Friday, July 14, 2017

Culpably Ignorant? In a deterministic universe?

I presented some arguments on Debunking Christianity a few weeks back and got identified as the 
Gullible Person of the day. Since I consider it a major step toward an unproductive discussion when the focus of discussions switch from subject matter to the intellectual viability of persons. I interact in the blogosphere under my own name, and my institutional affiliations are also known, so I find it offensive to be attacked personally, not just by Loftus, who also writes under his own name, but many of his commenters, who write under pseudonyms. Which is why, for the most part, I now avoid his site. 

But he said it was nothing personal against me. Well, why isn't it personal, I asked. He said it had nothing to do with my likability as a person, but as a Christian apologist I was culpably ignorant.. 

The attitude here seems typical amongst atheists. They act as if it is our fault that we believe what they consider to be nonsense, since we exercise faith and don't apportion our beliefs to the evidence and recognize the evidential vacuity of Christianity. They are moralistic about rationality, as is explained here.

But can they really say that we are culpably ignorant? On their own view, evolution spit some of us up as atheists, and others as Christians.. And deterministic brain processes determined that he should lose his faith and I keep mine. No one could possibly be culpable.

Consider Richard Dawkins

But doesn't a truly scientific, mechanistic view of the nervous system make nonsense of the very idea of responsibility, whether diminished or not? Any crime, however heinous, is in principle to be blamed on antecedent conditions acting through the accused's physiology, heredity and environment. Don't judicial hearings to decide questions of blame or diminished responsibility make as little sense for a faulty man as for a Fawlty car?

Now, surely it would be inconsistent to apply Dawkins' logic to murderers but not to Christians. 

Jerry Coyne is also an opponent of moral responsibility.

Sorry, atheists, but on your own view, everyone is doing what they have to do. You can't blame us believers from believing in God, even if we were delusional. (Which we're not, but that's the other debate). 


StardustyPsyche said...

"But doesn't a truly scientific, mechanistic view of the nervous system make nonsense of the very idea of responsibility, whether diminished or not?"
--Ultimately, yes.

Is it the fault of the wildfire that the house burned down killing its occupants? Obviously not.

Since we are simply complex deterministic mechanisms there is only 1 thing we can do, which is the thing we actually do.

"Sorry, atheists, but on your own view, everyone is doing what they have to do. You can't blame us believers from believing in God, even if we were delusional."
--There but for the grace of God go I.
--Let he among you who is without sin cast the first stone.


StardustyPsyche said...

Determinism is, I think, the case.

Determinism acts on the most fundamental level, whatever is below the quark/electron/neutrino/photon level. Humans have no capacity to analyze a transfer function from that level to human behavior, and there is no reason to suspect we ever will.

To function we must employ the senses using the brain. Many flaws in this senses/brain/motor system have been identified, but in my view they are basically reliable and science can work to control for those flaws.

So, we function as a social species, each from our own point of view, taking in information, processing it, and acting upon our brain signals. Our perceptual level is many stages removed from the deterministic level that ultimately drives our thoughts and actions.

The notions of responsibility and blame are emotions and social constructs, like our sense of ought, and all the rest we all (presumably) experience in basically the same way.

We assign responsibility as a social construct, to influence behavior, through negative and positive consequences.

You are to "blame" for being a theist because you have a demonstrated capacity to reason and therefore you "ought" to be able to identify the flaws in your arguments instead of merely repeating them, thereby spreading your filthy ignorance and totally screwing up my life by dragging us into a hellish medieval existence (ok, that was a bit harsh and perhaps overwrought, but I am kinda mad at the red state folks right now for putting the most destructive president in history into office).

I had you going there for a second there though, right? I mean, the strident vitriol was kind of believable on some level, right?

That's why I have grown to kind of like Sean Carrol. His is pretty chill and not a hater at all.

Yes, on determinism there is no ultimate universal objective fault even for the most vicious criminal since on determinism he was simply doing the only thing he could do.

So on determinism the only thing I can do is hire somebody to put him in a cage. To influence criminals against making those choices we construct an organized system of laws that is reflective of our personal sensibilities, our emotional senses of responsibility and blame...right and wrong...our sense of ought.

Beyond the law we function similarly in social settings, and in that context, yes, we atheists do blame theists, most especially the highly educated theists, for not recognizing the faulty reasoning of their positions, and perpetuating what we atheists view as harmful social effects.

Victor Reppert said...

Even though it isn't true, and you know that your own position entails that it is not our fault, and that nothing is anybody's fault.

This really shifts us over to a pragmatic theory of truth. What is true is not what corresponds to reality, what is real is what works in society. But then, you have to apply that logic to the God question as well as the question of blameworthiness. And then you can't argue with people who say that, regardless of the evidence, we have to go with what works for us, and that is belief in God.

What would you say to people, for example, who say that if there is no life beyond this one, there is really no hope for human existence, and it is vain to continue. In answering this question, it is important to realize that many of us are members of the educated class, and our lives probably have more creature comforts than most people in the world have. Most people cannot afford to be part of the great brave new world of science or philosophy like Dawkins or Dennett. Can you really object to people who say, quite honestly, that they believe in God because it makes them happy? What are you going to give them, some altruistic argument?