Monday, July 18, 2011

Dr. Sam Harris: Atheist Morality - Part 2

Dr. Sam Harris thinks that secularists and atheists should be able to establish a "universal moral framework" - based on consensus that "the worst possible misery for everyone is bad."  This moral framework would work for the "greatest possible well being of conscious creatures."

At first blush this sounds reasonable.  And that is exactly what Harris thinks it should be... a product of reason and not religion.  But take a second look at this objective and see that it doesn't really have any foundation.  There is no hook to hang it on.  There is no fulcrum to give leverage to his rationality.

Harris is an atheist who espouses naturalism (no supernatural) and materialism (the material universe is all there is.)  According to these presuppositions, everything that exists is a meaningless accident of natural laws at work.  Laws of chemistry and physics governed the contraction and expansion of the materials of the universe that over the course of time resulted in the present order of things.  Life is an accident of nature - not designed - without purpose or meaning.

In such an accidental, meaningless and purposeless world, nothing is bad or good - it just IS.  Every event, every action, every reaction is simply the continuation of the laws of chemistry and physics as the purely material world moves through time.  Gravity pulls one or another galaxy into the vortex of a black hole.  The chemical reactions of one person's brain results in rape and murder.  The chemical reactions in another person's brain results in healing and nurture.  Life and behavior are random.  Nothing is good or bad - it just is.

In that philosophical context, what is the basis for considering anything - life, death, pain, pleasure, etc. - as morally good or bad?  Why would the well being of conscious creatures be good, but the suffering of conscious creatures be bad?  What if the well being of some conscious creatures was improved by the suffering or destruction of other conscious creatures?  What if Sam Harris decides that it is good to end the "suffering" of conscious creatures who don't share his view of the universe?

Although Harris claims he wants right and wrong to really mean something, he has no objective purpose or value in the universe on which to base that meaning.  He is left with his purely subjective feelings which (according to his worldview) are accidents of nature and are in no way superior to the worst examples he cites of child rapists, radical Islamists, etc.


Anonymous said...

And the objective 'hook' upon which you base your morality is a god for which no evidence whatsoever exists (one of 3800 gods for which no evidence exists) but who, according to your bible, believes repeated genocide is justifiable.

Pastor D said...

It is your opinion that there is "no evidence whatsoever" for a Creator God. Many millions of us see plenty of evidence and are confident that He does exist. As for railing against God for genocide there is a larger context to consider - including the fact that our lives belong to our Creator who gave us life - that death is the just penalty for sin - and that God's relationship with people reaches beyond their death.
Issues of life and death are God's prerogative like they can never be man's.

But if you embrace atheism there is no rational basis for declaring anything good or bad and that is not lost on people trying to live according to atheist teachings. Witness the atheist regimes of the twentieth century alone.