The Gayfather enters the Faith Wars. I’ve exchanged email with Dr. Kameny several times in the past, and his response here nicely underlines how difficult it is for even intelligent, well-educated atheists to construct a coherent and logically consistent argument on these matters:
The alleged — or actual and proven — consequences of a theory are not relevant to an assessment of the validity of that theory. That Gravity has caused countless injuries and deaths and other catastrophies through falls and other incidents resulting from the action of Gravity tells us nothing about the validity of the Theory of Gravity and the physical constants associated with it.
This is true. I wrote as much in TIA.
And the evils visited upon us by various historical figures allegedly atheists are utterly irrelevant to an assessment of atheism itself, just as the claims of the evils which some allege to arise from organized religion tell us nothing whatever about the validity or invalidity of the supernatural upon belief in which those religions are based.
Now this, on the other hand, is not quite true and dances perilously close to a No True Atheist fallacy. If Christianity can be criticized for the failure of Christians to not wage the occasional war over the last 1,000 years, then surely atheism can be assessed and even criticized for the failure of open and avowed atheists – there’s no “allegedly” with regards to any of the individuals involved – to not slaughter tens of millions of defenseless people during the last century. However, it is true that the question of the existence of the supernatural does not enter into the equation.
I write as one who has termed himself a “good pious atheist” for some 68 years. I write as a scientist by training and background, with a BS in Physics; and an MA and Ph.D in Astronomy from Harvard University. The fact is that there is not a shred — not the tiniest shred — of valid, credible, persuasive evidence — actual EVIDENCE — for the existence of anything supernatural. There is just no actual evidence for the existence of any kind of supernatural beings: Gods, devils, angels, demons; nor of supernatural events: miracles, resurrections, and the like; or of supernatural places such as heaven and hell. And there is certainly no evidence for an afterlife: When you die you”re dead; it’s pemanently over for you. All the claims in support of the supernatural boil down to what I term “philosophical dithering”. They do not even begin to rise to the level of actual evidence and certainly not of proof.
Oh dear. All those years, that expensive Harvard education, and yet apparently no one ever taught him to open a dictionary. And perhaps if he’d attended Harvard Law instead of wasting his time on star-gazing, he might even grasp the law’s definition of evidence. Since Dr. Kameny is not a complete idiot, I shall charitably presume he is referring to a lack of SCIENTIFIC evidence and content myself with pointing out that scientific evidence is not only not the only form of evidence, it is not even considered the most credible form of evidence. For all that scientists sometimes whine about this, it is actually all to the good considering the fact that science is an inherently dynamic process and therefore a very poor foundation for what must be a generally static principle. Dr. Kameny should be downright embarrassed to make this argument, as even Richard Dawkins has tacitly conceded the point. To blithely label documentary and eyewitness evidence nothing more than “philosophical dithering” and so disprove the existence of everyone from Julius Caesar to George Washington is to do nothing more than demonstrate one’s philosophical incompetence.
One wonders, naturally, upon what scientific basis does Kameny assure us that once you’re dead, it’s over for you?
These whole complex structures of supernaturalism, whether the truly bizarre Christian one, or those equally weird ones postulated by other religions, are nothing more than imaginary fantasy-fiction and wishful thinking, utterly devoid of fact. The Bible ia nothing more than the attributed maunderings of a gaggle of intellectually-primitive, culture-bound near-barbarians who lived two to four millennia ago and have little of use, value or worth to offer to us today, structured around a flimsy, distorted skeleton of historical events of no relevance to anyone nowadays aside from scholars and historians of that era.
It’s more than a little ironic that Dr. Kameny should declare that the Bible is of no relevance to anyone nowadays. After all, the Bible states that homosexuality is abomination and the wages of sin are death. Dr. Kameny, on the other hand, was integral to convincing the American Psychiatric Association that homosexuality is normal. On the basis of his experience and his scientific training, he has also declared that it is objectively healthy and good. Of course based on the statistics, one has no choice but to score it Attributed Maunderings 1, Dr. Kameny and Science 0.
I allow no one to do my thinking for me on any subject including morality. I am no more going to allow my thinking to be done for me by those ancient primitive, barbaric biblical figures than I am going to allow my thinking to be done for me by Grimm’s Fairy Tales or Aesop’s Fables.
This sounds very intellectually brave, but it’s actually one of the most common atheist fables, because the reality is that he hasn’t reasoned his way to what passes for his morality. Instead, he has done what all other moral parasites do in accepting the traditional moral system and subtracting the few bits and pieces he doesn’t like. As for disregarding Grimm’s, well, if he’s foolish enough to enter a gingerbread house and partake of a feast there, he can’t say he wasn’t warned.
In those of your articles which I have seen (granted, I have not read your book) I have seen nothing which even begins to make a case for the existence of anything supernatural or to rebut a firm atheism. There is just no supernatural. There is just no god. There is just no afterlife. There is just nothing other than the natural and the material. It’s just not there. While I might easily have missed some of your writings, I have seen nothing by you which shows otherwise.
This keen observation is most likely due to the fact that I have never even begun to make any such case in my articles or in any of my books. Nor, given the near-complete inability of so many atheists to comprehend well-documented critiques of their flawed champions, do I see any reason to bother casting pearls of reason before intellectual swine. It seems to somehow escape the attention of many atheists that I am not an apologist or a theologian, I am simply a critic of the New Atheism and a chronicler of the many logical flaws of atheism. As for that brilliant summation, complete with an appeal to the powerful authority of Dr. Franklin E. Kameny his own gay self, I should say that only Richard Dawkins could possibly demonstrate a more overwhelmingly conclusive proof!