Friday, December 19, 2014

Crowd-Sourcing Vacuity: (non) Ten (non) Commandments for the (non) 21st Century

The authors of a new book entitled Atheist Mind, Humanist Heart, Lex Bayor and John Figdor, have it seems awarded $1000 prizes to the winners of their "Crowd-Sourcing the Ten Commandments for the 21st Century" contest.  More than 5,000 entries poured in.  The authors, or their colleagues, corralled all kinds of humanist bigwigs (Adam Savage, David Silverman, executive directors, presidents and founders galore) to judge the entries.  

And here (drum roll, please) are the ten.  Or six.  Or, well, if you want to be technical, the three, repeated a few times: 

1) Be open minded and be willing to alter your beliefs with new evidence. 
2) Strive to understand what is most likely to be true, not to believe what you wish to be true.

3) Be open minded and be willing to alter your beliefs with new evidence. 

4) Every person has the right to control over their body.

5) God is not necessary to be a good person or to live a full and meaningful life.

6) Be mindful of the consequences of all your actions and recognize that you must take responsibility for them.

7) Treat others as you would want them to treat you and can reasonably expect them to want to be treated. 

Think about their perspective. 

8) We have the responsibility to consider others including future generations 
9) Be open minded and be willing to alter your beliefs with new evidence. 

10) Leave the world a better place than you found it.

First of all, it's striking that even with a Stanford professor on board, nobody here seems able to count to ten.  Or perhaps none of those thousands of contributors could think of anything new to say.  The first "non-Commandment," as John Loftus calls them (let's color it red), is repeated three times, in exactly the same words (1, 3, and 9), and then once more, in slightly different words (2).  (What are the odds that three people would phrase Non-Commandment 1 (3, 9) exactly the same?  Instead of, say, "Be open-minded (with a hyphen) and therefore alter your beliefs when new facts present themselves?"  Or "Change your mind when warranted?")

Numbers 4 and 5 are truth claims, not moral imprecations (leave them black).  8 and 10 are repeats, and corollaries of (7).  6 is purely psychological.

So when up-to-date atheists get together and try to think up some really good improvements for the Ten Commandments, what do they come up with?  The Golden Rule (echoing Buddha, Confucius, and Jesus, who said it was half the Law), plus "Plan for future generations" (implied by the Golden Rule) and "Think things through, and change your mind when the evidence warrants."

I love that last one, and hope to see New Atheists begin following it, some time soon.  (Even if its "more like a guideline, really.")  Up to this point, our atheist neighbors have often seemed among the most pig-headed creatures on the planet.  

If they were less pig-headed, for instance, they might recognize that evidence has always been a part of what Christians mean by "faith."  (Since we have explained this to them in such detail and with such repetition, now.) 

For instance, when Jesus explained the Golden Rule, he said all the commandments come down not to ten, nor even to three, but to just two: "Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.  And love your neighbor as yourself."  Loving with your mind, of course, means thinking, following our Creator who has made us in His rational image by exploring reality rationally.  In any case, aside from some cherry-picking of Thomas in the Gospel of John, and a few verses in Hebrews 11, which we explained in True Reason, both the Bible and Christian history have been pretty insistent that yes, the Christian call to faith is a call towards the evidence, not away from it.  

And yet the enormous wealth of evidence we have cited to prove this fact, does not seem to have budged the opinions of radical atheists an inch.  Even those who know better STILL attack Christianity for its supposed insistence on Blind Faith.  

So our Secular Humanist friends have crowd-sourced the Ten Commandments, asking many of their top leaders to vet the results.  And what do they come up with?  The ancient Golden Rule and one of its more obvious corollaries.  Plus, "Oh, BTW, that thing on top of your neck is called a head, it comes with a brain inside.  Try the on-switch."  

The implication, drummed into the reader by repeating this point four times, is that no one else ever thought of doing that, before.  "Gee, thanks!  I was wondering what that thing was for!"  

Aside from failing to find 10 Secular Humanist non-commandments, some secular humanists have also recently taken to denying that Jesus lived 20+ centuries ago, undermining even the date Lex Bayor and John Figdor assign to their non-innovations. 

So apparently Secular Humanism doesn't claim to have much to offer the world anymore, apart from what we already know, in our hearts if not in our hands, one may say.  But maybe that's an improvement from the Humanist Manifestos of yore, not to mention Soviet Constitutions and such, which could at times be worse than unoriginal.  

The Tao, as C. S. Lewis said, is indeed eternal.  

(Afterward: Arizona Atheists points out that I made a mistake, in copying this list from "Debunking Christianity."  [I did also go to the original site, but overlooked this discrepancy.]   In the present version -- see below -- non of the "commandments" are repeated.  However, the two "new commandments" are every bit as morally vacuous, and in one case untrue as well.  So my overall impression of mush is, if anything, heightened with the addition of these two new "un-commandments."  See the first two posts below.)


Arizona Atheist said...

Hi David,

I'd like to point out to you that the following is the actual list of the secular ten commandments. I'm not sure if your browser displayed the page wrong or what, but the be open minded commandment was not repeated three times. And you failed to include a number of others. There are no repeats. Might want to fix that.

1. Be open minded and be willing to alter your beliefs with new evidence.
2. Strive to understand what is most likely to be true, not to believe what you wish to be true.
3. The scientific method is the most reliable way of understanding the natural world.
4. Every person has the right to control over their body.
5. God is not necessary to be a good person or to live a full and meaningful life.
6. Be mindful of the consequences of all your actions and recognise [sic] that you must take responsibility for them.
7. Treat others as you would want them to treat you and can reasonably expect them to want to be treated. Think about their perspective.
8. We have the responsibility to consider others including future generations
9. There is no one right way to live.
10. Leave the world a better place than you found it.

I'll leave the rest of your post alone since I don't have the desire to point out (again) where you've gone wrong.

David B Marshall said...

OK, thanks, that sounds a little more coherent. I copied it from John Loftus' web site, then checked the original website, without noticing the discrepancy.

However, corrected numbers (3) and (9) are also not "commandments," or even "suggestions," really. Three is vague and / or untrue.

Defined in the normal way, the "scientific method" is clearly not the most reliable way to find out about most aspects of the natural world. For instance, the proposition "I was in Sichuan Province in October," which is about the natural world, cannot be verified scientifically, but can be verified historically. But it is also not a moral proposition.

Who knows what the new number nine means? Is it plainly false ("the only way to live is by keeping your heart beating!"), tautologically true ("we live in different houses, marry different people, eat at different restaurants, work at different jobs") or something vague and highly debatable in between ("one man's torture is another man's enhanced interrogation?")

So the two "new" items just add to the impression of vague and timid mush which I describe above. Which is not always a terrible thing, so long as one doesn't presume to brag about it.

Doug said...

hey AA,
thanks for the correction -- but now half(!) out of the ten commandments are, well, not commandments at all. They are truth claims. True: #8 has a moral implication. But seriously: even 60% is a bare pass on form (before even considering content) :-/

Samuel Ronicker said...

First off, "recognise" needs no "[sic]" after it, AR At, it's an alternate spelling (used primarily by Britain).

The revised list is also rather contradictory. For example, #9 negates all the rest. If there's no right way to live, then who says I have to be open minded?

You, AR At, have violated your own rules! You don't have the desire to point out the supposed wrong things in the OP, but you're in violation of several of your own commandments by even saying that. You're saying there's a right way to live and that David is living wrong and writing things that are wrong, clear violation of #9. Also, *if* there is something wrong you have a responsibility to leave the world a better place, which apparently you don't care to do, in violation of #10. You're also in violation of rules 8 and 7 as you're not being very considerate. Two different ways, you're withholding information, assuming you actually have truth to share, and you're not treating him the way he'd like to be treated (presumably). That is, most people want to know the truth if it can be known, and you claim to know David is wrong but are unwilling (rather I assume unable) to share it. I'm assuming you used the scientific method to come to the conclusion that you're unwilling to share ... otherwise it's invalid, according to rule #3. Also, I can't say you've violated rule #1, but have you ever explored any of the evidence relating to the supposed truth you have? The fact that you found the actual list put out by this group of people who claim to believe in nothing is appreciated, but your inconsistency and the inconsistency of the list itself makes this entire endeavor meaningless.

Anonymous said...

"For instance, the proposition 'I was in Sichuan Province in October,' which is about the natural world, cannot be verified scientifically, but can be verified historically."

Are there differences in how we view things that are verified historically vs those "verified" by science? I put verified in quotes because I think that is not a good word for how science works. Hypotheses can be corroborated...enhanced with evidence/data, but even the most well established theory is not in proven.

How would you go about verifying to me that you were in Sichuan Province in October? Photos? Testimony? Official documents? Do any of those do more than make it more likely to me that you were there then? I have no reason to doubt you were there then, it's pretty unremarkable. But I'd not "bet my life" on it like I do with, say, gravity, the laws of momentum, the need of humans to take in sustenance to survive, etc.

David B Marshall said...

We bet our lives on human testimony ALL the time -- like every day in traffic. "Is there a car coming?" "No, you can go now." We also bet our lives on our own senses even more often. ("Hmmn, is there a car coming?" [Glance.] "Nope.") Neither is the "scientific method," falsifying (3).

Patrick said...

I'm just wondering why David felt the need to put up a false list of those ten commandments instead of the actual ones as pointed out by the Arizona Atheist.

David B Marshall said...

Patrick: Why do you say such a stupid thing? Read the thread, and figure it out.

Patrick said...

Wow! It's as almost if Jesus himself had said it. The more Christians are insulting and demeaning the more it confirms the falsity of the religion. Please keep up the good work. You are an excellent example of the problems with Christianity and Christians.

David B Marshall said...

Patrick: You accused me of "feeling the need" to post the wrong list. Implicit is the claim that (a) I was deliberately lying, and (b) there is something psychologically wrong with me.

Even though the true explanation is in black and white above.

And then when I slap you down for the, yes, stupidity of your comment (but without disparaging your intelligence per se, still less your honesty), you have the gaul to whine about my "insulting and demeaning" you.

The hypocrisy (and, yes, stupidity) reeks.

You owe readers here (and of course me) an apology, and then a more courteous and serious tone.

Patrick said...

Rather than displaying "a more courteous and serious tone" you hurl insult after insult at atheists here on your blog as well as on Loftus's blog, which are the only 2 blogs I see you on, so it is funny you ask something of me that you refuse to show yourself to those who merely disagree with you. On your blog you can say whatever you want of course but I find it hypocritical that you demand other show deference and respect when you consistently refuse to show it to others on other blogs. All I said in my comment was that I was wondering something. I never showed disrespect or insult to you. Your behavior is exactly what I expect from many, but not all, Christians.

David B Marshall said...

Typical DC fan. He implicitly accuses me of lying and psychological disorder, gets his facts wrong, and then throws a temper-tantrum when I accuse him, not of being stupid or dishonest, but merely of an act of stupidity. And then refuses to apologize, instead tries to up the ante.

OK, let's up it. What happened in this thread, is what almost always happens when an honest non-atheist posts on DC. Address the issue itself on DC, and instead of getting answered on substance, a swarm of atheists insult and lie about the poster. When he (I seldom see women poster there) answers fire with fire, or even fire with a few sparks, he becomes the villain.

Since you insist on behaving in an obnoxious manner, without apology or self-awareness, you are no longer welcome on this thread. I would prefer to have a few guests who behave like adults, than many who act like spoiled brats, refuse even the clearest correction, and ruin any hope of intelligent conversation about the issues.

If you post on other threads, do your best to address the issues, next time. DC or (still worse) Pharyngula behavior is not welcome on this site.

Patrick said...

When did I accuse you of lying?

David B Marshall said...

Does anyone here besides Patrick not understand the implications of his own first post in this forum?

David B Marshall said...

In retrospect, while my criticism was not unjust, I should have been more patient here with Patrick, I think. Perhaps he did not fully recognize the implications of his perhaps casual accusation.

Jonathan P. Figdor said...

Nah, you pretty much got pwned by Patrick.

David B Marshall said...

Thanks, Jonathan, for pointing that out. Also the new spelling of the word "pwned," perhaps intended as a hybrid of "owned" and "pounded." Brilliance such as I expect from DC visitors.