Philosophy and Christianity can coexistBy Sean Randall | 04/13/2011 10:49pm
Today’s class: Thoughts and theories on ethics.
In the Wednesday edition of The Crimson White, I read what may be the most flawed thing I’ve ever seen printed on the Opinions page, and I’ve read Ben Friedman’s columns and remember the days of Dave Folk and Greg Michaelson as regular columnists. The letter to the editor titled “AAA shouldn’t be on front page” was a staggering 292 words of flawed reasoning that simply made me cringe.
A quick disclaimer, since I know people will miss the woods for want of the trees here: I’m not condemning any religious views. None. I’m condemning a lack of logic, be it deductive or inductive, and a lack of understanding about simple, basic terminologies and concepts. And I encourage Joe Geary to enroll himself in PHL 100 or 101 to maybe get a glimpse into why his arguments are so faulty.
Considering that I’m a philosophy major who has taken his share of ethics-related courses, the ideas Geary laid out about objectivity and morality made me hurt. As a Christian, they made me hurt even more, because I know many will take Geary’s views as the standard Christian view. Which, with flawed reasoning just like the letter, seems to be the American way.
Yes, I know I’m weird. Philosophy major and Christian. How is that possible? Easy: Realize the difference between faith or belief and knowledge. One can, in fact, believe in a god, God or gods and realize that they may be incorrect in that belief. There is no proof that deities do or don’t exist. Doesn’t mean it’s inherently wrong to take one side or the other.
Now, to some of the specific flaws in Geary’s piece.
Prove objective morals exist, please.
There was no lead-in to that statement. Just a statement: “Hey. This thing? Totally exists.” The argument laid out was as flawed as the one I’m about to lay out in a somewhat mocking, but hopefully educational and revealing, tone.
1. If leprechauns do not exist, unicorns do not exist.
2. Unicorns exist.
3. Therefore, leprechauns exist.
Anyone else see a bit of a flaw in this reasoning? Sure, you can believe leprechauns and unicorns exist. No problem. But where’s the proof? I’ve seen less evidence for those than I have for Bigfoot.
Further, the idea of objective morality existing only really requires some objectivity to exist in the world. That might be God, sure. Or it might be logic. Or happiness. There have been centuries devoted to the subject of ethics. Deontology, virtue ethics, utilitarianism. Bentham, Kant, Aristotle, Hume. Many years, many names, many theories. And, somehow, many convincing arguments for objective ethics that don’t require the Judeo-Christian God. Strange, no? Especially if the answer is really as simple as Geary says.
Also, where’s the study showing that Christian schools are outperforming public schools? Not that it much matters because I’m pretty sure Christian schools are private by and large, and I’d venture that most private schools don’t keep people in who don’t perform well academically. And I’d also venture that most parents aren’t going to keep paying private school costs if their kids are failing miserably. So there’s that.
And, to change focus for a moment, to make determinations of newsworthiness based on theistic beliefs is kind of silly. There was no need for an in depth story because the picture told the story, just like the front page photograph the Wednesday edition had. And simply because someone disagrees with what you think, but cannot prove it wrong, doesn’t mean it isn’t newsworthy.
I’m not saying AAA is “right.” I have problems with some pointless and needless chalkings, like one from last year that suggested religion was associated negatively with intelligence. Further, I completely disagree with their view of a moral system, mentioned in their pamphlets. Which should be obvious, since I mentioned before that I am Christian. But I disagree with the premises they introduce, just like I find flaws in Geary’s premises. That sword cuts both ways. And, yes, many atheists actually do ascribe to morals, and even objective moral systems.
The entire argument Geary presented was flawed from premise to conclusion. And these flaws happen on both sides of the coin. It would be great if people that want to make objective claims that they “know” are true sit through a basic philosophy class first. Maybe then they’ll be able to engage in more civil, intelligent discourse on this subject. And many other subjects.
And then, maybe, the world might be a less ridiculous place.
Sean Randall is a senior majoring in theatre and philosophy.