Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Inference to the Best Explanation (Part V)

In Part V of Inference to the Best Explanation (See I, II, III, and IV) we continue our consideration of sixteen facts about our existential circumstance which cannot easily be explained if there is no God, but which harmonize with a theistic worldview. Today we'll look at three closely related human characteristics beginning with number ten in the series:

10. We profess a belief in human dignity but modern atheism tells us that we are little more than machines made of flesh - sacks of blood, bone and excrement. There is no soul, there is nothing about us that makes us much different than any other mammal. We are more intelligent, of course, but that only makes the difference between us and a cow about the same as the difference between a cow and a trout. In the absence of God there's no reason why someone who has the power should not use it to manipulate and exploit the rest of us like the farmer exploits his cattle for his own purposes, slaughtering them when he can profit from so doing. The universe tells us we're nothing but "dust in the wind" and there's no dignity in that.

If, however, we are made by God and personally and specifically loved by Him then we have a basis for believing that we are more than a machine. We have a ground for human dignity that is simply unavailable on the assumption of atheism.

11. Related to the previous fact is the further truth that we have a belief in human worth. If all we are, however, is an ephemeral pattern of atoms, a flesh and bone mechanism, then in what does our worth as human beings consist? We have value only insofar as others, particularly those who wield power, arbitrarily choose to value us. If atheism is true there is no inherent value in being human. Only if theism is true and we are valued by the Creator of the universe can human beings have any objective worth at all. There is no other non-arbitrary ground for it.

12. Similarly, we have a belief that human beings have certain fundamental rights. Unfortunately, if there is no God there's nothing at all upon which to base those rights save our own prejudices and predilections. As Thomas Jefferson acknowledged in the Declaration of Independence, we have the right to life and liberty only because we are children of the Creator of the universe who has invested those rights in us and in whose eyes we are precious. If there is no Creator then there are no human rights, just arbitrary rules, mere words on paper, which some people agree to follow but which could easily be revoked.

When atheists talk about human rights someone might ask them where those rights come from. Who confers them? Who guarantees them? If it is not God then it must be the state but if so, our rights are not inalienable. If the state decides what rights we shall have then the state can determine that we have no rights at all. The fact is that if atheism is true human rights are no more substantial or real than the grin of the Cheshire cat in Alice in Wonderland.

We'll continue the argument tomorrow.


Amnesty Redux

The Senate is going to vote this week on an amendment to a defense appropriations bill called the "DREAM Act" (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act). Having had an attempt to grant amnesty to illegal aliens defeated two months ago, the amnesty advocates are making a back-door run at it again by hitching their legislation to a defense spending bill.

DREAM would, among other things, grant amnesty to any alien who entered the country illegally when under the age of 16 and who has subsequently graduated from high school. It would also grant in-state college tuition benefits to illegal aliens.

Meanwhile, Congress is trying to get SCHIP (State Children's Health Insurance Program) reauthorized, and a lot of people are pushing for it. However, in addition to providing health insurance coverage to all "poor" American "children" (the bill re-labels "children" as anyone under 25, and "low income" as up to 400% above the poverty level, or $82,600 for a family of four) the updated version would also extend coverage to the children of illegal aliens by eliminating the requirement that they present proof of citizenship.

In other words, American taxpayers are going to be required to subsidize both the education and the health care of another country's citizens.

You might say that we are a rich and generous nation. Why not help those who are less fortunate? We should, but we as individuals should determine the extent and nature of the help we provide.

Suppose your neighbor who is not as well off as you comes to you one day and tells you that his children have been experiencing some medical difficulties of late and that as soon as these are resolved he's decided to enroll them in a private school. You sympathize with him about the health problems and wish him well with his kids' new school until he tells you that he expects you to help with both the health care and the tuition costs. I suspect that your sympathy and well-wishing would diminish pretty quickly.

You may, out of the goodness of your heart, want to help him, but few of us want to be told that we must pay his bills.

You can read more about DREAM at Michelle's place. If you oppose it call your senator and tell him/her. Michelle has the number.