It’s getting tougher and tougher to find the time to blog, and I really wanted to get this one out. A while ago I was part of a discussion course entitled “God, Atheism and Morality” that used Sam Harris’ book The Moral Landscape as a back-drop, as well as Richard Holloway’s Godless Morality. Though Holloway still has some religious baggage to unload that keeps his goal of a morality that encompasses humanity out of reach, he’s a Christian (an Anglican bishop) who largely gets it. There are problems with Harris’ book as well, but as Matt Dillahunty notes he provides us with a language for discussing these issues.
I wish I had kept up with the class in my blog. Throughout the coarse my view of Harris’ book changed significantly. For instance, I agree with Massimo Pigliucci’s view that Science can not determine the values we should hold, but I think Massimo undervalues Science in evaluating the effects of values we do hold. Harris bizarrely never mentions the application of the social sciences to this evaluation, and I have a hard time seeing how a reduction of morality to the neurosciences can have anywhere near as much value as some of the work that Gregory Paul has done. But while I have mixed feelings about the contents of The Moral Landscape, Harris opened up a dialog that needed opening.
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Poe’s Law: Without a winking smiley or other blatant display of humor, it is impossible to create a parody of Fundamentalism that SOMEONE won’t mistake for the real thing.
I knew about it before it appeared on Pharyngula, but someone has been posing as an atheist muttering some decidedly unatheist remarks. You know the ones, where we atheists supposedly have no morals and do whatever we want because we aren’t held to account. As Penn Jillett would say, “What a motherfucker.”
No atheist would say such nonsense as the following -
What’s wrong with killing babies? I see no problem with it. I have enough mouths to feed. I don’t get the argument and I am an atheist. Since I don’t believe in God, I don’t believe in anything characterized as good, bad / right, wrong. So, what’s the big deal?
Or this -
If a man wants to make a women his b****, so be it? So what if you don’t like it, what if I do?
If I want to do something, and my conscience is cool with it, then I can do it. If it’s feed a homeless person, so be it. If it’s kill my neighbor, so be it. I am not bound to any morals.
These comments have all the hallmarks of coming from someone who thought that’s what an atheist thinks. Indeed, it was such cartoonish remarks which initiated an excellent bit of detective work by Unreasonable Faith in finding out who the culprit was: Chris Fox, pastor of Kendall’s Baptist Church in North Carolina. Shame on him!
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This is an updated repost of a blog I posted last year about a man with Huntington’s disease. The audio feed can be found on The Current (Part II). After a few comments in another blog entry on the biological evidence of homosexual behavior vs the silly notion of it being a ‘lifestyle choice’, I thought about this entry. Not all genetic testing is bad, but I agree we are starting to wade into a moral quagmire.
Huntington’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder with profound cognitive and motor disturbances, and typically kills its victim about 10 to 15 years after symptoms become manifest. Onset occurs in midlife, typically after victims have started their own families and possibly passed the gene on to the next generation. The chances of one parent with the gene passing it on to any one child is 50%.
The Human Genome Project has provided some hope, at least potential hope, of a cure for this terrible disorder. Certainly, it has allowed genetic testing of embryos for the Huntington’s gene, and tests for some 200 genetic disorders exist at present. One Canadian researcher, Jeff Carroll, has a vested interest in finding a cure- he has the disease himself. The remainder of the embryos were made available for research into a cure for Huntington’s.
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