Sunday, July 22, 2012

"Grief is the price of knowledge"

Peter Wehner at Commentary has an essay on the massacre in Aurora Colorado.

Excerpt:

We all know evil exists, that life is fragile, and that people die. But the suddenness and scale of an event like this, in a country like this, is what shocks our system. And for all the efforts by the greatest theological minds in history to explain theodicy, nothing I have ever read or heard addresses it in a satisfactory manner. The “problem of pain” is something that some people might be able to wrestle to the ground when the issue is abstract. But when pain pierces our lives in ways we could never imagine, the neat, tidy explanations – that tragedy is the consequence of the fall of man, that God allows human beings to choose evil, and all the rest – often wash away like sandcastles on the edge of the ocean. 
It isn’t that these explanations are necessarily wrong. It’s that they offer very little comfort to those besieged by sorrow. Because what we learn in time is that (to paraphrase the writer Chad Walsh) grief is the price of knowledge – not the knowledge of the mind but of the heart. It is the knowledge of friendship, of affection, of love. Those who live in the shadow of people’s love eventually live in the shadow of grief. Understanding this basic fact of life doesn’t make it any easier to endure. Bereavement can fracture even the sturdiest foundations of our lives.

Wehner decries the politicization of such massacres. I agree. Even if political motives could be ascribed to a shooter, understanding such motives takes time and detailed knowledge, something no one has in the first hours and days after an atrocity.

And political motives for lone shooters are rare.  These people are evil and crazy, and their political views are generally tangential to their real agenda, which sounds the darkest crevices of the soul. If a lone killer kills for the left or the right or the Godfull or the Godless, it is the willingness to kill innocents, not the ostensible ideological motive, that is the real issue.

And even if a killer's ideology did play a real role, it is by no means an indictment of others who hold to that ideology nor of the ideology itself. Every ideology has been used by some madman somewhere to do evil. Ideologies should be assessed by their truth and by the broad impact of their influence. Anecdotes about madmen distract from a thoughtful assessment.

And what of theodicy? Why would God allow such things?

I don't find such horrors so difficult to understand, from the perspective of a Christian. God created man in His image, which means He created man with free will. That means that man has the capacity for radical evil as well as radical good. There in fact can be no radical good if there is not the capacity for radical evil. Good must be a choice. God respects each individual's choice.

What of the suffering of the innocent victims? Where is God's love?

What great horror tells us about human existence is that this brief life is not all of our life-- that we have a life of eternity, where all mortal suffering will be wiped away. God's willingness to allow evil in our mortal life can only be understood in light of our eternal life. In fact, I consider suffering in this life, in light of God's love and sovereignty, to be manifest evidence of the joys of eternal life. God allows great suffering because there is immeasurably greater joy.

But, atheists would insist, isn't it easier to say that there is no God, no transcendent good or evil, just pitiless fate, indifferent to our joy or suffering? That view is self-refuting. If the atheist/Darwinian understanding of man is true, we have no reason to care about the fate of strangers, except to exalt in the demise of those with whom we compete in the struggle to reproduce. If you're an atheist, and you are consistent and rational, you should celebrate your victory in the massacre in Aurora. Your genes will prosper, unimpeded by the genes of the perished.  When innocents die-- fecund young competitors-- atheists/Darwinists hit the lottery.

But of course no atheist believes that. We all grieve, and we are all saddened by this horror. Those of us who know and love God pray to Him to protect the innocent, to take the souls of the perished into His arms, to bring His kingdom among us. Atheists grieve as well, horrified by the suffering of innocents.

That such grief for innocents is utterly inconsistent with atheist/Darwinist ideology won't bother atheists in the least.  

52 comments:

  1. Michael,

    If you're right, and there is a God and an eternal afterlife, then why grieve for the victims of this senseless massacre?

    Yours is the inconsistent response. You should be rejoicing that the victims are now in heaven sharing God's presence.

    Atheists have the consistent and rational response. There's no afterlife. A life cut short is forever.

    And humans have evolved by natural selection to feel empathy and to care for other members of our group. And because humans are intelligent social animals, we've managed to expand 'our group' to the entire species.

    And because humans are intelligent, we've also managed to divorce ourselves from selfish self interest. And thinking that having the maximum number of offspring to be the main aim of life.

    The rational response to this tragedy would be to ask why America is so dysfunctional that it has a love affair with guns of all types. And even minimal and inadequate gun control measures meet such vehement opposition.

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  2. If the atheist/Darwinian understanding of man is true, we have no reason to care about the fate of strangers, except to exalt in the demise of those with whom we compete in the struggle to reproduce.

    Poor clown-faced Egnor, still shilling for the same idiotic view.

    What happened that destroyed your reasoning ability? Did your wife leave you for an atheist?

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  3. Attempts to explain altruism by Darwinian mechanisms are hilarious. Darwinism is the antithesis of altruism. Even if make-believe stories about kin selection or reciprocity etc are taken seriously, they are not altruistic. They are merely more sophisticated methods of selfish survival.

    The only way you can discuss such tragedies in a humane manner is if you implicitly assume that your ideology (not worldview) is untrue.

    There are no honest atheists, this side of hell.

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    Replies
    1. Michael,

      By your argument, there are no altruistic theists either. Believers aren't doing 'good' for altruistic reasons. They're just doing it to earn Brownie points for the afterlife.

      Attempts to explain altruism by religious mechanisms are hilarious. Belief is the antithesis of altruism. Even if make believe stories about God and the afterlife etc are taken seriously, they are not altruistic. They are merely more sophisticated methods of selfish survival.

      Delete
    2. "They're just doing it to earn Brownie points for the afterlife."
      No, they are doing it because they WANT to be good. They have focused their minds to that purpose.
      The 'afterlife' (actually the beginning of real/true existence) is the outcome of that choice.
      Christian lit is replete with references to your 'brownie' point scheme, Bach.
      It is not enough to be good out of fear for a Christian, it must be a conscious and loving choice.
      For those who have made it is self evident.
      That is not to say there are not those who do exactly as you describe.

      "Belief is the antithesis of altruism."
      Orwellian nonsense.

      Delete
    3. Egnor: Attempts to explain altruism by Darwinian mechanisms are hilarious.

      It's easy to laugh at a science you don't understand. Any fool can do that.

      Delete
    4. Oleg:

      What a chuckle?

      If kin selection explains altruism between closely related individuals (ie siblings who share 50% of genes), why doesn't kin selection occur among asexually reproducing species (eg bacteria) in whom 'siblings' (daughter cells of the same parent cell) share essentially 100% of their genes.

      A population of monoclonal bacteria are nearly identical genetically. Thus, kin selection should be intense, and competition-- natural selection-- should be virtually non-existent.

      Yet Darwinists tout bacteria as exemplars of natural selection, and of course kin selection is never invoked.

      Your theory is self-refuting bullshit, to the extent it's not a tautology.

      Delete
    5. Are you sure there is no kin selection in bacteria? I'll give you a chance to correct your ignorance. Will an hour be enough? :)

      Delete
    6. oleg:

      I'm not arguing that there is no kin selection in bacteria, or that there is kin selection in bacteria.

      I'm arguing that the concept of kin selection is rendered nonsensical by the example of asexually reproducing organisms. If sharing 50% of genes gives rise to altruism, sharing 100% of genes should give rise to incredibly intense altruism, because if one bacterium sacrifices itself for it's clones, it saves billions of copies of its genome.

      Yet Darwinists incessantly cite bacterial reproduction as an exemplar of competition by natural selection. Kin selection is not invoked (by Hamilton or his progeny) for asexually reproducing organisms, for which is should by maximally intense.

      I'm saying that the concept of kin selection is bullshit. "Hilarious" was the term I used.

      I'll give you a chance to Google it and try to figure out a reply.

      Good luck.

      Delete
    7. That is hilarious indeed. Let's review.

      First Mike says this:

      If kin selection explains altruism between closely related individuals (ie siblings who share 50% of genes), why doesn't kin selection occur among asexually reproducing species (eg bacteria) in whom 'siblings' (daughter cells of the same parent cell) share essentially 100% of their genes.

      A population of monoclonal bacteria are nearly identical genetically. Thus, kin selection should be intense, and competition-- natural selection-- should be virtually non-existent.

      Yet Darwinists tout bacteria as exemplars of natural selection, and of course kin selection is never invoked.


      Got that? He just said that kin selection in bacteria is never invoked by biologists.

      OK. I tell him that maybe, just maybe, he is mistaken. And maybe he should look it up.

      So he googles "kin selection bacteria," finds a whole bunch of scientific articles on the subject, and does a 180:

      I'm not arguing that there is no kin selection in bacteria, or that there is kin selection in bacteria.

      Oh yes, you are. You just said that kin selection is never invoked! And he says, authoritatively:

      I'm saying that the concept of kin selection is bullshit.

      Well, that takes us back to my original comment. A fool finds all kinds of things hilarious.

      Well done, Mike! Keep up the good work!

      Delete
    8. You haven't addressed the issue of kin selection in asexually reproducing organisms, you've merely googled some references of variable relevance.

      When the relatedness is 100%, and relatives are multitudes, the kin selection should be intense and dwarf any competitive selection.

      So why do bacteria evolve resistance to antibiotics so rapidly, when such competition by kin selection theory is overwhelmed by kin selection pressure?

      Kin selection is a theoretical attempt to explain the absence of competition in altruism by invoking vicarious survival of genes in related organisms.

      It wrecks on organisms that reproduce asexually.

      Delete
    9. Maybe this paper will help to dispel some of Egnor's misconceptions about kin selection, but I won't hold my breath.

      Abstract:

      Explaining altruistic cooperation is one of the greatest challenges for evolutionary biology1, 2, 3. One solution to this problem is if costly cooperative behaviours are directed towards relatives4, 5. This idea of kin selection has been hugely influential and applied widely from microorganisms to vertebrates2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. However, a problem arises if there is local competition for resources, because this leads to competition between relatives, reducing selection for cooperation3, 11, 12, 13, 14. Here we use an experimental evolution approach to test the effect of the scale of competition, and how it interacts with relatedness. The cooperative trait that we examine is the production of siderophores, iron-scavenging agents, in the pathogenic bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa15, 16, 17. As expected, our results show that higher levels of cooperative siderophore production evolve in the higher relatedness treatments. However, our results also show that more local competition selects for lower levels of siderophore production and that there is a significant interaction between relatedness and the scale of competition, with relatedness having less effect when the scale of competition is more local. More generally, the scale of competition is likely to be of particular importance for the evolution of cooperation in microorganisms, and also the virulence of pathogenic microorganisms, because cooperative traits such as siderophore production have an important role in determining virulence6, 9, 17, 18, 19.

      Delete
    10. Egnor: You haven't addressed the issue of kin selection in asexually reproducing organisms, you've merely googled some references of variable relevance.

      I pointed out that you are entirely ignorant of the subject. "Kin selection is never invoked in bacteria." LOL

      When the relatedness is 100%, and relatives are multitudes, the kin selection should be intense and dwarf any competitive selection.

      False dichotomy. Organisms can be selected along more than one axis in fitness landscape. Selection for larger antlers can proceeds alongside selection for better hearing. That is not a zero-sum game.

      So why do bacteria evolve resistance to antibiotics so rapidly, when such competition by kin selection theory is overwhelmed by kin selection pressure?

      See above.

      Delete
    11. Egnor: When the relatedness is 100%, and relatives are multitudes, the kin selection should be intense and dwarf any competitive selection.

      Another mistake. Bacteria are not 100% identical. Mutations generate a diversity of the gene pool even if you start with a single set of genes (one bacterium). Kin selection cooperation between more closely related organisms because their genes are more alike. See the paper troy linked to.

      Delete
  4. There are no honest atheists, this side of hell.

    Says Egnor, the proven & shameless liar.

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  5. God allows great suffering because there is immeasurably greater joy.

    Chalk up the Holocaust as evidence for a loving god. By Egnor's pathological "reasoning", that is. Religion truly rots the brain.

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    Replies
    1. "God allows great suffering because there is immeasurably greater joy."

      This is a very utilitarian view of joy and suffering. I was unaware that classical theism made use of such arguments to support their views.

      -L

      Delete
    2. L,

      God permits human freedom in order to give humans the opportunity to act genuinely for the good, as He does. If He did not do so, we would not be created in His image, and could not be either good or bad.

      He permits human evil, but does not cause it.

      By classical ethical theory (Augustine, Aquinas) that is consistent with the principle of double effect (one intends the good consequence, not the evil consequence, the good is greater than the evil, and the good is not the direct result of the evil).

      It is not utilitarianism, in which only the end, not the means, is subject to moral scrutiny.

      In classical theology, however, it is only by analogy that we can call God "moral". He transcends such categories. Morality applies to creation, not Creator.

      But, as I've pointed out, no coherent analogy imputes utilitarianism to God.

      Delete
    3. The law of double effect seems to fall apart if you set up a situation in which you know evil will occurr. You don't need to be omniscient to know that some people will do evil. It's like forcing your friends to play Russian roulette and then when somebody does die saying, "hey bad things will happen when you play this game, but everybody had lots of fun so that makes it okay." It's worse if God is omniscient, because he knows a priori which people will do evil.

      I'm just teasing. Of course it looks like a utilitarian argument, but it really isn't. Just like God's nature looks like it violates the principle of sufficient reason but it really doesn't. Just like the false dilemma response to Euthyphro's dillema looks like an evasion, but it really isn't. Just like the necessary existence of God looks like it is a brute force fact of the universe, but it really isn't. Just like God's possession of conflicting attributes to the maximal degree looks like a contradiction, but it really isn't. Etc., etc., etc.

      I believe you have answers to criticisms of your theology Michael. I just don't find them very satisfying.

      -L

      Delete
  6. Theodicy?
    One of the most difficult topics in religious thought. How to explain Evil in the light of purpose and the Divine.
    I must admit it is something I have wrestled with when tragedy has struck close to home and on the battlefield.
    My own conclusions are similar but not identical to the Doctor's.
    I too see Evil as evidence of choice and the existence of free will. I too see it as a shadow cast by the light of Good, or the sudden fading of the light of a loved one who has brought goodness into the world of those around them.
    I recognize this single element is probably the most profound obstacle for faith in the mind of most living human beings.
    But I see Evil as elemental and intelligent in it's designs (no - not THAT ID). Evil is ever present and is always looking for a 'way in'. Evil's ultimate goal is to render the mind incapable of detecting it and thereby creating a subjectivism: One man's evil is another man's good.
    This sense of futility serves Evil well and in doing so creates distractionary choice or battle within the mind. The choice between good and evil actions becomes one of a more selfish (and hence evil) nature. This kind of 'madness' is the goal of Evil: To reduce mankind to the level of selfish animals. It is the opposite of the transcendent goals of Good.
    The way to combat Evil is with Good - not denial. Sometimes that Good requires force; even violence. Most of the time it requires mercy and understanding.
    Evil is real and we may choose lesser or greater evil as our path, but we do so at the peril of our most objective and central self.
    The question of Hell, in my mind, is when is the last day we may repent? Is an evil man damned before he is judged? Or is the judgement itself a final chance at that repentance?
    I instinctively feel the latter must be true.
    There must be a moment beyond what we call 'death' that allows a person to reverse, to try again, or to see the errors and only the most evil or 'mad' soul would deny that chance in the name of selfish 'pride' in a manner similar, say, to Milton's Lucifer.
    My two pennies.

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  7. @crusadeRex,
    ...is the judgement itself a final chance at that repentance?

    I agree with you.

    Christian eschatology tells us that this final judgement will be our own, that God will give us the choice between Love and Humility or to persue our own selfish desires and refuse the Beatific Vision; we will know clearly and exactly what each choice entails and that it will be made for eternity. In this sense, hell is defined as the impossibility to see God face to face which will be an eternal burning desire for those who will have made the selfish choice.

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    Replies
    1. Precisely my view, Pépé.
      Cheers!

      When we consider that even God's first and most elemental creations are capable of this self inflicted judgement, it seems only logical to assume man is also capable of such a choice. But we must remember that only a third fell, and even amongst those that did - some will repent.

      I remember when once discussing a similar matter with a very old friend who is Jewish, in his home with him and his friends. One young (and very bright) fellow said to me: As a Christian do you think me damned to Hell for not accepting Christ in this life - for being a Jew?
      I responded in the same vein as we have discussed here. I basically said to him: If you stand before judgement and see that Christ was true and that you have been mistaken, but otherwise you have sought goodness and been a righteous man, would you not admit your error and repent? Would you not ask forgiveness of God for that error?
      He replied: Of course! If I KNEW he had been wrong, I would change my views, and happily repent to be in the presence of God.
      I then added: Then you would be forgiven your mistake and join your ancestors and mine in the next level of our being we call 'heaven'. This is the Christian view of THIS Christian.
      He was impressed, if a bit perplexed.
      To which my old friend said something of the sort: See this Christian is a real Christian. He will condescend to you, as we would to him as a 'righteous gentile', but he would not damn you to hell or a second death. Neither would his Jesus the Christ.

      I think the same is true for good hearted Atheists. Their mistake is perhaps a larger one, and it's potential for decline much greater.
      But it is man's nature to choose and to correct himself. I think most of them would do much as my young Jewish friend would.
      Only the most prideful and selfish would not, and in doing that pass judgement on themselves.

      Delete
    2. CrusadeRex:

      This is basically the Atheist's Wager. If there is no God, then nothing is to be gained by following a religious life. If there is a God who values righteous behaviour and is infinitely merciful, then nothing is to be gained by following a religious life if you have righteous behavior. If there is a God who values righteous behaviour but is not infinitely merciful, then nothing is gained by following a religious life because such a capricious God may choose to condemn you to hell anyway. In fact if you retain free will in the afterlife, and there is an infinite amount of time then eventually you would necessarily cause an affront to God. So the best bet is to ignore religion, be kind to others and hope for the best. Keep calm and carry on.

      You should be careful Rex, you are beginning to sound like Dawkins.

      -L

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    3. L,
      May I suggest you use another translator?
      Try google English to Atheist.

      You have completely misunderstood my point.
      I will boil it down for you in a nice reductionist-friendly fashion:
      God is merciful, even to fools.
      God rewards the good and the loving.
      The gains of a pious/righteous life are in the HERE and NOW. They obviously transcend, but I do not pretend to understand exactly how. Perhaps in the way different jellies produce different bees? Just a guess.
      You inserted the 'infinitely merciful' stuff in there. Not I.

      In my view you would have to live a righteous life, as defined BY GOD. Not Descartes, Marx, or Locke. Not by some 'golden rule'.
      Get it?
      If your only fault was a lack of faith, but you otherwise lived well, THEN you would be given the chance to repent.
      A person of faith who was weakened by sin may also be given a chance.
      One or the other, or BOTH.

      Live an evil life AND deny God? Forget it.
      You will be just as proud at that moment of judgement (death).
      Oblivion will be your reward.
      'The second death'.
      But don't worry about that, it's exactly what you want/expect anyway. No red guy with a pitchfork, no purgatory for you. No need for another run at it.
      Nothing.
      Such is God's mercy for the Atheist.

      I know you would probably much prefer me to blast you with hell fire, as that could very well fit your stereotype of Christian thinking neatly.
      Sorry.
      It just isn't going to happen.

      BTW Trying to reverse Pascal's wager is futile.
      You may want to read the original dialogues concerning that.

      This is just silly:
      'In fact if you retain free will in the afterlife, and there is an infinite amount of time then eventually you would necessarily cause an affront to God. "

      Death is a catalyst.
      That existence we call 'afterlife' is without/beyond time, not in an infinite stream of time.
      It is at a point where beginning and end are a single moment. It is objective eternity, not a mathematical infinity. The latter is a model used in THIS existence.
      So how does the 'eventually' in your proposition fit in? I doesn't.

      "Keep calm and carry on."
      Wasn't that a sign outside the gas chambers at Treblinka?

      "You should be careful Rex, you are beginning to sound like Dawkins."
      More like a cross between James Earl Jones and Frank 'blue eyes' Sinatra with a 'classical' accent, actually. Maybe kind of like a young Chrisopher Plumber?
      But Dawkins...no I would have to take up smoking three packs a day and be emasculated first.

      Delete
    4. crusadeRex:

      “God is merciful, even to fools.
      God rewards the good and the loving.
      The gains of a pious/righteous life are in the HERE and NOW. They obviously transcend, but I do not pretend to understand exactly how. Perhaps in the way different jellies produce different bees? Just a guess.”

      Yes, this is the Atheist’s wager, or at least one potential outcome of the wager. I understand perfectly. That is why I made the comparison.

      “You inserted the 'infinitely merciful' stuff in there. Not I.”

      No, classical theists insert infinitely merciful (or maximally merciful at least). God, according to classical theism, has attributes such as mercy in their maximal degree. If you don’t believe that then I suggest you are not a classical theist.

      “In my view you would have to live a righteous life, as defined BY GOD. Not Descartes, Marx, or Locke. Not by some 'golden rule'.
      Get it?”

      Of course. Then the problem becomes which god. That is what is always left out of Pascal’s wager.

      “If your only fault was a lack of faith, but you otherwise lived well, THEN you would be given the chance to repent.
      A person of faith who was weakened by sin may also be given a chance.
      One or the other, or BOTH.”

      You are still describing the Atheist’s wager. You should go look it up.

      “Live an evil life AND deny God? Forget it.”

      Well, if you live a life of evil and the Abrahamic God is real then you can forget it whether you deny God or not.

      “Oblivion will be your reward.
      'The second death'.
      But don't worry about that, it's exactly what you want/expect anyway. No red guy with a pitchfork, no purgatory for you. No need for another run at it.
      Nothing.”

      So you believe in annihilationism, ala Harold Camping. A minority view amongst Christians, but one I have seen before. I will keep that in mind for the future.

      “I know you would probably much prefer me to blast you with hell fire, as that could very well fit your stereotype of Christian thinking neatly.
      Sorry.
      It just isn't going to happen.”

      I honestly don’t care what your particular view of the afterlife is. So go ahead and think that I do care all you want.

      “BTW Trying to reverse Pascal's wager is futile.
      You may want to read the original dialogues concerning that.”

      Pascal’s wager does not take account of all possible afterlife conditions. That is why Pascal’s wager is not a convincing conversion tactic.

      “This is just silly:
      'In fact if you retain free will in the afterlife, and there is an infinite amount of time then eventually you would necessarily cause an affront to God. "

      Death is a catalyst.
      That existence we call 'afterlife' is without/beyond time, not in an infinite stream of time.
      It is at a point where beginning and end are a single moment. It is objective eternity, not a mathematical infinity. The latter is a model used in THIS existence.
      So how does the 'eventually' in your proposition fit in? I doesn't.”

      Yes you are right, I spoke incorrectly. Many Christians view the afterlife as existing outside of time. But the question of whether or not we have free will in the afterlife and whether or not God can condemn us for poor behaviour in the afterlife is a serious question amongst classical theists (usually swept away by claiming that one could rebel against God in heaven but one would not after basking in God’s glory).

      “"Keep calm and carry on."
      Wasn't that a sign outside the gas chambers at Treblinka?”

      No, it was an ad campaign of the monarchy to which you are a loyal subject. Nazis … Queen Elizabeth … what’s the difference?

      -L

      Delete
  8. "If the atheist/Darwinian understanding of man is true, we have no reason to care about the fate of strangers, except to exalt in the demise of those with whom we compete in the struggle to reproduce. If you're an atheist, and you are consistent and rational, you should celebrate your victory in the massacre in Aurora."

    Statements like this make me skeptical of your erstwhile atheism. This doesn't match up with the behavior of atheists, nor does it match up what most atheists claim to believe. So either a) you are right and atheists are secretly jumping for joy over every act of anarchism or b) you don't understand how or what atheists think. I suspect it is b, which inclines me to believe that you were at best not religious rather than an atheist (just as Easter Catholics are not really Catholic).

    Stand in the shadows and poke atheists of straw if you like, but don't expect to be taken seriously.

    -L

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    1. L:

      This was my next paragraph:

      "But of course no atheist believes that. We all grieve, and we are all saddened by this horror. Those of us who know and love God pray to Him to protect the innocent, to take the souls of the perished into His arms, to bring His kingdom among us. Atheists grieve as well, horrified by the suffering of innocents."

      I presume you wrote the comment before reading the whole post. That's ok. Sometimes I do the same, and say silly things, too.

      My argument is not that atheists are callous. They certainly are not. Most atheists are as horrified by tragedy as Christians are.

      My argument is that genuine belief in atheism and the Darwinian understanding of man would entail joy, not sorrow, at the killing of others (competitors). Your survival, with the death of competitors, in a victory in the "natural selection" business.

      Atheists are inconsistent, not callous.

      Delete
    2. Michael,

      Since you haven't addressed my comment, perhaps you might address this one?

      Who don't the churches demonstrate their 'superior morality' to atheists by campaigning to end America's idolic love affair with guns of all kinds? In America, 100,000 are killed or injured by guns.

      Including the 6 year who was killed in the latest atrocity (although, why is a 6 year old being taken to a late night showing of a violent film?)

      It's impossible for politicians to do anything, because it's seen as the 'kiss of death' for any politician to propose even the most minimal ineffective measure due to the resulting response from the NRA.

      If the churches had any gumption, they'd be campaigning for strict gun control. And they'd get a lot of support from atheists and humanists.

      Delete
    3. Oops,

      I should have noted that 100,000 Americans are killed or injured by guns EACH YEAR.

      Delete
    4. bach:

      There are two problems with gun control in the US.

      1) The Second Amendment, which clearly guarantees the right to the citizenry to keep and bear arms.

      2) Gun control doesn't work. There is no consistent correlation between gun control and reduction in gun crime, either in the US or elsewhere. The most stringent gun control laws in the US are often where the gun violence is worst. The cause and effect relationship can be argued, but the most reasonable conclusion is that gun control doesn't work.

      Gun control has two effects:

      1) it makes it marginally more difficult for bad guys to get guns. But bad guys are bad because they kill people, and it's difficult to imagine that someone disposed to murder is going to be stopped by laws regulating gun ownership.

      2) It makes gun ownership much harder if not impossible for law-abiding victims. This has the effect of guaranteeing gun-using bad guys a large crop of unarmed victims.

      This encourages gun crime, which has been borne out by many studies that show that concealed-and-carry laws reduce gun crime.

      Delete
    5. Michael,

      So why is America such an outlier in both ownership of guns and gun deaths? Going on your logic, because of America's gun ownership rate, it should have the lowest rate of gun deaths amongst comparable developed countries. But it doesn't. It has the highest.

      Delete
    6. America has a lot of gun control. Show me evidence that it works.

      Delete
    7. America's gun controls are as reliable as a sieve. Washington, DC, might have strict gun laws, but it is right next to Maryland and (especially) Virginia were the laws are pretty lax. The easy availability of guns makes it easy to run around the laws.

      Delete
    8. Michael,

      Gun control works. Australia is a similar country to America. Largely settled from Europe. We started out as a penal colony, so our starting stock wasn't particularly good.

      If Australians were killing and wounding with guns at the same rate as America, we'd be at around 7,000 a year. We're nowhere near it, because we've got very strict controls. And our murder rate is also very low.

      You still haven't answered why the American churches couldn't do something useful for a change, and campaign for gun control. It isn't something that politicians are capable of doing, because it would take longer than a politician would be willing to spend (no further than the next election).

      The second amendment isn't an insurmountable problem. It can be repealed, just as the amendment for Prohibition was.

      Gun control requires someone with patience and energy to push through. The churches, with their supposed moral authority, would be ideal. And they'd get a lot of secular support too.

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    9. I assure you I read the post. In fact what you said was essential to my comment. I apologize for being unclear. Let me try again.

      You make the following claim:

      Atheism leads to belief X.
      If one has belief X, they act in manner Y.
      Atheists don't act in manner Y.
      Therefore atheists don't genuinely believe X.

      My comment was on what you think this means. It could mean that atheists really do jump for joy at such a tragedy and just hide it well (they do act in manner Y). If you believe that then there is no point in further discussion. Or it could be that atheists don't think through where atheism leads. This is the straw man you are attacking, assuming that no atheist has conceived of this problem. It is naive. It would be like me saying no theist has an answer to the problem of evil while only referring to Easter Catholics, who are only nominally Catholic.

      The other possibillity is that your initial premise is wrong, as I believe to be the case. This is why I want to know how you thought when you were an atheist. Why didn't you pillage, plunder, or committ nihilistic suicide? I think your answer would be illuminating.

      -L

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    10. I didn't plunder because God's law was in my heart, and I obeyed Him, even while I denied His existence.

      I was too stupid to understand what I was doing.

      Later I did understand, and became a Christian.

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    11. A good answer. Romans Chapter 7 was the only thing that kept me from becoming a full fledged atheist from the ages of 17 to 23. But then I realized something. Taking WLC's moral argument for God:

      If there is no God, then objective moral values cannot exist.
      Objective moral values do exist.
      Therefore God exists (formally there is not no God).

      There are a number of errors in the premises of this argument, but my problem was mainly with the existence of objective morality (and by objective here I mean absolute God given morality). How are we to tell the difference between objective morality and the appearance of objective morality? We run into this sort of problem in the world of cognitive illusions. Once I came to the conclusion that it was possible for humans to have either evolved or constructed a morality that gave the appearance of objectivity, this argument had no weight with me.

      Thank you for sharing.

      -L

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    12. The denial of objective morality is indefensible.

      Such denial-- the denial that torturing children is objectively wrong, that the Holocaust was objectively wrong, etc-- is either a deep refusal to face reality, or, if honestly denied, a mental illness.

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    13. Such denial-- the denial that torturing children is objectively wrong, that the Holocaust was objectively wrong, etc-- is either a deep refusal to face reality, or, if honestly denied, a mental illness.

      Your delusions are not evidence for the rightness of your argument.

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    14. "The denial of objective morality is indefensible. Such denial--the denial that torturing children is objectively wrong, that the Holocaust was objectively wrong, etc--is either a deep refusal to face reality, or, if honestly denied, a mental illness."
      Well, at least you are keeping an open mind. Either I'm lying or I am mentally ill. I have options.

      I think the greater problem is that by objective you mean absolute and God-given whereas most people mean something else (you may recall getting in a tussle with oleg over this some time ago). Disregarding the circular argument of saying that God-given morality requires God, it is possible to have objective (by the common definition) morality without God.

      I would also like to point out that there are plenty of philosophical traditions that beleive there is an absolute morality without the necessity of a god (the Platonic school is one). So while you are concerned with this one aspect of the moral argument for God, whether or not there is absolute morality, there is a whole cavalry attacking your flank.

      -L

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    15. There is a simple way to describe objective morality. It is the answer to this question:

      Is it possible for something to be morally wrong, even of all human beings thought it morally right?

      If it is possible, then morality is objective. If it is not possible, then morality is not objective.

      It seems self-evident that it is possible for everyone to be wrong about a moral question. Ergo, there must be objective morality-- moral law that exists independently of human opinion.

      If morality is objective, it seems plain to me that such transcendent intentionality requires God.

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    16. @L

      [I would also like to point out that there are plenty of philosophical traditions that beleive there is an absolute morality without the necessity of a god (the Platonic school is one).]

      Plato was very much a theist, and Neoplatonism was quite close to Christianity in much of its theology. I don't specifically know Plato's views on the source of moral law, but your implication that Plato was an atheist is wrong.

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    17. Is it possible for something to be morally wrong, even of all human beings thought it morally right?

      No. You lose.

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    18. mregnor:

      “Is it possible for something to be morally wrong, even of all human beings thought it morally right?

      If it is possible, then morality is objective. If it is not possible, then morality is not objective.”

      For a user defined system, so long as it is useful, the consensus reality is the objective reality. Using standard mathematical operations and real numbers, 2+2=4. Always. Using current conventional English usage a banana is the fruit of an herb which is generally curved, longer than it is wide, and green to yellow in color. Always. Is it possible that 2+2=5? No. Is it possible that what we call a banana is really called a Jabberwocky? No. Why? Because these things are defined by the humans that use them. If God said 2+2=5 He would be wrong, not the system of mathematics we have developed.

      I use mathematics and language as examples because they are often used in the manner that morality is used as proof of God’s existence. “For X to really have meaning then it must exist transcendentally in the mind of God”. This is ludicrous. Take for example the word ‘gagh’. This is the Klingon word for a meal of live serpent worms. If you take the view that language requires a transcendent mind, then you must believe that ‘gagh’, a word that refers to a non-existent food item, a word in existence for only 25 years, as part of a language that has existed for only 33 years, as the native tongue of a non-existent species, has always existed in the mind of God. If you really believe that then … well I don’t know what to say to you.

      So, the question is “Is morality a user defined system with usefulness?” I believe the answer to that question is probably yes. If that is the case the moral argument for God falls apart. This does not mean that morality is not objective (in the common definition), just that it is not absolute.

      “If morality is objective, it seems plain to me that such transcendent intentionality requires God.”

      You are in error. There are philosophical systems that deduce transcendent realities independent of God, id est morality has a non-material existence whether or not God exists. This is the other problem with the moral argument for God that so many (modern) theologians ignore. William Lane Craig has been taken to task for his version of the moral argument by philosophers for this very reason.

      -L

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    19. mregnor:

      “[I would also like to point out that there are plenty of philosophical traditions that beleive there is an absolute morality without the necessity of a god (the Platonic school is one).]

      Plato was very much a theist, and Neoplatonism was quite close to Christianity in much of its theology. I don't specifically know Plato's views on the source of moral law, but your implication that Plato was an atheist is wrong.”

      I’m not sure how you could read so much wrong from one sentence.

      I referred to the Platonic school of thought not Plato himself. I did not in any way imply that Plato was an atheist. Plato’s theories of form, in short, posit that there is an existence of transcendent ideals that exist outside of our material existence. Therefore in the Platonic tradition one could be an atheist or a theist and believe in transcendent realities because within the Platonic tradition those transcendent realities exist necessarily regardless of God’s existence.

      Please excuse me for a moment.

      ……………………………………..________
      ………………………………,.-‘”……………….“~.,
      ………………………..,.-”……………………………..“-.,
      …………………….,/………………………………………..”:,
      …………………,?………………………………………………\,
      ………………./…………………………………………………..,}
      ……………../………………………………………………,:`^`..}
      ……………/……………………………………………,:”………/
      …………..?…..__…………………………………..:`………../
      …………./__.(…..“~-,_…………………………,:`………./
      ………../(_….”~,_……..“~,_………………..,:`…….._/
      ……….{.._$;_……”=,_…….“-,_…….,.-~-,},.~”;/….}
      ………..((…..*~_…….”=-._……“;,,./`…./”…………../
      …,,,___.\`~,……“~.,………………..`…..}…………../
      …………(….`=-,,…….`……………………(……;_,,-”
      …………/.`~,……`-………………………….\……/\
      ………….\`~.*-,……………………………….|,./…..\,__
      ,,_……….}.>-._\……………………………..|…………..`=~-,
      …..`=~-,_\_……`\,……………………………\
      ……………….`=~-,,.\,………………………….\
      …………………………..`:,,………………………`\…………..__
      ……………………………….`=-,……………….,%`>–==“
      …………………………………._\……….._,-%…….`\
      ……………………………..,< `.._|_,-&``................`\

      -L

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  9. Deer aren’t religious, and you could say their lack of belief in God or gods makes them atheist. Yet they don’t fail to sound the alarm and then rejoice when a fellow falls to a predator. The deer are preprogrammed by evolution to give a warning call that helps their neighbors because their neighbors share the genes to give a warning call that may one day save them. The deer aren’t thinking about the philosophical issues of cooperation or it’s consistence or inconsistency with this or that god, their doing what proves to aid their own survival.

    A species that wantonly celebrates the destruction of its own kind isn’t a species that’s likely to be around a long time. Schools of fish, flocks of birds, herds of herbivores, lions sharing a kill, ants maintaining a colony, and on and on, we see animals cooperating for their mutual survival. Cooperative behavior in species is ubiquitous. To think that Darwinism somehow demands that the opposite is true is duhr de duhr de duhr Stupid.

    -KW

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    Replies
    1. @KW:

      But in the Darwinian storybook, adaptations arise by natural selection, which is competitive differential reproduction. And adaptations arise by cooperation.

      You assert that Darwinism predicts both competition and cooperation.

      I love theories that predict mutually exclusive processes.

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    2. Yes, imagine that! I study systems with competing interactions for a living. Ferrofluids are a fascinating example of that. The fluid attracts itself sometimes and sometimes repels.

      And you thought personal incredulity was a good argument? What a joke!

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    3. Natural selection could favor the individuals with the genes for a louder alarm call, or some other physical or behavioral change that enhances cooperation. The genes for this change would likely be found in a group of related individuals enhancing the reproductive success of the group. It’s still about differential reproduction, but it should be obvious that in most cases reproductive success of an individual in a population that cares for its members will be greater than in a population that doesn’t.

      It’s also obviously true, that among humans we care more for people the more closely they are related to us. The closer to home a tragedy strikes the more affected we are by it. If a pretty white good little Christian girl goes missing she may very well get as much media attention as a famine in Africa. The tragedy in Colorado hits home because that could be us. It’s terrifying because it represents the ultimate breakdown of the cooperation we all count on, theist and atheist alike, for our very survival and reproductive success.

      Cooperation and competition go hand-in-hand in both evolution and human society. There are always both, and neither will ever disappear because some cheating will always be advantageous in a population of cooperators, and some cooperation will always be advantageous in a population of cheaters.

      If it seems like evolution always has an answer it’s because it does.

      -KW

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    4. KW,
      Glad to know you can commune with the deer.
      Did 'science' channel this information about deer being atheists to you? I know you understand and talk to 'science', so did come to you in an ecstasy, or perhaps while ON ecstasy?
      Do you know that a Muslim would disagree.
      He would tell you the deer is a MUSLIM!
      What is a Christian to do? Is the deer an atheist, as the atheists tells us? Or does he submit to Allah, as the Muslim tells us?
      Both of you sound ridiculous.
      A deer just experiences. It is. It understands it's life instinctively, and it understands death is simply part of that cycle. This is evident in the behaviour of deer.
      Suggesting it is a Nihilist, Atheist, or of a specific type of Theist is a CRACKPOT suggestion.
      At least the Muslim has a colourful explanation for his belief, I suppose. Yours? Completely hilarious.
      Thanks for the entertainment once again, KW
      Who knew dogma could be such a crack up!
      A deer is an atheist, eh?
      then perhaps that is why their civilization excels those of the theistic world, and their philosophy is so well known and profound.
      Just ask a wolf (they must be theistic transcendentalist with a gnostic leaning?)

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    5. Crusader, I think it’s safe to say that Deer don’t believe in God or Gods. Do you really think deer might be religious? If that’s the only you could come up with to respond to the points I’ve made, you really are a moron.

      -KW

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    6. I tell you what I believe: You have NO idea what deer think about their origins or the forces of nature.

      Your comment is as ridiculous as saying hamsters are Buddhists because of some weird correlative data (how they sit), or that Lemmings are Jihadist Muslims waging war against infidel fish because they hurl themselves from cliffs.
      If I am moron, you must be a retarded sea cucumber (an atheist one, that is).
      LMAO!

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