Hamza Tzortzis is playing gotcha with Lawrence Krauss now

After that debate between Tzortzis and Lawrence Krauss that was overshadowed by the disgraceful anti-egalitarian exhibition of Muslim misogyny, iERA is now trying a new tactic: they're releasing tiny snippets of the debate that they believe they can spin into anti-Krauss sentiment. Here's a perfect example, Krauss's reply to a question about the morality of incest.

The audience gasped when Krauss said it's not clear to him that incest is wrong, and then he went on to argue that there are biological and societal reasons why incest is not a good idea, but that he'd be willing to listen to rational arguments for sexual and emotional interactions between siblings, for instance…not that he'd encourage such behavior. It's a nuanced and complicated reply in too short a time, but otherwise, he's not wrong.

But you know what Tzortzis is thinking: this is a perfect clip to play to the dogmatic mob, his people, who don't do complicated and nuanced, and don't care about rational arguments, only absolute dictates.

I'd add two other arguments that might sink in.

One is that religions also rationalize incest. Here's the Protestant Christian example:

Since Eve was made from one of Adam's ribs [Genesis 2:21-22], she would have been a clone of Adam and, had there been any genetic mutation in Adam, this would have been reproduced in Eve and expressed in their offspring. However, we may reasonably conclude that there were no mutations, and the very first commandment given to them was "to be fruitful and multiply" [Genesis 1:28]. However, the business at the tree of the knowledge of good and evil took place long before there were any children.

The account then continues where God confronted the guilty pair at the tree, but they did not confess their guilt or plead for forgiveness [Genesis 3:1-13]. God then cursed the serpent, imposed reproductive difficulties upon Eve and "cursed the ground for [Adam's] sake" [Genesis 3:17]. From that moment, everything that Adam – and mankind since – ate had grown in the cursed ground. Cell by living cell, Adam began to very slowly change from his initial state of eternal perfection to mortal imperfection, and he finally died at the age of 930 years [Genesis 5:5]. Nevertheless, Adam and Eve's immediate offspring would have been very close to physical perfection while brother-sister marriages were the only unions possible! Further, according to the genealogies given in Scripture, pre-flood longevity was about the same as that for Adam, so families were very large compared to those of today. Brother-sister unions were not only unavoidable, but they undoubtedly became traditional and expected.

Catholics make a similar argument.

Incest was not a problem for the immediate descendants of Adam and Eve. It became a problem when the deterioration of the gene pool meant that there was an increased likelihood that the offspring of the unions of near relatives would inherit physical or mental problems. Adam's immediate descendants inherited perfect or nearly perfect genes, so the unions of near relatives were not a problem. Besides, near relatives were the only people who existed.

Muslims, too.

it is a known fact that legislation differs from one Shari'ah to another, while the principles and beliefs remain the same in all of them. So, making of portraits was allowed in the Shari'ah of Sulayman (peace be upon him) but is prohibited in our Shari'ah. Similarly, making prostration of salutation was permitted in the Shari'ah of Yusuf (peace be upon him) but is illegal in ours. Also, war booty was prohibited for nations before us but it is completely legal for us. The Qiblah of people before us used to be towards Bayt Al-Maqdis, but for us it is towards Ka'bah. In a similar way, marriage between brothers and sisters was permitted in the Shari'ah of Adam (peace be upon him) as opposed to those that came afterwards. The following is a clarification on the issue by Haafidh Ibn Katheer, who said:

Allaah allowed Adam (peace be upon him) to marry his daughters to his sons for necessity. Every couple used to have a boy and a girl. Hence, he married the girl of one couple to the boy of another. This is said by Suddi regarding what has been narrated by Abu Maalik and Abu Salih, from Ibn ‘Abbas, by Murrah from Ibn Mas‘ood and by other companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him) that Adam did not have (in his grandchildren) a baby boy unless it was accompanied by a girl, so he married the male of a couple to the female of another, and the female of a couple to the male of another

So apparently their absolute moral prohibition against incest isn't quite so absolute after all. A good Muslim can fuck his sister if Allah tells him to.

But the other example I'd give is current, and it's done all the time. Ever looked at a purebred Arabian horse's pedigree? It's an incestuous nightmare, and it's encouraged — it's even regarded as a good thing to reinforce good stock with a moderate amount of inbreeding.

Here's an example of a horse pedigree. Notice what's going on?


Look at Pie's Joseph, for instance. He is the product of a breeding between Wood's Jay and Wood's Jay's granddaughter, Wood's Chili.

Pie's Joseph was then bred with his own niece, Pie's Lady I, and they had a daughter, Pie's Lady II. Pie's Joseph was than bred to his own daughter to produce a son, Blue Joe, who is also his grandson.

Let's not even get into cows and pigeons. Here's a quick glimpse at the sordid sex life of Favorite:


Are you squicked out yet? You shouldn't be. This stuff is going on on farms all over the world. The biological prohibition isn't quite as strong as you might think — if you want extremes of a phenotype, as you might in agriculture, trying to achieve selective homozygosity for specific traits might actually give you an advantage.

We tend to not want that kind of result in human crosses…although, if you think about it, an unscrupulous nation could embark on a breeding program for athletic ability that would benefit from a multi-generation pattern of incest…

But this all highlights a common problem: get into a debate with fanatics and ideologues like the iERA mob, and they will actually hold it against you if you actually consider the complexities of reality. We like both complexity and reality; how can you argue with someone who comes in with a bias that what you regard as virtues are sinful, and demands that the universe fit itself to their false simplicities?

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One frequent motif recurs in creationist email: they may believe in god, but they don't believe in paragraphs. This one also hits another frequent theme: the racist creationist. Oh, and an obsession with incest. The following story is what I believe to be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but…
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Wow. Thanks for bringing this to my attention! A hyperlink to Krauss's Almost-Walkout would be nice (2 mins of DuckGo'ing Kruass iERA misogyny could be avoided) .

This snippet is a clear case of propagating anti-rational sentiments and ad hominem character attacks.

I certainly don't agree with all of Krauss's conclusions - especially towards my beloved field of philosophy - but I have the utmost respect for his work, and it's a shame to see him treated as such.

Indeed, it only adds to the New Atheists' arsenal of factual, empirical instances to justify their (sometimes too intense for me) assault on religion.

By Dyami Hayes (not verified) on 17 Mar 2013 #permalink

Incest, as practiced in the modern era, is symptom of domestic abuse, typically against females.

Any attempts to rationalize such an abhorrent act is morally wrong. Atheists tend to be quite the contrarian.

Professor Myers, this is embarrassing enough as it is! Please don't dig a deeper hole trying to justify incest. Krauss made a mistake, under pressure. Let's leave it. Science has more important things to worry about.

By Eden Eustice (not verified) on 18 Mar 2013 #permalink

There is only One God and Mohammed may peace be upon him is his messenger.

By Dawah Warrior (not verified) on 18 Mar 2013 #permalink

Interesting article, but I still think Krauss's comments are out of line, I don't think we as humans should be looking at animals for morals. Anyway, I think the debate will be released this week ( hopefully!) so we can see the full picture

Incest, as practiced in the modern era

Yes, but that's not what Krauss was asked. Krauss was asked about incest in general, and that's what he answered.

Krauss made a mistake, under pressure.

Show me.

Science has more important things to worry about.

PZ isn't science, and neither is Krauss.

I don’t think we as humans should be looking at animals for morals

Krauss wasn't looking for morals, he was looking for facts to inform his morals. Morals built exclusively on thought experiments tend to fail.

By David Marjanović (not verified) on 19 Mar 2013 #permalink

Society wants to survive. That which supports this goal is good. That which opposes this goal is bad. There are some cases in which an action neither supports nor opposes the goal. These actions are considered morally neutral in that case. This is how Krauss views incest.

To which I would ask Krauss, PZ, and others who support this view, why is survival good?

By Jimmy Smarts (not verified) on 19 Mar 2013 #permalink

You have certified homosexuality in the name of science. Now you want to certify incest in the name of science. What next? Paedaphilia? This is digusting. Science should stick to the lab and not interfere with morality as it clearly cannot determine it. Looking at animals such as pigs and dogs to show rationalise homosexuality is a disgrace. Unless you want to stoop to that level and do acts that are for dogs and pigs and so forth. Atheists are a slave to their own desires. What a sad state to be in. Saying we share common ancestors with apes is bad enough, but what is worse than that is to believe everything has come from nothing. I can't comprehend why when a believer of a creator that is all powerful and all knowledgeable is ridiculed but then you believe in such ideologies like the universe coming from absolutely nothing. I pray God guides you before it is too late.

The notion of the universe coming from absolutely nothing is no more ridiculous than the notion of God coming from absolutely nothing. We atheists are content to accept that the fact of our existence and of the existence of our universe is an amazing, truly magnificent, and often wonderful mystery, but we stop humbly at this point and acknowledge that this is where our current state of knowledge stops. It's the theists, not the atheists, who claim knowledge in areas where we are in fact completely ignorant - what's more arrogant than that?

About this "So apparently their absolute moral prohibition against incest isn’t quite so absolute after all. A good Muslim can fuck his sister if Allah tells him to." , I think humans will not take their morals from animals and Hamza's aim of the questions to Prof. Krauss is shown here http://youtu.be/olj5UHlMt-c

Prof. PZ Myers, I would like to congratulate you for showing us that the more scientists who can't present valid arguments like you and Prof. Krauss the more they will trash the others and run away.

P.S. This is the IERA's seating and it refutes Prof. Krauss's claim about the segregation

@ Laura #11

God didnt come from nothing, God has always existed and religious people use a deductive argument (amongst other arguments) to justify that.

For the Universe to be created it has to be via a being that is not influenced by any of the physical laws and factors in this Universe. Ie he cant be affected by space, time, physical laws that govern the Universe. The Universe is finite, therefore a being that isnt affected by time and is therefore infinite must have made the Universe. Why atheists harp on about theists not being able to answer who created the creator is nonsense.......

As for the topic of incest u guys are being disengenuous. Krauss quite clearly says that there there is nothing absolutely wrong with incest. Its in the video. And contrary to popular opinion the video is complete, the whole discussion about incest is there on the video, having listened to the recording i can confirm that, so its quite disengenuous to say that iERA are twisting things.... Also the story of Adam and Eve does not give a blanket justification for incest as its well articulated in the ahadith that this was only allowed in the first generation in order to start humanity.

Im glad that there are people who think rationally out there such as Eden Eustice. Im sure if Hamza made a statement like that, the atheists would be having a field day, but for some reason when a man of such power and authority like Krauss make the statement people suddenly become understanding of such outrageous issues like incest. Even a minute before im pretty sure u all would have found the notuion of incestuous sexual intercourse, with or without contraception repulsive and u would have lambasted anyone else who shared that opinion, especially someone of religion!!

By Neeqo Anwar (not verified) on 23 Mar 2013 #permalink

I would really like to know how Neequo Anwar can possibly know that God has always existed. If he has any information to this effect can he please share it with the rest of us. I think what he really means is that he wans to believe that God has always existed, which is quite a different thing.

We atheists agree that the fact of existence is a mystery; where we and the theists differ is in suggesting that this is anything other than, in the current state of knowledge, a mystery. QED. Repeat. A mystery. And to solve one mystery by creating another one is no solution at all.

I think the psychology of religion, (i.e. why it is that people WANT to believe) is perhaps a much more authentic subject than the study of religion itself. No doubt whatsoever that people WANT to believe, despite all the evidence that belief is so often irrational. And i guess that Islam being a totalitarian system, it can offer people what they want in this sense, i.e. values, all in black and white, security, not having to actually think too much, answers to all questions being in the Koran, Hadith etc..

Interestingly, it was Siddhartha Gautama, the historical Buddha, who made the point that since the answers to all these profound existential questions, whence we come, whither we go etc.. were ultimately insoluble riddles, those who wanted to pursue a spiritual practise could just go ahead and do so, without need of a theos as such. And for 2500 years many Buddhists have proved that this is indeed possible. Is there anyone out there really trying to suggest that the average Muslim is morally superior to the average Buddhist? Indeed i hope not, for i think probably the reverse is in fact the truer case. So, we don't need the theos. We don't need to worship anything OUT THERE because all our spiritual potential is in fact IN HERE. God, if he were to exist, would be surplus to requirements. All our capacity for morality, unselfishness and love is in fact WITHIN. If we choose not to make use of this potential we impoverish ourselves, we can even make life hell for ourselves and others. And this holds true whether we are atheist or theist.

@Laura #11/14,
If one believes the universe came from nothing to be a ridiculous idea, then one should also believe a god from nothing to be a ridiculous idea. That seems a reasonable conclusion, but I would like to pose a question to you.

Do Muslims believe that God came from nothing? The entire rhetorical force of the comparison rests on providing an affirmative and defensible answer to that question.

By Jimmy Smarts (not verified) on 24 Mar 2013 #permalink

My problem with Islam is that it is a totalitarian system. I'm not really too concerned with questions of how the universe came to be, because, although not a Buddhist myself, i agree with the Buddhists that the theos is surplus to requirements - we don't need the theos to live a moral life or pursue a spiritual practise.

What worries me about Islam is the certitude that most Muslims have that theirs is the only way (if anyone chooses any path other than that of Islam it will not be accepted of him), and want very much to persuade the whole world that they are right and that everyone else is wrong.

An interesting fact that some may consider worthy of contemplation.

I'm an opinion pollster by profession; for the last 16 years i've come into contact with a huge diversity of folks from all manner of social, economic and ethnic backgrounds, so i guess i've got better credentials than most to make the following claim.

There is really no correlation between what it is that people tell me that they believe or do not believe i.e. with whether they are Christians, atheists, Muslims, modern pagans or whatever, and whether they are good people. Hence further support for my conviction that the theos is surplus to requirements, in every sense of the word. Good with god, good without god, bad with god, bad without god, there's no pattern about which we can generalise. We are what we make ourselves.

What worries me about Islam is the certitude that most Muslims have that theirs is the only way

No difference there to Christians.

By David Marjanović (not verified) on 24 Mar 2013 #permalink

@Laura #16,
We are told that declarations of knowledge are arrogant when ignorance is the actual state of affairs. We are also told that it is the theists who are arrogant and not the atheists.

If you cannot support the claim that Muslims believe God came from nothing, then is it not reasonable to conclude that you were making a claim based on ignorance? If so, then is it not also reasonable to conclude that your claim to the non-arrogance of atheists is unreasonable?

By Jimmy Smarts (not verified) on 24 Mar 2013 #permalink

Re DAVID MARJANOVIC - yes, absolutely, Muslims no different to Christians, generally, in this respect. Islam and Christianity are the two prosletysing religions, other religions either do not actively seek converts or even forbid conversions. Only with the greatest difficulty can one become a Jew; one cannot become a Parsee, and most of the Hindu darshanas also forbid conversion. So Islam and Christianity undoubtedly the two greatest culprits.

I'm not quite sure what Jimmy Smarts is driving at, that's why i didn't answer his original point. Muslims believe that god is uncreate - they don't actually know whether that is the case, no one does. The whole point about a supernatural, transcendent entity over and above the universe is that nothing can possibly be known about it; none of our scientific methodologies or instruments can possibly access it. So to infer anything about such an entity at all, such that it is uncreated and has always existed, for example, which is what Muslims do say about god, is purely speculative - hence a claim based on ignorance.

That's what i meant; perhaps it didn't come across clearly.

By LAURA MESZAROS (not verified) on 25 Mar 2013 #permalink

@Laura #20,
I am cautiously willing to grant that you misspoke or poorly communicated your point regarding the comparison between universe from nothing and God form nothing. This does not alleviate the claim of arrogance against Muslim theists.

How do you know Muslim claims to knowledge about God are "purely speculative?" What evidence do you have for that claim? It seems your dismissal of their claim to knowledge is based on a commitment to a particular epistemological stance. And it seems you are being inconsistent with your own declared epistemology in the process. If that's the case, can your sweeping claim about Muslim theists and arrogance really be defensible?

By Jimmy Smarts (not verified) on 25 Mar 2013 #permalink

Jimmy... what kind of game are you playing? Have you got evidence that the emperor is in fact wearing clothes?

By David Marjanović (not verified) on 25 Mar 2013 #permalink

Yes, I have evidencia (spelled wrong on purpose). Nothing

By Arctodus23 (not verified) on 25 Mar 2013 #permalink

@David #22,
Laura has suggested that Muslims are arrogant. She is making this claim on non-evidential grounds while extolling the virtues of an evidentiary approach to knowledge. If she wants others to accept that Muslims are arrogant she must provide evidence to that end. To not do so means she is being inconsistent with her own stated philosophy and gives us reasonable grounds for rejecting her claim. Further, to avoid running aground of her own principle regarding arrogance birthed from ignorance, she needs to retract her claim.

What kind of game am I playing? I am applying her approach and principles to her reasoning and finding it wanting. Is it really problematic to expect someone to practice the principles they claim to follow?

As for the emperor and his clothes, I have nothing to say. It is not my battle. I am neither Muslim nor a theist. I adhere to a non-theistic perspective on God which rejects the notion of God existing. Though, the assumptions which led to your question are rather curious.

By Jimmy Smarts (not verified) on 25 Mar 2013 #permalink

You forgot Lot and his daughters. That was apparently OK too.

By Preston Gardner (not verified) on 25 Mar 2013 #permalink

If she wants others to accept that Muslims are arrogant she must provide evidence to that end.

Having a theistic religion, they make claims they can't support with evidence. From a scientist's point of view (at least), that's arrogance. I'm sure that's what Laura means.

By David Marjanović (not verified) on 26 Mar 2013 #permalink

@David #26,
Of course. That's precisely what I want her to reexamine. If evidence is the foundation of being able to make claims to knowledge, then what evidence does she have that Muslims are ignorant even though they claim to be with knowledge? I am quite confident she can put forth no such evidence. Hence, she is falling into the same trap she has laid for the Muslims -- making claims of knowledge without evidence.

By Jimmy Smarts (not verified) on 26 Mar 2013 #permalink

I've heard the same question posed in philosophical circles - maybe Krauss should have elaborated - for example, if both were consenting partners, and both infertile - where would the harm be? Just societal and cultural issues to deal with.
It always cracks me up when I see people with religious beliefs complaining about intolerance - as if their institutions didn't write the book on that particular topic.
As for religion and those who advocate Intelligent Design, their biggest argument seems to be that the existence of God cannot be disproved (apparently that's a form of proof now). Well then, why not a plethora of gods, goddesses, and anything in between? Disprove the existence of the Norse pantheon in that case - who's to say Ragnarok isn't just round the corner - you can't, but the dominant religions of the present can't allow that.
As an atheist, apparently your benevolent and omniscient God will have me burn in hell for all eternity - just more rhetoric and hot air from the religious fraternity to propagate their belief system. I couldn't give a toss about such empty threats.

By John Jones (not verified) on 29 Mar 2013 #permalink