Friday, May 28, 2010

FAIL Quote of the Day: Vox Day lies, distorts about science and morality

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The Stupid, It Burns
I wonder if that’s Vox …?

Considering how Vox Day constantly accuses atheists, particularly prominent ones such as Richard Dawkins or PZ Myers, of using illogic in their arguments and philosophical discussions, he certainly is quick to pile on the nonsense, himself. In a post where he once again criticizes PZ’s excellent “Courtier’s Reply”, he goes on at length about how all that frilly theology is supposedly very important to any discussion about the veracity and credibility of religion, specifically Christianity, when this is obviously and completely absurd. I don’t care which saints did what or which scholars debated which topics and came to which conclusions – if you can’t give me any real and solid reason(s) to believe in your chosen deity, your argument invariably fails, and that’s the end of it. The existence of God or gods is at the very most basic core of any religion, Christianity included, so if this foundation is, in itself, bullshit, then it follows that anything else built on it is tantamount to a house of cards, and shall topple accordingly, regardless of its apparent sophistication or perceived historical value.

But deeper into his post, we arrive this amusing bit of twaddle:

The thing that is so ridiculous about latter day atheists like PZ is that they are not only theologically ignorant, but they know next to nothing about secular philosophy either. Intelligent atheists have known for decades that science can never provide the replacement for religion that fantasists like PZ and Sam Harris believe it can for the simple reason that science does not and cannot dictate values. This is why a strong dedication to rational science, with or without the additional complication of atheism, so readily produces monstrous leaders like Hitler, Lenin, and Stalin in such short order, monsters of the sort that were so few and far between in the centuries prior to the Enlightenment.

Oh, goodie, where to even start? Let’s jump into the most obvious distortion, the part where he outright lies (or, perhaps, simply speaks out of his ass) in claiming that science-oriented atheists – such as PZ, specifically – believe that science can be used to define morality and values. In fact, PZ has often and explicitly stated the exact opposite: science can not be used to tell us what ought to be and can only be used to tell us what is. An example he uses is that science can only tell us that, indeed, the Bible does say the things it says. But science cannot tell us whether its teachings, values and beliefs are preferable over any other in a conventional moral sense.

Personally, though, I somewhat disagree with PZ and others on this one. I do believe that, yes, to a certain extent, science and plain logic can tell us what is morally superior, in its strictest sense. It all has to do with which ideals, values and courses of action result in the better quantifiable outcome for people involved in a situation. For example, we can scientifically/logically “prove” that pushing someone out of the way of an oncoming bus is preferable to ignoring them (or even, deliberately pushing them into said bus’s path). We can show that this is a better thing to do, morally, because people are better off in general: the saved individual gets to live on and be with his/her friends and loved ones, you get to feel pride and honor in having saved a life, the bus driver won’t feel guilty for having accidentally killed someone with his/her vehicle, any witnesses in the area won’t be horrified at having witnessed a freak accident resulting in a horrible death, and so on. Everyone leaves the scene with a happier spirit and calmer conscience than they would have otherwise, things that play a crucial part in improving everyday relations and the functioning of a society. This, we can “prove” through scientific (ie. logical and evidence-based) examination. And thus, it logically entails that pushing someone out of harm’s way is, indeed, a scientifically superior moral act.

Naturally, though, this isn’t an all-encompassing example I gave, but then, it wasn’t meant to be. It simply proves the point: we can show, scientifically, that some acts – and therefore, beliefs, ideals and values that espouse, or lead to, said acts – are superior to others, judging by their logical outcome. This is pure utilitarianism (my adopted moral code): always try to make sure that the most people end up in better circumstances than other courses of action would result in. For the most part, of course, people don’t really need to examine actions and their results, as what is morally “right” automatically feels best to us.

Moving onto the rest of Vox’s argument. I’ll just skip over his absurd claim about “atheists like PZ” being ignorant about both theology (when the majority of atheists are acutely aware of Christian theology, considering this is what they fought to rid their lives of before deconverting to godlessness), and especially, about “secular philosophy” as well. Then again, though, I’m better off with just ignoring the whole rest of the excerpt I quoted, which is nothing more than a rehashing of that ever-so-patently stupid “Hitler!” card once more (in addition to the merry inclusion of Lenin and Stalin, to boot). If Vox still hasn’t yet understood how A) science had less than fuck-all to do with these tyrants’ regimes and B) atheism was used as a tool, a system, as opposed to a driving force for their acts, then he really is a lost cause.

Finally, I’m not even gonna waste my time with the end of Vox’s post:

Myers further demonstrates his astounding ignorance when he claims: "Science provides tangible evidence of its accuracy and importance. Religion makes excuses for its absence of the same. There is no "rich tradition of rigorous inquiry" in religion, as we can see from its lack of progress, and the apologists are deluding themselves when they claim there is." And yet, ironically enough, there is no shortage of empirical evidence, scientific evidence, demonstrating both the accuracy and importance of religion.

I’d like to see this new evidence of yours, sonny. Bullshit.