Anglican Samizdat

August 21, 2009

The problem with relativism

Filed under: Atheism — David Jenkins @ 12:32 am

A major problem for soft atheists like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens is that they insist on talking in terms of right and wrong in spite of the fact that they have no objective standard by which to measure the morality of a human action.

They both appear to imbue evolution with the ersatz numinous quality of producing a tribal barometer of what is good or evil – but then, by their lights,  Hitler and Stalin were fairly advanced products of evolution and few atheists would claim what they and their followers did was good in any sense. So when Dawkins becomes upset by creationists who, he believes, distort the truth, his reaction isn’t particularly rational since to tell the truth is an ethical imperative which, by his own relativistic standards, is not necessarily better than telling a lie.

There is a similar problem in setting the standard for the kilogram: Add an Image

More than a century ago, a small metal cylinder was forged in London and sent to a leafy suburb of Paris. The cylinder was about the size of a salt shaker and made of an alloy of platinum and iridium, an advanced material at the time.

In Paris, scientists polished and weighed it carefully, until they determined that it was exactly one kilogram, around 2.2 pounds. Then, by international treaty, they declared it to be the international standard.

Since 1889, the year the Eiffel Tower opened, that cylinder has been the standard against which every other kilogram on the planet has been judged. But that’s creating problems. According to scientists, the cylinder’s mass appears to be changing.

As it stands, the entire world’s system of measurement hinges on the cylinder. If it is dropped, scratched or otherwise defaced, it would cause a global problem. “If somebody sneezed on that kilogram standard, all the weights in the world would be instantly wrong,” says Richard Steiner, a physicist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Gaithersburg, Md.

Sneezing on the kilogram standard may blow a flew molecules off and make all the other weights in the world slightly incorrect. Sneezing on an atheist’s ethical framework completely blows it away.


1 Comment

  1. Meanwhile a pound is a pound. How much it is is not determined by a bunch of scientists but by every cook and tradesman in the civilized world.

    Comment by obituary — August 21, 2009 @ 11:31 am

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