The Portable Atheist

Lately, I’ve been reading “The Portable Atheist,” and find it thoroughly enjoyable. Sure, there are some ad hominem attacks among other such fallacies, especially when some entries seem to be of the “there is no god because … I’m smarter than you” variety, but all in all, I find most of the selected articles Hitchen’s stitched together here to be cogent and representative of current atheistic beliefs, even where those beliefs differ from each other. One of the articles, “Atheists for Jesus,” from Richard Dawkins, really caught my attention:

From a rational choice point of view, or from a Darwinian point of view, human super niceness is just plain dumb – Richard Dawkins

Dawkins goes on to explain how evolutionary theory is not nice, in fact, natural selection is just plain brutal, it makes no allowance for altruistic acts of selfless kindness. You can derive a sort of utilitarian (John Stuart Mill) or selfish gene (Ayn Rand) type of rational ethic which ensures survival of the species based on cooperation through self-interest, but not the kind of irrational “super niceness” that a few people practiced or advocated throughout history. Yet Dawkins likes this irrational niceness. He wants it propagated.

First, kudos to Dawkins for remaining consistent, as opposed to those who insist that evolutionary theory alone can account for human morality. Dawkins likes Jesus, or at the very least, his ethical teaching, even if it is irrational to behave that way in a world where natural selection determines everything.

So why does Dawkins endorse Jesus? Apparently because human consciousness has evolved to the point where irrational goodness is a good thing. Altruistic acts of selfless kindness goes contrary to natural selection, but that is where evolutionary theory ultimately leads … to irrationality.

 

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