Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Notes: Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Mr. Baker on the relatio to what became Dignitatis humanæ

This is a detailed and vigorous rebuttal of the arguments which Dignitiatis humanæ's relator, Msgr. de Smedt, offered in defence of that document's theses.

Prof. Lumby on sex education in high schools

Prof. Lumby writes that

The Victorian government – and let’s remember that state governments are chronically terrified of upsetting anyone about anything – recently made the bizarre decision to introduce sex education to students in Years 9 and 10 which asks them to actually discuss sex.

[...] Teachers are even encouraged to ask students to discuss their own experiences and views on sexual practices, sexual ethics and intimate relationships. Clearly, that’s ridiculously sane. On what planet do these evidence-based sex education policy makers live? Naturally there’s been an outcry.

In the first of those paragraphs Prof. Lumby is, of course, being ironic when she describes the decision as "bizarre". But bizarrely (and I am not being ironic) she is not being ironic when she describes as "sane" teachers enouraging their respective pupils to discuss their sexual experiences with the class. Does it not occur to her how easily that sort of thing could end in tears, or worse (has she forgetten last year's fiasco of Kyle Sandilands asking a fourteen-year-old rape victim, to whom a lie detector was attached, whether the alleged rape had been 'her only sexual experience'?)? Reading Prof. Lumby's article, I felt as though she and I inhabit different moral universes.

But the occasions of sin and embarrassment which such an exercise would generate are not the only problem. Another problem is that, as though 'personal development, health, and physical education' classes aren't a big enough waste of time, this would be a further dumbing down of the school curriculum and an advancement of a philosophy which evaluates schooling according to its 'relevance' and 'practicality' rather than according to how it cultivates intellectual excellence. Is it too much to ask that the school curriculum restrict itself to educating, and leave things like learning to drive (recently there was a serious proposal aired in the Sydney Daily Telegraph to teach driving in schools) to outside school hours where they belong?

Mr. Muehlenberg and others on moral obligation

Here's an interesting extract from a recent comment by Mr. Muehlenberg at his blog:

People are moral and able to be moral because they are moral beings living in a moral universe created by a moral God. So for that reason atheists can live moral lives. It is just that moral motions and obligations make no sense in the atheist’s worldview. ... As I already said in the above quote, the honest atheists even admit to this. There are plenty more such quotes. Let me offer just one further example: “The concept of moral obligation [is] unintelligible apart from the idea of God.” (Atheist ethicist Richard Taylor).

One of Mr. Muehlenberg's interlocuters responded with, among other things, the following:

As for that quote about “moral obligation”, did you consider that that Richard Taylor was proposing that moral obligation equates to guilt? Your priests lay an obligation on their flocks to be moral, for fear of punishment. Atheists choose to be ethical because it is the right thing to do. Therefore, moral obligation only makes sense if you’re religious; the rest of us aren’t OBLIGED to be moral – we choose it freely.

Of that paragraph Mr. Muehlenberg wrote

Sadly your paragraph on moral obligation is completely incoherent, so I cannot even attempt to reply to such gibberish. I am afraid it is you who is completely out of your depth here, and you will have to come up with something much better if you hope to convince us that atheism is somehow a coherent and rational position. We are certainly not getting that from you so far.

Now it's clear that the interlocuter is confused in his understanding of the idea of moral obligation and its importance in ethical theory. But by saying that "the rest of us aren’t OBLIGED to be moral – we choose it freely" the interlocuter unwittingly indicates the problem with a Godless, and therefore lawless and obligation-less, (a)moral world--because if we choose freely to be moral, then whyever can't we choose freely to be immoral? Without moral obligation, we have, by definition, the moral liberty to do either. And so another commenter at Mr. Muehlenberg's blog did well to write the following:

You might deny the existence of God, but you can’t escape the inevitable conclusion that without a moral law giver as a foundation for moral reasoning you are left without a philosophical leg to stand on. The older atheists understood this, which was why they embraced a very nihilistic view of the universe. Sadly the preening pretentious frauds that claim to pick up their mantle today seem to have forgotten the lessons of the much wiser intellects that went before them.

If you want to claim to push a moral law giver out of the picture then at lest be intellectually honest enough to admit that you are left with nothing but a vacuum of moral nihilism.

Reginaldvs Cantvar
Feast of St. Dominic, Confessor, A.D. 2010

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