Wednesday, September 22, 2010

My Atheist Friend sent me this NYT op-ed.


I'm a yutz.

This guy has everything: a soft job, a PhD from Cambridge, a lovely home in the Garden State* and the chance to write op-eds for the gray lady... who lives ONE HOUR AND TEN MINUTES AWAY... IN TRAFFIC!!!** And he's a mental midget--dumber than a cretin. Whereas I am a computer programmer in Winnipeg (which is an hour and a half away from more wilderness in all directions) who lives in a wretched hovel and writes angry letters to the Winnipeg Free Press. And a yutz, did I mention?

Dr. McMahan starts out with a perfectly valid challenge to believers: the problem of suffering innocents.*** He must have read it somewhere; I'm sure he's incapable of thinking it up for himself. Then he applies it to dumb animals as if no one had ever thought of that before. After that, everything he says--beginning with his very next point, "Gotcha!" (I'm paraphrasing)--is not just wrong, but stupid; a base appeal to our emotions masquerading as argument.

The first error he makes is to equate pain with suffering which is invalid even if we confine our study to human beings. The vast majority of people would not equate their own greatest suffering with their own greatest physical pain. Further, when we are in pain it is worthwhile to examine how much of the suffering that does come with it is psychological. The equation of pain and suffering is even less valid when applied to animals. I do not say animals don't suffer, but their suffering is analogous in some uncertain way--not equivalent--to humans'. And while the suffering of animals is not quite an imponderable mystery, we can agree chickens simply do not spend their time in feeding cages yearning to be free to scratch for worms.

I won't go through paragraph by paragraph to dismantle his non sequiturs one by one. His continual and everywhere anthropomorphizing both of animals and of God ("any self-respecting deity" {groan} WHAT. AN. IDIOT!) is enough to cast grave doubt on (if not completely invalidate) his conclusions. However, one particular argument shines brilliantly out in its fatuousness, his defense to the charge of playing God. Forget for a moment it's a straw man in the first place. Can it be that each of the two prongs of his argument is more idiotic than the other? No, I suppose the first one--that believers don't distinguish to his satisfaction between administering patients poison and administering them analgesia--is a simple (self-respecting) tu quoque.
Incredulous: How in the world did you get a PhD in philosophy from Cambridge?!
Jeff: It was easy: luckily in those days you could skip the logic stream entirely.

The second head of his argument is completely impenetrable. From the bare unsupported assertion that there is no God (Wow! Who knew?), he draws the conclusion that therefore it's okay for him to play god. No, if there is no God wouldn't that make it many times more dangerous to play god? After all, God doesn't have your back then. I guess we're supposed to take comfort in his other bare unsupported assertion that he would have made a better god than God. I can only gape.

But then, I'm just a yutz.

* State motto: Our mobsters make great fertilizer!
** Hat tip: Google Map
*** One day I would like to write more about this problem--or at least about how to plumb its depths.


Unknown said...

The fact is pretty interesting that,hrough paragraph by paragraph to dismantle his non sequiturs one by one,and the post is excellent.


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cricket said...

Thank you for your comment, Carl, especially as I believe it was meant to be complimentary.

I'm quite sure I don't understand what you're getting at though; I am too dim to parse your sentence or nail down its referents.

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