Friday, March 27, 2009

Letter From Dad (My Response)

If you haven't already, please read Part 1 of this post.

Hey Dad,

I'm a little confused by this email.

I mean, I agree with the first couple paragraphs (i.e. being of a Jewish background, not caring about people saying "Merry Christmas"). But I disagree with 90% of his letter. He talks about taking prayer out of school like it's a bad thing, and he acts like nobody would have a moral bone in their body without the Bible. The Bible, need I remind you, tells you to stone your neighbor for not observing the Sabbath and promotes the selling of your daughter into slavery. Not to mention Ben Stein's latest attacks on science in his movie "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed" where he equates belief in evolution to Nazism.

My confusion about this email arises not from Ben Stein's statements. I knew he was a Bible-thumping, anti-science bigot, no, I am confused by your statement at the beginning. "Food for thought." I'm not quite sure what you meant by that. Do you support this utterly one-sided, clearly religious viewpoint? That's fine if you do, but understand that what Ben Stein wants for this country is a lot worse than some hurricanes that hit us because we abandoned his god. He wants the injection of religious doctrine into our schools, not only in the form of prayer, but also in the form of anti-science "Creationism".

My real issue comes from his assumption that nobody has morals without the Bible. This is so easily refuted, it confounds me as to why people still believe it. The Bible (esp. the Old Testament), assuming it was written as early as the 12th century BC [1], is most definitely not the first moral code. Some examples of earlier codes of law are The Code of Hammurabi ca. 1760 B.C. [2][3] and the Code of Ur-Nammu, ca. 2100 B.C. [4][5].

What is interesting is that you don't need to dig up ancient ruins in order to prove Ben Stein's assertion wrong. You need only look as far as our closest relative, the Chimpanzee. Animals display what can only be described as "moral" behavior on a regular basis. But what is really funny about his statements is that Evolution, NOT his god or the Bible, has the best explanation of where morality comes from. Using the example of murder only because it is so straightforward, I will explain what I mean. If, when we were still tribal nations, we went around killing every other group of people that we encountered, there would not be many people left in the world. This is exactly what evolution would predict in terms of natural selection also known as "survival of the fittest". Any tribes that do not work together for a common good (i.e. survival) will die off, and the fitter (i.e. smarter, more willing to cooperate) tribes will prevail.

This is where Ben Stein's beloved morality comes from. Not the book written 2000 years ago by men in the desert, who were trying to figure out why the stars look like they do, and why the rain hasn't come. It is ingrained in every one of us through the struggle of survival of our ancestors and in the struggle we face everyday in our imperfect but beautiful world.

That's a positive holiday perspective I support.


1. Encyclopaedia Britannica: "Written almost entirely in the Hebrew language between 1200 and 100 BC";
Columbia Encyclopedia: "In the 10th century BC the first of a series of editors collected materials from earlier traditional folkloric and historical records (i.e., both oral and written sources) to compose a narrative of the history of the Israelites who now found themselves united under David and Solomon."

2. Louvre ( Arts and Architecture). Köln: Könemann. ISBN 3-8331-1943-8

3. (2006). "Was Hammurabi really the first law maker in history?"

4. Kramer, History begins at Sumer, pp. 52-55.

5. Charles F. Horne, Ph.D. (1915). "The Code of Hammurabi : Introduction"

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