Showing posts with label Atheist Morality. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Atheist Morality. Show all posts

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Atheist Morality - a morality suitable for silverback gorillas and tenured professors of the public knowledge of Science.

Richard Dawkins defends the idea of having a mistress and lying about it.

Atheist morality is either utterly confusing as a matter of reason or entirely transparent as a matter of original sin. Thus, sometimes atheists want to explain morality as a matter of evolution and natural selection, such as when people do good things for each other altruistically. In such cases, you see, people have no choice because it is to their evolutionary advantage in some wider sense to lay down their life for a complete stranger.

On the other hand, sometimes atheists want us to "rise above" our evolutionary programming, such as when they advocate atheism when it seems obvious that there is a "religious sense" built into human nature. What it means to rise "above" or to "progress" beyond our nature is unclear because such words of directionality imply, well, a direction, and, of course, atheist materialism denies that their is any metaphysical entities such as "above" to rise to. On the atheist account, "progress" and "above" are just arbitrary words selected to indicate the idea that "I, Richard Dawkins" approve of this."

And, then, there is this account, where Dawkins rails against monogamy and telling the truth as if those ideals were an ingrained feature of human nature, rather than the tenuous result of social conditioning:

From a Darwinian perspective, sexual jealousy is easily understood. Natural selection of our wild ancestors plausibly favored males who guarded their mates for fear of squandering economic resources on other men's children. On the female side, it is harder to make a Darwinian case for the sort of vindictive jealousy displayed by Mrs. Tarrant. No doubt hindsight could do it, but I want to make a different point. Sexual jealousy may in some Darwinian sense accord with nature, but "Nature, Mr. Allnutt, is what we are put in this world to rise above." Just as we rise above nature when we spend time writing a book or a symphony rather than devoting our time to sowing our selfish genes and fighting our rivals, so mightn't we rise above nature when tempted by the vice of sexual jealousy?

I, for one, feel drawn to the idea that there is something noble and virtuous in rising above nature in this way. I admit that I have, at times in my life, been jealous, but it is one of the things I now regret. Assuming that such practical matters as sexually transmitted diseases and the paternity of children can be sorted out (and nowadays DNA testing will clinch that for you if you are sufficiently suspicious, which I am not), what, actually, is wrong with loving more than one person? Why should you deny your loved one the pleasure of sexual encounters with others, if he or she is that way inclined? The British writer Julie Burchill is not somebody I usually quote (imagine a sort of intelligent Ann Coulter speaking with a British accent in a voice like Minnie Mouse) but I was struck by one of her remarks. I can't find the exact quote, but it was to the effect that, however much you love your mate (of either sex in the case of the bisexual Burchill) sex with a stranger is almost always more exciting, purely because it is a stranger. An exaggeration, no doubt, but the same grain of truth lurks in Woody Allen's "Sex without love is an empty experience, but as empty experiences go it's one of the best."

So, jealousy, which presumes fidelity, covenant-keeping and integrity, is a evolutionary appendix that has to be "risen above." But cheating and lying somehow are unaccountable by Darwinian selection?

This is nonsense on stilts. G.K. Chesterton once said it is surprising that people have rejected the doctrine of original sin because it is the only doctrine that can be empirically verified. It is an amazing tribute to the autistic worldview of Dawkins that he doesn't see this.

But sin makes you stupid. Perhaps it is not so surprising that a person with celebrity and groupies and fans, such as Dawkins, finds an attraction to a morality that excuses infidelity and lying. We might say that is a convenient morality.

We might also say that is the kind of morality you get when you appoint yourself the arbiter of morality.
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