Wednesday, November 04, 2009

D'Souza's embarassingly bad case for life after death.

It basically boils down to "I didn't steal your cookie, therefore, life after death exists":
Here is my presuppositional argument for life after death. Unlike material objects and all other living creatures, we humans inhabit two domains: the way things are, and the way things ought to be. In other words, we are moral animals who recognize that just as there are natural laws that govern every object in the universe, there are also moral laws that govern the behavior of one special set of objects in the universe, namely us. While the universe is externally moved by “facts,” we are internally moved also by “values.” Yet these values defy natural and scientific explanation, because the laws of nature, as discovered by science, concern only the way things are and not the way they ought to be. Moreover, the essence of morality is to curtail and contradict the powerful engine of human self-interest, giving morality an undeniable anti-evolutionary thrust. So how do we explain the existence of moral values that stand athwart our animal nature? The presupposition of cosmic justice, achieved not in this life but in another life beyond the grave, is by far the best and in some respects the only explanation. This presupposition fully explains why humans continue to espouse goodness and justice even when the world is evil and unjust.
The major problem with this type of argument is extremely simple. Once we decide that the origin of human morality is naturally and scientifically intractable, we no longer have any basis for arguing that one presupposition is naturally or scientifically more plausible than any other. Why should I believe in cosmic justice as an explanation when I could believe in, say, an invisible angel sitting on my shoulder whispering things into my ear that only my subconscious mind can hear? Or why not believe superluminal thought-control rays (which program us to ignore all evidence for thought control rays) are being emitted by aliens living on the planet Zebop? The physical consequences of each hypothesis are exactly the same -- people behave morally for some scientifically inexplicable reason -- so how do we decide among the alternative theories?

D'Souza has therefore fallen into a familiar bind for theists. If he admits that a given phenomenon is scientifically tractible, then he undercuts the need for his preferred supernatural explanation. If he admits that a given phenomenon is scientifically intractible, then he makes it impossible to priviledge his preferred supernatural explanation for plausibility over the innumerably many alternative explanations.


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