I listened to a podcast on Reasonable Faith in which Kevin and W.L. Craig discuss this atheist’s blasting of fellow atheists’ inconsistencies on ethical assertions. (This comment, which originated here, is also discussed rationally here.)
[Edit: for those who don’t have time or won’t bother to follow the background links above, here is an excerpt from Laddymac that gives the gist of what he’s talking about.]
My only directive is to obey my genes. Eat, sleep, reproduce, die. That is our bible.
We deride the Theists for having created myths and holy books. We imagine ourselves superior. But we too imagine there are reasons to obey laws, be polite, protect the weak etc. Rubbish. We are nurturing a new religion, one where we imagine that such conventions have any basis in reality. Have they allowed life to exist? Absolutely. But who cares? Outside of my greedy little gene’s need to reproduce, there is nothing in my world that stops me from killing you and reproducing with your wife. Only the fear that I might be incarcerated and thus be deprived of the opportunity to do the same with the next guy’s wife stops me…So be nice if you want. Be involved, have polite conversations, be a model citizen. Just be aware that while technically an Atheist, you are an inferior one. You’re just a little bit less evolved, that’s all. When you are ready to join me, let me know, I’ll be reproducing with your wife.
If I was sitting in a discussion or debating this guy, I would be tempted (not sure if it’s wise or foolish) to play devil’s advocate and tell him what I would need to do if I adopted his ontological framework (and therefore, his ethical one too.)
“Well, Mr. Laddymac, if I truly was to take on your worldview right now, the one that you are suggesting, then the most optimal thing for me to do would be to pick up this chair I’m sitting on and beat you to death with it. This will ensure that your genes end and don’t have a chance of threatening mine, or for that matter those of other people who have a byproduced survival-beneficial altruism to protect another human being from harm, let alone extinction. Concordantly, even though I would be arrested and prosecuted because that is the societal laws we have created, I would feel completely justified because my genes lasted longer than yours, and the number of people who would sympathize with my actions and be glad that neither you or I are around to threaten them either would far outweigh the number of people who would sympathize with your nihilistic program. But, thank Byproducts, I don’t hold that view, and I won’t beat you to death with this chair, and my charitable ontology will allow you to go on and freely espouse this narrow, but consistent, philosophical view of yours.”
Untenable is hardly the word.
Please know that I am not suggesting hurting this guy, and I don’t really know how close he is to believing his own words. I actually appreciate his honesty and think that he is being consistent and logical to atheism. It helps me to see things more clearly and know further why I am not an atheist. I know many atheists who are very principled and moral people, and they do very good things for humanity and the planet, but they don’t like to talk much about the fact that they have no reason to be beyond their own preference. (There was at least one group in history that tried to embrace this sort of “higher stage of evolution” and high fives if you can guess who I’m thinking of.)
I think being honest about the ends is indispensable in any talk of worldviews and deep things. Kind of like talking about Noah and the Flood and that whole mass extinction thing–but that’s another post.