Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Why Atheism is a Dead End


A great debate has raged since the Deists of the Enlightenment first lost their ground to the greater and more intellectual class, the Atheist.  The great Atheist has all but replaced the Deist, and has freed himself of the the dark age superstition and frivolous celebration of the Theist, particularly the worst of all Theists, the Christian.  This debate has always been focused on the existence, or lack there of, of God.  Though there are those who are apathetic to this debate, anyone involved in it will tell you that the question of God's existence is perhaps the single most important question in all of human history.  I find however, that Atheists, in their proposal on the topic, align themselves quite oddly.  Almost all of the atheists in our present age belong to a certain, and very peculiar, school of philosophy.  More often than not they do not know that they belong to this group, but they are all the same a part of it.So, the atheists of the internet are now rather suspicious, and rightfully so.


You, my very esteemed colleagues are what is referred to in philosophy as "Naturalists."  So, what does the naturalist, and thus the atheist, believe?  Well, first and foremost, that there is no God, and that matter and energy are eternal, and the only true reality.  They also believe in a closed (that is free from any "other-worldly" interference) system of cause and effect which is the principle of all interaction in the universe.  Naturalists believe that life came to be through a multitude of astronomically improbable coincidences.  They do not believe in objective moral duties as, in a system of pure cause and effect, morality exists only for survival and comfort.  Conscious life is simply a part of the evolutionary system, and mankind, like all organisms, is driven by the programming of their genes and surroundings, to quote Richard Dawkins we "dance to our DNA."

And so, we have it; the Atheist (at least the rational, typical, intellectual atheist) is a Naturalist.  With this, they can all just live in a nice, quaint, little society.  They can have their naturalism, their empiricism, their love for science, and best of all, their lack of objective moral norms.  Thus, the Atheist can live happily ever after.  Right?

"lololol, nope."
Enter Fredrich Nietzsche, renowned 19th century philosopher and outspoken atheist, and enter the peculiarity of the Naturalist.

Although Nietzsche agrees with the Naturalist in all accounts, he looks at the Naturalist with a mix of utter contempt and amusement.  Starting with the assumptions of the Naturalist, Nietzsche begs the question; if God is dead, what do we do?  This is a very rational question, as God has for some two thousand years been the center of Western Civilization, and with a real acceptance of his non-existence, we cannot simply go about our lives as we had beforehand. He also establishes a few other logical conclusions from Naturalism.

First, if we are to truly believe that the universe is a closed system of cause and effect, as Naturalism says it is, then we must realize that this means there is no such thing as choice.  All decisions that any of us make, are simply imagined choice, and are really just unrecognized determinism.  I'm sure there's now an angry mob forming, but here me out.

If the universe is actually nothing more than a closed system of cause and effect, then we have accept that all events are just part of this grand machinery of cause and effect.  And even if there is any chance in the universe, which there isn't, it's still, by virtue of there being no God, completely uncaring and unfeeling.  The universe doesn't care, all of mankind's actions are meaningless and existence is just happening like clockwork.

Our second problem is a moral one.  If there is no such thing as objective moral standards, then all value is either a fact of nature or a result of culture (we're going to ignore the fact that claiming it to be a result of culture just pushes the fact of objective moral standards back a few generations for right now).  If this is true, then we have no means by which to define the morality of an action, because to do one action, instead of another, is to set a higher objective value on that action than the other, which is counter-productive to the idea of moral relativity.

And finally, the great dagger to the heart of all empiricism.  If there is no God, and man is nothing more than an inextricably complex biological machine, then so is his mind.  If the mind is just a machine, then thought, which it produces, is merely an extension of cause and effect.  Thoughts are nothing more than electric impulses and chemicals firing in the brain.  We are left, in the absence of God, without any objective reference point for truth.  If this is true, then we can have no trust for our perceptions of physical reality.  There is no justifiable difference between reality and illusion.
"Oui."
Thus the atheist is left with quite a predicament; world and those around him, and there is nothing he can do to change.   The Atheist, in his Naturalism, now must face the looming reality that he is in fact a Nihilist.  He is completely alienated from the all of reality, if he is even perceiving a true reality.  Alienated from everything and everyone; he may be free from the shackles of Theism, but he is left alone in the Universe, and lost in the Cosmos.

6 comments:

  1. I know your post is a tad old, but I came across it after a friend linked to your blog on FB. I'd like to say first that I think your blog is very entertaining and intelligently written. Second, as an agnostic, I predictably disagree with a number of things you say. However, since your blog actually presents reasoned arguments, I thought I'd post some of my objections to see what you have to say about them. Thanks in advance for reading.

    0) I should say first that I am not a philosopher, so I apologize for any errors in that area. I am a systems biologist.

    1) Your statement as to what naturalists believe contains the sentence "Naturalists believe that life came to be through a multitude of astronomically improbable coincidences." I assume here that you are speaking of abiogenesis as the astronomically improbable occurrence. It is far from clear that this admittedly poorly-understood phenomenon is actually that improbable. Now, you may reasonably ask "if it isn't improbable, why doesn't it happen today?" I think the answer to that may have to do with the nature of proto-life, which in all likelihood was based on a material called RNA (apologies if you already know this). Our world today is literally covered in resilient proteins called RNases which destroy any RNA that happens to be laying around. Presumably, this would be a strong inhibitor of abiogenesis.

    2) Of course, our behavior is determined by a complex interaction between DNA, its regulators, our experiences, and the processing systems of the brain. Is there chance involved here? Quite possibly- naturalism does not necessarily need determinism. At the molecular level, much of biology is stochastic- that is, there is actually a good deal of "chance" involved. When we say that a receptor is inactive, for instance, we actually mean that it is merely *unlikely* for it to be active.
    Some of these stochastic elements appear to vanish at the organism level (as with ion channels), others may remain quite important (as with gene expression). Either way, there may be chance, and it doesn't disrupt naturalism.

    3) Is it cold and unfeeling? I guess so. I'll admit that looking at crystal structures of protein kinases, I discern virtually no emotion behind the entities (though I personally find them to be fascinating). There is no emotion, as far as we can tell, behind the molecular foundation of life. But so what? Even if it's sad, we can't dismiss what's true because it's sad.

    4) One can derive morality without supernatural entities, though I concede that this is not an area of strong expertise on my part. I think the ultimate origin of morality in general is as an evolutionary tool for forming societies, which we need to do in order to survive as a species.

    5) Do we need an objective reference point? We can conclude that science actually works (no need to go into the examples), and armed with that empirical evidence, is there anything else we need? Suppose we are living inescapably and undetectably in the matrix- well, so what? Empirical investigation has been shown empirically to work. Functionally, though maybe not philosophically, we can say that we are perceiving reality correctly because we are perceiving it independently and similarly.

    6) I'm not alone at all. I don't actually know what supernatural things, if any, are out there (hence being an agnostic), but I have my friends and family. We have each other. We're all going through this same experience together. And by realizing that, and working together, we can achieve truly amazing things- maybe including understand what is actually happening in this crazy universe.

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    Replies
    1. You've raised a lot of interesting questions that I had intended to write on as an addition to this post, but just got too lazy to work on them. Since there is an interest in these questions, I'd like to answer them. However, the amount of writing necessary to properly address these issues isn't really appropriate for a com-box, so instead I'll make it a point to write a few posts to respond to your comments.

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  2. SCIENTISMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  5. An influx of vitriolic and visceral volunteers to exemplify this is expected in due course:

    "There are many problems in philosophy such as the problem of evil, the problem of miracles, the problem of historical knowledge, the problem of what there is (Quine), the Gettier problem, and several others in various fields. However, I’ve noticed a problem with the ‘internet atheist’ community.

    Before I continue I want to give a general indication for what I mean by an internet atheist, which can include several agnostics as well. An internet atheist will have certain giveaways such as: trolling, one who cites Richard Dawkins as a philosophical champion, appeals to the tactics of PZ Myers (anyone who reads PZ Myers and is quite aware of logic, fallacies, and social etiquette may suffer from face-palm syndrome–the problem of excessive disappointment resulting in the face resting on one’s palm followed by a deep sigh), being completely oblivious of opposing views, as well as the following properties…

    ..The vast majority of internet atheists rest comfortably behind the veil of anonymity. This gives them the perceived freedom to say whatever they want. Being anonymous has its tactical advantages for trolling but not much profits from it. I understand if someone keeps their identity anonymous because if their material were linked to them it would create a problem in the offline world. That’s understandable. However, I seriously doubt that’s the case with internet atheists. This also allows for profane, vulgar, insensitive, vociferous, visceral, instinctual, emotional, and clamorous language..

    ..When in dialogue with an internet atheist, they have the habit of ignoring pertinent issues and specific questions posed towards them. Instead of giving meaningful, irenic responses they’ll focus on some detail that’s got hardly anything to do with the thesis of the discussion. This inevitably results in not reading the actual argument being made or spending their time building a straw man from scratch straight from the farmer’s field."

    Read the entire article here: http://sententias.org/2012/11/01/the-problem-of-internet-atheists/

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