RRS’ Kelly Rants

There’s an interesting post over at the awesome Atheism Sucks blog at http://atheismsucks.blogspot.com/2008/01/porn-and-holidays-or-how-holidays-make.html discussing the Rational Response Squad’s Kelly’s post on the RRS’ own site. Kelly has launched what can only be a diatribe in which she endorses Hobbes’ view of human life as ‘the war of each against all’, complains about meeting relatives over Christmas and defends her real job as a stripper. It ends with a long piece about the massive amount of porn in Japan and the liberal attitude of Japanese society to it, which Kelly and her various commentators seem to feel comes the lack of theism in Japan. They seem to feel that this is a very good thing.

Irish Farmer, one of the excellent new team at Atheism Sucks, has made some incisive comments at the way Kelly has in this post moved from atheism to nihilism, as so many atheists also have in the past. They’re well worth reading, and I don’t want to repeat them here as I’ve nothing to add to them. So, to get the real text of Irish’s comments on Kelly’s post, got to Atheism Sucks. There’s also a link to Kelly’s article itself as well.

Hobbes and Totalitarianism

There are, however, other aspects of Kelly’s post that deserve comment. Firstly, there’s the issue of Hobbes. Hobbes is one of the key figures in the development of modern scepticism. Although he certainly wasn’t an atheist, he was a materialist who denied immaterial spirits and life after death. He wasn’t popular amongst the other Royalist polemicists at the time because, rather than supporting the authority of the Crown from Scripture and analogies with the patriarchal family – just as the father was head of the household, so the king was considered to be the head of the state – Hobbes argued from a purely secular standpoint. His position was that people had originally come together to set up states or the ‘sovereign power’ in order to settle disputes. Thus sovereignty came from the people. He thus credited as being one of the founders of modern, bourgeois democracy.

However, social contract theory long predates Hobbes. It appears in ancient Greek philosophy, and was taken over into Christian philosophy by Saint Augustine. Hobbes was thus arguing within a long established tradition, however radical it was for the time. There is also the problem in that Hobbes wasn’t a democrat, and some of his writings presage the totalitarian politics of the 20th century in support for absolute authoritarian government and the use of the theatre for propaganda and social control. Hobbes was writing during the struggle between Crown and parliament in the English Civil War/ War of the Three Kingdoms. His position was essentially that peace needed to be preserved against the chaos and violence of human nature, and this could only be achieved by an absolute central authority. This central authority could be a council, like the ancient Jewish sanhedrin, but it was better established as a single person, a monarch. This monarch should have absolute authority, though should preserve his subjects’ freedom by interfering as little as possible.

Hobbes expounded these doctrines in his Leviathan, a classical of modern political theory. Less well-known is the second book he wrote, Behemoth, in which he expounded his ideas on history and the theatre. Hobbes’ argued from psychology that humans derived their knowledge of the world from what they saw and perceived of the world around them. He therefore argued that the state should firmly control the theatre, only allowing plays to be staged that supported the regime and which had a moral message that would be absorbed by the spectators. The people, influenced by the plays they had seen, would be loyal, law-abiding citizens. Hobbes looked forward to a time when, with this policy firmly implemented, the prisons would be empty and society full of useful, patriotic citizens.

There isn’t anything particulary remarkable in this idea. Plato had argued for the strict control of the theatre for just such purposes in the Republic and the Laws. In Britain until the 1960s the authorities kept the theatre firmly subject to censorship because of the danger to morality and good order it was felt to represent. Moreover, there is evidence to suggest that people are influenced by what they see on stage and screen, and there are strong reasons for censorship.

However, few today would want the kind of absolute government Hobbes espoused, and the blatant use of the media for political purposes and social engineering is particularly dangerous and controversial. Hobbes was a brilliant philosopher and political theorist, but most people would probably prefer the philosophy of the other great 17th century British political philosopher, John Locke. Lock also believed in the social contract, but argued instead that people had the inalienable right to life, liberty and property, which it was the duty of the state to uphold. He also argued for the right of the people to influence government and choose their rulers, against the absolutism of Hobbes. Although Lock was a Deist, rather than a conventional Trinitarian Christian, he was not a materialist and argued for the toleration of other Christian denominations and sects.

There are problems with Lock’s philosophy, however. He was a man of his time, and accepted the existence of slavery. His  constitution for Virginia was strongly feudal in character, dividing the land into baronies and so forth. Nevertheless, it is usually argued that Lock founded the modern European tradition of democratic, representative politics. By contrast, Hobbes’ materialism led to authoritarianism and absolutism.

19th Century Radical Attitudes against Marriage

Regarding her career as a stripper, Kelly denies that she feels degraded by it and states that instead she feels empowered. I don’t doubt that’s the case, and that many of the women in her profession feel the same way. However, the persistence of stripping and the other parts of the sex industry cast severe doubt on the validity of some of the assumptions of the sexual revolution of the 1960s. The doctrine of free love first emerged amongst the pre-Revolutionary French philosophes of the 18th century. Philosophers like the encyclopedist Diderot argued from the perceived lack of marriage in Tahitian society that European sexual morality was artificial and stifling. It was, furthermore, part of an oppressive social system supporting Christianity and the monarchy. For humanity to be liberated, the repressive European attitudes to marriage should be abolished and replaced with the natural, unrestrained, innocent sexuality characteristic of the Polynesians. This was taken up in the 19th century by the Communist and anarchist theorists and polemicists. Marx and Engels in their Communist Manifesto described contemporary European marriage as a form of legalised prostitution that oppressed women and was giving way to the real thing as bourgeois society created its antithesis, the proletariat. For anarchist philosophers such as Emma Goldman, the dissolution of marriage would result in real, authentic loving relationships between men and women as free equals. There was an expectation amongst some that with sexual relationships outside marriage becoming acceptable, the commercial exploitation of women and sex would die out.

Yet despite the fact that sex before marriage has become not just acceptable, but the norm in western society, pornography and prostitution still persist. Indeed, there is evidence that prostitution in Britain may be growing. The freer attitude to sex, rather than removing the market for pornography and the commercialisation of sex, seems instead to have encouraged it. As for the continuing disapproval of pornography and commercial sex, this isn’t necessarily confined to Christians or feminists. In western society, where sex is linked with romantic love as well as marriage, there is a repugnance in many sections of society towards its commercialisation as yet another commodity. Such a commodification of sex offends against deep cultural conceptions of human dignity and the sanctity of such intimacy within a loving, personal relationship, which for people of faith has its true expression within marriage. Nevertheless, such disapproval of the commercialisation of sex goes beyond Christians and feminists because of the general feeling within western society that sex, and expressions of sexuality, should be reserved for intimate, loving relationships rather than be considered as merely another commodity on sale to the public.

Japanese Culture and Pornography

As for Japan, it’s true that there is a lot of pornography over there, though this isn’t simply because the Japanese aren’t Christians and so aren’t afraid of going to hell. Japan is a Buddhist country, and Buddhism is quite a puritanical religion. In China, which has similarly been a strongly Buddhist country,  it was believed that there were 18 hells, each hell reserved for those who had committed specific sins. Thus, murderers, unbelievers and the lustful were punished in the fifth hell. 1 Shinto also possesses a kind of hell, the land of the dead – called Yom-tsu-Kuni or ‘land of darkness’, Ne no Kuni, ‘land of roots’ or Soko no Kuni, the ‘deep land’, which is inhabited by male and female demons. 2 The great British traveller, Lafcadio Hearn, pointed out against the assertions of European Christian missionaries that not only did Japanese have a word for chastity, but that prostitution had historically been banned in the larger Japanese cities that had been the seats of princes. 3 Now it’s a good question how religious modern Japanese are. The Anglo-Australian journalist, Clive James, has commented of Japanese comedy shows like The Drifters that their liberties with Christian figures like Jesus, although blasphemous to Christians, is part of the general Japanese lack of religious piety. A friend of mine, on the other hand, who had spent a year or so in Japan said once that the Japanese attitude to religion was strange. In her experience, the Japanese were religious, but would look terribly offended if they were asked if they were. She wondered if it was because the term ‘religion’ had a different meaning to them.

As for pornography, that seems to have been around in Japan for a very long time, long predating modern attitudes to religion, and Japanese television has always been shockingly explicit in some of its subject matter. In the 1950s there was a controversy in America when the TV channels started carrying adverts for some of the more intimately biological products, like sanitary towels. The defenders of such advertising responded by pointing out that Japanese television had already been carrying adverts for such items for years.

Kelly specifically mentions pornographic comics as part of the Japanese permissive attitude to such literature. This has been quite a controversial area amongst aficionados of the four colour funnies in the past. In the early 1980s the comics writer Alan Moore, in an article ‘Sexism and Comics’ in the Marvel UK comic Moonknight, suggested that much of the Japanese comics industry was dominated by pornography of a particularly misogynistic and degrading type. This was followed in the next issue by an article on Japanese comics by another stalwart of the British comics industry, Steve Moore – no relation to Alan – who pointed out that while such comics certainly existed, they were a minority. The vast majority of Japanese comics were about baseball. Moore considered that most of his readers would find them as boring to read about as he would to write about, and instead concentrated on the quality Japanese comics that particularly interested him as a comics professional. One of those he cited was Baby Carriage and Wolf, or so he translated it, which was about the adventures of a ronin – a wandering, masterless samurai – and his infant son, whom he took with him in a pram. So, while pornographic comics exist, there are better comics on which kids spend their hard-earned yen.

But the existence of the extreme pornographic material does represent a genuine moral problem. Kelly states in her blog post that she doesn’t approve of material or actions that harm others, which is an attitude most people hold. But the permissive attitude towards porn in Japan has produced material that would be unacceptable in the West because of its misogyny. Now while nobody is physically harmed writing about or drawing such acts, as pure fantasies, as opposed to acting them out, there is a problem in the unpleasant nature of the material itself and in the corrupting effect it might have on its readers. Few people would wish to see as acceptable extreme material which presented the humiliation and degradation of women as respectable.

Now in fact observers have pointed out that Japan has a very low crime rate, and despite the very high profile of pornography and legal prostitution in Japan, women do feel safe in Tokyo after dark, in contrast to other, western cities. My own feeling is that rather than this being due to the legal nature of prostitution and pornography acting as a safety valve for the unpleasant aspects of human sexuality – although it might do that as well – this is due to the strong group orientation of Japanese culture. Japan isn’t an individualist culture. Children are taught at school that ‘the nail that stands up must be hammered down’. The result of this is that although Japanese culture is strongly conformist, the personal antisocial tendencies that might be given greater expression in the individualist West through crime and violence are curbed through emphasis on the group and the shame of not fitting in. The permissiveness of Japanese society towards pornography is offset by strongly conservative attitudes elsewhere in Japanese society, which limits some of the anti-social consequences that might result.

Conclusion

Thus, as a defence of the RRS’ attitudes and worldview, Kelly’s post isn’t very convincing. For all his brilliance, few today would wish to endorse Hobbes’ pessimistic view of humanity unequivocally, or call for the creation of an absolute state. The continued existence of pornography and the sex industry despite, Kelly’s defence of her job, in opposition to the expectations of some of the 19th century radicals who believed it would die out as people threw off the shackles of marriage. It thus points to a real problem with some of the theories behind the radical attack on marriage as an institution. As for Japan, pornography is acceptable there despite the Japanese traditionally adhering to non-Christian religions that valued chastity, and where the authorities outlawed the sex industry in certain cities. Moreover, the cultural factors that allow Japan to enjoy a low crime rate despite its very permissive attitude towards the sex industry and pornography may be peculiarly Japanese. Thus, despite Kelly’s arguments to the contrary, stripping and pornography don’t represent an advance on bourgeois, Christian morality.

Notes

1. Ou-I-Tai, ‘Chinese Mythology’ in Felix Guirand, translated by Richard Aldington and Delano Ames, New LaRousse Encyclopedia of Mythology (London, Hamlyn 1968), p. 398.

2. Odette Bruhl, ‘Japanese Mythology’ in Guirand, Encyclopedia of Mythology, p. 405.

3. Lafcadio Hearn, edited by Francis King, Writings from Japan: An Anthology (London, Penguin Books 1984), p. 270.

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10 Responses to “RRS’ Kelly Rants”

  1. JOR Says:

    Someone once joked that Hobbes was a liberal deviationist from the monarchists; he believed that if the king was trying to murder you, you had the right to run away.

    It’s interesting that Locke was in many ways continuing an older natural law tradition, but was actually less advanced than Catholic philosophers one or two centuries earlier in that they explicitly rejected slavery and were leaning towards rejecting even ‘benevolent’ conquest.

  2. beastrabban Says:

    Hi JOR – lol at the remark on Hobbes. It’s a good one. He did seem to think you had the right to rebel against an unjust ruler, but only if you succeeded. So, definitely not a great supporter of democratic theory. 🙂

    That’s interesting about the moral advances made by Roman Catholic philosophers a couple of centuries before Locke. The Jesuit philosopher Suarez certainly caused an uproar amongst the European monarchs when he argued in one of his books that people had the right to depose an unjust monarch. His book was burned in France by the parlement of Paris.

    As for the rejection of slavery and conquest, I don’t know much about this beyond the efforts of the great defender of the rights of the South American Indians, Bartolome de las Casas. His efforts on their behalf truly were heroic, but its depressing and disgusting that even such a great and humane man as de las Casas accepted and defended the use of Black slaves. He did so on the grounds that they were criminals and weren’t citizens of the Spanish Crown, unlike the Indian subjects of the Spanish Empire, thus accepting the theoretical basis for Black slavery in the New World. However, despite this slaves in the Spanish Empire did possess rights, and when the British in the 1820s created the position of ‘Protector of Slaves’ as part of a campaign to outlaw the abuse of slaves in their colonies, they copied the institution and much of the legislation from the Spanish colonies in the Caribbean.

  3. Wakefield Tolbert Says:

    Hi Beast:

    I don’t have much time or patience with “bad girls” like Kelly, but for brevity it seems that our entire culture is trending towards something more akin to modern Europe and Japan in hedonism. Japan in particular is a quandry. ON the outside veneer there is a protocal to life and culture expectations. But on the inside of this hard core veneer of tradition is a very Western (not in a good way) way that copies not only technology almost to the anal retentive level but duplicates our nasty and seedier sides also. One could also find this is ALMOST (but not quite) going to the level of the sex trade in parts of Southeast Asia where puritan ethics never hit the shores and fathers and even mothers sell their little girls into prostitution to make money not available on the farming trades.
    I had earlier posted the disturbing trends of Europe, which, while not as far gone as Europe in the monetary aspect of this (though to be sure Euro prostitution and porn exists) but that very young European children and immersed in sexual mores and culture that even secular Americans might find odious or to be delayed until adolescence. Though that is changing. I noted also that this secularization and hedonism actually endangers the Old Continent (Brits are still a little more careful than, say, the French, in getting relaxed about little Jenny getting busy at too young an age). Islamists are not like this, and say what we will about their apparent lack of female rights, they are NOT impressed with boys kissing and public nudity in the Netherlands and other items. Yet the Islamists, unlike the childless sexual activity of Europeans (Italy is now trying to BRIBE women to have kids) are having little ones. They are reproducing.

    So much for the Darwinian ethic of sumptious living and technology preserving society. Europe as we know her will be extinct in 50 years if current childless and hedonistic trend continue. OH well….

    Yet another indicator that sex is for marriage and for having kids in addition to being fun, and has to be banked and controlled by society to fulfill its purpose.

    Lastly, I posted an updated question about Noah’s flood, etc.

    Thanks. And happy New Year.

  4. Feyd Says:

    Happy new year beast!

    This tendency towards nihilism is one of the main reason Im glad atheism is in decline. There were several examples of mass murder by atheists in 2007. In Finland a student posted his nihilist / atheist views on YouTube weeks before shooting eight people dead. The vast majority of atheist would never take their nihilism to that extreme, but even they surely suffer at best needless depression.

    I agree with Kelly that she shouldn’t feel ashamed about enjoying her job – Christ didn’t appear to look down even on prostitutes. But there is some evidence that Porn has a negative effect on men and women even on secular criteria – over exposure to it reduces mens desire for real sex and leaves their partners getting less attention.

    There’s mixed evidence with porn but with prostitution there is no doubt that excessive demand is causing tens of thousands of women to be trafficked into GB and Western Europe every year. Modern day slavery which many atheists indirectly support. Just because the commercialization of sex is perceived as being contrary to Christian beliefs, atheist polemicists seem willing to turn a blind eye to the appalling real world consequences of supporting the sex industry.

    In the past Christians have tended to turn the other cheek in the face of offensive propaganda from atheists. But recently atheists have become so militant its been necessary to fight fire with fire. Im glad high profile leaders like the Pope and the Archbishop of Wales have started highlighting the evils of atheism. And very glad there are excellent blogs and sites like atheism sucks!

  5. beastrabban Says:

    Hi Wakefield- thanks for the comment. I hope you have a great New Year too! 🙂

    Yeah, there’s a lot of porn and very loose sexual morality in Japan. I got the impression it’s quite a chauvinist society – women are expected to be chaste and virginal, but also available for the men. I was reading a book on Japan by a former correspondent for either the Times or the Telegraph , and he was very critical of the Japanese attitude towards women. He noted that the Japanese really didn’t have much idea of sexual harrassment. When one female employee sued her boss for it, it was treated as a joke. There was even a nightclub called ‘Seku Haru’, which I understand is the Japanese term for it.

    As for the other Asian societies where they sell their children into prostitution, I got the impression that this was partly due to grinding poverty destroying morality. But you’re right: it is very grim. Some of the most disturbing stuff I’ve come across about the sex trade is in the book Disposable People . The book’s really about the persistence of slavery around the world. It’s by a secular author, but it is very, very good indeed. It includes as modern slaves not just debt slaves and labourers kept in effective bondage through the legal fiction of extremely long-term contracts, but also the forced prostitution in the logging and mining towns in Brazil and south-east Asia. It’s horrendous stuff that really does turn your stomach, and I have the utmost respect for the international aid workers and Christian missionaries who do work out there trying to combat it in such appalling conditions. Unfortunately, the same kind of sex trade is making a re-emergence in Britain and the West.

    As for Europe, yeah, European attitudes to sex are still very, very different from British and American attitudes. Having said that, they have fewer under age pregnancies than Britain: we have the highest in Europe. There are people arguing in Britain that this is due to Britain having poorer sex education than these countries, but I’ve also got the impression that some of them are actually more conservative sexually than they appear. The British TV presenter, Jeremy Clarkson, did a programme on the Netherlands in his series Meet the Neighbours in which he went round Europe talking about the bizarre aspects of their culture. The impression he gave of the Netherlands was that outside of Amsterdam, it’s actually very conservative and still very conventionally religious.

    As for Muslims being more fertile than secular Europeans – that’s true, though I don’t think that Europe is heading for extinction in 50 years time. I’ve had a look at some of the statistics touted to support this, and they’re actually not terribly trustworthy. Nevertheless, Prospect magazine concluded that atheism would peak through sheer demographics in 50 years time, and then decline through sheer demographic factors: atheists don’t have as many children as religious people.

  6. beastrabban Says:

    Thanks for the post, Feyd, and a very happy New Year to you too! 🙂

    Yeah, I’ve noticed the increasingly dark, nihilistic tendency of much of contemporary atheism. I think some of it possibly comes from the way some of the darker aspects of Existentialism have been picked up and entered popular culture. I think there always has been an element of cynicism and weltschmerz in scepticism. Voltaire once said something to the effect that if it weren’t for hope, the whole world would live in permanent despair.

    Usually, no matter how world-weary and cynical people are though, they don’t shoot people like the Finnish psychopath or the other mass murderers last year saw. There the general grace which Abraham Kuyper, one of the founders of Presuppositionalism saw as granted to everyone, including unbelievers, to carry on their lives rationally despite the alienation caused by sin, seems to have been disastrously absent.

    As for Christ’s attitude towards prostitutes, I don’t think He did look down on them. Theologically you’re supposed to make a distinction between the sinner and the sin: God hates sin, but loves the sinner. But at the same time, you’re expected to repent and make the effort to lead a more moral life. Hence the actions by the saints in the early Church to save women from prostitution and win those who had fallen back to a righteous life.

    I also completely agree with you about the forced prostitution that’s re-appearing in Europe and Britain. It’s very much like the situation in the late 19th and early 20th century. There were a series of international conferences by politicians and senior police officers from across Europe and the world in the early 20th century discussing ways to combat the international trade in women. A lot of the girls then who ended up being shipped through Europe to end up in prostitution in South America were from central and eastern Europe. It’s very, very similar to today, where poor women from the former Soviet bloc have been lured over here by criminal gangs under false pretences, only to find themselves working as sex slaves.

    And you’re absolutely right about the way that contemporary atheists have become so militant that the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Pope are now criticising atheism.

  7. Wakefield Tolbert Says:

    Hi Beast. Looks like you’re busy. But unfortunately here is another bee in the bonnet that I hadn’t come across before in my mind’s eye but had heard:

    What do you make of this oft repeated claim from some atheist sectors to the effect that Christianity and other forms of faith have a set of rules that seem overly strict and threaten hell and damnation (or at least separation and loneliness from God) as the prime motivator of moral consciousness. In other words, a threat of “don’t make me hurt you”—while by contrast the atheists claim their morals are superior since they do this from free will. Thus being good for being good is superior to making ‘bad doggies’ into “good doggies” by threat of force, etc. Of course I know this is overly simplistic, and maybe part of the answer is that ALL persons have to subscribe to a set of rules be that secular (local and national authorities) or other or a combination of both. So this simplistic statement must take into account that it is not only deities in history, but humans also (since the code of Hammarabi) that have laid down rules that govern moral and even personal behavior. Understood. And I read on the Beast Rabban’s site, and agree, that while many atheists are good and decent people in their everyday walk, it is true that one cannot get an absolute claim from them about a consistent moral stance if everything depends on such goodness lasting or on free will of all atheist participants in society. Also, many atheists don’t believe in any such thing as free will, especially those from the biological sciences who think we are but mere “gene machines” that have no forethought of life purpose. As Stephen Pinker has said (and Daniel Dennett would agree) there is no soul, no free will, and no purpose to “truth” other than replication of DNA. All else is what we make as side dressing.

    Now of course I know for this to even begin to work we must leave out the allowed horrors of atheism that they will deny (see Sam Harris, for example, and Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, who claim that Hitler’s, Stalin’s and Mao’s purges and pogroms against Jews and other minorities and malcontents were ABERRATIONS of POLITICS, and not atheism per se.) Hitchens and Harris blame Medieval Europe’s Catholic tradition for anti-Jew sentiment in Germany, bad Eastern Orthodox upbringing for Stalin’s, and just misunderstood politics for Mao’s. Dinesh D’Sousa has a funny quip about this in answering Harris in that “are we now to accuse Christianity of what atheist philosophers and leaders have done by their OWN hands?”

    I know that easy-does-it fast soundbite quips don’t always tell the whole story, but still.

  8. beastrabban Says:

    Hi Wakefield – yeah, I’ve heard the line from some atheists ‘Oh, you only believe in God, ’cause you’re afraid of hellfire, and so you can’t really be moral’ too. It’s not true. Firstly, if you go through the Hebrew Bible/ Old Testament, there’s very little idea of an afterlife. There’s sheol, but that’s just a generic abode of the dead. All the expectations of reward are this-worldly. ‘Honour thy father and thy mother, so that thou shalt live long in the land that I, the Lord, shall give thee’, etc. Even there, that’s not the whole aspect of ancient Jewish morality. There’s the Holiness Code in Exodus: ‘Ye shall be holy, for I, the Lord, am holy’. As members of His chosen people, the Jews were expected to share in the Lord’s demands for holiness, for the sake of being like God.

    Furthermore, the rabbis themselves stated that you obeyed God because God and His commands were good, not because you expected a reward. In the Authorised Daily Prayer Book there’s the passage ‘Antigonos of Socho received the tradition from Simon the Just. he used to say, Be not like servants who minister to their master upon the condition of receiving a reward; but be like servants who minister to their master without the condition of receiving a reward; and the the fear of Heaven be upon you.’ (Whitefield Foy, ed., The Religious Quest (London, Routledge 1978), p. 370.

    The same attitude was taken over into Christianity and in Islam. Yes, Christ warns of the dangers of hell and states that the righteous will be rewarded by God, but Christian morality goes beyond this. You are righteous and moral because as a Christian, you wish to participate in God’s righteousness and morality. Their good for their own sake, not just because following a code of morality is supposed to get you into heaven.

  9. Wakefield Tolbert Says:

    Beast as usual your scholarship outpaces my ability to ingest even the commentary, but in the plupart I’d agree. One note: When I mentioned the whole “gene machine” theorem ever so popular today (from especially your bain, Dr. Dawkins, and other like Steven Pinker) of course I was implying that when Hitchens and EO Wilson and others mount the high horse of morals as being “chosen” little do they seem to honestly acknowledege that a strict reader of Darwinian descent indicates that “truth”, qua truth, is not a particularly selected agent of genetic replication (following the Darwinian storyline about the evolution of morals in primates), rather, SURVIVAL is. Period. It is a contradiction they should see to claim on the ONE hand that morals are little more than social convention evolved for sheer convenience and avoidance of problems in the genome (and other sub-categoties of helping commonweal genetically being “good”) and yet on the other claiming this is CHOICE. If it is genetic and environmental, as Pinker claims it is when we are polite and give up a seat to someone on the bus who is frail, the altruism is not choice, it is forced by society or genes or the interplay of both. Pinker and Dawkins even admit confusion about certain kinds of altuistic behavior. First problematic issue: Their creative discussions among themselves may indicate POSSIBLE roles of genes in, say, saving your own kids from a burning bus or train. You’re preserving your own genes. Even to the extent a crocodile mother will defend her eggs if provoked even though she’s not a clever lass. That is understood. Even saving your uncle, even past childbearing years. He’s your own genetic material (though not to be funny, there are upper limits on what some of us might do for even some close relations…….but still….). The problem is even as Pinker and Dawkins admit, this altruistic role cannot explain all “herd” mentalities of just saving or helping a stranger, like an old woman who is long past maternal issues. Dawkins only answer (and one followed up by Stephen Hawking) is that this evolved mechanism has some sort of “bio input” or “herd instinct” that focuses on helping one’s own “species orientation.”
    Genetic advantage overall? Very little.

    Problem two in my opinion is that so far evolution can CLAIM, at most, to account for ALTRUISTIC morals. There are many others. And I might add as a side note the “bad girl of capitalism” Ayn Rand, was for her part not impressed with this. Neither was Fredrich Neitzche. Some have tried to pin ideas about sexual morals to old Hebraic and other Near East faiths to the idea of a type of common law extant in those times before DNA evidence was in the lab. You assured others your daughter was a virgin until her marriage night for the simple expedient beyond all other concerns that this was a LEGAL issue mandating that genes flowed properly for concerns of inheretence and property. JP Holdings TEKTON site and others acknowledge this tradition as having some pragmatic input, for example.

    But the main problem here is that certainly even in elements were little chance of reproduction was seen (like homosexuality and sex among relatives past their prime) the laws were still very stern. I remember the other quip by one commentator to the effect that after all is said and done, when pushed on the topic, Dawkins as well as the obnoxous HItchens and others have been forced (as many “reformers” of the old school atheism like HL Mencken and Aldous Huxley) to admit that they have little problem with the notions of Christian origins for civilization and science (brilliantly laid out by Nancy Pearcy and Charles Thaxton and Rodney Stark) but rather their rebellion against Christianity is actually a REVERSION to a more pagan time in sexual mores they wish to see return. Pinker’s morals show hints of this as his lambasts Christianity for prohibitive sex mores on infanticide (common in the ancient world outside the Jews), pederastry, and homosexuality. In other words, the atheist rebellion can be shown deficient on the science and history of things. That’s OK, because the rebellion is actually…….pelvic, in origen.

  10. Stalin, The Gulags and Christianity « Beastrabban’s Weblog Says:

    […] Wakefield Tolbert, one of the great commentators on this blog, has pointed out here at https://beastrabban.wordpress.com/2008/01/05/rrs-kelly-rants/#comment-597 that Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens have blamed Stalin’s Eastern Orthodox upbringing […]

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