Jerry Coyne is right about a couple of things. Namely, that if atheism is true, there is no free will and there is no moral responsibility. But there is no reason to stop there. For example, if atheism is true, there is no such thing as individual rights. If atheism is true, the individual is subservient to the collective. The individual is dispensable, the individual is replaceable, the individual is transient. It is the collective that matters, for it is the collective that functions as the substitute for God in a godless worldview. In other words, the atheist has an insect-like perspective on the world, where each member of the Hive only has meaning and purpose in relationship to the Hive.
Coyne himself provides a nice glimpse of this Hive mindset when defending his attack on moral responsibility. He writes:
That is this: I favor the notion of holding people responsible for good and bad actions, but not morally responsible. That is, people are held accountable for, say, committing a crime,because punishing them simultaneously acts as a deterrent, a device for removing them from society, and a way to get them rehabilitated—if that’s possible…….. That said, all the strictures and punishments I mentioned yesterday still hold, and retributive punishment is still out. But moral responsibility implies free choices, and those don’t exist.
Now someone will ask this: “Why not punish innocent people because that could also serve as a deterrent?” I don’t agree with that because such a strategy is bad for society for two reasons. It removes two of the three justifications for punishment (rehabilitation and removal from society of dangerous elements), and has the additional deleterious effect of making everyone scared that they can be arrested and punished even if they’re completely innocent. That casts a bad pall over society, making everyone paranoid.
Very interesting. “Why not punish innocent people because that could also serve as a deterrent?” I can answer that very easily – Because it is wrong. Because it violates individual rights. Notice it does not even occur to Coyne that such actions would be wrong.
Instead, Coyne’s atheism causes him to seek his answer from the Hive. The only reason not to punish innocent people to serve as a deterrent is because it could hurt the Hive. It’s bad enough that Coyne doesn’t seem to be aware of how wrong it would be to punish innocent people to serve as a deterrent, but consider also that his insect-like approach is rather feeble and becomes a matter of personal opinion.
such a strategy is bad for society for two reasons. It removes two of the three justifications for punishment (rehabilitation and removal from society of dangerous elements),
Is there some rule that says there must be Three Justifications for action within the Hive? I can imagine there are many in the Hive who would be satiated with one justification.
For that matter, one could argue that by punishing innocents, you raise the public profile of certain crimes, making it easier to get funding for the rehabilitation of the non-innocent and making it easier to remove dangerous elements from society.
He also argues:
and has the additional deleterious effect of making everyone scared that they can be arrested and punished even if they’re completely innocent. That casts a bad pall over society, making everyone paranoid.
That would only be true if the Hive somehow publicized that innocents were being punished. What if the Hive became very good at framing selective innocent, individuals to set examples for the rest of the Hive? In other words, Coyne’s insect-like approach could easily slip into this argument: If the Hive was to discreetly and selectively target certain innocents to be framed for crimes in order to serve as a deterrent for those crimes, and the general populace was not aware of this, the Hive would benefit.
In summary, I oppose punishing people for crimes they did not commit because, as a Christian, I think it morally wrong. It would not matter if it benefited the Hive. It is wrong. Coyne, as an atheist, opposes such action only because he imagines it might hurt the Hive. And his argument doesn’t even hold up to the slightest of criticism.