Good Question

At the dinner, my friend said he admired a book I didn’t like, so I sent him a copy of a review of the book I’d written. The review tipped my friend off that I was a Christian.

His response made clear that he wasn’t. He wrote, “No metaphysics are needed in my cosmos, thanks.” Although he respected his religious friends, his own views were “close to the occasionally strident and at times rude Brother Dawkins [Richard Dawkins, the author of The God Delusion].” He noted, “We shall have some heavy lifting as workout buddies, you and I.”

I replied that a discussion of our religious differences probably would work better in a barroom than in an email exchange. “We could pretend to be college freshmen again, and it could be fun.” But my friend was not to be put off. He insisted that he had no need to “Godify the unknown or alleged unknowable.”

My new pen pal had sent me some of his writing about Acadia National Park. It spoke of “the profound responsibility of our consciousness: to use our understanding of nature to guide our conduct within nature,” and it added, “In this bloom of space-time, human reason can try to understand the development of all matter, from stars and galaxies to our own planet, fellow creatures, home island, and selves. It is our nature and duty to do so.”

I told him I agreed with these sentiments, but I wondered just why we had a duty to use our capacities for the various purposes he mentioned or, indeed, for any purpose at all.

I made it a multiple-choice question:

A) I made these duties up. If I hadn’t, they wouldn’t exist.

B) My culture made them up. I’m just a product of my culture.

C) These duties proceed from a source outside myself and my culture.

Some weeks after I posed my question, my friend apologized for not answering it. He asked me to stay tuned and promised, “I’ll give you a fair if not satisfying (for you) response to your multiple choice question—re-posed as I wish.”

But he never did.

– From HERE

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7 Responses to Good Question

  1. whiskeybucks says:

    How does one have “no” metaphysics?

  2. Kevin says:

    By not thinking.

  3. The original Mr. X says:

    It really is strange how many atheists seem to view their own lack of intellectual curiosity as something to be proud of. “No metaphysics are needed,” forsooth!

  4. Peter says:

    It seems he could have answered D: our nature as human beings demands it.
    That would be more or less acceptable to most theological persuasions or the lack of them. You don’t need to believe in a God to think that, but it helps.
    Not sure how you would get there without some metaphysics though.

  5. TFBW says:

    Peter, that would be a “C” answer, but it doesn’t really progress the explanation: it just replaces a “duty” of mysterious provenance with a “nature” of mysterious provenance. As such, it raises exactly the same question: why does our nature as human beings demand these duties? Is this nature something that (a) you impose on humanity, (b) that society imposes on humanity, or (c) something that derives from some other source outside yourself and your culture?

    I suppose that you can always argue that (d) it’s a brute fact, not derived from any other source, but there arises the question of how one knows it to be a brute fact (preferably in a manner which allows it to be distinguished from “you’re making it up”), and how the existence of such a fact squares with a materialist model of the universe (in which humans are just another arrangement of atoms). How does a particular arrangement of atoms produce a “nature” with “duties”? What “nature” can anything have other than conformance with the laws of physics, and how can that nature possibly support “duty” of any kind?

  6. Ratheist says:

    C) Doesn’t answer anything. It just moves the question the subjective notions of another.

  7. Isaac says:

    Atheists routinely demonstrate their unwillingness to be curious intellectually, whenever they repeat Hitchens’ old canard that theism is “without evidence” and therefore “can be dismissed without evidence.”

    The established facts that 1. Humans seem “hardwired” for religion, 2. Cultures ubiquitously accept theism unless indoctrinated otherwise, 3. Individuals tend to revert to theism as a default value even when indoctrinated otherwise, and 4. The universe presents a very convincing “appearance of design” should make all but the most proudly, stubbornly ignorant dullard curious about seriously exploring theism.

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