Saturday, 18 August 2012

Still without a leg to stand on

I wrote last year about a man (Robbie) with whom I had a long and interesting conversation (see here, here and here).  Well, I just spoke to him again today, and sadly he still holds to the same denials of reason and reality, all the while denouncing those who disagree as unintelligent.

We covered a lot of the same things as we discussed last year, but I want to mention a couple of things he said that I think are worth a comment or two.

We got talking again about morality, and I asked him to tell me why Hitler's behaviour was wrong.  His reply was that what Hitler did was "absolutely wrong" because it violated human law.  What???  He is saying that something is absolutely wrong because it violates a rule that human beings have imposed (which human beings, on his view, are the product of mindless, amoral, evolution)!  Was he serious?  Is something absolutely wrong if human beings say it is?  Do our rules make something absolutely wrong, or do we make rules because we recognise certain things as absolutely wrong?

I put it to him that Hitler was acting in accord with human law - his own, and those many people who supported him, and why should the laws of other humans be binding on him?  At this stage Robbie said that if we are nasty to people then they'll be nasty back, but if we're nice to people then they'll probably be nice to us.  So now we have moved on a bit, what he's saying now is that Hitler wasn't wrong, he was just silly - if you want to be treated nicely then treat others nicely - it's just self-interest.  "Exactly" said Robbie - he agreed that morality is all about self-interest.  This view has far too many things wrong with it for me to start on it now, but what if someone (e.g. Hitler) is in a position in which they can treat others nastily (but note, Hitler thought his actions were justified) and get away with it?  Was Hitler not acting in self-interest anyway?  I then said to Robbie that this is where his view takes you - the only thing wrong with torturing babies or raping people is that it might come back to bite us and it doesn't help the human race - there's nothing actually evil about those acts, they just aren't helpful.  Robbie admitted there's nothing evil, but they are wrong because if we care about the human race we should treat people nicely, but remember Robbie had just told me that morality was all about self-interest.  Again, did Hitler not think he was doing the human race a favour by getting rid of those he felt shouldn't be allowed to breed?

Now just look at what he's said - there's nothing evil, but there are things that are wrong because they don't help humanity.  This is just saying there is no morality at all - it is like saying it's wrong to use a cricket bat to hammer in a nail - it's not morally wrong, it's just practically wrong - it's not the best way to hammer in a nail, you'll wreck your bat and the nail.  He is saying Hitler was not morally wrong, he was just mentally wrong!!

Anyway, I asked him on his view to explain why we should care about the human race - is this a moral obligation that is binding upon us?  I reminded him that according to him we are a collection of chemicals that have come about as a result of a mindless process and we are doomed for oblivion in a short time, and have no intrinsic value.  Immediately he countered that we do have intrinsic value, so I asked him how.  He said that human beings have a value to other human beings, but this is nothing like saying we have intrinsic value.  It is a subjective statement - Hitler didn't believe the Jews had value.  It is also mixing up intrinsic with extrinsic - you have value to me.  You can't have intrinsic value to me, you either have intrinsic value or you don't!  That's the point, intrinsic value means you have value no matter what others think.  If we only have extrinsic value, i.e. value based on what we do for others, or how others view us, then the poor disabled person who isn't able to do anything for anyone else has no value in Robbie's world, and the person whom nobody loves or wants is worthless in Robbie's world.  According to Robbie, people only have value in the eyes of others, they aren't actually valuable in themselves. 

He felt I was putting words in his mouth, but I said I was simply taking the words from his own mouth and taking them to their logical conclusion.  Robbie said my logic was way off, so I asked him to point out why.  He said that everything that comes into being has rights conferred upon it.  "Who confers these rights?" I asked.  "Hold on" he replied, and went on to say that because we have these rights conferred upon us we shouldn't harm creatures that are living within their proper sphere.  I asked again who conferred these rights.  Again he told me to hold on, but I told him he would need to answer and I was going to keep asking, so he said that we had these rights because of evolution!  Did you ever hear anything so ridiculous?  Oh, yes, I did hear something equally ridiculous, it was about a year ago and a man called Robbie told me that we have an obligation to evolution to behave in a way he considered moral!

So he thinks an impersonal, mindless process confers rights upon creatures, the right to be allowed to live as long as you are in your proper sphere, and that humans ought to respect these rights.  But if we are the product of atheistic evolution how can you behave outside your proper sphere?  What is that sphere, who set the boundaries, and how can anything you do get you outside this sphere?  After all, we are just the product of our evolution, chemicals reacting, doing what molecules do at this temperature and in these conditions.  On a materialistic view, how can you do anything other than what your genes determine?

Evolution, if it were true, certainly could not confer rights upon anything, anymore than gravity or entropy can confer rights.  I told him this was nonsense, and his response that intelligent people know that you should treat people well.  So there you go - we are complex arrangements of matter who have no objective purpose or intrinsic value, there is no law other than what we make up, and there is no judgment other than ones we set up, and Robbie thinks that intelligent people should, in light of those "facts" treat people well.  Hitler's problem was a lack of intelligence!  It seems to me that Hitler or anyone who commits atrocities could ask Robbie to show a premise that rests on or springs from atheism that says we should not live the way they lived.  Robbie can't give an answer.  No, I told Robbie that we do know we should treat people well because we are made in the image of God and have His law written on our hearts (Romans 2 v 15).  Only the God of the Bible gives us an adequate foundation for morality.

When I made that last statement Robbie said "What about the God of the Koran?"  I stood by my statement and told him that the god presented in the Koran cannot be the foundation for morality because he is a god who shows mercy at the expense of justice.  Only the God of Scripture is "a just God and a Saviour" (Isaiah 45 v 21).  Only the God of Scripture can show mercy consistent with justice because of the cross.  I told him that the cross is the centre of it all, it's the cross that has changed my life and brought me forgiveness. 

There was a brief exchange again about science and the origin of the universe.  He admitted that he believed that everything came into existence out of nothing without a cause!  I told him that he, not Christians, is the science-stopper because if he really believed that things could pop into existence without a cause then it makes it hard to do science!  I told him I don't believe in magic and things popping into existence without causes, if the universe came into existence it must have a cause which isn't physical, but must be personal (else the effect would be as old as the cause).  He told me that I must believe in magic because how did God come into existence?!  When I told him that God is eternal, He is the first cause, he said that there's no such thing as eternity.  I had to remind him that an assertion is not the same as an argument. 

Robbie referred to Einstein's well known formula for mass-energy equivalence and said how hard it is to convince a religious person of its truth.  I pointed out that this is not only irrelevant but untrue, and that modern science was birthed out of a Christian worldview in which people believed in a rationally ordered universe.  I hope you can see with all of this that I was talking to a man who really is not interested in truth.  He would not grant that any believers have any intelligence - religious people are automatically ignorant of science etc.

I told him I would have to go, but I wanted to let him know that I had written about him on this blog.  He told me that he didn't think we should be allowed to have the children's meetings that we are holding each evening in the area - we shouldn't be allowed to "indoctrinate" children (what is the difference between teaching and indoctrination?), and he was surprised that I had a website that hadn't been shut down! 

I said that I was so glad we had not yet descended into his atheistic totalitarian regime in which people cannot explore and learn, and in which it is illegal to teach children about beliefs that differ from his (especially about something so foundational to history, the world and the country they live in - Christianity and the Bible).  I put it to him that he was the one wanting to engage in mind control because he does not even want people to be allowed to see the information or hear the message! 

Summarising the silly and contradictory things he said:
  • There is no evil but Hitler was "absolutely wrong" because he violated human law (which was somehow binding on him, and something he was obligated to care about and respect!)
  • Morality is all about self-interest but we should be interested in the whole human race
  • Hitler was wrong for acting in self-interest, but morality is all about self-interest
  • Hitler was wrong for acting for the promotion of the human species by eliminating what he viewed as the weak and lesser races, but morality is all about the promotion of the human species
  • Evolution confers rights on all living things as long as they stay in their proper sphere
  • Humans have intrinsic value to other humans
  • The universe came into existence out of nothing without a cause
  • Religious people (without qualification) are ignorant
  • We shouldn't be allowed to indoctrinate people, so he wants to engage in mind control by not allowing information about the Bible to be made available to anyone or the Gospel to be taught to children
In light of all that, I think I was well justified in telling him, "Little wonder the Bible says 'The fool has said in his heart there is no God.'"