Thursday, August 09, 2018

Biology, Morality And Religion

At some pundit's recommendation, I think it was Victor Davis Hanson, I recently listened to a good portion of The Satyricon by Gaius Petronius. Petronius was a member of Nero's inner circle, circa 60 AD. I finally had to stop because the thing is mostly porn and I just couldn't stomach it any more.

The Satyricon is brilliantly written. It is one of the most beautiful and compelling pieces of prose I have ever read. You can easily get lost in the writing and carried along the sewer stream of the story. It is also very instructive regarding the development of morality in the absence of Judeo-Christian religion.

I don't have time to go into the plot, which you can find summarized elsewhere. Instead, I'll just say that the characters go from orgy to feast to orgy to theft to orgy to feast and on and on. There is a ton of homosexual sex as well as a great deal of seducing of children. Only in that last one do the characters reveal a scintilla of reluctance, but even then, not enough to stop themselves. In fact, when I finally couldn't stomach it any more, one character was proudly recounting how he had seduced a young boy right under the noses of his parents.

It's all horrible, but is it wrong? That's the question I wrestled with as I listened. Putting myself in their shoes, where their gods and goddesses are nothing more than good luck charms and their morality is derived from satisfying biological urges, why is any of it wrong?

Therein lies the problem for those who claim that atheism can produce a moral code equal or superior to Christianity. You might be able to do it in the faculty lounge, which I doubt, but you certainly can't do it with the general public. You can't answer the simple question that all moral codes must address: Why shouldn't I satisfy my biological urges?

Judeo-Christian Version

  1. We were made in the image of God
  2. We are all equal
  3. We are called to love others as ourselves
  4. God gave us our bodies to serve each other, not ourselves
  5. We should enjoy sensual pleasures within that context

Atheist Version

  1. ...
  2. ...
  3. ...
  4. ...
  5. Um, there are efficiencies to society if you practice some nebulously-defined restraint, so you probably shouldn't do it, OK?

Modern, Secular Version

  1. You're a bigot if you don't support all 781 genders getting it on any way they want
  2. For those of you who haven't consulted the latest list and still think there are only 765 genders, you're bigots, too. ANTIFA will be at your door shortly to provide instruction.
In the end, no one is going to listen to intellectuals tell them to restrain their desires because there's some kind of evolutionary advantage to it. That's nonsense from beginning to end. The evolutionary advantage comes to those who slake their lusts and desires as much as they possibly can. Hey, the dominant lion isn't an ascetic, you know.

And neither are the characters in The Satyricon. Go figure. And while you do, feel free to Bang A Gong (Get It On).


Foxfier said...

There are lots of practical reasons to follow standard morality-- it is the best way to promote the culture's good.

What's lacking is a practical reason to CARE that it's best for society.

IlĂ­on said...

Modern 'atheism' -- which is to say, the God-denialism which is grounded in rejection and/or hatred of Christianity -- and the various paganisms of the ancient world share the same foundational metaphysics, so it's to be expected that their 'morality' will be similar.

tim eisele said...

"The evolutionary advantage comes to those who slake their lusts and desires as much as they possibly can."

If that were true, though, then how did societies following Judeo-Christian Ethics ever get established? How did they avoid being crushed by numerically-superior pagans who slaked their lusts and desires and therefore outbred the Judeo-Christians?

And the obvious response is, because the pagans were not, in fact, in a superior position and therefore were not able to do so.

Which is another way of saying that the pagans did not actually have an evolutionary advantage, because slaking one's lusts does not actually correlate to successfully raising children to adulthood (which takes a heck of a lot more than just knocking up a bunch of women). And that a wild libertine society can't actually outcompete a society that can cooperate, train themselves in strategy and tactics, and present a united front against them.

Foxfier said...

How did they avoid being crushed by numerically-superior pagans who slaked their lusts and desires and therefore outbred the Judeo-Christians?

*snickers* By not being genetic... one of the things that early Christians did, which was short-term stupid and costly but right and long term an awesome idea, is they picked up the abandoned babies and cared for them.

That meant they picked up a lot of disabled kids in general, yes, but it also meant they picked up a whole lot of girls.
Girls who went on to raise the next generation in Christian traditions, even though it is (short term) very expensive and often personally a bad idea.

If you don't care about society, though, then the personal sacrifices are a bad idea.