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Elgin’s Books


  • Christianity and Secularism

  • Evidence for the Bible
  • Rational Evil IV

    Friday, June 20th, 2008 by Elgin Hushbeck

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     Over the last several weeks I have been looking at the development of secular thought following the holocaust, and how the attempt maintain human right apart from God has resulted in a number of competing and conflicting strategies.

    These strategies produced a number of absurdities that if given any serious thought would quickly undermined the entire system and many did think seriously about this, and worse they pointed out these problems. These critics needed to be addressed.

     

    The problem was that they could not be answered in the normal way. How can one rationally defend the belief that men and women are the same when they are so clearly different. How can one morally defend the belief that we really should not condemn the honor killing, i.e. the murder by her relatives of a woman because she was the victim of rape.

     

    The simple answer is that you can’t. So rather than answer the arguments, those making them needed to be silenced. Anyone questioning the belief that men and women are different were called sexists. Anyone pointing out a negative aspect of other cultures were called bigoted.

     

    While freedom of speech is still proclaimed a basic human right, and even defended in areas of vulgarity and sexuality, restrictions on speech have greatly increased in other areas. At first, labels such as sexist, racist, bigot, homophobe, etc, were enough to silence, or at least discredit those pointing out the problems with the new secular reasoning. But over time, the power of rational argument began to push past this first line of defense.

     

    Simple labeling was not enough and stronger deterrents were needed. Starting with universities, supposedly bastions of free speech and intellectual inquiry, more formal limitations started appearing on what could be said and what could be researched.

     

    These speech codes were challenged in the courts and many were struck down. But the need that spawned them remained, and so despite rulings such as Dambrot v. Central Michigan University and Corry v. Stanford speech codes did not go away, they were simply repackaged as anti-harassment policies.

     

    In fact, according to Jon Gould, a law professor at George Mason University, “hate speech policies not only persist, but they have actually increased in number following a series of court decisions that ostensibly found many to be unconstitutional.”

     

    Political Correctness was thus born in a series of formal and informal speech codes and training classes on anti-harassment and diversity; not only in specific classes but it also incorporated throughout the curriculum.

     

    But such indoctrination in school from Kindergarten through College was still not enough. So the training was expanded into the business world. For example, in 2004 California passed a law that required employers to provide mandatory sexual harassment training. And of course to transgress these policies in the work place threatens one’s job and thus their livelihood.

     

    By labeling these policies anti-harassment and diversity automatically gives them an air of respectability and masked the more questionable aspects. After all who supports harassment and who doesn’t support diversity? But the real question is what constitutes harassment and what is diversity? Everyone would agree that a boss demanding sex from an employee in order to keep their job is morally reprehensible and should be illegal. But what about acknowledging that men and women are different?

     

    In a well publicized example in 2005 Larry Summers the president of Harvard University was addressing the question as to why more men seem to go into science and math than women. He suggested that one possible line of research could look at possible differences between men and women.

     

    A fire storm of criticism erupted at this mere suggestion that men and women might be different, and this eventually led him to issue an apology. Even so, the faculty of arts and sciences issue a vote no-confidence, and his suggestion was a factor in his resignation the following year.

     

    But even sanctions that can could threaten one’s job have not been enough to silence the rational arguments, so not too surprisingly the sanctions are being stepped up and the arguments them are being criminalized, as the Brigitte Bardot recent discovered when she was fined €15,000 by a French court because her comments on the ritual slaughter of animals in Islamic culture, “constituted a legal offense.

     

    In 2006 Mark Steyn published the bestselling book, America Alone in which he argues that in the cultural conflict between Western and Islamic civilization that Western Civilization is losing. When Steyn’s book was excerpted in MacLean’s Magazine the Canadian Islamic Congress claimed that article “subjected Canadian Muslims to hated and contempt” and as a result as I write this Steyn is awaiting a decision from the Vancouver Human Right Council. This is just one of many examples of such attempts to silence those who differ with the current views of diversity.

    Thus, in the effort to preserve a view of Human Rights apart from God, the traditional view of Human Right has been turned on its head. Speech is suppressed. Freedom of Religion has been turn into separation of Church and State and the suppression of religion. Intellectual freedom has been restricted to lines of inquiry that are consider acceptable, and exclude things like Intelligent Design. Those who do not fall into line are not only shunned, but can lose their jobs, livelihoods, or be convicted and fined by the government. All in the name of Human Rights.

    This is Elgin Hushbeck, asking you to Consider Christianity: a Faith Based on Fact.

    Rational Evil III

    Friday, June 13th, 2008 by Elgin Hushbeck

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    This week I continue my discussion of the development of secular thought following the holocaust. Last week I looked at how the foundation for Human Rights went from equal in the eyes of God to equal without any real definition as to how we are equal; and how for some equal then became the same, where any difference was to be denied; the example being the belief that men and women are the same. But there was a different and somewhat conflicting approach taken simultaneously: rather than deny any differences, differences were to be celebrated.

    At first celebrating diversity might seem to be a somewhat problematic answer to the question of how we are equal.  But at the core of the celebration of differences is the ideal that differences do not really matter, for all differences are fundamentally the same.

    This idea of diversity has been so ingrained, that many might even be wondering how I could see this as a problem. The reasons are twofold.  First, the idea that all differences are fundamentally equal is as untrue as the idea that differences do not exist, and both have led to a great deal of suffering and harm. Despite what the supporters of diversity preach, not all differences are equal. While some differences are irrelevant, many differences are significant.

    When it comes to food, I think the celebration of differences is a good thing, though even here there would be some significant differences in food, at least in regards to health. But some difference, be they individual or cultural are not only significant, but some are clearly better than others, particularly when it comes to differences that touch on morality. While this may be heresy to those who support diversity, it remains nevertheless true and it is under the guise of cultural diversity that a lot of suffering and injustice is allowed continue.

    For example, as I discussed last week, the belief that men and women are equal in the eyes of God is a Biblical truth taught in both the Old and New Testaments. As a result, I believe that cultures that follow this truth are better, at least in regards to their treatment of women, than societies that do not.

    While this may seem a straight forward conclusion, for many strongly influenced by modern secular thought, it is one they find difficult to make. In order to maintain the notion of equality among differences, no judgment about those differences can be permitted. They may fight strongly for equality in their own country, but things that would otherwise be condemn such as the subjugation of women, dictatorship, and other forms of oppression in other countries often get little more that a response of “who are we to judge?”

    Things that cannot be accepted, even under the guise of respecting cultural diversity, are frequently just ignored. Yet as cultures intermix, this becomes increasingly difficult. Honor killing is the ability or even duty of a father or brother to kill a woman who is believed to have brought dishonor to the family.  The dishonor, need not even be through some act committed directly by the woman, as victims of rape are seen has have brought dishonor upon the family.

    While common in ancient cultures, honor killings were forbidden by the Old Testament in the Laws given by Moses. As Judeo-Christian values came to dominate, honor killings disappeared from Western Civilization. Yet they remain a part Arab culture even today.

    While largely ignored when it occurred elsewhere, with immigration, it is now becoming a growing problem in the Western Cultures such as the United States, Canada, and Europe, though here there is an attempt to downplay these honor killings as merely “domestic violence” lest it appear that Western Civilization is somehow better.

    This attitude of ‘who are we to judge’ has been taught to our children, and unfortunately, it is a lesson that some have learned far too well. For example, in late 2007 when a teenager learned that his friend had just murdered several people at a mall in Omaha, he had no judgment about the lives taken. No judgment about the family and friends whose lives would never be the same because of the loss of a loved one. No judgment about the wounded or their pain and suffering.  Instead he said, “I don’t think anything less of him… he wanted to go out in style.”

    So in order to maintain equality among differences, one approach has been to celebrate differences without any judgment about them, which is fine when dealing with non-moral choices such as food. But when dealing with differences that have a moral component, it inevitable means ignoring pain and suffering, and in some cases even evil.

    As Western Civilization has been casting off it Judeo-Christian roots, it would seem that it has also cast off the Bibles injunction; “Do not stand by while your brother’s blood is shed” (Leviticus 19:6), for we do now stand by, often in the name of cultural diversity.

    This is Elgin Hushbeck, asking you to Consider Christianity: a Faith Based on Fact.

    A Review of Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion Part XVI

    Friday, February 8th, 2008 by Elgin Hushbeck

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    In the last installment of my review of Richard Dawkins’, “The God Delusion” I looked at Dawkins’ arguments for why we can’t use the Bible as the basis for our morality. But if we cannot use the Bible then where should we get our morals?

    For Dawkins, the answer to this question is the Moral Zeitgeist, which Dawkins sees as “a consensus about what we do as a matter of fact consider right and wrong: a consensus that prevails surprisingly widely.” (pg 262).

    Now there is some truth to this statement.  Certainly there is a Moral Zeitgeist, a general consensus about right and wrong, and Dawkins easily shows this by pointing out a whole list of historical examples of things that were acceptable during their time, but which would be condemned today. 

    In fact as I have frequently argued, to properly understand people in the past one must understand the general consensus of the times.  While very common, it is grossly unfair to condemn those in the past who broke with the conventions of their day to move society forward, simply because they did not quite meet our current standards.

    So when it comes to the existence of a Moral Zeitgeist, Dawkins is on solid ground. Where he runs into problems is when he goes beyond the existence of the Moral Zeitgeist and argues that this should be the foundation for our morality, something it cannot be. His claim that it is, is simply irrational.

    To see this consider the following statement by Dawkins, “The Zeitgeist may move, and move in a generally progressive direction, but as I have said it is a sawtooth not a smooth improvement, and there have been some appalling reversals.” (pg 272)

    While a seemingly innocuous statement, it actually completely undermines Dawkins claim. If Dawkins were correct and the Zeitgeist did in fact define our morality, then there could be no concept of progress or reversal.  Whatever the Zeitgeist said was good, would be good, and whatever the Zeitgeist said was evil would be evil. In those areas today where the Moral Zeitgeist allow slavery, slavery would be good. In those areas where family members should kill a daughter who was raped to so as to end the dishonor to the family, then it would be a good thing to kill a daughter who was raped.  That would be the moral Zeitgeist.

    If slavery were to be reintroduced, or honor killing introduced into 21st century America, and sadly both honor killing and slavery, though thankfully rare are beginning to occur here, it could not be seen as a step backward, but merely a change, for again it would be the moral Zeitgeist that ultimately determined right and wrong, and thus there would be no way to say that one Moral Zeitgeist was any better than any other Moral Zeitgeist. 

    The very fact that Dawkins talks of a “generally progressive direction” and “appalling reversals,” shows that there must be something beyond the Moral Zeitgeist that is actually the foundation for morality. 

    In fact without such a foundation, there would be no reason to even change the Zeitgeist.  Slavery was ended when Christians argued that it was immoral, regardless of what the Zeitgeist said.  In fact most of the improvements Dawkins cites were brought about by people, often with Christians in the lead, arguing that these things were wrong, thereby changing the Moral Zeitgeist of their time.

    Ultimately, Dawkins view is completely unworkable, for if it were true, how could anyone argue anything it terms of morality?  In fact all of Dawkins arguments discussed earlier about the immorality of the Bible would be meaningless. They would not be things to condemn as Dawkins attempts to do, they would simply be a different moral Zeitgeist and again there would be no way to say that our current Zeitgeist is any better or worse than any other Zeitgeist.

    In short, Dawkins wants to have it both ways. His view of morality is firmly grounded and should be accepted, so much so that he condemns those who disagree with his view.  Yet if we subject his moral views to the same scrutiny, they fall apart.

    Whether one agrees with Christian morality or not, at least Christians have a foundation upon which to base their moral views. At least Christians have a basis to say that Society has improved, and not just changed.  At least Christians have a track record that puts them in the forefront of the moral advances that society has made. Christianity does not by any means have a perfect record, but it is a good one that on the whole Christians should be proud of.  The strongest criticism that can be mounted against Christian morality is that Christians have not always lived up to the teaching of Jesus.

    In place of this Dawkins proposes a muddled view that is at best logically inconsistent, and one that conflict with his own claims. It is a view that places the greatest good on the same level as the greatest evil, with no means of saying one is any better than the other, except that one may happens to be part of the general outlook of the time.

    The most amazing thing about Dawkins’ claim is that he really believes he is the one with the rational position.

    This is Elgin Hushbeck, asking you to Consider Christianity: a Faith Based on Fact.  

    A Review of Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion Part XIV

    Friday, January 25th, 2008 by Elgin Hushbeck

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    In this part of my review of Richard Dawkins’, “The God Delusion” I will continue my look at Dawkins’ speculations on the roots of morality.  Dawkins rejection of God and acceptance of evolution forces him to find an evolutionary basis of morality.  He admits that “On the face of it, the Darwinian idea that evolution is driven by natural selection seems ill-suited to explain such goodness as we possess, or our feelings of morality, decency, empathy, and pity… Isn’t goodness incompatible with the theory of the ‘selfish gene’?” (pg 214-5)

    Dawkins’ goes on to argue that the idea that it is, is a misunderstanding and the evolution is not incompatible with goodness.  There are two main problems with Dawkins argument. The first is that it is really very selective and theoretical and amounts to little more than special pleading.  The second is that while Dawkins’ see evolution’s ability to account for goodness as a strength, and yet another reason we do not need religion, the special pleading nature of the argument is in reality an indication of a much deeper problem: that as put forward by those like Dawkins it is a tautology . 

    In logic a tautology is an argument that is always valid. While this sounds like a good thing, the problem with tautologies can been seen in the following example; it will either rain or not rain tomorrow.  Now this statement will always be valid, regardless of location or weather.  But while always valid, it tells us nothing about whether or not we will need an umbrella. In short it really tells us nothing at all.

    What Dawkins explanation really reveals is that evolution is a huge complex tautology.  It can explain anything the evolutionist needs it to explain.  Soon after Darwin, the theory began to be applied to societies to justify why some people were better off than others, in Social Darwinism.  It then became the basis of Eugenics, which effectively argued for selective breeding of people, to produce better people, much the way we selectively breed animals.  This culminated in Hitler’s belief in a master race, and the elimination of impure bloodlines. 

    Following WWII, this was all rejected, and rightly so, as immoral. While we continued to selectively breed animals, people were off limits.  Yet Dawkins now argues that he can explain an almost opposite morality also based on evolution.  What this means is that evolution can explain either view. Just like the statement it will either rain or not rain tells us nothing about the weather, evolution tells us nothing about morality. It only tells us about the ability to speculate to a particular goal on the part of the scientist.

    The problem with the particular answer Dawkins gives is that he cites a number of “good Darwinian reasons for individuals to be altruistic, generous, or ‘moral’ towards each other.” (pg 219) Yet those pushing Social Darwinism, or Eugenics in the 1920s and 30s also had many good Darwinian reasons as well. So a clear question become why Dawkins’ Darwinian reasons should be preferred to these other Darwinian reasons. For most people this is pretty easy to determine as history has shown that the Darwinian reasons for Eugenics leads to some pretty immoral things.  But since Dawkins is arguing for the basis for morality, he cannot use morality to make such a choice without falling victim to circular reasoning.  Which leaves him with special pleading; his reasons are better than the reasons that led to eugenics because they give him the answer he is seeking.

    Yet even if Dawkins were correct, and our sense of morality is what it is because of evolutionary pressures to survive, it still would not follow that this is what morality should be in the twenty-first century.  Dawkins acknowledges this when he says that “those rules still influence us today, even where circumstances make them inappropriate to their original function.” (p 222) In short, even if Dawkins’ is correct concerning his view of the evolutionary basis for morality, that says nothing about what morality should be today.  In fact the only thing Dawkins would have succeeded in doing it arguing that morality is at best a residue of the evolutionary process, and there is no reason it should hold any automatic power over our actions.

    In fact the only principle left would really be “might makes right.”  Whoever has the power, would determine right and wrong.  Of course the problem here is that had Dawkins view been accepted earlier, for example before much of the progress in civil and human rights over the last couple of hundred years, there would have been no reason to make those changes, and they very likely would never have happened. 

    The belief in human rights is grounded in the belief that we are all created in the image of God, and what God has given, no one can arbitrarily take away, not even the king.  The anti-slavery movement was not grounded in Darwinian reasons, but in religious belief, in particular in the belief that slaves were men with rights.  Luckily those views became well entrenched before Darwin put forth his theory, as I am not at all sure that had the ideas of evolution become entrenched first, whether an anti-slavery movement could have ever taken root.

    This is Elgin Hushbeck, asking you to Consider Christianity: a Faith Based on Fact.  

    A Review of Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion Part XIII

    Friday, January 4th, 2008 by Elgin Hushbeck

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    In the last part of my review of Richard Dawkins’, “The God Delusion” I discussed Dawkin’s speculations on the origin of religion.  In Chapter six Dawkins continues his speculations or the Roots of morality with all the same faults and some new ones.  I looked forward to this chapter with great interest, as not only is Morality a key issue in life, it is also behind one of the arguments for the existence of God.

    Thus I was disappointed, thought hardly surprised, when Dawkins began with what at best can be considered a strawman argument.  He says “many religious people find it hard to imagine how, without religion, one can be good, or would even want to be good.” (pg 211)  Since “many” is a somewhat vague term when talking about the vast majority of the world’s population, Dawkins’ statement is undoubtedly true in some sense.  Still, it really misses the key issue of the origin of morality.  As I wrote in my book Christianity and Secularism, concerning this subject, “this does not mean that only people who believe in God are moral. A person can be an atheist and still be a very moral person, and a person who does a tremendous amount of good.  The real question is where do morals come from?”(pg 179)

    But before moving to that question I would like to address some comments Dawkins makes concerning a letter that claimed that evolution was by blind chance, atheism was nihilistic, and if true would mean that life was without meaning. Dawkins objects saying “for the umpteenth time, natural selection is the very opposite of a chance process.” (pg 214)

    Here Dawkins equivocates a bit. Equivocation is using the same word or phrase with different meanings.  Dawkins is correct in that evolution is not a chance process, in the sense that it is governed by natural laws, and the forces that govern evolution are constantly selecting the most likely to survive, weeding out the rest. So when talking about evolution as a process, it is a process with a goal. But chance does play a role, as it is by chance that certain features appear so that the process can either select or reject them. 

    However, if instead of talking about the process of evolution, we consider the occurrence of evolution or the result of evolution, chance plays a huge and even dominant role. Evolution does not teach that human being appeared because evolution purposed for them to appear, they appeared by chance.  In fact, the more science studies origin of the world and the condition needed for intelligent life, the more they must fall back on chance to explain why we are here.  So Dawkins’ rebuttal depends on a narrow and somewhat different meaning for evolution.  Thus the equivocation. 

    Dawkins then goes on to point to his book “Unweaving the Rainbow” to argue that atheism does not mean a meaningless nihilistic existence.  Again there is some equivocation here. Dawkins is correct in the sense that we can find meaning in anything.  Parents often find meaning in their children. People can find meaning in their work, or in their hobbies, or in helping others. The can find meaning in supporting their favorite sports teams, or perhaps in Dawkins case in science.  So in this sense Dawkins is correct. 

    But this is a very subjective and narrow type of meaning.  The real question is whether not there is anything more than this. If the Sun were to explode tomorrow, and all life on earth wiped out, the planet broken in small pieces, would any of this have meaning? The answer from evolution must be no. Whether you had been a Stalin murdering millions, or a Mother Theresa who had devoted your life to helping the poor, a world class athlete or a couch potato, a Christian or an atheist, would make no difference at all. All would irrelevant and without meaning.

    The simple fact is that meaning requires an intellect, a though process that can judge value.   To have a meaning beyond ourselves requires a thought process beyond us. To have an ultimate type of meaning requires an ultimate type of thought process.  In short, it requires a God.

    Now the atheist can argue that this is all there is. There is no meaning beyond the meaning we give to things. They can even argue that we should give some meaning to certain things.  But they can’t legitimately complain when Christians they charge that their view says there is no ultimate meaning.

    A similar confusion, lies behind the charge that atheist can’t be good, though in Dawkins defense it is a common error. If one believes that morality comes from God, then absence of God, would then be an absence of morality. Many falsely assume that this mean immoral, but it doesn’t.   An absence of morality would be amoral, not immoral.  Atheists, because they reject God as source for morality, are not automatically immoral; they are free to pick whatever morality that suits them.  Many adopt large parts of the morality of the society in which they are raised, which in the western world is a morality that has been strongly shaped by Christianity. 

    But this freedom to choose the good, also means they are free to choose the bad. This is why the foundation of morality is so important, and why atheists even though they may be themselves moral, have a major problem in this area.

    This is Elgin Hushbeck, asking you to Consider Christianity: a Faith Based on Fact.