Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Well, one of my favorite news sources these days is Fark.com, a wonderful collection of news items and unique headlines. I've been going there for about, oh, 4 years now. Since they are HUGE, you've probably heard of them. The only negative about them, in my book, are the numbers of close-minded secular humanists that frequent the message boards.
You read that right - close-minded secular humanists. An old pet peeve of mine from waaaay back, from even before I was religious.Here's the drill - there is a certain sub-set of secular humanists that are actively antagonistic toward religion and the religious. They tend to self-identify in one or more of the following ways; 1) they are aggressive in labelling themselves atheists (i.e., you don't need to ask); 2) they are adamant that they are not agnostic; 3) they are Objectivists with a capital 'O'; they identify themselves as anarcho-capitalists (a real oxymoron).
These sorts tend to have a train of thought that leads them to a certain level of blindness, a place where they are incapable of objective thought. Here's how it generally goes. A: there is no objective evidence for the existence of a supernatural deity. B: therefore, there is no logical way to believe in a god, gods, or any form of deity-related religion. So far, we're OK - its the next couple that get weird. C: therefore, anyone who believes in god, gods, or follows a deity-based religion is doing so for non-logical reasons. D: therefore, such people are incapable of thinking rationally. E: therefore, their ideas are inherently irrational and , thus, dangerous.
There aren't many people that follow this train full-blown (although more than you think). But there are a lot of people who go down this path quite some way before stopping. This path is more dangerous than you think because it means that the holders of such ideas use the rationale that they are more objective than others to reject ideas, concepts, and arguments without objectively examining them. In other words, their belief in their own inherent intellectual superiority traps them in to the logical fallacy of circular reasoning. Never good.
The place I run into this mental block most often is the debate over fetal stem cell research. Most 'rational, objective' atheists I run into have baldly told me 'you just think that because your superstitious beliefs prevent you from thinking for yourself' (a direct quote). They then do not address my key point; thus far adult stem cell treatments have been dramatically more successful than any fetal stem cell research. The results that fetal stem cell researchers hint may be years or decades away is already being acheived with so-called 'alternate' adult stem cell work.
In other words, my argument is that the use of fetal stem cells isn't warranted; most of the work with fetal stem cells have been a total failure, many of the 'successes' have been marginal improvements in treatments that still ultimately fail, and the moral issues are a quagmire. Why not focus on adult stem cell research, where the results continue to be amazing? (for more on this, start with http://rossolson.org/bioethics/stem_cell.html).
When I re-tried this argument, the result was, again, a rant against religion even though my statements were as utilitarian as his.
Go to any big forum online where such issues as abortion, stem-cells, politics, etc. are debated and you can see this same error in many degrees; "if you are religious, you cannot think". Watch for it. I have a friend from college who is firmly opposed to abortion. She is an atheist who feels that Aristotlean logic leads to the conclusion that abortion is immoral. She was booted out of her college Objectivist group because of her 'irrational adherence to religious concepts' before she could explain her logic. In her opinion, the others in the group assumed that if she agreed with the stance of religious people, her position could not be rational for any reason.
One of the people that I argued with about this is the person who calls himself Roman Piso. Google for this guy; he's hilarious. He insists that all ancient writings (up to, oh, about 1400) and a large number of modern works were forged by a single ruling group, all inter-related and, effectively, from one family. The Old Testament, the New Testament, the works of Pliny, Homer, Josephus, Tacitus, Julius Caesar - all faked. This family further totally dominates all religions and governments. The Caesars, the Holy Roman Emperors, the Popes, the Kings of Europe - all puppets to the secret masters, the Pisos. All source materials are faked, but he has learned to see through all the lies, all the obfuscations. By carefully understanding which words are true and which are fake, which are encoded and by whom and when, and by understanding how they worked, and (most importantly) by being one of the rare few who are smarter than some of the greatest minds that have ever trod the Earth, this man has revelaed the truth. Every other critic, historian, and archaeologist is a fool, a babbling moron beside Roman Piso. His proof? not one of these "experts" agrees with him.
His thinking is not so far removed from some Objectivists, I think.

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