Do “Darwinists” Really Lack Compassion?

| 39 Comments

By Steven Mahone

David Klinghoffer has exploited the recent national tragedies to insult people he calls “Darwinists,” a term that he incorrectly conflates with callousness, indifference, and atheism. My colleague Steven Mahone was unimpressed by Klinghoffer’s post, penned the following reply, and graciously agreed to share it with our readers.

Update, April 24: Mr Mahone seems to have gotten Mr. Klinghoffer’s attention.

David Klinghoffer of the Discovery Institute is despondent over the recent string of tragic events that have befallen our nation. This despondency is understandable – especially since every mentally healthy person I’ve come across either in person or on social media shares essentially the same sorrow and anguish for those who were affected. Which is why I’m confused as to the intent of Klinghoffer’s recent online article, If Darwinists [sic] won the debate, what would they say to impart comfort, meaning to those in grief? In that article, Klinghoffer seems to imply that it would be a difficult task indeed for anyone who’s not inclined to pre-order the latest “game changing” polemics from his colleagues Berlinski, Meyer, or Luskin, to offer genuine consolation or even a sincere word of encouragement to anyone who is in need. Klinghoffer is convinced that while those cold, heartless, and impersonal men and women of material science might be able to cure the disease, afterwards you’d better not expect anything more than a firm handshake.

Kinghoffer is wrong. He is wrong not because he knows less than anyone else about our human condition but because he doesn’t know any more than anyone else about what it “all means.” If Jerry Coyne (an accomplished molecular geneticist singled out for attack by Klinghoffer) discovered tomorrow that a capital-D designer was solely responsible for every allele, codon, and nucleotide in our genome, he might not change his mind without kicking and screaming, but he’d eventually relent. And guess what? My suspicion is that after the dust settled, Rocky Road would still taste just as sweet for Jerry, and the pain of a lost loved one would still be no less heartbreaking.

On the other hand, should there be no designer and no ultimate explanation beyond what we can grasp and appreciate in the here and now, then I would not be surprised one bit if Klinghoffer still found a way to get his children to school on time, and I doubt that he would be any less concerned for their well-being and happiness than he is right now. Like it or not, that’s the best answer to the question posed in Klinghoffer’s column: Anyone who cares is someone who can comfort. Anyone who has ever been hurt is someone who can offer insight into what it takes to deal with grief. And anyone who has ever contemplated what is important in this life has already found meaning and purpose. Klinghoffer can speculate further for himself but he accomplishes nothing of value to do so for the rest of us. What Klinghoffer and many of the likeminded fellows at his institute do not appreciate, is that this answer is good enough. We deal with devastation and suffering by helping others to overcome their grief because that in itself provides the hope we will all need to carry on. We empathize with those who are dying because we know it is our fate as well and we’ll do our best to assure them that everything that they did to make a difference in this life will live on for just as long as it is needed.

A number of years ago I had a radio debate with the Discovery Institute’s Jay Richards, who insisted that the universe was designed in such a way that we could imply purpose and meaning simply because of our privileged place in the Cosmos. I then asked him what it meant for our “privileged place” when over 99.9999 % of the universe is completely inhospitable and indifferent to us. Let me paraphrase his roundabout answer: “I’m really not sure.” Actually, not a bad answer, but not all that comforting either. Welcome to Mr. Klinghoffer’s club.

———

Steven Mahone is an Engineer and a founding member of Colorado Citizens for Science.

39 Comments

How do some Christian anti-‘darwinists’ comfort the grieving?

Westboro Baptists.

First of all this puts Klinghoffer in the company of those who used recent tragic events as an excuse to mock or falsely accuse innocent people. The number of people who did this is, mercifully, quite few, but Klinghoffer is one of them. I’ll note the grotesque hypocrisy of claiming compassion while callously exploiting such events as an excuse to hurl unfair accusations at those who had nothing to do with them.

Second of all, it seems that the Boston Marathon bombing had something to do with politicized religion. (We can’t be sure, but it looks that way.) So at least one of the tragic events of this year might not have happened if people were less religious. I’m not into the “atheist movement” or oversimplified condemnations of “religion” overall, but this is simply a fact. The relationship of religion to mass killings is that it seems to motivate some (not all of them), and does not seem to prevent them. Period.

It’s a completely common observation, among most religious as well as non-religious people, that self-declared religiosity does not predict compassion. Many people who don’t practice religion are compassionate and generous, and many self-proclaimed religious people are not, and everyone knows that. Klinghoffer’s message is really “kowtow to my particular ideology, including the denial of scientific reality, or I’ll demonize you”.

Hm, no evidence for this latest bit either.

I guess when you’re wearing your superior pants you don’t need to, you know, show compassion, or bother with the truthful methods. You can just marvel at how much better you are than the “other.”

Glen Davidson

Klinghoffer’s tactic of demonizing the secular world is an all too common tendency among a segment of sectarians who also seem to gravitate toward anti-science think septic tanks like the Discovery Institute. He is really praising his own “moral superiority.”

Just Bob said:

How do some Christian anti-‘darwinists’ comfort the grieving?

Westboro Baptists.

By telling them that God deliberately murdered their loved ones to punish the whole nation for not enforcing allegedly Jesus-friendly bigotry as unimpeachable holy law?

Like how FL claimed that the Aurora shootings were God’s punishment on the US for not rounding up and killing gays?

How can anyone who believes in the law of gravity have any compassion for those who are killed by falling off a cliff? After all, if you had just denied that gravity operates, think of all the people you would have saved!

Admitting that humans actually evolved does absolutely nothing to diminish any caring or compassion that anyone might feel. Indeed, it would seem more likely that one would respect and admire humans as one of the unique products of three billion years of evolution.

On the other hand, demonizing those who accept reality seems to be a particularly heartless and uncaring sentiment to perpetuate. The pot is black Mr. Klinghoffer and it is you. Quit trying to paint the kettle black, or are you a racist as well?

Klinghoffer bleats:

“I challenge any Darwinist readers to write some comments down that would be suitable, not laughable, in the context of speaking to people who have lived through an event like Monday’s bombing. By all means, let me know what you come up with.”

Ok…

Dear Bostonians:

In this dark time, as you mourn the loss of your loved ones, and try to rebuild the lives of the maimed, please know you are not alone. We too have known tragedy. We too have loved, and grieved. We know the heartbreak of never being able to kiss a loved one ever again. We have buried our children. We have welcomed maimed soldiers back from war, and cried enough tears to fill oceans. We offer our help and good wishes because we know what you are going through, and wouldn’t wish it on anyone, and because we also know it’s possible to heal and come back from tragedy such as this. Signed, Humanity.

I wonder how support for capital punishment correlates with atheism and theism. I’m willing to bet that the atheists are more “christian” on this one. Who would Jesus execute.…

Matt G said:

Who would Jesus execute.…

Which assault rifle would He buy?

In his latest hist piece, Klinghitler uses the phrase “midget of a Darwinian.”

We’re midgets now? How will Klinghitler top that one? Call us Pygmies? Negroes? Wetbacks?

Sure, that’s Intelligent Design. People who use phrases like “some midget of a Darwinian” are in no position to claim they have a monopoly on compassion, or more compassion, or any compassion.

Maybe he won’t mess around and go straight to Untermenschen.

Just Bob said:

Matt G said:

Who would Jesus execute.…

Which assault rifle would He buy?

I believe his tool of choice is a “terrible, swift sword”.

Just Bob said:

Matt G said:

Who would Jesus execute.…

Which assault rifle would He buy?

I would point out that in some ways, the question “who would Jesus execute?” is perfectly legitimate.

As per the Old Testament, if Jesus was a devout Jew, it would have been his duty to slay anyone guilty of an “abomination”. Which, if I remember Deuteronomy correctly would include those who get a tattoo, those who eat pork and shellfish, disrespectful wives and smart-mouthed teenagers among others, not to mention any surviving members of all tribes David was instructed to destroy to the last child.

Quite frankly I fail to see why I should rend my heart for the trgic loss of life in Boston, when I don’t rend my heart for the tragic loss of life everyday, in Pakistan. What kind of rationalization are Christrian Americans using? Is there an equation that puts the value of one life on our planet (value ‘X’) at a greater value than another life (value ‘Y’)? Why, for example, do the idiots at UD think that there is indeed such an equation? Just because a tragedy is more completely covered by the media does not in any sense mean that other tragedies (outside of Boston) are in any way less trgeic; grieve for them all you fucking morons! From a staunch atheist, and humanist!

I had a boss who absolutely refused to understand why anyone would write a virus, even when I tried to explain it to him. He seemed to believe that understanding == approving, and since he didn’t approve, he refused to understand.

Quite frankly I fail to see why I should rend my heart for the trgic loss of life in Boston, when I don’t rend my heart for the tragic loss of life everyday, in Pakistan. Is there an equation that puts the value of one life on our planet (value ‘X’) at a greater value than another life (value ‘Y’)?

Actual value of individual lives, certainly not. However, for those of us who experience the emotional reaction “empathy”, it is easy to explain why it is more intense in some situations than others, even though suffering is universal and constant.

Empathy is actually a mainly involuntary emotional response invoked by the observation of the emotional state of others (including many non-human animal species).

Although involuntary in nature it can be partly developed or deliberately suppressed. It doesn’t seem to be possible for normal people to fully suppress it; it is seen even in subcultures and cultures that strongly value callous disregard for others.

On the other hand, every society has some individuals who seem to lack it. In my opinion, such individuals are strongly drawn to authoritarian religion, possibly because they are confused by the way that empathy guides the behavior of others, and need concrete rules.

There many, many non-rational emotional factors that influence empathy, and I will say that “familiarity” or “identification” is one of them. Obviously cultural biases play a huge role. “Direct observation” is another. The more directly you observe the emotional state, the more intensely you mirror it.

All of these could be quantified to some degree. Let’s say we use standard physiological measures of an emotional response to quantify empathy, and call the number “E”. Let’s call degree of identification “I” and directness of observation “O”)

E = f(I, O, other factors), such that E increases with I and O. Intensity of empathy can probably be modeled as being a function of many factors, among them degree of identification and directness of observation.

Although I am bothered by the hypothetical knowledge in incredible suffering in the world, my emotional response to the Boston Marathon bombing was undeniably much greater than that provoked by my day to day hypothetical knowledge of suffering.

Although empathy is a useful for reinforcing what I consider ethical behavior, since it is an emotional, involuntary reaction, arguments that it is “ethically superior” to feel more or less empathy for this or that individual are not relevant. What I am explaining here is not whether or not I “should” have an emotional reaction to a comparatively small number of deaths and mutilations at the Boston Marathon, against a background of high numbers of such events every day in other parts of the world. I am explaining why some of us do.

Harold just reminded me of something I saw in the letters section of a magazine once. The previous issue had a picture of a dead infant laying in a street in China, along with the explanation that it is still common in China and some other countries for the first-born to be killed or left to die if it is female.

This photo had (I would say quite naturally) angered the two letter writers. Here’s the thing:

One of them stated that he was well aware of how things were in those parts of the world, but was so angry at the magazine for showing him this photo that he was cancelling his subscription and would never buy an issue again.

The other letter writer thanked the magazine for showing her the photo and stated that while she had been well aware of how things were in those parts of the world, said photo had driven it home and inspired her to become involved in an organization that was trying to change such things.

I think that this demonstrates quite well your point about hypothetical knowledge versus more direct observation.

Parting thought: I wonder which of these letter writers would Klinghoffer be more like, hmmm?

SonOfHastur said:

Harold just reminded me of something I saw in the letters section of a magazine once. The previous issue had a picture of a dead infant laying in a street in China, along with the explanation that it is still common in China and some other countries for the first-born to be killed or left to die if it is female.

This photo had (I would say quite naturally) angered the two letter writers. Here’s the thing:

One of them stated that he was well aware of how things were in those parts of the world, but was so angry at the magazine for showing him this photo that he was cancelling his subscription and would never buy an issue again.

The other letter writer thanked the magazine for showing her the photo and stated that while she had been well aware of how things were in those parts of the world, said photo had driven it home and inspired her to become involved in an organization that was trying to change such things.

I think that this demonstrates quite well your point about hypothetical knowledge versus more direct observation.

Parting thought: I wonder which of these letter writers would Klinghoffer be more like, hmmm?

Yes, when people support some brutal status quo that they realize others will object to - or at least oppose ending it - they often call for censorship if it is depicted accurately in the media.

The first writer is actually angry not because the picture was shown to him, but because it was shown to the second writer. He already know about it but she was made aware and now opposes the situation.

I don’t know for certain which type Klinghoffer is more like, but my guess is the same as yours.

Klinghoffer asks for comments, but there is no “Comment” button on his page. I sent a version of the following to his e-mail; somewhat unsurprisingly, there has been no response. I then posted it as a comment on Sensuous Curmudgeon’s blog, and I have been encouraged to post it here as well.

Here in largely secular Norway, the few creationists we have are mostly considered religious cranks, and society in general considers evolution as uncontroversial scientific fact. (Not that I would insist that most laypeople properly understand it or the evidence supporting it — but then again, how many people know just what astronomical observations are required to PROVE that Earth really does orbit the sun rather than vice versa?)

In July 2011, one Anders Behring Breivik took it upon himself to “defend Christianity” from a supposed covert Islamic invasion encouraged by evil “cultural Marxists” (a.k.a. the Labor Party). This dire threat our brave Christian crusader addressed by killing 77 people in one afternoon, first by pulling a Timothy McVeigh on the government building in Oslo, then by gunning down as many teenagers as he could find at the Labor Party youth camp. (Just what we needed to fight fanatical Jihadists – an equally fanatical and murderous ‘Christian’ anti-Jihadist.)

So how did we secular Scandinavians react? Did we tear off our hair in desperation, wailing: “Oh no, now we realize that life is completely meaningless, just as Darwin has taught us! We can’t even properly grieve, since most of us accept evolution!”

As it happens, there were mountains of flowers and candles building up; there were memorial parades with people carrying roses and torches, there were songs and tears and moving speeches. But there wasn’t a lot of Bible quoting, hardly any public speculation about the afterlife of the victims, and no politicians exhorting anyone to “pray for” anybody. In this country, politicians who want to be taken seriously just don’t talk like that.

Of course, most of the victims were eventually buried with clergymen going through the motions — but in Scandinavia, the overtly religious stuff is mostly considered a special interest phenomenon to be kept in the private sphere (if you are into that subculture). As a society, we seemed quite able to mourn the dead, and honor their memory, without loads of mumbo-jumbo. In fact, many visiting reporters commented on what they perceived as great dignity and maturity displayed by our society in a difficult situation.

I don’t want to go into nationalist self-praise, nor do I intend to paint Scandinavia as some kind of secular paradise. But any suggestion to the effect that a generally secularized society cannot properly grieve following a national tragedy, and that life is empty and meaningless if one accepts that we are products of evolution, would sound ludicrous to most people in my country.

It is not a hypothetical question to us. Courtesy of Behring Breivik, self-appointed defender of ‘Christian’ culture, we’ve been there, done that. He killed over 25 times more people than the Boston bombers; yet our secular evolution-accepting society was able to manage, to grieve and finally to move on.

Surely American society has the potential to move beyond puerile concepts as well. But the efforts of ID proponents and creationists will not be helpful.

H.K. Fauskanger

stevaroni said:

Just Bob said:

Matt G said:

Who would Jesus execute.…

Which assault rifle would He buy?

I would point out that in some ways, the question “who would Jesus execute?” is perfectly legitimate.

As per the Old Testament, if Jesus was a devout Jew, it would have been his duty to slay anyone guilty of an “abomination”. Which, if I remember Deuteronomy correctly would include those who get a tattoo, those who eat pork and shellfish, disrespectful wives and smart-mouthed teenagers among others, not to mention any surviving members of all tribes David was instructed to destroy to the last child.

In addition to people who have cut their hair, wear fabrics of two or more different kinds of thread, and those who dare to work on the Sabbath for whatever reason?

apokryltaros said:

… and those who dare to work on the Sabbath for whatever reason?

And remember, that’s SATURDAY, the sabbath Jesus observed (who came to change not one jot or tittle of the Law).

This comment has been moved to The Bathroom Wall.

The emotional reaction ‘empathy’, Harold, is an evolved emotion. To say that ‘familiarity’ or ‘identification’ is a ‘non-rational’ factor influencing empathy is not really rational; there is a reason we respond emotionally to the bombings, the reason is clear, simple, and evolutionarily sensible; we don’t want us, or ours, involved in a similar plot, we hope to protect the complete stranger in the hope that in a similar situation, the complete stranger will protect me and mine.

Does Current Biology have the Misfortune of Owning an Unreliable Clock? http://scienceandscientist.org/Darw[…]iable-clock/

robert van bakel -

There is no serious disagreement here, but you have mildly misunderstood some parts of my comment. Let me clarify, not in an effort to foment disagreement where there is none, but to be more precise.

The emotional reaction ‘empathy’, Harold, is an evolved emotion.

Of course.

To say that ‘familiarity’ or ‘identification’ is a ‘non-rational’ factor influencing empathy is not really rational;

It is very difficult to use the pesky word “rational”. By “non-rational” I simply mean instinctive or emotional, not planned or thought-out. I do not mean “illogical” or “irrational”, rather, I simply mean something instinctive or emotional.

It is usually a perfectly good idea to drink clean water when thirsty, but thirst is non-rational. A person lacking an instinctive sense of thirst and needing to rely on a timetable of water drinking to avoid dehydration would be very inconvenienced. Yet thirst is “non-rational” - it is not something we reason out.

there is a reason we respond emotionally to the bombings, the reason is clear, simple, and evolutionarily sensible; we don’t want us, or ours, involved in a similar plot, we hope to protect the complete stranger in the hope that in a similar situation, the complete stranger will protect me and mine.

You are discussing two closely related but different things - “empathy” and “the social contract”.

I agree that empathy is a motivation for formation of social contracts, and that they helped early human survival.

But your original point was that people “shouldn’t” be upset about the Boston Marathon bombing, because so many other equally bad things were also happening - or at least, that you weren’t upset by it for that reason. You said…

Quite frankly I fail to see why I should rend my heart for the trgic loss of life in Boston, when I don’t rend my heart for the tragic loss of life everyday, in Pakistan.

Actually, that comes across as a statement by someone who is quite lacking in empathy. I don’t say that judgmentally, I care what you do, not what you feel. As long as you have a good grasp of the social contract and follow it, that’s good enough for me. Alternately, as per what I discussed, you may have more sense of identification with and direct observation of suffering in Pakistan, whereas I may identify more with Boston and have more direct observation of Boston. Therefore, we might agree that logically all terrible things are terrible, while you might feel more terrible about Pakistan and I might feel more terrible about Boston. It doesn’t imply that I think lives in Boston are worth more than lives in Pakistan, or that you think the opposite, I’m simply talking about intensity of the emotional response.

However, what I tried to explain to you was why many people were upset by Boston, even though terrible things also happen every day in Pakistan. Indeed, as I noted and will note again, four brutal deaths and a few dozen maimings is not even a significant percentage of the brutal deaths and maimings in the world on that day. Yet many of us were upset.

If you are mystified, re-read my original comment more carefully. In it, I make a great effort to explain how some aspects of how emotional empathy works.

Bhakti Niskama Shanta asked: “Does Current Biology have the Misfortune of Owning an Unreliable Clock?”

No, but thanks for asking.

(For everybody else, don’t bother looking at the typical creationist / religious crank website mentioned.)

Spammer for Jesus spammed:

Does Current Biology have the Misfortune of Owning an Unreliable Clock?

Who would you rather treat your health problem, a doctor using “Current Biology,” or a Creationist using only a literal misreading of the Bible?

Paul Burnett said:

Bhakti Niskama Shanta asked: “Does Current Biology have the Misfortune of Owning an Unreliable Clock?”

No, but thanks for asking.

(For everybody else, don’t bother looking at the typical creationist / religious crank website mentioned.)

I couldn’t resist and found that Current Biology is under siege from religious crackpottery. (But a doctor relying on the Bhagavad Gita, now that is some doctor!)

apokryltaros said:

Spammer for Jesus spammed:

Does Current Biology have the Misfortune of Owning an Unreliable Clock?

Who would you rather treat your health problem, a doctor using “Current Biology,” or a Creationist using only a literal misreading of the Bible?

I believe this may be a Fundamentalist Hindu creationist commenter. They might in fact prefer a system of ancient, pre-scientific medicine. It’s worth noting that many, many religious Hindus fully accept the theory of evolution and modern medicine.

I cannot find any scientific comments though! Is there anyone in this list who understands what I have discussed in my paper?

Question: Who would you rather treat your health problem, a doctor using “Current Biology,” or a Creationist using only a literal misreading of the Bible?

Answer: Modern science (including medical science) is based on utilitarianism and thus some may foolishly think that utility and reality are same. Sometime a machine may do some of the works of a human but that does not mean that a machine became a human or conscious entity.

I have presented a few scientific challenges to the naive analysis used in biology and if anyone knows science then I would like to discuss. However, at present it seems that some mentally retired persons are searching unreliable doctors in this thread.

I cannot find any scientific comments though! Is there anyone in this list who understands what I have discussed in my paper?

Your paper is not directly germane to the topic of this thread.

Question: Who would you rather treat your health problem, a doctor using “Current Biology,” or a Creationist using only a literal misreading of the Bible? Answer: Modern science (including medical science) is based on utilitarianism and thus some may foolishly think that utility and reality are same. Sometime a machine may do some of the works of a human but that does not mean that a machine became a human or conscious entity.

1) Does not answer the question.

2) No-one here said that “utility and reality are the same”. No-one here said that machines become human.

I have presented a few scientific challenges to the naive analysis used in biology and if anyone knows science then I would like to discuss. However, at present it seems that some mentally retired persons are searching unreliable doctors in this thread.

The verbose document you linked to does not engage my interest.

Bhakti Niskama Shanta said:

I cannot find any scientific comments though! Is there anyone in this list who understands what I have discussed in my paper?

Question: Who would you rather treat your health problem, a doctor using “Current Biology,” or a Creationist using only a literal misreading of the Bible?

Answer: Modern science (including medical science) is based on utilitarianism and thus some may foolishly think that utility and reality are same. Sometime a machine may do some of the works of a human but that does not mean that a machine became a human or conscious entity.

I have presented a few scientific challenges to the naive analysis used in biology and if anyone knows science then I would like to discuss. However, at present it seems that some mentally retired persons are searching unreliable doctors in this thread.

I would be happy to discuss these issues on the bathroom wall. This is not the time or the place for such issues. Also, posting the same thing on multiple threads is not the way to get responses here. And just so you know, “mentally retired” is not the idiom.

IANAS but nevertheless am tempted to think your paper falls short of what a real scientist would bother with. I saw some things that didn’t look good - even to me. You seem to have done a lot of work, but the product is bad. If you can’t see that for yourself, why should anyone else come to your rescue?

I’ll give you an example of someone who doesn’t have compassion.… this guy.

“I have something I want to say to the victims of Newtown, or any other shooting,” Davis said. “I don’t care if it’s here in Minneapolis or anyplace else. Just because a bad thing happened to you doesn’t mean that you get to put a king in charge of my life. I’m sorry that you suffered a tragedy, but you know what? Deal with it, and don’t force me to lose my liberty, which is a greater tragedy than your loss. I’m sick and tired of seeing these victims trotted out, given rides on Air Force One, hauled into the Senate well, and everyone is just afraid — they’re terrified of these victims.” “I would stand in front of them and tell them, ‘go to hell,’” he added.

Gun fetishists have empathy only for their precious guns.

In the Army I knew a guy who in all seriousness said that he’d rather sleep with his M-16 than with a woman.

Above I wrote about my own reply to David Klinghoffer, where I pointed out to him that following the 2011 terror attacks here in (largely secular) Norway, we seemed quite able to grieve and to honor the dead without a lot of religious mumbo-jumbo.

Above I noted that there had been no reply from Klinghoffer; now there has been one, as noted in the update on top. I receive his attention towards the end of the response article. Since I had granted that even in this (secular, evolution-accepting) country, most of the victims were eventually buried with a clergyman going through the motions, he instantly seizes on this as evidence that deep down we can’t do without religion after all – at least when facing tragedy. “Why am I not surprised?”

I wrote him a second letter pointing out that there are certain time-honored manners of disposing of dead bodies that are typically maintained as a matter of tradition (and not only following a national tragedy, of course). One should not read too much into the particulars. However, it may be more interesting that Klinghoffer claims he has been misunderstood. “Darwinists” apparently can’t even understand a written text! What he _meant_ to say is that while a “Darwinian midget” may feel grief and sympathy, he has no real HOPE or COMFORT to offer the mourners.

Since David Klinghoffer seems happy to conduct much of this debate in public, I guess I may share parts of my second e-mail to him, as well.

(Notice that in the following, I treated him as a somewhat generic Bible-based fundamentalist. I now find that he is, more specifically, an Orthodox Jew. I frankly don’t know exactly where he stands on the issue of “eternal torment for all who don’t share my belief system”, which we can normally assume is the position of evangelical Christian fundamentalists. My apologies if I have attributed something to him that he doesn’t really believe in; even so, it is plain that our respective philosophies are rather divergent. Over to myself …)

Your original article gives away why you cannot really stomach a secular/scientific world-view – quite irrespective of any evidence for or against it. You have a deep existential _angst_ that if we are brought forth by a natural process, then there is no purpose, no hope, no salvation, no anything.

Yet here we are, however we got here, and maybe we should be able to give meaning to our own lives instead of looking to some transcendent being who supposedly holds all the answers? Especially since this being seems so reluctant to communicate as to throw grave doubt upon its very existence?

We may indeed crave meaning, especially when facing tragedy. But maybe, as adult people, we must face the awesome possibility that the universe just isn’t the way we would like it to be? Maybe Santa Claus and his glorified heavenly counterpart just aren’t there? Maybe strong religious convictions all too often _add to_ the pain and suffering and confusion, rather than being helpful? I’m pretty sure the Boston bombers would have agreed that the world was divinely created in one week, just as the Koran also says.

What ‘comfort’, based on your world-view, would you have offered? One of the victims, a Chinese woman, was quite likely raised as an atheist. So being killed by a religiously motivated terrorist was only the start of her problems. Now an angry Abrahamic deity will also consign her to an eternity of torture because at the instant of death, she probably didn’t hold the exact right set of metaphysical beliefs. Great comfort indeed!

Maybe she would have preferred a “Darwinian midget” to assure her that once you’re dead, you most likely simply return to non-existence and hence to peace? Never again will you have to deal with religious zealots – neither the ones that blow up innocent people nor the ones that do all they can to tear down and ridicule a scientific world-view.

As you understand, David, a secular perspective can be very comforting after all.

Yours, H.K. Fauskanger

Just Bob said:

Gun fetishists have empathy only for their precious guns.

In the Army I knew a guy who in all seriousness said that he’d rather sleep with his M-16 than with a woman.

There’s always menage a trois for such a situation…

I prefer to sleep with my sword, but, uh, there are problems with that.

Glen Davidson

Just Bob said:

Gun fetishists have empathy only for their precious guns.

In the Army I knew a guy who in all seriousness said that he’d rather sleep with his M-16 than with a woman.

Glocksuckers…

What ‘comfort’, based on your world-view, would you have offered? One of the victims, a Chinese woman, was quite likely raised as an atheist. So being killed by a religiously motivated terrorist was only the start of her problems. Now an angry Abrahamic deity will also consign her to an eternity of torture because at the instant of death, she probably didn’t hold the exact right set of metaphysical beliefs. Great comfort indeed!

Precisely. Klinghoffer writes as though he has access to some special inside information, yet his original article and his follow-up don’t even come close to answering his own question. At least Mahone’s response was sensible.

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This page contains a single entry by Matt Young published on April 20, 2013 8:00 AM.

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