Wednesday, November 7, 2007

I agree with Sam Harris. I disagree with Sam Harris.

Go figure.

Well, I finally got around to watching Sam Harris' AAI speech. It's been a while since I've had good internet. As is I am doing a P2P connection on the 802.11g with ICS running through a Verizon Wireless Internet on a PCMCIA card on a laptop. And I understand why his remarks manage to fly like bricks.

They reminded me of Nietzsche's arguments (explaining now). Nietzsche argued that morality was to protect the weak and religion was bullshit and faith nonsense thus what we should do it is throw it all out and make a world to give rise to the Übermensch. Now, what we have here is a coherency of premise which is hard to match. Morality IS to protect the weak! Religion IS complete hogwash! However, egotistical the conclusion it's still wrong. The idea that I am the biggest badass to ever walk the planet may be accepted in my mind without question and perhaps I should thusly support this great tear down of society to breed supermen and Nietzsche suggested. However, even if I were say, let's be conservative here, as strong as 50 men... I could be killed by 51 men. Furthermore, due to obvious advantages of team work I could probably be downed by like 20 men, perhaps 10 men, hell frankly one crafty women would be more than sufficient. The conclusion that I should want to tear down a system which protects the weak on the grounds that I am strong is about as coherent as I should want to prevent the rain because it rains on the unjust and I am a just fellow. The rain, it raineth on just but also on the unjust fellow (but chiefly on the just because, the unjust hath the just's umbrella). Society protects the strong as well as the weak, it is in our interest to protect the weak because, frankly, considering the groups everybody is quick to jump into... we are all weaker than some subset of all of society.

Now, Nietzsche's premise that we are abiding by a morality which supports the weak rather than the strong, and his desire to go to something more akin to a life Hobbes described as "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short" are complete nonsequiturs. As noteworthy and insightful as the observation is, the fact is we aren't the biggest badasses in the world. Groups of half-asses even bad half-asses are more than enough to take any individual down. This is enough to show the latter conclusions are flawed. We are social beings, because being social makes us collectively the biggest badasses ever. We usually tend to idolize rebels, but you know what else? We crush them too.

Similarly, Sam's observation that we have willingly stepped into a trap. That we have effectively allowed ourselves to be boxed into a place where rather than address our arguments people feel that they can simply address us is a huge tactical mistake. Rather than his typical pointed response, such as his clarion call for attacking the moderates who support religion with doublespeak writing a blank check for those religious fundamentalists who cash that check at the expense of good and moral people in the world, he calls for us to slither under rocks. Rather than rise up and refuse that frame, and not to allow atheism to be the subject of an argument on pathetically indefensible faiths he says we shouldn't call ourselves anything. We should just exist as good people in a screwed up world. We should fold our cards because our opponents have put us on a hand, when our opponents have no cards themselves. I'm sorry Sam but this part I simply cannot agree with, nor can your detractors.

Yes, 'atheist' is more of an adjective than a group title and Christians can no more provide substance to their claim that they telepathically communicate with a first-century wish-granting Jewish zombie by attacking my atheism as they could support the claim that they can fly by by attacking my mythicism, intactivism or Sci-fi fandom. I am an atheist. I do not believe in delusional deities anymore than I believe in fairies, goblins, or ghosts. And though I do not have a word for myself being a rational person in a country whose majority believes JFK was murdered in a massive conspiracy, I would not care if there were one. It would accurately describe me. We atheists need be more aware of this frame which boils down to a simple false dilemma and ad hom, but we need not throw the adjectives out with framejob!

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