Field of Science

Clash of the Titans, or something similar anyway

Can we be good without god?

This just came to my attention and I am sorry to say with the late notice I cannot attend. If anyone is able to attend I would enjoy hearing how it turns out.

7 comments:

Rose Tyler said...

I went to it. I'll leave a more substantial comment tomorrow. :)

*passes out*

The Lorax said...

I look forward to your synopsis, after you are rested of course.

"Who turned off the shaker?" said...

This is what I get for not going to your blog for a few days. I would have gone to that, but didn't hear about it in time. I'd love to hear the summary as well!

Rose Tyler said...

Since it took place in Willey Hall, there was an approximate seating capacity of 1000. Needless to say- there still weren't enough seats and people were sitting in the aisles (a fire hazard) and on the floor at the front. Based on the sound of applause, it appeared to be from 2/3-3/4 Christian and 1/4-1/3 atheist at best.

I'm an atheist, but I found Barker not to be at the top of his game. For one thing he was arguing that morality is genetically based and evolutionarily advantageous (it sounded a lot like evolutionary psychology to me, and I'm no expert, but I've heard evolutionary psychology isn't the most accurate thing ever). Through out his opening statement and rebuttal he maintained that the ability to do good was genetic.

Then during the Q and A session he almost reversed himself during the question, "If the desire to do good is genetically programmed (RE: we can't help but do good because our genes say so) then what about evil? Is the ability to do evil genetically coded so people who do evil don't really control their evil impulses and are therefore not responsible for their actions?" He goes on to say that no, nature is amoral, good and evil are not in genes, good and evil are human constructs and that morality is the value judgment in the mind.

I think the reason Barker had trouble with this was because he was trying to use evolutionary psychology, which is (from what I've gathered, and please do correct me if I'm wrong) rather new and not well studied- so while there are hints of a genetic basis of altruism, we still don't know *why* or *how* it works (yet)- so he gets tripped up because I don't think he even really understands evolutionary psychology that well.

D'Souza on the other hand butchered science a bit by saying it's "faith-based" on these propositions:

"1) We live in a rational universe
2) We live in a lawful universe
3) We are able to deduce the laws and stuff with our reasoning abilities (or something, he wasn't very clear with that last point)."

He goes on to ask how does the rationality in our mind match the physical world? Why do we have the rationality to figure out things like Keppler's Law.

For one thing, yeah, I may be a mere microbiology undergrad, but in all my time in school, I've never heard that the universe is inherently "rational" or "lawful" and to me, making such conjectures smacks of over-applying human concepts to a non-human entity (not the best descriptor, but I wasn't sure some variation of "anthropomorphism" would be correct here).

And the idea that the only reason we are able to reasonably deduce "laws" about the universe is because we universalize the results of our studying the natural world because we inherently know it is true because God gave us that rationality (or something). He described that last bit really poorly so I'm having trouble verbalizing what exactly he was trying to say. He doesn't even consider that our ability to generalize and stereotype are not "god-given" but a coping mechanism for survival and a demonstration of how humans use heuristics to ease perception (at least, that's how a similar idea was described in my cognitive psych class I took last semester). I doesn't have to be "goddidit" but he didn't even acknowledge that.

There was a problem with both D'Souza and Barker that seemed to me that they were talking past each other. For example Barker continually stated that D'Souza was not "connecting the dots" between the virtues of Christianity that he was praising and the Bible- where said virtues allegedly came from (ie the idea that Christianity lead to the downfall of slavery, equality of women, compassion, etc).

I think the reason D'Souza rarely used the Bible to back up what he said is because he's Catholic. Catholics don't really use the Bible as the "literal" word of God but still the word of God. Catholics very rarely quote scripture in defending their theology. To me, they seem to extrapolate FROM the Bible to get their theology and morality. On the other hand, Barker was a Protestant and Protestants tend to be sola scriptura and heavily rely on scripture to defend their theology.

However, I think Barker made a good point in pointing out that D'Souza never backed up what he said with the Bible when extolling the wonders of Christianity, because the things D'Souza was praising aren't in the Bible at all, but came from elsewhere (where, I'm not sure, I haven't taken the time to think about it- and I'm speaking culturally...where the ideas of compassion, slavery-being-bad, and women-are-equal come from because that stuff isn't in the Bible so Goddidn'tdoit).

But yeah, neither side was particularly convincing and they both definitely hammered their points home to their respective audiences but not so much to the opposite audiences, which probably isn't the real intent of these "debates". :)

The Lorax said...

Meh, you didnt miss anything Shake. I found out about the debate about 8 hours before it occurred.

Thanks for the synopsis Rose. Based on your take on it, Im glad I didnt take the time to go. Sounds like a fairly superficial debate, which I can get from my neighbors, and it doesnt require the driving time.

"Who turned off the shaker?" said...

That's too bad. I really feel like I could do a better job in debates on a few topics than the so called "experts"...but not being "anyone" myself no one seems to care what my opinion is. Oh well, maybe one day.

"Who turned off the shaker?" said...

CHECK THIS OUT: I think that this event will be right up your alley. Here's the link (I think): http://lifesci.consortium.umn.edu/news_and_events/events.php?id=279