Saturday, January 07, 2006

Like Dawkins really needs my help

Since Intelligent Design (ID) got clobbered in last month's court ruling in Dover, PA, the ID blog Telic Thoughts has spent most of its time talking about anything but ID.

In a recent post, one of the resident bloggers pokes fun at Richard Dawkins' dangerous idea:
For years, Dawkins has preached the values of rationalism and the need to follow the evidence, even when it leads to uncomfortable conclusions. Yet here he is, explaining why he thinks adopting a certain position would be rational, yet acknowledging that he can’t adopt it itself.
This post was followed by 17 comments from ID advocates that seemed to have definite vein of contempt for materialism.

Being a deterministic machine, I couldn't help posting a reply of my own:

So, let's look at what Dawkins is saying.

Our actions are the result of two possible kinds of factors. Deterministic factors that are exclusively dependent on our environment, and a random factors (e.g., quantum indeterminacy) that are independent of the past.

The logical conclusion from this is that there is no absolute morality, and that "blame" and "retribution" are reproductively advantageous desires that evolution has wired into us. There is no absolute "ought," only an "is."

While there might not be anything we absolutely ought to do, we know empirically that there are certain things we want to do.

So, if I determine that a meteorite is going to hit your house, I may inform you that you "ought to move out of its way." However, I'm really saying that, "with some probability, you must move out of its way, if you want to live."

Of course, there is no absolute reason why you shouldn't stay home and become part of a pretty impact crater. In that case, presumably you were destined to become part of a crater. Yet, knowing that you are a not much more than a deterministic machine doesn't change the fact that you are a deterministic machine that doesn't like getting vaporized by meteorite impacts. And this knowledge doesn't preclude you from using my scientific arguments to achieve an emotional benefit by evacuating the house. So much for the supposed pointlessness of rational argument among deterministic agents.

Your criticism of Dawkins worldview comes from what you perceive to be the logical conclusion of that view, namely, some form of moral anarchy. Yet, this criticism is not only an illogical projection of the worldview, it is also an exclusively emotional argument against its truth.

First, the illogical projection. Whether the evil we see is materialistic or not, we must still make war against it if we are to satisfy our own desires for a better life. Materialism doesn't alter that war.

Second, the emotional grounding. Whether you like what you perceive as the the eventual consequences of materialism has no bearing on its truth. I'm confident that you would apply the same criteria to any materialist's dismissal of theism on the grounds that its consequences would appear unpleasant to him. In other words, I suspect that we all care enough about the truth to discover the truth though it may be unpleasant.

And what do the supernaturalists offer instead of materialism? Nothing coherent. If our actions are guided by unseen, external forces, then those forces too are either deterministic or random. The only escape is to deny the power of reason to analyze the world around us. To close our eyes, click our heels and wish that true and false were not the only options.

Naturally, I offer you no reason why you ought not do this. If you want to.

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