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Reflections on Ethics 87
Once more, morality does not come from any god;
but immorality can come from belief in one.

by: JT

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A thought experiment...

Suppose a group of eminent medical researchers announced that all children under two were suddenly infected with a new virus. They were carriers only, and it had no effect on them, and all over two years old were also immune. But any child born as of today or later who came ever came into contact with one of the carriers would die in days. This would mean the end of the human race unless all those currently under two were killed. The science unfortunately says "Kill all the babies."

What would we do?

I ask this because I ran into a blog post written three years ago by someone calling himself Vox Day.[1] He was asked the equivalent question by a Jefferson:

If your god revealed to you in a set of flawless communications you could not dispute that you should kill every child you see under the age of 2, would you?

His response?

I don't see what the problem is, or why people were avoiding this last night. I mean, of course it's supposed to be a trap but it's a toothless one of no concern to any sufficiently intelligent individual. The answer is yes, and how would you possibly take issue with that position regardless of whether you believe in my god or don't believe in any god?

Right - his answer is duh, yes, and no-one should object.

He then goes on to suggest that because the person who asked him the question was an atheist, that person would have no grounds to object because an atheist would have no grounds to "object to one set of meaningless atomic arrangements being randomly sorted into different arrangements." Essentially Vox Day is saying non-believers have no morality, and thus should not care about babies being killed.

Then he concludes with:

this is remarkably dangerous ground, not for Christians, but rather for anyone who is pro-science. If you are going to debate the legitimacy of a belief system based on the potential danger it presents, secular scientists are vastly more vulnerable than Christians.

Right. Vox Day follows a god[2] with a documented history[3] of both committing and ordering mass murder. And a god whose followers have claimed many, many more murders on his behalf. Further, Vox Day says he would commit mass murder if ordered by his god. And he dares to suggest that we are at more danger from secular scientists.

So let's return to my opening hypothetical question. Suppose secular scientists told us we should kill all babies under two - and unlike Vox Day's god, actually provided a rational reason for killing them. What would we do?

Undoubtedly there would be some who would agree to act, but I suggest it would be a small minority. In my view, the expected majority answer would be a resounding "No!" Regardless of a utilitarian rationale, murder is wrong, and mass murder even more so. Instead, we'd give the scientists piles of resources, tell them to do a lot more research and find a better solution.

We would not blindly follow just because we were told to. Unlike an order from god, with scientists there is room for discussion and argument, and telling the experts to go back to the drawing board.

Footnotes:

  1. To my ears, Vox Day sounds just like Vox Dei. A deliberate and extremely arrogant choice of pseudonyms perhaps?
  2. I have opted out of capitalizing god in this article, in part because Vox Day has not done so in his references, and primarily because Vox Day's god surely does not merit it.
  3. Or rather, a documented mythology of both committing and ordering mass murder.