DarkSyde, from Unscrewing the Inscrutable, has posted a really interesting post today. It starts with the famous quote from Martin Luther King, Jr:
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”- I have a Dream by Martin Luther King, Jr.
Why is this interesting? Well, it’s interesting because DarkSyde is an atheist. I know this because it’s practically all he ever talks about. I know that he likes Pink Floyd, because of his net handle, but otherwise, I know he’s an atheist. Here’s a fun quote to support my characterization:
I too, have a dream, a vision of mankind’s destiny. I dream that one day we will throw off the last vestigial illusions of supernatural beings meddling with humanity, and that we will take full responsibility for our own future. No longer will we helplessly huddle in the cave from the lightning Gods and the spirits of wind and rain. No more will we rely on the peculiarities of imagined invisible deities for direction, nor look desperately to miraculous salvation which will never come. We are embedded, for better or for worse, in a physical universe unimpressed and unaffected with the ancient rites of a bronze aged near east mythology. This supernatural artifice of our cultural childhood must be discarded, if we are to attain true liberty and cultivate a desirous future.
He didn’t post the MLK quote in order to fisk it. No, he posted it in order to praise it, and use it as a jumping off point for his own statements.
DarkSyde thinks racism is bad. I do too. But I think it’s bad for precisely the same reasons that MLK thought it was bad- because it was a self-evident truth that all men are created equal.
That “created” part is kind of an important part of the statement. MLK’s belief in God was kind of an important part of his belief system. Without his belief in God, MLK’s beliefs in equality cannot be understood. It is precisely his “imagined invisible deities” and “supernatural artifice” that provide the foundation for MLK’s dream. Therefore, the quote is a little bit problematic for a jumping off point for an anti-religious rant.
Some people think that “self-evident” means “obvious”, which it doesn’t. “Self-evident” means that the idea is self-attesting, or carries its truth within itself, without the need for external proof. But to an atheist, nothing can be self-evident. Everything must be tested, proved, disproved, doubted, suspected, and only very carefully and tentatively accepted. This is because there is no authoritative revelation. The atheist can trust only his own senses and reasoning, and these are notoriously unreliable. If something is “self-evident”, it is a matter of faith. So nothing can be self-evident to the atheist.
In particular, how could it be “self-evident” to the atheist that all men are created equal, when the atheist does not believe that all men are created at all? He does not believe in God, so how could man be said to be created? The best DS could agree with is the statement, “We believe these truths to most likely be correct, that all men are equal.”
But then what is the basis for believing that truth, that equality is something that can be predicated of all men? Our equality is not based on genetics, is it? If so, if someone could prove to DarkSyde that, say, Polish people were genetically inferior to Chinese, would DarkSyde then accept that all people were in fact not equal?
All men are not obviously equal. Some are poor, some are rich. Some are strong or smart or beautiful, and some are weak and stupid and ugly. Some people are born with terrible deficiencies that make rational thought practically impossible for such a person and likely curtails their lifespan quite a bit. Some people have tremendous political power, so that they can command the deaths of thousands at a whim. Some, on the other hand, will be one of those thousands.
Intelligence? Not equal. Power? Not equal. Strength? Beauty? Goodness? Independence, either in a political or biological sense? Not equal.
There is simply no criteria that science can establish by which people can be regarded as equal. If DarkSyde then claims to agree with MLK’s statement, which of course is from our Declaration of Independence, on what basis does he judge that claim? On what basis does he believe that men are in fact equal? What characteristic of man, which must override all other characteristics, is equal in its degree in every single instance of the species “human”? (and by the way, at what point in the womb of their mother does such an instance attain that magic predication of equality, DS?)
Within an evolutionary context, there seems to be no basis at all for the absolute adherence to the creed that racism is bad. If different segments of human beings were largely separated from each other for a period of time, why is it difficult to believe that some races developed more quickly than others? The worst you could say is that racism is a flawed scientific concept, but why should it be castigated as evil?
In MLK’s cosmology, and in mine, all men are equal because all men have souls created in the image of God. That is our source of equality. Take away the soul, and the equality is gone.
So I will ask you, DarkSyde- on what basis do you believe men to be equal? And what scientific evidence could I provide you with to prove to you that different races of people might in fact be unequal?
If there is no scientific evidence that I could provide you with to make that case, then that sounds a lot like religion to me.