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  1. #1 I finally figured out the major flaw with the New Atheists 
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    I have always thought that the New Atheists, including Richard Dawkins and the late Christopher Hitchens, were missing something logically in their arguments. I finally figured it out tonight.

    Both Dawkins and Hitchens want an end to religion, which they see as pathological. Hitchens himself once said that it was time for humans to let go of these "stone age myths" and evolve. The problem for me is that I thought I had heard that argument before. And I had--in the work of the 18th century philosophes. (I'll get to that in a minute.)

    Here's the problem: the New Atheists believe that moral behavior comes from human evolution, not religious training (or the God represented in that training). The idea is that certain human traits, like empathy or cooperativeness (or even philosophical logic), are part of the genetic inheritance and lead to moral behavior on their own, without the training of religion. However, the problem is that these traits will vary in human beings. Science has made it clear that humans differ in the amount and distribution of their traits, and that these are chemical phenomena. Studies have shown that traits like risk taking vary across genders, for example.

    If we assume that genetic traits like empathy and cooperativeness are related to moral or ethical behavior, we then have a problem. Traits differ in people, and, like everything else in the natural world, they most likely fall along a Gaussian distribution--a normal curve. Some people will be very empathetic, for example, while, at the other end of the scale, you'll have your sociopaths. In between will be the rest of us with varying degrees of empathy, with some more empathetic and some a great deal less. If this trait is related to moral behavior, then relying strictly on the genetic endowment does not offer a stable outcome for a moral society, or even a halfway moral one.

    In other words, evolution, based on the genetic endowment, is not a reasonable substitute for religious/moral training in childhood. Yet, the New Atheists speak as if religion just needs to be removed from society and everyone will be much better people. Of course, these atheists completely disregard the moral training provided by parents--especially mothers--on an hourly basis to their children. But I realized that the New Atheists remind me of Jean Jacques Rousseau. an 18th century philosophe. Remember his "man is born free, but is everywhere in chains"? The New Atheists feel that religion is the chains, that, if removed, would immediately let out the good person (via genetic endowment). However, Rousseau's Enlightenment era argument that the removal of cultural constraints would lead to the pure, good human being--the noble savage--was shown to be greatly mistaken. If you remember the Wolf Boy from Aveyron France (1799), the finding of this young pre-teen greatly challenged the idea of the noble savage. Put out by his parents, the baby boy was picked up by a wolf pack and was raised by them. When researchers found the boy, he was biologically human but culturally a wolf. He was not some superior human, but an animal with no language or recognizably human behaviors.

    The New Atheists have the same problem as the Enlightenment philosophes: if they take away religion, they will not get a more noble human with more moral behavior. They will get a human trained by something other than religion: the public school, the media, the internet, etc. (our 21st century wolves). In other words, if the New Atheists get what they want, they will be replacing God the Father with god the state/popular culture. Perhaps that is their end goal.
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  2. #2  
    LTC Member Odysseus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Elspeth View Post
    I have always thought that the New Atheists, including Richard Dawkins and the late Christopher Hitchens, were missing something logically in their arguments. I finally figured it out tonight.

    Both Dawkins and Hitchens want an end to religion, which they see as pathological. Hitchens himself once said that it was time for humans to let go of these "stone age myths" and evolve. The problem for me is that I thought I had heard that argument before. And I had--in the work of the 18th century philosophes. (I'll get to that in a minute.)

    Here's the problem: the New Atheists believe that moral behavior comes from human evolution, not religious training (or the God represented in that training). The idea is that certain human traits, like empathy or cooperativeness (or even philosophical logic), are part of the genetic inheritance and lead to moral behavior on their own, without the training of religion. However, the problem is that these traits will vary in human beings. Science has made it clear that humans differ in the amount and distribution of their traits, and that these are chemical phenomena. Studies have shown that traits like risk taking vary across genders, for example.

    If we assume that genetic traits like empathy and cooperativeness are related to moral or ethical behavior, we then have a problem. Traits differ in people, and, like everything else in the natural world, they most likely fall along a Gaussian distribution--a normal curve. Some people will be very empathetic, for example, while, at the other end of the scale, you'll have your sociopaths. In between will be the rest of us with varying degrees of empathy, with some more empathetic and some a great deal less. If this trait is related to moral behavior, then relying strictly on the genetic endowment does not offer a stable outcome for a moral society, or even a halfway moral one.

    In other words, evolution, based on the genetic endowment, is not a reasonable substitute for religious/moral training in childhood. Yet, the New Atheists speak as if religion just needs to be removed from society and everyone will be much better people. Of course, these atheists completely disregard the moral training provided by parents--especially mothers--on an hourly basis to their children. But I realized that the New Atheists remind me of Jean Jacques Rousseau. an 18th century philosophe. Remember his "man is born free, but is everywhere in chains"? The New Atheists feel that religion is the chains, that, if removed, would immediately let out the good person (via genetic endowment). However, Rousseau's Enlightenment era argument that the removal of cultural constraints would lead to the pure, good human being--the noble savage--was shown to be greatly mistaken. If you remember the Wolf Boy from Aveyron France (1799), the finding of this young pre-teen greatly challenged the idea of the noble savage. Put out by his parents, the baby boy was picked up by a wolf pack and was raised by them. When researchers found the boy, he was biologically human but culturally a wolf. He was not some superior human, but an animal with no language or recognizably human behaviors.

    The New Atheists have the same problem as the Enlightenment philosophes: if they take away religion, they will not get a more noble human with more moral behavior. They will get a human trained by something other than religion: the public school, the media, the internet, etc. (our 21st century wolves). In other words, if the New Atheists get what they want, they will be replacing God the Father with god the state/popular culture. Perhaps that is their end goal.
    That last line is the critical insight, but everything else is superbly thought out. Bravo.
    Last edited by Odysseus; 06-10-2013 at 09:04 AM.
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  3. #3  
    Power CUer noonwitch's Avatar
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    I always figured most atheists were once, even if as children, believers. Then, Santa Jesus didn't save their dog/Grandpa/get them the Red Power Ranger they prayed for, and they got angry.
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  4. #4  
    Senior Member Generation Why?'s Avatar
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    I certainly hope that isn't their goal. I just started to question things and then *BOOM* I realized I was an atheist. I differ from Hitchens and Dawkins in that I do not want to get rid of religion. I certainly think it can be a bad thing, but so can atheism if taken to extremes like anything else. I hope I am not out of line when I say that I wouldn't mind a society free of religion but that would involve religion never being a thing. I don't disagree with religion, I just don't have one. Most atheists, at least the ones I know, are of the "live and let live" mentality, for the most part libertarian in our views. Your religious views don't hurt anyone and we are fine with that. So long as it is left out of the legislative process we don't care.

    As far as atheism being a church; that's simply not true. It is not true by definitions alone. There is a lot of hate spit out from both ends of the argument whether it's the internet or actual conversation.

    And they don't try to use evolution to explain moral behavior. They use cultural/sociological upbringing as the catalyst for explaining moral beavior. What is taboo in one place may not be in another. Example: Women are treated pretty much like shit in a lot of places in the Middle East. Not so much in some places but we all know about Saudi Arabia and Iran's views on those matters. Women used to not have it so great here in America not too loong ago. Our society "evolved", if you will.

    Anyway, I don't care if you pray to Jesus, Muhammad, or a goldfish in Nebraska. I care about people's actions.
    “A creative man is motivated by the desire to achieve, not by the desire to beat others.”Ayn Rand

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  5. #5  
    PORCUS MAXIMUS Rockntractor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Generation Why? View Post
    or a goldfish in Nebraska. I care about people's actions.
    He wasn't really god, he died last week and was flushed down the toilet, he left behind many dispirited and confused followers, some of them were last seen following Mr. Turtle from My Name Is Earl.
    How is obama working out for you?
    http://i686.photobucket.com/albums/vv230/upyourstruly/5d569df9-186a-477b-a665-3ea8a8b9b655_zpse9003e54.jpg
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  6. #6  
    Senior Member Generation Why?'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rockntractor View Post
    He wasn't really god, he died last week and was flushed down the toilet, he left behind many dispirited and confused followers, some of them were last seen following Mr. Turtle from My Name Is Earl.
    Haha. Thanks for the pick-me-up, Rock.
    “A creative man is motivated by the desire to achieve, not by the desire to beat others.”Ayn Rand

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  7. #7  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Odysseus View Post
    That last line is the critical insight, but everything else is superbly thought out. Bravo.
    Thank you.

    The New Atheists are very slippery and very entertaining. They also make it sound so easy to replace religion with evolutionary theory. I wish that, when people questioned them at speeches and debates, they would take them through the scientific argument against relying on evolution for moral behavior.
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  8. #8  
    Senior Member Eupher's Avatar
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    There have been entire political ideologies that have tried to destroy religion.

    It hasn't worked then, and it won't work with these critters.

    But I guess they keep on trying. *sigh*
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  9. #9  
    SEAduced SuperMod Hawkgirl's Avatar
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    Atheism is a church...with a cult following.

    My best friend told me she became an atheist about 10 years ago...she never wanted to tell me because I am a practicing Catholic (though not really, as I don't do Mass every Sunday), but she's not "evangelical" about it. She believes what she believes and doesn't talk about. Most atheists I know like to get in your face, and consider themselves superior intellectuals who "know the truth". Penn Jillette is one of those. That's why I was so happy when he lost Celebrity Apprentice to Trace Adkins.

    This one atheist I worked with got a tattoo of a devil on his bicep, he's a real bad-ass.
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  10. #10  
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    I'd say that the error to atheist thinking in our time is that if the current set of myths are put to death and added to a mass grave of religions which have come and gone over time, that humans have evolved beyond these belief systems.

    There is very clear evidence to the contrary. Taos, Roswell, Berkeley, New Hope, Tacoma Park, and probably dozens of other "hippie havens" around the country where people claim to believe in the healing powers of crystals, the ability to fly with ones mind, teleportation across time and distance, you name it. Not only is it reasonable to believe that the Asian desert gods will be replaced, it's a simple matter to find new ones already on deck.

    So we would then be left to believe that these seemingly benign religions would remain so, if given the power and resources currently held by Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. It might be hard to envision a chubby housewife in a belly dancing outfit ordering the sacrifice or execution of people.... but it could happen.
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