Nothing Wrong With School Massacres?

By now I imagine most of us are familiar with the recent tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary. As a parent I anguish at the thought of what those parents must be going through. The thought of the never-to-be-opened Christmas presents is enough to bring tears to one’s eyes. It’s just so… wrong—unless of course you’re one of those atheists of the hard determinist type. If that’s the case, all you can say is that you don’t like what Adam Lanza did. Well, I guess you can say it was wrong, but that would be an equivocation of sorts because it could only be as “wrong” as a flood or hurricane. After all, on the hard determinist’s view, Adam Lanza is just another sack of matter blindly following the naturalistic laws of physics, no different than any other sack of matter. Right? That’s what Sam Harris is committed to: Lanza literally had no choice in the matter. It’s not just overconfident neuro-fetishists that espouse this view, either. This all follows from Galen Strawson’s basic argument.

Why embrace a worldview that necessarily commits one to a full abdication of ultimate moral responsibility, especially when it’s a philosophical position with no scientific grounding?

Jeff Lowder Replies

Jeffrey Jay Lowder has replied to my critique, and I’ve realized that sometimes I talk too much. I suspect verbosity obscured the point because Jeff seems to have misunderstood my criticisms (though I might misunderstand his, only time can tell). I’m responding to his rejoinders elsewhere, but today I want to offer an alternative description of my objections to Jeff’s AHS. But first, a note on brevity.

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Oh, Yeah, Big Difference!

So I’ve been checking out the nice links y’all left in the Gnu Survey. In response to Charlotte Allen’s poignant article, Atheists: No God, No Reason, Just Whining, a self-proclaimed “angry atheist” named Landon Ross writes,

[Allen] is blind to her own argument as she spews vitriol throughout. The quotes she cites are either taken out of context, with some clever editing, or false altogether. Sam Harris is quoted as saying “that it ‘may be ethical to kill people’ on the basis of their beliefs.” This is a blatant misrepresentation. Harris, in fact, makes plain that only if one believes that the canon they subscribe to is the divine word of god, does it become ethical, or seem reasonable, to kill someone for their religious belief.

LOLOLOLOLOL! And the haters say *I* nitpick and split hairs! Friends, this is pure comedy. Nah, Harris didn’t say it “may be ethical to kill people” on the basis of their beliefs, not at all. After all, we atheists are moral! Respectable! We’d never spout a line of tribalistic paleolithic nonsense because by golly, we’re atheists, we’re modern, and we’re more evolved! Harris only said it may be ethical to kill people “if they believe the canon they subscribe to is the divine word of God.”

In other words, Harris said it may be ethical to kill people on the basis of their beliefs. In other words, Allen’s reporting was spotless, and Landon Ross confirms her depiction of your average atheist as a whiny hater spouting anger and vacuity. By the way, since Landon conveniently neglected to cite his atheist pal, what did Harris actually say?

Some beliefs are so dangerous that it may be ethical to kill people for believing them —Sam Harris, The End of Faith, pp.52-53

In other news, I’ve added a Gnu category to TWIM. LOL!

The Official Cult Of Gnu Survey

Howdy all. Hopefully it’s as beautiful in your part of the world as it is in mine. So, here’s the skinny: I’m looking to compile a list of New Atheist-types for an upcoming project. Who do you see as a New Atheist worth exposing? The first people that come to my mind are obviously the obvious ones like Dawkins, PZ, Coyne, Harris, Carrier and the late Hitchens (can anyone explain why Dennett is always lumped in this category? Most of what I’ve seen from him seems rational, or, at least not blatantly irrational unlike the others, but maybe I just haven’t seen enough).

1. What would you list as the defining characteristics of particular New Atheists, and/or the New Atheist movement in general?

2. Who would you list as the most competent and/or entertaining critics of New Atheism, online or elsewhere?

3. What are some of the better New Atheist exposés you’ve read online?

If You Can’t Beat’em, Call’em Names!

So some time had passed and I felt like trying again with JT Eberhard. I wrote JT, saying,

It’s been a few months, I’ve left your blog alone, are you ready for a real debate yet? Or are you content to continue engaging the “I feel God” arguments? LOL! Seriously, let’s do this. Even some of your own readers are capping on your current blogalog partner.

…to which JT responded,

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Holding JT’s Feet To The Fire

Today’s post is a reprint of a comment I left on a thread at JT Eberhard’s blog. You can find the source article here.

JT, I would like to hold your feet to the fire. I concur with Jayman’s analysis. It’s fairly obvious to me that you *ARE* simply reading what you want to hear into the article. On what evidence do I make my claim? Well, to begin, you’ve framed the issue entirely in the context of religious tension, and completely omitted Gauchat’s salient points about other contributing factors which might also explain the data:

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Atheism & Moral Naïveté

I recently expressed my belief that most atheists have a very naïve understanding of morality that goes something like, “saving lives = moral good.” A commenter asked me to explain my position, and that’s what today’s brief post is about.

cl, no offense, but I don’t think this is a common atheist ethic. I think this is a cornerstone of any common sense morality: that is to say, “this” being the principle that saving lives is good. If you hear a child crying out for help that is drowning, would you bother to save him? Would not saving him be immoral if one was totally aware of his presence/distress and capable of saving him?

My first response is that “common sense” has led us down the wrong path, countless times. “Common sense” told us the sun went around Earth. “Common sense” told us air travel and telephony were impossible. “Common sense” told us that quantum mechanics just couldn’t be true. For these reasons, “common sense” merits a low position in any rational truth-seeker’s tool shed.

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Anatomy Of A Failed Atheist Argument

This post was formerly titled, “Oh, There’s A Contradiction Alright!” but I changed it in honor of Angra Mainyu because it is such a shining example of the sophistry and willful ignorance so prevalent on the atheist side of contemporary philosophy of religion. Should Angra Mainyu have the wherewithall to return and play fair, and actually demonstrate that which he asserts, I’ll gladly change the title to, “cl Didn’t Get It.” You’ll see, the comment thread says it all.

Of Angra Mainyu’s blog, a commenter recently remarked,

An interesting blog with some good arguments, among others what appears to be a thorough refutation of the Kalam Cosmological Argument.

I thought to myself, “That sounds interesting, maybe I’ll go have a look.” Needless to say, a thorough refutation is not what I found. Thorough, yes, but a refutation… not as much so.

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We Cannot Answer The Ultimate Moral Question(s)

Naturalists and atheists generally regard empirical truth as a virtue, sometimes even the prime virtue. My ears perk whenever I hear them preach any form of moral realism, as always I’m curious to hear how they can ground what they say (I’d be a moral “error-theorist” if I were an atheist). In discussions of morality these days, many naturalists and atheists seem to grasp desperately for something like a complete morality, but I don’t think we can answer the ultimate moral question(s).
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