Crime & Punishment
Posted: 27 July 2007 04:10 AM   [ Ignore ]  
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Lately, I have been reading with interest arguments based on statistics that there are more Christians in prison than atheists, which is probably empirically true, and that this fact can be used to argue, as some do, that Christians, or religious people, are therefore less ethical and following the logic, less intelligent than atheists. The most you could say is that atheists are probably better educated than many Christians, who can be found at all levels of society, while atheists tend to at least be university graduates. Because they are better educated we can assume that they are more quantitatively intelligent (SAT scores measure intelligence on a quantitative basis) so we could also assume that they don't get caught when they do commit a crime. I bet though, if you went into the realm of white collar crime that more atheists than Christians commit non-violent crimes, like the good folks at Enron, or crimes that do not 'harm others.' There are also probably more Christians than there are atheists in the population in general so, in terms of prison representation, there are probably as many atheists in prison as Christians as representative of the total population.

More alarming, however, is if we do buy into the argument that atheists are superior because they are more intelligent and are less inclined to commit crime, we are also embracing the notion that atheists are superior to non-atheists because they are more, to use a scientific term, 'evolved' because they are more intelligent and more ethical and that their lack of belief in God is a manifestation of their superiority.

Personally, I do not want to live in a world where science, which offers excellent explanations regarding how things work, is also the only reference point that I have for answering ethical questions, such as should I 'borrow' some paper clips from the office. I'm not hurting anybody…

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Posted: 27 July 2007 04:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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[quote author=“Isabelle Dolce”]More alarming, however, is if we do buy into the argument that atheists are superior because they are more intelligent and are less inclined to commit crime, we are also embracing the notion that atheists are superior to non-atheists because they are more, to use a scientific term, ‘evolved’ because they are more intelligent and more ethical and that their lack of belief in God is a manifestation of their superiority.

I think it’s a mistake to suggest any notion of superiority. I think of it this way - humans have natural fears of death and the unknown. Early humans created ideas about deities to explain events in nature that the didn’t understand and to help address their fear of death. The latter was really a way of avoiding that fear instead of dealing with it. As we’ve learned more about the universe, the costs of avoiding that fear have become more and more obvious. I suggest that non-theistic ways of dealing with the fear of death are more healthy than the theistic ways, both for the individual and for humanity as a whole. That definitely doesn’t mean that atheists are smarter than theists. Perhaps the atheists have dealt with their own fears and, as a result, are better able to see the enormous harm that the avoidance has caused throughout history.

[quote author=“Isabelle Dolce”]Personally, I do not want to live in a world where science, which offers excellent explanations regarding how things work, is also the only reference point that I have for answering ethical questions, such as should I ‘borrow’ some paper clips from the office. I’m not hurting anybody…

Science was never intended to answer ethical questions. That’s a common fallacy among theists. Just because science supplants supernaturalism with naturalism, doesn’t mean that it also supplants the other qualities about religion, such as the ethical teachings and the search for meaning and purpose.

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Posted: 27 July 2007 08:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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[quote author=“Isabelle Dolce”]More alarming, however, is if we do buy into the argument that atheists are superior because they are more intelligent and are less inclined to commit crime, we are also embracing the notion that atheists are superior to non-atheists because they are more, to use a scientific term, ‘evolved’ because they are more intelligent and more ethical and that their lack of belief in God is a manifestation of their superiority.

A more educated person is not more ‘evolved’ than a less educated person.  All living things are at the same level of evolution - not more or less evolved - and all members of homo sapiens are, more or less, equally capable of being educated and rational. 

The idea of ranking species or people on some evolutionary ladder reflects a lack of understanding about the prinicpals of evolution.

Personally, I do not want to live in a world where science, which offers excellent explanations regarding how things work, is also the only reference point that I have for answering ethical questions, such as should I ‘borrow’ some paper clips from the office. I’m not hurting anybody…

That’s a bit of a leap from the first 2 paragraphs, isn’t it?  Science doesn’t aim to provide morality or ponder ethical questions.  That’s the purview of philosophy and I’ve never met a philosopher (atheist or not) who argued that stealing wasn’t ethically wrong.

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Posted: 27 July 2007 03:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
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You need to do some comparative statistics.  If a population is 80% Christian, 15% agnostic, and 5% atheist then you have to take that into account when looking at the prison population.

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Posted: 20 August 2007 06:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]  
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You used the term “more evolved” in order to describe what you refer to as an atheist’s measure of her own superiority over the theist.  In case you did not grasp how incorrect such a usage of the verb ‘evolve’ is in that context, let me try to make it clearer.

When referring to any creature that inhabits the earth at the present time and to compare it to any other such present-day creature, the use of the comparitive ‘more evolved’ simply doesn’t make any sense.  All creatures exist within the eternal processes of evolution and all those that are alive at this moment are actually ‘evolved’ to the exact same, optimum degree (within the temporal domain of evolutionary process).  You might use the term ‘more evolved’ to describe how a present day specimen is different from a long dead ancestor of the same (or similar) species, but that is clearly not your intent (i hope).

It seems to me that you are using religious semantics (notions like ‘superiority’ and ‘more blessed’) and attempting to graft them onto purely scientific discourses.  This sort of value-laden commentary does not transfer from religion to science, and when someone does this sort of thing it merely shows a lack of understanding of the parameters of scientific reasoning.

If your use of the term ‘more evolved’ was to make any sense it would necessarily infer that there is a goal or a purpose to the evolutionary process.  It would assume that certain earth dwellers are closer to that goal of evolutionary perfection than are others.  But you are thinking like a religious person in purely religious delusion.  In fact, there is no such teleological framework for the process of evolution.  What you are attempting is to import religious ideology into a scientific/naturalist domain but by doing that you are corrupting the very framework that you wish to criticize.  In fact, you are denigrating something that doesn’t even exist as such, so your argument is baseless and ultimately meaningless.

Bob

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