Sunday, July 22, 2007

Mike S. Adams on morality: A Lesson in supporting speculation with speculation

One of the worst intellectual habits one can develop is justifying one's speculation with more speculation. For example, I once had an old girlfriend claim that my friends got sick all the time, and when asked for an example, pointed to a friend with a naturaly pallid color who never got sick. "Well, he looks like he's sick all the time." It is important to get actual data when validating our theories. It's the only way to keep ourselves honest and catch our mistakes.

On the other hand, if you are one of the righteous, you need not worry about mistakes, and that leads us to Mike S. Adams. In his latest article about morality and the gods, he commits the mistake of supporting his speculation with speculation. The reason is obvious: he can;t justify his bizarre views of the world with actual data, so he must use the MSU method: Making Shit Up.

We start with Mike having a chat with his friend Scott:

"Scott told me he had raised his kids in the church and believed in God although he had not been to church regularly in a number of years. He said he felt no guilt over his absence from church. After all, it was a weekend business that kept him from attending. And, besides that, he said he was leading a “moral life” without going to church.

Immediately, I asked myself the crucial question: “How does one know he lives a moral life if he does not ever attend church?” I also thought about some other people I had known who thought their lives were moral either without church or without God altogether.

Ah, the old you-can't-be-moral-if-you-are-an-atheist canard. Here's as great an example of idle speculation trumping actual data as one can find. The world is full of people who do not believe in gods behaving in a manner morally indistinguishable from those who do believe. Millions and millions of them in America alone. They are your teacher and your lawyer and your milkman. Yet people like Mike Adams stand in the middle of this virtual ocean of moral nonbelievers and bellow a mighty "Nuh UH!". A man who spent a lot of time at the airport claiming that heavier-than-air flight is impossible would be locked away for his own protection. Yet people arguing with moral atheists that atheists can't be moral are considered reasonable. It boggles the mind.

But Mike does this one better, claiming you can't even be moral as a believer unless you attend church. Fine Mike, then answer these questions this 7 year old asked of his Catholic church leaders and was never properly answered:

If God is everywhere, why can't I pray to him in my bedroom as easily as I can in church?

If God's law is unchanging, and evident everywhere, then why do you keep having to go back to learn what it is?

I won't wait up.

"One was an atheist I dated in college when I was also an atheist. When asked about God she would frankly tell people “I don’t believe in all that s**t. But if there is a God, I will be saved because of my willingness to help others in need.” To her credit, she did help others in need. In fact, she gave her friend $400 when she became pregnant unexpectedly and “needed” an abortion.

"I used to be an atheist" is a common refrain from the newly reborn, but it usually doesn't hold water and Adams is no exception. If someone claimed to be a Christian, but didn't know who Jesus was, and was surprised to hear Christians thought the Bible was the word of God, would you not be suspicious? Likewise with all these supposed former atheists. The representation they give of their former atheism is not atheism any atheist recognizes. They were angry at God, and rebellious against God. We don't think there are any gods with whom to fight.

And what is it with conservative columnists and using "scare" quotes seemingly at "random"? The girl needed an abortion. Not for pretend, not symbolically, for real. No scare quotes "needed".

"Interestingly, my atheist girlfriend claimed to have been a victim of moral wrongdoing when her friend refused to pay her back after the abortion."

What is Adams' point here? I suppose he could be saying that when she gave the money, if it had really been a loan, his girlfriend should have made that clearer up front. My money says he is implying an atheist can't be a victim of moral wrongdoing, which, frankly, would make Adams' a very immoral person. The reciprical benefits of a system where people pay back their debts should be obvious. No fear of divine retribution needed.

But enough of the blinkered denial of facts and the trip down fallacy lane, let's get right to the speculation piled on top of speculation:

"It would be years later – after I converted to Christianity – that I realized why her friend never paid her back. She was doing everything she could to forget about the abortion. And she resented my girlfriend for funding the biggest mistake of her life."

Notice there is not one fact mentioned here. How does Adams know any of this? He doesn't mention talking to the girl. He simply Made Shit Up because it fit with his newfound Christian speculations of how human psychology, and never bothered to check and see if he was right. He just speculated that he was.

To make matters worse, his speculation doesn't even make any sense. If the poor girl wanted to forget the whole affair, having someone hounding her about a loan isn't the way to do it. More likely she simply wasn't a responsibe person. For all Adams knows the girl paid the loan back since, and was grateful to her friend for helping her in need and making her life a happy one. Such are the possibilities one misses when one substitutes speculation for facts.

Adams then goes into a barely coherent anecdote about a another friend who lived according to the principle of helping others, and she spent a lot of time counseling gay teens. What the point of this is is anyone's guess, as is Adam's next comment:

"This notion of giving both emotional and monetary support to a neighbor only with regard to the recipient’s will is precisely why man needs church to lead a moral life. I am tempted to ask some of these indiscriminant do-gooders whether they would loan Charles Manson a knife under the principle of always helping a fellow human in need. "

Uh, no they probably wouldn't. People who talk about helping people in need don't mean regardless of context, as should be obvious. This is the argumentation level of a 12-year-old looking to get a GOTCHA moment. And what in the world does it have to do with attending church? Only Adams knows.

I cannot bring myself to review the rest of Adam's article. Suffice it to say I found it completely unreadable and pointless. Is Townhall so desperate for columnists that they can do no better than this?

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