Drowning in Stupidity

Atheist Drowning

Once again I would like to extend my profound thanks to Friend of the Blog @IbrahimKaher for pointing me toward this particularly idiotic meme.

Darwinism refers to the theory of evolution by natural selection as published by Charles Darwin in his 1859 book On the Origin of Species.  According to Darwin, the great variety of life on Earth is attributable to a few simple tenets:

  1. There are limited resources, so there will always be competition, between and within species.
  2. There are variations within a species that can be passed from parent to child.
  3. If one of these variations enables an organism to gather resources more effectively than her competitors, then she will be better nourished, and consequently live longer and produce more offspring.
  4. Over many generations, favorable traits will multiply within a population while unfavorable traits will diminish, if not disappear entirely.

Darwin went on to explain how the long-term aggregation of small changes could lead to large-scale changes, and eventually to the immense biodiversity evident in Earth’s panoply of life.

There is nothing particularly atheistic about Darwinism.  Darwin’s theory neither supports nor refutes the existence of God, which is the only question that atheism addresses.  The only way you can convince yourself that Darwinism is atheistic is if you staunchly refuse to budge from your position of literal Biblical creationism.  If you believe that Earth and all of its modern life was spoken into existence by a divine creator, and if you believe that any statement to the contrary is against God, then there is no end to the branches of science which you will interpret as atheistic.  In that case, you should remove yourself from the scientific conversation altogether, because you are in no position to offer helpful contributions.

Perhaps the meme’s author is confusing Darwinism with social Darwinism.  Social Darwinism is the application of the phrase “survival of the fittest” to all aspects of human culture, including economics, politics, and ethics.  There is no overarching definition of fitness with which all social Darwinists agree, but in general, the strong (or fit) thrive while the weak (or unfit) languish.  Social Darwinism has been associated with (and blamed for) ideas from laissez-faire capitalism to eugenics, racism, and Nazism.

The main idea here is that atheists are not inherently social Darwinists, nor are Christians inherently selfless altruists.  Both atheists and believers count good and bad people among their ranks.  If an atheist performs a selfless act, it’s because he wants to do so (and most likely, because his social upbringing conditioned him to do so); not because he fears an eternal punishment for not doing so.  In my opinion, the same is true for believers.  Yes, the faithful justify their good deeds (if such things require justification) as manifestations of God’s grace, but strip away the layers of ingrained belief, and you find that they are simply good people who are emotionally rewarded for doing good things.

Now let’s address the meme’s claim that selflessness is inconsistent with Darwinism.  If you wish to apply Darwinist principles to explain altruistic behavior, you can easily do so.  Humans are social animals.  We live in groups because it benefits us to do so.  For social animals, tribal cohesiveness is key to our survival.  Altruism stems from a time when a person’s social group consisted of closely related individuals.  If you perform a selfless act, perhaps even one in which you risk personal harm, in defense of a tribal mate, then you have ultimately strengthened your bloodline.  You have perpetuated your kind, and in doing so have served the single greatest purpose that evolution demands.

If you’re a Christian, you can’t claim ownership of morality any more than an atheist, Muslim, Jew, or Hindu can.  Your morality – my morality – all of our moralities – stems from the fact that we are human.  We do good by helping others because it strengthens us as a species to do so.  Whether you believe you are serving God or Darwinian principles, selfless devotion to our species is your birthright.

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Quick Memes, Part 3

It’s time to take a look at a few memes that are Stupid and Bad, but which don’t warrant an entire post.  Enjoy! (Here are parts 1 and 2, if you missed them.)


is it legal

The mind of a smart man asks “Is it legal and right, and if it’s not legal, does the rightness of it outweigh the possible legal ramifications?  Is right for me the same as right for everybody else?  Is my right more important than other folks’ right?  If I think that something illegal is nevertheless right, should I try to reform the laws concerning that thing, or should I just do as I wish and damn the consequences?”  And then the smart man starts to realize that ethical decisions are far more complicated than the simple dichotomy suggested by this meme.

Be aware: if anybody has ever called you a slave because you concerned yourself with questions of legality, that person is a fool, and he’s no friend to you.  A real friend would not offer a false dilemma like this one in order to goad you into making potentially life-altering decisions.  A friend would encourage you to consider all aspects of an ethical decision – legality, fairness, long-term consequences, and so on – before making an informed decision.  And if, in the end, you decide that the rightness of an act is more important than its legality (or lack thereof), then so be it.  But at least you’ll have considered all the relevant details and will have made your decision accordingly, and you’ll know that you’ve made your decision not just as a free person, but as a wise person.


Fences

Several things wrong here:

  • Just because some “rednecks” enjoy watching NASCAR doesn’t mean that rednecks contracted, designed, or built the fences the surround NASCAR tracks.
  • Even if they did, there’s a huge difference between building a fence that will stop a 190-mile-per-hour stock car (and the flying debris inevitably associated with it) and building a fence that will stop a nimble person determined to get past it.  People trying to cross the United States-Mexico border – let’s be honest…when you said illegal aliens, you weren’t talking about Canadians, were you? – are seldom (probably never) driving 190-mile-per-hour stock cars.
  • There is currently a “wall” along the United States’ southern border, but it’s an incomplete hodgepodge of various fence types.  There have been political pushes to complete it – especially during election years – but the price tag for this project is uncertain and unpredictable.

So, yeah.  Building a 2000-mile-long fence across various types of terrain is altogether a different task than building a 2-mile-long fence around a NASCAR track.  This meme’s author is trying to compare apples to oranges, and probably feels terribly clever for doing so.  To the author:  Stop it.  You’re not clever.

Also, stop calling them illegal aliens, you racist prick.


IntelligenceTest

This is a personal quibble and I understand if you disagree, but I hate these little “math” puzzles posing as intelligence tests.  It’s not that I don’t get it.  I get it.  I see the pattern, and given any pair of numbers, I could generate the expected “solution”.  For example:

55,500,000 + 55,611,111 = 111,111,111,111,111

Or:

228,333 + 228,456 = 123,456,789

Now that’s clever.  But I digress.  The problem with these “math” puzzles, besides the fact that they use non-standard definitions for the plus and equal signs, is that they aren’t intelligence tests at all.  They’re nothing but sharebait.  The “puzzles” presented in these memes are generally trivial in order to maximize the number of people who solve them and pass them along.  Why?  Because a challenging puzzle – a puzzle that really makes you work for that shot of self-satisfaction when you solve it – would hardly get any exposure at all.  These stupid math puzzles give you the impression that you’ve done something smart, when all you’ve done is cleared the minimum hurdle necessary to share somebody else’s meme.


Gays and Guns

Capital idea!   Our approach to gun ownership should exactly mirror our approach to marriage: it’s only legal with the state’s consent and it must be thoroughly documented!

Or would you rather just acknowledge that marriage rights and gun rights are separate issues, and that supporting one doesn’t obligate you to support the other?

Your call.


Privileged Earned

I’d say you’re wrong, Morpheus.  You might be successful because of your education and hard work, but you’re privileged because of the station into which you were born, and because of society’s reaction to that station.  Ignoring privilege doesn’t make it go away.


Facebook Feeds The Hungry

No it doesn’t.  Facebook’s charitable donations are not affected by the number of people that share a meme.  Just like the math puzzle above, this is sharebait.  Its only purpose is to reward you with a false sense of self-satisfaction in exchange for a minimum amount of effort.

If you want to make a real difference, donate real money to real organizations that are working to alleviate hunger and sickness in developing nations.  If you’re a genuine activist, leave the comfort of your home and nation to volunteer in the regions struck by famine, war, and poverty.  Real change takes real effort; clicking “Share” on Facebook isn’t going to do it.


Stand Up and Be Men

Did you ever read something so blatantly sexist that you have to read it twice because you’re certain you misread it the first time?  For me, that’s this meme.  Yowza, what a load of sexist bullshit!  I didn’t even realize they had memes back in the 1950s!


Pennies from Heaven

“When an angel misses you”?  Are you operating under the misconception that angels are the departed souls of our loved ones?  Because if you are, I have to tell you: that flies contrary to your own religious dogma.  I researched the topic briefly, and here’s the theological consensus, as best as I can tell: angels are not humans, nor have they ever been.  According to most religious scholars, angels were created by God specifically to be his right hand not-men; humans, on the other hand, are spiritual beings in physical bodies.  Death is not some kind of graduation from human to angel; it’s merely a passage from physical human to non-physical human.  Or so the Scripture goes.

I’m not trying to tell you what to believe, but those who are telling you what to believe say that people don’t become angels when they die.

If we take this meme at face value, it raises all sorts of interesting questions:

  • Do angels materialize pennies themselves, or do they take already-minted pennies from somewhere else?
  • If they create coins ex nihilo, could they destabilize the economy by injecting enough money into the system?  Do angels have to be careful about that, keeping close tabs on how much money they’ve given away?
  • If angels get their coins from somewhere else on Earth, where?  A fountain, perhaps?  Do angels routinely search between peoples’ couch cushions for loose change, which they redistribute to people who are feeling glum?
  • If angels are the messengers of God, does God direct them to drop pennies?  How do they decide who gets a penny and who doesn’t?
  • Is there a way for people who are really upset to get larger values of money – say, quarters?
  • Do angels deliver pennies only to Christians, or can people of other faiths – and atheists – benefit as well?
  • Do people living in other countries also get US pennies, or do they get coins from their own currency?  Given the abysmal buying power of a single penny, it wouldn’t seem to matter much.  But still, if I lived in Uruguay, being given a useless US penny by an angel would almost seem like an insult.

I eagerly await the advisement of learned theologians on these queries.