Saturday, May 23, 2009

Vicarious Guilt vs. Voluntary Encouragement by Anthony McCarthy

Using the neglect of Daniel Hauser, the 13-year-old boy whose parents have kept him from receiving treatment for lymphoma, as an attack on the large majority of the population who are religious is a good example of the dishonesty and counter-productive thinking rampant in blog culture. It starts in assigning vicarious guilt to people who not only aren’t involved in the crime of the parents, but who completely disapprove of what they’re doing.

The fact is, the parents wouldn’t be breaking a law against this kind of child neglect if there wasn’t a law to break. Most people think it should be illegal or those laws wouldn’t have been adopted or maintained in the legal code. Most of the people who draft those laws and adopt them are religious believers elected into office by religious believers. Blaming them because someone broke the law they approve of is stupid. You might as well blame them for any other crime someone commits.

The fact is, very few religions teach that it is all right to refuse a child medical treatment. Those I’m familiar with would probably hold that what the parents are doing is sinful. They see it for the child neglect it is, the opposite of parental responsibilities and obligations.

How can people be responsible for acts that they disapprove of, have tried to prevent by making it a crime and who will largely be in favor of the prosecution of the parents? If you can make sense of the accusation of the majority of religious believers for the acts of two parents, it must be through something other than the application of reason.

I once asked another blogger promoting the same kind of vicarious guilt why they didn’t focus on the far larger number of people who are denied treatment because they either can’t pay or don’t have medical insurance. Call it systemic medical negligence. In the United States, I’d imagine such people, including children, outnumber the victims of faith-based child neglect by, at least, many hundreds to one. You could also work in the fact that some of those people can get free treatment from religious charities and institutions. You might wish that these religious charities and institutions could provide more free treatment than they are able to now. That is, you could if focusing on people being denied available medical treatment was the real purpose of their posts. That is a question I have asked a number of times to a response of stony silence.

Since it was Jerry Coyne who is the example linked to, I think I’m entirely within my rights to ask him why he is encouraging attacks on Moslems. If he or those who he chooses to associate with, can accuse people who have no association with Daniel Hauser’s parents of encouraging them, I can ask him to account for himself.

Just below that post is one in which he brags of his inclusion on the board of , uh, .... what is being dubbed, “The Reason Project”. In joining onto the board and encouraging people to join, he proudly associates himself with Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens, he actively promotes them and, so, one would be entirely within their rights to assume, what they have said.

I’ve gone into Harris’ encouragement of a nuclear first strike against Moslems and his statement that it might be justifiable to kill people for their ideas in the absence of acts generally held to be necessary to justify killing someone. His hostility to Moslems, and other religious believers is his entire shtick. Chris Hitchens’ rabid, far from rational, promotion of the war in Iraq, his general hatred of Moslems and his enthusiasm for the killing potential of cluster bombs is also general knowledge.

So, Jerry Coyne, why are you promoting these things? You want to explain yourself the next time someone suspected of being a Moslem here is attacked or murdered on the basis of their religion? Unlike religious people who have no connection to the Hausers and who vigorously disapprove of what they’ve done, you’re proudly touting your choice to associate yourself with Harris and Hitchens.

I also don’t understand what Ayaan Hirsi Ali thinks she’s going to accomplish in joining up with Harris and Hitchens on this board. How is she going to change the minds of people Sam Harris wants to target for a nuclear first strike? I’d imagine even anti-Islamic people, even atheists who live in the cities to be incinerated in his proposed nuclear bombing, might not be enthusiastic about her after this. I had thought that she wanted to improve the lives of women who are the victims of Islamic fundamentalism. I don’t see how any reasoning person could think this is the way to do that.

Update: As to discerning Coyne’s intention of posting on the story you might want to consider this post:

Child doomed by religious faith

With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil; but for good people to do evil - that takes religion.

-Steven Weinberg

No conflict between science and religion, you say? Have a look at this article from the Minneapolist StarTribune. Thirteen-year old Daniel Hauser,....

....This is a life-or-death conflict between science, which can save the child, and religion, which is killing him. No conflict here? What would Francis Collins say?

(Thanks to P. Z. Myers at Pharyngula for calling this to my attention. He has a post on this incident.)

Just why he wants to bring Francis Collins into this I haven’t been able to figure out.

If you want to see what he think of the practice of assigning vicarious guilt, and this doesn’t convince you, his blog archive isn’t very big and it’s easy to find.