Sunday, April 23, 2006

Let's Call the Fouls Both Ways

A group of debauched young white Duke University students allegedly assaults a black stripper and the cable news shows go wall to wall playing up the racial aspects of the incident. All the usual suspects emerge to tell us what this says about white attitudes toward black women and how racism still thrives in the ivory towers of white privilege, etc, etc.

Meanwhile, a gang of Neanderthals attacks several people just minding their own business in Las Vegas. The attacks are savage and disgusting, serving no purpose except to inflict pain and suffering on a complete stranger. The news media dutifully mentions them, but it wasn't until I saw the surveillance tapes of the brutal beatings that what everyone pretty much knew, but nobody wanted to say, became clear. The gang of attackers were black and the victims, as far as I could tell, were white.

There wasn't a peep about the race of any of those involved in this savagery in any of the reports I read or heard (see here or here, for example) until Campbell Brown asked a guest on the Today show Saturday morning whether police thought there might be just a teensy racial dimension to the attacks. Her guest replied, that, no, there probably wasn't, the attackers just happened to be black and the victims just happened to be white, and Ms Brown was happy to let that answer suffice.

For the media, racism is only a factor in crimes in which whites attack blacks, a phenomenon which is much more uncommon than the reverse. In fact, blacks are 50 times more likely to commit violent crimes against whites than whites are against blacks. Bureau of Justice victimization reports show that 89 percent of interracial crimes involved black perpetrators and white victims. Yet the media seems to want us to believe that the real problem in America is white violence against blacks.

Let three white degenerates merely be charged with having forced themselves onto a black stripper, and the news media is made delirious by the catnip of racism in the air. Yet when fifteen to twenty black sub-humans punch, kick, and whip innocent bystanders who just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, one is given to think the word racism must have suddenly disappeared from the media style manual.

A basketball referee who only called fouls against one team and not the other would quickly lose the respect of everyone in the game. Maybe this helps explain the low esteem in which the modern media is held.

Dancing on the Head of a Pin

Several very prominent atheists have gathered at The Edge to wrestle over whether it is ethical of them to accept fellowship grants from the Templeton Foundation. The Foundation awards extremely generous amounts of money to scholars seeking to promote a deeper and richer understanding of the relationship of science and religion, and since most of the heavyweights in this debate desire that religion cease to exist altogether, they're torn over whether they are behaving immorally by allowing themselves to be seduced by the Templeton offer.

There's something amusing about a bunch of atheists struggling with a moral question. Their debate reminds the reader of medieval theological arguments over how many angels could dance on the head of a pin.

If atheists are correct in their belief that there is no God, which they presume they are, then questions of ethical propriety are a bit like the 19th century ether. They seem as if they should be real and mean something, but in fact they're illusions which don't mean anything at all. The question of whether atheists ought to take the money when they don't agree with the Foundation's aims is absurd. If there is no God then there is no objective standard of ethics, and all statements of morality are simply expressions of our own desires and preferences.

What, after all, would make an act right or wrong in the absence of a perfectly good, all-knowing Lawgiver? What is it that would make any moral notion obligatory? More to the point, what would make taking the Foundation's money a wrong act? Why would it be wrong to misrepresent oneself to the Foundation, especially if doing so works to one's advantage?

To be sure, other people may not like someone who did such a thing, but so what? What is it about not being liked that makes an act immoral?

In other words, the eminent scientists and philosophers involved in this debate should simply do whatever they feel like doing and not worry about whether it is "right" in some metaphysical sense. It isn't right. Nor is it wrong. Nothing is. That's one of the many ugly consequences of atheism, and it's a consequence that those atheists who are aware of it rarely wish to publicize.