Tuesday, January 10, 2012


For those, like me, who are reveling in how Tim Tebow is making his detractors look like chuckleheads, I offer this little diversion from our usual fare:

Moral Confusion, Logical Consistency

In an excellent piece at The Algemeiner Rabbi Moshe Averick analyzes the statements of four prominent atheistic thinkers with regard to the Jerry Sandusky pederasty allegations and finds that none of them have any basis for deploring or condemning what Sandusky is accused of doing. The interesting thing is that all but one of them admits it.

After clarifying precisely what he will claim in his argument Rabbi Averick examines the moral philosophy (and confusions) of philosophers Michael Ruse, Jason Rosenhouse, and Joel Marks as well as biologist Jerry Coyne, all four of whom have been discussed here at VP over the last couple of years.

He begins with Ruse who wants to have it both ways. Ruse says in several places that morality is a purely subjective phenomenon, but then in the wake of the Sandusky revelations he insists that "I want to say that what Jerry Sandusky was reportedly doing to kids in the showers was morally wrong, and that this was not just an opinion or something based on subjective value judgments. The truth of its wrongness is as well taken as the truth of the heliocentric solar system.”

How can he say this? What does he base it on? Actually, as his fellow atheists point out and Rabbi Averick explains, he bases it on nothing more substantive than that he simply feels very strongly that abusing young boys is wrong.

Coyne, Rosenhouse and Marks are more faithful to their fundamental assumption that there is no God. They just deny that pedophilia is really wrong. Here's Marks, for example:
Even though words like ‘sinful’ and ‘evil’ come naturally to the tongue as a description of, say, child-molesting, they do not describe any actual properties of anything. There are no literal sins in the world because there is no literal God…just so, I now maintain, nothing is literally right or wrong because there is no Morality.
He further explains his position in this passage:
The long and the short of it is that I became convinced that atheism implies amorality; and since I am an atheist, I must therefore embrace amorality. [Some atheists] would hold that one could be an atheist and still believe in morality. And indeed, the whole crop of ‘New Atheists’ are softies of this kind. So was I, until I experienced my shocking epiphany that the religious fundamentalists are correct: without God, there is no morality. But they are incorrect, I still believe, about there being a God. Hence, I believe, there is no morality.
Averick closes his post with a plea to atheists:
The choices before us are clear: we will either seek a transcendent moral law to which we will all submit, or we will seek our own personal and societal indulgence. If we turn to God in our quest to create a moral and just world, we have a fighting chance; if not, we are doomed to spiral into the man-made hell of the human jungle.

Atheism stands for nothing, signifies nothing, and affirms nothing except for one thing: All the moral aspirations of the advanced primate we call a human being are nothing more than a cosmic joke….and not a very funny one at that.
Ideas have consequences. Some people think that there's no difference between theists and atheists except that theists go to church, synagogue or mosque and believe a lot of crazy things. Nothing could be further from the case. There's a wide chasm between the two worldviews and Averick highlights it in this column.

The atheist has no basis for making moral judgments other than his own subjective, arbitrary feelings and tastes. When the atheist says pederasty is wrong he's saying nothing more than "I don't like pederasty." Any judgment based on one's personal tastes, however, has no more moral force than saying "I don't like sushi and you shouldn't like it either." One's personal preferences certainly don't make something morally wrong.

Here's the difficulty the atheist finds himself in: If there is no God then Sandusky's pedophilia is not morally wrong, but most atheists feel deep inside themselves that pedophilia is morally wrong. Thus they hold two mutually incompatible beliefs at the same time. Their problem is compounded in that despite holding simultaneous incompatible beliefs they also hold the belief that they're somehow more rational than the theist.

As more and more atheists realize where their disbelief logically leads them they find themselves confronted with the choice of either abandoning their disbelief or embracing moral nihilism which, as Averick notes, dooms them to a man-made hell of the human jungle where not even the sexual abuse of children can be said to be wrong.

Do read Rabbi Averick's post and also the comments. Some of them afford excellent examples of missing the point and other failed attempts to avoid the force of the rabbi's argument.

Does the Future Belong to Islam?

In a recent column Pat Buchanan gives reason to answer this question either way. First some reasons to think the answer is yes:
If demography is destiny, the future would seem to belong to Islam.

Consider. The six most populous Muslim nations — Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Pakistan, Nigeria and Turkey — had a total population of 242 million in 1950. By 2050, that 242 million will have quintupled to 1.36 billion people.

Meanwhile, Europe’s fertility rate has been below zero population growth since the 1970s. Old Europe is dying, and its indigenous peoples are being replaced by Third World immigrants, millions of them Muslim.
But there are also reasons for thinking the answer is no:
[T]here is another side to the Islamic story.

In international test scores of high school students in reading, math and science, not one Muslim nation places in the top 30. Take away oil and gas, and from Algeria to Iran these nations would have little to offer the world. Iran would have to fall back on exports of carpets, caviar and pistachio nuts.

Not one Muslim nation is a member of the G-8 economic powers or the BRIC-four emerging powers — Brazil, Russia, India, China.

In the 20th century, the world saw the rise of the Asian “tigers” — South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong. Where are the Muslim tigers?

A few years back, the gross domestic product of the entire Arab world was only equal to Spain’s. Take away oil and gas, and its exports were equal to Finland’s.

Measured by manufacturing power, the Islamic world, though more populous, cannot hold a candle to China. And while Islam was a civilization superior in some ways to the West from the 7th to 17th century, somewhere that world began to stagnate and decline.

So the question arises: If Islamism is capturing Libya, Tunisia and Egypt, and will capture other Muslim nations as the Arab Spring advances, where is the historic evidence that these Islamic regimes can convert their states into manufacturing and military powers?

Where is the evidence that Islamist regimes, such as Sudan and Iran, can deliver what their peoples demanded when they brought down the dictators?

And if, like the communist regimes of the 20th century, they cannot deliver the good life that the rebels sought when they dumped the tyrants, what will follow Islamism, when Islamism inevitably fails?

In the long run, does Islamism really own the future of the Islamic world? Or has the clock begun to run on the fundamentalists as well?
The only way the Islamic world could come to dominate the world would be if an effete West simply decides it doesn't want to fight for its culture, which is certainly a possibility. Otherwise, the Islamic world will be a force to reckon with only so long as it has oil.

After the oil is gone, or it becomes available elsewhere, the strict uniformity of thought - religious, scientific, and political - imposed by Islamic authorities will stifle any incipient advance, and the loss of oil revenue will cause the rest of the Islamic world to revert to the same levels of poverty which prevail in those countries, like Afghanistan, which have no petroleum.

The crucial question is whether the West has the will to resist the Islamic quest for world domination until that happens.