Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Mechanistic Products

Ben Shapiro says that liberals hate religion. This is a promising start, but it leaves him several hundred words shy of a column. Accordingly, he decides to explain why hating religion is a bad thing:

[A]theism precludes the human capability for free will -- without a soul, we are nothing but mechanistic products of genetics and environment -- yet it simultaneously insists on an infinite capability for individual and societal perfection.
Hark to his cold inexorable logic! If there's no soul, there can be no free will, just as surely as there can be no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow if there are no leprechauns.

It's hard to imagine this argument holding water even in the sea-monkey kingdom of Why shouldn't "mechanistic products of genetics and environment" gradually become as "perfect," in their own little way, as snowflakes? For that matter, since perfection is in the eye of the beholder, why couldn't genetics and environment create human beings whose blind hatred of homosexuality would rival that of our most devout conservatives?

I'm able to respect the argument that only a sense of the divine could inspire Purcell's music or Bresson's films; the argument that only a sense of the divine could inspire Paul Cameron to hate teh gays is somewhat less compelling.

Along with "the problem of evil," free will is one of the least interesting topics in philosophy, so I won't bother myself with it...except to say that free will (whatever that is) and determinism (whatever that is) needn't be mutually exclusive, as St. Augustine notes:
By means of liberty it came to pass that man fell into sin; but now the penal depravity consequent on it, instead of liberty, has introduced necessity.
What makes Shapiro really unique - in my experience, anyway - is his apparent belief that the interplay of genetics and environment is simultaneously deterministic (or fatalistic, really) and static:
[Liberal atheism] champions the "natural," while maintaining that nature need not dictate social relations.
Putting aside the fact that he's painting with a brush that's almost as broad as his ignorance, it's odd that he views this is a contradiction. If you accept that nature need not dictate social relations - or more to the point, that nature doesn't forbid social relations from changing over time, deterministically or otherwise - then it's pretty reasonable to champion the "natural" as something evolving, if not malleable.

Whether this process can ever lead to a "utopia" - as Shapiro stupidly claims that all leftists expect it to - is less important than whether it can lead to improvement (e.g., a society that oppresses gays changing into a society that accepts them).

Shapiro also frets about "the substitution of enforced fairness [!] for individual freedom," which is apparently one of atheism's gaudier sins. If this is what liberal fag-coddlers are getting up to on God's good green earth, one can only imagine how they'd act in a world where "deterministic Darwinism" were true, and they were mere "mechanistic products of genetics and environment."

Perhaps his fear is not that a world without his version of God would be savage, but that it wouldn't be savage enough.

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