Many who read this probably do not know what a metanarrative is, that does not matter you will have one. The word really means ‘the big picture’ but we often use it in terms of a ‘world view’. “What’s that?” you might ask, well even though we don’t think about it often we all have one. And the thing about ‘world views’ because it’s the way we think, ultimately it will affect the way we live, our actions and all that we seek to do or not as the case might be.
There are lots of world views out there Christianity has its world view, its big picture if you will the start and the end, Communism has a world view, Atheism has a world view, Hinduism has a world view as does Buddhism.
Very often we do not think about our ‘world view’ but we are nevertheless living by them and when a lot of people adopt a particular world view it has an effect on our country, our culture, our laws in fact everything.
There is a great move in the UK and in fact many western countries to push us into a materialistic world view, that world view will ultimately change lots of things if more of us accept that, even subconsciously accept it, even though we may never have sat down and analysed ‘our world view’ even though we have maybe never thought about ‘world views’ until you read what I am saying now.
I had a small discussion on TV with Richard Dawkins he got somewhat upset with me when I said that he was a good evangelist for his religion, i.e. Atheism, he of course does not see it as a religion. I do, and certainly that religious view will, in its tail give us a world view, that if we accept will lead us in certain directions.
Another funny thing happened while we were making the particularly slot in the TV programme, I am not sure why that particular part of that discussion arose but Richard said to me “I am more Moral than you are” I of course asked “and how is that so” to which Richard responded “well I don’t pillage or rape and I don’t need a god to stop me doing so, you on the other hand would argue that its God that gives you a moral base and so stops you from doing those things.”
I responded by saying “bully for you, maybe you should watch the news more” my implication being that there is an awful lot of pillage and raping and other nasty things that people do to each other with their own justification. Maybe I should have asked, what is your morality and how does it work. However just recently I have been able to see some of the argument more clearly from Richard’s perspective.
I don’t know if you ever saw the TV series of Faulty Towers, where Basil’s car breaks down, first Basil shouts at the car and then beats it with a stick because it won’t start Richard Dawkins uses this skit to explain his ‘moral’ position, and show us how we should act if we hold his world view / metanarrative. Here is what he says:
Let’s all stop beating Basil’s car
Retribution as a moral principle is incompatible with a scientific view of human behaviour. As scientists, we believe that human brains, though they may not work in the same way as man-made computers, are as surely governed by the laws of physics. When a computer malfunctions, we do not punish it. We track down the problem and fix it, usually by replacing a damaged component, either in hardware or software.
Basil Fawlty, British television’s hotelier from hell created by the immortal John Cleese, was at the end of his tether when his car broke down and wouldn’t start. He gave it fair warning, counted to three, gave it one more chance, and then acted. “Right! I warned you. You’ve had this coming to you!” He got out of the car, seized a tree branch and set about thrashing the car within an inch of its life. Of course we laugh at his irrationality. Instead of beating the car, we would investigate the problem. Is the carburettor flooded? Are the sparking plugs or distributor points damp? Has it simply run out of gas?
Why do we not react in the same way to a defective man: a murderer, say, or a rapist? Why don’t we laugh at a judge who punishes a criminal, just as heartily as we laugh at Basil Fawlty? Or at King Xerxes who, in 480 BC, sentenced the rough sea to 300 lashes for wrecking his bridge of ships? Isn’t the murderer or the rapist just a machine with a defective component? Or a defective upbringing? Defective education? Defective genes?
Concepts like blame and responsibility are bandied about freely where human wrongdoers are concerned. When a child robs an old lady, should we blame the child himself or his parents? Or his school? Negligent social workers? In a court of law, feeble-mindedness is an accepted defence, as is insanity. Diminished responsibility is argued by the defence lawyer, who may also try to absolve his client of blame by pointing to his unhappy childhood, abuse by his father, or even unpropitious genes (not, so far as I am aware, unpropitious planetary conjunctions, though it wouldn’t surprise me).
But doesn’t a truly scientific, mechanistic view of the nervous system make nonsense of the very idea of responsibility, whether diminished or not? Any crime, however heinous, is in principle to be blamed on antecedent conditions acting through the accused’s physiology, heredity and environment. Don’t judicial hearings to decide questions of blame or diminished responsibility make as little sense for a faulty man as for a Fawlty car?
Why is it that we humans find it almost impossible to accept such conclusions? Why do we vent such visceral hatred on child murderers, or on thuggish vandals, when we should simply regard them as faulty units that need fixing or replacing?
Presumably because mental constructs like blame and responsibility, indeed evil and good, are built into our brains by millennia of Darwinian evolution. Assigning blame and responsibility is an aspect of the useful fiction of intentional agents that we construct in our brains as a means of short-cutting a truer analysis of what is going on in the world in which we have to live.
My dangerous idea is that we shall eventually grow out of all this and even learn to laugh at it, just as we laugh at Basil Fawlty when he beats his car. But I fear it is unlikely that I shall ever reach that level of enlightenment.’
So now I see the moral perspective that the atheist would have us come from, that is the world view. No responsibility, no blame, a mechanistic world view no less.
Let’s just fix them or replace them (does that mean we just kill them?) I do think that ‘following Jesus’ gives us a much more enlightened metanarrative world view. What do you think?