Sunday, June 22, 2008
Ken Ham is not a "wackaloon"!
"Wackaloon" is a word that should be reserved for something cuddly and basically harmless -- maybe a cartoon character named "Wackaloon Smurf." It has a sound appropriate for crazy Uncle Charley, the adult who made the other adults cluck disapprovingly but who treated all 10 year olds as if they were real people. That's not Ken Ham and PZ wasn't on his game the day he called Ham that.
I won't try to compete with Dana in creative -- and decidedly colorful -- invective. But the very worst epithet in my lexicon applies to Ken Ham. He is a diseducator. He leaves people stupider in his wake; less knowledgeable, less aware of the glories of nature; less familiar with the hard-won learning that is the greatest achievement of our species. He steals the most valuable coin people have and leaves their purse truly empty.
Instead, I'd like to look at what Ham's real complaint is. The occasion for PZ's comment was Ken Ham's appearance at a prayer breakfast at the Pentagon. Ham sees nothing wrong with that:
What's he so worked up about anyway? If he's right, God doesn't exist -- so prayer can't do anything and, therefore, can't harm anything.
Nor does Ham's diseducation end with science:
But, then, who cares about harm in a world without moral absolutes? It's the survival of the fittest; so, evolution will inexorably eliminate these weak-minded "idiots" at the Pentagon. If they nuke some people along the way, so what? That's just the death of the weakest in this purposeless accidental existence of ours; sooner or later the more fit will triumph, and the world will be more evolved. So, what's Myers concerned about? This is all just time and chance and the laws of nature at work. What is, is. There are and can be no "oughts."
[T]o answer the question why we are moral, it is because our ancestors, who were apes and shared the common ape heritage of being social animals of a certain kind, were rule followers, and had to cooperate to survive and gain mating opportunities. And then we evolved language.
If a God exists, I cannot help but wonder what she will think about Ham going around breaking the brains of her greatest creation in this corner of the cosmos.
...which ties in nicely to this rather unsettling story relayed by Jim Lippard and Ed Brayton about a fundamentalist group presenting themselves as a branch of the US military. They wear uniforms that are near-perfect copies of those worn by the US Army, award themselves military ranks and, apparently, have been taken at face value by serving officers. All of which appears to be illegal although no action has been taken.
After all, morality is not a matter of what "mankind" - an abstract collective - does, but is rather about individuals. It's about individual responsibility. So the origins of "kinds" has less to do with morality than the origins of individuals.
To put it another way, if my great-grandfather was a horse thief, that doesn't mean that I should be a horse thief, too. But it would matter - if possible - even less what my ancestors of many thousands of years ago were like.
What it is, is an argument for Scientific Storkism.
People like Ken Ham make me wish God existed, just so I could see the looks on their faces when Jesus returns in all his glory and bitch-slaps them for being such morons.
Doing the slapping myself, however, was very nearly as satisfying, and you've just provided me with the very best dessert!