." That doesn't sound like progressivism to me. That
>> sounds like status quo conservatism.
>
> Just because it is my culture does not mean that I or indeed other members of
> that culture are passive servants of that culture. The group and the
> individual are in constant dialogue. So Isa's point is a false one.
>
>> Libby: You're confusing me. You make everything stand on its head.
>> 'Isa: No, you do. Or your media do, and you've been suckered by them. It's a
>> big lie; it's pure propaganda.
>
> This is emotive nonsense, and doesn't move the premise of the dialogue forward
> at all.
>
>> If you just stop and think for yourself for a minute, you'll see that it's
>> really just the opposite of the media stereotypes. Only a believer in an
>> absolute higher law can criticize a whole culture.
>
> This is yet another bit of nonsense that walks straight into the Eurythpro
> dilemma. I can criticise my culture because I am not a passive servant. Anyone
> believing in absolutes does not have that freedom, because the standard is
> absolute.

This last sentence does NOT make any sense at all. Your argument involves a (necessary) confusion to even appear to stand. If political power and the ethical standard are accepted as totally fused (as in the Divine right of Kings for example) only then may you have a case. But if the standard is held to be SEPARATE and ABOVE human culture as well as particular human rulers or elites, then real freedom from tyranny exists. Charles Colson observed that Protestants such as Samuel Rutherford made this point incisively (1996)

Oddly enough, the relativity of Law occured many years ago to Hobbes in his Leviathan. (1651/1974: 316)

That Law can never be against Reason, our Lawyers are agreed; and that not the Letter,(that is, every construction of it,) but that which is according to the Intention of the Legislator, is the Law. And it is true: but the doubt is, of whose Reason it is, that shall be received for Law?

Damn good question, but as far as I know, Hobbes had better things to think about and did not come back to this critical issue.

>> He's the rebel, the radical, the prophet who can say to a whole culture,
>> "You're worshipping a false God and a false good. Change!" That's the
>> absolutist; and that's the force for change.
>
> Not if the standard is absolute - how can an absolute be changed ? You're
> making the argument for relativism.
>
>> The Jews changed history more than anyone because they were absolutists — the
>> conscience for the world, the Jewish mother who makes you feel guilty about
>> not calling her, not calling on God, not praying.
>
> Yet more emotive nonsense. By what critieria is this person making those value
> judgements ? Once again it ignores any non-Judeo-Christian systems of morality
> or even the existance and achievements of their civilisations !
>
>> Or guilty about vegging out in front of the TV instead of going out and
>> getting an education and getting a job and changing the world.
>
> Yep, bring on the stereotypes. Have you ever watched "Everyone loves Raymond
> ?", they were Italian Americans though, not Jews, so I suppose it doesn't
> count.
>
>> Libby: Not fair! The relativist is for change too.
>
> The relativist has no choice, because relativism, by it's nature, is dynamic.
>
>> 'Isa: But he has no moral basis for it.
>
> Again, a statement is simply asserted without any foundation.
>
>> All a relativist can say to a Hitler is, "Different strokes for different
>> folks, and I like my strokes and I hate yours." The absolutist can say, "You
>> and your whole society are wrong and wicked, and divine justice will destroy
>> you, inescapably, unless you repent." Which of those two messages is more
>> progressive? Which one is the force for change?
>
> Whose divine justice - The Jew ? The Muslim ? The Christian ? The
> Scientologist ? The Mormon ? The Jehovah's Witness ?
>

Relativists must figure that one out on their own obviously, but if one has found Truth, then the game is played differently. If truth exists, then these things can be sorted out. Of course, it all depends what your starting point is. Seeing that ideas have consequences, then if one begins with the teachings of Buddha, as opposed to the Koran, the Bible or Joseph Smith's writings, then that will have consequences too. If Truth is destroyed/rejected, then the only thing one can say is “I like this” or “I dislike that”... Ego rules supreme...

Following the erosion and senility of the great political ideologies (Marxism in particular) and the great social projects that marked the end of the twentieth century, many in the West wondered what is there left to live for? French post-modern intellectual, Jean-François Lyotard (author of The post-modern condition) observed (1979: 30):

A quick and rough translation:

>> Libby: OK, there is a problem here: How does a relativist generate moral
>> passion for changing a culture without a natural law above that culture? I
>> guess...
>
> See above. I have to say that I was very disappointed by this, I had expected
> better, but it's much the same old stuff.
>
> Peter Hitchens and a link to The Daily Mail - how to score two own goals in
> easy succession. Peter recorded a programme for Premier Christian Radio that
> managed to damage theism quite nicely and he used to be a regular contributor
> to Sunday morning TV discussion programmes in the UK, so I know his views and
> his lines of advocacy quite well. I'm actually a bit surprised you didn't also
> quote Cristina Odone too.
> http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/author/cristinaodone/
> Linking to The Daily Mail made me smile. I'm not sure if you're aware of the
> reputation of the paper here in the UK. Great right wing journalism for small
> minded people.
>

I can understand that lapsed atheists (like CS Lewis, Peter Hitchens or David Stove) must be a bit of an embarrassment. So it appears the best way to tidy up any “messy questions” is to assume they are "small minded people", one and all.

Do I get to say that I am "very disappointed" with your argument too (when you resort to discrediting the messenger rather than dealing with his argument) or is that the materialists prerogative?? Seems unfair to me that the atheists get to use all the "moral high ground" comments all the time...

>
>> Being Christian is one thing. Fighting for a cause is another, and much
>> easier
>> to acknowledge - for in recent times it has grown clear that the Christian
>> religion is threatened with a dangerous defeat by secular forces which have
>> never been so confident. Why is there such a fury against religion now?
>> Because religion is the one reliable force that stands in the way of the
>> power
>> of the strong over the weak. The one reliable force that forms the foundation
>> of the concept of the rule of law. The one reliable force that restrains the
>> hand of the man of power. In an age of powerworship, the Christian religion
>> has become the principal obstacle to the desire of earthly utopians for
>> absolute power.
>
> So, let's ignore the following :
> Christianity is the established religion of the UK. The monarch is Defender of
> the Faith.
> There are 26 reserved places in the second chamber of the bicameral Parliament
> of the UK for Bishops.
> Sunday working hours are restricted in the UK as a direct result of Christian
> pressure.
> Thought for the Day (a 10 minute radio broadcast on Radio 2 and Radio 4 twice
> each day) has never been opened up to any non-religious broadcaster and is
> predominantly Christian in tone.
> School assemblies in the UK are mandated to be Christian in tone. This is the
> most widely flouted religious law in the UK.
> The 1701 Act of Settlement is religiously intolerant, and is still in force.
> It forbids the monarch marrying a Catholic or a Catholic ascending to the
> throne.
> Would you like more examples ? What Peter and all of the other Christians are
> wailing and moaning at is the increasing tendency of the great British Public
> to ignore the utter irrelevance and hypocrisy of the Christian Church. The
> people are voting with their feet for freedom and people like Peter want them
> to stay in chains.
>

While in Islam control of (and dependence on) the State has always been a critical issue, in Christianity, this is a late modification, an aberration actually. Though the Jews developed theocratic states, even at the height of the centralized power of the Jewish kings, they always had the institution of the prophet, limiting the absolute power of kings, calling them to account in their personal lives [2Samuel chaps 11-12] as well as in matters of State [1Kings 12:21-24]. I would hold that the role of the independent press in the West is derived from this institution. Also kingship in ancient Israel (Old Testament times) was a later development, one not envisioned in Mosaic law (see 1Samuel 8; Hosea 13: 11). In the time period of the Judges, the political/religious power structure in Israel was very decentralized. For example, the Judges had no power to tax (see 1Sam. 12: 3; as would the kings later on). Now on to Christianity. In the course of the first centuries of the Christian church Jewish influence soon waned and the influence of Greco-Roman culture grew deeper and deeper. That this is the case, is demonstrated by insignificant facts like Latin mass in Catholic churches, still enacted over a thousand years after Latin has ceased to be a common language in the West. Conceptually, Neo-Platonist doctrines of the "wicked" or "defiled" material world vs. the “purity” of the abstract/spiritual world had huge influence on views of sex in the West and heavily influenced the monastic movement. As the Church came to identify more and more to Greco-Roman culture, the very hierarchical concept of administrative power that was the norm in the Roman Empire, gradually became the norm in the Church as well. In the ancient, pre-Christian world it was the norm that the State would both protect/promote a particular religion as well as seek legitimacy from it. It would take a VERY long time for Christians to break with this concept and only where the Reformation[1] sunk deep roots and was allowed to fully mature did this happen.

Emperor Constantine I made Christianity legal (Edict of Milan) and profitable[2], but immediately sought to influence the Church, summoning the Council of Nicaea in 325 to resolve a theological debate that threatened the peace of his empire. Whereas previously the relationship with the Church/State relationship had been at best indifferent, if not hostile, Constantine I offered State support for the Christian Church and the Church was too stupid or too greedy (offers of revenues and lands to Church leaders?) to question this intervention of the State and the Church's concomitant loss of independence. I would hold that Christianity has been perverted as a result. Whereas in Islam direct control of the State by Sharia law has always been a desirable outcome, in the New Testament there has always been a more cynical view of such a development. Christ's comments about “Give unto Cesar that which is Cesar's” legitimizes the pagan, non-Christian state, independent of the Church. This concept is further developed in the Epistle to the Romans, chapter 13 where Paul said for example:

"Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour. Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law."

Bede's History of the English Church and People chronicles the development of the Church/State relationship in England and the same pattern was reproduced elsewhere in Europe. Missionaries were sent to pagan nations. Kings eventually converted and in return not only gave their subjects incentive to convert by their example, but provided lands and revenues for the Church. This eventually became a fixed pattern over all Europe, comparable to McDonald's franchises, which are the same from one country to another (with a touch of “local colour” to avoid total uniformity). As a result, even today in many European countries priests and pastors salaries are commonly paid by the State (along with building upkeep). In North America this is unknown and seen as a rather strange custom, gravely reducing the Church's independence. The original Celtic Christians (Céli-Dé) in the British isles seem to have been much less hierarchal in outlook and in organisation more independent of local power, but were soon absorbed by the Roman Church. A Church history manual I have in my library discusses (approvingly) how in the 7th c., papal envoy Theodore of Tarsus took over the Church in England, eradicating local practices deemed “undesirable” by the roman Church and subjugating native Celtic Christian communities to Roman hierarchy. The author of this manual inadvertently notes that this concept of centralized power eventually went on to influence secular society in the West as well.

“By establishing an ‘national' body which transcended local boundaries and local patriotism, Theodore's reorganization of the church helped develop secular government as well as bring order out of chaos. The church conveyed the concepts of unity and centralization to the secular world.”

Ah yes, if the Celtic Church in the British isles was not subservient to Rome, then that certainly was a cause of “chaos”... Good grief!

Happily the thirst for absolute centralized power in the Church in general was curtailed first by the scission with the Eastern Church around the year 1000 and later on by the Reformation. In England, Henry VIII's break with Rome further curtailed the Roman church's power. If it had not been for these events, imagine how wide the influence of the Inquisition might have been?

That said, I would then hold that though the pattern you note of State-supported Christian churches in England is quite old and has deep roots in the West, it can nonetheless be considered an aberration, if one looks for justification for it in the New Testament[3]. If one compares medieval canonical law and the very few indications given in the New Testament about power structures in the Church, the contrast is HUGE. The New Testament at most evokes councils to determine practical and doctrinal issues (such as circumcision and the practice of Mosaic Law[4]). The New Testament gives Rome no special place at all in the power structure of the Church. Later on, legends of Apostle Peter's death in Rome were exploited to justify Rome's power, but a simpler explanation is easily had. It would appear that the citizens of Rome had long been used to their city ruling the world politically and economically, so thought it “normal” or “inevitable” that their church should rule Christianity as well...

I would then hold that though the West has generally been characterized as “Christian”, this is only partly true. In fact though the West has demonstrated some Christian influence, it would be more precise to say that the West has always suffered from a “multiple-personality” disorder, where Christianity has been in competition with either pre-Christian pagan, Greco-Roman, Islamic, Enlightenment and/or now post-modern world-views. Each of these has contributed to shape aspects of Western civilisation and history. Each of these holds some responsibility for certain events and attitudes. But when Enlightenment and post-modern propagandists examine dark events in Western history they inevitably propose a “simplified” cultural view of the West. The conclusion becomes obvious; the West suddenly becomes monolithically “Christian”. How convenient...

Case in point. Galileo the astronomer is commonly believed to have suffered at the hands of the anti-science Catholic Church. Enlightenment propagandists assure us that this is indisputable proof that Christianity is anti-science. In an article by Jerry Bergman, (The Galileo Myth and the Facts of History, Creation Research Society Quarterly. pp. 226-235 - March 2003 (abstract)), it is pointed out that in fact Aristotelian university profs (wedded to the geocentric solar system) had been provoked by many pointed criticisms from Galileo and they were the ones that used their church connections to get Galileo brought before the Inquisition and shut up. But as the French say, “plus ça change, plus c'est pareil”. Nothing new under the sun. Today evolutionists also exploit the courts to protect their ideological monopoly in the educational system and shut up creationists and ID proponents. But since when do scientific theories need lawyers and judges to defend them? In the early 20th century, did proponents of Newtonian physics use the courts to shut down defenders of Einstein's relativity? When such measures are deemed necessary, that's a sign that in terms of the argument, the battle has already been lost.

>> So without moral absolutes of some kind (supported by a coherent world-view)
>> then all the masses can do before an abusing tyrant is whine.
>
> Again, and again you put this assertion forward and it simply does not stand
> up to scrutiny. Look at the French Maquis in WW2, did they just whine ? Look
> at the non-violent campaigns of Gandhi and Martin Luther King too. Did they
> all just whine ?

True, the French Maquis did not "just whine". But if the materialistic French Maquis believed the Nazi occupation of France was "unjust", then I would submit they were incoherent with their world-view in appealing to some universal concept of justice that even Nazis could be held to. As a Christian, Martin Luther King certainly did appeal to a universal concept of justice. As to Ghandi I know too little about him to say. I believe he had quite a lot of influences going, a lot of Hinduism, some Enlightenment, vegetarianism and some Christian...

>> There is no higher authority to which they can appeal to. And in The
>> Abolition
>> of Man, CS Lewis gives us an idea what effect the rejection of moral
>> absolutes
>> (Lewis uses the term 'Tao') will have on the 'Conditioners', that is the
>> elite
>> and those who hold power (1943/1982: 38):
>
> Where would theists be without C S Lewis - thinking for themselves perhaps.
>
>> The Conditioners, then, are to choose what kind of artificial Tao they will,
>> for their own good reasons, produce in the Human race. They are the
>> motivators, the creators of motives. But how are they going to be motivated
>> themselves?
>> For a time, perhaps, by survivals, within their own minds, of the old
>> ´natural' Tao. Thus at first they may look upon themselves as servants and
>> guardians of humanity and conceive that they have a duty to do it good. But
>> it
>> is only by confusion that they can remain in this state. They recognize the
>> concept of duty as the result of certain processes which they can now
>> control.
>> Their victory has consisted precisely in emerging from the state in which
>> they
>> were acted upon by those processes to the state in which they use them as
>> tools. One of the things they now have to decide is whether they will, or
>> will
>> not, so condition the rest of us that we can go on having the old idea of
>> duty
>> and the old reactions to it. How can duty help them to decide that? Duty
>> itself is up for trial: it cannot also be the judge. And ´good' fares no
>> better. They know quite well how to produce a dozen different conceptions of
>> good in us. The question is which, if any, they should produce. No conception
>> of good can help them to decide. It is absurd to fix on one of the things
>> they
>> are comparing and make it the standard of comparison.
>
> I've already answered this nonsense earlier on, and I see nothing new in
> Lewis' piece.

Where exactly?

>
> I do hope that in your next response you give me something that I can get my
> teeth into. My moral relativism is still intact.

Here's my odd-ball thought for the day.
The agony we feel when we stand before the body of a loved one, laid out like a dressed up slab of meat in a casket, is one (very painful) way to measure the distance we have travelled since the Fall. Something inside us screams “This is NOT the way it was supposed to be!” For those who reject the Judeo-Christian cosmology, the question is why should any of this cause us so much anguish? Why aren't we better adjusted to the only world we've ever known?

---
Refs.


Colson, Charles W. (1996) Kingdoms in Conflict. First Things 67 November pp. 34-38

Geertz, Clifford (1973) The Interpretation of Cultures. Basic Books New York 470 p.

Hobbes, Thomas (1651/1974) Leviathan. (Edited with an introduction by CB Macpherson)" Penquin London (coll. Penguin Classics) 728 p.

Landau, Misia (1984) Human Evolution as Narrative. pp. 262-268
American Scientist vol. 72

Landau, Misia (1991) Narratives of Human Evolution.
Yale U. Press New Haven & London xiii-202 p.

Lewis, CS (1962) They Asked for a Paper. London, Geoffrey Bles  211 p.

Marsden, George (1983) Creation verses Evolution: No Middle Way. Nature 305
(Oct 13) 574

Mayr, Ernst (1997) Interview in NATURAL HISTORY; May ; pp. 8-11.
[The interview includes the following "excerpt <http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1134/is_n4_v106/ai_19493089> " from a book by Mayr. No page number given. Depew and Webber; Editors. THIS IS BIOLOGY: THE SCIENCE OF THE LIVING WORLD; Harvard Univ. Press; 1997]

Ruse, Michael (1993) The New Antievolutionism (transcript by Paul A. Nelson at a presentation done for a seminar at the American Association for the Advancement of Science), Boston, February 13,

Ruse, Michael (2000) How evolution became a religion: Darwinians wrongly mix science with morality, politics. National Post (Saturday, May 13)

Ruse, Michael (2005) The Evolution-Creation Struggle. Harvard University Press Cambridge MA 336 p.


Notes

[1] - Initially the Reformation followed the ancient pattern, with Luther seeking the protection of Princes and eventually Protestantism became the State religion in Germany (as Catholicism had been previously). The Anabaptists were the ones that initiated the break with the old State/Church symbiosis and often paid for it with their lives, persecuted both by Catholics and Protestants They insisted ALL must be free to hold the faith of their choice and that the State had no business imposing a religion. Conversion as well must be entirely free from any form of coercion.
[2] - Money talks as Constantine promoted Christians to high administrative functions.
[3] - It ALL depends on what standard for truth is adopted. Is it Sola Scriptura or the Bible and church pratice/teaching ?
[4] - Broached at the first council in Jerusalem (Acts ch. 15).


Paul Baird said (Sunday, 26 December 2010)

Response to Pogo #7

Pogo's latest post is a return to better form. My last reponse was almost a line by line rebuttal and I'm feeling a little constrained by that technique so in this post I'm going to try to respond more thematically.

It's a long post and may contain typos that I'll try to spot and correct over the next day or so.

Evolution - for alot of theists the concept of evolution seems to be this great evil thing that kills Gods and destroys religions. For me, it's a straightforward scientific concept that appears to explain how the wide variety of life on earth is inter-related. I struggle to understand the emotion that many theists pile into their anti-evolution posts. To me, the best rebuttal to evolutionary theory is going to be scientific, and so far I haven't seen any such rebuttal that says the theory is so wrong that it should be binned and we must start again. Instead what appears to happen is that particular facets of evolutionary theory are honed and refined based on experimentation, evidence and even some further theorising.

Paul seems to have plenty to say about what he thinks evolution is, but little in the way of experimental evidence to substatiate what he describes as the myth of evolution.
However, that said later on Paul does accept what some describe as micro-evolution ie variation within species. The funny thing about that is still the process of evolution. Is it still mythical ?
So what we have then are two types of evolution - the one that Theists accept and the one that Theists don't accept. The former is evolution within species, and the later is evolution that produces new species. Would it be unfair to state that the reason the former is accepted is because it is experimentally proveable and the latter because the experimental evidence is less abundant ? Yet, the mechanism is both cases is the same. That ol' time evolution. I suspect that the reasoning is that the former does not appear to pose a threat to a literal reading of Genesis whereas the latter does.

Creationism - Later on in the post Paul goes onto to discuss the long history of Creationist Science, which I know only too well from the excellent work of Dr Eugenie Scott and the NCSE. We could start a whole thread to raking over the ashes from that debate. Paul continues to equate evolution with myth. However, what Paul is doing is to mistake a belief in Creation Science with experimental evidence from evolution.
The Creationism that Paul supports is Christian, and only Christian Creationism. As Paul himself admits there are other Creation myths. I'm happy to teach the Christian Creation myth as science, if Paul is also willing to permit the teaching of ALL OTHER CREATION MYTHS as science too, and in EVERY EDUCATIONAL ESTABLISHMENT. Lets teach ALL of the controversies. I mean, fairs fair, isn't it ? I don't know how much time that would leave for teaching any useful, like maths or english, but heck, it doesn't seem to matter.
Somehow I don't think that that is what Paul wants.
And then he quotes someone quoting Gish ! Laugh, I nearly had a fit. Further on Kent Hovind ! I'll leave C S Lewis, he's quoted to death as though he's undeniably persuasive. He's not.
Finally Paul says

I have not considered here the scientific status of evolution from an epistemological point of view

Now that I would like to read. All too often theists potter about on the periphery of the evolutionary debate and yet evolution is a scientific theory so it would make sense to 'attack' it on such terms. Yet, aside from the nonsense of Uncommon Descent I'm not aware of any substantiated attack on the science of evolution.
Maybe Paul knows differently.

Politics and Education - some of this follows on from the previous theme. Continuing with "evolution is a myth" Paul then goes onto to state
One must understand that there is a lot at stake here as numerous sociological and psychological theories and ideologies are based on the theory of evolution. Admitting the mythological character of evolution would have dramatic consequences on its social status (not to mention funding issues for evolutionary studies in the university context). The whole separation of Church and State that evolutionists have used for so many years to exclude creationism and ID in the States to prop up their ideological monopoly in education and academia would come back at them with a vengeance...
Well, I'm glad that you're keeping the hyperbole out of your post there. So what you're basically saying is that the myth of evolution is so important that to disprove it would destroy large areas of Western thought ? Ok, so you're not lacking in ambition.

Unfortunately, the prophecy of dramatic doom and gloom and international conspiracies is a little bit comical.

In terms of relative morality I raised the issue of the War on Terror and how George W Bush was able to persuade the US population that it justified waiving the mores and norms that prohibited the use of torture. Paul asks the quite reasonable question - does this mean that there are circumstances under which I would morally support such a change in morality even though I might condemn it today. It's a tough question and the answer is 'yes'. I could not answer 'no' because I can readily perceive a situation where my physical survival might depend on changing the nature of my morality to permit acts that I would otherwise deem to be immoral. This perception is based on such a requirement being temporary. It would be an interesting thought experiment to consider a more long term change in morality but I cannot think of a scenario where such would be likely.

Further on Paul states

If political power and the ethical standard are accepted as totally fused (as in the Divine right of Kings for example) only then may you have a case. But if the standard is held to be SEPARATE and ABOVE human culture as well as particular human rulers or elites, then real freedom from tyranny exists.

Now this is a bit more meaty :-)

This is an interesting use of the Divine Right argument. How does the Divine Right of Kings differ from Papal Infalliability ?

Vatican II explained the doctrine of infallibility as follows: "Although the individual bishops do not enjoy the prerogative of infallibility, they can nevertheless proclaim Christ’s doctrine infallibly. This is so, even when they are dispersed around the world, provided that while maintaining the bond of unity among themselves and with Peter’s successor, and while teaching authentically on a matter of faith or morals, they concur in a single viewpoint as the one which must be held conclusively. This authority is even more clearly verified when, gathered together in an ecumenical council, they are teachers and judges of faith and morals for the universal Church. Their definitions must then be adhered to with the submission of faith" (Lumen Gentium 25).

Infallibility belongs in a special way to the pope as head of the bishops (Matt. 16:17–19; John 21:15–17). As Vatican II remarked, it is a charism the pope "enjoys in virtue of his office, when, as the supreme shepherd and teacher of all the faithful, who confirms his brethren in their faith (Luke 22:32), he proclaims by a definitive act some doctrine of faith or morals. Therefore his definitions, of themselves, and not from the consent of the Church, are justly held irreformable, for they are pronounced with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, an assistance promised to him in blessed Peter."

The infallibility of the pope is not a doctrine that suddenly appeared in Church teaching; rather, it is a doctrine which was implicit in the early Church. It is only our understanding of infallibility which has developed and been more clearly understood over time. In fact, the doctrine of infallibility is implicit in these Petrine texts: John 21:15–17 ("Feed my sheep . . . "), Luke 22:32 ("I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail"), and Matthew 16:18 ("You are Peter . . . ").
So how could a Catholic protest at Humanae Vitae ? Who defines what is seperate and above human culture, because someone will have to do it. Would you accept the Papal Edict ? If not, why not ?

It seems to me that 'tyranny' is a word with a malleable definition.
Paul quoted Samuel Rutherford. I studied the English Civil War in some detail. A Christian pointed me towards the Westminster Covenant and I asked him if he appreciated the historical context. Lex, Rex is a case in point, written in 1644 during the War. I do wonder why he didn't write a bit earlier say in 1630 or even 1640. Perhaps during a War that he could see that the King was losing it was a bit of a no-brainer, especially as it was written after the Solemn League and Covenant. The key thing about a band wagon is knowing when to jump on, and who then sees you doing it. The context is all important, so many religious tracts were being published in pamphlets, but we only seem to remember the ones that WE feel are relevant to today, but then we forget the Ranters and the Levellers. Pity really.

Later on Paul addresses the vexed issue of Church and State

While in Islam control of (and dependence on) the State has always been a critical issue, in Christianity, this is a late modification, an aberration actually.

I found this to be quite an extraordinary statement, historically inaccurate and verging on being simply dishonest.
Who crowned William the Conqueror ? Why ?
Why King Henry II do penance following the murder of Thomas a Beckett ?
Two events off the top of my head from some centuries before the Reformation that show the clear intertwining of the Church and State in England. I can check French history, Italian, Spanish (that should be interesting) and the Holy Roman Empire too !

Paul then says

Emperor Constantine I made Christianity legal (Edict of Milan) and profitable[2], but immediately sought to influence the Church, summoning the Council of Nicaea in 325 to resolve a theological debate that threatened the peace of his empire. Whereas previously the relationship with the Church/State relationship had been at best indifferent, if not hostile, Constantine I offered State support for the Christian Church and the Church was too stupid or greedy to question this intervention of the State and the Church's concomitant loss of independence. I would hold that Christianity has been perverted as a result.

Wow. I thought the Edict of Milan 313 was 12 years before Nicea, so it's an interesting use of 'immediately'.
So, you're basically saying that since it's acceptance by Constantine in 313 the Christian Church has been perverted ? I'd like to hear more on that. It does rather let the Enlightenment off the hook as the cause of the moral decline in Western Civilisation - it was Constantine's fault !

Paul then goes on, in some detail, about the history of the early church and it's influence on centralized state authority. I imagine that William the Conqueror's "harrowing of the north" was a mere detail. Paul then acknowledges the Henrician split but not Bloody Mary (how our country must be grateful for uterine cancer). Strange the twists and turns that produced a modern Protestant England (oops forgot about whole Civil War thing again, and James II, William and Mary and the 1701 Act of Succession).

After reading through that I was starting to get a bit tired so I scan-read the last parts of Paul's post. His comments on Gandhi were novel. He was a trained barrister as well. I didn't mention Malcolm X by the way, or Steve Biko, or P H Pearse or James Connolly or Peter Lalor or John Brown or even Boudicca.

Morality and Christianity - Paul responds to my statement that many Christians assert that Christianity is sole source of morality

You say you could post "many, many, many examples of a wide range of Christians who do advocate that Christianity is the sole source of human morality"? Then why not provide just 2-3 examples then, WITH references?

There are times when it just gets too easy. I've had debates with many Christians across a wide range of forums about this very subject, which is why I made the statement. I didn't mean to bait Paul, but heck if he wants to bite. Try here, here, here, here,

For the Christian, God is the Ultimate and only source of morality, anything asides that is blasphemy
here
Christianity alone causes someone to strive to be moral or pay the consequences. Therefore, the chances of someone who believes in Christianity being moral is greater than someone who considers themselves an atheist.
and here. Just a few links. I was going to post more but Top Gear is just starting. They're recreating (as County Bachelors do) the journey of the Three Wise Men from Iraq to Bethlehem. Given the source material I think it's as historically accurate as it can be.

Anyway Paul then goes on,

In any case, it would seem rather odd (and incoherent) to me for a Christian to claim that Christianity specifically was the source of all morality. I hope you're not confusing the general claim that ALL men are made in God's image and carry an innate moral capacity as a result and the more specific claim that Judeo-Christianity is the direct and sole source of ALL morality? At most, it may be claimed that the 10 commandments have had a VERY wide influence (especially in the West), but going beyond that...

But the thing is Paul, Christians should not go beyond that and yet they do as my links show. It's also a moot point that being made in the Christian Gods image produces a human that is any different from one made in another Gods image.

Could 8 out of 10 humans tell which God's image they'd been made out of ?
The 10 commandments - good grief. On the one hand you say that Christians do not overstep the mark in claiming morality was sourced from Christianity and then you go and do it yourself ! Which of the 10 commandments are you referring to ? Thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal and be nice to your Mum and Dad ? And other civilisations did not work that morality out for themselves before the Christians turned up ?

Strange that the 10 commandments did not include 'thous shalt not sleep with a close family relative because it is more likely to produce birth defects in any children'. No - so where did the concept of 'Taboo' come from ? The Polynesians created it for themselves BEFORE Christianity arrived. Mind you any religion that actually required the second recorded generation to have incest is on a bit of a sticky wicket on that issue.

Paul then responds to my question about moral systems and cites both the Roman and Grecian as incoherent moral systems. My initial response was that this was a Poe. I read it and reread it and the passage is in full below.

Well just off the top of my head, having a world-view with a demanding moral system and gods that screw around as they please... (as did the ancient Romans and Greeks) would qualify as a case of incoherence

This seems to be an unsubstatiated assertion, if not simply unfounded. How were these two, very large, civilisations morally incoherent ? It does not seem to make sense. What did they do that demonstrates a moral incoherency ? Perhaps you might want to chuck in the pre-Christian Vikings and Celts as well. I'm all agog on this.
And then Paul goes on to to state

Another example that comes to mind would be the Islamic concept of "Taqiyya" which allows the coexistence of one ethical system for governing interaction between Muslims and another (less altruistic) one for interaction between Muslims and non-Muslims (infidels).

which was beginning to take the biscuit.
Within the 613 Mitzvot there are many that describe differing treatment for a Jew to display to a Jew compared to a non-Jew. I find the Zionist attitudes towards the lands that they describe as Judea and Samaria as no worse that the Islamic stance that Raymond Ibrahim appears to be condemning. I'm sure that I could find Christian examples too. By the way - why not ask an Islamic rather than an anti-Islamic source, perhaps if you allowed a Muslim right of clarification then that would have been fair? Just a thought.

Christianity is indeed a moral framework, but it is not the only framework, and the Christian moral framework has, like many others, borrowed heavily from others. To assert that it is the best is a bit presumptious. While it is logically consistant for a Christian to espouse their cosmology, it is also logically consistant for a non-Christian to espouse theirs too.

Paul further states

Relativists must figure that one out on their own obviously, but if one has found Truth, then the game is played differently. If truth exists, then these things can be sorted out. Of course, it all depends what your starting point is.

Which doesn't really answer the question - whose 'truth' ? Is it dependent upon the culture that one is born into ? That all said I'm learning a fair bit about French philosophers, and that's no bad thing.

The Enlightenment - this was a whole area of Christian apologetics that I had not encountered before I started to read Paul's posts, and I remain wholly unconvinced that it is mainly or solely responsible for the alleged moral decline that led to events such as the Holocaust. I think it's a big jump and an unwarranted leap of faith to make the connection. There were many other factors, not least of which was the endemic antisemitic stance of the Roman Catholic church and this was continued by the Protestant church, as well as growing sense of nationhood in which Jews (as well as other transitory peoples such as gypsies) did not fit in. But that is to draw quite a broad brush history of European antisemitism.

Apologetics in General - Paul quotes C S Lewis a lot, mind you so do many other Christian apologists. Paul also quoted Peter Hitchens, which I did rather laugh at. I think that Paul found that a little condescending.

People quote Peter because he is Christopher Hitchens brother rather than because he is a good source. Peter is known for getting a bit tired and emotional whereas other apologists can put a better and more reasoned apologetic argument forward. There's a few blogs and forums that I visit because they provide a better apologetic than people like Peter (or even C S Lewis). The Open University's Beliefs, Atheists and Agnostics, Christian Beliefs (there was a Christian Fellowship one which we left alone as it was clearly not an arena for debate), Jewish Beliefs and Islamic Beliefs conferences were good places. The Buddhist one was dull :-). The Premier Christian Radio forums can be interesting too, although they are better as gateways to the blogs and webpages of the contributors to the various shows on Unbelieveable. Also a BBC NI blog, and M and M.

However, usually the standard of the Christian Apologetic is low, although to be fair the standard of the Atheist argument is sometimes not much better.
Am I embarrassed by Paul using ex-atheists as his sources ? Not at all. I could post many ex-Christians as my sources just as easily. There's enough of them. Try Paula Kirby (ex-Christian), or Paul Wright (ex-Christian) or Paul Thompson (ex-Christian - see 20th Nov podcast).

Final Thought - Paul wrote what he describes as an oddball
The agony we feel when we stand before the body of a loved one, laid out like a dressed up slab of meat in a casket, is one (very painful) way to measure the distance we have travelled since the Fall. Something inside us screams “This is NOT the way it was supposed to be!” For those who reject the Judeo-Christian cosmology, the question is why should any of this cause us so much anguish? Why aren't we better adjusted to the only world we've ever known?
Which reminds me of several things
"Do not cry because they have died but smile because they had lived."
I Did Not Die
Do not stand at my grave and forever weep.
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn’s rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and forever cry.
I am not there. I did not die.
source

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
And you, my father, there on that sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

source

I think your final thought reflects more of your own thoughts and fears than mine. I've already picked out my resting place and the manner of my burial (a bio-degradable coffin, if not just a hessian sack, planted in a Green Burial ground with a Silver Birch tree on top of my grave so that people can take their dogs for a nice walk over me). At my funeral people will be asked to (a) be painfully honest (b) tell at least one joke.


Pogo said (Jan 4th 2011)

Unfortunately I will again be sticking with the more tedious, but easily understood, line by line response.

> Sunday, 26 December 2010
> Response to Pogo #7
>
> Pogo's latest post is a return
> to better form. My last reponse was almost a line by line rebuttal and I'm
> feeling a little constrained by that technique so in this post I'm going to
> try to respond more thematically.
>
> Evolution - for a lot of theists the concept of evolution seems to be this
> great evil thing that kills Gods and destroys religions. For me, it's a
> straightforward scientific concept that appears to explain how the wide
> variety of life on earth is inter-related. I struggle to understand the
> emotion that many theists pile into their anti-evolution posts. To me, the
> best rebuttal to evolutionary theory is going to be scientific, and so far I
> haven't seen any such rebuttal that says the theory is so wrong that it should
> be binned and we must start again. Instead what appears to happen is that
> particular facets of evolutionary theory are honed and refined based on
> experimentation, evidence and even some further theorising.
>
> Paul seems to have plenty to say about what he thinks evolution is, but little
> in the way of experimental evidence to substatiate what he describes as the
> myth of evolution.
>
> However, that said later on Paul does accept what some describe as
> micro-evolution ie variation within species. The funny thing about that is
> still the process of evolution. Is it still mythical ?
>
> So what we have then are two types of evolution - the one that Theists accept
> and the one that Theists don't accept.

Now this is a pathetic 10cent CrackerJacks box trick. Seeing I accept variations within species this implies I HAVE to accept molecules to man evolution? Good grief! The issue of extrapolation from so-called "micro-evolution" to molecules to man evolution (or macro-evolution) has been rather deftly avoided by Paul B. Seeing the only real scientific evidence for evolution is variation within species (using a lumper's definition such as Ernst Mayr's BSC [Biological Species Concept]) then yes, molecules to man evolution appears to be much more mythical than scientific. Look at this situation from another angle, variation within species is truly empirical, but is of no real use to molecules to man evolution and if this is all you have (as far as empirical evidence goes), then any evolution soon hits a dead-end. You never get anywhere from that first organism (and evolutionists have no known mechanism to get that, no experiments).

So the extrapolation from (observable) variation within species to molecules to man evolution (like unicorns, unobservable) is NECESSARY to maintain the evolutionary faith, but I am sadly lacking in such faith, but have to admit some admiration for those who can reach such mystical heights.

> The former is evolution within species,
> and the later is evolution that produces new species. Would it be unfair to
> state that the reason the former is accepted is because it is experimentally
> proveable and the latter because the experimental evidence is less abundant ?

Based on the same logic, I would then have to accept the existence of unicorns. Experimental evidence for the existence of unicorns, like macroevolution, is also "less abundant" though as is the case for evolution, an abundant legendary literature can be found...

> Yet, the mechanism is both cases is the same. That ol' time evolution. I
> suspect that the reasoning is that the former does not appear to pose a threat
> to a literal reading of Genesis whereas the latter does.
>
> Creationism - Later on in the post Paul goes onto to discuss the long history
> of Creationist Science, which I know only too well from the excellent work of
> Dr Eugenie Scott and the NCSE. We could start a whole thread to raking over
> the ashes from that debate. Paul continues to equate evolution with myth.
> However, what Paul is doing is to mistake a belief in Creation Science with
> experimental evidence from evolution.
>
> The Creationism that Paul supports is Christian, and only Christian
> Creationism. As Paul himself admits there are other Creation myths. I'm happy
> to teach the Christian Creation myth as science, if Paul is also willing to
> permit the teaching of ALL OTHER CREATION MYTHS as science too, and in EVERY
> EDUCATIONAL ESTABLISHMENT. Lets teach ALL of the controversies. I mean, fairs
> fair, isn't it ? I don't know how much time that would leave for teaching any
> useful, like maths or english, but heck, it doesn't seem to matter.
>
> Somehow I don't think that that is what Paul wants.

Obviously the evolutionist's present ideological monopoly in media and the educational system is much to be preferred...

But allow real freedom of discussion in media and the educational system and see what happens. The court cases in the US, disallowing any criticism at all of evolution in the educational system, are clear evidence that evolutionists don't really believe in the survival of the fittest cosmology... So Paul your argument here is empty. Like Gollum's lost ring, their ideological monopoly is far too "precious" to be parted with... For my part I would have no problem at all with an open market in terms of origins theories in science class rooms. I'm calling your bluff! Bring it on!

>
> And then he quotes someone quoting Gish ! Laugh, I nearly had a fit. Further
> on Kent Hovind ! I'll leave C S Lewis, he's quoted to death as though he's
> undeniably persuasive. He's not.

Excellent manoeuvre to avoid dealing with any serious issues raised by these authors. Following your example, I could claim that Scientific American has put out their best evidence for evolution here. Would you then think I was seriously dealing with the issues raised? What goes around, comes around...

>
> Finally Paul says
>> I have not considered here the scientific status of evolution from an
>> epistemological point of view
> Now that I would like to read. All too often theists potter about on the
> periphery of the evolutionary debate and yet evolution is a scientific theory
> so it would make sense to 'attack' it on such terms. Yet, aside from the
> nonsense of Uncommon Descent <http://www.uncommondescent.com/> I'm not aware
> of any substantiated attack on the science of evolution.
>
> Maybe Paul knows differently.

Yes of course this is a bottomless pit of a debate, so the best I can do here is throw out a little tidbit for you to chew on (if you like). You must be well aware of the criticisms of the scientific status of evolution offered by Karl Popper. And of course I am well aware as well that these criticisms were "refuted" by Popper's 1978 Dialectica article where he recanted his previous views. While doing research for my book Fuite de l'Absolu, vol2, I did spend some time on Popper and checked to see if he'd come back to the issue of the scientific status of evolution AFTER the Dialectica article. I couldn't find any, but not reading German, I may have missed a few interesting things. In any case, after a while I noticed that there actually was some evidence of Popper's real views of evolution after 1978. Popper's main criticisms of evolution's scientific status appear in four of his works

The Poverty of Historicism. (1957)
Conjectures and Refutations. (1962)
Objective Knowledge: An Evolutionary Approach. (1973)
Unended Quest: An Intellectual Autobiography. (1976)

But the thing is that til the end Popper was constantly reworking his books and had new editions published. So all of these works containing criticisms of evolution had new editions published AFTER 1978. If Popper's retraction was in fact sincere, after 1978 Popper had many opportunities of demonstrating his "repentance" as more up to date editions of these books were published. With typically German industriousness, he reworked these books with additional material so he had ample opportunity to make known his new view of evolution. These were not just simple reprints. If you have access to a university library, take the time to check out any of the post-1978 editions of these books. And to put you on the trail, try out the 1979 edition of Objective Knowledge put out by Clarendon (put out just after his recantation, this was a golden opportunity to sort things out). Check out these post-1978 editions and see if Popper actually stood by his Dialectica recantation or if he was just going along with the ritual to get the evolutionary Inquisition off his back...

Yes, of course Popper's criticisms of the scientific status of evolution will not change a true believer's views. As noted in a previous post, Ernst Mayr thought that if the received definition of science was unfavourable to evolution then one "must" change the definition of science... Incredible!

But if keeping the faith is paramount, then such shameful behaviour becomes more understandable. Beyond the blantant opportunism this demonstrates, one has to think of the long-term consequences of such manipulations. In his book Creation and Science, historian of science Stanley L. Jaki observes an intrinsic link between the birth of science and the Judeo-Christian world-view. If Jaki is right, then one can expect that as societies (as well as individual scientists) drift away from the Judeo-Christian world-view, the presuppositions that allowed science to become a viable cultural institution will be slowly eroded. And eventually this will have consequences for science. Of course science wasn't born overnight, so it will not disappear overnight either. Of course there are strong economic, social and political factors that play on the importance of science in our world and which may delay the decline, but decline, there will be. On this issue, (your favourite author again) CS Lewis made this comment:

"Men became scientific because they expected Law in Nature, and they expected Law in Nature because they believed in a Legislator. In most modern scientists this belief has died: it will be interesting to see how long their confidence in uniformity survives it. Two significant developments have already appeared - the hypothesis of a lawless sub-nature, and the surrender of the claim that science is true. We may be living nearer than we suppose to the end of the Scientific Age."
CSL Miracles 1947/1985. p. 107

And UK social anthropologist Ernst Gellner once noted (1999: 93):

"Quite probably, the break-through to the scientific miracle was only possible because some men were passionately, sincerely, whole-heartedly concerned with truth. Will such passion survive the habit of granting oneself different kinds of truth according to the day of the week ?"

>
> Politics and Education - some of this follows on from the previous theme.
> Continuing with "evolution is a myth" Paul then goes onto to state
>> One must understand that there is a lot at stake here as numerous
>> sociological
>> and psychological theories and ideologies are based on the theory of
>> evolution. Admitting the mythological character of evolution would have
>> dramatic consequences on its social status (not to mention funding issues for
>> evolutionary studies in the university context). The whole separation of
>> Church and State that evolutionists have used for so many years to exclude
>> creationism and ID in the States to prop up their ideological monopoly in
>> education and academia would come back at them with a vengeance...
> Well, I'm glad that you're keeping the hyperbole out of your post there. So
> what you're basically saying is that the myth of evolution is so important
> that to disprove it would destroy large areas of Western thought ? Ok, so
> you're not lacking in ambition.
>

But actually the same can be said of evolutionists. For example, on the back cover of a copy of the Origins I have in my library (Mentor 1958), there is a quote by UK anthropologist Ashley Montagu saying:

Next to the Bible no work has been quite as influential, in virtually every aspect of human thought as The Origin of the Species

And I would assume that you are aware of Daniel Denett's extravagantly ambitious concept of evolution as a Universal Acid. So compared to these High Priests of Evolution, it would appear that I am rather sadly lacking in ambition...

> Unfortunately, the prophecy of dramatic doom and gloom and international
> conspiracies is a little bit comical.
>
> In terms of relative morality I raised the issue of the War on Terror and how
> George W Bush was able to persuade the US population that it justified waiving
> the mores and norms that prohibited the use of torture. Paul asks the quite
> reasonable question - does this mean that there are circumstances under which
> I would morally support such a change in morality eventhough I might condemn
> it today. It's a tough question and the answer is 'yes'. I could not answer
> 'no' because I can readily perceive a situation where my physical survival
> might depend on changing the nature of my morality to permit acts that I would
> otherwise deem to be immoral. This perception is based on such a requirement
> being temporary. It would be an interesting thought experiment to consider a
> more long term change in morality but I cannot think of a scenario where such
> would be likely.

No comment.

>
> Further on Paul states
>> If political power and the ethical standard are accepted as totally fused (as
>> in the Divine right of Kings for example) only then may you have a case. But
>> if the standard is held to be SEPARATE and ABOVE human culture as well as
>> particular human rulers or elites, then real freedom from tyranny exists.
> Now this is a bit more meaty :-)
> This is an interesting use of the Divine Right argument. How does the Divine
> Right of Kings differ from Papal Infalliability
> <http://www.catholic.com/library/Papal_Infallibility.asp> ?

It doesn't.

I suspect you're quite able to figure out the implications of that on your own.

> Vatican II explained the doctrine of infallibility as follows: "Although the
> individual bishops do not enjoy the prerogative of infallibility, they can
> nevertheless proclaim Christ's doctrine infallibly. This is so, even when they
> are dispersed around the world, provided that while maintaining the bond of
> unity among themselves and with Peter's successor, and while teaching
> authentically on a matter of faith or morals, they concur in a single
> viewpoint as the one which must be held conclusively. This authority is even
> more clearly verified when, gathered together in an ecumenical council, they
> are teachers and judges of faith and morals for the universal Church. Their
> definitions must then be adhered to with the submission of faith" (Lumen
> Gentium 25).
>
> Infallibility belongs in a special way to the pope as head of the bishops
> (Matt. 16:17–19; John 21:15–17). As Vatican II remarked, it is a charism the
> pope "enjoys in virtue of his office, when, as the supreme shepherd and
> teacher of all the faithful, who confirms his brethren in their faith (Luke
> 22:32), he proclaims by a definitive act some doctrine of faith or morals.
> Therefore his definitions, of themselves, and not from the consent of the
> Church, are justly held irreformable, for they are pronounced with the
> assistance of the Holy Spirit, an assistance promised to him in blessed
> Peter."
>
> The infallibility of the pope is not a doctrine that suddenly appeared in
> Church teaching; rather, it is a doctrine which was implicit in the early
> Church. It is only our understanding of infallibility which has developed and
> been more clearly understood over time. In fact, the doctrine of infallibility
> is implicit in these Petrine texts: John 21:15–17 ("Feed my sheep . . . "),
> Luke 22:32 ("I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail"), and Matthew
> 16:18 ("You are Peter . . . ").
> So how could a Catholic protest at Humanae Vitae
> <http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/paul_vi/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-vi_enc_2
> 5071968_humanae-vitae_en.html> ? Who defines what is seperate and above human
> culture, because someone will have to do it. Would you accept the Papal Edict
> ? If not, why not ?

Good grief! an atheist teaching Christian theology to a Christian? This exchange is becoming more surreal that a Dali painting. Perhaps this an instance of “British humour”? That would explain a lot.

In any case, haven't you noticed that the NT texts you just quoted have no explicit application beyond Peter himself and make no link at all to a bishop of Rome? The New Testament clearly provides no support for a pope seated in Rome, nor papal infallibility as “infallible” Peter was rebuked both by Christ as inspired by Satan (Matthew 16: 23) and in error by the Apostle Paul (Galatians 2: 11-21). So much for the “infallibility” of the first “pope”... Seems like you're just cut & pasting from the Vatican web site without really understanding what you're talking about...

Though this will give Catholics a heart attack, Christianity can discard the whole pope concept with no ill effects at all. Christianity only needs one Superstar, two are superfluous. And the “pontifex maximus” title used by bishops of Rome (apparently Damasus I was the first to use the title) is actually a pagan title, that of the pre-Christian emperors... Again, further evidence of corruption (pagan influence) in the Catholic church.

>
> It seems to me that 'tyranny' is a word with a malleable definition.
>
> Paul quoted Samuel Rutherford. I studied the English Civil War in some detail.
> A Christian pointed me towards the Westminster Covenant and I asked him if he
> appreciated the historical context. Lex, Rex is a case in point, written in
> 1644 during the War. I do wonder why he didn't write a bit earlier say in 1630
> or even 1640. Perhaps during a War that he could see that the King was losing
> <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_Civil_War_timeline> it was a bit of a
> no-brainer, especially as it was written after the Solemn League and Covenant
> <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solemn_League_and_Covenant> . The key thing
> about a band wagon is knowing when to jump on, and who then sees you doing it.
> The context is all important, so many religious tracts were being published in
> pamphlets, but we only seem to remember the ones that WE feel are relevant to
> today, but then we forget the Ranters and the Levellers. Pity really.

Bandwagons as you well know come and go, but real questions have a tendancy to stick around. I've heard a while back that a rather well-informed demon offered the following comments about such arguments:

"It may be replied that some meddlesome human writers, notably Boethius, have let this secret out. But in the intellectual climate which we have at last succeeded in producing through Western Europe, you needn't bother about that. Only the learned read old books and we have now so dealt with the learned that they are of all men the least likely to acquire wisdom by doing so. We have done this by inculcating the Historical Point of View. The Historical Point of View, put briefly, means that when a learned man is presented with any statement in an ancient author, the one question he never asks is whether it is true. He asks who influenced the ancient writer, and how far the statement is consistent with what he said in other books, and what phase in the writer's development, or in the general history of thought, it illustrates and how it affected later writers, and how often it has been misunderstood (specially by the learned man's own colleagues) and what the general course of criticism on it has been for the last ten years, and what is the "present state of the question". To regard the ancient writer as a possible source of knowledge, to anticipate that what he said could possibly modify your thoughts or your behaviour - this would be rejected as unutterably simple-minded. And since we cannot deceive the whole human race all the time, it is most important thus to cut every generation off from all others; for where learning makes a free commerce between the ages there is always the danger that the characteristic errors of one may be corrected by the characteristic truths of another. But thanks be to our Father and the Historical Point of View; great scholars are now as little nourished by the past as the most ignorant mechanic who holds that "history is bunk"." (pp. 139-140)

quote from: Lewis, CS (1942/1974) The Screwtape Letters. Collins London & Glasgow 160 p.

> Later on Paul addresses the vexed issue of Church and State
>> While in Islam control of (and dependence on) the State has always been a
>> critical issue, in Christianity, this is a late modification, an aberration
>> actually.
> I found this to be quite an extraordinary statement, historically inaccurate
> and verging on being simply dishonest.
>
> Who crowned William the Conqueror ? Why ?
> Why King Henry II do penance following the murder of Thomas a Beckett ?
> Two events off the top of my head from some centuries before the Reformation
> that show the clear intertwining of the Church and State in England. I can
> check French history, Italian, Spanish (that should be interesting) and the
> Holy Roman Empire too !

Perhaps I should have rephrased that a bit. It is true that in Christianity control of (and dependence on) the State may not be a “late modification”, it still remains entirely legitimate to consider the incestuous Church/State relationship so common from Constantine (4th c.) on down to the late Middle Ages as an aberration. But again, it all depends what your reference point is. If your reference point for Christianity is Catholic canon law, then an incestuous Church/State relationship is the expected/hoped for state of affairs, but on the other hand if the reference point is the New Testament, then certainly there is good reason to consider this an aberration.

>
> Paul then says
>> Emperor Constantine I made Christianity legal (Edict of Milan) and
>> profitable[2], but immediately sought to influence the Church, summoning the
>> Council of Nicaea in 325 to resolve a theological debate that threatened the
>> peace of his empire. Whereas previously the relationship with the
>> Church/State
>> relationship had been at best indifferent, if not hostile, Constantine I
>> offered State support for the Christian Church and the Church was too stupid
>> or greedy to question this intervention of the State and the Church's
>> concomitant loss of independence. I would hold that Christianity has been
>> perverted as a result.
> Wow. I thought the Edict of Milan 313 was 12 years before Nicea, so it's an
> interesting use of 'immediately'.

Yes, my use of “immediately” above is a bit of an overstatement in the context. But from the vantage point of 2000 years of Christian history, it did quickly follow the legalisation of Christianity.

> So, you're basically saying that since it's acceptance by Constantine in 313
> the Christian Church has been perverted ? I'd like to hear more on that. It
> does rather let the Enlightenment off the hook as the cause of the moral
> decline in Western Civilisation - it was Constantine's fault !
>
> Paul then goes on, in some detail, about the history of the early church and
> it's influence on centralized state authority. I imagine that William the
> Conqueror's "harrowing of the north" was a mere detail. Paul then acknowledges
> the Henrician split but not Bloody Mary
> (how our country must be
> grateful for uterine cancer). Strange the twists and turns that produced a
> modern Protestant England (oops forgot about whole Civil War thing again, and
> James II, William and Mary and the 1701 Act of Succession).
>

Sorry haven't read much about this period of English history.

>
> Morality and Christianity - Paul responds to my statement that many Christians
> assert that Christianity is sole source of morality
> You say you could post "many, many, many examples of a wide range of
> Christians who do advocate that Christianity is the sole source of human
> morality"? Then why not provide just 2-3 examples then, WITH references?
> There are times when it just gets too easy. I've had debates with many
> Christians across a wide range of forums about this very subject, which is why
> I made the statement. I didn't mean to bait Paul, but heck if he wants to
> bite. Try here , here , here , here ,
> For the Christian, God is the Ultimate and only source of morality, anything
> asides that is blasphemy
> here <http://www.debate.org/debates/Christianity-is-greater-Than-atheism/1/>
> Christianity alone causes someone to strive to be moral or pay the
> consequences. Therefore, the chances of someone who believes in Christianity
> being moral is greater than someone who considers themselves an atheist.
> and here <http://webspace.webring.com/people/kp/phulax/agh.html> . Just a few
> links. I was going to post more but Top Gear is just starting. They're
> recreating (as County Bachelors do) the journey of the Three Wise Men from
> Iraq to Bethlehem. Given the source material I think it's as historically
> accurate as it can be.
>
> Anyway Paul then goes on,
>> In any case, it would seem rather odd (and incoherent) to me for a Christian
>> to claim that Christianity specifically was the source of all morality. I
>> hope
>> you're not confusing the general claim that ALL men are made in God's image
>> and carry an innate moral capacity as a result and the more specific claim
>> that Judeo-Christianity is the direct and sole source of ALL morality? At
>> most, it may be claimed that the 10 commandments have had a VERY wide
>> influence (especially in the West), but going beyond that...
> But the thing is Paul, Christians should not go beyond that and yet they do as
> my links show. It's also a moot point that being made in the Christian Gods
> image produces a human that is any different from one made in another Gods
> image.
>
> Could 8 out of 10 humans tell which God's image they'd been made out of ?

On the other hand can 8 out of 10 humans explain how the electronics of a TV or DVD player works, but nonetheless are able to use a TV or DVD in everyday life? So demonstrating moral behaviour is not linked to understanding the origins of this behaviour. My theology is rusty, but I believe theologians refer to this as “common grace”, that is moral behaviour, as well as cultural and technological creativity in general, are linked to this image of God in Man. It is, so to speak, “hard-wired” into the human condition.

>
> The 10 commandments - good grief. On the one hand you say that Christians do
> not overstep the mark in claiming morality was sourced from Christianity and
> then you go and do it yourself ! Which of the 10 commandments are you
> referring to ? Thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal and be nice to your
> Mum and Dad ? And other civilisations did not work that morality out for
> themselves before the Christians turned up ?

Ah, I did say that Christians DID draw on Old Testament Law and in particular on the 10 commandments. I did NOT say that all civilisations had to draw on the same source... Perhaps this is necessary for your argument, but not to mine.

>
> Strange that the 10 commandments did not include 'thou shalt not sleep with a
> close family relative because it is more likely to produce birth defects in
> any children'. No - so where did the concept of 'Taboo' come from ? The
> Polynesians created it for themselves BEFORE Christianity arrived. Mind you
> any religion that actually required the second recorded generation to have
> incest is on a bit of a sticky wicket on that issue.

The origin of the incest taboo was a big debate in late 19th and early 20th century social anthropology. An unresolved debate if memory serves, but all seem agreed that it is for the most part a universal taboo in human societies (though there is no agreed explanation WHY this is so). Oddly enough, the Bible brings this in as a late development with Mosaic law, whereas among the patriarchs (ex. Abraham marrying his half-sister), marrying siblings was common. And there is good evidence this was common in many ancient civilisations as well (ex. Tutankhamun). Perhaps the genetic defects that now accompany incestuous relations were not common in earliest times. Makes sense if the original Creation was perfect. If not, then all we can say is that the ancients had very strange sexual tastes...

> And then Paul goes onto to state
>> Another example that comes to mind would be the Islamic concept of "Taqiyya"
>> which allows the coexistence of one ethical system for governing interaction
>> between Muslims and another (less altruistic) one for interaction between
>> Muslims and non-Muslims (infidels).
> which was beginning to take the biscuit.
>
> Within the 613 Mitzvot there are many that describe differing treatment for a
> Jew to display to a Jew compared to a non-Jew. I find the Zionist attitudes
> towards the lands that they describe as Judea and Samaria as no worse that the
> Islamic stance that Raymond Ibrahim appears to be condemning. I'm sure that I
> could find Christian examples too. By the way - why not ask an Islamic rather
> than an anti-Islamic source, perhaps if you allowed a Muslim right of
> clarification then that would have been fair ? Just a thought.
>

Yes there may be many points of comparison between Judaism and Islam, but even at the height of it's power (under Solomon) Judaism never developed into an imperialistic system (at most a few neighbouring territories where tribute was imposed), whereas Islam spread into Africa and Europe largely with Islamic armies. Asia may be an exception in this Islamic expansion, where beyond India merchants appear to have been the primary the vectors of Islam, but this may be due to the halt the Huns put to Islamic armies going East... And is lying to non-Jews allowed as is Moselm lying to "infidels"?

> Christianity is indeed a moral framework, but it is not the only framework,
> and the Christian moral framework has, like many others, borrowed heavily from
> others. To assert that it is the best is a bit presumptious. While it is
> logically consistant for a Christian to espouse their cosmology, it is also
> logically consistant for a non-Christian to espouse theirs too.
>
> Paul further states
>> Relativists must figure that one out on their own obviously, but if one has
>> found Truth, then the game is played differently. If truth exists, then these
>> things can be sorted out. Of course, it all depends what your starting point
>> is.
> Which doesn't really answer the question - whose 'truth' ? Is it dependent
> upon the culture that one is born into ? That all said I'm learning a fair bit
> about French philosophers, and that's no bad thing.
>
> The Enlightenment - this was a whole area of Christian apologetics that I had
> not encountered before I started to read Paul's posts, and I remain wholly
> unconvinced that it is mainly or solely responsible for the alleged moral
> decline that led to events such as the Holocaust. I think it's a big jump and
> an unwarranted leap of faith to make the connection. There were many other
> factors, not least of which was the endemic antisemitic stance of the Roman
> Catholic church and this was continued by the Protestant church, as well as
> growing sense of nationhood in which Jews (as well as other transitory peoples
> such as gypsies) did not fit in. But that is to draw quite a broad brush
> history of European antisemitism.
>

Ah yes, disciples of the Enlightenment do seem quite incapable of learning the art of self-criticism. After all, if you see yourself as the source of “light” then how can you criticise your own world-view or it's social implications? Add to that, that the Enlightenment, if you look at it anthropologically as a religion, is not big on concepts such as self-criticism and repentance either, so it should not then come as a surprise that when negative events/issues have to be dealt with by disciples of the Enlightenment, the focus always goes to “someone else” as the source of the problem. Thus the "Hitler was a Christian” argument is the easy way out with dealing with the ills of Nazism (even though this requires ignoring what Hitler said of Christianity in his Table Talks). If early 20th century eugenicists quoted Darwin to justify their programs, then they were most certainly “abusing Darwin”. Of course... That solves all the sticky issues. In actual fact, materialists need a "Christian Hitler" as this may dissuade people doing some serious thinking and connect the dots between Hitlers' beliefs and behaviour, to the worldview that provided their basis. Most likely my previous quote from George Steiner comes about as close as one could hope for in self-criticism from those working within the Enlightenment worldview (and Naziism is an easy target for criticism). When it comes to the Soviet period, Enlightenment influenced critics of this period are non-existent. The best they seem capable of is mouthing nonsense about how Marx's views were abused by Lenin and Stalin. Of course.. One well-known escapee from Enlightenment influence is the Russian writer Alexandr Solzhenitsyn. In his Templeton address Solzhenitsyn mused about the origin of the huge catastrophe brought upon Russia by the Bolshevik Revolution (1983);

More than half a century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of older people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.
Since then I have spent well-nigh fifty years working on the history of our Revolution; in the process I have read hundreds of books, collected hundreds of personal testimonies, and have already contributed eight volumes of my own toward the effort of clearing away the rubble left by that upheaval. But if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous Revolution that swallowed up some sixty million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.

But one thing strikes me about this comment. Solzhenitsyn had a background in mathematics and knew that if you eliminate a critical factor in an equation, then the end result will be radically different. So men did not "forget" God, rather they eliminated Him from the equation...

Of course, I will be accused of doing the same thing with my reading of history (shifting Enlightenment blame away from Christianity), but I would submit that the bottom line is the question: is the behaviour of an individual coherent with his core beliefs? Or in historical terms were Robespierre's or HItler or Stalin actions coherent with their beliefs? THAT is the question...

>
> Final Thought - Paul wrote what he describes as an oddball
>> The agony we feel when we stand before the body of a loved one, laid out like
>> a dressed up slab of meat in a casket, is one (very painful) way to measure
>> the distance we have travelled since the Fall. Something inside us screams
>> “This is NOT the way it was supposed to be!” For those who reject the
>> Judeo-Christian cosmology, the question is why should any of this cause us so
>> much anguish? Why aren't we better adjusted to the only world we've ever
>> known?
>
> Which reminds me of several things
>
> "Do not cry because they have died but smile because they had lived."
>
> I Did Not Die
>
> Do not stand at my grave and forever weep.
> I am not there; I do not sleep.
> I am a thousand winds that blow.
> I am the diamond glints on snow.
> I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
> I am the gentle autumn's rain.
> When you awaken in the morning's hush
> I am the swift uplifting rush
> Of quiet birds in circled flight.
> I am the soft stars that shine at night.
> Do not stand at my grave and forever cry.
> I am not there. I did not die.

This seems to hint at some belief in the after-life. A whiff of heresy perhaps?

>
> Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night
>
> Do not go gentle into that good night,
> Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
> Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
>
> Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
> Because their words had forked no lightning they
> Do not go gentle into that good night.
>
> Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
> Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
> Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
>
> Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
> And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
> Do not go gentle into that good night.
>
> Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
> Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
> Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
>
> And you, my father, there on that sad height,
> Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
> Do not go gentle into that good night.
> Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
>
> source
> I think your final thought reflects more of your own thoughts and fears than
> mine. I've already picked out my resting place and the manner of my burial (a
> bio-degradable coffin, if not just a hessian sack, planted in a Green Burial
> ground with a Silver Birch tree on top of my grave so that people can take
> their dogs for a nice walk over me). At my funeral people will be asked to (a)
> be painfully honest (b) tell at least one joke.
>

Hopefully none of that will be needed any time soon. For my part, I am an inveterate cheapskate so the little I may be leaving behind, I'd much prefer those who have put up with me in life will get the lion's share rather than the funeral vultures... So I've asked that incineration be the method of disposing of my remains. No plot of land to buy or upkeep, nor any casket either. Yes, I too would hope that someone will crack at least one joke at my funeral. And when the poem you quote says “Rage, rage against the dying of the light” I don't get the impression you're that far from my thoughts after all. Why “rage” unless there's a sense of “injustice”? and where does that sense of “injustice” come from?

Well this bag of chips is empty now as far as I'm concerned. The initial issue of moral absolutes (and the de Sade question about male prerogatives in the bedroom) has been beaten into the ground and we've drifted off into other matters that hold less interest to me.

Best wishes for you and yours Paul B in 2011!

---------

Refs

GELLNER, Ernst (1992/1999) Postmodernism, Reason and Religion. Routledge London/New York 108p.

GOSSELIN, Paul (1987) The Judeo-Christian Cosmology and the Origins of Science. Samizdat

POPPER, Karl R. (1978) Natural Selection and the Emergence of Mind. pp. 339-355 Dialectica. vol. 32 no. 3



Paul Baird's last response (January 5, 2011)

 


 

 

Material of Further Interest


Problems with Ethics in an Evolutionary / Materialistic World-view. Paul Gosselin

Vonnegut's Ambivalence. An Exchange with Paul Gosselin and Gib McInnis, Vonnegut Scholar. (YouTube)

Interview with David Berlinski on The Devil's Delusion Part 2 (YouTube)

Froese, Paul (2004) Forced Secularization in Soviet Russia: Why an Atheistic Monopoly Failed.
Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion v. 43 no.1 pp. 35–50

Weikart, Richard (2009) Hitler’s Ethic: The Nazi Pursuit of Evolutionary Progress. Palgrave Macmillan, New York , 254 p.

Wieland, Carl (1997) The Lies of Lynchburg: How U.S. evolutionists taught the Nazis. Creation 19(4):22–23 September



On The "Christian" Hitler.

In debates between atheists and Christians, the "Hitler was a Christian" argument is a classic move to shut up Christians and get them off their moral high ground. But most people don’t notice a critical issue, which is implicit to this claim. When atheists state that Hitler was a "Christian” they always conveniently “forget” to define their terms. Given this fact one has to wonder if the statement has any meaning at all. Look at it from another angle; If Madonna wears a cross during a concert, does that make her a "Christian"? There is a favourite old quip that entering MacDonald’s restaurant doesn’t automatically change you into a Big Mac any more than setting foot in a Christian church automatically transforms you into a Christian. The real question is of course, what is in fact a Christian? What happens to the "Hitler was a Christian" argument then if you simply define a Christian as someone whonot only knows things about Christ/God and talks about them, but also FOLLOWS Christ's teachings? Is there any way to categorize Hitler as a Christian without perverting Christ's message and Scripture too?? In my view then, the "Hitler was a Christian" argument must then be considered bogus and empty. And sorry, but atheists don’t get to define what a true Christian is…

Here is an interesting quote from Hitler himself, which casts serious doubt on the "Hitler was a Christian" argument.

Hätte bei Poitiers nicht Karl Martell gesiegt: Haben wir schon die jüdische Welt auf uns genommen – das Christentum ist so etwas Fades -, so hätten wir viel eher noch den Mohammedanismus übernommen, diese Lehre der Belohnung des Heldentums: Der Kämpfer allein hat den siebenten Himmel! Die Germanen hätten die Welt damit erobert, nur durch das Christentum sind wir davon abgehalten worden."

source: Adolf Hitler, Deutscher Kanzler (NSDAP), 27. Aug. 1942
(Werner Jochmann, Adolf Hitler. Monologe im Führerhauptquartier 1941-1944. Aufgezeichnet von Heinrich Heim.“, S. 370)

A quick translation:

"If at Poitiers, Charles Martel hadn't won: Although we had to accept the Jewish world - Christianity (namely) is so dismal - then we all would be Mohammedans, this teaching which rewards heroism: The fighter alone is able to possess the seventh heaven! Germani would have conquered the world with it, only Christianity has detained us in doing so."

Though in speeches Hitler had no objection at all to exploiting Christian rhetoric for his own political purposes, his own personal views he had no respect at all for Christianity. Before the full implications of Hitler's views had begun to sink in amongst Western elites, one could find even atheists freely admitting to this. Here is an interesting tidbit from the French atheist and writer Albert Camus, in his book The Rebel.

As for Hitler, his professed religion unhesitatingly juxtaposed the God-Providence and Valhalla. Actually his god was an argument at the end of a political meeting and a manner of reaching an impressive climax at the end of speeches.

Albert Camus, The Rebel, trans. Anthony Bower (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1962)