Friday, April 01, 2005

Kameny on Feser:

I've worked on a brief retort to Ed Feser's article promoting the mixture of religion and politics and slamming "secularists." I've got at least one place I am going to pitch it (I think you can guess). And if it isn't taken, I'll post it as a moderately long blogpost.

Anyway, I'm on a private listserv with the great Dr. Frank Kameny, a legend in gay-rights activism and I shared my piece for criticism/comment, with links to Feser's piece. Here is Kameny's reaction, which he gave me permission to post here:

1. Throughout his discussion, Feser equates "religion" with what might be termed Judeo-Christian religion or biblical religion, as if there is no other. It is like their use of "faith", which always leads me to ask: Which faith and faith in what? Their definitions are narrowly limited, and render ensuing discussions meaningless from a larger perspective.

They assume an omnipotent, omniscient, benevolent god, and then get into endless insoluble philosophical problems with the existence of evil. If you are going to assume a god at all, it is perhaps not totally unreasonable to consider it (not he) to be omniscient and omnipotent, but benevolence is a rarely-questioned excessive leap. If we simply assume that god is malevolent, the "problem" of evil is solved on the spot.

2. All religion is irrational without demonstrable evidentiary basis in fact. They engage endlessly in what I call "philosophical dithering". "This must be so because we dither it to be so"; no proof or evidence. The claim that there MUST be a "First Cause" is just that. There is no proof or evidence. The universe itself is obviously its own first cause. It is infinite in time; the "big bang" was a catastrophic change of state but not a beginning. Postulating a supernatural first cause merely defers the explanation by one step and renders it beyond rational description, like the "Intelligent Designer"which does the same. The claim that there is something outside the material is some more "dithering", devoid of any valid, credible, persuasive evidence or proof.

3. The reliance upon the natural as justification for the moral and permissible is fallacious. We do almost nothing naturally from the moment that we are born and our umbilical cord is unnaturally cut with an unnatural knife unnaturally fabricated from unnatural metal unnaturally refined from natural ores, through eating unnaturally cooked food, living in unnatural houses while clothed in unnatural clothes made of unnaturally utilized natural fibers, until we die and are unnaturally buried in unnatural coffins instead of being naturally tossed into the fields naturally to decay. In fact, in this part of the country, the very fields themselves are unnatural, being created from natural forests by unnatural agriculture -- plants do not naturally grow all of one kind, evenly spaced in nice straight rows.

Have you ever thought how unnatural it is for adult humans to consume milk naturally intended to feed baby cows? -- unnatural twice over! Of course that one bites back for those with natural lactose intolerance.

Being unnatural is the unique and special hallmark of being human.

So lets get off this natural law kick. Let's have more and better unnaturalness; we'll be better and happier humans for it.

4. Finally, I find it amusing to note that first in his list of "horribles" is bestiality, a harmless idiosyncrasy and foible of a few people. As long as the animal doesn't mind -- and it rarely does -- there is no reason for anyone else to mind.

6 comments:

Marty said...

Pardon me while i dither...

"Being unnatural is the unique and special hallmark of being human."

Not just unnatural, but supernatural -- compared to any other species on the planet.

This, to me, is yet more circumstantial evidence that we are indeed created in the image of a vastly superior being. It is indeed a "unique and special hallmark". And what is a hallmark, but the stamp of the creator?

PS: Your friend leaves a lovely little quote about beastiality -- mind if i share that one far and wide?

Jonathan said...

"PS: Your friend leaves a lovely little quote about beastiality -- mind if i share that one far and wide?"

Go ahead, it's on a public blog and he gave me permission to print the email.

Jim said...

I fail to see any compelling distinction between "natural" and "unnatural" in Kameny's analysis. It seems to beg the question--assuming that human activity is unnatural, and then listing all the already-assumed "unnatural" examples of human behavior. Look at just one: "Have you ever thought how unnatural it is for adult humans to consume milk naturally intended to feed baby cows? -- unnatural twice over! Of course that one bites back for those with natural lactose intolerance."

Formicid ants "milk" aphids; does that prove that harvester ants are "unnatural?"

What is a clear way to distinguish "natural" from "unnatural" behavior without question-begging?

Jonathan said...

I think he meant that the term "unnatural" used to tar all sorts of behaviors, and people like homosexuals, is an essentially meaningless term as used.

For instance, in some way, according to *some* theory, of course, we could see such things as homosexuality as "unnatural," but according to other theories of nature, clothes and eyeglasses are "unnatural." The response would be "so what"? These things may be unnatural according to some proffered theory, but they still could be beneficial, good, or neutral, or in no way should they be disqualified from societal normalization.

Franks critique, it seems to me, is a variation of the naturalistic fallacy or the is-ought gap.

I don't necessary fully support the position. My mind is still not made up on naturalism yet.

Marty said...

For all it's smug cleverness, the milk analogy was just plain idiotic -- has the good doctor never heard of a parasite? Are human beings not the most successful parasites on the planet?

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