Tuesday, March 11, 2003

Now on to the meat of the matter. Prager spent the last hour of his program today attempting to clarify his views on the consequences of the decline of Judeo-Christian values and the rise of secular ideas. Specifically, Prager maintained that it is only the belief that man is created in God's image that could be a valid basis for believing in human moral superiority to animals. He further blamed the decline of marriage and reduced desire to have children on secularism. His third example consisted of foreign policy where the morality of the war in Iraq is to be decided by a UN consensus rather than the fixed viewpoints of religion. And finally he pointed to the absence of wisdom at the university, a largely secular institution, which has the distinction of discussing and advocating some of the most foolish ideas in society.

Interestingly Prager insisted he was not trying to convert any atheists or encourage anyone to believe in God. He was simply trying to make clear the consequences of what he termed secularism. He was arguing in effect that no matter what side of the issue one is on, one has to acknowledge that without religious Judeo-Christian values the consequences he enumerated are inevitable. Prager as usual is merely insisting on "clarity."

I will begin by commenting that not all the consequences mentioned by Prager are bad in my view. For example, the issue of whether or not one has children, everything else being equal, is not a moral issue in my view. Context can make it a moral issue in both directions: There are people to whom children would be a great value and there are people who should never have had their children. But human beings as such do not have a moral obligation to have children, notwithstanding the biblical view.

Prager is quite correct on the university as the source and instigator of numerous foolish (and in fact worse than foolish) ideas. They are in fact the source of his two other examples: The consensus view of morality and the moral equivalency of human and animal suffering. The consensus view dates back to the pragmatists such as John Dewey and Charles Peirce, who ultimately derive their ideas from Immanuel Kant. The moral equivalency of humans and animals is a view pushed by Princeton's Peter Singer, among others. Singer's utilitarianism traces its roots to the original utilititarians Mill and Bentham who themselves in effect combine the views of Epicurus and Kant. Ultimately the reason for the presence of these ideas is not secularism as such but a long philosophical development of increasing irrationality that started all the way back in times when most people (and universities as well) were still quite religious. It was the errors and absurdities of the various early religious philosophers which then culminated in the errors and absurdities in the later secular ones. There were parallel trends: The increasing secularism and the increasing tower of irrational errors. Initially, various religious ideas were quite properly rejected in the name of reason. Later on as philosophers made crucial mistakes in understanding how reason works and concluded that reason is impotent, they started to reject almost all abstract principles and concepts due to their initial mistakes. Religion was rejected at the same time as reason. This unfortunately doomed proper secular morality until the arrival of novelist/philosopher Ayn Rand's Objectivism in the 20th century.

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