Truth-seekers and god-slayers

PZ Myers is annoyed by the fact that, when it comes core, fundamental, human values, many atheists are as bad as believers, if not outright worse. In the eyes of some, “atheism” means only “lack of god-belief,” which means atheism cannot imply anything more than that, which means that atheism implies some kind of amoral anarchy, above and beyond mere unbelief. So which is it? Does atheism imply nothing more than absence of belief, or does it imply that “they’re right and you’re wrong?” You can’t have it both ways.

In truth, atheism absolutely does have implications beyond mere absence of belief in supernatural father figures. A world without gods to take responsibility for everything is a world where we ourselves are responsible. Atheism implies that we have work to do, morally, socially, and scientifically. And maybe that’s the reason why some unbelievers would rather not acknowledge anything more than just the absence of gods. But I suspect it goes deeper than that. I think what we’re seeing today is the emergence of two broadly-defined tribes within atheism, two different types of atheists, whom I designate as truth-seekers and god-slayers.

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The nuanced position

In a comment on my last post, NotAnAtheist writes:

[As] I see it, there are two options:

1. You can decide that the point at which the rights of the fetus should be considered cannot be based on anything objective, and is merely a point that is decided upon for some legal / logistical / personal / societal convenience. While this is logically valid, it leaves open the question of why not draw the lines other places? We already have articles in medical journals talking about so called “after-birth” abortions, basically saying that the “line” should be pushed back past birth.

This to me, as far as I can see it, is the pro-choice position. Draw the line for purposes of convenience only, and if there are facts supporting your position, great! If not, no worries, just bluster.

2. You can decide that if there are lines to be drawn at all, they should be drawn as safely and as conservatively as possible and be based on the best data possible to avoid killing those who are “enough of” a person to have a right to life. Note that this does not mean that we must draw the line at conception. Nor does this absolutely mandate that one must believe that “before time X all abortions are ok and after X they are wrong.” It is the belief that we should act on the side of caution, and not convenience when deciding when the rights of the child should even be considered (note, I said considered, not necessarily honored).

This, to me is a “nuanced” position, and it is also one that is completely incompatible (as I see it) with the pro choice position.

I can’t help but notice some significant problems with this dichotomy.

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Blood drives

The last time I gave blood, there was a sign outside that says, “Giving blood saves lives.” As a follow-up to yesterday’s post, I’d like to ask a question. If giving blood saves lives, why don’t we have people roaming the streets, grabbing healthy-looking individuals, and taking their blood by force? I think most people know the answer: it’s because each of us has a sovereign right to bodily autonomy that no one else has the right to violate, even if it might mean saving someone else’s life.

This to set the stage for a question posed in a couple comments by NotAnAtheist on yesterday’s post, concerning my remark about how the unformed child does not become a person until later on.

When does this “becoming a person” happen? … The child that is 1 hr from being born, anatomically, genetically, and in all other senses I know of, is the same child right after birth (If someone knows of some big difference, let me know).

If there is that similarity, how can it be that the child after birth is a “person”, and the child before is not? Or is it just that the idea of “personhood” has no objective referent and is simply up to the whim of the court?

I’m glad you asked.

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When is it ok to legalize murder?

One of the differences between the Obama/Biden campaign and the Romney/Ryan campaign came out during the VP debates. Biden said he was a faithful Catholic and believed his church’s teaching on abortion (in the true spirit of faith as “believing what you know ain’t so”), but he wasn’t willing to impose his religious beliefs on others (and rightly so). Ryan, on the other hand, was adamant that abortion was murder and should be immediately outlawed, except in cases of rape, incest, and the health of the mother. And that’s a very interesting set of exceptions.

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Counterfeminism

One of the things that really puzzles me is the number of women who are opposed to feminism. And not just reluctant, either. I’m talking hackles-raised, eyes-blazing hostility against the very people who are fighting to win them equal rights. It boggles my mind.

But, as the saying goes, a boggled mind is of no use to anyone, so I want to understand this counter-intuitive phenomenon. One of the possibilities that occurs to me is that there are actually two different forms of feminism, each pursuing radically different goals. Call them feminism and counterfeminism. The feminist is working to establish women as autonomous and respected individuals who are equal in status, opportunity, and financial compensation, as compared to their male counterparts. The feminist assumption is that the ideal condition for women is equality. But that’s not necessarily an assumption shared by all, not even by all women.

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The rich or the wise?

One thing I’ve noticed in connection with climate debates is that in any dispute between the rich and the intelligent, most people tend to side with the rich. And now that I think about it, that seems to be true in general. It doesn’t matter if you’re a greedy, dishonest bastard, or if you hurt people below you on your mad rush to the top. If you’re rich, people not only like you better, they’re also more likely to assume that what you say is true—even when you’re promoting an agenda that’s going to hurt a lot of the people who believe you.

Health care reform is another example. You can be smart, you can be well educated, you can sit down and actually read the text of the Affordable Care Act and see that nowhere does it make any provision for setting up a “death panel” to deny Grandma her badly-needed medical care. But if you’re rich, and conservative, that doesn’t matter. You can tell people they’re going to have death panels, and people will believe you even when they can read the law for themselves and see that you are lying. You’ve got a ton of money, so obviously you must know what you’re talking about.

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