back to Mainly for Non-Believers
I wonder how many there are with a degree in Comparative Religions. Hmmm, I'm guessing there must be tens of thousands (Sam Harris is one of them). Now if a person is a wanna-be intellectual I'd have thought the way to go was to get into some branch of Physics or maybe Neuroscience (Sam Harris, tells us he's working on a doctorate in the latter). Being a philosopher or a well-read student of Comparative religions is…well…okay, but to be a cutting-edge scientist, now that takes you up among the (chemical) gods; even the gods have to take you seriously then. I mean they couldn't look at each other any more and say of you that you've done "a bit of dabbling" in this field or that; fields that are "interesting" but don't settle anything much. Somehow, if you're not a "real scientist" your lively writing style or your popularity doesn't get you far—there's a lack of real substance, don't you know. But when you gain a doctorate in a given discipline (as presumably Sam Harris will in Neuroscience) then you can take your place among the gods—new and inexperienced among the senior gods, it's true; still, you will have arrived. Now the other gods will know that you've read a lot of books written by the senior gods in a science field.
Look, whatever we say, it must surely be a bad dose of sour grapes, or something much worse, to look at someone with as many prizes as Nobel prize-winning physicist Steven Weinberg, for example, and not be gob-smacked by his brilliance. Now he may be as thick as a couple of two-by-fours in a host of other areas but only an idiot or a bigot or both would deny he's an intellect of the first order. It's true that in another generation or two (hopefully) some gifted schoolboys and girls will know more about physics and astronomy than Weinberg—that's the nature of the increase of knowledge. Having a head full of the latest truths is no proof that a man or woman is a gifted thinker. [Nobel prize-winner, Francis Watson, insisted that many of his scientific colleagues were stupid! Highly-credentialed scientist Philip Ableson said his colleagues were often bigots. That can help make you stupid.]
Maybe one of these days Sam Harris with his Neuroscience doctorate will be able to tell us if there is and what precisely is the physical basis for the difference between a "genius" and a walking encyclopaedia. If he manages to be able to do that before anyone else he will have secured his place among the gods.
Dabblers only impress the non-specialists! Still, you can't help making a hero out of someone who expresses well your own convictions and feelings (even if you happen to believe that these are nothing but chemical reactions; of course, even the hero worship is chemical reaction). You don't have to be much more than an enthusiastic amateur (like me, for example, in theology) in these days when the internet is awash with information, to create the impression—without even trying—that you know a lot more than you do, or that you're an intellect.
Numerous visits online or many visits to a public library and before you know it some people are saying, "Wow, now that guy/girl is brilliant." Take a little dab of Logical Empiricism here, a few medical facts there, mix in some psychology and social studies jargon, comb history and current affairs for the "facts" that suit the case you want to build, use a few phrases from quantum mechanics or genetics, lambaste the moral stupidity of many of your opponents on issues important to society and mix it all together in a best-seller and people start looking at you in awe. Bless me; you start believing it yourself. Still…still…that kind of non-specialist adulation isn't the same as being a real god; better to get a doctorate in a hard science!
But even when you get to be at the top (and the mass of scientists are simply "good mechanics"—the scientists themselves tell us) and you now "know" beyond dispute that you have the "truth" it appears that you can forget that it's nothing but "chemical reactions". Even Steven Weinberg (a big supporter of modern Zionism) passionately engages in moral discourse so he can get at "the truth" and "honesty". Bless me; you'd think "truth" and "honesty" had some non-mechanical/non chemical nature. Weinberg wants truth and honesty—who cares? That's his chemical reaction not the chemical reaction of those racist thugs at the top of the Nazi tree or their vile minions that tormented and murdered Weinberg's family. Their chemical reactions didn't include giving a damn about Weinberg's chemical feelings, which he somehow converts into some moral stance that people "should" pay attention to.
I don't understand why brilliant atheists can't see that B.F Skinner and E.O Wilson are right! If everything is physical forces operated on by physical laws resulting in genetics shaping people, then all talk of "morality" is the beating of our gums (which is also chemistry). Environment is no less the product of the mindless forces and the necessity of physical laws. It doesn't matter at that point precisely how many factors are involved in the production of the human sense of "ought"—it doesn't matter; "ought" is nothing but amoral chemistry. You might not like it scummy but it's nonsense to connect "ought" to a pond getting scummy—it's the result of mindless realities. You can't get "ought" out of the universe that atheists postulate, but apparently only a few can see that or are willing to admit it. You may hate with a near perfect passion what Stalin, Pol Pot or the Nazis have done but when you reduce everything to chemistry you can't say they were immoral in doing what they did. Our highest emotions, Weinberg said, are chemistry--they aren't a sign of moral superiority. Marquis de Sade was upset because he was thrown into prison for beating the blood out of the prostitute he used. He told them that was his chemistry—that's what pleased him. He had a point—but then they had a point too; their chemistry meant it pleased them to throw him in prison. Atheist Bertrand Russell confessed sadly that he had no rational grounds for condemning the awful things that went on in the world so they grieved him deeply. He granted that "morals" was what other people wanted you to do rather than what you "ought" to do. One quantum mechanics scientist told me he thought that, morally speaking, we believers were "gutless wonders". He wasn't quite able to tell me why his chemically based moral opinion was a moral opinion.
Weinberg said science can only offer "a lot of little truths". One truth he offers is this, "Religion is an insult to human dignity." That's a self-confessed bag of bio-chemicals speaking.
This bag of bio-chemicals much prefers the words of Jesus Christ, "I am the truth."
But if we're all bags of chemicals why argue with each other. Everything that we all do is chemically based behaviour. Some bags enjoy doing "nice" things and others get pleasure in butchery. The Mengele bag did unspeakable things but how can we call them "immoral"? One consistent atheist (Walter Kaufmann) said, "Try not to call actions immoral." Oh well.