Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Episode 85 They Had It Coming

Life isn't always fair. Sometimes good people suffer needlessly while immoral people prosper. Nevertheless belief in a just world persists. Deep within the human psyche is a strong urge to believe people get what they deserve and while this mentality may bring some comfort to the individual it can also result in victim blaming or turning a blind eye toward real injustice. Unfortunately religion often bolsters just world belief--especially when the believer is forced to reconcile the idea of a righteous God with the reality of suffering. Also on this episode: the doubtcasters remember Jack Kevorkian and argue in favor of allowing physician assisted suicide; the Myan goddess of suicide and a stranger than fiction that will make you loose your head.

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25 comments:

Chris Holzer said...

Why oh why is there such a few hour delay before the new espisode becomes available on iTunes? I can't live without my Reasonable Doubts. Incidentally, the word verification, for me, to comment on the blog was ironically "cultso".

Queen of Hearts said...

Great Episode guys! Thank you

Led Balloon said...

awsome episode guys, i think polyatheism is becoming my favourite segment, would love to here one on possibly the greek gods, or even the titans?

also where are the logos you mentioned last episode? any head way with them?

James said...

What I want to know is, how do municipalities like Joplin, Missouri, managed to get all the unrighteous people to live in houses along roughly straight lines so that the tornadoes hit them reliably?

Oh, and thanks for supporting the Slut Walk! It's nice to see something from Toronto (other than SARS) catch on worldwide.

Anonymous said...

Off Topic. But the Friendly Atheist is coming to your town today

Anonymous said...

Euthanasia is forbidden in my country Sweden, but last year we had a decision from the state medical authorities that almost amounts to the same thing. If you are terminally ill, you may now spend your short remaining time (days-to-weeks) in a deep drug induced sleep and never have to regain consciousness again after being – literally! – put to sleep. You must ask for it yourself and be of reasonably sound mind when doing it, but the hospital must now honour that request. This seems to satisfy all objectors to euthanasia: the religious (yes, even we have a small religious party in parliament that is in the ruling coalition); the people afraid of undue pressure from relatives; and the people afraid of "killing to save money". It is of course expensive, but could this be a humane solution that could be accepted by the US “my-god-insists-that-you-suffer”-religious people?

Jerry said...

Small correction guys... Rolling Thunder is an annual Memorial Day gathering of patriotic bikers in DC who roll through town to the memorials to show their support for those who have given their all for this country. The Patriot Guard is the group who was created in direct opposition to the Westboro Baptist Church. The PG also provides escorts and flag lines for military funerals when requested. Keep up the great work.

Maximus-Primus said...

Reasonable doubter's;

There are other theologies that support suicide, many asian religions prescribe suicide and this results into a trip to happy land, look up the short story Patriotism.
Or look at the enuit (sp) when you get too old and become a drag on the family you walk out on the ice and wait to be eaten by a bear upon which you are taken to the happy fishing grounds. The almost exact same thing occurs with many other north american natives, when you get old sacrifice yourself and tada instant heaven.

Thanks for a good show

Fletcher said...

Maximus --

You're absolutely right.

Jefe said...

Love the show guys. Small correction: Oregon rhymes with "gun" not "gone".

Anonymous said...

Gentlemen:

I would love to hear you guys discuss the book written by a philosopher from University of Cape Town, David Benatar, Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming into Existence. I thought of it as you guys discussed right to life issues today.

He argues it is always immoral to create life on Utilitarian grounds. Essentially, he argues, you are creating a life without its consent that will undoubtedly suffer and that doing so is always immoral. It is a fascinating, albeit unusual and widely hated, argument and I would love to hear you guys discuss it.

John in WY

Curt Cameron said...

As you were wrapping up, I was disappointed that you hadn't told the Jesus joke, and I had planned to ask you here what it was. Then I was delighted after the music stopped to hear it. "Hung like this" - love it.

Anonymous said...

Al Qaeda has more true compassion than any pro-lifer.

At least bin Laden's victims die painlessly most of the time.

maggotpunk said...

That was, quite possibly, the most boring episode ever. Judging by the monotone voices I'm assuming everyone else was bored with agreeing with each other after the first ten minutes on a subject that was debated to death over a decade ago. I'm assuming that's the case, I just forwarded to the end to the polyatheism segment.

Aught3 said...

Yay Jeremy is back. Right before he left something was mentioned about the metaphysical/philosophical naturalism distinction and how Jeremy didn't buy into it. I would love to hear his take on it.

mabell said...

I'd like to hear some follow-up on the ethical aspects of estate planning in an end-of-life situation. For example, a person who is planning to end their life could max out their credit cards and gift their estate to friends and family. This might let them die quite the hero. Never mind that creditors are left holding the bag.

This is exactly what the folks at the Hemlock Society were talking about in hushed voices. You should have used the term "insurance fraud" to describe this situation.

Jeremy said...

mabel,

Insurance fraud? We're talking about people who are terminally ill and are going die soon anyway, they just want to escape the pain. Its quite different from the scenario you share. And believe me the main concern behind those hushed voices wasn't getting a fair return on their life-insurance policy (someone who's paid into their policy for decades shouldn't be denied the benefits they're owed just because they'd rather take a barbiturate than slowly starve to death in hospice). Their main concern was that their loved ones not be prosecuted for manslaughter.

Leon said...

Thanks for your great show - if anything, it strengthens my faith as i am challenged to evaluate everything i believe. Phil 2:12 is in fact an encouragement to believers to continually "work out our salvation in fear and trembling."
I am a believer and start my "working out" (figure it out / get to grips with) by putting God in his rightful place and take his word on being all-knowing, etc etc. Logic isn't based on nothing - its based on and bares relation to prior assumptions and this is mine.

The way i understand it is that a sceptic has the opposite "starting blocks" to their view than a believer: a believer starts this "working out" accepting that God is true, righteous and almighty (and all his promises that go with that) and the rest of the quest for insight is viewed in that light with reverence for the God who we believe in.
(if God is good, then...)

An honest sceptic also starts "working out" what he believes by asking a question and gathering information, but does not accept God as supreme ruler & creator (no fear and trembling / reverence... yet), in the hope of being lead to believing in God by enough logical evidence alone.
(if the evidence is solid, then God should be revealed)

There is also the dishonest sceptic (or cynic) that also poses the same questions the as the sceptic above, but from a position of pride and in the hope that the almighty God is not real or worth believing in.
(if the evidence is solid, then it should be obvious that there is no God)

Anyone interested in this blog & podcast will likely fall into one of these three categories.

So as a believer, there are a couple of apparent assumptions about the nature of God and the nature of people that i already have to question.
"Sometimes good people suffer needlessly while immoral people prosper." According to scripture, all people fall short of the grace of God - all people by nature of sin is bad and only Jesus is good. so good people and immoral people fall into the same category before a truly good God. (good people rely on their deeds for their "goodness" status yet are are at best also hypocritical, selfish, prideful, etc which don't amount to much in the light of scripture)

"Deep within the human psyche is a strong urge to believe people get what they deserve" - thats not necessarily psyche or just psyche, it also sounds a lot like "karma" which is also deeds-based redemption" or deeds-based condemnation. so most people (according to this underlying deep psyche) believe that the good and the bad in our lives come from what we do. It puts the do-er in the centre of his / her own universe as the maker or breaker of his/her own happiness by the cosmic power of deeds...?
I believe that God is good, loving, just and righteous that says in his Word that the penalty for all sin is death (physical, but more importantly, spiritual). Thankfully He loves the sinners more than he hates their sin, but he still has to put that sin to death. Enter Jesus. Thats the beauty and the scandal of Jesus' death on the cross - we don't have to get what we deserve, because Jesus got what we deserve.

James said...

An honest sceptic also starts "working out" what he believes by asking a question and gathering information, but does not accept God as supreme ruler & creator (no fear and trembling / reverence... yet), in the hope of being lead to believing in God by enough logical evidence alone.
(if the evidence is solid, then God should be revealed)

There is also the dishonest sceptic (or cynic) that also poses the same questions the as the sceptic above, but from a position of pride and in the hope that the almighty God is not real or worth believing in.
(if the evidence is solid, then it should be obvious that there is no God)


An honest skeptic asks questions in hopes of arriving at the truth, whatever it may be, without pushing for one preconceived goal or another.

If one does not believe in any gods, and has no evidence for any of them, then one is not in a position to honestly hope to be led to belief in any specific one.

Anonymous said...

James' arguments about the respective starting points of belief and disbelief are not as useful a way for him to be framing his argument as he might think. A lot of my students try this move, but it leads them to do some dark places.

Last spring, for instance, a student in my first-year honors seminar asked about an early section in the Nichomachean Ethics in which Aristotle notes that it makes a difference if we are arguing from or to first principles. The believer generally argues "from first principles," while the skeptic generally argues "to first principles."

The exact line in the text is this:

"Let us not fail to notice, however, that there is a difference between arguments from and those to first principles. For Plato also was right in raising this question and asking, as he used to do, "Are we on the way from or to the first principles?"

Yes indeedy-oh, there's a difference between these two approaches, a great big fat one. My students usually start with first principles that human beings are good, rational, made in the image of God, here for a reason, top of the pops and cream of the crop on this divinely-ordained terrestrial plain. Then they start casting about for whatever confirmatory evidence is at hand.

But what happens when we take the other route, start from null, assume nothing and just see where a careful examination of human behavior, nature, and the evidence for a divine order leads? No a priori assumptions, just a hard, clear-eyed, gut-sucking look at matters as we find them, not how we assume them to be? This approach leads to some dark conclusions (frickin' King Lear dark).

Now I don't expect that the student who asked about this passage had any idea what a landmine she had stepped on, but she will by the seminar's end because almost every first principle assumption my students make in their initial position papers on human nature (and whether there is a divinely-ordered telos in our universe) will be challenged by the authors we'll read before semester's end.

When we move beyond a lot of residual medieval notons about an ordered universe and look at the evidence, we run smack dab into problematic modernity. And that's the thing about freshmen honors seminar. It always starts well, but along the way some first principles about God, human nature, the orderly heirarchy of nature and even human goodness come in for some pretty rough handling.

James said...

My students usually start with first principles that human beings are good, rational, made in the image of God, here for a reason, top of the pops and cream of the crop on this divinely-ordained terrestrial plain.

When you are allowed to assume so much as your first principals, it's not hard to get where you want to go.

A skeptic should not be looking to get where he or she wants to go, though. A skeptic should be looking to get where the evidence leads, wherever that may be.

And if that leads to a "dark place" then we will simply have to live with the fact that the evidence leads to a dark place, and make our own light to deal with it.

Anonymous said...

@ James,

Yes, given the available evidence, the universe certainly appears to be without any higher purpose and somewhat heartless, but it doesn't follow from that we have to be that way also. Making you're own light, however,is not a particularly orthodox Judeo-Christian stance. Garden-variety existentialism, I'd say.

James said...

Yes, given the available evidence, the universe certainly appears to be without any higher purpose and somewhat heartless, but it doesn't follow from that we have to be that way also.

I don't think anyone's saying we do. Just the opposite, in fact.

mabell said...

@jeremy
I refer you to the two minutes of the episode starting at 26:54. Dave: "that's the important part of why they're trying to find ways to do this secretively, is because they want their wives, children, whomever, next of kin to get their life insurance." I'll grant that they also want to avoid manslaughter charges, but that's a separate issue. If you commit suicide in a deceptive manner to get around the suicide exemption of your policy, it's fraud.

My comment is not intended to pass judgment. It's perverse that there should be a substantial financial benefit in tormenting your loved one. In a perfect world, life insurance policies would account for euthanasia and payout a somewhat smaller benefit under those circumstances.

Ripley Perkins said...

The life insurance question is of interest and one I would have liked to have explored more fully. I have to accept it is reasonable doubts and not reasonable doubt about legal premise (spot the law geek).

The issue I find difficult in this debate is that I would differentiate suicide and euthanasia.

In this I would suggest that euthanasia is more the hastening of an inevitable death predicted to occur in a relatively short time frame. IN this person seeking euthanasia would have no or an extremely unlikely potential recovery.

Suicide I would see as the death of a person who has otherwise a good probability of living for a substantial period of time and who is not terminally ill. I will forgo a discussion of mental health issues in relation to this for brevity sake.

As such I would like to see euthanasia differentiated on these grounds so as to remove the association of suicide. I accept it is under the current definitions a suicide however by differentiating the issue of insurance may be addressed more fully.

A life insurance policy is a policy of insurance based on your estate (or nominated beneficiary) receiving a dividend in the form of a payout based on the required event happening. In this instance the event is the death of the subject of the policy, usually the insured deceased.

In the euthanasia debate I see the person dying as a result of euthanasia has merely preempted the inevitable and the event will therefore occur within a short period of time prior to when it would have otherwise naturally occurred.

The insurance company loses only a small window of time compared to the average lifespan and as such no great loss is incurred.

Suicide is different in that the event is potentially brought about a substantial period of time prior to when the event may be considered to have naturally occurred. This may be seen as a loss to the insurer and may be a genuine reason to have a suicide exemption within the policy of insurance.

Thus I am more comfortable with a definition of euthanasia from a legal perspective as sated above over the term assisted suicide.

The ethical concerns associated with suicide exclusion clauses is of course a totally different discussion.

On a lighter note I was unable to restrain my laughter when I heard the jokes in the final moments of the podcast.