Necessity of Secularism, pg 81

Sep 12, 2016

Long ago, Plato, in his dialogue Euthyphro, exposed the fundamental flaw in the first role assigned to God, that is, God as moral dictator, a being whose word defines what is right and wrong. Here is the dilemma that exposes the flaw. Either there is a way for us to determine what is right and wrong apart from God’s commands or there isn’t. Do you think torturing a child for amusement is morally wrong? How about killing someone to take over their property? Presumably, the answer is “yes,” as it would be to any other question that asks about conduct anyone (or at least who is not pathological) would consider morally repugnant. This indicates that we do have a sense of what is right and wrong independent of any commandment from God. You don’t need to study the Bible to find out whether torturing a child is wrong. If we have this sense of right and wrong apart from God’s commandments then we do not have to rely on God’s commandments. We can determine for ourselves what we should do.

–Ron Lindsay, The Necessity of Secularism, pg 81


Discuss!

27 comments on “Necessity of Secularism, pg 81

  • Here is the dilemma that exposes the flaw. Either there is a way for us to determine what is right and wrong apart from God’s commands or there isn’t.

    Where’s the dilemma?

    What’s the flaw?

    So we have a way to determine right and wrong “on our own”. How does this fact negate the possibility of a moral dictator “god”? Why can’t they both be true?



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  • We cannot prove that god does not exist. We can only prove the cognitive dissonance it would take to believe it–knowing what we know about evolution/science. We can, however, show that he/she is not necessary–in fact is detrimental to–moral behavior.



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  • @OP – Here is the dilemma that exposes the flaw. Either there is a way for us to determine what is right and wrong apart from God’s commands or there isn’t.

    This is of course a false dilemma which begs the question!

    The first flaw is the failure to recognise that “God’s commandments” are in fact the god-delusions commandments from some mythological folk-leader or biblical author, and as such were determined by the humans responsible for the handed-down story.

    The second flaw, is in assuming that there is some default Abrahamic god (delusion) which is the fount of all knowledge of ethics in the absence of recognition of alternative explanations!



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  • ravenrdr #2
    Sep 13, 2016 at 2:59 am

    We cannot prove that god does not exist.

    The phrasing of this makes unevidenced deist/theist assumptions of one default god.
    A clearer phrase would be:-

    We cannot prove that gods do not exist.

    While theists similarly cannot prove that the host of gods other than their own, do not exist. – An issue ducked in the original phrase! – Perhaps anyone using this “negative proof” argument, should be mounting expeditions into remote jungle areas, to see if there are any tribes worshipping “TRUE GODS” which THEY have overlooked in their dismissal of alternative gods to their own?

    We can only prove the cognitive dissonance it would take to believe it–knowing what we know about evolution/science.

    We can also show the vast array of conflicting god-claims and god-properties asserted by the diverse believers, who use “faith” in their earlier indoctrinations as a basis for their views. – and we can point out the irrationality of claiming negative proof fallacies as default evidence for unsupported claims.

    With increasing evidence from neuropsychologists of the mapping areas of the brain which actively generate religious thoughts and spiritual feelings, along with the shutting down of reasoning mechanisms associated with these activations, and development of thinking habits in brain circuits reinforced by repetition, it is only a matter of time before god-delusions and reinforcement of god-delusions in believers brains, are confirmed as the basis for religion and religious beliefs.

    As part of the mechanism of hiding from discovery, god-delusions (like other conjurers and illusionists), have their host-humans try to direct attention as far away from their actual location as possible.
    The sky used to be the limit, but the modern god-delusion knows the old sky-fairy-gaps have been closed by science, so they now direct attention to the fringes of the universe, the fringes of time, and the new frontiers of scientific discovery!

    However! Once we start looking in detail at the nature of gods and god-claims in the context of neuroscience and memetic transmission, it becomes very clear WHERE god(delusions) are located!

    Without cognitive dissonance and semantic gymnastic self deception, , believers would be constantly forced to correct the failures of faith-thinking in the light of evidence.
    Faith-thinking only delivers correct answers by random chance, or by happening to copy from someone who worked out a correct answer by other means.
    Science consistently reconfirms practical usable answers by repeat testing, its correction of errors and learning from the recording of successful methods.



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  • The difference between religious morality and evolved morality is that evolved morality is the very nature of human existence and behaviors. Religious morality (dogma) is nothing but an attempt to ascribe meaning to life and existence. The mythical God construct is only an anthropomorphized messenger used to disseminate the dogma in sanctified form in order to make unnatural behavior more palatable.

    The key here is the definitions of nature and meaning. Meanings are ascribed to things by thinking actors. Nature is the objective reality of the subject. Natural, evolved morality dates back to the first sentient thought of the first hominids, hundreds of thousands of years ago. Religious morality dates back to the texts being referenced. Natural morality was authored by the entire species as part of the anguished fight to survive, and recorded in our very genetic code. Religious morality was written by a few humans with political and economic agendas, recorded on parchment.

    If humans cannot outgrow their addiction to myths, legends and fairy tales as a means for dealing with life, they will perish. Nature does not grade on a curve or give extra credit for trying.



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  • @#5

    Natural, evolved morality dates back to the first sentient thought of the first hominids, hundreds of thousands of years ago. Religious morality dates back to the texts being referenced. Natural morality was authored by the entire species as part of the anguished fight to survive, and recorded in our very genetic code. Religious morality was written by a few humans with political and economic agendas, recorded on parchment.<

    Are you suggesting that religious morality is somehow not a product of evolution?

    If humans cannot outgrow their addiction to myths, legends and fairy tales as a means for dealing with life, they will perish.

    Humans perish either way.

    The correct motivation for change (or not) is to live the best possible life.



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  • this existence has no divine qualities. The bible no better than a comic book. So where is reason and the reasonable? Quantum mechanics defies human reasoning. Where should a reasonable person center their thinking ?
    How do we motivate people to live their lives?
    It is all up to freedom of the individual and protecting human rights? What truth can help people rise above and realize that morality and compassion for others makes life worthwhile? People keep wasting themselves. Yet america holds the world accountable to a moral standard. If that standard dies humanity will destroy itself. God is a dying fantasy and offers no transcendant hope. Yet a faith in something is needed. A truer hope.



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  • oscar #7
    Sep 13, 2016 at 7:25 pm

    People keep wasting themselves.

    Colonial powers followed by America, have wasted millions of lives – misdirected into incompetent and futile military adventures, which have left legacies of political turmoil, poverty, death and destruction.

    Yet America holds the world accountable to a moral standard.

    American media misleads people into believing the delusion that America sets international standards which have anything to do with moral judgements! This is egotistical propaganda for home consumption!

    The various disruptive and politically destabilising wars, clandestine arming of corrupt governments and ruthless dictators, sub-prime global banking crisis, and export of nutty evangelists to third world countries, are anything but “ethical moral world leadership”!



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  • With increasing evidence from neuropsychologists of the mapping areas
    of the brain which actively generate religious thoughts and spiritual
    feelings

    Maybe it is true but those religious thoughts are implanted, not resulting from natural causes.
    All religion is largely geographical, obviously; equally obvious is we are all born atheist regardless of
    the claims of any religious group. I found this phrase confusing, possibly misleading when read casually.



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  • JimJFox #9
    Sep 14, 2016 at 9:56 am

    With increasing evidence from neuropsychologists of the mapping areas of the brain which actively generate religious thoughts and spiritual feelings

    Maybe it is true but those religious thoughts are implanted, not resulting from natural causes.

    Just to clarify Jim, they are implanted, but they have effects on the development of brain circuitry, with repetition (such as regular chanting of affirmations”also having an impact on thought habits and memory. “Faith-thinking” also involves shutting down the rational analytic brain functions. – (This is probably no surprise to you!) Implanted indoctrination seems to involve teaching converts to carry out this shut-down!

    https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/03/160323151838.htm

    Clashes between the use of faith vs. scientific evidence to explain the world around us dates back centuries and is perhaps most visible today in the arguments between evolution and creationism.

    To believe in a supernatural god or universal spirit, people appear to suppress the brain network used for analytical thinking and engage the empathetic network, the scientists say. When thinking analytically about the physical world, people appear to do the opposite.

    “When there’s a question of faith, from the analytic point of view, it may seem absurd,” said Tony Jack, who led the research. “But, from what we understand about the brain, the leap of faith to belief in the supernatural amounts to pushing aside the critical/analytical way of thinking to help us achieve greater social and emotional insight.

    Jack is an associate professor of philosophy at Case Western Reserve and research director of the university’s Inamori International Center of Ethics and Excellence, which helped sponsor the research.

    “A stream of research in cognitive psychology has shown and claims that people who have faith (i.e., are religious or spiritual) are not as smart as others. They actually might claim they are less intelligent.,” said Richard Boyatzis, distinguished university professor and professor of organizational behavior at Case Western Reserve, and a member of Jack’s team.

    “Our studies confirmed that statistical relationship, but at the same time showed that people with faith are more prosocial and empathic,” he said.

    In a series of eight experiments, the researchers found the more empathetic the person, the more likely he or she is religious.

    That finding offers a new explanation for past research showing women tend to hold more religious or spiritual worldviews than men. The gap may be because women have a stronger tendency toward empathetic concern than men.



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  • JimJFox #9
    Sep 14, 2016 at 9:56 am

    With increasing evidence from neuropsychologists of the mapping areas of the brain which actively generate religious thoughts and spiritual feelings.

    There is also this article!

    https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120419091223.htm

    “We have found a neuropsychological basis for spirituality, but it’s not isolated to one specific area of the brain,” said Brick Johnstone, professor of health psychology in the School of Health Professions. “Spirituality is a much more dynamic concept that uses many parts of the brain. Certain parts of the brain play more predominant roles, but they all work together to facilitate individuals’ spiritual experiences.”

    “Neuropsychology researchers consistently have shown that impairment on the right side of the brain decreases one’s focus on the self,” Johnstone said. “Since our research shows that people with this impairment are more spiritual, this suggests spiritual experiences are associated with a decreased focus on the self. This is consistent with many religious texts that suggest people should concentrate on the well-being of others rather than on themselves.”

    Johnstone says the right side of the brain is associated with self-orientation, whereas the left side is associated with how individuals relate to others.



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  • @ PeacePecan #1 “……………Where’s the dilemma? What’s the flaw?
    So we have a way to determine right and wrong “on our own”. How does this fact negate the possibility of a moral dictator “god”? Why can’t they both be true? …………..”

    They can’t both be true, because the god is posited as omniscient and omnipotent, not just an optional extra, and god’s ‘morality’ would take precedence over that of his supposed ‘creation’.

    However, given that humans make their own morality, a god is an irrelevance.



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  • @#12

    They can’t both be true, because the god is posited as omniscient and omnipotent…

    Those qualities are not discussed in this excerpt regarding “the fundamental flaw in the first role [of]… God as moral dictator”.



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  • Peacepecan

    I am saying emphatically that religion, and the morality (or immorality) that it describes is no more the cause of natural human behavior than any other work of fiction. The fact that humans, who are themselves a product of evolution, wrote the texts does not in any way prove that the texts are the genesis of human behavior. A product of evolution? Maybe. The fundamental basis of human behavior? No. Our morality is based on an internal cognitive instinct that is the result of an evolutionary journey. Our morality did not spring forth from religious texts.

    As far as perishing is concerned, I am referring to extinction of the species, not individual mortality. And I think the “best possible life” could be elegantly defined as being devoid of religious dogma, and focused on compassion and evidence.

    You pay around with these comments long enough and you start feeling evangelical.
    I am sorry but I have to ask, where did the moniker “Peacepecan” originate? It makes me want a piece of pecan pie!



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  • Craig Domin #15
    Sep 14, 2016 at 6:37 pm

    A product of evolution? Maybe. The fundamental basis of human behavior? No. Our morality is based on an internal cognitive instinct that is the result of an evolutionary journey.

    In looking at evolved “moral” behaviours, there are some interesting sections on “reciprocal altruism” in “The Selfish Gene” – p 183 – 8, p 202 – 33, and other odd pages.



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  • @#15

    I am saying emphatically that religion, and the morality (or immorality) that it describes is no more the cause of natural human behavior than any other work of fiction. The fact that humans, who are themselves a product of evolution, wrote the texts does not in any way prove that the texts are the genesis of human behavior.

    Agreed, except that “natural human behavior” includes a propensity to magical thinking and other behaviors that fit well with a religious worldview.

    A product of evolution? Maybe.

    Definitely. “Religious morality” is as much a product of evolution as your “natural morality”.

    The fundamental basis of human behavior? No. Our morality is based on an internal cognitive instinct that is the result of an evolutionary journey.

    As is the tendency to invent gods and religions.

    Our morality did not spring forth from religious texts.

    Correct. Religious texts “sprang forth” from evolved human brains, which primary function is assisting in passing genes on to future generations.

    As far as perishing is concerned, I am referring to extinction of the species, not individual mortality. And I think the “best possible life” could be elegantly defined as being devoid of religious dogma, and focused on compassion and evidence.

    How do you think evolution and genes would define the best possible life?

    I am sorry but I have to ask, where did the moniker “Peacepecan” originate? It makes me want a piece of pecan pie!

    No apology necessary. It’s a long story – too long – and not very interesting. I use it as a reminder of my past, and because I think it comes across as both unthreatening and silly. Two things we could all use more of.



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  • First of all let me thank Peacpecan and Alan4discussion for being the first commenters to respond to my posts. I was starting to feel like an outsider except for the occasional likes. Your screen name is unthreatening but not silly. I take peace very seriously and I love pecans.

    Alan4: You got me. That is likely my primary source on this topic. I’ve been thoroughly Dawkinized, since his first book. I owe him and several others much. Thanks for the references. I have not read his latest bio.

    Peacepecan:

    I think genes just want to be passed along. So whatever makes that happen would be their definition of the best possible life. Since we are the expression of those genes, I think it is up to us to decide what the best possible life is. If allowed to speak for my genes, I vote for more evidence and compassion and less religion.

    I agree with you that mysticism and religion are evolved behaviors. Mysticism being defined as an attempt to understand reality by postulating unknown causes and actors, and as the nascent incarnation of modern religion. However, I still believe humans “learned” not to kill one another through the natural selection against the act. Those who did not kill each other survived better than those who did. Only much later in time was this tendency acknowledged as a moral sentiment or religious principle. Sharing would be my next example. Those who shared, how better did they fare. Communication gave voice to the meme that was created by the natural selection process. It was in the genes before it appeared in language so to speak.
    HOWEVER,
    Since religious thought or mysticism as been around as long as observation and reasoning, can we ever suppose that one will replace the other entirely? Or are they just necessary sides of the same coin? If perfect knowledge or near perfect knowledge were ever attained, would that erase all religious notions? Or do our spiritual/metaphysical inclinations demand a theater in which to thrive, regardless?



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  • Craig D

    I was starting to feel like an outsider except for the occasional likes.

    I hope you won’t feel like an outsider. I will point out that sometimes people are busy and can’t respond quickly. Others don’t comment because they aren’t interested in the topic of a thread. There are any number of reasons why a thread stagnates or drifts off into the fog.

    Don’t give too much importance to the “like” function. I hardly notice it exists. I rarely click like and don’t care if I get any either. You missed the real fun when we could actually see who liked the comments. That was very interesting.

    Seriously, don’t take these things personally. 🙂



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  • Craig Domin #18
    Sep 15, 2016 at 1:40 pm

    First of all let me thank Peacpecan and Alan4discussion for being the first commenters to respond to my posts.

    Sometimes a lack of response simply means everyone agrees with you, so they have nothing to add, and nothing to challenge!

    The most forceful responses, are often to people who make seriously wrong assertions, or where there are controversial differences of opinion!

    Without disagreeing, I quite often respond to add to, or add links to, what someone else has said.

    Anyway, enjoy the discussions.



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  • @cjdomin #18

    First of all let me thank Peac[eP]ecan …

    You’re welcome.

    I think genes just want to be passed along. So whatever makes that happen would be their definition of the best possible life.

    Yes. Even (apparently) religion.

    Since we are the expression of those genes, I think it is up to us to decide what the best possible life is.

    But we (like all other living organisms) can’t (and therefore shouldn’t) be trusted with that decision. This is why the decision has already been made for us, by our genes and evolution. Even if we think we are doing the deciding, ultimately they have made and will continue to make the decision.

    If allowed to speak for my genes, I vote for more evidence and compassion and less religion.

    You can try to speak for them, but they will not/should not/cannot listen. Survival and replication are all they understand. If your vote happens to lead to those things, it’s not because you’ve figured out some “secret o’ life” – it’s just a happy accident of circumstances for both of you.

    I still believe humans “learned” not to kill one another through the natural selection against the act. Those who did not kill each other survived better than those who did.

    How about all those who “learned” to kill “others” better than those “others” killed them, or who exploited resources better than “others” exploited, etc., etc., etc. A life of conquest can beat a life of sharing and compassion and evidence in certain scenarios commonly occurring in the history (and present) of human existence, where “the best man” wins, and “only the strong survive”.

    If perfect knowledge or near perfect knowledge were ever attained, would that erase all religious notions?

    I think you know my answer to that question. Only if the genes and evolution say so.



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  • LaurieB
    Alan4

    Thanks much. I really don’t take it personal. This is one of the few places an opinion can be made without ad hominem responses and incoherent argumentation (usually). Thanks for your kindness and considered responses.

    On to the next article



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  • I’ve been learning a lot with my family from David Attenborough’s “Life Story” series, which I strongly recommend to anyone interested in anything on this site.

    The natural selection that led to us has followed some interesting twists and turns along the way. In sexual selection, it’s not the biggest, strongest, toughest that dominates, like seals (is it seals?), where the big tough male holds his harem against all comers, and the females go for the guy with the biggest territory.

    There’s a bit of that, but there are other strands too, other strategies. Like those sneaky primates, where the old tough male still has his harem, but the females are often led astray by younger (and I suppose to the females) more attractive males, and it’s their genes that find their way to the next generation.

    A different piece of research, on the peculiar shape of the human penis, suggest also that over evolutionary timescales it has not been the biggest, strongest male who has passed on his genes to the exclusion of the others. He may have had the female first, but someone else had her last, and those are the genes that propagated, often enough to show in our phenotype.

    I’m sure it’s multiple strands, multiple strategies, for our specific ancestry, but Survival of the Sneakiest seems to be up there among them. Survival of the Strongest isn’t us. And sneakiest also means smartest, in many ways. Again, multiple strands, so this is not to deny any other feature that gave some advantage in the long game of natural selection.



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  • @cjdomin #18
    @PeacePecan #21

    I think genes just want to be passed along. So whatever makes that
    happen would be their definition of the best possible life.

    Yes. Even (apparently) religion.

    Religion is a meme, (memeplex). If the meme is strong enough, its need to be passed along will override selfish genes, (see voluntary celibacy.)



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  • @#24

    …if the meme is strong enough, it’s need to be passed along…

    (How is the “strength” of a meme measured? Can memes be said to have “needs”?)

    From RationalWiki:

    A meme is an idea or behavior that spreads from person to person within a society.

    Ideas and behavior come from human brains. The human brain is a product of genes and evolution. If the idea/behavior enhances survivability and progeny it will tend to persist and increase in a population. If the idea/behavior known as “voluntary celibacy” results in certain individuals failing to pass on the genes that produced the idea/behavior, it seems to me that the idea/behavior would eventually negate itself, regardless (or perhaps because of) how strong “it’s need to be passed along” might be.



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  • There’s a lot of unfortunate use of terminology when it comes to the propagation of genes, and their analogue in “mental space”, memes.

    Genes don’t “want” or “need” anything. But the ones that play the game best, are the ones that survive down the generations. Define “play best”? Well, it means they survive. Circular, again.

    So, a meme is “strong enough” if it does, in fact, spread and persist. That’s all. Now that we’ve noticed memes, and coined the term (thanks Dr D), we can of course work on developing and promoting the ones we like, analogous to the artificial selection that has evolved dogs, and most of our food. The “want” or “need” then is ours, our desire to make a meme spread, make it take hold. Meme Designer may or may not be a job title yet, but it soon will be.

    A meme is spread, carried, by human hosts. Just as genes are spread, passed on, by biological hosts, including humans. But the success of the meme is not the success of the host. The meme, like a parasite, benefits even when the host perishes. As long as a host passes on the meme to one or more others, it does not limit the meme if the host then perishes.

    Voluntary Celibacy shows an example where humans fail at propagating their own genes, but succeed in propagating a meme. The meme survives or dies independently of the cost to its temporary hosts.

    PP’s conjecture that such a meme would die out once the susceptible host population has died out sounds right. Humans would need to evolve brains that are immune to such a meme, and could be expected to do so eventually. Except, many of the voluntary celibates have siblings, so the genes “for” susceptibility to the celibacy meme propagate unhindered. How many of us have uncles who are priests, for example?

    I find the “meme” concept to be similar to the “mind virus” concept. Mild ones might have you twerking for a few days, but a really bad one might be fatal, and still be able to spread.

    In brief, PP, the “strength” of a meme is measured by how well it survives. That’s all.



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  • @ohooligan #26

    As long as a host passes on the meme to one or more others, it does not limit the meme if the host then perishes.

    Gotcha. Thanks.

    And when you throw in the various available means of recording and preserving memes (apart from human brains), the potential for continued transmission seems unlimited.

    It seems there is a great need for development of anti-memes.



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