Saturday, October 03, 2015

Fundies and Nihilists

There have been a couple of interesting posts on PZ Myers' blog

1.  The first one here is a take down of a brash Christian fundamentalist named Wilson who claims to have a one-liner disproof of evolution Viz:

EVOLUTION THEORY'S BIGGEST BLOW: Wilson's Law of Evolution. Where Are All The Fossils of Failed Mutations?

Myers walks through the huge loop-hole here and savages Wilson's superficial sales-talk patter and then throws the scraps into his Parana pool of commenters for further savaging. The fundamentalist clearly has no idea about statistics and the nature of mutations; whatever you think of evolution this is not the way to refute it. But I'm less interested here in yet another embarrassing argument from a Christian fundie than I am his very frequent disparaging references to the "mainstream science community". This is a sign of fundamentalism's intellectual marginalization and  alienation from the scientific establishment. It is this anti-establishment drift which is helping to drive some fundamentalists into the ultimate conspiracy theory, a theory which is also based on superficial sales-talk. 

2. The second post here is about the lastest mass shooting in America by someone claiming to be anti-religion. Myers objects to Sam Harris' consequent reactive defense of atheism, a defense which has a suspiciously nihilist feel about it:

Atheism has no doctrines. It does not demand that a person do anything, or refrain from doing anything, on the basis of his unbelief. Consequently, to know that someone is an atheist is to know almost nothing about him—apart from the fact that he does not accept the unwarranted claims of any religion.

Myers response is a plea against a Nihilist interpretation of atheism:

Religion is primitive and lacking in any tools to address deep injustices and correct errors in its formulation. I am all in favor of tearing it down and replacing it with…what? According to Harris, nothing. Atheism has nothing constructive or productive to replace the bad system most people are limping along under — rip it all out and apparently, brute reason can then be trusted to evolve something better.

Never mind that the same atheists who adore the irresponsibility of the idea that their beliefs impose no demands on them are also the same atheists who so detest equality that they spit on feminism;

Reason is not enough. Reason can show you the best way to achieve a goal, but if your goal is mass murder, or denigration of women, or the perpetuation of an oppressive hierarchy, it’ll help you do that, too. We need purpose and value and meaning as well, and if a prominent Leader of atheism is saying that atheism doesn’t do that, that’s a declaration that atheism is bankrupt, and has failed totally. It has become a Great Nothing.

That’s not my atheism, though. I argue that the absence of gods gives greater prominence to the interdependence of the human community, and adds greater weight and urgency to the importance of empathy and equality and all those human values — but if atheism is now a label that allows us to nonchalantly disavow responsibility for the actions of those within our own group, perhaps it’s time to disband the whole idea of an atheist community.

But then it’s also clear that my vision of what atheism ought to be is a minority view. The majority are doing their damnedest to confirm the poor opinion the believers have of us.

It would be wrong to say that atheism always leads to nihilism - after all Myers is probably humanist in sentiment and is looking for meaning and morality - but atheism does, as I have said before, teeter dangerously on the brink of nihilism and anti-foundationalism. Calibrating the moral compass and charting a purposeful course through life is ever the challenge of atheism.  The above is evidence of this challenge.

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