Wednesday, February 4, 2015
The Moral Arc's Archenemy.
Michael Shermer is in a long line of writers who think that by dredging up worn out embarrassments to the faith like Witch hunts, racism, or the crusades, they will decimate faith in the Supernatural. It's funny, because the very problems with supposed believers that Shermer has, Jesus held too. Using poor representations of religion to disprove the Supernatural are no more than a slight of hand. Shermer's approach to decry religion is an example of the logical fallacy, "Confusion of correlation and causation."
Truth, justice, and freedom (his new book's subtitle) are religious values. Science might tell "what" the world consists of, but it can't give us a the "why" or provide an ultimate purpose. Can science lead us to being better humans? The 20th century was the most secular of all, it happens to be the bloodiest one too. World war One & Two were not religious battles. How many millions did Hitler kill? Not as many as Stalin. And Stalin killed his own people.
There's a bigger point too. Science and faith are not enemies. The sad downside of people like Shermer, with chips on their shoulders, is they perpetuate a false dichotomy. Science owes a lot to religion, as any freshman history student can affirm. Isaac Newton wrote more books on theology than he did on science. And, believers gain a lot from the study of science too. Both groups need to collaborate, not set up battle lines.
It's even more ironic that Shermer learned to think for himself at Pepperdine, a great university that was started by Christians and still is considered a Christian university. For whatever reason, Shermer lost his faith. The bigger question is, how did he forget his foundation? He wants to say he thinks for himself, but the thinking-tools he employs were formed from within a Christian Worldview.
Christian beliefs influenced Shermer's mind his entire life, all through his formative years. So, any ideas he holds today are either suspect because of his epistemological origins or he needs to acknowledge that faith has some value in nurturing our ability to think.
Shermer can't have it both ways. He is who he is, for better or worse, coming from a theologically rich environment. He's not the first kid to become disenchanted with the church and walk away. His issues do not prove or disprove God, but he should have the integrity to recognize he owes a great debt to those who shaped him.
One point Shermer has grossly overlooked. He says science has eradicated slavery. Studies show globally, we have more people enslaved than ever before in history. Shermer credits science with overcoming slavery, but it wasn't science or secular thinkers who fought for emancipation in the United Kingdom or the United States, those battles were fought by Christians. And, as for racism having been dealt with, who did more to conquer our divides than King? Wasn't Martin Luther King Jr. a preacher?
Shermer points to "causation," and he's got a good point to raise. If there is a cause, we know someone is behind the cause, as in the First Mover principle that says Someone has to get the ball rolling, i.e., the initiation of the Universe requires a Prime Mover. More to the point, if humans are improving, there is a good reason to believe this is so. We are all created in the image of God. Even atheists are. Therefore, we all have the desire for goodness to prevail, instinctually if you will, because of the nature of our makeup, being created by God with a godlike mind.
And, morals, which is what Shermer claims he knows are improving because of science, are not based in a vacuum or a lab. Universal morals point to a Moral Law giver.