Gunnar wrote: ↑
Thu Aug 03, 2023 4:47 pm
Res Ipsa wrote: ↑
Wed Aug 02, 2023 4:09 pm
No disrespect intended to you, Gunnar, but lots of disrespect toward Weinberg. He's a brilliant physicist who deservedly won the Nobel Prize in physics. But, in my opinion, that statement is one of the most idiotic things uttered by a high profile atheist. Rwandan genocide is the easiest example -- where an ethnic conflict led neighbors slaughtered neighbors, including children, with machetes.
What causes good people to evil is fear that an outgroup represents an existential crisis. And Weinberg's quip reinforces the in group-outgroup dynamic that is what causes good people to do evil.
But isn't the in-group outgroup dynamic and ethnic conflict you speak of often motivated and amplified by religious differences of opinion and religion-like fanaticism? It still seems to me that Weinberg's statement is far from entirely idiotic and not essentially different from what you just said, but perhaps it is an oversimplification or an overgeneralization. But I will have to ponder your criticism of Weinberg a bit more, I guess, as there are few if any contributors to this forum whom I admire and respect as much or more than I do you.
What Weinberg literally says is that religion is a necessary cause of good people doing evil things. But he never actually makes that case, and it isn't self-evident. There's also a little bit of the no true scotsman fallacy at play. If I suggest Pol Pot, he'll be labeled a "bad person." But what about the hundreds of people who carried out his plans. Were they all bad people? I suspect not. But Pol Pot wasn't motivated by religion, and religion doesn't explained what happened.
In looking at your response, you are doing a couple of things. If you talk about religion "amplifying" ethic conflict, then that proves Weinberg's statement is false. When you move to "religion-like fanaticism," that also proves Weinberg's statement false.
It is very difficult to take examples like the troubles in Ireland, for example, and tease out religion as a cause from politics and nationalism as a cause. The same is true of the Holocaust. To claim that religion was a necessary cause of the evil done by people in both circumstances is an example of extreme over simplification.
I would say that Weinberg's statement is both an overgeneralization and an oversimplification, but I wouldn't say it's "a bit." I would say "a wild." If you haven't read Eric Hoffer's The True Believer, I highly recommend it. One of his major points is that, regardless of whether the cause is cultural, ideological, religious, ethnic, etc., all mass movements are interchangeable.
What causes good people to do bad things is being swept up in the mass movements described by Hoffer. To single out religion and claim it is the only reason good people do evil unfairly stigmatizes religious believers. It also neglects the dynamics that actually cause good people to do evil things.