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In Which Myers Shows still more of his closet love of Christianity. . . May 11, 2007

Posted by Administrator in atheism, Cultural Pessimism, Idiots, Liberal self-loathing, Mechanistic Relativism, Pharyngulism.
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. . .seriously. He spends SO much time slamming it, both Fundamentalism and Catholicism, he reeks of the homobigot who is scared to come out of the closet.

One of his most recent idiocies is entitled “Christianity’s Sins Against Science.” He then outlines 12 categories of offense. I thought I’d spend some little time showing just how stupid they are. Please note, I am not engaging in rational arguing throughout. For the most part, I am sniping at a man who is -deep down- terrified of Christianity.

Oh. And as a quick aside, one might level the charge against me that I am a closet Myers admirer, since I spend so much time deriding him. Only in one sense. He is overweight and past 40, as am I. We both have beards and teach. But he gets to teach at the UNiversity, where he gets breaks ALL THE TIME. I am jealous of those breaks. Nothing else.  I’ve got the better marriage, much better break on the kids (his and mine) and the wiser outlook.  Oh, and I guess we’re both curmedgeons, in a way.

Anyway, his list:

  1. Theft. Atheists know this one on a daily basis: Tornado demolishes home, tearful survivor comes before news cameras and “thanks God” that she was spared. Football player scores goal, drops to knees and praises god for his touchdown. Cancer patient goes into remission, lies in bed surrounded by his expensive, highly trained medical team, calls it a miracle. What religion does is steal human accomplishment and bestows it on a fickle imaginary being. Modern medicine is not a product of religion, it’s the highly refined outcome of years of empirical science, yet people still babble about miracles and prayers.

There is nothing stolen here. But I see that won’t stop Myers from applying labels that smear.

  1. Literalism. We in the evo-creo wars know this one well. If the Bible says it, it must be literally true. There was a world-wide flood, there was an ark, the earth is 6000 years old, etc. One antiquated hodge-podge of a book becomes the arbiter of truth, with the added benefit that its clutter and inconsistency and diversity of authorship means you can justify anything with the right random quote.

I will freely admit that this is a problem for fundamentalism, and that same movement gives more truthed Christians a black eye. Myers however, would tar all with the same brush.

  1. Authoritarianism. Once you’ve abandoned individual thought to the dictates of a book, you’re accustomed to surrendering intellectual autonomy…so you pass responsibility on to others.

Horsefeathers. We surrender authority and responsibility all the time. Myers is even in favor of it when he touts his typical Liberal Big Government initiative. The key is to maintain one’s ability to question. Again, fundamentalists do struggle with this. Catholic should not.

  1. Hierarchies. The pattern of authoritarianism leads easily to hierarchies. Secular organizations often fall into hierarchies, too, and often they’re an efficient way of getting things done; with religion, though, we go a few steps further, with the invention of an invisible, all-powerful being at the top who has everything but accountability. In addition, we impose this pattern on the world around us; our picture of the universe is colored by the scala naturæ, a false picture of our relationship to nature that distorts reality.

This is no different from authoritarianism. Another example of abrogated responsibility. Something we all do in governed societies. Big deal.

  1. Dominion. Near the top of the chain of being, just below that imaginary old guy with the beard, is us. We rule the world. It’s an interesting thought, but it’s false: we are part of the world, the rest does not obey us, and we are fools on the road to destruction to pretend that we can dominate. It’s a way of thinking that urges us to control rather than adapt, oppress rather than accommodate. It cheapens the complexity and beauty of the natural world that surrounds us.

This is the third time he has played the same tune in the same key. He just wanted to get his numbers above 10.

  1. Predestination. I’ve had a few one-on-one conversations with creationists, and one of the weirder but fairly common discoveries is that they reject the concept of chance. Everything must have an intentional cause. A branch fell off my tree because the wind blew it down; similarly, if an ancient ape evolved into a human it must be because…? They’ve filled in the ellipsis with “God”, and they are not satisfied with explanations that do not invoke causes and intent. Try it yourself sometime; they have an almost allergic reaction to the notion of junk DNA, for instance, because there’s no way molecules could have a random element, it must all be for a purpose.This trait isn’t exclusive to religion, of course; you can see causality built right into the structure of our language, and it’s probably hardwired into our brains. Religion makes it difficult to oppose, though, because it provides a convenient catch-all repository of causality: god did it. It doesn’t matter that it’s a meaningless phrase, it seems to satisfy an intrinsic desire to wrap up loose ends with an explanatory purpose.

FIRST of all, he’s been talking to too many Calvinists. Few Christians buy the idea of predestination. Secondly, the entire concept of Original Sin disintegrates if Free Will is removed. Then God really is evil. Finally, it simply doesn’t play in reality. Though we often like to rely upon it due to naturalistic causes again. The Government did it, for example.

  1. Miracles. Religion’s universal lazy way out of anything. Forget evidence, forget logic, you got a problem explaining something? Poof. It was a miracle. It’s a cheap excuse to throw away the hard work of reason.

He makes this sound so simple. Yet as usual, he’s full of shite. For further proof, see Kreeft and Tacelli.

  1. Credulity. If you’ve got miracles, if you’ve got gods and devils and angels, who needs evidence and rigor? A chain of reasoning is going to be easily vitiated by a convenient miracle, so why bother? We are god’s creation, we are under his divine plan, so bad things can’t possibly happen to the world—a god will step in and make it all better. You don’t want to be sick, so if you wish hard enough, and if Benny Hinn hits you in the forehead, maybe that will fix your problems. It’s a strange phenomenon: we desire patterns of causality, but we also invent rationalizations for magical interventions that will take us off the track that natural causality puts us on.

See above. This does lend people towards credulity, and that does need to be combatted. This does not obviate the value of religion, however.

  1. Inflexibility. The first time I heard this argument I could hardly believe it: religion never changes, while science changes all the time, therefore religion is better. Its premise is false, for one thing — religion changes all the time, and I daresay that if we could use a time machine to gather together a group of Essenes with a matched group of Southern Baptists, we’d have us an entertaining bloodbath—but for another, why would inflexibility and absolutism be considered virtues? I have no illusions that any of us have perfect knowledge of all truth, so please, give me a philosophy that will adapt to the evidence and provides a path to perfecting our knowledge.

Again, he is quoting a simplistic Fundamentalist carp and generalizing to the whole. There is tradition, and there are the Scriptures. These do not change. Interpretations based on needs arising may. Look at birth control as an illustration.

  1. Blasphemy. This is a thoroughly stultifying concept. The idea that there are thoughts that must not be expressed, ideas that must not be pursued, dogma that must not be questioned…what an evil constraint. The whole idea is antithetical to science, which is built on a foundation of constant questioning, of always challenging the established wisdom.

Oh my sweet Lord. There is no blasphemy in science? How about for these people who challenge the Narrative on Global Warming? Give me a break. This is one of the weakest of the bunch.

  1. Supernaturalism. One of the worst outcomes (or perhaps it is partly a cause) of religion is the willingness to invent a whole class of reality without evidence and without need. All the matter and energy, all the history and information of the entire universe is not sufficient, and we understand only a tiny fraction of it … so the religious invent a whole immense metaphysical realm of which they know even less, and pretend that it explains the lacunae in our knowledge of the world. It’s a lie, through and through.

This is a recourse to the tired reality of biologists: They want all of their proof to come through the Third Act of the Mind. Much can be had through it, but not everything. Say love, for instance. How is that measured? The supernatural can, among other things, assist us -imperfectly- to consider those things we long after but cannot fully grasp, such as perfection, pure spirit, and love.

  1. Faith. Faith is the greatest sin of religion. I despise it; I’m particularly appalled that it is so universally regarded as a virtue. Listen, if I ever call someone a “person of faith”, you should be aware that I have just insulted them terribly. It’s astonishing how easily that sails over people’s heads, though.

I’m stopping right there to challenge him on this one question: PZ, how do you know that empiricism is the only way to know things? You can’t use empiricism to prove its own validity as the only means. You rely upon it through faith. WIthout it, your neat little scientific world crumbles.

Wow. Faith really is a useful thing, isn’t it?

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