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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

John Upchurch Answers in Genesis

An interesting, and oft repeated viewpoint on atheists was posted on the Answers in Genesis website by John Upchurch.

His thesis is summarized below with my comments:

I stand by my claim that atheists are inconsistent when it comes to compassion.

You may stand by your claim, but you don't defend it very well by conflating science with atheism.

>Naturalism strips life and death of moral value. Humans may ascribe moral value to other humans (or animals or inanimate objects), but according to the evolution story, we are here because of time and death.

This is simply an emotional appeal that is entirely based upon the a priori assumption that time and death are insufficient for the development of moral values. You make absolutely no case for that assumption. In fact, one could make the argument that religion (and faith) is an evolutionary response to time and death! For a sentient creature, death is a traumatic thing to witness. A once interactive animal is reduced to a pile of decaying tissue. One reaction is to simply deny that what was once living is now gone by insisting that death is a transient phase we must go through to reach 'eternal life'. Most religions are centered around death and some sort of 'rebirth'. Scientifically, we only have concrete evidence for the dead part.

When looking back to the supposed history of the universe, atheists have no problem claiming that asteroids and famines and earthquakes killed off individuals and entire species so that other species could emerge and dominate the earth (including us), but many also act as if current extinctions and deaths are more important, more valuable.

This is also a 'trick' of linguistics. Do creationists have a problem claiming that natural disasters kill off individuals or entire species? What exactly does he mean by saying 'don't have a problem with claiming'? Stating facts in evidence says nothing about how one 'feels' about those facts. If an atheist says "Thousands of people were killed by the earthquake in Haiti" is it any less factual than Billy Graham making the same observation?
In another very clever use of language, he states "So that other species could emerge and dominate". Clever, but inaccurate. Natural disasters happen, they don't happen SO THAT another species can dominate. To use a non-biological example, the earthquakes in Haiti and Chile did not happen so that old buildings could be razed and new ones built. Nature responds to natural events (as do humans) and changes take place.

Fossil Neanderthals (i.e., bones of the dead) are often “evolutionary dead-ends,” but modern graveyards are sad reminders of loss.

More emotive appeal from the author. Stating a fact "Neanderthals were evolutionary dead-ends" says nothing about how one feels about the death of a particular Neanderthal. It speaks only to the facts. I find it somewhat amusing that someone who believes in eternal life would argue that 'modern graveyards are sad reminders of loss'.

This double speak exposes an underlying flaw in the philosophy.

That's true and one wonders why you chose your own double speak to make a point. Conflating statement of fact with 'morality' is an absurdity. I know why you chose the emotive language to try to make a point, but a careful read exposes the flaw in your thinking.

Whether there’s an evolutionary “reason” for compassion, the core problem remains unchanged.

In fact, you have made no strong case for any 'core problem'.

If atheism is correct, then death is meaningless

Death happens regardless of the 'correctness' or 'incorrectness' of atheism. In fact, I find it hilarious that you state in one paragraph that atheists claim that death 'allowed other species to emerge' and then later claim that atheists think death is meaningless. Did you fail to think that through properly? If death is meaningless, then you cannot also say that atheists attribute meaning to death!

: humans have simply evolved a coping mechanism to deal with or temporarily prevent loss.

This is true. Humans do have a coping mechanism to deal with death.

But that mechanism goes against the flow of a purposeless history

Begs the question.

Death, according to evolution, frees other members of the species (or another species) to flourish.

No, death according to evolution means an organism ceases to interact with the environment, other organisms and decays. That's it. Death is about individuals, evolution acts on populations. Whether or not other species occupy a particular niche is an observation, not a judgment call.

I do understand how a rabid creationist might come to a conclusion that it is a judgment call. The Bible is full of such claims. The Israeli's were freed because god made a judgment call about Egyptian slavery. Noah was saved because god made a judgment call about everyone else. All evolutionists are atheists because that's the creationist judgment call.

In that worldview, humans have no more worth than dodos or dinosaurs or any other extinct species. We survive for now—they don’t. Whether we live or die out from here is immaterial.

Bullshit. That's about the most blunt answer I can give to the 'logic' that culminated in the most illogical of conclusions. In essence you are making the claim that statements of fact represent a 'worldview'. This is false.


Joe Meert


At 9:19 PM, Blogger James F. McGrath said...

Thanks for posting on this. I've posted a couple of times about supposed "absolute morality." The biggest problem is that even positing divine morality doesn't get one from is to ought. You can claim, rightly or wrongly, that a deity exists who will punish certain behaviors. But how does that demonstrate that the deity in question has "absolute" moral standards? And this is all the more problematic when one considers that the Bible depicts God as commanding precisely the sorts of things that nowadays we would be inclined to think might be wrong everywhere and all the time.

Discussing morality is important, and bringing in God doesn't seem to resolve the issue, even if it were the case (which it isn't) that we could all agree that God's "moral absolutes" had been revealed somewhere.

At 11:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

These creationists will never change their minds or understand evolution; it's sort of like trying to have a conversation about Obama's flawed policies with a left-wing nutbag. They don't even realize their religions roots are based off Atenism, which would make their god Ra.

And why is discussing Morality important? What is morality but a socio-cultural construct, an idea of good and evil which can and has swayed greatly during time. Do you really think the Romans felt evil when they watched gladiators hack each other up?

Can mortality even exist in the mind of a true scientist?


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