Friday, May 3, 2013

Failure to reason on the Day of Reason

   So, I hope everyone had a good National Day of Reason yesterday. No surprise, though, that some conservatives, like Penny Nance, lost their shit.
You know, the Age of Enlightenment and Reason gave way to moral relativism. And moral relativism is what led us all the way down the dark path to the Holocaust… Dark periods of history is what we arrive at when we leave God out of the equation.
   Actually, morality has been essentially relative throughout human history. Her morality is relative — relative to her religion. She just doesn't realize this because she believes her morality comes from a deity, and therefore she thinks it's absolute. But her deity doesn't actually exist, so her morality actually has come from other humans. And likely there are even parts of her morality she has derived herself and are therefore unique (and thus relative) to her. Another reality is the Enlightenment actually helped get away from relative morality by beginning to demand reason for morality. No longer was it acceptable to have rules merely because someone thought their deity said so. (OK, I would expect there to certainly have been people who demanded reason for rules/laws before the Enlightenment, but this period certainly represented a bigger push in this direction. We got the formation of this country out of this, as one example!) And then there's this:

   Which is not to say that Nazi Germany didn't have a relative morality, but it's the same relative morality that Penny Nance has — again, this is the type of relative morality where the people who hold this morality to be, not relative like it actually is, but absolute.

   There was also this "gem":
You know, G. K. Chesterton said that the Doctrine of Original Sin is the only one which we have 3,000 years of empirical evidence to back up. Clearly, we need faith as a component and it’s just silly for us to say otherwise.
   I suspect I know what she's getting at; I've seen other Christians make a claim that essentially breaks down into a logical argument as follows:
If P, then Q. (If original sin is true, then humans will do horrible things.)
Q. (Humans do horrible things.)
Therefore, P. (Therefore, original sin is true.)

   I suspect, then, that Ms. Nance is claiming that what we actually have "3,000 years of empirical evidence to back up" is this fact that humans do horrible things. But this does not back up original sin. The logic is flawed as there could be other reasons beside P for why Q is true. Take this example:
If P, then Q. (If my dog eats my homework, I won't have homework to turn in.)
Q. (I have no homework to turn in.)
Therefore, P. (Therefore, my dog ate my homework.)

   It should be obvious that there could very well be other reasons why I don't have homework to turn in. Perhaps I didn't do it. Perhaps I did do it, but forgot it at home. It is possible that my dog did actually eat it, but not having homework is not proof of this. Likewise, the fact that humans do horrible things is not proof of original sin.

   Otherwise, I see that The Young Turks have also covered this with the focus on the comments about the Enlightenment. They cover some of the other flaws with the argument that are certainly worth mentioning, like the fact that life wasn't exactly peaches and cream prior to the Enlightenment. (Though, I will say I believe Cenk is off on his life expectancy ages. People, if they lived past infancy, tended to live to be older than 32. The reason life expectancy ages were so low was in part due to infant mortality bringing the average down. This is not to take infant mortality lightly, but rather to be clear on what I understand the facts to be, which do not match how Cenk presents them.)

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