Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Stupid! It Burns! (pedophile edition)

the stupid! it burns! A Plea to Atheists: Pedophilia Is Next On the Slippery Slope; Let Us Turn Back Before It Is Too Late
It is axiomatic that in the world of the atheist there is neither morality nor immorality, only amorality.

The lack of morality is not axiomatic among atheists unless one accepts the premise that morality somehow necessarily entails a God. Only then would the lack of morality be axiomatically denied by atheism. But Averick's argument implicitly assumes that even someone who does not believe in God must somehow believe that sexually molesting children really is wrong. If someone did not already believe that child sexual morality was wrong, Averick's argument would be irrelevant. Suppose, for example, that Averick did not trade on a commonly accepted belief; suppose he said that without God, atheists could "rationalize" the eating of pork. Or suppose he said that without God, atheists could "rationalize" the equality of women. We would of course say that yes, that's kind of the point. Fundamentally, therefore, Averick is implicitly contradicting himself: we should believe in a god if we don't need a god to come to moral conclusions.

There is nothing that atheistic societies are incapable of rationalizing and accepting – including the sexual molestation of children.

Let's assume by "atheism", Rabbi Averick means "a rational and evidence-based approach to morality." In this case, it's true but meaningless that an "atheist" society is capable of "rationalizing" and accepting any moral premise. In other words, an atheist society does not have any a priori morality; we have to determine what is moral on the basis of evidence and observation.

Singer went on to explain that he is a “consequentialist.” For the benefit of the philosophically challenged let me explain “consequentialism” in a nutshell: If you like the consequences it’s ethical, if you don’t like the consequences it’s unethical.

Averick's dig at the "philosophically challenged" is ironic: Averick makes an elementary error, confusing consequentialism with a particular brand of subjectivism. Consequentialism just means that we somehow evaluate the consequences of an act, rather than the "intrinsic" morality of an act without regard to the consequences; consequentialism does not entail any particular method of evaluating the consequences.

(We should also note that Peter Singer does not represent all atheists; being an atheist does not entail that one is either a consequentialist or a subjectivist. In a moral context, atheism entails a rejection of only god-predicated morality.)

Thus, if you enjoy child pornography and having sex with children it’s ethical, if you dislike child pornography and having sex with children it’s unethical.

No. To a consequentialist, the ethics of child pornography and sex with children would have to do with the consequences of these actions, whatever they might be. If, for example, one somehow held that harm was a bad consequence, or that the violation of consent was a bad consequence, then sex with children would be bad if it caused children harm or violated their consent. Consequentialism denies only that sex with children could be inherently good or bad, without regard to the consequences of the act.

Averick goes on to (dishonestly) cite some mental health professionals who claim that sex with children might be beneficial to children. I'm extremely skeptical of these claims, but they might be true; science properly has no respect for prejudice, even my own. If so, if childhood sexuality really was beneficial, then Averick must be telling us that we should actually harm children to preserve his superstitions. Who is really the monster here?

This conclusion is not a straw man. Averick places his own work in a larger moral context, saying,
In my own lifetime I have witnessed radical societal swings in moral behavior and attitudes regarding marriage and sexuality, homosexuality, the killing of unborn children, euthanasia, and the use of illicit drugs.
But all of these moral beliefs are precisely about a conflict between humanistic consequentialism and religion: there is no reason people who are not happy living together should stay married; there is no reason people should not enjoy consensual, mutually enjoyable sex; women should not be coerced into having unwanted children; people should not be coerced into living with incurable and untreatable suffering; and smoking pot or drinking alcohol in moderation is pleasurable and relatively harmless.

Averick notably positions atheism as anti-authoritarian:
It would be absurd then for the atheist to suggest that any particular individual or society has the authority to dictate to all human beings what their values should or should not be; it would be even more absurd to suggest that the pronouncements of any individual or society obligates others to behave accordingly.
Since Averick is strongly anti-atheism, we must read him as saying that some particular individual or society does have the authority to dictate values to all human beings and obligate them to behave accordingly. Society does not actually exist separately from individuals, so that leaves individuals to dictate the values for all human beings, and as a self-appointed spokesman for God, who better than Rabbi Averick himself to tell us all what to do.


  1. I suspect the article is motivated by the recent B4U-act symposium, which is mentioned midway through. Averick says that "minor-attracted person" is a more palatable word for pedophile. (In reality, MAP is a broader term including hebephiles and ephebophiles.) The term is partly intended to prevent equivocating between attraction to minors and acting upon this attraction. Averick makes precisely this equivocation, and thus misrepresents the symposium.

  2. Indeed: in addition to being a poor philosopher, Averick is also a liar.


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