Monday, December 28, 2009

Stupid Quote of the Day: Supercrank on morality, redux

| »
The Stupid, It Burns

I know Vox Day nurtures a hearty dislike for PZ Myers, as is particularly evidenced by his continued seething over the fact that PZ really has better things to do than to debate morons of his genre when it comes to topics that Vox has consistently proven to be utterly ignorant and misinformed about, but when it comes to the point where he uses any little quote of PZ’s as an excuse to enter a stupendously irrational screed, chances are he may have a bit of a problem.

"There is no eternal standard of right and wrong."
- PZ Myers

I thought that was a quotation worth noting. Read the whole thing so you can appreciate the context; it is an object lesson in why biologists teaching community colleges would do well to avoid attempting both logic and philosophy. Of course, the Fowl Atheist's stated belief in the absence of any eternal standard of right and wrong and his implied belief in the absence of any objective standard of right and wrong doesn't prevent him from constantly labeling various actions and individuals as being either right or wrong. I don't think PZ is demonstrating hypocrisy here, however, so much as simple incoherence. One has to be aware of one's inconsistency before one attempt to maintain a pretense, after all.

It is both hilarious and deeply ironic that someone whose ability to reason correctly is so demonstrably nonexistent should nevertheless see fit to declare: "We should build our morality on reason." The thought is neither original nor tenable.

There is so much condensed dumbassery in there that it’s hard to know where to begin. Just about every sentence is its own fallacy. First of all, though, it’s really quite interesting to note how Vox mentions how he doesn’t “think PZ is demonstrating hypocrisy” and even encourages others to read the post itself to glean its context, as the fact that the very continuation of PZ’s quote proves that Vox basically not only took that quote out of context as an instigator to his silly diatribe, but completely missed the point as though it were going out of fashion. Here’s the proper context:

There is no eternal standard of right and wrong. It has changed from generation to generation; what was considered right and wrong in the Biblical Middle East would horrify us with its injustice if implemented in 21st century America, and reciprocally, a Judean priest from the 1st century BC would be calling for the wrath of Jehovah to fall upon those licentious, evil people like Pat Robertson or James Dobson, who lead millions into a life antithetical to ancient Jewish custom.

This is exact. People see morality and things that are right and wrong as concrete and intrinsic, when they simply aren’t. What’s “moral” is constantly changing over time, as is dictated by society. For example, just take a look at the public perception of the “wrongness” of being Black, or gay, or any other trait that used to earn one lynchings, over the course of only a few decades. That is a moral shift in our culture, and this is exactly PZ’s point. There are no eternal standards for anything, and “right and wrong” is a good example of how everything changes. Unless you believe that it’s still A-okay to enslave foreigners and marry your 12-year-old daughter off to some dirty old pig who already has eight other nubile brides.

And yet, what does Vox have to say in response to this undeniable point? That PZ’s logic is flawed, that it’s proof that biologists (and, undoubtedly, atheists as well) should never be allowed to speak about philosophy (when Vox himself is about as good a philosopher as is the average teabagger), and most of all, that the fact that PZ doesn’t believe in any divinely-given standards of morality somehow negates the truth in him saying that some things are “right” and others are “wrong”. This is, of course, your standard boilerplate edition of Christian thought on morality. Even Vox doesn’t escape the standards, it would seem. To Christians, any and all issue of morality is to be settled by the moral and ethical system set forth by the Bible (or whichever modern truncated edition of it they choose to follow). According to him and his ilk, if one ignores Biblical teachings on morality – ie. God’s law – then all morality vanishes and we are left with nothing but a struggle for hedonism, supremacy over others, and survival.

I don’t really feel like entering a few paragraphs describing how utterly illogical and even quite stupid such a notion is, the one that our inherent sense of morality and right-and-wrong vanishes simply because we don’t follow what a 2,000-year-old collection of rubbish (albeit a sorta-well-written one) says about what one should or shouldn’t do. (Besides, I’ve already written extensively on the matter of morality, so just read that instead.)

What truly is both “hilarious” (in a sardonic, “you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me” sort of way) and “deeply ironic” is how Vox insists on butchering morality any chance he gets. Seriously: anyone who casually, even almost proudly, asserts that they would gladly murder untold numbers of babies on the mere whim of their chosen deity simply has nothing to say to anyone about morality, as they are about as moral as any regular psychopath. I wouldn’t trust Vox in the company of anyone under the age of being able to kick him in the balls, or to hold pointy objects. He doesn’t frighten me – he merely sickens me. It’s only natural and understandable that Vox would deride the idea of building our morality on a foundation of reason, considering how he is utterly devoid of it. (Well, both things, really, but I may be stretching the point, here.)