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« Re: MLA blurb | Main | Scientists on the verge of creating life »

August 23, 2007

Rationalism or Smuggling?

Uber skeptic Michael Shermer is at it again. This time, however, he calls on his atheist brethren to be less militant. Why?

1. Anti-something movements by themselves will fail.
2. Positive assertions are necessary.
3. Rational is as rational does.
4. The golden rule is symmetrical.
5. Promote freedom of belief and disbelief.

Though Shermer starts out arguing pragmatically, he slips up and makes a couple of moral arguments. He argues based on the ultimate transcendent moral value (in his worldview): Human freedom. 

Shermer says, "A higher moral principle that encompasses both science and religion is the freedom to think, believe and act as we choose, so long as our thoughts, beliefs and actions do not infringe on the equal freedom of others."

Notice how Shermer smuggles in the language of natural law? Words like "higher" and "principle" seem oddly out of place to one whose worldview is that ultimate reality is matter in motion.

Kudos to Shermer for attempting to calm down the militants. Without transcendent moral principles, however, his moral argument can be defeated by simply asking "says who?"

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Comments

Alan Grey

Shermer also contradicts himself by saying that Human Freedom is the ultimate value, above even science and religion, but they should only be respectful and tolerant as long as religion doesn't threaten science or freedom....

More details here
http://alangrey.blogspot.com/2007/08/skeptic-presidents-open-letter-to.html

Neil

It is amazing how atheists always sneak morality in through the back door. They do it so smoothly that I don't think most of them realize it.

One of the most common ways is to infer that it is good for the species to survive. But as the post asks, "Says who?" Why is that necessarily a moral good in a purely material universe?

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