Check this out:
OK, fine. As folks over at Dreher quickly pointed out,
the dare is easily met. Poster Aaron Gross:
“I think Damon Linker’s dare is just silly. He says that we’re moved by events like that because they instantiate some Platonic idea of divine love, which is supposedly the real object of our admiration. But why couldn’t we be moved just by the event itself? That’s certainly how it feels to us.
“As for why: A culture that doesn’t valorize self-sacrifice, in child-rearing just as in war, probably won’t survive very long. Therefore it’s not surprising that an existing culture would support these kinds of feelings. There might – repeat, might – be a Darwinian cause as well. I’m sure you’ll get comments about sociobiology and Hamilton’s Rule. But even a purely cultural explanation suffices to answer that silly dare.”
“We love our kids and feel pain / suffering visited upon them as being worse than pain inflicted upon ourselves. We will do anything to save their lives, including die for them. An atheist parent in the same circumstance would have been equally likely as a religious parent to do the same thing.
“’Dare’ met in ten seconds, though it read more to me like Linker was just trolling.”
Linker claims, the boy’s Down’s Syndrome makes an evolutionary biology answer inapplicable (“…as someone with Down syndrome, Vander Woude’s son is probably sterile and possesses defective genes that, judged from a purely evolutionary standpoint, deserve to die off anyway.”) But sociobiology doesn’t work that way. What is “selected for” is the desire to save your child’s life. And that desire operates at a deep, unconscious level. The “Darwinian” explanation is NOT that Dad sits back and contemplates the likelihood of his genes going forward in terms of the kid in jeopardy, or whether that kid is “defective” in the first place. No, the bio argument is that we are “programmed” to love our kids generally by genetics, and so we do so, in pretty much all instances, in a way that we would describe as “instinctive.” The “rule” works en masse, even if a particular example doesn’t vindicate the purpose of the rule. In general, Dads who value their kids lives will have their genes passed on more so than Dads who don’t. Whether a sacrifice in one case helps make that happen or not is irrelevant. Dad in this case was a product of thousands of generations that led to his sacrifice. If it so happens that his “line” ends in the near future (assuming he has no other kids and that the Down’s Syndrome boy does not reproduce), so what? That hardly disproves the bio rationale, either tout court or even in his case.
And, as the poster Gross mentions, the cultural explanation is sufficient anyway. Folks love their kids. Whether that has a bio basis or not, it is the “rule” of our and most cultures. And, again, it does not depend on the kid being a genius or even “normal.”
But all of that is actually prologue, to me. Of course Linker’s understanding of evo bio is idiotic, childish, simplistic, and grossly uninformed. As is his understanding of the cultural explanation.
My question is why bother? If you want to make his Romantic, fantastic argument about “glimpses” of heaven, and how acts of altruism, like art and music and so forth can provide for those visions, fine. Go for it. Frankly, I don’t much care. Not because it isn’t BS, if it is meant as a serious argument for the existence of any deity or a particular deity, because it is BS. But, meh, there is a lot of BS in the world, and God boys are hardly the only purveyors of it.
No, my beef is why, as TTT puts it, the trolling? Why put the recitation of this story, which could have stood on its own, or as a nice, Christian story (even though, again, it is not actually persuasive), in terms of a “dare” to atheists? Even assuming this Linker fellow is too stupid to understand that his claims about the evo argument are first order moronic, and that he is just too ignorant to not overlook the completely satisfactory cultural argument as well, why the impulse to get in atheists’ faces to begin with? OK, he admits that an atheist could just as easily have done the deed in question, but he “dares” atheists to explain it.
Is he just half smart? Is that the answer? Smart enough to frame the issue and try to use it against atheists, but too dumb to realize that the answer to his question is an easy one? Or is it some compulsion, some scab picking desire on the part of certain God botherers? They can’t leave it alone. No, it must always be the case that atheists are missing out on something, and are somehow less than human therefor. Or, even if they are not missing out, it is because they are piggy backing unfairly on the very religion they purport to deny. Which then leads, inevitably, to the contradictory assertion that atheism is a religion. So, on the one hand, atheists are less than fully human because they don’t acknowledge anything greater than themselves (goes the claim), but on the other hand they do actually believe in something greater than themselves, and that something is either traditional religion in disguise (the piggybacking claim) or some other “religion.”
Strange, or maybe not, that he should do so this time of year, too. Perhaps the dodge viz a viz the timing is the old Christian tactic of start the conversation by saying something nasty, or, at least, challenging, about atheists. Then, when atheists respond in defense, accuse them of being “angry,” and of wanting to persecute Christians, and attributing those evil desires to their not having “made peace with God” and so on. And, best of all, when they play this game during “Holy Week,” they get the added benefit of falling back on “Must you be this way this week, of all weeks? Can’t you atheists let us poor Christians have this one week without your meanness?”