The Illusion of the “Modern Progressive”

I have this hobby that I like. It is about as nerdy of a hobby as I can think of. I love reading philosophy books. I know, don’t judge me too harshly. I enjoy reading them from different cultures and times.

I have a few eras that I am interested in, but one of my favorite eras and subjects is atheistic writings of the 1500’s to around the first half of the last century. I like to figure out why people think that there not being a God seems reasonable to them. But, I have to explain why I cut off my time at about 1950’s or so. The reason is the intellectual side of Atheism has taken a dive for the worst; Russell was much more compelling then Dawkins. That is not to say there are not some mildly compelling modern Atheistic philosophers today, it just seems as if Atheism has already reached its zenith and is in slow decline. Time will tell if it makes a comeback.

So, what does this have to do with the Modern Progressive? Before we explore this, we need to look a little into the past. At the time of the Reformation, spiritual information was taken out of the hands of the Catholic Magisterium. This put sacred knowledge out of the hands of Latin speaking clergy and into people outside the Church’s influence. The domino effect of this eventually put education out of the influence of the Church as well. Yet, things remained “Christian” for a while. But, then a new birth was happening, a new light. It was thought that we were moving from the darkness into the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment was fundamentally a separation of what was viewed as “subjective” things (like purpose and meaning), from “objective” things (like logic and sense perception). While Christianity sought to combine all these elements, the Enlightenment broke them apart and dissected them. Then we put “subjective” ideas into the realm of personal preference, and made “objective” ideas discussed in the public square. Things like religion were relegated to the home, while things like science were allowed in political arenas. Thus, the creation of the “Secular State.”

The Scientific Method grew during this time and became a force in schooling, eventually gaining such stature that if you were to be thought of as “educated” you needed to subjugate your thinking to a “scientific” system. To be an educated man was to be a scientific man. And few could deny the promise of this new science. It opened up new lands, new inventions, and a new Utopia. Instead of waiting for the New Heavens and the New Earth, we set about creating it. Utopian literature sprang up and dotted the literary landscape, with authors presenting their view of the new scientific age to come, the perfect society. Science was now the new religion that promised a better world and people were very optimistic. But, two events happened to change this; World War I and II. As the terror fell on two cities in Japan, the idea of a scientific utopia was shaken. We saw that science could be to our ruin instead of our savior. Replacing earlier utopian visions, were now stories of supposed scientific Utopias where the hero fought against all odds to topple this now evil “Utopia”. We became suspicious of precisely what we had always hoped for.

So, what does my extremely poor history lesson have to do with Modern Progressives? Well, first notice the word “modern.” By this, I am meaning people who define themselves as “progressive” that are born sometime after World War II. This is the era where the Utopia was in ruins, Marx fell with the Wall, and there was no objective goal mark for us to reach. Second, we look at the word “progressive.” This word denotes movement towards a goal. Here we have a problem, what is the goal we are to move towards? The Utopia has been burned to the ground by two atomic bombs. For every Utopia set up, a hero comes and brings it down. So, how can we know any movement we make is “Progressive”? Sure we can change things up, but with no goal in sight, how can we know progression had been made?

Some might think that anything which is new is “progressive.” We allow for abortion and this makes us a “progressive” society. Unless a society has some end goal in mind, a Utopia if you will, then movement away from existing societal norms can hardly be thought of as “progressive”. This is merely movement. Is this regression? Is it lateral movement? How can we know? The moral of the today’s age is that perfection is unknowable. Progressives have some fuzzy ideal in mind, possibly looking a little like the lyrics of “Imagine”, but this is hardly something we can use as a measuring rod.

With the death of God in our society, we built our Utopias. When these fell, we killed any concepts of progression. Progressives are therefore in an illusion, they push for movement but there is little indication they are progressing. The term is meaningless to the Agnostic or Atheist, but this is the group that most often uses this term to describe themselves. Odd, don’t you think?

The New Tolerance

News Story: Government-funded ‘registry of homophobic acts’

Gai Ecoute has launched a new registry that will put people on a list that commit what they feel are homophobic acts.

This registry was launched in partnership with and receiving funding from Quebec’s Justice Department. People will anonymously tip this agency towards groups or individuals who commit actions which are deemed homophobic. In describing what a homophobic act is, the organization gives the following description; any negative word or act toward a homosexual or homosexuality in general: physical abuse, verbal abuse, intimidation, harassment, offensive graffiti, abuse, injurious mockery, inappropriate media coverage and discrimination.”

Some of these descriptions I think are very reasonable. No one should tolerate “physical abuse” based on someone’s sexual preference for example. This is indeed criminal. However, we can see how the New Tolerance plays itself out here. If “any negative word or act toward a homosexual or homosexuality in general” is considered homophobic, then the New Tolerance is very intolerant. If you accept the homosexual lifestyle you are “tolerant”, but if you say anything negative about homosexuality, you are “intolerant”. Is this a very tolerance position? I cannot see how even advocates of the homosexual lifestyle can fail to notice that this vision of “tolerance” is about as intolerant as you can get. This is an obvious contradiction.

To further show how intolerant this group is, they even define homophobia as “inappropriate media coverage.” It will be interesting to see what they mean by “inappropriate”, but it is sounding like even giving media coverage to this discussion will black-ball you. It seems that they are trying to intimidate people who have different views as they do about homosexuality, and also squash all public discussion as well. This doesn’t sound like a free democratic society, but more like a totalitarian regime. Yes, this is the true face of the New Tolerance once you look past the mask.

Another troubling aspect of this is that the tipsters can remain anonymous. This is not how law works in a democracy. Having the ability to face your accuser is a fundamental aspect of Canadian law, yet this very basic ideal is skirted in the name of “tolerance.” No need to make a homosexual advocate have to show some responsibility for his or her accusations, the New Tolerance takes care of their own. The accuser should at the very least be made to show his or her face when acting in a way that might greatly affect someone else’s life. This will allow the person being accused (or lawyer) to cross examine the accusations of the accuser. This seems obvious.

And this leads me to my final consideration. What is the registry for? Will it be used to legally trample on the people or organizations that are on the list? Will the list be public? Its’ close ties with Quebec’s Justice Department is a bit unsettling. Their intentions should be made public, if they haven’t done so already.

All this is just another example of the New Tolerance. This whole movement is a contradiction and should be exposed as such. Otherwise, real human rights will be chipped away while fabricated human rights will be championed and promoted. As we stumble down the rabbit trail, we are starting to find ourselves in Wonderland where things just don’t make much sense anymore.”

Do Extraordinary Claims Require Extraordinary Evidence?

One of the favorite atheist rebuttals” during arguments concerning the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,and  among other issues of historicity confirming Christian record, is the flippant statement that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” This is generally followed by a triumphant look on the part of the atheist, who is quite positive that his or her extensive reading of the Wiki-Quotes of Christopher Hitchens handily trump any examination of historiography or philosophical consistency.

But let’s take a closer look at that statement. Does the statement extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” actually hold true, or for that matter, really mean anything?

That statement can be broken up into three sections, which should be examined individually before examined in conjunction with each other:

1. Extraordinary Claims
2. Requires
3. Extraordinary Evidence

Let’s first unpackage the beginning of the sentence. When, for example, Christians give the historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ or for His miracles, atheists call this an extraordinary claim. A “claim,” of course, could be defined as a proposition of some sort. But what is extraordinary? Which claims are defined as extraordinary, which claims are mundane, and which claims are, let’s say, completely extraordinary? Is there some sort of scale that grades claims on how extraordinary they are? An objective ranking from one to ten?

This even applies on a very basic cultural level. Let us give you a very basic example:

EG. “Buddhist and Hindu belief systems formed in India and Tibet teach that the body is governed by many chakras, or energy centres. There are seven major chakras: six are aligned in an ascending column from the base of the spine to the tip of the head and one hovers outside the body, between the genitals and the knees.

Anne Rooney, The Story of Medicine, Arcturus Publishing Limited, 2011, pg, 15

To people who have grown up in Western culture, this would be a more extraordinary claim. People living in India might not find it so extraordinary. This makes the concepts of extraordinary completely subjective. How can an objective value be placed upon a word such as extraordinary? The idea that certain claims, such as the resurrection of Jesus or biblical miracles in general are extraordinary, is completely the subjective opinion of the person stating this. We could point out that for over a millenia it would be the atheist’s denial of Jesus’ life as described in the Gospels which would be an extraordinary claim. This irony just goes to further prove the point that calling a claim extraordinary, while a clever rhetorical device, is essentially meaningless.

Before examining the second point, let’s briefly unpackage the third while we’re discussing the concept of extraordinary claims.

3. Extraordinary Evidence.

In order to really see what the questioner is demanding here, both words must be examined. We`ve looked at extraordinary, and determined that it is both subjective and ambiguous. So what of “evidence?”

Evidence is a very slippery word. What does evidence mean–and who gets to decide? The idea of evidence looks very different from person to person. A Yogi’s idea of evidence might seem very different then what a scientist considers to be evidence.

For example:

There is something which speaks within us in the language of eternity, not merely in the language of transitoriness. The consciousness of the transitoriness of things is an indication of the presence of a non-transitory eternity. This is a subtle voice that speaks within us, but it gets stifled, smothered by the mud that is thrown over it and the dust that is kicked up by the activity of the senses which blinds our eyes until we cannot see what is hidden behind this profundity within our own selves.”

The Yogi believes that “senses… blind our eyes until we cannot see what is hidden behind this profundity within our own selves,” whereas a scientist uses the senses to find evidence. The scientist will go through the rigours of the scientific method to find evidence and the Yogi will go through the rigors of meditation to find the “profundity within our own selves.”

Thus, even the word “evidence” itself must be clarified if it is to be deemed objective instead of subjective. The person who is making the claim must be able to demonstrate what they call evidence is actually valid evidence. A search of human philosophy will demonstrate that this is harder to do then what most people first think.[1]

The final word in this sentence is “requires.”

2. Requires.

Even if one could show that “extraordinary claims” and “extraordinary evidence” are indeed objective, which looks extremely unlikely, it is hard to see why one “requires” them to correlate to each other. What if a claim is indeed true, but there is little evidence for it? Under this approach the person would fall into error because of this completely unproven approach. He would deny the claim because of this word. At one time there was little evidence that the earth was round, so the scientific community thought the earth was flat. There was plenty of evidence for that, just look at the ocean. It looks flat. There doesn’t seem to be a necessary connection between an Extraordinary Claim and Extraordinary Evidence. Rather, it appears that this approach could lead one into error.

This entire article might seem to some a flippant response to a reasonable demand. But is the demand reasonable? From a philosophical perspective, the recent tomes being churned out by the self-labelled “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” are exceptionally shallow books. Do they ask good questions? Yes. Do they bring up some good points? Absolutely. Are they in any way philosophically consistent to the point that their thesis of anti-theism can be accepted? Absolutely not. And thus, the rhetorical devices of the anti-theist crowd must be held to the same high standards they disingenuously claim to hold religion to.

The stark reality is that the witty statement “extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence” is one that in every sense that matters is semantically meaningless. It is actually an attempt to demand the evidence that the asker would require to believe in something without explaining why that is necessary. When the polemical anti-God, anti-Christian rhetoric of someone like Christopher Hitchens is examined, it becomes quite clear that no matter what evidence is presented, he never would have decided to believe in God’s existence because the idea itself was reprehensible to him.

And thus, this statement should be abandoned as a rhetorical device, rather then a valid argument, due to its lack of meaning and philosophical function.

[1] For example, If the atheists using this phrase would then state that only reason or only the scientific method can provide true evidence, then they must explain why reason cannot in and of itself prove that reason is rational, or that the scientific method cannot be used to demonstrate that its methods actually produce truthful results.