Atheism, Autism, and Parking Your Sports Car
During a recently online spate with a gaggle of atheists, the existence of "absolute morals" became a point of contention. I pointed to the Scriptures as providing an absolute moral authority. The atheists tried to argue that since it takes reason to apply the "absolute" moral guidelines of scripture to specific situations, this demonstrates that absolute morals do not really exist, since someone else might reason differently and come to a different conclusion. I argued that just because people disagree about absolute morality does not disprove its existence.
Afterwards I was struck by the similarity of this exchange to arguments I have had with autistic people. Both atheists and autists share the following characteristics:
1. Above average intelligence.
2. Inexplicable inability to grasp simple concepts.
Both atheists and autists tend to have difficulty comprehending the significance of exceptions. If you acknowledge an exception, they leap upon the exception as if it proves the contrary.
My atheist opponents were essentially arguing that although the moral guidelines of Scripture might be accepted by Christians as generally true, the fact there are exceptions to those moral guidelines disproves the general truth. They could not allow exceptions.They kept insisting that if theft/killing/lying are not always wrong, then absolute morality is an illusion. This is a non-sequitur, and their obtuseness was baffling.
Compare this with a disagreement I once had with an autistic friend. We were arguing about how a rich man with an expensive sports car might have legitimate reason to park diagonally, taking up two parking spaces, even if it made other people angry. My friend insisted that it was unethical to park the car diagonally simply because the owner of the car is only entitled to one parking space. He said being rich does not exempt you from the rule. “There are no exceptions.”
I countered that the reason the rich man parks his car diagonally is because an expensive car is much more expensive to repair, so he is justified in parking diagonally to ensure no one else parks too close and potentially scrapes the car while parking or pulling out. Sports cars are lower to the ground and are therefore harder to see. Another driver is more likely to scrape against a sports car if he’s parking beside it. (I myself have accidentally scraped against a low car while trying to park a tall vehicle.) Through parking diagonally, the rich man is not only protecting his own property, but protecting his less-rich fellows (and the insurance companies) from having to fork over hefty repair fees.
But of course no matter what I said, my autistic friend continued to insist that it is unethical for the rich man to park diagonally. For him, an exception to the rule was unthinkable. It would be unfair, and that’s all. End of line.
An ordinary person, after comprehending the rich man’s justification, would have to acknowledge the validity of the argument, though perhaps begrudgingly. The exception becomes valid. But the autist sticks to his guns.
In a similar manner, atheists have difficulty grasping that although science is a useful tool, there might be things that exist but are not scientifically verifiable. There might be exceptions to the rule that reality must be scientifically verifiable.
For the modern-day atheist, if someone believes in something that cannot be scientifically verified, by definition it must be imaginary. They cannot allow exceptions. “If there’s no scientific proof, then it isn’t real and it never happened.”
The difference between the atheist and the autist however, is that atheists are disingenuously selective when it comes to disallowing exceptions. For example, if I said that I met and spoke to God, the atheist will immediately dismiss my claim as an obvious falsity because I cannot scientifically prove that it happened. But if I said that I met Belle Delphine, the atheist might take it at face value despite the fact that I have no scientific proof.
Of course, any attempt to make the atheist recognize his own disingenuous propensities using illustrations such as the one above will only make the atheist insist upon narrower and narrower goalposts for what is considered “acceptable” evidence. For example, whereas personal testimony and preponderance of evidence would normally be acceptable as at least very strong indicators of truth, the atheist will not permit them at all when it comes to believing in the existence of the Christian God.
Atheists display a seemingly inexplicable reticence to allow perfectly normal investigation into what ordinary people consider to be evidence for the existence of the Christian God. I think this is because they know that some pretty powerful arguments can be made in favour of the Christian God if you stray outside the requirement for “scientific verification”. They are afraid to intellectually engage with these arguments, so they nip it in the bud, pooh-poohing any arguments that involve the following:
1. personal testimony
2. preponderance of evidence
3. Divine revelation
4. answered prayer
5. fulfilled prophecy
6. verification of Biblical history
7. the problem of evil / conviction of sin
8. existential dread
9. various thought experiments
11. the classic “arguments for God”
The atheist tries to justify his refusal to engage with these arguments by insisting that proving the existence of God requires a "higher standard of evidence". In reality he's just being selectively autistic. No one is obligated to dance to his fiddle. He has no moral or intellectual high-ground.
In my personal opinion, the reticence of the atheists to engage with the potential verification of Biblical history is particularly egregious. If it could be demonstrated that the archeological and geological record could be interpreted to conform to controversial historical events recorded in Scripture, this could be considered as (maybe not conclusive, but) strong evidence for the Divine revelation of Scripture. Many Christians believe that the canon of scientific knowledge can be made to conform with Biblical knowledge. For example, they believe there is archeological evidence for the Exodus, and geological evidence for the Genesis Flood. They believe that any discrepancies between the canon of scientific knowledge and Biblical knowledge may be due to:
1. bad science (the existence of which has been heavily documented)
2. faulty or autistic interpretations of evidence
3. no small degree of disingenuousness on the part of the science journals
4. misinterpretations or overly-literal interpretations of Scripture (in some limited instances)
Objectively, these assumptions on the part of the Christians are much more likely to be true than any of the otherworldly explanations atheists develop to explain the existence of a godless universe. Bad science, misinterpretation, and disingenuousness are real observable phenomena which occur every day. The Big Bang and cosmological evolution require atheists to invent gobbledygook like multiple-universe theory and twist the laws of nature to make things happen that really should not. Yet the atheist looks down his nose at the Christian and refuses to engage the possibility that controversial Biblical history can be verified. He refuses to expend the intellectual energy it would take to examine the Christian argument, pre-judging it to be nonsense because it contradicts the “scientific narrative”. His reasoning boils down to a circular, self-masticating truism: “It can’t be true because it can’t be true,” though he will employ a lot of fancy rhetoric to disguise this silliness. He will say something more like “It can’t be true because it contradicts science.”
When faced with this statement, Christians may be tempted to respond with “Yeah, but what if it is true?” which is super cringey but still more intelligent than whatever the atheist is thinking.
My online disagreement with some atheists about absolute morality figuratively took several turns around the merry-go-round until it was distilled into its bare essentials:
NPC#1: [Y]ou've agreed that it [absolute morality] isn't absolute
ArtGainz: I don’t think I did.
NPC#2: You have repeatedly. That you don't even know it is bizarre.
ArtGainz: The fact that we have to use our minds to approximate an absolute does not disprove the existence of absolutes. [Insert Obama gif]
NPC#2: It precisely does. It prevents them being absolute.
ArtGainz: If God exists, then He exists regardless of whether I understand Him completely. Same is true for absolute morality. End of discussion.
NPC#2: And neither exist. End of conversation. It's your claim and you can't prove it.
Once again the atheist appeals to his autistic insistence that if something cannot be scientifically proven, it must be imaginary. Even now my mind churns with simpler and simpler illustrations to demonstrate to these fellows that their autistic intellectual obtuseness does not carry the weight they think it does, but the unfortunate truth is that they cannot be taught because they “know” they’re right. They take pride in their lack of mental elasticity.