I was going to post the following when it first appeared on Jonathan Derbyshire’s ‘Blog. Norm’s post today reminded me that I hadn’t.

Derbyshire makes a point that even militant atheists should concede:

As Jeremy Waldron makes clear in his remarkable book God, Locke, and Equality, the principle of human equality articulated in the Second Treatise, which he says with good reason is just about the best worked-out "theory of basic equality … we have in the canon of political philosophy", is an axiom of theology. It is, says Waldron, "the most important truth about God’s way with the world in regard to the social and political implications of His creation of the human person". (Nietzsche thought the same, incidentally, which is why he was sceptical of the principle of equality, and of the related notions of pity and compassion.)

Now, of course, the challenge that Locke and Waldron set us is whether secular sense can be made of the principle of equality and of the idea that each human life is inalienably precious … [I]t is simply ahistorical to deny that our (liberal) conceptions of equality and human dignity have Christian antecedents.

And Christianity might have had a thing or two to do with the emergence of proper science as well.

(These kinds of argument are also reminders to believers that there are at least as many species of skeptics as there are Christians. For example, Norm belongs to the United Polite Front Of Atheism; Ophelia Benson and Richard Dawkins do not. But even Dawkins is more polite about fundamentalists than fundamentalists are about everyone who disagrees with them. Norm is also a glass-half-full atheist; my glass is leaking. On average, atheism makes you unhappier than you ought to be and, ironically, (evolutionary) biological science provides some support for this view. I am convinced that humans are wired to believe. Contrary to the popular misquotation, when you stop believing in God you stop believing in all sorts of things. Sometimes I have to make a special effort of concentration just to keep the electrons in my left arm from dematerializing.)