Tolerance meant civil disagreement, rather than thinking that contradictory views can be valid.
Rights involved what others shouldn’t be allowed to do to you, rather than what they should be required to do for you.
Art was the aesthetically pleasing product of creative talent, rather than someone with two thumbs trying to make a shocking statement.
History was something you learned about in order to understand the present and improve the future, rather than something you redacted in order to support your ideology.
“Evolution by natural selection is one of the best ideas in all of science. It predicts and explains an incredibly wide range of biological facts.” So says a Wall Street Journal article, which ponders how we can teach children this “fact” and drive out of their little heads the mistaken intuition that biology is the product of design. It claims that so many people reject evolutionary theory simply because they don’t understand it, and suggests that we should remedy this by attempting to “reach children with the right theory before the wrong one is too firmly in place.”
Contrary to popular belief, many in the Intelligent Design community agree that we should teach evolutionary theory. If it is a theory in play within the scientific community, then it deserves to have a hearing. Even if it stopped being “consensus” science, then we should still teach it as a historical artifact, as astronomers do with the Steady State and Oscillating Universe theories. But if we’re going to teach it, then we should teach the whole thing, warts and all.
Provocative statement? Sure. But let me prove to you that it is necessarily true.
I’ve followed astronomy and cosmology for over three decades. In that time I’ve seen many discussions on the origin of the universe and its remarkable design. One of the things that has been increasingly revealed and noticed is that the universe seems to be fine-tuned for the existence of life. Not just “life as we know it,” but any life. In fact, fune-tuned for any complex molecules or objects at all. It has been noted that if any of the forces or constants of physics were tweaked up or down (often in even fractional ways) it would have a dramatic impact on the entire universe. We could get a universe that has no light elements, or one with no heavy elements. We could get one infested with black holes, or one with few stars. We could get one that is filled with nothing but diffuse hydrogen gas, or one that collapsed back upon itself before anything interesting happens.
As you might imagine, there has been quite a bit of reaction to these “anthropic coincidences,” some in book-length treatments(1). What is most interesting is to see what atheists do with this information after admitting it(2). What does one do with the thought that they live in a universe that is so providential? While some choose to offer flippant non-answers, like, “well you wouldn’t be here to observe it if it hadn’t happened,” many others have offered more creative solutions.
Jesus is a real authoritative guy. Apparently, even what He didn’t say carries weight and defines the moral standards for some people. In support of homosexuality, I often hear that “Jesus never spoke against homosexuality.” Let’s assume that those who say this are not just trying to stop the conversation and let’s unpack it.
What’s the argument?
My first thought is, “so what?” What’s really the argument here? Whenever people make general claims like this I think it’s helpful to break it down into what’s know as a syllogism. Since the point of those who use this argument is clearly to affirm homosexuality in some way, then I think the syllogism must be something like the following.
- Anything Jesus did not speak against is morally permissible
- Jesus did not speak against homosexuality
- Therefore, homosexuality is morally permissible
I have had numerous conversations with non-Christians where the truth of Christianity is dismissed by pointing out its diversity. The charge usually goes something like this: “How can you argue for what is true when you Christians can’t even agree amongst yourselves?” Below is a recent answer I offered for this objection to someone claiming that there were “40,000 Christian sects.”
It should first be pointed out what a “sect” actually is. Applied to Christianity, a “sect” is different than a “denomination.” Denominations share essential beliefs, but differ in non-essentials (e.g., Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, Lutheran). In general, they hold the other denominations to be legitimate expressions of Christianity, and the differences are due to ecclesiastical preferences or conclusions on things not explicitly covered in Scripture. A sect is a group that tends also to share most essential beliefs, but adds some distinctives that they think essential and/or think of themselves as the pure church (e.g., Seventh Day Adventists). Additionally, there are “cults.” These are groups that deny one or more essentials held by all these other groups, usually due to the teachings of some “prophetic” leader, and who usually think of themselves as the true, restored church where others have gone critically astray (e.g., Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christian Science).
Apparently, there’s yet another business in the news that has refused to allow their goods or services to be involved in a same-sex wedding. This time it’s an Indianapolis bakery. In commenting on this story, a Facebook friend of mine, who is a liberal pastor, said the following: “I’ll be sure to tell all my Indiana friends not to patronize these misguided bigots.”
More power to him.
It’s a wonderful society we have that allows us to express our displeasure as consumers and gives us alternate choices. The free market affords us these liberties (imagine if this bakery were a state-sponsored monopoly with “homophobic” operators and the same-sex couple had no more choice about using them than the employees did about providing services). Unfortunately, some wish to support freedom only for those of a like mind.
I recently came across this interesting article on the famous atheist and Darwinian advocate, Richard Dawkins: http://www.richarddawkins.net/news_articles/2013/9/7/the-world-according-to-richard-dawkins-the-times
This is the same Dawkins who teaches that we are the bearer and product of “selfish genes,” whose only concern is replication and survival. In his words, “We are survival machines – robot vehicles blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known as genes.”
With that in mind, it was interesting to see him say this in the article regarding childhood bullying:
“I cannot even begin to imagine how human beings could be so cruel, but to a greater or lesser extent we were, if only through failing to stop it. How could we be so devoid of empathy?”
One of the chief tactics in the advocacy of same-sex marriage legalization is to point out the supposed parallel with interracial marriage bans. I recently had two separate exchanges on the topic and this argument was the centerpiece of the discussion. The argument is basically that discriminating based upon racial preference is really no different than discriminating based upon gender preference, and since we all now agree that interracial marriage is morally acceptable and should be legal, then there is really no moral or legal precedent for denying same-sex marriage.
Perhaps the argument has merit, but it depends upon the premise that race and gender are categorically the same – that two people of the same sex are socially and functionally the same as a man and woman of different races. I’d like to show now that this is a false premise, and that the parallel between race and gender is only superficial and ignores the profound categorical difference between the two.
The late Professor James Rachels was a secular philosopher who dealt with moral issues like animal rights, euthanasia, and Darwinian ethics. I once challenged someone to give me his best arguments in favor of homosexuality and he chose for me a collection of quotes from Rachels. Here are those quotes, along with my replies.
Is homosexuality a threat to society? No. “Apart from the nature of their sexual relationships, there is no difference between homosexuals and heterosexuals in their moral characters or in their contributions to society. The idea that homosexuals are somehow sinister characters proves to be a myth similar to the myth that black people are lazy or that Jews are avaricious.”
In a discussion comparing interracial marriage to same-sex marriage I was challenged with this question:
Please provide a rationale to explain why we should allow bi-racial couples to marry but not same-sex couples.
It is not in the interest of the State to grant privileges, special protections, or legitimacy to same-sex unions any more than for roommates or two sisters living together in retirement. The State only cares about marriage at all because family and reproduction are the foundation upon which the State continues to exist. Heterosexual, bi-racial couples are, by design, intrinsically able to participate in these thing. But same-sex unions are on the periphery of this institution, and cannot even counterfeit it unless they succeed in conscripting the services of the opposite sex (or the product of a heterosexual union). This is not to say that same-sex couples cannot form their own unions apart from the sanctioning of the state, or that they cannot lobby for whatever legal privileges they find attractive.
Read the rest of this entry
Since I seem to be having trouble getting my comments past the moderator, I’ll try posting them here instead.
The following is a reply to this post by Ken Jansen:
“Love the Sinner”…um…Yeah, Don’t Give Me That Crap
I appreciate that this phrase is seen as an annoying cliche (though any suggestion that homosexuality is not to be celebrated turns out to be a source of annoyance), but it actually does express something rational and meaningful to those who use it.
Your illustration of the color red fails to capture something very important to this discussion. Red is not a thing that has properties; red *is* a property. So, if you hate red, then that’s it, there’s nothing else about it to love. A somewhat better analogy would be a red shirt. One might say they love the shirt (its fabric, pattern, quality, etc.) but hate its red color — they like the thing, but dislike something about it.
Read the rest of this entry