Oh My God, that’s sooo 19th century

Tom Oleson’s commentary on Atheism in today’s Free Press highlights the main problem I have with editorials, op-eds, and letters to the editor. Unfortunately, one need not be an expert in a field in order to offer a comment – and, more importantly, comments need not reflect current research.

By “current”, I mean the past 150 years.

Oleson parpharases one of my favorite novelists, Dostoevsky, saying “you get to do anything you want with a clear conscience” since “if God doesn’t exist, then all things are permitted.” This view is simply not true and is extremely dated. Research in anthropology, experimental pedagogy, economics, evolutionary biology, primatology and many other fields has revealed a lot about the nature of our Moral Minds – that we have evolved our moral capacity over time and that our innate sense of morality is an evolutionary consequence of our biological past. Our religious institutions are therefore a consequence of our morality – and not the source. Dostoevsky would not have known that when he wrote and can be forgiven. Oleson clearly does not know that and cannot be forgiven.

Newspapers are wonderful things. I love to read them as they can reveal much about the zeitgeist and because they can summarize more information than I could ever hope to gather independently. However, newspaper often fail miserably at commentary because their commentators are not required to keep up to date on critical research and reading. They can comment freely on topics without even being aware that they are 150 years behind the times.


3 responses to “Oh My God, that’s sooo 19th century

  1. Isn’t Tom Oleson 150 years old?

  2. @John: LOL!

    While it may be the case that Tom Oleson is out of touch, the problem is with the Free Press. They actually printed an op-ed in which it is claimed that members of a particular faith-group can commit any – ANY – offence and feel perfectly good about it. The extreme slur being repeated then is that Atheists are sociopaths – capable of doing anything with a clear conscience. Could you imagine them printing in the paper that Muslims or Jews or Catholics have no conscience? That the central tenet of their faith is that they can commit any crime without feeling bad?

    Again, Oleson just happens to repeat this derogatory slur – against all the scientific evidence. It is the Free Press that decides to print the slur uncritically – possibly revealing that the Editors themselves are both unaware of research and biggoted.

  3. Yeah, because if you are an athiest, you are obviously some kind of monster. I know of many very religious people in this world who do a lot of evil things. For any functional society, people need to adhere to a strict sense of morality. The rise of athiesm in western countries is a reflection of the relative peace and stability that has lasted for the past 60 years. And this peace was caused by the diminshing influence of sectoral rule, including religious organizations.

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