Re: [asa] Dawkins new book - objective

From: Bill Powers <>
Date: Tue Oct 27 2009 - 10:00:07 EDT

I would like to make a brief comment on this thread, only because I've
been thinking about it in another context.

The problems with what is being said are twofold
One problem with what is being said is that we are speaking of atheism as
what it doesn't believe, but not in terms of what it believes.

As a former atheist (even zealous atheist), I suggest that an atheist
has two firm committments:
1) That there is Nothing
2) that caring is optional.

By Nothing I mean that nothing is Absolute, there is no intrinsic meaning
in the world. That caring is optional intends to convey that meaning is a
matter of choice, i.e., it is what we choose to matter.

Atheists, at least what I would have called real atheists, oppose the
smell of theism, absolutism. It would be suspicious of science as an
attempt to establish an absolute knowledge, so too with metaphysics for
the same reason. All of them stink of a god. Atheism seeks to uproot all
senses of theism and god. It declares the individual, if there is such a
thing, as supreme creator and destroyer.

All of the new atheists are not atheists, but merely appeasers, luke warm
and spit out by atheists. All of these refuse to bare their gaze upon the
howl of existence and Nothing. Atheism declares that nothing exists but

To say that atheism is merely not believing in a certain type of god says
little. The same could be said of Christians. Dawkins and the like still
believe in a god, just not your god. They are no atheists.

As for materialism, there are Christian materialists. I'm not certain why
a materialist need be an atheist. An atheist-materialist, what is that?
I'd say that an atheist would not be willing, unless of course he cares
to, commit himself to materialism. An atheist could be a believer in a
god. He just refuses to believe that he must believe. He believes what
he wants, even to convenience. There is only Nothing, except what the
atheist chooses. So nothing is true, and anything is true. Truth is a
theistic concept, embraced only for some convenience or for a time.
Ultimately, the atheist must remain free of everything, even reason,
another god.

Probably way off thread, but, again, I've been thinking about this of


On Tue, 27
Oct 2009,

> Heya David,
> You didn't ask me, and I'm in much agreement with your thrust of this. But I
> want to add something to this.
> I think one problem that often comes up in this situation is that
> materialists/naturalists tend to reply in a very mechanical sense. Such as,
> 'Oh, you think Mother Teresa did good works? Well, there's nothing about
> materialist-atheism that prohibits a person from devoting their lives to the
> poor just as she did (aside from, of course, the theistic parts)!' Or,
> 'Okay, so the Columbine murderers were nihilists. But not every atheist is
> running around slaughtering people!' Mechanical, adding up to 'That negative
> act X is not mandated! That positive act Y is not prohibited!' Which, then,
> leads to those monopoly rules - "Well, we can craft certain rules that
> formally encourage Y and discourage X! See, we can have all the values
> normally associated with theism/non-naturalism* without the actual
> theism/non-naturalism!"
> Your example of Doc helps indicate some of the problem there, but I'd like
> to draw that out further. Yes, there's absolutely the aspect where the man
> thinks he can just plain get away with what he's doing, sans repercussions.
> But there are other problems: No matter what the man does, by
> atheist-naturalism, it can't really endure anyway. Humanity is accidental,
> unforeseen, without purpose, and hopeless. Achieving salvation for
> ourselves, resurrecting the dead, bringing justice to all, defeating death,
> etc, is not only a hopeless endeavor, it must be - or atheist-naturalism is
> not true. The only possible victories are utterly transient ones - "what
> does it profit a man to gain the world but lose his soul", except it's not
> possible to keep your soul. If this is not true - if it's possible for him
> to 'keep his soul' - then a-n is incorrect. Indeed, if he even suspects a-n
> is not true, or may not be true, his commitment to a-n weakens in proportion
> to that suspicion. Which is why I sometimes wonder if there really are as
> many a-n's out there as is often suggested; I think the number is far fewer
> than most would suspect.
> On the flipside, if he really believes a-n is true.. then built into that
> belief is a recognition that all of his efforts will ultimately be in vain
> anyway. Strive to unite the world in peace, but that unity will inevitably
> disintegrate - permanently. Cure diseases if you wish - you'll never cure
> them all, and death is inevitable anyway. Actual progress is illusory, like
> shooting a pistol at the sun to combat global warming (Well, at least the
> bullets cast a shadow!) All that's within grasp is temporary personal
> satisfaction, accent on the temporary. Which helps to illustrate why talk of
> a-n ethos just isn't all that interesting. It's hard to take seriously,
> given the commitments.
> (* But naturalism is a ridiculously slippery term, I've found - it can now
> include panpsychism, dualism, making the "mental" fundamental to the
> universe, etc. And, as I said in another thread, I don't think the future
> holds much for Dawkins-style atheism, or the naturalism we associate with
> him. I do suspect that a 'naturalism' which commits to something other than
> materialism, possibly a very odd form of theism (or polytheism), is going to
> be the greater concern in years to come.)
>> I am reminded of 'doc', my friend who was walking along a road in Viet Nam.
>> He was arguing with a south viet regular army officer about philosophy and
>> life. Doc had asserted there is an objective moral law to which we will be
>> held accountable. The army man pulled his 45, pointed it at a villager that
>> was in a rice paddy at the side of the road. He killed him. He then turns to
>> my friend and says "no there isn't". "It doesn't matter that I killed him,
>> and nobody will ever punish me for doing so. In reality life is dirt cheap,
>> as I have just demonstrated."
>> I would submit that the vietnamese soldier was correct, except in one
>> case. There is an afterlife and a judge. Objectivity will be demonstrated
>> to all of us, and it doesn't really matter if we acknowledge it today. The
>> only thing acknowledgement could do is affect how we live today.
>> But materialists deny the afterlife and the judge. So by their definition
>> there is no objective moral law. What is it to which they are going point
>> to? Can they point to something that would have given pause to those kids
>> at Columbine? I don't think materialists can possibly believe in anything
>> that would have dissuaded those gunmen. Maybe I am wrong. Show me that
>> materialism and nihilism are not lovers (and the case where the materialists
>> are taking a lot of drugs doesn't count).
>> Cheers,
>> Dave C
>> On Sun, Oct 25, 2009 at 11:32 PM, Gregory Arago <>wrote:
>>> hi Tom,
>>> don't think we've met or dialogued before, so just want to first say:
>>> hello!)
>>> yes, i'd say you're missing something in your 'analysis'.
>>> first, maybe you could answer a question: is the reality of the Holy
>>> Spirit 'objective'? if so, then how do you 'know' it? (and please feel free
>>> to treat this as a rhetorical question and just to answer to what is written
>>> below)
>>> i think you've missed Schwarzwald's main point about
>>> materialism-naturalism, by focussing on some particular phrases. perhaps you
>>> could add what you mean by those 'ideologies' in order to meet the point
>>> more directly? do you accept the 'reality' of such ideologies in the
>>> minds/hearts/bodies of people today?
>>> what if we called such values, purposes, meanings, etc. as 'extra-natural'
>>> or 'extra-material,' 'supra-natural' or 'supra-material' instead?
>>> also, it seems the discussion of 'subjective/objective' by Georg Simmel
>>> might help here (e.g. "On Individuality and Social Forms"). this might offer
>>> new language for your view that 'objective' means 'public.' i'd suggest
>>> there is much more to speak about than to make such an equivocation. it is
>>> as a sociologist that i suggest this, noting with respect your background in
>>> history and philosophy given in your 'signature'.
>>> warm regards,
>>> Gregory
>>> ------------------------------
>>> *From:* Thomas Pearson <>
>>> *To:*
>>> *Sent:* Mon, October 26, 2009 6:58:35 AM
>>> *Subject:* RE: [asa] Dawkins new book
>>> On Saturday, Ocotber 24, 2209, "Schwarzwald" wrote:
>>>>>> For materialist-naturalism, objective moral values, purposes, and
>>> meanings are not available even potentially.<<<
>>> I don't see why not -- unless, of course, you have inflated the meaning of
>>> "objective" to include particulars that don't belong to a strict definition
>>> of "objective," such as (1) grounded in an unassailable source and/or (2)
>>> universal in scope and application. But neither of those are required in
>>> order to achieve objectivity. I'm assuming that "objective" means something
>>> like "public," or "not simply residing in, or justified by, the subjectivity
>>> of a particular individual."
>>>>>> And by this I mean, insofar as someone says "Well, perhaps there are
>>> objective and external/fundamental moral values, purposes, and meanings to
>>> life and reality", they are rejecting the materialist-naturalist worldview.
>>> To even search for these things is to question or reject the truth of the
>>> stated philosophy.<<<
>>> But why should anyone believe that anything such as "external/fundamental
>>> moral vlaues, purposes and meanings to life and reality" is necessary for
>>> something to be objective?
>>> For example: on our campus, as on most university campuses, we have a
>>> policy against plagiarism. It is a public, objective policy, justified by
>>> its connection to other university policies, and to roughly similar policies
>>> at many other schools. But its objectivity is not based on the fact that it
>>> has a universal application (it doesn't), nor on possession of any sort of
>>> "fundamental/external values, purposes and meanings to life and reality" (it
>>> certainly isn't). It is objective because it is a promulgated rubric that
>>> governs our common life together in this particular community.
>>> It's not at all clear to me why a "materialist-naturalist" cannot lay
>>> claim to objective moral values, purposes and meanings in approximately the
>>> same way. They may not be universal or grounded in an unassailable source,
>>> but that doesn't disqualify them from being objective.
>>> Am I missing something here?
>>> Tom Pearson
>>> ______________________________________________
>>> ______________________________________________
>>> Thomas D. Pearson
>>> Department of History & Philosophy
>>> The University of Texas-Pan American
>>> Edinburg, Texas
>>> e-mail:
>>> ------------------------------
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Received on Tue Oct 27 10:00:41 2009

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