It is often argued that without a moral law giver there can be no absolute moral laws. As I pointed out in section 10) Atheism provides no basis for morality of my essay "Sam Harris-Myth Buster or Myth Maker?," atheists, such as Sam Harris, simply assert without the least bit of proof that moral intuitions have been "hard-wired" into us, elsewhere he refers to "a moral impulse."1
When, how and why, is left unstated. And what those morals are is anybody's guess except to say that it is often claimed that the one commandment of the hard-wire god is: cause the least amount of harm to the least amount of people. While on the surface this is a wonderful sounding sentiment one can only wonder if the majority of German Nazis considered exterminating the minority Jewish population to be causing the least amount of harm since it was meant to benefit the majority.
Stephen Crittenden: Well let's end then, with this question of ethics. Where do values come from? I mean, do you believe that the question of values and ethics is outside the realm of science? Sam Harris: No, I don't, I think it's very much within the realm of science. I think they reduce to questions of happiness and suffering. The more refined our understanding becomes of the psychophysical laws that underwrite human happiness and suffering, the more we will understand those strategies that maximise happiness and minimise suffering, and I think some of those strategies are traditionally religious, in fact. You know, ritual may play a role here, meditation I think will play a role here, learning to use silent contemplation in a wise way…It's not a matter of simply everyone agreeing that something is good and therefore rendering it good, and I think it's quite possible to be wrong about human happiness."2
In my essay Morality's Reality we point out that in the atheist view we are nothing but glorified animals. In fact according to Richard Dawkins, "We are not, then, merely like apes or descended from apes; we are apes."3 And according to Charles Darwin (The Descent of Man, p. 180), "In a series of forms graduating insensibly from some ape-like creature to man as he now exists, it would be impossible to fix on any definite point when the term 'man' ought to be used."
When did we cross the line from unaccountable amoral animals to hard-wired accountable moral animals (accountable how and to whom is anybody's guess)?
Thus, we come to some fascinating statements by Sam Harris namely, his statements regarding rape:
In his second book, “Letter to a Christian Nation,” published in September 2006, Harris continues his assault on religion, even drawing parallels between organized religion and rape. “If I could wave a magic wand and get rid of either rape or religion,” Harris explains, “I would not hesitate to get rid of religion.”4
"Harris is typically severe in his rejection of the idea that evolutionary history somehow justifies faith. There is, he writes, 'nothing more natural than rape. But no one would argue that rape is good, or compatible with a civil society, because it may have had evolutionary advantages for our ancestors.' Like rape, Harris says, religion may be a vestige of our primitive nature that we must simply overcome."5
"Sam Harris:…there are many things about us for which we are naturally selected, which we repudiate in moral terms. For instance, there's nothing more natural than rape. Human beings rape, chimpanzees rape, orangutans rape, rape clearly is part of an evolutionary strategy to get your genes into the next generation if you're a male. You can't move from that Darwinian fact about us to defend rape as a good practice. I mean no-one would be tempted to do that; we have transcended that part of our evolutionary history in repudiating it. Stephen Crittenden: And of course religion's played no role in that? By turning rape into something which is totally taboo? Sam Harris: Well, religion, or we can talk about the larger role of religion here. I would argue that the taboos around rape that religion has given us, have perversely made rape a very common tool of psychological oppression and war. The reason why all those women were raped in the Bosnian conflict was that it was so stigmatising in the Muslim community to be raped, that you were essentially ruining the community from within by recourse to its own taboos. This has been the practice over and over again."6
Let us break down these statements: Firstly, how someone could possibly conceive of the thought that "there's nothing more natural than rape" is simply inconceivable. Secondly, how someone could gather the chutzpah to repeat such a vile thought in public is nothing short of astonishing. Thirdly, how everyone within earshot (from social conservatives to pop-culture and women's right organizations) is not condemning Sam Harris day and night is no less than shocking. But that being said let us not get caught in a favourite tactic of Sam Harris' namely, emotionally charged arguments.
Let us point out that rape is a violent and brutal violation of one person's free will by another. It is one person saying "No I will not have that done to me" and another saying "Yes I will." Just how does Sam Harris know that chimpanzees and orangutans rape? Perhaps they do. Yet, the question is how does he know that the chimpanzees or orangutans that are being said to be raped were saying "No"? Perhaps they are but how do we determine this? How do we know that these actions are corollary to human rape? We may be anthropomorphising their behaviour.
Next, notice very, very carefully that human rape used to be perfectly moral or amoral but not immoral. In fact it was a wonderful activity that has functioned to advance humanity. It was a good thing within the Darwinian scheme of life. In my essay Four Succinct Statements on Suffering I point out that suffering/struggle is the driving agent behind the Darwinian world-view. Richard Dawkins succinctly wrote, "In nature, the usual selecting agent is direct, stark and simple. It is the grim reaper."7 Rape, again apparently, is what Darwin bequeathed is good. Or rather, was good. But may it be good again someday? Sure, why not?
Keep in mind that Sam Harris stated, "You can't move from that Darwinian fact about us to defend rape as a good practice. I mean no-one would be tempted to do that." Who would? He just did. Actually, he defended rape as a good practice for a certain period of our evolutionary history. When that was remains unstated. Note that Sam Harris stated regarding morality, "It's not a matter of simply everyone agreeing that something is good and therefore rendering it good." Yet, what is meant by "we have transcended that part of our evolutionary history in repudiating it." "We…repudiating it." One could only guess that he would state that our hard-wired moral intuitions have somehow been reprogrammed to make us (at least some of us who do not short circuit) think that rape is evil. Who decided this and why is left unsaid. But again, one could only guess that he would state that it has to do with population levels. But this brings us to a very realistic scenario. What about parts of the world where little human tribes are isolated and have low population levels. Apparently, rape is still Darwinianlly acceptable there. And what if population levels, in general, drop (due to plagues, nuclear war, etc.)? Apparently, rape will make a moral comeback.
But there is another point to why rape is a bad thing. And if you know anything about Sam Harris you know that he has a one word explanation for all evil everywhere and at anytime "religion." It is because of that meddlesome religion that rape was seen as evil. Whether that was before, during or after the hard-wiring was changed remains unstated. The bottom line seems to be that if religion (God) did not say that rape was evil then it would not be evil and that is the point that theists are making and the point that Sam Harris denies even while virtually stating it himself. Imagine claiming that one person would rape another because rape is stigmatising in the victim's community. Eating pork is also stigmatized in the Muslim community, the invaders of Bosnia could have forced Muslims to eat pork in order to ruin the community from within by recourse to its own taboos.
While Sam Harris commits that ad hominem by claiming that "religion" is discredited by evil deeds done in its name (yet, it is not accredited by good deeds done in its name) evil deeds done in the name of Darwinian advancement are only "evil" by our contemporary wiring.
Indeed, while religion can state that rape has always been wrong everywhere atheism states that it had its day in the sun from which we all benefited.
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