OPEN DISCUSSION JUNE 2020

May 31, 2020

This thread has been created for discussion on themes relevant to Reason and Science for which there are not currently any dedicated threads.

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225 comments on “OPEN DISCUSSION JUNE 2020

  • Welcome to the June 2020 open discussion thread.

    If you wish to continue any of the discussions from earlier Open Discussion threads, please do so here rather than there.

    Thank you.

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  • I am in search of an argument with which some of you may be able to help me. I teach philosophy at a public high school, and one of the things that comes up in discussion is the existence or non-existence of an absolute moral standard. Many of my students argue for a moral standard that is relative to society, but this position seems to appeal to an even higher absolute standard that says societies get to determine their own moral values. I have not yet been able to find an argument for anything other than a theistic world with an absolute moral standard or an atheistic world with no ultimate morality at all. So, here is my question. Is there a rational justification for an absolute moral standard apart from a theistic worldview? Thanks in advance for your time. I look forward to hearing from you.


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  • Hi Alan and Phil,

    Thanks again for the input which I have engulfed but I fear still come out feeling quite baffled.

    Phil I agree that it may come down to semantics but I still see the genes must exist first.  So in the case of epigentics where a gene is turned on or off due to Lamarkian processes a) the genes must first exist and presumably have only survived (even if turned off – thanks Alan) before they can be turned on and off.  So I suppose I’m looking at how the gene gets into the gene pool first and then after that you can have various effects.  But before group selection could take place the gene must first have had sufficient usefulness to be preferentially selected for in that population – that would be my issue.

    Alan on sideways gene transfers, yes thanks that’s great it would appear at that level we have significant sideways sharing and hereditary transfers are clearly not the same when looking at the much more numerous single celled creatures.  And yes virus DNA is obviously another way of introducing new genetic information that might be activated latter into useful genetic material.

    Still baffled but your both adding depth to my bewilderment.  Much appreciated.

     


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  • Jason #2

    I propose morality is, in sum, simply the mechanism for mutuality and therefore must be contingent upon the plurality needs tastes and distastes of its individuals contingent in turn on evolved bodies and brains and the ecosystem in which they live.

    Like every science fiction writer I would argue not only that an alien species would have a unique moral code dependent on its particular physiognomy and environmental stress points, but, I would further claim that morality (and for that matter the cultural inventions of language, reasoning and rationality) have come about because of the diversity of cognitive skews in a population. The differing skews arise from genetic difference affecting the nature of brain pruning in our case after age two (I claim) resulting in what we recognise as character types, the aspie nerd, the schizotypal creative, the cautious/careful slightly OCD, the alpha-male bit psycho, maybe doubled up for male and female off sets.

    Cognitive diversity with its tool set of differing mental skills can only be accessed by having a mechanism for mutuality, a way of bridging the gap of differing needs and wants. of differing views out on the world. The nerd wants little social interaction but fed and left quiet with the right materials will fashion a blade like no other. The Schizotypal will become gregarious tellers of tales and of might-bes, etc. etc.

    Sophisticated language will be needed for each to have a feel of the other’s world view. Tenses and abstracts derived from body metaphors begin the formalisation of empathy, that animal emotional contagion, into a richer intellectual insight into the minds of others. It allows expression of the defeating unhappiness of past events or the trembling trepidation of the future. By such looking into the minds of others, different others, empathy can broaden into Rational Compassion.  Now morality has a much richer repository for longevity and evolutionary change,  to better unlock the talents within.


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  • Hi Jason

    Personally, I can only see absolute morality in relation to human rights. They are a global, secular standard, and not to be conflated with civil rights, which are more local. They are also independent of belief systems. I suppose the first step would be clearly defining what is meant by absolute morality.

    I have not yet been able to find an argument for anything other than a theistic world with an absolute moral standard or an atheistic world with no ultimate morality at all.

    I can’t find the entire document, but James Rachels wrote a nice essay entitled “Does Morality Depend on Religion?” https://graduateway.com/an-exposition-on-james-rachels-does-morality-depend-on-religion/

    (Spoiler alert: no, it doesn’t.)

     

     


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  • Jason B. says:

    Many of my students argue for a moral standard that is relative to society, but this position seems to appeal to an even higher absolute standard that says societies get to determine their own moral values.

    I would say this illustrated in the operation of civil laws.  Basic morality in human societies comes from respect for the Golden Rule. . . .  .

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_Rule

    . .. . .   .  and for empathy for others, which should be encouraged and developed in educating children.

    Empathy and altruism are evolved features which were discussed last month’s Open Discussion.

    The use of science to estimate predicted outcomes from actions, allows moral judgements to be evaluated, and blind leaps into disasters following knee-jerk reactions to dogmas, avoided.

    I have not yet been able to find an argument for anything other than a theistic world with an absolute moral standard or an atheistic world with no ultimate morality at all.

    Religions simply provide uncritically accepted  pseudo-answers from dogmas, but stamped with a “god-badge” and claimed to be “beyond question”.

    We only have to look at the diversity and conflicts of the “absolute standards” of dogmas of the various religions, to see that they may have no inherent basis for reciprocal altruism or human welfare.

    The “no true Scotsman” fallacy is a common feature, along with strawman and cherry-picked denigration of non-members.

    Most religions are about servility to religious leaders as representatives of the god-delusion programmes, and are about promoting and funding, some particular god and religion, along with favouritisms for the in-group members, and discrimination against outsiders or followers of other religions.

    (Religious wars have been generated by these.)  Religions are often in cahoots with some of the most corrupt and tyrannical regimes in history. (Look up Wikipedia on Franco’s fascist Spain!) but hide or white-wash their actions later as they preach re-written history.

    You might also like to look a sacred cows in India, Sabbat rituals in Orthodox Judaism, Theocratic laws in Egypt favouring Islam members in inheritance and marriage, female circumcision in Africa, and exorcisms in Catholicism.

    None of these are about human welfare or consideration for human welfare.

     


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  • Jason B,

    I’d suggest morality is subjective to our context.  For example if you are a lion morality would include eating alive Zebra’s while they are still kicking, literally eating their guts out while one of your peers chokes out the Zebra.  If the lion fails to behave like this then it’s children starve to death,  it is from the lions point of view deeply moral.  If I’m a wasp its moral to me to lay my young in the paralyzed victims of my stings so my children can eat the insect/spider alive leaving the critical organs to last so the victim stays fresh.  All of these are acts that if a human were to do similar to another it would be considered violent crime.  What we do to cattle and sheep is arguably as morally questionable.  Even though I have options to say be a vegan etc.

    Our own morality seems to be borne out of our primate/social species.  I’d argue that goes out the window the moment competing interests become involved.

    Remember Religion is simply asserting an absolute morality.  Can they back it up?  Also consider the morality of a god which condones slavery, sex slavery, commands genocides (numerous) and in fact conducts his own wiping out the whole planet but for a solitary boat of survivors.  I’d argue that is this is absolute morality I’m happy to stick with the imperfect subjective kind.

    In short for me I’d suggest you need a definition.  Morality I suspect is a survival tactic which larger brained species can engage in to balance personal desires/instincts against cooperative members of the species needs.

    As such I suppose my insects actions may not even be considered morality (if they are acting without choice).  But given a choice (if we actually have one really) then a moral act is acting on your own benefit to help the group (because ultimately this helps you).  Perhaps there is an optimal balance in any given act in any given situation however I suspect that very much depends on if you are measuring success of the group that supports you or your survival in that group.

    If you were a completely selfless individual for example you would never ask out the love of your life because you would recognize that statistically someone out there must be better suited, make them more happy, have better genetics.  If you really loved them selflessly you’d help them find that person, let alone marry them yourself.  Perfect altruism would see you sacrifice your own selfish needs for happiness in favor of the needs of those you love. Of course if everyone behaved like this no-one would ever date let alone marry or breed.

     

     

     

     

     


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  • Why do we need absolute morality? can we not simply accept that morality and ethics is simply what works at any given time, with respect to maintaining societal stability, order, and illusion of happiness or satisfaction? It seems to me insisting there are absolute ethics to follow is in itself a plesiomorphic left over of religion. Our religious ancestry has left vestigial desire for absolutes. Absolutes are limiting and quasi religious. Period. The only absolute is nature, and nature is (thankfully) amoral. The measure of morality should be its ability to maintain order and generate a high standard of living for the people it serves. Not some mysterious impersonal force that everyone must follow, no artificial concept should have so much power.
    If people followed ‘natural laws’ then humans would never contemplate flying (no wings remember) and we would limit ourselves to our physiological traits.


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  • 11
    Cairsley says:

    Jason B #2: So, here is my question. Is there a rational justification for an absolute moral standard apart from a theistic worldview?

    Jason B, if you had taken the trouble at least to indicate more positively what you had in mind as “an absolute moral standard”, I might have been able to respond to your question more plainly. The nearest I can think of to a moral absolute is the Golden Rule, but that is more a principle of relation between rational agents than an absolute moral standard. Morality is the product of human reasoning in people’s efforts to order their lives and relations according to the values they share in their wisest and most reasonable moments. Thus its expressions vary considerably from time to time and place to place. Yet, because of the continuity of distinctive human traits, including rationality and empathy, over time, there are values and moral norms that are found (albeit in many cases under different cultural forms) in all human societies, including the recognition of the Golden Rule.

    Your one qualificatory phrase “apart from a theistic worldview” suggests to me that by an absolute moral standard you may mean a set of rules laid down by the leaders of a particular religion (supposedly as divinely authorized representatives of the pertinent deity), to which the faithful are urged to adhere for their safekeeping in the path of righteousness leading to a posited salvation attainable (of course) only after death. My first problem with this is that it is not an example of an absolute moral standard, simply because there is nothing absolute about it, except its priestly proponents’ absolute stiffneckedness in insisting upon it. The equivalent authorities of other religions preach different supposedly absolute moral standards. Each of these, including the one you may have had in mind, is actually nothing more than a superstition, quite unworthy of any rational being anywhere in the universe.

    So, Jason B, if you meant something else by “an absolute moral standard”, I, and I am sure many others here, would be delighted to learn about it from you. Please oblige us.


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  • Cairsley

    while I understand the concept of the golden rule; i.e do unto others as you would do unto yourself.  The fact is the golden rule is also relative, relative to humanity as we define it. Rationality and empathy ultimately are products of our biology and not sacred, (why would any chemical assemblage be sacred or divine?). Hear me out.

    Human nature and civilization immemorial elucidates the inequity of society, which is why human history has consisted of perpetual bloody uprisings and brief intermissions of peace. The golden rule serves those who live comfortably and prevents the disenfranchised from uprising. (A weak genetically disenfranchised individual who can’t acquire a good salary/ procure a mate will be prevented from uprising by the golden rule.) Therefore the golden rule is a device to prevent the socially undesirable from acting out of line, ultimately societal stability is its only purpose. However desirability is subjective. There is no absolute natural standard for what is fit or unfit. Simply what thrives in the given environment. At the end human standards are still just that. Subjective, largely arbitrary and to treat them as absolutes is actually oppressive. This is why eugenics is also erroneous. Human standards should not be treated as universal absolutes.

    This is why the golden rule is ubiquitous across societies. It promotes stability. However it does not foster equity, because at the end the governing forces of human society is sexual selection, and reciprocal altruism/ opportunistic ethics.


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  • James and Reckless Monkey

    I think you are both giving religion more weight than it deserves.

    Religion didn’t establish morality; it appropriated it.


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  • Vicki #13

    Religion didn’t establish morality; it appropriated it.

    And having done so, it then fossilized it, creating a formidable obstacle to further moral progress.


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  • Marco #14

    Yes, and I got the impression from Jason B’s post that he is conflating religion and morality. If he first separates those two human constructs, he might get further in his quest for answers.


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  • 16
    Cairsley says:

    James #12

    Thank you for your reflections on the Golden Rule. You clearly have a good understanding of it. In my comment #11, I mention the Golden Rule as an example of a basic principle of moralizing that people partly instinctively, partly rationally use in their social intercourse. Experiments with primates have shown that the fairplay between agents that the Golden Rule signifies is not confined to humans but has its roots in such evolved traits as reciprocal altruism (which you mention).

    You seem to think the Golden Rule has something to do with religion. Perish the thought! The principle was well known to the ancient Greeks and Romans. Thales, who lived approximately from 624 to 546 BCE, is reported to have said, “Avoid doing what you would blame others for doing.” Isocrates, who lived from 436 to 338 BCE, wrote, “Do not do to others that which angers you when they do it to you.” Seneca the Younger, who lived from about 4 BCE to 65 CE, wrote, “Treat your inferior as you would wish your superior to treat you.” For the Greeks and Romans, morality was not based on religion or divinely revealed teaching; indeed for them the gods and goddesses were as susceptible to vice as humans were. Morality for them was a human endeavor. With the ascendancy of Christianity in the late Hellenistic world, one sees the new established religion of the Roman Empire claiming the moral sphere within its domain — “appropriating it”, as Vicki neatly puts it at #13 above.

    Your last paragraph makes the best point about the Golden Rule, that it promotes stability but not equity. That would certainly be the case if there were no other factors to apply to the task of regulating the norms and practices of society. The factors that you mention — sexual selection, reciprocal altruism and opportunistic ethics — are certainly part of the mix, but we humans are indeed a mixed lot. Some of us use reason to try to judge objectively what is a fair settlement of a dispute, for example, as in a lawcourt, and some are more inclined to be guided by sentiment and empathy to decide what is right in affairs with others. There can be conflicts between a society’s need for cohesion and its citizens’ desire for freedom of conscience and expression. Morality is a large subject that has arisen precisely because our brains have developed to the point where they enable us to reflect on our evolved nature, how it has come about and whether we may want to improve on it. In this case we as a species would be like an adult taking responsibility for ourselves and our actions.


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  • Phil #4,

    You are making the point that morality is relative. What I am looking for is an argument for an ultimate (objective, universal) standard of morality. I am not asking if you agree that there is an ultimate standard. I am only asking if there is an argument for an ultimate standard apart from a theistic worldview.

    A follow up question for you . . . you seem to be saying that the subjective moral standards we see operating in society are the result of natural selection. Does not natural selection, though, select for behaviors and not for beliefs? It seems to me that natural selection would select the individuals of a species that are most concerned with their own survival and not the survival of other individuals.


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  • Vicki #5,

    You are asserting that absolute morality is based in human rights, which “are a global, secular standard, and not to be conflated with civil rights, which are more local.” Is there an atheistic argument that supports the existence of this objective standard? Rachels asserts that “moral judgments are ‘dictates of reason.'” What is the argument for “reason” being the ultimate standard, and what happens when two individuals reach contradictory conclusions? Is there another higher standard that judges whether or not rational conclusions are correct?

     


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  • Alan4discussion #7

    I am not looking for arguments against theistic morality. What I am searching for is an atheistic argument supporting an ultimate, objective, universal moral standard. I am not asking if you agree that such a standard exists. I am merely seeking to discover if such an argument exists.


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  • Reckless Monkey and James,

    Maybe I need to make my question more clear. I am not looking for an ultimate standard. I am not interested in anyone’s opinion about whether such a standard exists. All I am looking for is an argument from an atheistic worldview that supports an ultimate moral standard. Here is my question in the clearest terms I can write it . . .

    Is there an atheistic argument that supports the existence of an ultimate, objective, universal moral standard? If so, what is the argument?


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  • Jason B. says:

    I am not looking for arguments against theistic morality. What I am searching for is an atheistic argument supporting an ultimate, objective, universal moral standard.

    All morality is relative to the individual and collective interests involved.

    The prime difference between secular ethics and religious (alleged) morality, is that secular ethics is based on the Golden Rule, altruism and empathy, – usually using scientific predictions of outcomes as a basis for actions.

    Religious “morality” is based on various conflicting forms of antiquated mythology. dogmas and doctrines,  which are accepted on “faith”, without evaluating or critically evaluating outcomes of actions.

    I am not asking if you agree that such a standard exists. I am merely seeking to discover if such an argument exists.

    You will find multitudes of religious arguments from the numerous religions, denominations of the world. These will be circular starting with dogmas and doctrines and going around in circles of obfuscating semantics or just assertions of “faith”.

    Some will tell you eating pork is forbidden.

    Some will tell you eating cows is forbidden.

    Some will tell you that eating shellfish is forbidden.

    Some will tell you that having blood-transfusions is forbidden.

    Some will tell you that contraception and abortion is forbidden.

    Some will tell you that being born homosexual is forbidden.

    Some will tell you that operating electrical switches on the sabbath is forbidden.

    Some will tell you that you have to pray 5 times a day facing east.

    . . . and all of them will tell you that that’s how (their) god’s “morality” requires it to be.

    There are no “ultimate moral standards”.  Those who claim to have them,  are just making false claims to prop up their dogmas, and pretending they are unquestionable and beyond challenge.


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  • firstly Vicki and Cairsley I appreciate your replies,

    I can accept the use of rationality to establish an assessment of interests and determination of justice in a given instance, which is basically moral judgement. (I.E man/ or woman steals company data and violates copyright but does so to reveal the company has been violating privacy laws, in which case we may use reason to weigh the greater transgression.) However throughout evolutionary history competition and opportunism has been the rule.

    The golden rule largely evolved with us and is a geologically young convention that may apply only to our species (at least on earth).

    However enough of that. I understand how the golden rule is literally engraved in our genes. (However it may evolve in the near future and there may be something better and more centered on equity)

    Alan if there was a atheistic argument it would be that the best or worst moral standard is yet to come. One thing I am certain is there is a better set of ethics in the future, as there will be an injust and abhorrent moral standard in our future which will also be celebrated and uphold by loyal acolytes. However one day we will develop a morality that can accommodate all members of society. An equitable law. The beauty is even then there will be something different in the future.

    Change is the only absolute. Nature is what is not what ought to be.

     


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  • Not only do I not believe there is any such thing as absolute morality, I don’t see how we would recognise it if there were, and I don’t see how it would help if there were.

    Unless we are hermits, to be human is inevitably to find ourselves caught up in a competition between ideas, and the ideas that resonate with us as individuals are largely determined by a range of factors: (in no particular order) genetics; upbringing; character; the society we’re born into; the prevailing social norms in that society; the number of competing ideas we’ve been exposed to in the first place.

    The existence of absolute morality wouldn’t remove any of that: all those influences on human thought and attitudes would still exist, so there would still be a range of competing ideas about what absolute morality actually was. Absolute morality wouldn’t come badged, after all: we would need to be able to recognise it. And for that to happen, it would still have to win through in the marketplace of ideas – it would still need to persuade us that it was, in fact, absolute, and not just another contender to the title. To make any difference to our moral reasoning, it would still have to convince us of its moral superiority to anything else we’d come up with (a process that would of itself require us to make our own, non-absolute moral assessment of its claim). It wouldn’t remove the necessity of thinking, and reasoning, and persuading. And it would still be assessed and interpreted in the light of prevailing norms and expectations.

    It wouldn’t actually make the business of trying to lead a moral life any less complex. And perhaps it would even diminish us as human beings if it did, since the necessity of tussling with that complexity has underpinned so much of great literature and art and philosophy and endeavour and courage and achievement throughout the ages. Perhaps the absence of absolute morality, and the consequent necessity of navigating our own way through the moral maze, is one of the things that enable humans to find meaning and purpose in life.


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  • Hi Jason B

    You are asserting that absolute morality is based in human rights…

    Not exactly. I am saying my perception of absolute morality can only be framed in relation to human rights, and that human rights apply globally. A good example would be the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights from 1948. (You will note that no deity is required)

    https://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/

    Is there an atheistic argument that supports the existence of this objective standard?

    I was raised without religion, so that question strikes me as a little confusing. I would be wondering if there is a theistic argument that supports an objective standard, and if so, from which belief system?


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  • Alan, Marco, and Vicki,

    I believe you have all answered my question. You all seem to be saying, “No, there is no argument for ultimate morality from a non-theistic or atheistic worldview.” Even Vicki’s appeal to the U.N. is  not an appeal to an ultimate standard. This answer does not surprise me as I do not know of such an argument either.

    If there is no objective standard of morality, then I am forced to agree with Nietzsche’s (and Dawkins’) nihilism and throw out any talk of “good,” “evil,” “right,” or “wrong.” This is the problem I run into as a high school philosophy teacher. My students have a really difficult time entertaining the idea that evil, in the ultimate sense, does not exist. Countless “evils” (things our modern society would consider evil) have been expressed in various civilizations throughout human history. Is there really nothing ultimately, objectively, and universally wrong when a society practices child sacrifice, celebrates the rape of women, systematically executes six million people who happen to have a particular genetic sequence, or enslave people who have a particular skin color? It seems to go against basic human intuition to say that there is nothing ultimately wrong with with raping women.

    In my experience, many people claim that morality is relative but then live their lives as if morality were objective (by saying that things like rape are never okay). In my view, though, it seems like we have to choose between two alternatives. Either morality is ultimate, objective, and universal, or there is nothing inherently wrong with rape. Would you agree that those are the only two options?


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  • Jason #27

    Yes there is no universal system of morality just as there is no universal standard for morphological adaptations for a specific environment.

    However humans are evolved to follow the golden rule. If we pillage and harm our neighbours, empathy allows us to see things from our victims’ perspective, and reason tells us we could be in their position and someone else could very well treat us in the same way. Therefore we avoid ravaging them or their family. If humans evolved to be sentient solitary predators or herd animals morality would likely look very different. Right now humans are like ants with individualist preferences and desires, and that is why ethics is structured the way it is.

    Yet there is nothing inherently immoral or moral about anything and humans determine what they want to believe, which has always been my point. However there are moral beliefs that work better than others, and the measure should be in its ability to maintain societal stability.

    If we all stop being ethical civilization will fall apart, and without cooperation and community it will become difficult to ensure offspring survival. People will need to evolve and adapt to the disappearance of ethics. We are all species in transit. People like to say ‘for the good of our species’ when in fact species is ephemeral, and largely a human construct. The big picture is species are blurred and everything is in flux, and morality is simply another trait of a species just like hair color or shape of appendages. If anatomy can change then so can morality.


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  • Jason #27

    Either morality is ultimate, objective, and universal, or there is nothing inherently wrong with rape.

    If I’m understanding you correctly, you are saying physical acts of violence against other humans are OK because morality cannot be universally defined?


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  • Jason #27

    Either morality is ultimate, objective, and universal, or there is nothing inherently wrong with rape. Would you agree that those are the only two options?

    False dichotomy. As we slowly turned into modern humans we decided that, for instance, coercive sexual violence was intolerable. As we turn into some later version of us, this will change and in my expectation will have further aspects of such behaviours added to it.

    Before we articulated the Golden Rule in axial age philosophy across the globe, we had articulated the Silver Rule, do no harm unto others as you would wish for yourselves. But the Golden Rule, as we start to recognise the reality of cognitive diversity (we are approximately made and in no one’s image), is increasingly evolving onto the Platinum Rule, do unto others as they would wish to be done by. This may well be a better rule for tomorrow’s version of us.

    Morality is the mechanism for mutuality, that is, for maximising it in some way, and acting to maximally realise everyone’s potential to act.


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  • Jason  #17

    you seem to be saying that the subjective moral standards we see operating in society are the result of natural selection. Does not natural selection, though, select for behaviors and not for beliefs? It seems to me that natural selection would select the individuals of a species that are most concerned with their own survival and not the survival of other individuals.

    Read Dawkin’s The Selfish Gene, to learn about as-if-kin selection to learn how altruism may arise through natural selection. Then learn later in the book how cultures may well be viewed as evolving entities.

    Culture first built its own behaviours on the evolved emotional contagion (empathy) and altruism of higher mammals and thereby flourished. Later today I have an overdue post for Reckless Monkey with my specific account of this.


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  • Jason B. says:

    If there is no objective standard of morality, then I am forced to agree with Nietzsche’s (and Dawkins’) nihilism and throw out any talk of “good,” “evil,” “right,” or “wrong.” This is the problem I run into as a high school philosophy teacher.

    It is totally wrong to suggest that objectively applying the Golden Rule” is nihilism.    Secular ethics takes a position of balancing conflicting interests in an objective and equitable manner. It is incorporated in the ethical codes of various professions such as in medicine.

    It is also wrong to attribute nihilism  to Richard Dawkins, as it is the very opposite of his explanations of cultural evolution.

    https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/14743.The_God_Delusion

    A preeminent scientist – and the world’s most prominent atheist – asserts the irrationality of belief in God, and the grievous harm religion has inflicted on society, from the Crusades to 9/11.

    Nihilism is often asserted by the besotted religious, for any view which rejects their god-delusions, simply because they have no concept of any coherent moral views other than the simplistic dogmatic ones, spoon-fed to them by their religious leaders, and uncritically accepted.

    These are theist strawman claims behind which false claims of theocratic doctrine-based absolute morality are hidden.

    All forms of morality are based on the cultures of populations and the behaviours of individuals within that context, not anarchist individuals.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Memetics

    Analogous to a gene, the meme was conceived as a “unit of culture” (an idea, belief, pattern of behaviour, etc.) which is “hosted” in the minds of one or more individuals, and which can reproduce itself in the sense of jumping from the mind of one person to the mind of another.

    https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/254502.The_Meme_Machine

    Theist claims to “morality” are no more “absolute” than anyone else’s.

    They simply lack the objective scientific evaluation of the effects of outcomes on human population s and individuals, substituting doctrinaire assertions in their place, with  an added “endorsement” from an imaginary god!  (as I listed at #21.)

    The claims of “nihilism” simply describe the perceived void in an indoctrinated mind, in the event of their spoon-fed dogmas on which they are dependent, being deleted leaving them inexperienced and clueless, about how to go about creating a more objective replacement set of moral objectives.

    Theocracy simply brands certain activities “evil” and frequently tries to re-write history in “No True Scotsman” fashion, self awarding badges of “goodness” to its self and its followers.

    Almost invariably, the promotion of the sect, cult, or religion, and its god, come as top “moral” priorities, waayyy ahead of human welfare.

    As I pointed out at #7 major religions have a dreadful historical record of mutual support for, and from, highly abusive regimes, and indeed just like the covering up of these abusive historical connections, there is the more recent covering up of the widespread betrayal  of trust in the numerous child abuse scandals.

    From an objective viewpoint, the most repressive, corrupt,  and abusive regimes, correlate strongly with the most fundamentalist religions and high levels of indoctrinated religiosity. (Islamic states of the Middle East, and Latin American dictatorships.)

  • 34
    Cairsley says:

    Jason B #20: Is there an atheistic argument that supports the existence of an ultimate, objective, universal moral standard? If so, what is the argument?

    Jason, have you read any of Plato’s works? I ask because he sought absolute knowledge, having begun his philosophical training under Socrates, who sought pretty much what you are now seeking, namely “an ultimate, objective, universal moral standard.” In Plato’s early works, he presents Socrates not merely to promote his wisdom but also to defend his reputation against the injustice of his conviction by an Athenian court.

    All well and good. But read on into Plato’s middle and late works, in particular the Republic and the Laws, and you will see what delights await one fated to live in a city-state subject to the rule of an ultimate, objective, universal truth known and understood by the select few capable of such knowledge and understanding, namely the philosopher rulers. Although Socrates is still used in these works as Plato’s mouthpiece, he is very obviously no longer the historical Socrates whom we meet in the early works. As Plato got older, his aristocratic prejudices set in more firmly, and he laid out a blueprint for a utopian totalitarian city-state in which everyone has his place and was required to keep it. But it is the only great attempt in the Western philosophical tradition that I know of, where ultimate, objective, universal truth and the moral standard derivable therefrom has been seriously and systematically sought, on a purely reasoned basis, without resort to religious notions. However, the basic perspective of Plato’s mature philosophy is his Idealism, whereby the contemplation of ideas (which are thought in fact to be eternally existent Ideas) is presented as the only reliable source of knowledge, as against unreliable sense-experience. And worse, the human soul, capable of apprehending Ideas, is presented as itself being immortal; hence too the doctrine of metempsychosis. Of all the schools of philosophy available to the fourth-century Christian church, it was neo-Platonism that suited the Christians’ purposes of defining and setting down the eternal, universal doctrines concerning the revelations about the world’s supposed one and only savior.

    Another suggestion I can offer to assist you in your search for an ultimate, universal moral standard is to read Immanuel Kant’s works Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals (Grundlegung zur Metaphysik der Sitten) and Critique of Practical Reason (Kritik der praktischen Vernunft), in which Kant strove to set out the moral order of thinking and acting inherent in any rational being. Kantian metaphysics is not as well regarded as it once was, having been found wanting on account of advances in other disciplines (e.g. the discovery of non-Euclidean geometry in the 19th century), but Kantian moral philosophy continues to be one of the major contributing schools of thought in current work in this field of philosophy. It has its critics and its weak points, and one may need to supplement it with insights from other schools of thought (as any genuine philosopher should be broadminded enough to do anyway), but it is one of the better moral-philosophical systems around. Furthermore, it contains not the slightest hint of anything supernatural or otherworldly.


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  • Cairsley #34,

    Thank you for your thoughtful response. I have read Plato, and I think you are referring to the Euthyphroian Dilemma in which he asks if the gods command goodness because it is good of if goodness is good because the gods command it. His answer is that objective morals or virtues are unchanging, eternal forms that are not dependent on the gods. While I may like his argument, it would leave me with immaterial, eternal, unchanging entities (morals/virtues) that are independent of the physical universe, which takes us way beyond a naturalistic worldview.

    Kant also made a valiant attempt, but I cannot accept his distinction between the phenomenal world and noumenal world. The distinction very well may exist; but if the phenomenal world is only in my mind, then I am living in my own private Matrix. What I do in this Matrix has absolutely no impact on the noumenal world and has no ultimate impact on the other entities (like you) that I encounter in my Matrix. So, why should I follow the Golden Rule in my Matrix rather than seeking to become Nietzsche’s Ubermensch? If Kant is right, it seems as though all ultimate meaning has been lost.


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  • Vicki #30,

    I am saying that if there is no ultimate standard of morality, there is no mechanism by which to judge whether a violent act against humans is good or bad. One could judge that a violent act is not beneficial or that there would be pragmatically better ways to treat people, but the violent act itself has no inherent immoral (wrong/evil) qualities. We may seek to follow the Golden Rule as the product of evolution; but evolution continues, so that standard may change. It is at least theoretically possible that evolution will lead our species to a place where rape is celebrated because it propagates the most offspring. You and I may be horrified by such a thing because it is contrary to our preferences, but there would be nothing inherently wrong with it.


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  • Phil #31 and 32,

    If I grant to you that the Golden Rule is the product of evolution, that merely tells us how people do behave, not how they ought to behave. Asserting that natural selection has given us the virtue of altruism is merely a description of our current state. It may even predict how most people will will behave tomorrow, but it does not tell me how I ought to behave tomorrow.

    Suppose I go on a three hour boat tour with ten other humans. We get caught in a storm and are marooned on a previously unknown, deserted island with no hope of escape or rescue. The other ten humans include the Jamaican captain and deckhand, three fisherman from the Florida panhandle, and five women. Being a white, educated man, I am intellectually and physically superior to all ten and can easily enforce my will upon them.

    The evolutionarily produced altruism tells me that most people will seek to do good for their neighbor, but I did not get that gene. Therefore, my plan is to enslave the Jamaicans, recruit the rednecks as my security detail, take the three women who are most attractive to me and most suited for childbirth and make them my concubines (even though one is a lesbian and the other two are in love with the Jamaican deckhand), and assign domestic duties to the two less desirable women. In addition, I will take the strong offspring of the three concubines and train them up as loyal surrogates of mine. I will take the weak offspring, sterilize them, and teach them to work in the fields. I will take the mentally and physically deficient offspring and sacrifice them to my made-up island goddess who threatens to destroy the island if we do not offer child sacrifices and continue to submit to me as king.

    Would you say that there is anything wrong with my approach? I am not asking if you (and most other people who have the altruism gene) would prefer a different approach that you think would have a more desirable outcome. I am asking if, in this specific society that I have established on this specific island, there is anything inherently wrong with me enslaving blacks, raping women, and sacrificing children?

     


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  • Alan #33,

    I did not say that the Golden Rule is nihilism. The claim that I made is that apart from some ultimate standard telling me that I ought to follow the Golden Rule, I do not see how we can avoid nihilism. Also, I apologize for attributing nihilism to Dawkins. I must have misunderstood him.

    You say that “Secular ethics takes a position of balancing conflicting interests in an objective and equitable manner.” This is true. However, there must be some standard that is applied in order to determine the equity between the two conflicting interests. You have asserted that such a standard is the Golden Rule. That’s fine. I accept that this is the standard that is often applied. What I want to know is why I ought to follow that rule. If it is the product of evolution, then the Golden Rule is merely a description of how we do behave and not how we ought to behave. I am not looking for a scientific argument that explains how people do behave. I am looking for a philosophical argument that explains how people ought to behave.

     


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  • 39
    Cairsley says:

    Jason B #35: … While I may like his argument, it would leave me with immaterial, eternal, unchanging entities (morals/virtues) that are independent of the physical universe, which takes us way beyond a naturalistic worldview.

    Precisely. And if you eschew immaterial, eternal, unchanging entities and will not go beyond a naturalistic worldview, you must be content with a contingent, evolving morality, for that is the only morality we evolving lifeforms in this contingent, everchanging world are capable of.

    I did not have the Euthyphro dilemma in mind, though that is not irrelevant to this discussion. Thank you for mentioning it.

    You seem to have acquainted yourself with Kant’s metaphysics, but what about his moral philosophy? I mentioned it because it comes closest to offering you something in the way of a universal moral standard without offending naturalistic sensibilities.


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  • Cairsley,

    I see Kant’s Categorical Imperative (which expresses the same principle as the Golden Rule) as a pragmatic approach to ethics. “Treat everyone well because that will have the greatest benefit.” This is directly related to his metaphysics because the results we see are all in the phenomenal world and are therefore subjective. If there is anything objective, it resides in the noumenal world, which by definition is inaccessible to us and is therefore not relevant. So, I am left with the subjectivity of one person’s preference over another’s. This is where Nietzsche comes in. Preferences are neither good nor bad. They just are. Some of us prefer religion. Some of us prefer rape and murder. Some of us prefer the Categorical Imperative. In the end, whoever has the power to enforce his preference on society is the one (or group) who determines that society’s morality and standard of right and wrong.

    I have a really difficult time accepting this because I see, for example, the treatment of George Floyd as objectively wrong and not merely contrary to the preferences of our society. I think most people would agree with this. There are some things in this world that are never acceptable, things like rape, murder, child abuse, etc. As a society, we do not see these things as merely undesirable. We see them as objectively wrong at all times and in all circumstances. If it is true that these things are wrong at all times and in all circumstances, then this standard has to come from somewhere. I am not talking about our apprehension of this standard. Many of the other commenters have asserted that we have apprehended this standard through the process of natural selection, but this only tells us how we actually behave and not how we ought to behave. I think there has to be some kind of source for the independently existent standard that the murder of George Floyd was inherently wrong.


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  • 38 – Jason B. says: 

    You say that “Secular ethics takes a position of balancing conflicting interests in an objective and equitable manner.”
    This is true. However, there must be some standard that is applied in order to determine the equity between the two conflicting interests.

    As Phil suggested at #32, this is about kin selection, reciprocal altruism, and group behavioural psychology, which is explained in detail in Richard Dawkins’ book “The Selfish Gene”. (Chapter 10 You scratch My Back, I’ll Ride on Yours, + Chapter 12 “Nice guys Finish First”)
    It basically explains that a population is sustained and enhanced by the cooperative altruists, and there is a balance between the numbers of altruistic members of a population and the numbers of selfish individuals.
    If the numbers of selfish individuals rise above a certain percentage, it makes that population uncompetitive against rival groups.
    It is therefore in the interests of the group as a whole to limit the destructive activities of selfish individuals. (This applies to communities of social animals as well as humans.)

    I would recommend reading “The Selfish Gene” despite whatever creationists may say about Richard Dawkins!

    Its top position in the Royal Society’s poll  for awarding their book prize for the most influential  science book of all time, should spell out the scientific merits  of this work on population genetics.

    https://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2017/jul/20/dawkins-sees-off-darwin-in-vote-for-most-influential-science-book

    The top 10 most influential science books of all time – from the shortlist
    The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins – 236 votes
    A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson – 150 votes
    On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin – 118 votes

    https://royalsociety.org/news/2017/07/science-book-prize-poll-results/

    The Selfish Gene tops Royal Society poll to reveal the nation’s most inspiring science books
    19 July 2017

    The arguments about “absolute” morality (and often “absolute” anything else), is between the complex scientific explanations which require detailed study and the faith-based simplistic pseudo-answers of god-did-it and told some ancient mystic scribe in a revelation what to do!

    https://livingwithschizophreniauk.org/religious-spiritual-delusions-schizophrenia/

    For some sufferers religious delusions or intense religiously-based irrational thinking may be a component of their symptoms, for instance they may believe that they have been sent by God to become a great prophet.

    In the modern world there are more scientific explanations of where mystical “revelations” come from!

    https://medlineplus.gov/psychoticdisorders.html

    People with psychoses lose touch with reality.

    Two of the main symptoms are delusions and hallucinations. Delusions are false beliefs, such as thinking that someone is plotting against you

    Hallucinations are false perceptions, such as hearing, seeing, or feeling something that is not there.

    https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/003258.htm  – Hallucinations

  • Alan,

    I can accept in theory that altruism is a product of evolution. The problem is that this evolutionarily produced altruism merely describes human behavior. It does not prescribe human behavior. A description tells us what actually is, but a prescription tells us what ought to be. There is a difference between these two. I am talking about the latter, but you keep talking about the former.

    You keep bringing up religion, and I do not understand why. I have not asked any religious questions or made any religious points. I am talking about philosophical arguments pertaining to morality. Your assertions about religion are so far not relevant to the discussion at hand.


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  • Jason B. says:
    A description tells us what actually is, but a prescription tells us what ought to be.

    This is no “ought” in natural science. Evolution has no objectives beyond the replication of genes.
    “Ought” is about chosen objectives, but  beyond identifying and evaluating the interests of various parties, societies,  and the self interests of individuals, there is no “ought”.
    That is why (beyond faith-based religious assertions) it cannot be found.
    It is classic gapology to fill unknowns (or hard to understand complexities), with “god-did-it”!
    This is what I understood you were encountering and finding difficult.
    Ethics is about agreed codes of conduct, balancing the interests of the community and the various parties and discouraging  antisocial destructive selfish acts.

    I am talking about philosophical arguments pertaining to morality.

    Philosophers have spent millennia pondering and arguing over imponderables.
    Scientists settle for; “We do not know (yet), but are looking for methods to investigate further”!



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  • Alan,

    We have finally arrived at some common ground. There is no ought in natural science. This is precisely the issue I have been focussing on because it seems to me that many of us are inconsistent when we say that there is no ought and then turn around and say that things ought to be a certain way. I will give you an example. On the “What We Do” page of this website, Dawkins appeals to “personal freedoms and human dignity” and refers to certain values “such as access to contraception, LGBTQ rights and women’s equality.” Surely supporting the rights of a community that does not reproduce is not a product of natural selection. Claiming that humans have dignity and should be treated a certain way is an ought statement, not an is statement. It is a prescription and not a description. We all live as though there is ought even though we all claim there is no ought.

    I think we either need find a rational basis for ought statements (prescriptions) or just be honest with ourselves and call our support for things like women’s rights what it is, a mere preference.


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  • Jason B. says:

    We all live as though there is ought even though we all claim there is no ought.

    Humanist objectives are a collective subjective consensus.

    If we agree we PREFER to live in a harmonious society rather than a strife ridden one. and in a stable society rather than a collapsing one, this creates “ought objectives”, but these are human constructs.

    Some predatory individuals would rather have chaos which they can exploit to their personal advantage.

    It comes down to personal and collective choices, but cooperative teams in most circumstances, do better than individual loners!

    Some studies of social insects might interest you.  Conflicts between Honey Ant colonies are an interesting example.


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  • Alan,

    We have come full circle back to my first post. You, and most of my students, assert that “humanist objectives are a collective subjective consensus.” I understand this to mean that humanist objectives are the collective and subjective consensus of the majority in a given society. I understand the claim, but I do not accept that anyone actually believes the claim because no one lives as if they believe the claim.

    I will give you an example. The collective and subjective consensus of the majority of society in Saudi Arabia is that homosexuals ought to be executed. Based upon your assertion, you and I ought to embrace the execution of homosexuals as the “ought objective” of Saudi society. Yet, this is clearly not the case. Once again on the “What We Do” page, Dawkins refers to the interference with “personal freedoms and human dignity” around the world. If given the chance, surely Dawkins would change Saudi law, which would in effect change the collective and subjective consensus of Saudi society. Here, though, we run into contradiction. If the collective and subjective consensus of society produces “ought objectives,” then Dawkins ought to go along with the collective and subjective consensus of executing homosexuals in Saudi Arabia.

    We can push this even further here within our own society. For 150 years, the collective and subjective consensus of the majority of American society was that women ought not participate in the political process. Yet, some people resisted this ought; and in so doing, they rejected the claim that the collective and subjective consensus of the majority has the right to compel upon them an ought. Indeed, based upon your assertion of the collective consensus having the right/capacity to create “ought objectives,” no one should ever petition for any kind of societal change because doing so we be against the “ought objectives” of the collective consensus.

    I reject that anyone actually believes in relative morality that is based in the collective consensus because no one lives as if they believe it. Therefore, in order to live consistently, I am forced to admit that there must be some kind of universal standard that transcends mankind. This, of course, pushes me beyond naturalism; but I am okay with that as I accept the existence of certain non-material things like the truth that 2+2=4. This mathematical equation is true independent of human minds, so I am also okay with certain ethical equations being true independent of human minds as well.

    The question I now face is this. From where does the authority of this absolute moral standard come? Ultimately, I am left with only two potential answers. The source of this absolute moral standard must either be personal or impersonal. The thought of some impersonal structure or law in the universe that sets forth ethical standards and rightly demands allegiance to them is a difficult idea to comprehend. What kind of impersonal entity could do such a thing? If this structure or law were run by chance, then surely no ethical significance could come from it. Maybe it is something like the Greek fates, but is not resistance to the fates seen as a virtue? I may ultimately be subdued by the will of the fates, but why ought I submit myself to them?

    I am forced to the conclusion that there is no impersonal entity that has the capacity to enforce ought upon personal beings (like you and me). This leaves me with only one option. A personal entity that transcends mankind must be the source of the moral obligations placed upon personal beings.

    No matter how I approach the issue, it seems as though the existence of absolute moral standards (which we all claim through our behavior exist) presupposes the existence of an absolute personality.


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  • >If there is no objective standard of morality, then I am forced to agree with Nietzsche’s (and Dawkins’) nihilism and throw out any talk of “good,” “evil,” “right,” or “wrong.” This is the problem I run into as a high school philosophy teacher.

    First I’d say in general no there is no objective standard but I don’t see why there cannot be objective standards in specific situations.   You need to decide what is your objective first.

    So if it is your goal to live as long as possible then there are definite do and do nots.  Eat well – do, exercise – do, walk with your eyes closed into busy traffic – don’t.  These are objectively true.  But it must first be understood that it is preferable to stay alive.

    If my goal is to live the best life possible then this may come into conflict with the living the longest life possible.  Again different goal at some point having an inoperable cancer for example it would be preferable to euthenaise myself again depending on situations, if pain was manageable then palliative care until death may be preferable if pain is not manageable then it may be preferable to exit early in either cases then objective facts can make an outcome absolute at point X or Y depending on subjective preference.

    However if I valued life above all then any degree of torture is preferable to death.  If I consider pain is teaching me something or something of value to experience then I may choose no pain medication and the application of any pain killers or apply them to me against my will will be a moral wrong (potentially) although the pain of those having to watch comes into it too.

    I personally have no issue with there being no objective reality.  I consider it quite likely there is no free will really deep deep down but I like the illusion that thinking and discussing will make me a better person.  Hence I actually wouldn’t want any ultimate moral standard.  I would want my standards to be thoughtful and linked to reality.

     

     

     

     

     


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  • Jason B.

    >I reject that anyone actually believes in relative morality that is based in the collective consensus because no one lives as if they believe it. Therefore, in order to live consistently, I am forced to admit that there must be some kind of universal standard that transcends mankind.

    If you assume human flourishing as a goal.  How does that change your thinking.

    If I assume that I want to have the right to as much freedom and what I consider happiness as possible and that everyone else does as well, then can maintain there is no ultimate moral standard other than say that, and leave the rest up to negotiation of these happiness’s among us all as they will inevitably conflict.

    Thus I live my life imperfectly but content to try to improve my own life, the life of those around me and the other organisms on the planet around me (which also ultimately support my existence – an objective requirement for my happiness to be even possible).  There are any number of objective realities and objective moral stances with that basic assumption.  For example doing something about global warming is objectively a moral stance that I must take on the basis of this moral philosophy.

    I think you are creating a if not this then necessarily this must be so.  Why?  Why can’t the universe just be bloody complex.  It certainly appears this way to me.

    Clearly you can objectively measure the success or otherwise of say Saudi Arabia on any number of measures, health care, violence, education levels, amount of local terrorists etc.  And what the makes you think they hold this as a consensus view?  Polling in a country that will kill you for apostasy is not going to be reliable. Not the best example I think.

     

     


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  • 49
    Cairsley says:

    Jason B #40: I see Kant’s Categorical Imperative (which expresses the same principle as the Golden Rule) as a pragmatic approach to ethics. “Treat everyone well because that will have the greatest benefit.”

    Clearly, Jason, you have not studied Kant’s moral philosophy. Likening his categorical imperative to the Golden Rule is laughable. I wonder where you found that quotation; it does not even sound Kantian. If you are interested in acquainting yourself with Kantian moral philosophy, you will do well to begin with the two books I cited at #34. Another book that you may find useful, if you find Kant’s language difficult, is The Cambridge Companion to Kant edited by Paul Guyer, in particular chapter 10, “Autonomy, obligation and virtue: An overview of Kant’s moral philosophy” by J. B. Schneewind.

    … This is directly related to his metaphysics because the results we see are all in the phenomenal world and are therefore subjective. If there is anything objective, it resides in the noumenal world, which by definition is inaccessible to us and is therefore not relevant. …

    Kant’s moral philosophy is not based on his metaphysics and is not affected by any problems one may have with his rather clumsy distinction between the phenomenal and the noumenal. The categorical imperative, which must be understood in the context of maxims and the hypothetical imperative, is a purely formal test of the goodness of an action.

    Going off topic now, to address the interpretation of Kant’s treatment of the distinction between phenomena and noumena, it should be pointed out that Kant himself strongly disagreed with the interpretation that you seem to favor. His understanding of the matter was that we perceive things not as they are in themselves but according as they appear through our senses and cognitive faculties. It was never his intention to sever the human mind from the real world. The epistemological position that he sought to represent was that of Aristotle. However, Kant’s language and manner of arguing have in some instances been unhelpful and left his epistemological work open to extreme subjectivist interpretations. On this topic, you may find helpful chapter 8, “The critique of metaphysics: Kant and traditional ontology” by Karl Ameriks in The Cambridge Companion to Kant already cited.
    I find that the scientific understanding of human perception that is currently being developed on the basis of neurology reflect well on Kant, whose efforts to account for human cognition, using the metaphysics and little else at his disposal, can now be appreciated and respected as prescient. After all, the neuroscientist tells us that what we perceive is something generated by the brain, based on the information received via the senses and nervous system from the world without. What assures us of the reliability of this arrangement is the fact that we are here after millions of years of having to get by with it.



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  • Jason #37

    If I grant to you that the Golden Rule is the product of evolution…

    No. It is not and this strawman’s my claim seemingly to serve your later inadequate model of “the problem of the psychopath”

    We are not chimps. Emotional contagion plus as-if-kin altruism does not get us to the Golden Rule. That takes culture. Your hellish island is a snapshot of any psychopathic tyrant and it takes culture to eventually manage the situation after generations. Those moral rules evolved culturally as I carefully explained, silver, gold, platinum.

    How did that first one, “do no harm to others you would not wish for yourselves”, come about?

    Professor Richard Wrangham in “The Goodness Paradox” puts forward an evidenced hypothesis. He notes that from the fossil record of early man,  we were a murderous chimp-like lot, killing in packs and with oppressive alpha males ruling the roost. But much later the there appears a transformation into an internal. bonobo-like placidity, though still retaining killing in packs, unlike their hippy, peace’n’lurve rather passive cousins.

    The magic ingredient for this transformation? Language facilitating culture. The oppressed males able to covertly conspire against their singular oppressor and with their pack hunting skills, could kill or otherwise topple the tyrant, greatly reducing his ability to propagate his low empathy gene’s. Over the generations the mass could reduce the incidence of psychopathy to satisfactory levels. Alpha males became tamed and better played the mutuality game, offering their leadership qualities without overplaying their position and suffering the fatal loss of reproductive fitness. We, through culture, could better breed ourselves for our own good.

    Thus we see the beginning of traditional expectations,  of fireside stories of brutal and kind behaviours, of laws and governance and the mechanism for mutuality.

    Was it worth it? The quite spectacular flourishing of the naked ape over both chimps and bonobos suggests, yes.

    The parasitism of the psychopath remains a problem today. The balance for better thriving ever needs to be found. Balancing the ability of the psychopath to be an instigator of some change but with a lessor debilitating charge on the equally essential rest, is the essence of our current cultural concern.

    Your island will never flourish, Jason, until the mechanism for mutuality establishes itself and the talents of all are realised and put to willing and collaborative good use. Maybe in about 7 generations?


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  • Ack! I need longer than ten minutes these days.

    #50
    The oppressed males able to covertly conspire against their singular oppressor

    should acknowledge oppressed females equally likely to be part of an effective conspiracy.


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  • Jason #46

     

    I am forced to the conclusion that there is no impersonal entity that has the capacity to enforce ought upon personal beings (like you and me). This leaves me with only one option. A personal entity that transcends mankind must be the source of the moral obligations placed upon personal beings.
    No matter how I approach the issue, it seems as though the existence of absolute moral standards (which we all claim through our behavior exist) presupposes the existence of an absolute personality.

    Culture, through its various mechanisms and sanctions, generates “oughts”. God, you may claim, does this also, but it comes with no clear adjudication available*. And the claim that mercy is a thing, that scapegoating is a get out of jail free card, the final oughtness is rather more dubious and far less transparent than the niceties and due considerations of the law and its ongoing refinement and tracking of new harms, un-imagined a hundred generations ago. All “oughts” come with contingent conditions and costs.

     

    *I sincerely hope you are not teaching this stuff to kids. This is the favourite stratagem of the psychopath, keen to deflect attention from his own manipulations of others, declaring rather it the wishes of the man behind the curtain.


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  • Even if the existence of an ultimate, objective, universal morality would make our task of working out how best to order our lives and our societies for maximum thriving less difficult, so what? That in no way implies that this solution-on-a-plate actually exists. 

    Nor is there anything perverse about the importance to ourselves of our own cultural and individual understanding of how best to order our lives and societies for maximum flourishing. 

    For one thing, our values are closely bound up with our sense of self – inevitably so, since a sincere commitment to any set of values will inevitably reflect, and be reflected in, not only the cultures we were raised in, but also our personalities, our priorities, our decisions, our choices and the meaning we find in our own and others’ lives. To describe our moral attitudes is to describe ourselves: our choices, our preferences, our values, how we spend our time, our relationships, our passions, what fires our sense of (in)justice, what gives us hope. To insist that those things are of no importance in the absence of absolute morality is to trivialise our very being. 

    Nor does individualism mean we have no way of assessing the relative merits of one approach to human thriving over another, because we can see the outcomes, we can measure the results. We can see what happens in groups where people are repeatedly subjected to sudden, random acts of brutality, for instance, and we can conclude that they fare better when they are not. We can see what happens in societies where women are empowered and conclude that that, too, has a markedly beneficial effect. We don’t need Absolutery in order to either believe these things or campaign to make them happen: just as structural engineers can reasonably and rationally and legitimately assess the comparative merits of two different proposed bridge designs, say, without requiring the existence of Absolute Objective Bridginess. 

    Of course it is true that there is no basis for me to insist that someone else adopts my moral stance in place of their own. So what? This isn’t about bludgeoning people over the head. The art of human influence is rather more subtle than that, and there are no short cuts. The reason, Jason, we can still be valid moral actors in the absence of Absolute Morality is that human society functions through negotiation, persuasion, argument, disagreement, discussion and, ultimately, the arrival at some kind of consensus. If I take moral stance A and someone else takes moral stance B we are not automatically destined to remain forever in a moral cul-de-sac. Each of us can seek to convince the other, each of us might still be convinced by the other. Remember the ‘marketplace of ideas’ I referred to in my previous post? While we can of course hold our own views and attempt to convince others of their validity, none of us gets to simply impose our own particular take on the rest of the world. Yet that’s what religions seek to do when they insist that the rules and values they preach are Absolute, Non-Negotiable, True and Right whatever we might think of them. That’s what you are seeking to do with your claim that the morality that guides you is absolute and all other forms are meaningless. You are seeking to declare your moral beliefs and attitudes the victor by default, trying to barge across the finishing line without the inconvenience of having to run the race first. You are reducing the complex, challenging, engaging, inspiring, messy, slow, frustrating yet actually rather exciting business of working with others to find ways of making life better for all, to a static set of hand-me-down tropes that simply have to be obeyed. 

    And it’s bizarre. Look at all the things humans have figured out through precisely this kind of fruitful collision of ideas, learning, understanding, and individual perspectives. When we wanted to fly to the moon, we didn’t need an Absolute Rocket handed down from on high. When we wanted to create beauty, we didn’t need Absolute Art. When we wanted great novels, we didn’t need Absolute Literature. Exploring the seabeds didn’t require the existence of Universal Absolute Submarinery. When discovering ways to eradicate scourges like polio and smallpox, we didn’t need to look to the heavens for Absolute Medicine. As a species, we worked all these things out for ourselves, and are continuing to do so. None of that required Absolutery, nor was any of it pointless in the absence of Absolutery. Yet suddenly, on the actually pretty fundamental question of how to order our lives in such a way that causes the least harm and creates the greatest opportunities for flourishing, we are supposed to throw our hands up, mothball those extraordinary solution-finding capacities, abandon the attempt, find ourselves ridiculous for trying, and instead simply accept on faith a set of prefabricated ‘solutions’ labelled “Absolute” (but that can’t actually be demonstrated to be so). Go – as they say – figure.


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  • JasonB. says — #2
    Is there a rational justification for an absolute moral standard apart from a theistic worldview?
    JasonB. says — #42
    I can accept in theory that altruism is a product of evolution. The problem is that this evolutionarily produced altruism merely describes human behavior. It does not prescribe human behavior. A description tells us what actually is, but a prescription tells us what oughtto be. There is a difference between these two. 

    I think that an absolute moral standard apart from a theistic worldview can only come from our human nature, that is, from our evolved morality. It wouldn’t be an “absolute moral standard”; just one applicable to our species. I think that the naturalistic fallacy is itself mostly a fallacy. Our nature, whether we realize it or not, is the only guide we have—at least the only sensible one. If as a result of some fancy moral theory we imposed a moral code (however praiseworthy in theory) that went totally against our nature, we’d be totally miserable. 

    Rejecting something as immoral in spite of its being natural, as we often and rightly do, doesn’t show that we’re applying an objective morality—derived from reason, say— independent of our nature. On the contrary, what’s really happening (typically) is that we’re giving more weight to something equally natural. 
     
    The difficulty lies in choosing wisely which aspects of our nature to foment and which ones to subdue. 
     
    I develop these ideas briefly here: https://medium.com/@cdelosada/humans-vs-bonobos-679a186f931?source=friends_link&sk=9e317ee9aee607e489804cc413eab207

  • Well, my communication with Phil, Marco, and Reckless Monkey has degenerated to the point where it seems they do not understand the argument I have put forward in my previous post, and I will confess that I cannot identify much less understand the arguments they have put forward. I have to give a shoutout to Carisley, though, who seems to know exactly what I was saying and has sufficiently demonstrated superior knowledge of Kant.

    In an attempt to be as clear as possible, allow me to present my argument in the following form:

    P1: Human moral judgments presuppose an absolute standard of morality.

    P2: If the absolute standard or morality were not based in an absolute person, then the standard would not be absolute.

    Conclusion: Therefore, human moral judgements presuppose an absolute person (non-material, transcendent, and eternal person).

    If you would like to interact with the argument, please feel free.


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  • Jason B,

    Your arrogance is astounding!  The argument if it has degenerated has only done so because you haven’t addressed our points. You seem instead to be more impressed by making arguments of the basis of Kant or presenting a syllogism.

    Try instead to address the points many of us have made, they all have addressed you contention. But if you insist I’ll look at you syllogism instead.

    >P1: Human moral judgments presuppose an absolute standard of morality.

    So how does one establish that we humans presuppose an absolute moral standard?  The religious may think they do but even a causal examination would conclude that they do not.  Christians no longer keep slaves, no longer keep concubines (in general) and do all sorts of hand waving and dishonest tactics to try to pretend that the absolute morality they claim of the bible is somehow justified in having once mandated dashing the little ones against the rocks.  The only humans who do claim and actually follow absolute moralities are the closest things to monsters we have see ISIS throwning gays off buildings and stoning women to death for immodesty.

    So sorry p1 fails out of the gate.  People either don’t try to follow absolute moral standards as Marco most eloquently pointed out.   Of they think they do but cherry pick on the basis of subjective personal judgements combined with shifting community norms.

    P2: fails because P1 is simply wrong.

    Thus the conclusions fails too.

    So the ball is in your court.  Establish that P1 is in fact, fact or likely to be fact.  Most of our posts even though not put in these terms have been making this case, your failure to recognize this and then blame those of us who have pointed out the flaw in this argument is not a fault of ours but yours to engage our actual argument.

    P1 is wrong IMO I’ve given reasons why.  Back up why others and myself are incorrect in this assessment.  If you can’t do that your syllogism falls.

     

     

     

     


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  • Jason B,

    >This, of course, pushes me beyond naturalism; but I am okay with that as I accept the existence of certain non-material things like the truth that 2+2=4. This mathematical equation is true independent of human minds, so I am also okay with certain ethical equations being true independent of human minds as well.

    I missed this before.  This is testable in reality.  It reminds me of the Blackadder episode where Blackadder is trying to teach Baldrick to count “2 beans + 2 beans equals what?”, “some beans”, “2 beans and some more beans”, “a very small casserole”.  Fact is mathematics may well exist even outside of reality, imaginary numbers and all of that different infinities such as infinity of whole numbers being a smaller definition than if you include an infinity with all the decimals etc.  However maths is only useful because it comports to reality.  Morality in some cases may be objective but only if based on often a subjective desire such as long life, having most people being happy and productive.  Then we can some up with objectively better or worse morality.

     

     


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  • Jason,

    P1 simply begs the question.

    I would further add, as Wittgentein demonstrated, that metaphysical entities, (like absolute anything), by lacking ostensive demonstration (being able to point to them) and thus lacking sufficient security of definition, cannot be used to secure the existence of any other thing through logic. These remain metaphysical might-bes.

    P1, as it happens, is ostensively wrong, as several of us have already demonstrated.


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  • 61
    Cairsley says:

    Jason, you seem to be trying to do with morality what St Anselm tried to do with his famous Ontological Argument, namely logic God (your absolute person) into existence. At least Anselm’s logic was valid and interesting and still tickles a few philosophers’ brains today. You, I am sorry to say, cannot set out one coherent premise, let alone construct a valid syllogism. As Phil remarks at #60, you beg the question — more than once! — and the premises simply do not follow each other. But your intention is apparent: you are looking for a way to argue that human morality is only possible if there is an absolute standard of morality, so that you can then argue that, if there is an absolute standard of morality, there must be an absolute person whose morality it expresses. Ergo, absolute person, known as God to his friends or victims, exists! So intent have you been on this strategy, that you have rather rudely ignored all the insightful and helpful and very relevant comments made by others concerning human morality as it actually happens in this world. That is not how one engages profitably in discussion, and the saddest part of that is that you fail to learn anything. There is no reason to believe that there is an absolute moral person, be it known as God or Allah or Zeus or Atua etc., and it is merely foolish to insist that such a being exists when all the evidence points in the opposite direction. In any case, we have our lives to get on with, and it is in that context that real morality is worked out day by day and century by century.


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  • 62
    Cairsley says:

    Phil Rimmer #51:  Ack! I need longer than ten minutes these days.

    Phil, I see that we now have 15 minutes for editing. Woo Hoo!


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  • Ah me. Such a long time since I have been here—over a decade! I notice one or two familiar faces, and I’m pleased to report that I find the discussion to be as high-minded and as cordial as I always found it. It almost feels out of time, more like the Internet of old which filled us with such hopes and dreams for the future, than the poisonous social media tribes that we have today.

    Bertrand Russell, writing in 1930s, once referred to the increasingly predatory and American world as “the age of the dinosaurs”. Arguably Donald Trump is the logical conclusion and terminus of that age.

    But whatever the explanation of Trump, the fact is that we have our own problems in the UK. It is such a staggeringly different world now from what it was back when I came here around 2007. Political discussion was a rarity back then; the most frequent mention of it was in decrying the foreign policy of Bush and Blair, holding our own governments to account as we should.

    Somewhere since then we have lost our way. I have to confess that I perceived my nation losing its way sometime during the Cameron years, when frankly there weren’t enough good people who raised their voices against “austerity as a political choice” … the deliberate defunding of public services, solely out of greed and desire to aggrandise the wealthy businessmen and financiers. It was blatantly economically illiterate, blurring together all kinds of things and treating the finitude of resources as if it’s some deep principle that had eluded Gordon Brown and economists like Krugman and Stiglitz.

    But the main sleight of hand that was played was the following: a programme of undoing the post-war consensus, whereby the role of government was to provide for the lives and the well-being of its people, was dressed up in respectable garments as if it’s some merely technical economic idea. Within a short period, the mission of government had changed from protecting the vulnerable and implementing such policies as were judged to improve our lives, to one of safeguarding the “liberty” of individuals to do whatever they please, within the confines of laws that were increasingly slanted towards the wealthy.

    Ordinary people found themselves having to work many hours longer, because the social safety net was taken away and their employment rights were undercut. The Tories governed on behalf of landlords during a housing crisis, which resulted in people having to go into squalid house shares, which greatly detract from their peace of mind.

    So between the extra stress and anxiety that was placed on us, we have had less time for leisure, to think and study. Is it any wonder that we have a misinformed populace, with working class people voting against their own interests?

    I claim that a necessary precondition for a functional democracy is a populace with leisure time. The world is complex and it takes many, many hours to become even passingly well informed (more hours than we educated people may realise). “Stay out of political affairs, you plebs” is not going to be a solution for the long term. There is no technocratic class that can be trusted to permanently rein in its self-interest.

    Anyway, I realise this is a long and rather strange post. I just hope there is somebody who reads it. 🙂


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  • Not just read, Jimmy (#65) – read with great pleasure. Welcome back and I hope it won’t be another decade before your next post!

    I totally agree about the deliberate dismantling of the post-war consensus, and the fact that it was achieved by stealth rather than by ever coming clean with the electorate. And I fear we ain’t seen nothin’ yet and things will only get worse – dramatically worse – as the Tories desperately race to take advantage of Brexit to irrevocably align us with the US’s (non-)social model before the electorate realises what’s going on. I have been saying for some time that the UK has experienced a hard right-wing coup. I’d genuinely love to be proven wrong, but so far there’s been nothing to make me doubt it.

     


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  • Marco

    a hard right-wing coup

    too right!

    The failing of “Brexit: The Uncivil War” was its failure to identify Cummings’ hard right agenda. He must have love it.

    Jimmy,

    Good to see you back and sharp post!


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  • Phil

    The hard right agenda behind the Leave campaign was so obvious, I’ve never understood why so few people seemed to spot it. You only had to look at the key people driving the campaign to Leave and then look at what else they stood for. NHS privatisation, slashing employment rights, dispensing with social protections, abolishing race discrimination legislation, food standards, consumer protections, environmental protections … It was so obvious that Brexit was only actually about the EU inasmuch as EU legislation was an obstacle to the transformation of the UK into a hard right, neoliberal, US-Tea-Party-style, minimal-safety-net, corporate paradise. Brexit was only ever going to be the beginning.

     


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  • I fear we ain’t seen nothin’ yet and things will only get worse – dramatically worse – as the Tories desperately race to take advantage of Brexit

    At least there seems to be a better opposition with Kier Starmer’s Labour leadership. I think he has done well in taking Boris Johnson to task so far. For example, getting the Tories to u-turn on imposing fees for migrant NHS key workers.

    I think people are starting to see Boris Johnson for what he is – especially after the farce with Dominic Cummings breaking lockdown rules.


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  • I will admit that it is completely possible that I have missed important points due to my astounding arrogance. Nonetheless, I was merely interested in some rational discourse with a variety of people from diverse perspectives.

    Concerning my syllogism, everyone seems to take issue with the first premise, which is what I expected. I have spent the past six days attempting to provide support for P1. It is possible that I have failed due to my astounding arrogance, but I will give it one last try.

    P1: Human moral judgments presuppose an absolute standard of morality.

    We all make moral judgements. Everyone on this thread has made moral judgements over the last seven days. These moral judgements are either correct or incorrect. These moral judgements appeal to some kind of moral standard that determines whether the judgements are correct or incorrect. These moral standards are either absolute or non-absolute. Non-absolute moral standards are by definition subject to evaluation at a higher level (by a higher standard). An absolute moral standard is by definition not subject to evaluation at a higher level. Non-absolute standards must therefore ultimately appeal to an absolute standard. Therefore, human moral judgements presuppose an absolute standard of morality in order to determine the correctness or the incorrectness of the moral judgement.

    We may remain in disagreement on P1; but like I said, I am merely interested in some rational discourse with a variety of people from diverse perspectives. I believe this has been a worthwhile discussion even if our conflicting beliefs are solidified in our own minds.

    This is one of the great things about our society . . . we do not demand conformity to any one viewpoint. We have the freedom to disagree.


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  • Jimmy,

    I would like to pick your brain a little on one thing you said. You referred to the “mission of government [changing] from protecting the vulnerable and implementing such policies as were judged to improve our lives, to one of safeguarding the ‘liberty’ of individuals to do whatever they please.” I will state upfront that I hold John Locke’s position of every human person being entitled (having the right to) his life, liberty, and property. I also hold the view that I should be able to do whatever I want so long as I do not infringe on anyone else’s life, liberty, or property. I also agree with Adam Smith that it is the function (or mission) of government to protect the lives, liberty, and property of its people. Therefore, I believe the government should leave me alone unless and until I infringe on someone else’s life, liberty, or property. Is it with this position that you are taking issue?


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  • >Concerning my syllogism, everyone seems to take issue with the first premise, which is what I expected. I have spent the past six days attempting to provide support for P1. It is possible that I have failed due to my astounding arrogance, but I will give it one last try.

    More than happy to engage in civilized conversation (I’m sure most here are too) but you will get some kick back if you assert we haven’t understood your point rather than just thinking you might be wrong or considering it possible that you haven’t made your case.  I for one an happy to be corrected as Alan and Phil have done for me many a time over the years.

    So I’ll have another crack at showing you where I think you are getting things wrong.

    >We all make moral judgements.

    Agreed.

    >Everyone on this thread has made moral judgements over the last seven days.

    Most likely, certainly I have.

    >These moral judgements are either correct or incorrect.

    No.  I don’t consider that moral judgements are binary.  They may be mostly correct, they may be correct in some situations and not in others.  Moral standards are often conditional on context and may always be so.

    To kill or not to kill?  Seems simple the moral code should not to kill, or to put it in terms from the OT “Thou shalt not kill!”, only a little while latter God is ordering Moses to commit genocide so even the supreme Christian God considers killing only immoral is certain times.  But back the judgements of mere morals, what about self defense?  What about animals am I permitted to kill animals to eat? Maybe not, but if I eat vegetables and fruits do I not kill then too, plants are alive, I displace bio-diverse land to replace it with a crop of carrots say, how many native species in my Dry land do I kill by doing so, how much harm does irrigating the crops cause down stream when the Murray Darling River dries as a result of crops like mine?  Not so simple.  Everything is a trade off to some degree.

    >These moral judgements appeal to some kind of moral standard that determines whether the judgements are correct or incorrect.

    Again some imperfect subjective standard that I will again and again re-visit.  An absolute moral standard would be absolutely right in all circumstances.  I don’t believe such standards exist.

    >These moral standards are either absolute or non-absolute.

    I can’t think of a moral standard that is absolute.  Even don’t kill babies might have exceptions.  A very good case for two babies being euthanized in Europe when two babies over a 5 year period who suffered from an incurable condition in which any contact removed the babies skin with extreme pain and suffering.  These babies rarely live out a year and always in astonishing pain.  Not a decision I could necessarily disagree with although it makes me very uncomfortable (which it should IMO).

    >Non-absolute moral standards are by definition subject to evaluation at a higher level (by a higher standard).

    Here is your main problem – you are smuggling in the possibility of an absolute moral standard without demonstrating that an absolute standard can in fact exist.  That is the case you need to make.  Perhaps you could give us an example of an absolute moral standard that you think is absolute. Just one to start with.  Remember it has to be absolute so none of this “in general try not to cause harm to others”.  Even things like “treat others as you would like to be treated”, while a good general rule make a nonsense of any form of societal punishment.  How can I imprison an murder and have him treated the same as me?   I cannot take away his freedom if I want to remain free.  So your absolute moral rule must work in all circumstances, in all contexts.

    >An absolute moral standard is by definition not subject to evaluation at a higher level. Non-absolute standards must therefore ultimately appeal to an absolute standard. Therefore, human moral judgements presuppose an absolute standard of morality in order to determine the correctness or the incorrectness of the moral judgement.

    This all falls unless you can demonstrate that an absolute moral standard is a possibility.

    This argument strikes me as very similar to what William Lane Craig does by attempting to smuggle in God into the Kalam Cosmological Argument.

    So can you please can you give us an example of an absolute moral standard.  Give us one moral edict that has no exemptions or exceptions and we can go from there.  I’ll have a think about it too, but off the top of my head I can’t think of any moral that is moral in all circumstances.  I think they are all contingent on circumstance and thus subjective to some extent.  I suspect attempts to suggest that there is such a thing beyond philosophical musing are in fact dangerous.  Certainly religion like all Dogmas show how dangerous this can be when people believe they have absolute knowledge.

    Have you seen Brownoski’s Ascent of Man?  Can I suggest you watch the episode called Knowledge and Certainty.  If you don’t have time to see the whole thing then I strongly suggest at least watching the last 5 minutes.

    https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x20ohne

    Whole ep.

    or last bithttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ltjI3BXKBgY

    regards

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

  • Jason B. says:

    P1: Human moral judgments presuppose an absolute standard of morality.

    There is no basis for such an assumption. All codes of conduct are relative to the societies which embrace them.

    There are agreed agreed consensus about what rights individuals may be afforded. and what social pressure or enforcement will support these.

    These vary between cultures.

    The important feature is not that these are “absolute”, but that they are understood and widely supported so that people know where they stand and can cooperate on a basis which gives expected returns for efforts.  This is what supports social structures, and it is a feature which can be disrupted to the detriment of all or most of the community, when destructive selfish actions  prevail.

    We all make moral judgements. Everyone on this thread has made moral judgements over the last seven days. These moral judgements are either correct or incorrect.

    No!  These judgements are either constructive in supporting community actions or they are disruptive in damaging cooperation.

    This is the basis of evolved social structures throughout human societies and the social animal colonies.

    The quality of individual lives within these communities, is determined by the aims and objectives which make up basis of the community codes of conduct and laws.  These come down to relative subjective judgements, about the balance of interests both between individuals, and between the interests of families, extended families, or the community as a whole, which is agreed and supported – either by thoughtful establishment of rules, or by instinctive behaviours.

    In some communities lying for personal gain is considered reprehensible.

    In other communities, (propagandist or sales)  lying, which successfully achieves  personal or group gain by deception,  is considered commendable.

    In the vast modern human populations, there tend to be sub-sections / sub-cultures of communities, working to different codes.

    Elites, religious sects, business corporations, and political factions, are some of these.


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  • P1. Human attempts to make the perfect cup of coffee presuppose an absolute standard of coffee-making.

    P2. If the absolute standard of coffee-making were not based in an absolute cup of coffee, then the standard would not be absolute.

    C: Therefore, human attempts to make the perfect cup of coffee presuppose a non-material, transcendent and eternal cup of coffee.

    I hope that’s cleared everything up. Now then, who’s going to join me at the Church of Absolute Java?


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  • @Marco, Phil,

    Thank you, guys! That means a lot. 🙂

    @Jason B

    Therefore, I believe the government should leave me alone unless and until I infringe on someone else’s life, liberty, or property. Is it with this position that you are taking issue?

    I’m afraid so. 🙁

    Ultimately the reason is that I believe these conditions and constraints on government are incompatible with any system of ethics whose goal is to promote the well-being and flourishing of human beings as a whole, as opposed to just a lucky subset.

    I believe there are innumerable possible ways that you could infringe on other people’s happiness or potentialities without the infringement falling into any of those three categories (at least in an obvious or a lucid way), “life, liberty or property”. As an example, take CO2 emissions. Every tonne of CO2 that I emit is worse for the world. And I only affect people’s lives in an abstract sense of making a contribution towards a process which increases the personal risk of other people, probably far away or who haven’t been born yet. Nevertheless, I believe that we most certainly need to regulate CO2 emissions, even if the kind of infringement entailed by an emission does seem to be rather abstract.

    And then there is the class of infringement which comes from one person simply having too large a slice of the pie, and depriving others of pie. How is it fair to take away someone’s pie? Well, I think most of us have a natural impression of what is a just allocation of resources. We’re seeing with the covid-19 pandemic that the allocation is not fair. We have lots of key, essential workers who are among the lowest paid, and then lots of people (me included, I’m afraid) who are comfortable but whose jobs aren’t essential or even necessarily that tangible when construed as a social product.

    Then there is a whole question of the system of trade-offs. Why do we have public education as opposed to people simply funding their own children’s education as was the norm in the UK before the late 19th century? On some level we judge that making people pay taxes, including for the purpose of paying for the education of other people’s kids, leaves us with a better society than one with low literacy rate in which affluent people can keep their own money.

    In that case we have made a pragmatic decision that what we gain from having public education which teaches people to read and write is worth the slight encroachment on the liberty of wealthy people. Nor does it seem to create some intolerable slippery slope which leads to communism.

    Finally, there is the age old ethical conundrum presented by any social system which considers property as immutable: What happens if most of the land is possessed by a minority of people? And systems of property ownership do seem to gravitate in that direction, with the wealthiest swallowing up more and more of the land. The land owners will have potentially unlimited power over the landless tenants. It seems to be beyond utopian to assume that such an enormous power disparity would not be exploited or could be conductive to human flourishing.

     

  • Reckless Monkey,

    Thank you very much for #72. I think we are finally understanding each other. I will be happy to address the issue of demonstrating that an absolute standard can in fact exist. Before I do, though, let me ask you how you know that an absolute standard cannot exist? You refer to the danger of thinking one has absolute knowledge (I don’t know to whom you are referring because a finite creature, like man, is by definition not capable of absolute knowledge). I presume that you would agree that you do not have absolute knowledge. If you do not have absolute knowledge, then you cannot know absolutely that there is no absolute standard. If you cannot know absolutely that there is no absolute standard, then the possibility of an absolute standard must exist. This does not mean the standard itself exists, just the possibility. According to you, my argument fails unless I “can demonstrate that an absolute moral standard is a possibility.” I believe I have demonstrated that an absolute moral standard is a possibility.

    Now, let me give you a couple of examples of absolute moral standards. Rape is always wrong. Torturing children is always wrong. Murder is always wrong (murder is a sub-category of killing and is defined as an unjust killing whereas self-defense would be a just killing and therefore not murder). Chattel slavery is always wrong. Stealing is always wrong (even if I am hungry and stealing bread, no man has the right to take another man’s property). I am guessing a lot of the people demonstrating this week around the country would say that racism is always wrong. I could list more, but surely it is at least possible that one of these things is always wrong. If it is possible that one of these things is always wrong, then I have demonstrated that an absolute moral standard is a possibility.

    Are there instances of rape, chattel slavery, and racism with which you do not have a problem?


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  • Alan,

    You are appealing to a higher standard when you say that judgements are either constructive or disruptive. Some kind of standard has to be applied in order to determine whether a judgement is constructive or disruptive. You are using the standard of whether or not the judgement supports community actions or damages cooperation. That is a standard . . . does the judgement support community actions (if so, it’s a good/constructive thing), or does the judgement damage cooperation (if so, it’s a bad/disruptive thing)? Your moral judgement inherently appeals to a moral standard. That moral standard is either absolute or non-absolute. Non-absolute moral standards most certainly exist, and they are by definition subject to evaluation at a higher level. Therefore, non-absolute standards, like your constructive vs. disruptive standard, ultimately appeal to an absolute standard as they continue to be evaluated at higher levels until they reach the absolute standard.

    We could keep going around and around on this point; but I think we are at least understanding each other, and that is a good thing.


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  • Jimmy,

    Thank you for your response. This discussion is so interesting to me because you and I see the world completely differently. You “believe these conditions and constraints on government are incompatible with any system of ethics whose goal is to promote the well-being and flourishing of human beings as a whole, as opposed to just a lucky subset.” This is where we disagree. Government should protect everyone’s rights equally. Everyone should have the same rights . . . life, liberty, and property. Everyone should be free to engage in economic activity by either selling their labor (providing a service) to other people who want/need it or by providing a product to other people want/need it. I do not believe wealth is a stagnant “pie” that results in someone else getting a smaller piece when I take a large piece. Wealth is created when products and services are produced. If you want wealth, then produce a product or service.

    You mention public education. In my view, there is no place for public education. The government does not have the right to extract money (property) from me to pay for my neighbor’s kids’ education. I would consider that to be theft.

    In terms of property ownership . . . if someone owns property and wants to sell it to someone else who is offering a price at which they agree to make a trade, then he should be free to sell it. If the property owner is unwilling to make the trade, he has the right to keep his property, and the government should protect his property from theft.

    I don’t think we need to argue about specific situations like this because our fundamental presuppositions are so different. I do, however, really enjoy hearing where you are coming from. I’ve really enjoyed this interaction. Thank you.


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  • Marco #74,

    Your syllogism is valid. I completely agree with it. If someone attempts to make a perfect cup of coffee, he is by definition presupposing that an eternal, transcendent standard of a perfect cup of coffee exists. Otherwise, it would be futile to try and make a perfect cup of coffee because there would be no way of ever knowing if he had succeeded in making a perfect cup of coffee.

    This, of course, does not mean that the eternal, transcendent standard of a perfect cup of coffee actually exists. It only means that the coffee maker’s attempt to make the perfect cup presupposes that such an eternal, transcendent standard exists. The standard may or may not exist, but the coffee maker believes that it does. I do not believe there is such a standard, which is why I do not attempt to make a perfect cup of coffee.

    The syllogism I put forward does not prove that an absolute moral standard exists. What it proves is that human moral judgements presuppose the existence of an absolute moral standard, otherwise it would be futile to issue a judgement that has no ultimate standard. The absolute moral standard may not actually exist, but the issuer of moral judgements believes that it does.


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  • Jason #79

    If someone attempts to make a perfect cup of coffee, he is by definition presupposing that an eternal, transcendent standard of a perfect cup of coffee exists.

    For as long as I am only attempting to make the perfect cup of coffee for myself, there is of course the possibility that there may be a particular combination of coffee, water, milk and sugar that is just right for me. (Though we hardly need to search the heavens for eternal, transcendent coffee to explain the fact.)

    Even that combination, though, will not be absolute. My concept of the perfect coffee will vary according to the time of day, how sleepy I’m feeling, how much coffee I’ve already consumed and whether I’m drinking it to wake me up, warm me up or fill me up.

    And as soon as I acknowledge that my coffee-making activities affect not only myself but also everyone else I’m making coffee for, any notion that there is such a thing as an absolute coffee standard is blown out of the water. For what is Absolute Java for me in no way meets the refreshment needs of my equally coffee-loving friends. While there may be a considerable degree of consensus between us about what coffee is – no one will argue, for instance, that it is tomato soup – the precise details of what we picture when we think “coffee” will differ quite considerably from one person to the next (strength, bean, temperature, milk, sugar, with or without hazelnut syrup, etc). And if I maintain an absolutist view and impose my taste in coffee on them, refusing to take their needs and preferences into account, my absolutery will be an active impediment to the happy, harmonious, mutually supportive social group I am seeking to achieve.

    It is simply not true to claim we all view our own morality in absolute terms. This discussion is full of words like negotiation, and consensus, and persuasion. We go into our encounters with others with our own concept of morality, but also recognising the limits of our own experiences and even characters, and the possibility that someone will say or do something to make us reconsider. Friendship, relationship, community depends on acknowledging and respecting the fact that others will also have their own approaches, often arising from experiences that they have had and we have not, and that we can therefore learn from one another, seek alternative outcomes that are acceptable to as many people as possible, and expand and enrich our moral understanding in the process. An absolute morality is a fossilised morality, of no practical use in the day-to-day business of trying to create positive, harmonious societies.


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  • This is where we disagree. Government should protect everyone’s rights equally. Everyone should have the same rights . . . life, liberty, and property. Everyone should be free to engage in economic activity by either selling their labor (providing a service) to other people who want/need it or by providing a product to other people want/need it.

    I mean, this was the reigning dogma for the last ten years, both in the Conservative Party in the UK and across the Tea Party Republicans until they suddenly ditched it and got behind Trump.

    Wealth is created when products and services are produced. If you want wealth, then produce a product or service.

    A pretty callous sentiment, I think, if taken seriously. Lots of people are unable to “produce a product or service”; you only have to look around your own society to perceive this. At the moment, for example, the unemployment rate in the United States stands at 13%. If we have a second Great Depression, is everyone supposed to get with the programme and “produce a product or service” or otherwise starve to death? Disabled and mentally ill people, or people who can’t afford health coverage, are supposed to be left to their own devices like in a previous century? And that’s progress?

    For upskilling, which is a necessary precondition of “pulling oneself up by one’s bootstaps” by your criteria, there must be enough leisure time to study and generally work towards qualifications. Yet the practical implementation of your grim view of the world, as I have seen it carried out in my own society over the last 10 years, observably deprives people of the leisure time to upskill and it reduces them to menial labour where the goal is to give up their humanity and become drones.

    The history of labour across the millennia, and the continued existence of slavery and 100-hour-work-week sweatshops in the Far East which resemble slavery, do not exactly fill one with confidence that the capitalist class in an unregulated, libertarian society is about to rein in its dark impulses.

    And what about the increasing automation of jobs, which will eventually bring the value of human labour down to close to nil? Not even worth an aside or a footnote, I take it?

    You mention public education. In my view, there is no place for public education. The government does not have the right to extract money (property) from me to pay for my neighbor’s kids’ education. I would consider that to be theft.

    Sorry fellow, but they do have the right, both legal and moral. The only people who regard taxation as theft are people with no conception of civic duty or their obligation to others, i.e. radically selfish people who by their very definition cannot be trusted.

    It is no coincidence that the philosophy that you espouse here, extolled as it was by the Tea Party since their inception, proved to be the handmaiden of Donald Trump. The underlying psychology is truly poisonous and it was very easy for the mask to slip.


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  •  
    Jason B #76,

    I may not have time to fully address this as I have to get ready for work soon but I’ll have a quick stab and maybe come back this arvo and have another crack at it.

    >Before I do, though, let me ask you how you know that an absolute standard cannot exist?

    The onus of proof is on you to establish this before I take it seriously. For your syllogism to work you need your first assessment to be true. If you cannot demonstrate it to be true the rest falls. It’s possibly possible but I don’t think you have demonstrated it is. Let alone likely. Other things that are possible and I cannot discount out of hand are God, Zeus, Thor, Pixies, the Lock Ness monster, and many more. I could construct all sorts of arguments on their basis. For example I could if I was a police officer in the area of Lock Ness blame every disappearance of person in the area on Nessy but it’s not a productive use of time. By asking me to prove it is impossible you seem to be shifting the burden of proof.

    >You refer to the danger of thinking one has absolute knowledge (I don’t know to whom you are referring because a finite creature, like man, is by definition not capable of absolute knowledge). I presume that you would agree that you do not have absolute knowledge. If you do not have absolute knowledge, then you cannot know absolutely that there is no absolute standard.

    The problem with religion and those who believe in absolute moral standards is there is a short step between accepting immoral things on the basis that you believe say the bible contains absolute morals. In the bible we see slavery condoned and regulated, murder commanded including of children etc.

    >my argument fails unless I “can demonstrate that an absolute moral standard is a possibility.” I believe I have demonstrated that an absolute moral standard is a possibility.

    You probably have me here to some extent. I don’t think you have demonstrated it is possible but likely would have probably been better phrasing. If it’s a one in a trillion trillion shot that an absolute moral standard exists then I’ll still likely suggest its nonsense or not take it seriously or any more seriously than Nessy. However I don’t put debate about such things in that category in case you think I’m dismissing you even discussing it. I think you and others discussing such things is valuable I just happen to see the odds as likely close to this that you are right but am eager to be proven wrong. The trolley problem can be looked at as silly in some regards but I think these are good debates to have.

    So to answer you question no I don’t claim perfect knowledge but I can’t think about these things or read the Bible, Quran or other holy texts and not find holes large enough to drive a bus through where others find perfect wisdom. My suspicion is there is no absolutes.

    >Now, let me give you a couple of examples of absolute moral standards. Rape is always wrong.

    Generally I would of course agree. But you can push things to almost absurd lengths to realize that things get uncomfortable. Many of these risk being quite fringe and as I explained I’ve not got a lot of time here. Imagine you are in a POW camp. Some brutal dictatorship with brutal guards decide to screw around with people. You are given a choice 100 of your fellow prisoners are going to be brutally tortured, raped and then murdered if you refuse to rape or kill this one individual. What do you do? It becomes a Sophie’s choice situation. There is no good answer. Of course you could argue any choice you make is not fully in your own control but there you have it.
    Cutting off peoples legs is generally an immoral thing but doctors do it all the time to save lives.  Sometime there is no good answer and some harm has to occur for a greater good.
    Most of your others fall under the same category. Stealing is easier to dispatch with generally yes but you may be in direct conflict with torturing children if your children are literally starving to death then getting food for them as starvation is torture. So the reason some are compelled to steal is they are forced to feed their families. Some (but fewer than often reported) convicts send to my country from England were send for stealing bread to feed their families, they did not have an easy choice to make but stealing was the lesser of two evils and thus I cannot agree that in these circumstances it is absolutely wrong. Racism likewise depends on your category. Sam Harris made the uncomfortable point about profiling in airport security. He pointed out that likely Betty White could be safely ignored while more focus on groups that might belong to Islam may be justified. It’s problematic though. And this is the problem.
    Equality and Equity are not the same for example in my school there is significantly more funding to certain groups Aboriginals for example have loads of different programs. Some of my poor Anglo students have expressed the view that this is racist and that everyone should be treated identically. They feel aggrieved because some of them are in as poor families with as many background issues as their Aboriginal peers. I explain that if we have a kid a wheel chair we fit a ramp and don’t force the kid to walk up the stairs and that government policies over the best part of the time since England declaring Australia for itself has put them at massive social disadvantage. But this is a policy that is considered by some racist in and of itself. I disagree but have sympathy for people who are at the fringes of a group that is otherwise privileged the bucket of money is only so big and so my wealth as a white Australian means some of the poorest most disadvantaged white kids get less help because programs which I agree with direct money at the bigger problem.
    So in general I’d agree but I find little chinks here and there that make me squeamish and I think means you cannot consider these absolute.
    So I’m happy to say racism, rape, theft and slavery are wrong but absolutes make me very uncomfortable. Especially once you start to understand that we are arguably not the only species with some intelligence. If for example you consider animals like pigs and cattle to have some measure of intelligence is keeping them for milk, food etc. Slavery? See chinks. It’s not so easy.
    Anyway I don’t think I’ve done a great job here but that’s the best I can manage in 15 mins.

    Cheers.
     


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  • Jason B. says:

    You are appealing to a higher standard when you say that judgements are either constructive or disruptive. Some kind of standard has to be applied in order to determine whether a judgement is constructive or disruptive.

    There are aspects to standards of evidence-based decision making.

    There is the scientific evidence which evaluates the present situation and predicts outcomes.

    This is not a moral process in itself, but without it,  supposed “moral decisions”,  are simply a leap in the dark generating random outcomes.

    The moral decisions come from evaluating and deciding on the effects on the interests of those involved, after what reliable predictions that can be made, are made.

    You are using the standard of whether or not the judgement supports community actions or damages cooperation.

    That is a scientific evaluation both of the effect and of the extent of the effect.

    That is a standard . . . does the judgement support community actions (if so, it’s a good/constructive thing), or does the judgement damage cooperation (if so, it’s a bad/disruptive thing)?

    That is where the moral judgement comes in, but that is based on the social norms of the particular culture. Who is allowed to disrupt, and to what extent. Many actions cause some disruption, but are tolerated if they bring other benefits, OR if the (powerful elite minority of ) persons are allowed to get away with it.

    Your moral judgement inherently appeals to a moral standard. That moral standard is either absolute or non-absolute.

    It is clearly not absolute, as it is relative to the local culture and the local status quo.  ie. If it is egalitarian, meritocratic, feudal, predatory, elitist etc.

    Different human populations break down at certain densities and levels of population, (just hives of bees swarm split into two colonies, when they reach a certain size), or if they exceed certain levels of disruption.


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  • This is my first comment on here. I have read the thoughts regarding morality with interest. Personally I consider there can be no absolute morality because morality is a fiction. It is both the product of the society which creates that particular moral imperative and  then that moral imperative comes one of the threads which bind that society together. A previous commentor asks “are there instances of rape, chattel slavery, and racism with which you do not have a problem?” That presumes that all definations of these things are the same and unchangeable, which they aren’t. Another refers to Dawkins arguements as to the evolutionary benefits of altruistic genes, but the fact that none altruistic individuals also continue to exist points to the evolutionary benefits of both the altruistic and non altruistic. If our morality was real, with real evolutionary advantages it should help ensure the survival of the species in the long term, yet the biggest threats to our survival currently come from our altrustic moral decisions. Pollution, climate change, all ultimatly stem from the increase in population one of the major causes of which is increasing health care. So doing the good moral thing is not without significant not good consequences. I have no wish to harm anyone, I need protection from those who would harm me and so I go along with whatever is the current moral norm inorder to gain membership of the majority and so get some protction. As the moral landscape changes I change with it.


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  • Marco #80,

    For as long as you are only attempting to make the perfect cup of coffee for yourself, you are not attempting to make an actually perfect cup of coffee. What you are doing is attempting to make a cup of coffee that most satisfies your current, personal desire. This is a different situation from the syllogism you proposed.

    Interestingly, though, it still proves the same thing in two ways. First, you are presupposing that there is an absolute definition (standard) of what constitutes coffee. It may be a broad definition that allows for the inclusion of different types of beans and other additives (i.e. sugar/milk), but you know that when you are drinking coffee you are not drinking tomato soup. There must be some universal definition of coffee. Otherwise, you would never know if you were drinking coffee or not.

    Second, by attempting to make a cup of coffee that most satisfies your desires presupposes that you know what desire and satisfaction are. There must be some definition (standard) of these things that you can use to measure your own desire and satisfaction. Otherwise, you would never know if you had a desire or if it were satisfied.

    It is true that the “absolute coffee standard” is blown out of the water. This is because such a standard does not actually exist. As I said before, though, your syllogism does not prove that such a standard exists. It only proves that anyone who attempts to make the perfect cup of coffee is presupposing that such a standard exists. His presupposition could certainly be wrong, but the only explanation for why he would attempt to make a perfect cup of coffee is that he thinks/believes/presupposes that such a standard does exist.

    This is the entire point I have been attempting to make. The fact that you and me and everyone else make moral judgements does not prove that an absolute person exists. What it proves is that we all presuppose the existence of an absolute person. There is no ultimate basis for moral judgements apart from an absolute person. I have not demonstrated that such an absolute person actually exists. I have only demonstrated that anyone from a naturalistic or atheistic worldview must presuppose a theistic worldview in order to make moral judgements.


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  • Jimmy 81,

    Let me first reiterate that I appreciate the discussion. We have some pretty serious disagreements, but I am glad that we can have a civil discourse.

    >A pretty callous sentiment, I think, if taken seriously. Lots of people are unable to “produce a product or service”; you only have to look around your own society to perceive this. At the moment, for example, the unemployment rate in the United States stands at 13%. If we have a second Great Depression, is everyone supposed to get with the programme and “produce a product or service” or otherwise starve to death?

    There are only three ways for a person to gain wealth. He can produce a good or service. He can receive a gift, or he can steal it. Just because I am unemployed, that does not give me the right to steal someone else’s wealth, even if the theft is orchestrated through government taxation.

    >Disabled and mentally ill people, or people who can’t afford health coverage, are supposed to be left to their own devices like in a previous century?

    These people should be looked after by their families. If their family members have all died, there are plenty of organizations that receive voluntary gifts (unlike the government, which forcibly extracts money from people) who are willing to help.

    >For upskilling, which is a necessary precondition of “pulling oneself up by one’s bootstaps” by your criteria, there must be enough leisure time to study and generally work towards qualifications.

    I never said anything about “up-skilling.” Up-skilling may be a desirable thing, but I do not see it as necessary. People should spend their childhood and teenage years learning a marketable skill.

    >The history of labour across the millennia, and the continued existence of slavery and 100-hour-work-week sweatshops in the Far East which resemble slavery, do not exactly fill one with confidence that the capitalist class in an unregulated, libertarian society is about to rein in its dark impulses.

    I would not consider any of the Far East economies to be capitalistic. In fact, I do not see any free market economies anywhere in the world. If people were free in their economic activity, we would all be much better off.

    Concerning automation, it is a fallacy to claim that automation will bring the value of human labor down to near nil. If that were true, it would have already happened, and we should all resist every kind of automation. We should get rid of FedEx jets and hire people to carry our packages from one location to another. Automation makes the production of goods more efficient, which leaves firms with more capital to invest in expansion or other industries, which in turn creates demand for labor in other areas.

    Concerning public schooling, I guess I am one of the people with no conception of civic duty or obligation to others, who is radically selfish and who by my very definition cannot be trusted. I am not sure how all of that follows from my belief that the government does not have the right to take away my neighbors property and give it to me.

    I recognize that I have not given any arguments in support of the things I have said. I am merely sharing with you what I believe, and I have enjoyed hearing what you believe.


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  • Reckless Monkey 82,

    I really appreciate your honest discourse.

    Concerning the burden of proof, I think it is quite difficult in general to prove logically that something might exist. You refer to Zeus, Pixies, and Ness. Logically proving the existence or non-existence of any of them would be a challenge. Thus, my starting point is that these things might exist, and they might not exist. The odds of their existence might be low, but here is an example with higher odds. Can you think of a Russian citizen named Herbert? I can’t think of one, but that certainly does not mean that one does not exist. In fact, I would guess the odds are quite high that there is a Russian citizen named Herbert. We could, of course, verify this given sufficient time, but my only point is that logically proving the possible existence of something is difficult. Therefore, my starting point is that absolute standards might exist and that they might not exist.

    >In the bible we see slavery condoned and regulated, murder commanded including of children etc.

    Chattel slavery is never condoned in the Bible, and we would have to equivocate on the definition of murder in order to find it commanded in the Bible. I have defined it as “unjust killing.” This, of course, assumes a particular definition of justice, but I would say that no unjust killing is ever rightly commanded in the Bible. Regardless, I did not ask if the Bible or other people are okay with these things. I asked if you were okay with them.

    >You probably have me here to some extent. I don’t think you have demonstrated it is possible but likely would have probably been better phrasing. If it’s a one in a trillion trillion shot that an absolute moral standard exists then I’ll still likely suggest its nonsense or not take it seriously or any more seriously than Nessy.

    Don’t move the goal posts. You set the terms that I had to reach, which I did. If you are not satisfied with the terms, that is not my fault.

    As for the examples of moral absolutes, you provide a series of moral dilemmas. I would assert that rape, unjust killing, and stealing are never right in any of the circumstances you proposed. I would not kill or rape in those circumstances. I am curious, though, if you would. I am sure some people, actually lots of people, would kill one person in order to save two in a POW camp. What would you do?

    I previously only provided negative standards. There are positive moral standards as well. It is always good to seek the truth. It is always good to seek to be the best person you can be. It is always good to provide aid to someone in need. It is always good to defend the rights of the weak and disenfranchised. There may be times when a person is not able to do these things; but if he were to do them, they would always be good. It’s always good to love your neighbor as yourself. It’s always good for a husband to be faithful to his wife. What do you think about these absolute standards?

    I recognize your time is limited, as is mine. I am sure we could both be more thorough in our arguments. That’s okay. I am not perfect, and I do not expect you to be either.


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  • Alan #83,

    >The moral decisions come from evaluating and deciding on the effects on the interests of those involved, after what reliable predictions that can be made, are made.

    You are appealing to a moral standard here. The moral standard to which you appeal is the “effect on the interests of those involved.” This is the standard you are applying to the moral judgement. This standard is, as you have said, non-absolute. Non-absolute standards are by definition subject to evaluation at a higher level. Thus, this standard must be evaluated by a higher standard. What is it that determines that this first standard should be applied? Whatever that thing is, it is a higher standard. This process continues until you ultimately arrive at a standard that is not subject to evaluation at a higher level. That final standard, then, is by definition absolute.

    I have not attempted to prove that an absolute standard of morality actually exists or that an absolute person actually exists. What I have argued is that anyone who makes moral judgements presupposes an absolute standard and thus an absolute person. Otherwise, there would be no ultimate means of determining the truth/rightness/goodness/helpfulness/productiveness (choose whichever word you want) of the judgement. We make moral judgements because we think they mean something. The naturalistic/atheistic worldview, though, provides no basis for ultimately meaningful judgements. The atheist must presuppose a theistic worldview in order to make ultimately meaningful judgements. I have not demonstrated that the theistic worldview is actually correct. I have only demonstrated that the atheist presupposes the theistic worldview when he makes moral judgements.


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  • @Jason B

    We must certainly agree to disagree.

    There will be no happy talk from me as ultimately I find the differences between us to be quite sombre. Ten years ago I had friendly disagreements with libertarians, online and IRL. Since then I have watched their philosophy degrade the lives of millions of people in the UK and spawn a monster on the world stage in the form of Donald Trump. We’re presented with life expectancy growth figures (even before covid-19) which look on a graph like we’re struck by plague, famine or war.

    A cult of selfishness would be bad enough. But the truth is that there are even baser instincts involved here. One only has to look at the state of the Republican Party today to see it.

    Ultimately I think there is a morbid preoccupation with money underlying the libertarian ideology which speaks to an impulse to dominate other human beings. The hoarding of wealth, and the desire for a horrific economic abyss awaiting any who take the plunge, is a way that personality-deficient men seek to control women. The psychology is embodied in the persona of Donald Trump: a vulgar, loutish, ignorant, overconfident, psychopathic person who endeavours to compensate by brandishing money.


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  • Jason B. says:

    Alan #83,

    >The moral decisions come from evaluating and deciding on the effects on the interests of those involved, after what reliable predictions that can be made, are made.

    You are appealing to a moral standard here. The moral standard to which you appeal is the “effect on the interests of those involved.” This is the standard you are applying to the moral judgement. This standard is, as you have said, non-absolute.

    That is correct.  It is the moral standard which has been decided within the cultural group involved. It may be decided by consensus, of it may be imposed by powerful groups or elites within that culture.  Often In human cultures there has been an dichotomy and alliance between political leaders (Kings, aristocrats, industrial chiefs, parliaments and priests).

    Non-absolute standards are by definition subject to evaluation at a higher level. Thus, this standard must be evaluated by a higher standard.

    You are back to your circular argument begging the question again.  The “higher standard” is at the community level, not simply the individual, but these standards are also relative, and varied between cultures.

    What is it that determines that this first standard should be applied?

    Its whatever works to preserve or promote that culture, and what is enforced by that culture.   Cultures without this functioning feature quickly collapse and are replaced by others.

    Whatever that thing is, it is a higher standard. This process continues until you ultimately arrive at a standard that is not subject to evaluation at a higher level. That final standard, then, is by definition absolute.

    This is purely wishful thinking. The real world does not do “absolutes”! Nor does politics in cultures have absolute standards. These are agreed, and to a greater or lesser extent, enforced by self-discipline or imposed discipline.

    The fact is that moral codes are emergent properties from complex  cultural interactions of people addressing their interests and the interests of those around them in their communities.  Simplistic answers based on gapology, are simply wrong

    There are no magic “higher overseers” outside of the cultural groups, but there are rival actions and power struggles  between groups, about dominance of views and interests. Some groups are predatory.

    These have been well studied by behavioural psychologists, political scientists, historians,  and ecologists in human and animal populations. As I pointed out earlier Richard Dawkins, explains in detail in “The Selfish Gene”,  the balance between altruism and selfishness in populations.

    I think one of the problems modern philosophers encounter, is that with modern communications and the wealth of knowledge, much of the subject material which was NATURAL PHILOSOPHY in the 1800s and earlier, has moved over into a diversity of specialist science departments, leaving philosophers with some very dated historical material, and well out of their depth with the science.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_philosophy#Branches_and_subject_matter

    It was in the 19th century that the concept of “science” received its modern shape with new titles emerging such as “biology” and “biologist”, “physics” and “physicist” among other technical fields and titles; institutions and communities were founded, and unprecedented applications to and interactions with other aspects of society and culture occurred.[1]

    Even in the 19th century, a treatise by Lord Kelvin and Peter Guthrie Tait, which helped define much of modern physics, was titled Treatise on Natural Philosophy (1867).

     

  •  
    Hi Jason B. #87
    Glad we can continue to debate this.
    I’ll get on to your specific comments to me in a bit but I found this reply of yours about and wanted to add a couple of thoughts.
    >This is the entire point I have been attempting to make. The fact that you and me and everyone else make moral judgements does not prove that an absolute person exists. What it proves is that we all presuppose the existence of an absolute person. There is no ultimate basis for moral judgements apart from an absolute person.
    First why would it have to be an absolute person, why not an absolute grapefruit that is sentient and thus can (being the perfect grapefruit) make absolute moral judgements. Would it not be just as logical to suggest an AI (to be just a little less ridiculous) could be the ultimate moral judge.
    >I have not demonstrated that such an absolute person actually exists. I have only demonstrated that anyone from a naturalistic or atheistic worldview must presuppose a theistic worldview in order to make moral judgements.
    How did you get there? Myself and every other atheist on this site has no illusions of holding any sort of absolute moral standards so why would we need an absolute person for it to be even possible to make a moral judgement however imperfect. All I need to do is notice that harming others is generally also bad for me and I can come up with some moral standard. Things like fairness exist in monkey’s…
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=meiU6TxysCg
    …they feel aggrieved if they are rewarded with a lower quality reward than their neighbour. Does the monkey need to believe in an ultimate power to feel they should be treated equally?  We can ramp up from there to more and more sophisticated moral judgements which we can see in apes and on to humans.  No need for some perfect moral standard, like evolution we only need a little better to see massive improvements in our lives.
    I honestly don’t see how you can get to no-one can make any moral judgement anywhere on the spectrum without an absolute moral standard or standard giver existing.
    Now onto your specific comment to me…
    On the Russian Herbert. Yes that is an unremarkable claim in fact given the number of Russians compared to the number of names it would seem statistically quite unlikely that there would not be at least a few. However when you start making more remarkable claims the demand for evidence rises dramatically. Gods and supreme beings are right on up there and their probability seem very, very, very, very, unlikely. That anything possible might be possible doesn’t help here either because I have no idea if the Cosmos is set up to generate supreme beings. Thus I put them aside, I’m not arrogant enough to know there is no god but it seems orders of magnitude beyond Nessy.
    >Chattel slavery is never condoned in the Bible,
    Yes it is. You are given clear instructions on whom you can purchase slaves from, under what conditions indentured servants could be made full salves which you can pass on to your children when dead. This is very, very clear. I can go chapter and verse if you wish.
    >and we would have to equivocate on the definition of murder in order to find it commanded in the Bible. I have defined it as “unjust killing.”.
    Unjust Killing eh?  This seems a little slippery.  How do you define unjust.  If you believe your cause or your god is supreme, beyond question, absolute then any evil can be easily justified.  Gods perfect, he must have his reasons for wanting to murder babies thus it’s justified.
    How about killing every woman and child, all the male children but keeping the virgin girls for yourself? Again I can go chapter and verse on this if you want but I don’t consider dashing babies heads against rocks because God promised the Hebrews their lands justified.  But this is just my subjective opinion.
    As I said before there can be possibly moral reasons to kill but they make me squeamish. I’m not comfortable. Many a baby died from Allied bombing in WW2 but would more have been killed had Hitler remained in power. So I would consider the bombing of Germany in WW2 moral but I’m not at all comfortable with it and I don’t think anyone should ever be. Had the allies then gone into the defeated Germany and killed everyone by the virgin girls and brought them back as sex slaves then they would be about on par with the OT IMO. But again that’s just my imperfect opinion. If you can make a case for dashing babies heads against rocks I’m all ears.
    >>You probably have me here to some extent. I don’t think you have demonstrated it is possible but likely would have probably been better phrasing. If it’s a one in a trillion trillion shot that an absolute moral standard exists then I’ll still likely suggest its nonsense or not take it seriously or any more seriously than Nessy.
    >Don’t move the goal posts. You set the terms that I had to reach, which I did. If you are not satisfied with the terms, that is not my fault.
    I’m not moving the goal posts I’m admitting a flaw in my own argument hence the first sentence. I am as I have pointed out before always happy to admit when I think I’m wrong and to clarify my statements. I don’t believe I am always right, same as I don’t think there are any absolutes. This is why I discuss things. I am testing my ideas. If you correct me or make me see I need to work on my argument or change my mind I will do so and I’ll admit it as I have done here. That is not shifting the goal posts. I have conceded a point or at least a weakness in the way I expressed my disagreement.
    >As for the examples of moral absolutes, you provide a series of moral dilemmas. I would assert that rape, unjust killing, and stealing are never right in any of the circumstances you proposed. I would not kill or rape in those circumstances. I am curious, though, if you would. I am sure some people, actually lots of people, would kill one person in order to save two in a POW camp. What would you do?
    And this is where moral decisions become difficult. Is it relevant what I would do? The first thought in my mind would be to kill myself to avoid making or having to live with the decision but I suspect that is merely the act of a coward trying to avoid having to make or live with a decision. I hope I would find a better solution.
    I would suggest that we do make these decisions though every time we choose to get in a car and drive at speeds that could result in death. We accept the inevitable death for much less noble reasons than saving 2 or 100 (I think was closer to my number) other from worse death, and for what convenience?  Do you drive a car?  How many have you condemned to death from AGW just by pouring petrol in your car?  And there are countless other examples.  I have no desire to live like the Jainist extremists trying to sweep every bug off the ground but I have no doubt that my choices effect others.
    Currently in my country there have been protests as a result of the Black Lives Matter protests in the USA. We have a similarly tragic past as with our Aboriginal people who still suffer in this country.
    We’ve been doing very well for example in dealing with Covid my state is now down to zero known cases but only for a few days before tens of thousands gathered in protest. Now I’m not against the cause or the protests but if anyone in that crowd had Covid they may have given it to many and we might have to go into a full blown lock down again. Most of the cases in Australia can be tracked to a couple of cruise ships and a comparatively small number entering the country before lock down. So was this issue worth the potential loss of life. I can’t even make that call confidently although I wish they’d made a different form of protest that kept social distancing in place. Perhaps people could have left burning candles outside their local police station I don’t know.
    >It is always good to seek to be the best person you can be. It is always good to provide aid to someone in need. It is always good to defend the rights of the weak and disenfranchised. There may be times when a person is not able to do these things; but if he were to do them, they would always be good. It’s always good to love your neighbor as yourself. It’s always good for a husband to be faithful to his wife. What do you think about these absolute standards?
    Like the negative I’d largely agree but suggest they may not in all contexts be absolute. Namely because they may well come into conflict with some of the Do not’s also. For example
    >It is always good to defend the rights of the weak and disenfranchised.
    May come into conflict with Do not kill. You may need to kill to defend the rights of others.
    I’d mostly agree with most of these positions but I’d suggest that morals are highly complex and highly conditional and never easy – or jury service would be a doddle.
    Anyway interested in your thoughts.

    Reagrds
     


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  •  The fact that you and me and everyone else make moral judgements  #91

    Speak for yourself Reckless!  I try, hard and consistently, not to make moral judgements. I have, since what passes in me for adulthood, been unable to see any absolute or occult meaning to the terms good and bad.  They are adjectives, which have no more existential reference than colour words.  For instance, there is no such thing as red, only red things: good and bad have the same logic in their linguistic role or function.  The question then becomes; how do  we know the meaning of the words?  The answer is obvious, whether you are discussing colour or morality, by social consensus.

    And there is a great deal of obvious truth in that.  In my young day the most immoral thing that could ever happen was for a girl to have sex before marriage, birth out of wedlock was the most shameful thing that could ever happen to a family.  In good, holy Catholic families the no-sex- before rubric applied (almost) equally to boys and girls.  That attitude has changed, and changed utterly in most places, including the remote corner of Ireland where I live.

    In other times slavery and the industrial and sexual abuse of slaves was regarded as right and proper, at least by St Paul and the bible thumping protagonists in the Southern States – to the extent that they were prepared en masse to go out and die for the principle.  Other societies find the eating of pork and the drinking of alcohol to be great evils, but in this country booze and bacon are staples.  Stalinists, Nazis, Trotskyites and the Special Forces of all armies do things which everyone else would consider evil, unless of course it was the army of your own country doing them.  Social consensus.

    All this is well-trodden ground and there is not need to go on about it, and hardly anyone would agree with me anyhow.  During the Abortion Referendum I tried in all sorts of ways to argue that the question of whether a tiny collection of cells, or a tadpole-like organism, or a full-term organism still in its mother’s belly was a baby, was only a matter of definition, linguistic consensus.  I used acorns, saplings and oak trees, or cake ingredients, cake mixtures, cake-mixtures in ovens, finally undercooked mixtures  as examples, everyone said I was taking the mickey or mad, or evil;  we weren’t talking about oak trees or cakes they said, but human beings.  They had the passion and the numbers, I had the logic;  social consensus rides again!

    So, as I see it, the argument about good and bad/evil comes down to what we like and dislike.  Often these things coincide with what is considered good for society as a whole, very often it coincides with what people, particularly power elites, find to be in their own interests.  A local billionaire hereabouts refuses to pay tax, on the grounds that Governments waste money and that he can do much more good through private charity.  And he does do good, though I suspect that it comes much cheaper than paying tax.  Everyone in the region, except me, thinks that he is a fine upstanding man, caring for his community and taking a righteous moral stand.  They’re getting something out of it.  Donald Trump owns a golf hotel in Co Clare and the locals think he’s wonderful, as it brings huge amounts of employment and money into the area, they are getting something out of him.

    Criminals fall foul of the whole moral edifice which humanity has constructed.  The overwhelming majority of prison inmates come from poor families, depressed housing estates with high unemployment, poor education and lack of opportunity.  Violence, alcohol and drugs surround them in childhood.  The statistics are against them from birth.  Yet people continue to condemn them, argue that such and such a prize-fighter or dodgy millionaire got out of it by his own efforts, and they can too if they try.  Moral condemnation.

    Now I have no problems with catching criminals, trying them and locking them up, society has to protect itself from drug pushers, armed robbers and rapists; social consensus.  What I object to is the moralistic preaching which accompanies the enforcement of law and order.  There is great satisfaction and comfort in being able condemn gangsters, drug pushers and terrorists, politicians, tabloid newspapers and clergy depend for their living on doing so, and people with riotous neighbours love to preach against them, but the trouble is that, as the Duke of Windsor said of soup, it doesn’t get you far.  In fact the reason that  moral condemnation is such a prosperous industry is that it absolves people of the necessity to think or act.  It’s much easier to condemn the odious people who commit vile crimes, and just go on as normal, leaving the social consensus more-or-less intact.

    People do have tendencies to altruistic behaviour, family and social bonding and selfless love, just as they do to greed, sexual exploitation and violence, but I think that the root of moral and social rules are to be found in evolutionary socio-biology,  developed from the tribal instincts of our simian ancestors, into workable systems adapted by fluid social consensus to suit the exigencies of time and place, the interests of the powerful and the requirement to keep some sort of predictable society in operation.

     

     


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  • Jimmy #89,

    I agree that we have to agree to disagree, which leads me to another question that I have been pondering recently.

    Our two worldviews seem to be incompatible. I want to be left alone, and you want to force me to behave differently than I currently am. Do you believe there is any way for us to coexist in a single society, or must one of our worldviews triumph over the other? This is a genuine question, one that I am asking myself, and I would like to know what you think. My answer is that I would love for our two worldviews to coexist; but I fear that ultimately they cannot, and one of us will ultimately be subjugated by the other. What do you think?


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  • Reckless Monkey #91,

    >First why would it have to be an absolute person, why not an absolute grapefruit that is sentient and thus can (being the perfect grapefruit) make absolute moral judgements. Would it not be just as logical to suggest an AI (to be just a little less ridiculous) could be the ultimate moral judge.

    If the sentient grapefruit is capable of making moral judgements, then I would define it as a person. I have not yet talked about what kind of person this absolute person would be; so, in theory, it could be a sentient, personal grapefruit. As for AI, a person has to program the AI; so even if the AI were communicating the absolute standard, it would still be dependent on a person.

    >Myself and every other atheist on this site has no illusions of holding any sort of absolute moral standards so why would we need an absolute person for it to be even possible to make a moral judgement however imperfect. All I need to do is notice that harming others is generally also bad for me and I can come up with some moral standard.

    I am positing that when we make moral judgements, we do so because we believe they are ultimately meaningful. When we help other people, we do so because we believe there is some meaning to our actions. In order to determine what that meaning is, there has to be a standard applied to the action (or judgement) in order to determine the meaning. Ultimately, the only standards that have any meaning must be based in a person, otherwise they are meaningless because they are the result of meaningless natural occurrences. The very fact that you believe something can be “bad” for you implies that you believe there is meaning in what goes on around you. Meaning, as such, cannot originate in natural occurrences. My only point so far has been that atheists claim that everything is a result of tiny particles bumping into each other, but they live as if there were meaning in the interactions of those particles. The atheistic worldview simply does not support the concept of meaning. Therefore, when we behave as if there were meaning to the things around us, we must presuppose a theistic worldview that can account for the concept of meaning.

    >When you start making more remarkable claims the demand for evidence rises dramatically.

    Why? In a criminal court, would you demand more evidence to convict Bill Gates of murder than you would to convict a leader of a drug cartel of murder? It is much more remarkable to claim that Bill Gates committed murder than to claim that the leader of a cartel committed murder, but surely the evidential requirements to convict would be the same.  I would use the same standard in both cases.

    Concerning chattel slavery, we must be using different definitions. By chattel slavery, and am referring to the enslavement of persons as property who subsequently lose their status as persons and thus have no rights. Indentured servants in the Bible were always considered human persons, even those who voluntarily stayed with their master after seven years.

    >How do you define unjust?

    Like all moral standards, just and unjust would have to ultimately be defined in an absolute person. That person would, by definition, not be subject to evaluation at a higher level. So, whatever he says is just must be just.

    >If you can make a case for dashing babies heads against rocks I’m all ears.

    What you raise here is the problem of evil. As you have pointed out, though, an atheistic worldview cannot ultimately judge God for doing evil things because evil does not actually exist in an atheistic worldview. I would propose that a theistic worldview can deal with the problem of evil (a real problem) in numerous ways. Concerning Psalm 137 (dashing little ones against the rocks), I would first ask if the verse is descriptive or prescriptive. Even if I were to grant they it is prescriptive, I would posit that you and I have an epistemological limitation that prevents us from seeing exactly how this would not be an unjust killing. However, just because I cannot think of a moral justification for this action does not mean that one does not exist. It seems rather shortsighted of us to conclude that just because we cannot think of something, then it must not exist. I see the atheistic worldview as much more problematic. In the end, there is no ultimate significance to the little ones being dashed against the rocks. Sure, they may have died a little earlier than they would have otherwise, but we are all going to die. In fact, the whole human race is going to become extinct at some point along with our dying universe. So, ultimately, the babies do not matter. In a theistic worldview, the babies do matter, and everything has meaning.

    >I don’t believe I am always right, same as I don’t think there are any absolutes.

    In your view, is it absolute that there are no absolutes?

    >And this is where moral decisions become difficult. Is it relevant what I would do?

    It is relevant what you would do because we are talking about whether or not your beliefs presuppose an absolute standard and thus an absolute person. We are not talking about whether such an absolute person actually exists or what kind of person he would be. What we are talking about is whether or not your worldview provides an objective and non-arbitrary rationale for meaningful moral judgements. If you make a meaningful moral judgement, even if it is to kill one POW to save 100 other POWs, you make your judgement based on some kind of meaningful standard, but the atheistic worldview does not account for ultimately meaningful standards. The theistic worldview, on the other hand, does account for meaningful standards and, indeed, explains why the decision to kill one POW to save 100 POWs is such a difficult decision. It is because each of those POWs is not merely a biological machine but has inherent worth that is rooted not in natural processes that will ultimately lead to the extinction of everything but rather in an absolute person who gives meaning to everything and everyone around us.

    >It is always good to defend the rights of the weak and disenfranchised. May come into conflict with Do not kill. You may need to kill to defend the rights of others.

    This goes back to the definition of murder. If I had to kill someone to defend the rights of another, it would be a just killing and therefore not murder. This, though, proves my point in another way. The very fact that you believe people have rights implies that there is something going on beyond natural selection and the evolution of culture. Again, the atheistic worldview does not account for the existence of rights, while the theistic worldview does account for them because human rights are based in an absolute person.


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  • I am but a minnow among the titans commenting above, but I will add this:

    You keep saying that “non-absolute” morals (ie. all of them) must be weighed against a (theoretical) absolute moral standard. However, down here in the real world, moral standards are weighed against each other, and it is society that decides which is the higher. A different society may decide differently.

    For every moral standard you have, you can find a society (extant or historical) that doesn’t have it. You mentioned “faithful to your wife”; a recent documentary taught me about the Himba of Namibia. They have more-or-less separated sex from formal relationships; they will often sleep with others (for fun, not procreation) outside the relationship, and no-one bats an eyelid.

    Also, you may as well give up on typing “absolute person” and just put “god”; we all know that’s what you mean, and it will be easier on your keyboard.


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  • Jason B @95

    Arguably, that’s making assumptions about what an atheistic ethics system must entail. Natural rights can be grounded in human nature. In fact I would argue they cannot be realised any other way, as taking them from a god would be a logical error, argument from authority. I would tentatively classify that which is a virtue to protect or a vice to prevent, as a right.

    Now, how do we get at the parts of human nature that are important for ethics? By choosing our data well. We do not want agent data, as the point of view of a murderer might not be that useful in determining virtuous behaviour. Nor do we want bystander data, as they become agents the second they act. So what does that leave? Patient data. We might gather what individuals would want or not mind to have done to them. And since we wouldn’t want imagination to inform theory, but actual experience, we might do simulations of desirable and undesirable situations. So yes, I am on Harris’s side of the aisle in this.

    In fact, I understand some moral philosophers have already done work in this area. Popper had a meeting with Wittgenstein where he showed him morals weren’t just textual problems. G.E.M. Anscombe, being a student of Wittgenstein’s, started a project where she checked first consequentialism, and then rejecting that moved over to Aristotelian virtue ethics in something that was later called the Aretaic Turn. She got other people like Alasdair MacIntyre and Philippa Foot to join her checking Aristotle’s theory and would eventually find several weaknesses in it. In the 70s, 80s, and 90s they worked on patching those weaknesses, and as a result ended up with a version of Stoicism, as Lawrence Becker showed.


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  • Jason B

    I have been following the debate here with interest. If I understand your thinking correctly, you are saying our moral judgements are ultimately attributed to a higher intelligence that created us – an “absolute person” or “god”.

    I am not in the same intellectual league as the regulars who post on here, but I don’t think have I seen anyone expand on this point yet, so here goes…

    How does AI fit into your way of thinking? Do you think it will be impossible for an AI to ever have pure morals as it will only learn them from the computer scientists who program it and the surroundings that it subsequently learns in?

    What about the machine that the first AI then subsequently programs and then the next machine after that?

    Does the fact that AIs are artificial mean they have no value – turning off an intelligent machine wouldn’t be murder?

    Sorry if these points have already been answered – there are a lot of posts to read through!

    Personally, I guess I am agnostic as I don’t know for sure whether there is a god or not. What I feel though, is that if there is a god, it would be a being or entity so far beyond human comprehension and the subsequent ideas that come from organized religions. It is therefore not worth spending my life worrying about something I will never be able to know or understand.


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  • Jason B. says:

    Alan #90,

    In your view, is “whatever works to preserve or promote that culture” the highest standard that can be used to evaluate moral judgements?

    That would be the predominant view from within that social group, but there could be other views than these, and other views in conflict with that group, both from outside the group, and from sub-sections within it.

    That is how “morality” is promoted within religious or ideological social bubbles.

     

     


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  • Our two worldviews seem to be incompatible. I want to be left alone, and you want to force me to behave differently than I currently am.

    I’m assuming that you’re not a hermit living in the woods, and you’re like most libertarians who only say they want to be left alone, while in practice they’re taking advantage of the vast sewage systems which keep us healthy; the copious network of roads which allow travel and commerce; the regulations on food safety, clean drinking water, safe housing and much else (regulations which arose for a REASON); the education system which creates employees with basic literacy and numeracy; the decades of state sector research which produced the Internet (U.S. military) and World Wide Web (CERN) as well as computing technology (research grants by the British government to Charles Babbage and considerable wartime research by UK. U.S. and German militaries, as well as much of the scientific/mathematical infrastructure that Alan Turing relied on for his early work). Not to mention law enforcement (very flawed but still necessary), criminal justice and national defence. I’m not even scratching the surface of what your taxes cover, really.

    The above services and beyond cost the average U.S. citizen ~$10,000 a year. Compare with a typical private sector product, e.g. Comcast to the tune of ~$2,000 a year for a slow Internet connection. bad TV shows, and poor customer service.

    Here in the UK, we have a public health service which is consistently rated #1 in the world for cost effectiveness. We pay about half as much as the U.S. for similar outcomes per patient and better results across the population, which doesn’t leave people uninsured or present them with nasty surprises, finding out that they have to sell their house.

    So yes, I think it’s quite reasonable to ask you to pay your share given that you are taking advantage of all of the above.

    The edge case of a hermit living in the woods does indeed present us with a moral head-scratcher; but it’s so rarely encountered and so unlikely to be applicable when debating a libertarian, that I think we can leave it aside for now.


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  • Stephan Brun says:

    . . .  . Foot to join her checking Aristotle’s theory and would eventually find several weaknesses in it.

    When it comes to psychology and neuroscience, Aristotle was not the sharpest knife in the drawer!

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_neuroscience#Early_views

    During the 4th century BC Aristotle thought that, while the heart was the seat of intelligence, the brain was a cooling mechanism for the blood. He reasoned that humans are more rational than the beasts because, among other reasons, they have a larger brain to cool their hot-bloodedness.[3]

    In contrast to Greek thought regarding the sanctity of the human body, the Egyptians had been embalming their dead for centuries, and went about the systematic study of the human body.

    Basically, without any anatomical studies or scientific experiments, he was just navel-gazing and making it up as he went along!

  • eejit I think you may be confusing some of my views with Jason B’s there.  I haven’t edited it very well to I should be using quotes instead of the > to indicate Jason’s but if some of it’s mine of course I accept I don’t speak for you.

    regards


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  • Alan4discussion @101

     

    Indeed, the brain as the seat of thinking wouldn’t be established until Galen started using animal studies several hundred years later. Where he could use his senses, Aristotle was mostly fine, only lacking in rigour. His study of bees are things we still think, for instance. He was an empiricist, after all. In fact there were two empirical schools in Athens, the Aristotelian Peripatetics and the Stoics. Kind of sad the Peripatetics dropped empirics almost immediately, which is always a bad sign. Theory does require updating, after all.


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  • Jason #95

    My only point so far has been that atheists claim that everything is a result of tiny particles bumping into each other, but they live as if there were meaning in the interactions of those particles. The atheistic worldview simply does not support the concept of meaning. Therefore, when we behave as if there were meaning to the things around us, we must presuppose a theistic worldview that can account for the concept of meaning.

    That seems to me like a flawed if/then reasoning. Your conclusion appears to give credit for meaning–ultimately morality–to ‘a theistic worldview.’ Why?

    There is certainly value in my interactions with the particles that make up my two children. Why would I try to invoke a higher level of ‘meaning’ for that?

    BTW, I noticed in your post that you appear to be leaving your options open by using the article ‘a’ instead of ‘the’ which you did use for ‘the atheistic worldview.’ Why is that, do ya reckon? Are we still looking for the right deity?

     


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  •  
    Hi Jason B #95

    I’m a bit knacked tonight in fact I’m pretty knacked in general since we came back to schools opening. But I’ll have a stab at a couple of points.

    The very fact that you believe something can be “bad” for you implies that you believe there is meaning in what goes on around you.

    No more than it’s generally better for me to live in a society in which I’m treated as I would like to be treated in general. For example it’s better for me not to be murdered so I therefore think its generally a good idea not to murder etc. That doesn’t I think give my morality any ultimate meaning other than as a good way of a society hanging together. I certainly don’t need an ultimate authority. It works.

    Meaning, as such, cannot originate in natural occurrences. My only point so far has been that atheists claim that everything is a result of tiny particles bumping into each other, but they live as if there were meaning in the interactions of those particles.

    This is a very simplistic way of looking at the world, yes at heart there are particles bumping into each other but they do so in often very ordered ways. Gravity alone is responsible for planet and galaxy formation, black holes and much more and yet you can express it in a fairly short formula. The emergent properties of atoms bumping into each other are massive and complex. Computers operate on a language of 1’s and 0’s even simpler but what complexity they can model!

    The atheistic worldview simply does not support the concept of meaning. Therefore, when we behave as if there were meaning to the things around us, we must presuppose a theistic worldview that can account for the concept of meaning.

    Nah we don’t.

    Why? In a criminal court, would you demand more evidence to convict Bill Gates of murder than you would to convict a leader of a drug cartel of murder?

    No but I would require more evidence than Bill Gates word if he said the video footage and DNA evidence, blood on his clothes were all planted by an invisible unicorn called Dave. Remarkable claims demand sufficient evidence to support them. Otherwise anyone can inject any nonsense they like and demanding that we believe in Dave the magic murdering unicorn.

    Indentured servants in the Bible were always considered human persons, even those who voluntarily stayed with their master after seven years.

    Read your bible, I was not referring to indentured servants (Hebrew servants), You could buy and sell slaves from those people around you.

    >21 “These are the laws you are to set before them:

    Hebrew Servants
    2 “If you buy a Hebrew servant, he is to serve you for six years. But in the seventh year, he shall go free, without paying anything. 3 If he comes alone, he is to go free alone; but if he has a wife when he comes, she is to go with him. 4 If his master gives him a wife and she bears him sons or daughters, the woman and her children shall belong to her master, and only the man shall go free.

    5 “But if the servant declares, ‘I love my master and my wife and children and do not want to go free,’ 6 then his master must take him before the judges.[a] He shall take him to the door or the doorpost and pierce his ear with an awl. Then he will be his servant for life.
    &

    20 “Anyone who beats their male or female slave with a rod must be punished if the slave dies as a direct result, 21 but they are not to be punished if the slave recovers after a day or two, since the slave is their property.

    So you can beat them to death as long as they live a couple of days.
    &

    Deuteronomy 20:10-16
    10 When you draw near to a town to fight against it, offer it terms of peace. 11 If it accepts your terms of peace and surrenders to you, then all the people in it shall serve you at forced labor. 12 If it does not submit to you peacefully, but makes war against you, then you shall besiege it; 13 and when the Lord your God gives it into your hand, you shall put all its males to the sword. 14 You may, however, take as your booty the women, the children, livestock, and everything else in the town, all its spoil. You may enjoy the spoil of your enemies, which the Lord your God has given you. 15 Thus you shall treat all the towns that are very far from you, which are not towns of the nations here. 16 But as for the towns of these peoples that the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, you must not let anything that breathes remain alive.

    And there is plenty more.

    On your dashing babies heads against rocks. This is the problem with believing that there is such a thing as an ultimate moral judgement. Look at your jumping all over the place. I as an atheist can’t see this as an act of barbarity upon an act of theft because you have declared that God has commanded it so who am I to judge? You think that because I’m going to die someday that I should feel nothing for babies being brutally murdered? Really????? I feel now! I care now! And I’m capable of caring for others. This isn’t contingent on me needed to live forever. I make the subjective judgement that this was an immoral act. If I believed your god existed I would be horrified because from all the evidence he’s as hideous as Hitler just on a much much more savage scale.

    In your view, is it absolute that there are no absolutes?

    No idea. I suspect there may be some facts about the universe out there but I may never be in a position to fully understand them. I work on the assumption that there is a universe but that’s as far as my confidence stretches to absolutes. But I have high levels in confidence in some things though.

    This goes back to the definition of murder. If I had to kill someone to defend the rights of another, it would be a just killing and therefore not murder. This, though, proves my point in another way. The very fact that you believe people have rights implies that there is something going on beyond natural selection and the evolution of culture. Again, the atheistic worldview does not account for the existence of rights, while the theistic worldview does account for them because human rights are based in an absolute person.

    The fact that you say just killing demonstrates your absolute morals are not so absolute. The 10 commandments is of course very concise but not terribly useful for the same reasons I’ve mentioned there are many circumstances where some ultimate rule just doesn’t work.
    Rights is a cultural term. I don’t think there is a giant stone tablet expounding my rights. And I know if I traveled back or forward in time those would be different or even non-existent and likewise if I move geographically my rights would change. This is all up to negotiation and change. Nothing absolute needed or desired.
     

    regards

     

     

  • This is all up to negotiation and change. Nothing absolute needed or desired

    Not too sure about that Reckless.  The slaves throughout history, and the Victorian working class or the Russian peasantry pre 1917 certainly desired change, but there was no sign of negotiation being forthcoming.  I think that you underestimate the role of financial, political and religious elites in shaping social norms and moral rubrics.  They not only use their power to lay down the law, but they are also adept at shaping the moral perspectives of societies.  Think of the power of medieval church in liaison with the monarchies, or the symbiosis of the junka  class and the Lutheran reformation, or the gnomes of Zurich and Calvin. Today, sadly, we are left with Fox News and the god-botherers of the mega churches, let’s hope that their influence doesn’t last five hundred years, or worse still, two thousand!


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  • ShadowMind #96,

    >You keep saying that “non-absolute” morals (ie. all of them) must be weighed against a (theoretical) absolute moral standard. However, down here in the real world, moral standards are weighed against each other, and it is society that decides which is the higher. A different society may decide differently.

    You are proving my point. The higher standard to which you are appealing is the standard of “society decides which is the higher.” Is the standard that “society decides” subject to evaluation by another standard? If not, then “society decides” is an absolute standard.


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  • WalSallBoy #98,

    >If I understand your thinking correctly, you are saying our moral judgements are ultimately attributed to a higher intelligence that created us – an “absolute person” or “god”.

    This is not the argument I have been making. What I have been arguing is that humans make moral judgements that they believe are ultimately meaningful. In order for a moral judgement to be ultimately meaningful, there has to be some kind of absolute, meaningful standard to apply to the judgement. An absolute standard can only come from an absolute entity. A meaningful standard can only come from a person. Therefore, the absolute, meaningful standard must be in an absolute person. Our moral judgements do not come from this absolute person. We make the judgements ourselves. The standard applied to those judgements, however, is in the absolute person.

    To be clear, I am not arguing that this absolute person actually exists. I am only arguing that those of us who make moral judgements are behaving as if this absolute person exists.

    Concerning AI, I do not know enough about the technology to contribute to the discussion, but I will share my belief that there is an essential difference between machines and human beings.


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  • Jimmy #100,

    Is your answer to my question, “No, I do not believe our two worldviews can coexist”? That seems to be what you are saying, but I do not want to assume.

    If one of our views must be subjugated by the other, how do you see it happening? Will it be at the ballot box? Will it be through education? Will it be through revolution, peaceful or violent? How will it be that people like me will give up claiming what we believe to be our rights or that people like you will quit infringing on what we believe to be our rights? Unfortunately, I do not envision either of these happening peacefully. What do you think?

    I’m not sure what you think hermits and libertarians have in common. Libertarians love interacting with people . . . freely. I use most of the government services you listed but only because I am forced to do so.


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  • Vicky #104,

    >That seems to me like a flawed if/then reasoning. Your conclusion appears to give credit for meaning–ultimately morality–to ‘a theistic worldview.’ Why?

    My point is that a theistic worldview provides a rational foundation for meaning because meaning is ultimately based in an absolute person. Persons provide meaning, and an absolute person provides absolute meaning. The random interactions of impersonal particles does not provide meaning.

    You prove my point when you say there is meaning in your interactions with your kids. I agree with you. There is meaning in that interaction. The question is . . . what is the basis for that meaning? A naturalistic worldview in which everything is the result of random chance does not account for the meaning that you claim exists. Only a theistic worldview with an absolute person can account for that meaning. So, when you claim meaning in your interactions with your children, you are presupposing an absolute person. This does not prove that the absolute person really exists. It only proves that you behave as if this absolute person exists.

    Concerning the articles, I have not put any thought into my use of definite or indefinite articles when referring to certain categories of worldviews.


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  • Reckless Monkey,

    Let me propose something that might be more helpful than us arguing over our understanding of biblical slavery.

    The reality is that if I judge atheism based upon theistic presuppositions, then I have my conclusion before the process even begins. Similarly, if you judge theism based upon atheistic presuppositions, then you have your conclusion before the process ever begins. We would both be question begging. If you believe you are in a position to judge the God of the Bible, you will most certainly find something he has done or said that you do not like, and your judgement will be negative. If I do not believe I am in a position to judge the God of the Bible, then I will never render a negative judgement about him regardless of what he does.

    So, rather than attempting to judge the other person’s position based upon the standards of our own position, I think it is more helpful to judge the internal consistency of each position independently. This is what I have been attempting to do by showing that atheists are inconsistent with their own view when they make moral judgements. Even if the tiny particles are very complex, as you have pointed out, everything around us is still the result of impersonal and ultimately meaningless natural processes.

    I would propose that it is irrational to hold an inconsistent worldview and that it is rational to hold a consistent worldview.

    I have been evaluating the internal consistency of your view. Let’s switch gears and evaluate the internal consistency of my view. We can start anywhere you like. We can continue evaluating this issue of morality within the Bible or go anywhere else you would like.


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  • Jason #111

    A naturalistic worldview in which everything is the result of random chance…

    The natural world does not behave randomly.

    It is why my offspring are a) human and b) with many of my traits. It is why forecasters can follow the jet streams and predict weather patterns.

    My point is that a theistic worldview provides a rational foundation for meaning because meaning is ultimately based in an absolute person.

    I have to disagree. That so-called rational foundation is built on myths inspired by those not-so-random natural occurrences, and our fears of the unknown. It is a human-manufactured security blanket.

  • Vicki #113,

    >The natural world does not behave randomly.

    By “random,” I do not mean “without cause.” Everything has a cause. If we know what the cause is, then we can predict the result when we see the cause (i.e. weather patterns). By “random,” I mean “without forethought or design.” Weather may occur according to an observed pattern; but such a pattern does not, in and of itself, create meaning. Only forethought or design can create meaning.

    >That so-called rational foundation is built on myths inspired by those not-so-random natural occurrences, and our fears of the unknown. It is a human-manufactured security blanket.

    I have not yet provided the rational foundation, so how can you attack it? All I have done is assert that theism provides a rational foundation. How do you know it is built on myths and the fear of the unknown when you do not even know what the foundation is?

    I suppose it is also possible that we are using different definitions of rational. How would you define rational?


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  • eejit #106

    I think you are taking me too literally here,  I’m not sure I disagree with you but you seem certain I’m saying something I don’t think I’m saying.

    I have no doubt that many in the past and today have been oppressed and have had their views quashed and hence have not been in a position of power to influence events around them.  For example if you could transport us all back in time only a few hundred years what is said on this site would leave us atheists open to torture and execution for heresy.  But those that did risk this, those that did in ways small and large shift the ground till today the Church has nothing like the power it once did.

    Even Christians today would not agree on the moral absolutes of Christians a few hundred years ago.  Take the American South.  Slavery it was argued was condoned by the bible, most Christians in the South would have pointed to the same passages in the Bible I have quoted as justification for holding slaves.  Obviously those in the North disagreed.  So over the stretch of time these things are up for constant revision and negotiation.  I assume you feel that is correct?

    However I agree that individuals may have very little power over anything beyond their own moral standards and they may indeed shirk that responsibility and just go with the flow or look for easy answers.

     

     

     


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  • Jason B #112

     

    >if you judge theism based upon atheistic presuppositions,

    I don’t have atheistic presumptions. Atheism in my case is simply a rejection of the proposition that those that believe in a God have met their burden of proof.
    Thus I don’t propose the universe is meaninglessly perhaps there is some ultimate meaning. For all I know I’m part of a computer simulation being played on an Alien version of X-Box by some version of whatever the alien equivalent of a pimply kid in his Mum’s basement is. The ultimate meaning of my simulated universe might be to merely stop this alien teenager from doing his homework and get on with his chores. There may or may not be a god. However until I have proof or sufficient evidence to consider it likely I behave as I do for the benefit of me and mine and am extremely grateful for just existing. I find meaning in the relationships and friendships and the beauty and wonder around me. I like ideas, I like my hobbies. I don’t require some ultimate meaning projected over that to consider this place wonderful. That I’ll die at some point as all my ancestors have (beyond my parents – they’re still going). Does not make my existence less meaningful. In fact it motivates me to ensure I pack some meaning into my life. So I reject nothing provided there is good reason to believe it. Atheism is merely my opinion on one question “Am I convinced that there are any Gods”. That’s it.

    >This is what I have been attempting to do by showing that atheists are inconsistent with their own view when they make moral judgements.

    You have to do this with more than making an assertion.

    >Even if the tiny particles are very complex, as you have pointed out, everything around us is still the result of impersonal and ultimately meaningless natural processes.

    So what? A computer is just 1’s and 0’s but it can be used to do all sorts of meaningful things.

    >I have been evaluating the internal consistency of your view. Let’s switch gears and evaluate the internal consistency of my view. We can start anywhere you like. We can continue evaluating this issue of morality within the Bible or go anywhere else you would like.

    Okay, I gave you passage and verse from the bible – not all only a couple of passages. To me God was very clear that slavery (not indentured servitude) was permissible and regulated it thus. How is this consistent with an absolute moral standard? Considering he was happy to command you can’t eat shellfish, wear mixed fabrics, that you should cut off your foreskins how does failing to state it’s wrong to keep other humans as property (in either testament) maintain any consistency with an absolute moral standard. And if he can wiggle out of this because his ways are not our ways then what’s the point of it?


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  • Let me propose something that might be more helpful than us arguing over our understanding of biblical slavery.

    What’s to understand? The God of the Christian Bible states that you can pillage a town, murder anything you want, and keep slaves as your own property.

    Slavery is deeply immoral. This god condones slavery. Therefore, this god is immoral.

    And if this god actually existed, I’d remind him that he is a disgusting tyrant who deserves zero respect. Fortunately, there’s absolutely no evidence whatsoever that this god, or any god, exists. They’ve been invented by groups of backward men living in backward times – with primitive, tribal, misogynistic, racist and homophobic standards.


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  • Immoral? moral? its all a matter of perspective. However dogmatically insisting something is absolutely right and proclaiming the annihilation of all who disagree is extremely narrowminded and a primitive way of thinking (yes atheists included). If the goal is to ensure everyone survives and passes on offspring then that should be the measure of morality, not some religious absolutivist artifact. Unfortunately the purpose of western morality has always been to enforce preferential selection. We as a society, is obsessed with ensuring our artificially defined winners survive and the losers ‘go away’. Yet aren’t we supposed to be against prejudice?  My point is morality and ethics is self conflicting and does not fit well with human/ natural history and our inherent hyperselective nature.

    For example personally I think racism is ‘evil’ (for lack of a better term) because race and ethnicity is blurred and are artificial constructs and ‘nature’ which has no mind does not care who survives, if all life dies out it doesn’t matter, things simply proceed in due course towards absolute entropy. However I extend this further and see meritism (or more accurately phenotypism) is ‘evil’ as well (a connection many people fail to make.) Both Racism and meritism claim some individuals are endowed with inherent genetic superiority based on inbuilt phenotypical traits. Despite the similarities, meritism,  is celebrated and readily enforced in culture and policy, while its sister ideology, racism, is condemned. This is a prime example of the shortsightedness of human ethics.

    Furthermore even if nature has defined winners or losers for us who is to say that is the moral decision? If nature (which is neither God or person so stop treating it as such) really cared about its life forms then there would be no permian extinction or any extinction of lineages. Nature has proven it has been obsessed with elimination, and cruel competition, even altruism is simply a device to secure a genetic future at the expense of other lineages. Why would a concept be moral or good for the ones it eliminates? That is why I am a proponent of objective amorality, because any moral code nature or humans could come up with be inconsistent and oppressive to at least part of the population.

    Often times ‘evil’ are simply the individuals who are maladjusted and miserable. Human morality has always served the victors and kept the losers from winning or opportunity. Anyone who is blind to this fact fails to see the big picture. If an H. antecessor was alive today I doubt anyone would want it to reproduce, but that is deeply immoral if equity and equality is the ultimate purpose of morality. In reality morality is humans deceiving each other. That is why the only ‘fair’ ethic system is a utilitarian fluid ethics, which is constantly being restructured based on current need. Evolution is amoral and cruel, and humans need to start taking charge of our own destiny, instead of reverting to a ‘natural order’.

    Oh yeah, and It is possible to have evolution without termination of lineages, it is called sympatric speciation.


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  • Jason B. #107:

    It can’t be an “absolute standard” if different societies decide not to have it. “Absolute” means every society everywhere will have this standard. If some don’t, it’s not absolute, it’s just local.


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  • Jason

    Zero is a number; it represents a value, and the results are tangible. Even though it is commonly referred to as a placeholder. Yet without it, planes wouldn’t fly; we would not have satellites orbiting the Earth.

    In your syllogism for ultimate authority, you have a deity as a placeholder. Show me the results, Jason. I promise you, if you can, you will have done something that philosophers and theist apologists have attempted without success for millenia.

    “How would you define rational?”

    I’m done here. I know that many, both theists and atheists, enjoy philosophy. It has never been my cup of tea. As a brain exercise, it has its uses, but it has always struck me as futile when one tries to take it beyond that. Then it becomes over-masticated word salad, IMO.

     

     


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  • So over the stretch of time these things are up for constant revision and negotiation.  I assume you feel that is correct?   #115

    Sorry if I upset you Reckless, I didn’t mean to.  I’m still unhappy about negotiation.  Most words carry tones outside of their core meaning, some of those resonances are, I suppose, personal.  To me the word carries the meaning of decent people sitting in smoke filled rooms trying to hammer out something that will more-or-less suit most people.  Moral changes are seldom like that; they are accompanied with anger, bitterness, reaction, counter reaction, breakdowns in communication and society, very often violence and bloodshed and long rearguard action by revanchist moralists.  Usually a new ruling elite emerges as a result, but that can be undermined by counter-revolutionaries, who often have to accept at least some of the new morality.  Pretty much what is happening today – the post-war consensus, the Welfare State and The Summer of Love have been committed to the dustbin of history, libertarianism thrives in economic terms, but the gains of women, LGBTs, people of colour and the working classes are being steadily dismantled.   So I still don’t think that the sociologists favourite word  negotiation is appropriate in this case.


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  • 122
    Cairsley says:

    Jason B #114: “… All I have done is assert that theism provides a rational foundation. …”

    Yes, Jason, like building castles in the air. Why do you waste our time with such vacuous assertions? If you could cite evidence in support of them, and could argue coherently and in good faith on that basis, some of us at least might be interested to consider what conclusions might be drawn therefrom. You may recall the fine old mediaeval adage: Quod gratis asseritur, gratis negatur. Christopher Hitchens had his own free and effective translation of it: What is asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.


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  • 123
    Michael 100 says:

    Cairsley #122 I think you hit the nail on the head, especially with your Latin quote and Hitchens’ translation.  This entire thread has been “a show about nothing.”  And while such spectacles can sometimes continue for years, decades or even centuries, eventually they evaporate into the mists of our collective memory.    

    In No. 112 above it was written: “If you believe you are in a position to judge the God of the Bible, you will most certainly find something he has done or said that you do not like, and your judgement will be negative.” 

    I think that statement is wrong right out of the gate.  As an atheist, I do not presume to judge the god(s) of the bible anymore than I presume to judge the gods of Egypt, Greece, Rome, China, the Americas, Africa, India or Alpha Centauri.  The gods are a figment of imagination.  I suppose that there are times when people invoke divinity sincerely, but more often than not, gods are convenient ways to justify political power, financial profit, or ignorant prejudice. 

    How can I judge the figment of another individual’s imagination?  Judging a god is like judging Donald Duck or Popeye the sailor.  Unless someone can provide some scintilla of evidence that a god exists, it seems to me that this entire discussion is tantamount to counting dancing angles.  Like Vicki #120, I hope another topic appears soon.


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  • ShadowMind #119,

    I am not asking if a particular standard that is decided upon by a particular society is the highest standard. I am asking about the standard that says that each society gets to decide for itself. Is this the highest standard?


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  • Vicki #120,

    >I’m done here. I know that many, both theists and atheists, enjoy philosophy. It has never been my cup of tea.

    I’ve enjoyed our friendly banter. I believe I am a better person at the end of this conversion than I was at the beginning, and I hope you are too.


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  • Cairsley #122,

    I was merely pointing out that I had not yet provided the rational basis but had only claimed that there is one. What I have been doing is providing logical evidence that humans who make moral judgements presuppose an a moral standard, which presupposes an absolute moral standard, which presupposes an absolute person. You can certainly reject the argument, but that does not mean my argument is incoherent and in bad faith. If my argument were incoherent, then you would be telling me that you do not understand it and that you would like some clarification. If it were in bad faith, so what? My intentions have nothing to do with the validity of the argument.

    >If you could cite evidence . . . some of us at least might be interested to consider what conclusions might be drawn therefrom.

    No. I doubt many of you would be interested to consider what conclusions might be drawn from a theistic argument. I have not even made the argument yet, and you are already attacking it. If you attack the argument before the argument is made, then you have already reached your conclusion.


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  • Michael #123,

    >I think that statement is wrong right out of the gate.  As an atheist, I do not presume to judge the god(s) of the bible anymore than I presume to judge the gods of Egypt, Greece, Rome, China, the Americas, Africa, India or Alpha Centauri.  The gods are a figment of imagination.

    You have judged that the God of the Bible is a figment of imagination. This is a judgement. Thus, you believe you are in a position to judge him.

    >gods are convenient ways to justify political power, financial profit, or ignorant prejudice.

    This is another judgement.

    Consider this contradiction . . . I do not see any evidence that you exist. Therefore, I conclude that you are just a figment of something’s imagination. Though, I do not believe that I can make any judgements about you.

    >Unless someone can provide some scintilla of evidence that a god exists . . .

    What type of evidence do you require . . . logical, empirical?


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  • 128
    Michael 100 says:

    Jason B  #127, I would argue that my observation that gods are figments of imagination is not a judgment of the gods but of the individuals who propound the concept regardless of motive – power, profit, prejudice, or even a primitive need to understand the world. 
     
    I can only make judgments about that which exists – I can judge the quality of a work of art just as I can marvel at the wonders of the cosmos.  I can judge the behavior of a fellow human beings, but I cannot judge that which has no basis in reality.
     
    You are free to say that I do not exist, that I am a figment of imagination, but the physician who just measured my blood pressure would disagree.
     
    I require empirical evidence, evidence verifiable by observation and subject to testing and falsification.  The gods may have been supported by logical evidence in the prescientific ages, but that logic began to unravel when Copernicus demonstrated the structure of the solar system; when Kepler discovered why the planets behave as they do; when Darwin discovered how life evolved; and when 20th and 21st century physicists discovered, and continue to discover, why there is something rather than nothing.  Whatever logic may have supported the god hypothesis in the past has now lost all meaning.  And I don’t mean to say logic is irrelevant, only that it cannot be the proof of entities such as gods. I would say logic must be supported by empirical evidence to have any meaning.              



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  • Reckless Monkey #116,

    >I don’t have atheistic presumptions.

    We all have presuppositions. You live as if there were no God or any divinity, nor do you live your life as though you were “part of a computer simulation being played on an Alien version of X-Box.” Thus, I conclude that your presuppositions are atheistic. Whatever your presuppositions are, they certainly are not theistic or pantheistic or polytheistic or anything other than atheistic.

    >There may or may not be a god. However until I have proof or sufficient evidence to consider it likely I behave as I do for the benefit of me and mine and am extremely grateful for just existing.

    What would you consider “proof or sufficient evidence”? Does he have to be demonstrated through the scientific method? Is he allowed to prove himself logically? Does the standard of proof change with each individual, meaning that God has to provide individualized evidence to each individual person? Is it possible that if God did exist as the all-powerful creator of all creatures (including you and me) that he would not be required to prove or evidence himself to anyone? What right does the creature have to question the creator? Out of curiosity, to whom are you grateful for your existence?

    >I find meaning in the relationships and friendships and the beauty and wonder around me.

    Of course you do. This is because there is meaning in your relationships and friendships, and there is beauty in the world around you. The very fact that you are capable of apprehending beauty demonstrates that there is more to the world than natural processes. Natural selection does not account for entities such as beauty. You enjoy the beauty of the sunset and enjoy the meaningful relationship you have because all of those things are real. They are not merely a mechanism to help you survive and propagate your genes. There is more to life than what a natural worldview can account for, and we are all implicitly aware of it.

    Your analogy of the 1’s ad 0’s in the computer is a great illustration. Computers are just 1’s and 0’s, much like the matter in the physical universe. There is meaning to both computers and the universe. Computers are used by persons to do meaningful things. In the same way, the universe is used by a person to do meaningful things. 1’s and 0’s, apart from persons, have no inherent meaning. They are just 1’s and 0’s. They require persons to give them meaning. Similarly, the material of the universe has no inherent meaning apart from some kind of personality. Personality is an essential element of meaning.

    Now, let’s talk about the internal moral consistency of the Bible. Slavery is the topic at hand, so we will start there. Since we are defining chattel slavery differently, we will jettison that term and only refer to slavery in general and consider it to be something other than indentured servitude.

    Let’s first establish that Exodus 21:16 bans kidnapping and subsequent enslavement, “He who kidnaps a man, whether he sells him or he is found in his possession, shall surely be put to death.” This is a direct command from God, so we know that enslavement that results from kidnapping is unjust. This would include the type of slavery that existed in the antebellum South . . . it is always wrong.

    Now, as you rightly pointed out, the Bible gives regulations on how slaves are to be treated. This implies that some kind of slavery is not unjust. Setting aside indentured servitude (which we still practice today in our modern prison system), there is only one prescription for a person to become a slave in the Old Testament. Deuteronomy 20:10–11 tells the Israelites to offer terms of peace to an enemy city before destroying it. If the terms are accepted, then the people are enslaved, but their lives are saved. If the terms are rejected, then the Israelites are to kill all of the men of the city and take the women and children as spoil.

    We know that one of two things must be the case. The enslavement is either just or unjust. If the Israelites were simply running around kidnapping people, that would be unjust, but that is not what they are doing. They are fighting a war. So, we must ask if the war itself is just or unjust. If the war is unjust, then anything the Israelites do in the war is unjust, including enslaving prisoners. If the war is just, then the enemies of Israel deserve to die, and offering terms of peace is actually merciful. Even taking the women and children after killing all of the men is merciful because the women and children would have no one to care for them if they were left behind without husbands and fathers.

    So, we have to answer the question of whether or not this prescription is given in the context of a just war. The instructions in Deuteronomy 20 are presented in a hypothetical scenario. According to verse 4, this hypothetical scenario is one in which the LORD goes into battle with the Israelites and fights in order to save them. If God is on their side, then it is safe to conclude that God sees this as a just war. If God sees it as a just war, then enslaving Israel’s enemies turns out to be an act of mercy rather than some unjust atrocity. Israel’s enemies can choose to die, which is what they deserve, or they can accept merciful terms of peace that include enslavement.

    The question at hand is not whether or not you agree with what God does in the Bible but whether or not the Bible is internally consistent. You can disagree with what God does, but I think we have to recognize that the Bible is internally consistent. Nowhere does God break his own command. I am not sure what the religious/ceremonial regulations regarding shellfish, clothing of mixed fabric, and circumcision have to do with slavery, but you do bring up an interesting point about some Old Testament laws being perpetual and others being temporary. That is a great question that I would be happy to answer on another day if you would like.


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  • 130
    Cairsley says:

    Jason B #126: “… I doubt many of you would be interested to consider what conclusions might be drawn from a theistic argument.”

    There you go again, Jason, twisting statements to avoid someone’s point. I suggested that some of us might be interested in your argument if you could base it on evidence or cite evidence for it, even if it were a theistic argument. Real-world evidence makes all the difference to the status of an argument — whether it pertains to objective reality or to things produced by the mind.

    “… I have not even made the argument yet, and you are already attacking it. …”

    So you admit to wasting our time with your vacuous assertions and weaselly evasions, skipping from one idea to another, as though your sole purpose in all this were to make yourself the centre of everyone’s attention. If you had any respect for other visitors to this site, you would have presented your argument (if indeed you have one) with its supporting evidence up front, so that others could enter into an honest and coherent discussion of it.


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  • Far be it from me to spoil anyone’s fun, but I would just suggest that anyone feeling inclined to indulge Jason B. any further might like to take a look at the website of the Truth Reformed Bible Church, where he is pastor, first. 
     
    In particular, the “Being Berean” blog, where his views and the obsessiveness with which he holds them and the ugliness of what he calls “absolute morality” will quickly become apparent.

    This one, for instance, won’t come as any surprise to anyone who’s read his libertarian views earlier in this thread: ­­http://www.trbchurch.com/beingberean/the-good-samaritan-and-bad-theology
     
    And this one’s pretty revealing too, especially in the light of his earlier attempts to give the impression that his interest in the morality discussion was merely philosophical: 
    http://www.trbchurch.com/beingberean/hypocrisy-hidden-under-a-thin-veneer-of-love
     
    Then there’s this one, which it would appear from the comments I wasn’t the only one to find a bit on the strong side: 
    http://www.trbchurch.com/beingberean/dan-thoemke-does-not-know-the-jesus-of-the-bible 

    And this, which shows there really is nothing so trivial that he isn’t prepared to bang on at length about it: 
    http://www.trbchurch.com/beingberean/leviticus-1928-and-tattoos-as-an-illustration-of-the-laws-application-under-the-new-covenant

    A couple of the above links already make clear his belief that he has no obligations of any kind to anyone outside the church, but for an indication of the sheer extent of the contempt he holds us in – and the likelihood of there being the slightest point discussing with him – take a look at this one: http://www.trbchurch.com/beingberean/poison-of-pietism-is-the-world-watching – the paragraph headed I Corinthians 1:20 in particular.
     
    Obviously if anyone actively wants to spend the next dog knows how long arguing with him about this stuff (or anything else), fill yer boots. I know some people have a lot more appetite for this kind of stuff than I do. And at least now you have a clearer picture of who and what you’re actually arguing with than he has chosen to give of himself so far. 
     
    But personally, I’m with Vicki and Michael: enough’s enough. And there’s something about the weaseliness with which he has engaged here that leaves a distinctly unpleasant taste in the mouth.

  •  
    Hi Jason B, #129
    I think I’ll be leaving it here, not because I’m not happy to keep arguing with a theist believe me I’m happy to do that all day, but fundamentally because your twisting around like anything to try to avoid actually answering any questions on this. As a former Christian myself I understand not wanting to let go of your faith or admit errors in your faith. I also see value in pushing against those that disagree as an honest approach like this will result in your arguments becoming more refined or dropping bad arguments entirely. We all have biases I suppose I try hard (if unsuccessfully) to weed out the bad ones and that means risking being converted every time I engage with a theist.
    However you are making states in here that are self contradictory and as a pastor you do not have the luxury of declaring ignorance on the bible at least.
    As an example:

    Let’s first establish that Exodus 21:16 bans kidnapping and subsequent enslavement, “He who kidnaps a man, whether he sells him or he is found in his possession, shall surely be put to death.”

    and yet in Deuteronomy which I gave you chapter and verse…

    Deuteronomy 20:10-16
    10 When you draw near to a town to fight against it, offer it terms of peace. 11 If it accepts your terms of peace and surrenders to you, then all the people in it shall serve you at forced labor. 12 If it does not submit to you peacefully, but makes war against you, then you shall besiege it; 13 and when the Lord your God gives it into your hand, you shall put all its males to the sword. 14 You may, however, take as your booty the women, the children, livestock, and everything else in the town, all its spoil. You may enjoy the spoil of your enemies, which the Lord your God has given you. 15 Thus you shall treat all the towns that are very far from you, which are not towns of the nations here. 16 But as for the towns of these peoples that the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, you must not let anything that breathes remain alive.

    So what is it you cannot kidnap and hold slaves or you can provided you tell them to leave their homes and lands first!
    You are seriously telling me you believe this is moral and just! This is your absolute morality in action?

    They are fighting a war.

    No this was an invasion on their part. Having been freed as slaves themselves they are told by their god to invade and steal others lands. Because their god has given this to them. When he offered them lands of milk and honey he wasn’t leading them to unoccupied lands he was leading them to others lands.
    Did the Allies murder everyone in Japan and Germany after they were defeated? Did they enslave and dash the little boys heads against the rocks but keep virgin girls for themselves? No in general they did not. Instead they help feed and keep the German’s alive with food supplies. World of difference. And this is in a situation where the Hebrews had seen God in the clouds guiding them, had seen miracle after miracle they would have been primed to follow any command more so than a secular society.

    According to verse 4, this hypothetical scenario is one in which the LORD goes into battle with the Israelites and fights in order to save them. If God is on their side, then it is safe to conclude that God sees this as a just war. If God sees it as a just war, then enslaving Israel’s enemies turns out to be an act of mercy rather than some unjust atrocity. Israel’s enemies can choose to die, which is what they deserve, or they can accept merciful terms of peace that include enslavement.

    And this I’m afraid does it for me Jason.
    You will apparently forgive any evil and you you are certainly ignoring the many passages in which the Hebrews are simply taking over others land because god has declared it for them. And any society even one that was invaded and defeated their enemy who then considered genocide and slavery as just spoils of war is simply evil.
    And if that is merely a subjective definition evil then so be it. If there is an absolute Good out there then you are following the wrong deity.
    I’m not going to further waste my time if you are going to try to twist yourself into a pretzel to make 2+2 = -16.
    I think Cairsley and Marco have you pegged just about right.
    If you want to come back and debate with a tad more integrity I’m up for it but I don’t believe you’re being honest with yourself even. Have a think and if in a week or so you still want to raise this or debate some of these issues I’ll be here.
     


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  • eejit says: #121

    Hi eejit,  you haven’t upset me, keep the criticism up I may push back if I think you have misunderstood what I’ve said but I may well be wrong and its to my benefit to find out if I am.  I’m very much on the Asperger’s spectrum so I will often take things literally or write in a manner that insufficiently communicates any emotion or may communicate in a manner that could be interpreted as being annoyed when I am not.  Happens in face to face conversation as well.  While I genuinely work on this I’m kind of stabbing in the dark a bit, I can be a bit slow on the uptake so I apologize if I’ve made you feel like you have offended me, that wasn’t my intention but I may have inadvertently created that impression.   However for future reference I’m happy to be corrected when I’m wrong.  if there are notifications on this site (I can’t remember) I think I accidentally added a similar response in April’s so if this ends up repeated (something like it that’s why).

    So correct away but thanks for considering my feelings.

    regards

     


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  • 134
    Michael 100 says:

    Marco # 131. Thanks for that information.  Isn’t it interesting that our very good friend, Jason B, represented himself to be a high school philosophy teacher?  In #2, he wrote:  “I teach philosophy at a public high school,”  Amazing!! And he wonders why we demand empirical evidence.


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  • Yes, I saw that, Michael. To be fair, it’s possible he just teaches during the week and only does his pastoring at the weekends. On the other hand, one of his blogs I linked to in #131 – the one attacking another pastor – contains the lines,

    “Why would a pastor be thinking about spending time anywhere other than the church? An evangelist may want to spend time outside the church, but isn’t a pastor’s job to care for the flock? Is the flock not found exclusively in the church? What would we think of a shepherd who left his flock of sheep on the hillside, no pun intended, so that he could go out and look for other people’s goats to feed and water with the food and water that should be going to his sheep? This would be a terrible shepherd who should not be allowed to care for sheep …”

    So anyway, whatever. Time for him to return to his flock, I think.  



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  • Even before he was “outed”, I was going to ask “Jason B.” if his objective in coming here was to trick some atheists into admitting that a god exists. He picked the wrong neighbourhood for that fight…

    It became quite obvious some time ago that he was privileged, upper-class, very religious, and probably has some children doing quite badly in school.

    He could be a philosophy teacher; it would be quite easy for him, since his philosophy consists of only one word: “goddidit”.


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  • I’m afraid Jason B is another example of how religion poisons the mind, and turns a normally decent person into a manipulative sneak who has no qualms about infecting others, including children, with non-evidenced, morally deficient claptrap.


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  • ShadowMind says:

    He could be a philosophy teacher; it would be quite easy for him, since his philosophy consists of only one word: “goddidit”.

    The “philosophy” does seem to be the residual rump of  historical residue, theological myths,  and refuted antiquated notions, after Natural Philosophy moved into science departments in the 1800s!

    That’s probably why those “absolute preconceptions” are known as “god-delusions”.

    https://www.quora.com/What-sense-does-it-make-to-have-a-universe-without-humans-living-in-it/answer/Alan-Appleby-4

     

  • Sorry to belabour this – I know the point has already been made. But I’ve just checked back through Jason’s comments on earlier threads. Take a look at this one: see how people genuinely tried to engage with him openly and constructively, and see how disingenuously he interacted with us in return:

    https://www.richarddawkins.net/2017/12/life-driven-purpose-pg-118/  

    Particularly savour the bit where he writes, “Jargon aside, what is the solution to the problem of religion? If theists are delusional, it doesn’t seem like we can’t convince them with evidence. They will continue to indoctrinate their children, who will then be delusional as well. It seems to me that we either have to cut the next generation off from their parents or eliminate their parents altogether.”

    There don’t seem to be any comment numbers on that thread, but it’s only 47 comments in total, so it’s not difficult to find the relevant bits. If you can be bothered. Arguably we’ve all wasted too much time on him already.

  • Marco

    Arguably we’ve all wasted too much time on him already.

    Not all of it was wasted, Marco. His parry-and-thrust method managed to inspire some of the best posts I’ve read in a while–particularly from you and Phil.

    And I give him credit, he managed to stay within the guidelines of the site–no easy task for a proselytizer. I’ve read better apologists, but I’d say he was up there. Sure, he had to carefully twist some points and ignore others, but considering his position, it’s not like he had a lot of options in that department.


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  • Thanks for the post Reckless.  No worries at all, I think re-reading my remarks that I also have been a little towie. I have a brother who’s on the spectrum, he has led a very fulfilled life, loads of friends but no really close relationships, and a fairly good job in a minor profession  He’s a great man for social gaffs, cannot look at anyone directly, and in trips down the motorway he tells you endlessly about all the cars and trucks we encounter, who owns whom in their corporate structures, where the parts are made, where they are assembled….and don’t ask about train timetables… he lives in England, but he knows the times of all the trains and busses in Ireland, and when I lived in Australia he knew them all there too!

    He’s never been diagnosed, and when we were children the condition was not known about;  if we had known then what we know now, he could have had a happier childhood.  Still our family doesn’t do happy childhoods well, so I suppose that is the same for all of us, I put it down to too much Catholicism and Victorian lower middle class values..

    He’s eighty now, head of the family being the oldest and loved by all of us, in spite of his many quirks.  He’s in very good health, spends most of his time going on cruises and the rest on train journeys.  Long may he live.

     


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  • 142
    Cairsley says:

    Moderator.

    The comment numbering has gone. Without reference numbers for comments, it is very hard to refer precisely to a previous comment in ongoing discussion. Can the comment numbering be reinstated?


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  • Cairsley
    An email would sometimes be seen more quickly, it’s true, so for anything that’s urgent (rather than just important), it’s probably the better route. But for anything that isn’t time-critical, the way you did it is fine. Whatever works best for you.


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  • Thanks to Marco for some excellent sleuthing.

    I had wondered about the earlier Libertarian pleas to be able to keep “his” money, on this site.

    I think what comes across is quite an ugly mechanistic morality. These but not those. Only close neighbours, only these immediate harms, nothing for the morrow or the unseen harms. And again the idea that without these imposed fetters natural-me is a tyrant.

    I think telling kids they were born bad is possibly the source of very great harm. Not all faiths promote this, but those that do….

    I wonder if there is any research into “qualities of moral systems”, its broadness or narrowness, for example?


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  • I also agree with Vicky (12th June 6.05am). Nothing is a waste here. Those arguments have their real value with the silent, less committed onlookers. We rarely see minds changed and, I suspect, we rarely see behind the public mask.


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  • Jason B.

    In regards to absolute moral standard examples.

    Absolute Morals are equal to Laws of Physics.

    They express the ideal situation, however in real world application they never met that strict idea.  As the world is complex, infinite variables come into play to change the outcome and requirements to achieve a result.

    The real challenge is making sure your Morals are accurate in the first place.

    To be clear, I’m a devout Atheist. However I recognize that Jesus is like the Newton of sociology/memetics.  Or maybe more Archimedes, as more advanced math has come about, but he’s still relevant. Etc


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  • Vicki & Phil re the waste of time

    I do see where you’re coming from, and very much agree with Vicki that there have been some excellent responses from “our” side (thanks for numbering mine among them, Vicki!). Personally, I’ve especially appreciated the lucidity and humanity of  @jimmydavid ’s articulations of the dangers and inconsistencies of the libertarian worldview. They got me thinking some more about the relationship between libertarianism and absolute morality on the one side, and mutuality and secular ethics on the other – and I’ll try to gather those thoughts into a separate comment later today.

    For me it was Jason’s disingenuous approach to the discussion that was the problem. Not the fact he is (or perhaps ‘was’ would be more accurate: there doesn’t appear to have been any activity on that church website for some time now) an evangelical pastor, or that he didn’t tell us that’s what he was. This is the internet, after all: lots of us don’t choose to reveal our real-life identities, for all sorts of perfectly understandable reasons. There’s no obligation to share personal information about ourselves, but I do feel there’s an obligation to be honest about our arguments and views and, if we choose to provide an explanation of what we’re basing those arguments and views on, to be honest about that too. 

    Discussions that depend on misleading your interlocutors; sleight of hand; prevarication; twisting their arguments while trying to conceal the true nature of your own; word games etc. basically just turn into one big Gotcha. The aim then is just to win by hook or by crook, not to genuinely clarify and discuss. They get us investing time and energy in articulating responses, only to have those responses ignored or twisted or cherrypicked.

    And that’s what I meant by ‘waste of time’. At times I got the feeling the discussion basically amounted to Jason giving us a ‘Knock, knock’ and refusing to engage with any response from us that didn’t amount to ‘Who’s there?’


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  • Marco

    I agree. When Jason asked me what I thought ‘rational’ meant, I knew it was time to exit the rabbit hole.

    Heh…shake the dust from my feet, so to speak. 🙂

     


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  • Hi All,

    As mentioned, I consider myself agnostic because I do not know there is definitely no god (lets say I am 99% sure there probably isn’t).

    I was never ever really religious, so I have never felt I have escaped from religion or I am rejecting anything that was previously really important in my life. My parents took me to church when they were young and they still go. However, I stopped going when I was a teenager as it all bored me senseless and so I just drifted away from it. Now I like following science news and new ideas (which is how I originally found my way here).

    I guess my point is why do people feel the need to label themselves as atheist? I noticed in a post above someone mentioned they consider themselves to be a “devout atheist”. What would this mean – that you have decided that there is 100% no god?

    Promise I am not a weekend pastor trying to trick people or start concern trolling. I am just interested as being an atheist as it is not a label that I would currently apply to myself as to me it implies I have a set way of thinking and that I have come to my final conclusion.


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  • Indeed, Marco.

    They get us investing time and energy in articulating responses, only to have those responses ignored or twisted or cherrypicked.

    This seems too often a defining aspect of faithist proselytisers, which you discovered him to be.

    Our real loss in all this is a failure, yet again to be offered an actual novel insight into the faith/moral dogma issue. I earnestly believe that there is a genuine asymmetry between our two camps. Positing our lives on observable reality rather than faith, we have an earnest, foundational need to know what is knowable.


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  • Sorry, re-reading my post again and I don’t think I made my point very well. I guess what I am saying is that it is sad that people have to label themselves because we live in a world with such a lot of religious dogma.


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  • WalsallBoy

    If a theist is someone who believes there is a god, an atheist is someone who doesn’t believe there is a god.

    Most theists, if pushed, will accept the possibility – however tiny – that they could be wrong. Most atheists will do the same.

    But isn’t it interesting that no one ever argues that theists should really be calling themselves agnostics?


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  • Walsallboy (20/06/14/8:09)

    The labels are mostly signalling “Badges of Goodness”. Most of my old atheist chums in the UK now feel very little need to so signal, not least because they live in a notably and increasingly godless society.

    The huge extent of suffering by the godless at the hands of their faithist parents and peers in parts of the US, I think excuses much of the seemingly “dogmatic” signalling needed to simply survive and get through. Dawkins rightly likened the need to “come out” about godlessness with the recent struggles of the LGBTQ community to achieve a non-demeaning social acceptance . It is, therefore, also an existential claim that will fade in the generations to come.

    My badge became a truly unwieldy paragraph of explanation (agnostic atheist, anti-theist [in viscerally despising the idea of a closed, curated Universe], apologist for UK Quakers as getting “religion” morally right, anti-idealist, Betterist, mild-anarchist, [break it to make it better], Life-as-Poetry-ist ,…blah, blah.) Honestly, its best not to get stuck with me at a party after the third glass.


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  • 157
    Cairsley says:

    Marco, thanks for your last comment above — no, it is now your comment before your last one — on what you meant by ‘waste of time’ in the above flurry of exchanges with Jason — it articulated my own thought on using the phrase after realizing how he was acting in bad faith with us.

    Well done with the detective work! That suddenly put everything in perspective.


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  • WalsallBoy says:

    Hi All,

    As mentioned, I consider myself agnostic because I do not know there is definitely no god (lets say I am 99% sure there probably isn’t).

    To me, it seems odd if I were to say that I’m 99% sure that Smaug the Dragon (from The Lord of the Rings) probably doesn’t exist. Because there is as much credible evidence that Smaug the Dragon exists as there is of the Christian God. – i.e. none.

    A 1% chance that something exists seems to be a massive possibility in my view, and Smaug and God simply don’t deserve a whole 1%.

    Maybe it’s a false equivalency, I don’t know. But as Richard Dawkins once quoted, “we are all tooth fairy agnostics”.


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  • Hi WalsallBoy,

    I guess my point is why do people feel the need to label themselves as atheist? I noticed in a post above someone mentioned they consider themselves to be a “devout atheist”. What would this mean – that you have decided that there is 100% no god?

    I thought I’d send a post on this this morning but seems to have disappeared.

    I call myself an atheist for the convince of others so they know my position.  Theist means believing in good.  Agnosticism is about knowledge so you can be both.  Although it often becomes semantic argument.

    We are all born atheists.  We don’t believe in much of anything.

    So it should be the default position.  Belief IMO should only come after sufficient evidence.

    But day to day its an easy way of labeling yourself. I’m happy to admit that any credible evidence appears I’ll turn on a dime.  I think that unlikely though.

     

     


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  • Reckless Monkey

    I’m happy to admit that any credible evidence appears I’ll turn on a dime.

    Not me. If there was a god, I’d first want some serious answers before committing.

    That guy has a lotta ‘splaining to do.


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  • Like you, Vicki, though hir existence be established, acceptance as my god is very, very much pending.

    It is to be noted though, that existence is a matter of brute fact and not faith.


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  • To me, it seems odd if I were to say that I’m 99% sure that Smaug the Dragon (from The Lord of the Rings) probably doesn’t exist. Because there is as much credible evidence that Smaug the Dragon exists as there is of the Christian God. – i.e. none.

    Centauri, when you put it like that, the figure I blurted out does sound daft. I’ll add a few dozen .9999’s onto my 99% then!

    The huge extent of suffering by the godless at the hands of their faithist parents and peers in parts of the US, I think excuses much of the seemingly “dogmatic” signalling needed to simply survive and get through.

    Yes, I accept that clearly stating your position is important for people who are faced with this. It is sad that it is necessary.

    I live in Buddhist culture, so I have a different experience here. God doesn’t really get discussed – it’s all about making merit and good luck.


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  • 165
    Cairsley says:

    WalsallBoy, I used to be a Christian, and that entailed, among other things, that I was a theist. As long as that was the case, I did not define myself as a theist, since that was too narrow a term, only one aspect of being a Christian. Every time the Apostles’ Creed or the Niceno-Constantinopoline Creed was recited or sung, I declared my belief in God as part of the liturgical or devotional event, which always encompassed much else besides. When I ceased to be a Christian, I continued to believe in God as some kind of supreme being, though agnosticism came more and more to characterize my attitude towards such a being. During this intermediate stage, I did not define myself in terms of my state of mind concerning a god or supreme being but tended merely to say I was agnostic about that question if it were ever brought up. Instead, I defined myself according to my positive beliefs and principles of life, as I had done previously. Even while I was a Christian, I had developed a humanistic outlook, and this quite naturally remained with me — why would it not? — after my apostasy. So, instead of defining myself as a Christian or Christian humanist, I defined myself, and still do, generally as a humanist. If belief in anything supernatural is brought up now, I readily state that I believe in nothing of the sort. If asked point blank whether I am an atheist, I would say yes, but that would not define me, any more than being an unbeliever in Father Christmas would define me.

    It seems to be religious fundamentalists in the United States who have popularized the word ‘atheist’ as a label for people they regard as being among their worst enemies, the unbelievers. According to their way of thinking, how can people who have no faith in God and lack his grace not be captive to Satan and lost in lives of sin and depravity? But we unbelievers are so untroubled by Satan as to have no reason or evidence to suppose that any such entity might be around. Just as we do not accept religious beliefs in God or Satan, we can dismiss as misguided and misleading the use of the term ‘atheist’ by the religious to refer to people they perceive as holding a belief-system and leading a way of life opposed to their own. We freethinkers, humanists, rationalists, skeptics and so on, who happen not to believe in anything divine or supernatural nor to accept anything on mere faith, live and think as we each choose, finding much that naturally brings us together through our common humanity, while we also differ widely and interestingly in ways of thinking and living. Our atheism is merely an aspect of our freedom.


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  • 166
    Michael 100 says:

    By way of agreement with what others are saying, in the 21st century I think we can safely say, to a reasonable degree of certainty, that the natural world is all that exists (as though that was not enough).  Not only do theists fail to cite any evidence for their beliefs in a supernatural realm, none of their claims withstand scrutiny—see the books written by Victor Stenger.  

    In the days when people who survived infancy were lucky to live to a ripe old age of 25 or 30 — lives filled with unimaginable drudgery, injury and illness; with no understanding of the most simple mysteries of nature —I suppose the promise of pie in the sky when you die made a lot of sense.  

    I also think that many religious leaders might possibly have been afflicted with unusual (from our perspective) ways of seeing the world.  Read, e.g. a few chapters of The Lives of the Brethren, https://www.opne.org/Library/LIVES_OF_THE_BRETHREN.pdf — a collection of legends surrounding the founding of the Dominican Order.  Until relatively recent times, western Christians were of the opinion that people were so wicked that god was just at the point to returning to earth, destroying the evil society, taking the few saints to glory, condemning the majority to the fires of hell, and burning the earth by having the stars, the sun and the moon all fall to earth.  It was only through the intercession of the mother of god that total destruction was avoided.  Even today, I think many Christians think the end of the world is at hand.

    I think we need to remember that much of Christian theology was developed by scholars such as Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century when he wrote his master works Summa Contra Gentiles (1265) and Summa Theological (1274 — the same year he died).  1265 was 755 years ago — a lot of water has gone under the bridge since then.  Are we fools enough to think that 755 years from now, in 2775, people will think we were the eternal fount of knowledge and wisdom?  I suspect that in 2775, our ways of seeing the universe will seem, if not mentally ill, at least odd compared to how they will see the world.  So why do people even want to hang on to these vestiges of medieval and ancient thinking?  

    So, I agree with those who say that even clinging to a small possibility if theism is unnecessary.  It also emphasizes the importance of forums such as this and local organizations so that there is some clearing house for ideas that make sense and jibe with current knowledge.



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  • 167
    Michael 100 says:

    In my previous post, I wrote:  “I suspect that in 2775, our ways of seeing the universe will seem, if not mentally ill, at least odd compared to how they will see the world.”  I meant that to refer to cultural and moral norms, but the scientific discoveries have, and probably will continue, to stand the test to time.  I recognize that the discoveries of Copernicus, Kepler, Darwin, Hubble, Einstein &c are unlikely to be found to be erroneous.


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  • 168
    Cairsley says:

    Ugh! It is the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed. But in that context ‘Nicene Creed’ would have sufficed.

    Michael, you make a good point. The continuation of the trend in modern societies to abandon religious superstitions depends on a modern educational system required for all children and on government officeholders who accept modern science as basic to their approach to decision-making. Conservatives in some Western countries have had some success of late in compromising educational systems; so there is still plenty to be concerned about, even in modern Western countries. The work of the scientists you mention in your last sentence may be unlikely to be found erroneous, but what proportion of the population will know about it one or two centuries from now?


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  •  Smaug the Dragon (from The Lord of the Rings)

    Walsall Boy: we must always be sure that our facts are correct.  Smaug was in The Hobbit not Lord of the Rings.  On the other hand,since both are fiction, how can it be right to say either statement is false?


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  • So, as threatened a few days ago, I have been thinking thoughts …

    This thread hasn’t been the first time we’ve had fundamentalists drop by to tell us that, without their God, our lives have no meaning, the things we care about are an illusion, our morality a sham, our whole existence pointless. For them, the sole purpose of life is to get into heaven, so if there’s no heaven, there is literally nothing that matters. How often have we been told that, in a godless universe, there could be no beauty, no love, no compassion: nothing but brute force?

    Yet I would find it hard to conceive of anything uglier, colder or less meaningful than life as the fundamentalists see it.

    In a world where everything was in God’s hands; where everything happened according to his will; where there were no questions to be answered or dilemmas to be resolved because all the answers had been laid down long ago, fixed and changeless for all eternity; where our sole duty was to keep our heads down and not take risks with our eternal soul; where we had to guard against any impulse that might lead us to include in our generosity anyone excluded from God’s; where there was only one safe book, one safe way of occupying our minds; where no decision, no matter how personal, could be safely taken without seeking God’s approval first; where we weren’t free to make our own life choices: where the “correct” template for our lives and everything in them had been laid down before our birth and our role was simply to try to recreate that template as closely as possible … how could we be said to be truly living at all?

    Surely, it is the very fact there is no fixed set of answers to every conundrum and no puppet master with the world and everything in it in his hands that creates the potential for every satisfaction, every sense of achievement, every joy, every sense of purpose in our lives. Without the messiness, frustrations and challenges involved in the daily round of finding ways to rub along with other humans; without the need to take decisions, find solutions, take action, reach compromises and accommodations and to work out for ourselves where to set our “This far and no further” … where is the interest in life? Where the fun? Where the learning? Where the growth? Where the challenge? Where the comedy? Or tragedy? Or literature? Or us? The unfixedness of these things is the very stuff of life. (And precisely what makes the fundamentalists’ vision of heaven so hellish.)

    The inward-focus of fundamentalist morality – the obsession with personal virtue, and sin, and the state of their souls, and personal salvation, and “Jesus loves ME” – creates a formidable obstacle to the exercise of real morality in the real world. It ignores real-life injustices that could be righted, real-life suffering that could be alleviated, and real-life harms that could be prevented. We only have to look at the climate crisis to see how belief in an all-good, all-powerful creator god gets in the way of even modestly responsible action. Why should we stop using coal and oil and gas when God gave them to us? Why should we restrain our exploitation of the natural world when God gave us dominion over it? How can we possibly be harming the planet when God made it and sustains it? Why should we do anything about climate change when to do so would show a lack of faith?

    Secular morality is, almost by definition, outward-looking. It is hard to imagine any moral dilemma for the thoughtful secularist that was not, at heart, about the consequences of our actions for others. For the fundamentalist, it is all about the consequences for themselves, for the state of their soul, for their prospects of heaven. Fundamentalism is inherently selfish. And not just selfish: a cop-out: a childish refusal to engage with the world on anything but black and white terms, when actually, the most vibrant bits are always to be found among the shades of grey. The fundamentalist’s list of rules to be obeyed, unchanging, unchangeable, act as a rigid constraint on generosity, an excuse to forever exclude certain groups from the sphere of our compassion and concern.

    Earlier in this discussion Jason wrote this about the atheist worldview: 

    In the end, there is no ultimate significance to the little ones being dashed against the rocks. Sure, they may have died a little earlier than they would have otherwise, but we are all going to die. In fact, the whole human race is going to become extinct at some point along with our dying universe. So, ultimately, the babies do not matter.

    It was one of the most disgraceful statements I have ever read here. It is precisely that kind of dehumanisation that has led to countless atrocities throughout history. It is what enabled devout Catholics and devout Protestants across the centuries to tie tens of thousands of living human beings to a stake and knowingly, deliberately, reverently even, set them on fire. And why not? On the fundamentalist view, believing the wrong things is going to lead to an eternity of fire in any case, so an extra half an hour is neither here nor there.

    Far from being the source of morality and purpose and meaning, fundamentalist religion is the perversion of them. It takes human lives and makes them puny, fearful, mean. It takes our evolved capacity for empathy and desperately tries to constrain it for fear it will make us too generous. It passes the buck when it comes to responsibility for the planet. And it swaggers around like a drunk on a Saturday night, proclaiming itself the only way to live, while sucking the very essence of life out of life.

    And having got that little lot off my chest, I’m now going to go and lie down in a darkened room for a while.


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  • 171
    Michael 100 says:

    Marco.  I agree with every word you wrote.  Although I enjoy an occasional spar with a theist, I’ve recently begun to wonder what kind of chutzpah it must take for people like Jason B to come here – to a site dedicated to science and reason – and think they are going to make converts.  I suppose they think they are earning some kind of celestial points.  In any event, your post is a keeper.


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  • Michael 100

    what kind of chutzpah it must take for people like Jason B to come here – to a site dedicated to science and reason – and think they are going to make converts.

    Maybe it’s the kind of chutzpah that causes other fundamentalists to hold a gun to the heads of infidels and think that they are going to make converts. The times and the circumstances vary but the impulse seems the same. One has a gun, the other has a computer.


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  • Michael 100 says:

    I’ve recently begun to wonder what kind of chutzpah it must take for people like Jason B to come here – to a site dedicated to science and reason – and think they are going to make converts.

    I think that’s how preaching works!

    They just keep repeating the same old fallacies and fairy stories, first of all to prop up their own “faith beliefs”, and secondly in the hope that they will find some gullible sap who lacks the critical skills which would prevent them from swallowing it!


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  • 174
    Cairsley says:

    Marco, you did forewarn us that you felt something of the sort coming on, so we were waiting for it; and you have not disappointed us. That post was well worth waiting for! Thank you.


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  • I’ve recently begun to wonder what kind of chutzpah it must take for people like Jason B to come here – to a site dedicated to science and reason – and think they are going to make converts.

    Might be to report back on how he had a bunch of heathens on the ropes – although he didn’t.  Consider the Mormon Missionary.  They pay for the privilege of riding bikes around a foreign country to proselytize.

    This involves getting doors slammed in your face, in Australia extreme heat especially considering extreme humidity and temps wearing magic underwear.

    But they do it.

    Of course returning missionaries have the highest rate of leaving the church within 18 months of returning.  So not without its risks.

     

     


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  • I see that once again the tribalist cover-ups of abuse for preserving the illusion of “religious goodness”, is once again, belatedly coming to light in yet another religious hierarchy!

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-dorset-53086234

    Former Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, has had his permission to officiate as a priest revoked.
    The Church of England said new evidence linking Lord Carey, 84, to a review into abuse committed by the late John Smyth, had emerged.

    This is part of a long running investigation.

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-kent-4040746426 June 2017

    Lord Carey was criticised in an independent review of the church’s handling of abuse carried out by Bishop Peter Ball, 85, who was jailed in 2015.

    Dame Moira Gibb’s review revealed he had failed to pass information on Ball to the police back in 1992.

    It seem the secrecy and cover-up went all the way to the top!

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-48214957 – 9 May 2019

    The Church of England’s response to child sex abuse allegations was “marked by secrecy”, a report has found.

    The “No True Scotsman stories will probably be wheeled out next!

    I’m not sure what sort of sanction suspending  the “active” employment of a semi-retired ?  84 year old represents!

    In any account, this hardly looks like “prompt action”!

     

  • Vicki says:

    Am I correct in thinking that the Church of England is separate from Rome?

    It has been separate from Rome since the time of Henry VIII.

    When Henry fell out with the pope over his marriages, and the church meddling in his kingdom, he took over the church in the 1500s and seized their lands and riches.

    Henry was an extremely powerful king and not the pampered heir like some kings of the time.

    He had not been expected to be king, but his elder brother died, so he replaced him

    Prior to that Henry had been a risk-taker, with he and his pals the jousting champions among the knights. (A bit like top footballers but with weapons.)

    Consequently, despite the various Catholic plots, there was a distinct lack of enthusiastic  English lords / knights / aristocrats, who were prepared to chance facing him in battle!

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Church_of_England#King_Henry_VIII_of_England

    It is the state church of England with the queen as its head, and bishops in the House of Lords.

     


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  • It is the state church of England with the queen as its head, and bishops in the House of Lords.

    Alan,

    This demonstrates just how very human this stuff is, in that it has been devised and enforced by primate mammals.

    What’s sad is that so many people follow it, as though it was “meant to be” or it came from something divine, when the truth is it was completely manufactured by superstitious hominids.

    But false security is what so many people want, that they adhere to religion without thinking. They never scratch the surface, never dig any deeper. There are other reasons for this, but the outcome is that we have billions who make up some kind of flock.


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  • 180
    jsan sanw says:

    What if Richard Dawkins is wrong?

    I was raised as devout muslim and I always believed in God until I was 19 years old. At the end of my teenage years I became atheist. I have had extreme traumas during my childhood. All my life passed looking for a solution for my traumatic situation. I read nearly hundred books about childhood trauma. Then one day I learn to meditate. I meditated for 3 years and then I joined a 10 days Vipassana retreat.  The experiences that I had during and after that retreat changed all my paradigm about religion and the universe. After returning the retreat I started to meditate with Vipassana technique for 12-13 hours a day for a couple of months. That way I thought I could overcome the trauma in my body. I must have pushed the boundaries dangerously. Because one day some kind of energy became activated in my body started working 24/7 cleansing blocked energies in my body with unimaginable pain. During meditation I was also having some experiences where gravity disappeared. When that happened physical body was firmly on the ground but some kind of another (energetic) body was 20-30 cm above the ground for 20 minutes of so with unbelievable happiness. This was only one of hundreds of experiences. During these non gravity experiences my eyes were closed and I could see thousands yellow lights moving at light speed. 

    I think we are trapped in 3D universe and we can’t see what is beyond because we don’t close our eyes. 


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  • 181
    Michael 100 says:

    Juan sans:  What if Richard Dawkins is wrong?  Wrong about what?  Also, I’m happy you that you have defied gravity, but I have to wonder if your claim will withstand objective testing.


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  • 182
    Michael 100 says:

    Also, if prof. Dawkins is wrong about something, I’m sure he would be the first to admit it.  No one is infallible, and science will continue to develop new knowledge.

    I would invite you to check out the Professor’ s bio at the top of the home page of this site — i think it’s pretty impressive!! It’s not for nothing that he enjoys the respect he has earned.


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  • This is my first time here, so i’m not entirely sure what the spoken and unspoken rules are for this page yet, so if you want me to edit or delete something then just let me know. Anyways, i wanted to point out a few things about evolution, because people seem to have a few misconceptions about human evolution and i want to see if there’s an explanation that i missed for what i mention. People sometimes claim that we are 96%-98% similar to chimps, but from what i can tell, there’s at least a 12% size difference in between a humans genome and a chimps genome, so how is there only a 4% difference? Chromosome 2 is claimed to be a fusion site but miller ( the guy people often quote for the fusion) has himself said that there is a life supporting gene in the middle of the fusion site, meaning if we split it, we die. Its suggested that Retro viruses prove we had a common ancestor with apes because both of us have the same viruses in our genomes, but the viruses act like layers on a cake and are in the wrong layers, plus the viruses have infected genes only found in humans. What am i missing?

    And no, i’m not trying to debate anyone, because if i was trying to then id bring up the dozens to hundreds of out of place human fossils that Richard Dawkins is flat out ignoring. I’m trying to be as open minded as a i can be and i’m honestly curious if there’s evidence for human evolution that i’m missing?


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  • 184
    Cairsley says:

    Our comment numbers are back! Whoop-de-doo!

    Jsan Sanw #180
    It was good to read of your attaining inner healing through meditation. Meditation, properly practised, is certainly beneficial in various ways, psychological healing being one of the most important. Your description of the experience distinguishes between the physical and the mental, placing the body on the ground while you experienced something entirely new and strange happening to you. In such cases, it is important to keep clear the distinction between the physical and the mental, the objectively real and the subjectively experienced. What you experienced occurred in your mind (subjectively) and, given that you subsequently feel the benefit of that experience, it is reasonable to suppose that something beneficial occurred in your brain (objectively) that removed a cause of pain or trouble that had burdened you thitherto. I am not qualified in either psychology or neurology, but I know enough to see that one cannot base claims about objective reality on such (subjective) experiences, regardless of how beneficial they have been to oneself. In any case, I trust you will continue to flourish.


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  • 185
    Cairsley says:

    Jon #183: “… but from what i can tell, there’s at least a 12% size difference in between a humans genome and a chimps genome …”

    Would you mind letting us know how you came by this percentage figure.


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  • Jon may find it easier to gain traction here if he relates his query to an accurate account of those genetic differences.

    Here is the essential Nature paper.

    https://www.nature.com/articles/nature04072.pdf

    Where is the specific mistake in this? Or is it a mistake in accurately reporting this to the general public, considering, say, only 30% of genes code for proteins?

  • jsan sanw says: #180

    Welcome, sorry to hear about your childhood trauma and happy you are finding comfort in meditation.

    Have you checked out Sam Harris.  He an atheist very practiced in meditation.  He is also a neuroscientist.  So you may find his stuff interesting.

     


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  • Hi Jon  #183,

    first welcome most on this site are happy to have a debate.  I’m not an expert here Alan4Discussion would probably have the facts close at hand.

    People sometimes claim that we are 96%-98% similar to chimps, but from what i can tell, there’s at least a 12% size difference in between a humans genome and a chimps genome,

    It’s probably a good idea to cite your sources here.  Any claims like this made would need to have sources so we can check and confirm if it is different to the norm.

    has himself said that there is a life supporting gene in the middle of the fusion site, meaning if we split it, we die.

    Again not an expert but there is something like 6 million years between our common ancestor between apes and us.  As Telomeres usually exist at either end of the genes then any gene not associated with this would have occurred after fusion.  You also haven’t specified what the gene is and whom it is lifesaving to.  All of evolution occurs because genes that enhance the survival of the holder of these genes gets a genetic edge.  So a novel gene could occur that provides some benefit to survival in us and still have chimps perfectly capable of surviving.  After all we share a common ancestor with crocodiles and don’t share many genes that if disabled might kill the croc for example crocs have an extra aorta that supplies CO2 rich blood to the blood vessels around the stomach increasing acid production.  Evolution works by modifying organisms thus genes get turned on and off and new ones that become essential evolve.

    There was a wonderful experiment outlined in Dawkins Greatest show on earth where bacteria were feed increasing amounts of toxic materials, eventually  they mutated and started not only tolerating the toxin but using it as food to the point where they died without it.

    But as before so we can be sure you are not simply cherry picking can you please cite your source for this information and the gene in question?

    Its suggested that Retro viruses prove we had a common ancestor with apes because both of us have the same viruses in our genomes, but the viruses act like layers on a cake and are in the wrong layers, plus the viruses have infected genes only found in humans. What am i missing?

    Okay my basic understanding is viruses infect cells in the body and if they end up in sperm or egg cells can get into the genome and while usually inactive or inactivated.  However they end up along for the ride.  So they may have an impact on gene regulation if modified but many will just act as markers.  So they can be used to compare and contrast points at which our speices diverged from each other so we would share common retroviruses with chimps, less with Gorillas, less with monkeys and so on.   If evolution is true then we would expect this pattern to match the proposed evolution we see in fossil records so less with crocs than other mammals, even less with plants etc.  And that is what we find.  We carry a the remnants of ancient viruses in our genomes.

    That is my understanding. I’m not sure what you mean by the layers are in the wrong place?  Again citation please.  Where are you getting the information from.  Be careful its not from some creationist site or you may be being lied to.

     

     

     


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  • >Hi Jon  #183,

    Found a paper from the creation institute making the claim about the chimp and human genomes being not as close as the scientific community considers.

    Why was this paper not published in a normal scientific journal.  I could make any claim I wanted if I created my own journal to publish what would be rejected due to poor science in other journals or be subjected to scrutiny of others in the field.

    The journal is citing numerous papers,  I picked up one of the papers and googled it.

    one by Tomkins and Bergman

    the paper it refers to is also published in a creationist journal.  I chose one of the Authors one Dr. Jeffrey P. Tomkins  who would appear to be qualified in genetics but low and behold works for the Creationist institute.  Are we seeing a problem here yet?

    I scrolled down further, what papers has he published.  And yes he has published and co-published many papers they were conveniently listed as papers published for creationist journals.  I read the first 10 or so.  Every single one a paper questioning the mainstream understanding of evolution.  Handily they also listed the many papers he published in secular journals.

    I read the first 10 or so not a single one making an arguement about evolution.  Why would that be.  Perchance he is unable to get them published, too afraid to submit them for fear of rejection.  Are we seeing a problem here?

    The purpose of peer review is to publish for your peers so that they have the opportunity to reject or point out errors.

    That’s just one author, one of his papers and tracking one cited in one of the papers that I think you are basing your information on.  Why such dishonest tactics?

    Here’s the first 10 of his secular journal titles he’s been involved with at least one actually proposes to shed light on angiosperm evolution (so pro evolution paper)

     

    Haddad, N. J., N. Adjlane, D. Saini, A. Menon, V. Krishnamurthy, D. Jonklaas, J. P. Tomkins, W. Loucif-Ayad, L. Horth. 2018. Whole Genome sequencing of North African honey bees, Apis mellifera intermissa to assess its beneficial traits. Entomological Research. 48: 174-186.
    Lenz, A., J. Tomkins, A. Fabich. 2015. Draft Genome Sequence of Citrobacter rodentium DBS100 (ATCC 51459), a Primary Model of Enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli Virulence. Genome Announcements Volume 3 Issue 3 e00415-15
    Blair M., N. Hurtado, C. Chavarro, M. Munoz-Torres, M. Giraldo, F. Pedraza, J. Tomkins, Wing R. 2011. Gene-Based SSR Markers for Common Bean (Phaseolus vulgaris L.) Derived From Root and Leaf Tissue ESTs. BMC Plant Biology. Mar 22;11:50. PMCID: PMC3068092
    Zuccolo A., J. Bowers , J. Estill, Z. Xiong, M. Luo, A. Sebastian, J. Goicoechea, K. Collura , Y. Yu, Y. Jiao, J. Duarte, H. Tang, S. Ayyampalayam, S. Rounsley, D. Kudma, A. Paterson, J. Pires, A. Chanderbali, D. Soltis, S. Chamala, B. Barbazuk, P. Soltis, V. Albert, H. Ma, D. Mandoli, J. Banks, J. Carlson, J. Tomkins , C. Depamphilis, R. Wing, J. Leebens-Mack. 2011. A Physical Map for the Amborella trichopoda Genome Sheds Light on the Evolution of Angiosperm Genome Structure. Genome Biology. 27;12(5):R48.
    Fang, G. C., B. P. Blackmon, D. C. Henry, M. E. Staton, C. A. Saski, S. A. Hodges, H. Luo, and J. P. Tomkins. 2010. Genomic Tools Development for Aquilegia: Construction of a BAC-Based Physical Map. BMC Genomics 11:621.
    Adelberg, J.W., M.P. Delgado, J. P. Tomkins. 2010. Spent Medium Analysis for Liquid Culture Micropropagation of Hemerocallis on Murashige and Skoog Medium. In Vitro Cellular Developmental Biology 46:95-107.
    Sisco, P.H., R.R. Sederoff, J. P. Tomkins, J.E. Carlson, T.L. Kubisiak, M.E. Staton, F.V. Hebard, S.L. Anagnostakis, W.A. Powell, and C.P. Smith. 2009. The United States National Science Foundation Project on Developing Genomic Tools for the Study of the Fagaceae: Castanea, Quercus, and Fagus. Acta Horticulturae (ISHS) 844:267-274.
    Zhu, S., C. Saski, H. Boerma, J. P. Tomkins, J. All and W.A. Parrott. 2009. Construction of a BAC Library for a Defoliating Insect-Resistant Soybean and Identification of Candidate Clones Using a Novel Approach. Plant Molecular Biology Reporter . 27:229-235.
    Wilfert, L., M. Munoz-Torres, C. Reber-Funk, R. Schmid-Hempel, J. Tomkins, J.Gadau, and P. Schmid-Hempel. 2009. Construction and Characterization of a BAC-Library for a Key Pollinator, the Bumblebee Bombus terrestris. L. Insectus Sociaux. doi: 10.1007/s00040-008-1034-1.
    Schlueter, J., J. Goicoechea, K. Collura, N. Gill, J. Lin, Y. Yu, D. Kudrna, A. Zuccolo, C. Vallejos, M. Torres, M. Blair, J. Tohme, J. Tomkins, P. McClean, R. Wing and S. Jackson. 2008. BAC-end Sequence Analysis and a Draft Physical Map of the Common Bean (Phaseolus vulgaris L.) Genome. Tropical Plant Biology. 1:40-48.

    I suspect the papers you rely on are nonsense and wouldn’t have a hope in hell of being published and if they were would be ripped to shreds if he attempted to publish them with his peers.  I once invented a card game with my wife and introduced it to her brothers and sisters.  So there we were 5 of us playing this game.  I was world champion!  Impressive?  Nah.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     


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  • Reckless Monkey says:

    And yes he has published and co-published many papers they were conveniently listed as papers published for creationist journals.

    The notion of a creation magazines posing as a science journal can easily be exposed when we look at  their mission statements – which require consistency with the biblical narrative.

    Thinking from preconceptions. – the very opposite of scientific methodology.

    Creation Ministries is well known for quote-mining legitimate science authors and articles, and citing them as badges of false authority for their concocted nonsense!

    The details are listed on these links.

    http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/quotes/mine/evolution.html

    For a number of reasons, the posting of this list was illustrative of a persistent and basically dishonest practice, frequently engaged in by creationists, that has become known as “quote-mining.” While the etymology of this term is obscure [3], the definition is clear enough. It is the use of a (usually short) passage, taken from the work of an authority in some field, “which superficially appears to support one’s position, but [from which] significant context is omitted and contrary evidence is conveniently ignored”

    http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/quotes/mine/project.html

    The Quote Mine Project is a response to the creationist tactic of quoting scientists as “evidence” against evolution. It is a group effort of many participants of the talk.origins newsgroup which documents what is wrong with how the creationists present their “evolution quotes.”

     

     

  • Alan4discussion 

    Ill reply to everyone else later after i find find the sources for everyone else’s reply’s but ill address you right now though because there’s a lot you said that you should stop and think about.

    While i agree with you about their mission statement and they do sometimes quote mine, i have to ask though, whats your point? they believe the bible, therefor they are liars? Something you might want to consider is how do you know if you are correct if you are unwilling to hear how you might be wrong? stop and think about that for a moment. Btw, here’s a fun fact, most of the science we use today is based off of creationists studies so before you ridicule them, you might want to make sure you aren’t also downgrading yourself as well. For example, plate tectonics and the concept of evolution is somewhat hijacked from creationists terms of “kinds”. I’m not saying they are right though. I know, “sources please!”. I’m on my phone at the moment so its difficult. Ill provide those along with the others while i use my computer later.

    Its not like scientists don’t do some pretty silly things either, for example, has anyone here ever heard of skull 1470? Long story short, it was a 230 million year old fossil that was radiometric dated a dozen+ of times until we found the date we wanted to accept as factual. we found a human skull next to it so it was re-dated dozen+ times more until we threw all of the dates out and just made up their own date that fit within human evolutionary ages, please keep in mind, the ONLY reason why they assumed the wrong ages is because it didn’t fit with evolution.

    While i’m on this topic, how is evolution falsifiable? in order for evolution to be a scientific theory, it must be falsifiable? but how is it falsifiable? no, seriously, how is it falsifiable?

    There’s pre-adaption, reductive, divergent, parallel and convergent evolution. How are those falsifiable? If the evidence doesn’t fit into one, we assume its another form of evolution. I’ve even heard someone go as far as to suggest that nothing evolving in the fossil record helps prove evolution. We cant claim that out of place fossils would disprove evolution either, because like what i mentioned above with skull 1470. Evolution is in no way falsifiable because evolution either discrete’s the evidence thrown at evolution or it adapts to it, for example, did you know we have adjusted the age of dinos from 8 million years old to back to 160ish million years old?

    8 million year old T-rex: “Mining for mammoths in the badlands”, New York Times, December 3, 1905 30 million year old T-rex (and others): “30,000,000 years ago,” New York Times, March 11, 1927 Dinosaurs stated 150 million years ago: “When Life Began,” Russell Owen, New York Times, February 9, 1941


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  • @Jon #191

    Hi Jon,

    While i agree with you about their mission statement and they do sometimes quote mine,

    Why?  If you have any integrity you represent those you disagree with honestly and knock down their actual arguments not the ones you are pretending they have made.  You are putting your faith in an organization that systematically lies.

    i have to ask though, whats your point? they believe the bible, therefor they are liars?

    No not all Christians have to lie.  Here they are choosing to misrepresent the truth.  It’d perfectly fine to disagree with evolution or any scientific theory.  What it is not okay to do is pretend to have made a discovery you have not made, to misrepresent facts to obscure truth, to ignore problems in your own theories.

    Something you might want to consider is how do you know if you are correct if you are unwilling to hear how you might be wrong?

    Who’s unwilling to hear they are wrong.  I’m wrong all the time.  It’s good to know when you are wrong.  The whole point of peer review is to engage honestly in putting your ideas up to the scrutiny of others and to risk having them knocked down.  That the people you are quoting do not do this makes them not just dishonest but cowards.  It takes real courage to do real science, you must risk being wrong and having everyone who you professionally care about not only know it but publicly tell you what you have wrong.

    Btw, here’s a fun fact, most of the science we use today is based off of creationists studies so before you ridicule them,

    I suspect you refer to early scientists like Newton, Kepler, Galileo being Christians? This is hardly surprising as almost 100% of people back then where Christian, and those that were not needed to keep their mouths shut or risk being burnt at the stake.

    Exactly which of their theories prove god?  Kepler and Galileo risked much in disagreeing with the churches of their day.   Newton tried to find evidence of gravitational theory in revelations and failed miserably.  Yes there were and are many fine scientists today who believe in God but to suggest their work proves god or is based on Christianity is nonsense.

    Science has moved us from a parochial world view of religion towards a clearer and clearer picture of the actual universe and its more majestic than anything in the Bible IMO.

    On your skulls and so forth what’s the bet if I research this and those that made these claims you are repeating here that I will find, lies, half truths, cherry picking, straw mans and misdirection again.

    I don’t believe in a hell, but for you it has to be a possibility.  Your God if he exists must be able to see into your soul.  Do you think he wants you to lie for him?  To lie to yourself?  Or do you think he would want you to follow courageously and honestly where ever the truth would lead you?  If I felt I had a soul and eternal torment was on the line I would be very cautious about following dishonest people into a world of lies.  Might want to be on the lookout for that.

    A good start is to not just make statements we can all do that but back up your assertions with evidence from original sources, not from cherry picked creationist websites.

    regards

     


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  • Jon

    Ill reply to everyone else later after i find find the sources for everyone else’s reply’s

    You’re mistake is in reading only creationist literature, it took me scant effort to track down the thread of deceit you have swallowed hook line and sinker.  Now this is understandable, you are religious and I’ve been there we choose to only read things that confirm our biases in these positions.

    I’ll give you a contrasting point which illustrates a better way.  I’m Australian so am interested in our natural history.  There has been the somewhat controversial view that Aboriginal Australians who have been here probably in the ball park of 65 000 years may have had something to do with the Mega Fauna extinctions in this country.  It’s an unpopular view because Aboriginal Australians have copped a lot over the past couple of hundred years and a lot on the left don’t want to hear that they may have been like most other peoples a little destructive to some species when they first arrived, the right would likely want to jump on this and use it to blame the Aboriginals and effectively say you were no better than us.

    Both positions are irrelevant to me in that ultimately there is the real answer out there, might be somewhere in the middle,  or the Aboriginals may have come at a time when climate changes were wiping out the megafuna anyway or somewhere in between.  Anyway the debate flared up again and I went through some scientific papers to see what the latest is.  Some papers were behind paywalls but I was interested in what the general consensus was at this point and for that purpose reading the abstracts was enough.  30 papers latter – about 50 – 50 split between the various points of view.  Many interesting data sets and much evidence on all sides of the debate but nothing conclusive.  Loads of disagreement.  Result I don’t know what’s true and while many of these scientists may believe strongly one way or the other none could claim to absolutely know.  Loads of strong arguments followed by criticism and counter arguments.

    So what does this tell me.  That honest disagreements and real debate is happening and if there is ultimately a consensus on this it will have been hard won and those who will have given up their positions will not have done so unless really compelling evidence is shown.  And that is how you get the closest to truth.

    I encourage you to continue here on this site but engage honestly.  give citations and read more widely before you accept, especially if someone is disagreeing with you.

    I believe I have shown that the papers that contain the assertions you gave are flawed and dishonest, the author is not opening himself to scrutiny and that should make you suspicious. Other cited papers in that paper I expect will also just cross link to other creationist echo chambers.  This is not science it is nonsense and dishonest nonsense at that.

    If you wish to criticize evolution fine but first you need to understand what they are actually saying.

    commenting here is a good step but please cite your sources or you are just acting in bad faith.

     

     

     


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  • jon says:

    they believe the bible, therefor they are liars?

    Yes! –  when science is incompatible with their biblical views they lie about it and use fallacious and dishonest arguments to dispute it.

    They  misrepresent and quote-mine the work reputable scientists to use their reputations as badges of false authority for the nonsensical YEC and ID claims denying evidence based science.

    Btw, here’s a fun fact, most of the science we use today is based off of creationists studies so before you ridicule them, you might want to make sure you aren’t also downgrading yourself as well.

    Some scientists making discoveries happened to be religious, large because religons dominate societies at the time they lived, but that is very far from them agreeing with ID or YEC pseudoscience.

    For example, plate tectonics and the concept of evolution is somewhat hijacked from creationists terms of “kinds”.

    That is just nonsense you have copied from some creationist site or book.

    “Kinds” was lifted from a biblical text (written by people ignorant of modern biology) and elaborated into the peudoscience of “baraminology”!

    This was  invented by creationists in recent decades, to obscure the vast numbers of species on planet Earth. so they could maintain the pretence of fitting them all into Noah’s Ark.

    Its purpose is to keep followers of the deluded pundits at sites like AIG, from learning modern binomial nomenclature, the proper classification of species, and a proper understanding of evolutionary tree diagrams showing common ancestors. They simply muddy the definitions of species to make the issues so vague, that a rational discussion discussion of them is impossible.

    I have seen many examples from such pseudoscience sites.  They use fake exhibits, fake studies which they claim are science and publish fake journals which pretend to be science. They also make up strawman versions of scientific theories to confuse their followers about what science is.

    Their writings are a mixture of the blatantly dishonest, the fallaciously illogical,  and the laughably incompetent!

    I’ve even heard someone go as far as to suggest that nothing evolving in the fossil record helps prove evolution.

    I have no doubt that you will hear all sorts of nonsense from ignoramuses who have no understanding of biology, genetics, geology  or palaeontology, and who are too scientifically illiterate to read the scientific journals or websites, where the evidence is presented.

    There is the detailed 570,000,000 year record of the evolution of fossil Foraminifera, which is so accurate that it is used for dating rock strata and prospecting for oil in the science of biostratigraphy!

    https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt1g69xwk
    Biostratigraphic and Geological Significance of Planktonic Foraminifera

     

    https://www.ucl.ac.uk/GeolSci/micropal/foram.html

    Foraminifera have a geological range from the earliest Cambrian to the present day. The earliest forms which appear in the fossil record (the allogromiine) have organic test walls or are simple agglutinated tubes.

    https://ucmp.berkeley.edu/fosrec/Wetmore.html

     

  • @Alan4Discussion

    “Kinds” was lifted from a biblical text (written by people ignorant of modern biology) and elaborated into the peudoscience of “baraminology”!

    indeed this is a book that classifies bats as birds

    Leviticus 11:13-19

    13 “‘These are the birds you are to regard as unclean and not eat because they are unclean: the eagle,[a] the vulture, the black vulture, 14 the red kite, any kind of black kite, 15 any kind of raven, 16 the horned owl, the screech owl, the gull, any kind of hawk, 17 the little owl, the cormorant, the great owl, 18 the white owl, the desert owl, the osprey, 19 the stork, any kind of heron, the hoopoe and the bat.

     

     

  • Jon #191

    sorry forget to address this…

     

    While i’m on this topic, how is evolution falsifiable? in order for evolution to be a scientific theory, it must be falsifiable? but how is it falsifiable? no, seriously, how is it falsifiable?

    It would be falsifiable in many many ways.  One of the ways was the fusion site between humans and chimps common ancestor.  The different amount of chromosomes between chimp and human was often used by creationists to falsify evolution.  They said that we cannot be related if we have a different number of chomosomes.  Biologists at the time (before gene sequencing became a thing) suggested that two chromosomes after the common ancestor occurred fused into one chromosome.  This is a prediction that if wrong would have blown evolution out of the water or certainly human evolution.  However gene sequencing becomes available and what do you know we find not only the fusion site but the remnants of the telomere ends of both chromosomes in the middles of the sequence.

    The fact that we carry say genes for eye production in the same place in the chromosomes for both, the fact that we carry retrovirus remnants which match our ancestors and diverge as we would expect from our family tree, the fact that these similarities and differences appear in other species too their close cousins sharing the most DNA and become more distant the more distantly related becoming further apart.  The fact all of this matches what we see in the fossil record.  Any one of these aspects if they were wrong would disprove evolution through natural selection.

    Creationists need to resort of cherry picking, deliberate misinterpretation of known facts to try to make their case and publish their findings in make believe journals that only publish papers that support the view they per-suppose to be true and thus refuse to open themselves to scrutiny.  They then push their make believe science onto children, try to push this nonsense on all children in schools when they fail they re-label their enterprise as ID and try again.

    This nonsense you have chosen to selectively read and state here has been put together by ignorant and or dishonest people.  They are lying for god.  If you are right he is watching and judging you.  If I believed what you believe I would think this a risky move.


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  • @Alan4Discussion #197

    A lot of dishonesty in the thread you linked to.  I genuinely wonder why they think this would be acceptable to their god?  If you were an omnipotent being why would you need let alone want anyone to lie for you?

    Hell’s flames must be generated by perpetually combusting pants.


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  • Cairsley

    Reckless Monkey

    Here is a source showing the human genome is 3 billion base pairs for each 23 chromosomes, so its roughly 6 billion in total. https://www.genome.gov/human-genome-project/results

    Here is a source claiming a chimps genome is 2.8 billion base pairs per each 24 chromosomes, so its 5.6 billion https://bit.ly/2YbmjYR

    There is a science channel on you tube that helped me realize that there was a 12% size difference in between human and chimp genomes, they also quickly explain why we believe its 98% (their sources are in the description box of there video) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IbY122CSC5w

  • I just posted a few sources and its waiting to be approved by mods. No offense but i lost a lot of interest here when i realized i cant link sources. Plus there’s at least another dozens things i want to reply to. I don’t have time for this so i’m going to only reply back to arguably the most important part ( from the past few comments) Alan4discussion  I would not call myself a creationist (a skeptical theist or agnostic or probably be a good term) but even i wont deny that they have a somewhat convincing amount of evidence. There’s proof that genetic Adam and eve from 6,000 years ago are possibly factual. There’s evidence that Moses/ Jews and the plagues in happened in Egypt, the red sea crossing happened and there’s evidence that the events at mount Sinai actually happened. There’s evidence of the events of Joseph happening in Egypt, There’s eyewitness accounts of Jesus that are outside of the bible, The tower of babel is 100% factual, we have possibly found Sodom and Gomorrah, We find fossilized clams worldwide, meaning everything was under water before.

    I know, i know, “SOURCES!” i would have linked them here but i guess the mods don’t allow links so, blame them instead of me. You can always use google. Anyways, i’m out!

  • Thanks for letting me know, and i’m sorry about the last comment being a bit of a rant. Ill go get the sources for everything else i mentioned above, and probably for what i mentioned in my previous comment that you removed ( assuming that’s alright) but i don’t have time for much past past though

  • Reckless Monkey says:

    A lot of dishonesty in the thread you linked to.  I genuinely wonder why they think this would be acceptable to their god?

    I have seen many posts by some of those people and they are genuinely deluded.  They actually believe what they write, and project their ignorance onto any educated people they encounter. (With endorsement from an omnipotent all-knowing god-delusion, their understanding MUST be “superior”!)

    They have acquired their Dunning-Kruger “expertise” by studying strawman evolution and pseudoscience  at AIG or JW websites or other creationist sources.

    It should serve as a warning about what creationists would like to do to schools!

    There should also be some red flags raised about what is marketed as “universities” in the USA.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ken_Ham#Reception

    Ham has been awarded honorary degrees by six Christian colleges: Temple Baptist College (1997),[55] Liberty University (2004),[56] Tennessee Temple University (2010),[57] Mid-Continent University (2012),[58] Bryan College (2017),[59] and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary (2018).


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  • Jon  #199

    There is a science channel on you tube that helped me realize that there was a 12% size difference in between human and chimp genomes,

    Not what the video says.  The paper I listed cites the 12% you state.  In addition if you watch what she is saying she is describing copies of genes (they are good at that) but if they are not turned on then you can have whole sections duplicated but not expressing.  So I suspect the scientists are looking at sections of the genome that actually code for proteins (make something happen).  And yes small gene sequences can change stuff dramatically so for example I believe its a change in one gene that makes our frontal cortex grow so much bigger than chimps (probably others required to modify birth canal in women, make the skull big enough too but there you have it small changes can make big outward difference).

    So you suggesting that the scientists are lying or mistaken when they claim 99% but without context this is a strawman.  Are the claiming 99% of base pairs, 99% or functioning genes?  What?  Without understanding the claim made you can’t criticize it.  I suggest you look at the paper Phil posted and go from there.

    https://www.nature.com/articles/nature04072.pdf

    It’s also interesting that the kids video you have linked to here actually supports the link to humans and our nearest common ancestor and evolution as a whole so what you are doing is again cherry picking.  The woman in this video is clarifying what they were using to measure commonalities in our genomes and still is not questioning evolution as a result.  So why are you?

     


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  • Jon #199

    Here is a source showing the human genome is 3 billion base pairs for each 23 chromosomes, so its roughly 6 billion in total. https://www.genome.gov/human-genome-project/results

    Here is a source claiming a chimps genome is 2.8 billion base pairs per each 24 chromosomes, so its 5.6 billion https://bit.ly/2YbmjYR

    okay just got out my calculator (5.6/6)*100 = 93.3333333 (I’m not great at maths so feel free to correct me if the difference is 12%) so where are you getting 12% from?  I think I know.

    So in summary you have given 3 sources your stated sources don’t add up to 12% anywhere but this is where you claim to get 12% from but if I google 12% difference in human and chimp genome I get a paper written by someone on a creationist website.

    Can you find me a source that claims the difference between chimp and human is 12% that is not from a creationist website?

     

     

  • Jon (202)

    Ill go get the sources for everything else i mentioned above, and probably for what i mentioned in my previous comment that you removed ( assuming that’s alright)

    We haven’t removed anything, Jon.

    There is a spam filter that automatically sets posts containing multiple links to one side pending moderator approval. Such posts are put in our “Pending” folder; the user who posted them (but no one else) will continue to see them on the page, together with a system message that the post is awaiting moderator approval.

    If you post again before the original comment has been approved, there is an increased chance that the spam filter will assume you are indeed spamming. If so, it puts those posts straight into our Spam folder. Such posts are then not visible to the user who posted them and there is no system message. However, we review any posts in “Pending” and “Spam” as soon as we are next online, and approve them if they are within the site rules.

    The system had put one of your comments into “Pending” and 2 others into “Spam”, and all three have since been cleared by moderators.


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  • Following on from my comment on covered up abuses by churches maintaining a PR image of “goodness”,  in comment 176 Alan4discussion,   there are now belated apologies for earlier rogue activities.

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-53102585

    In 2006, the Church voted to apologise to the descendants of victims of the slave trade.

    The plantation was run for the Church by professional planters, but its profits went to the missionary group.

    Slaves working on the estate were branded on their chests with the word “society”.

    And now, the Telegraph has reported that nearly 100 clergymen also benefitted individually from slavery.

    Ah!  Those “chartable missionaries” bringing Christian morality to the ungodly natives – and preaching “reputable behaviour” to their sinful flocks back home!! ☺


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  • I’m sorry about the comment concision, my bible rant comment disappeared for a while on my side so i thought the mods removed it. i guess it was just a glitch.


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  • Not a glitch. As we’ve tried to explain, it’s the way the system works. It’s important to understand that because in the same circumstances it will happen again.

    If it does, there’s no need to panic. It will be dealt with the next time we’re online.


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  • Reckless Monkey

    The source i linked is from the official human genome project, its about as official as someone can get. To help save on time, Lets assume we are 99.999% similar to chimps, that still doesn’t prove anything because we are 50-60% similar to bananas ( https://bit.ly/3etuaa9 ) we are possibly 60% similar to fruit flys ( https://go.nasa.gov/2YOywSt ) and 60% similar to tomatoes https://bit.ly/3fBIIVd

    I want this part separate because chickens only have 1 billion base pairs ( 2 billion in total ) while humans have 3-6 billion, so, take this however you want to, but 60% of the genes they do have, are similar to humans. Does anyone try to claim chickens, tomatoes, fruit flies and bananas must have evolved from the same common ancestor? No, for pretty oblivious reasons. Id also like to point out how that works against the idea of dino to bird evolution as well.

    Also, lets not jump ahead of our selves either, because there’s new studies saying we are apparently 97% similar to mice https://bit.ly/3egg77J did humans, mice and chimps split off from the same common ancestor? no! This is something that Richard would never dare mention, Before we start claiming stuff as evidence, we need to first make sure it actually counts as evidence.

  • jon says:

    Does anyone try to claim chickens, tomatoes, fruit flies and bananas must have evolved from the same common ancestor?

    YES!  All life on Earth evolved from a common ancestor which we call LUCA. Geneticists have found some of the original genes from that single celled common ancestor.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Last_universal_common_ancestor

    a 2016 study identified a set of 355 genes most likely to have been present in LUCA

    Of course we are talking about early life (NOT first life) billions of years ago.

    chickens, tomatoes, fruit flies and bananas

    did humans, mice and chimps split off from the same common ancestor?

    These are all from the Eukaryotic branch of the evolutionary tree.

    http://tolweb.org/Eukaryotes/3

    Even if you do not know the word ‘eukaryote’, you are already familiar with what they are, because you and nearly all other life forms that you experience with your unaided eyes are eukaryotes. The vast majority of eukaryotes that we knowingly interact with each day, mainly land plants and animals, are large – macroscopic – organisms, usually consisting of trillions of individual cells (Fig.1)

    Finding the common ancestors is a matter of how many thousands or millions of years we go back in history.

     I’d also like to point out how that works against the idea of dino to bird evolution as well.

    The evidence is that Theropod dinosaurs and birds have a common ancestor.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Origin_of_birds#Ostrom,_Deinonychus_and_the_dinosaur_renaissance

    In the 1980s, cladistic methodology was applied to dinosaur phylogeny for the first time by Jacques Gauthier and others, showing unequivocally that birds were a derived group of theropod dinosaurs.

    There are feathers on some dinosaurs shown in their fossils, as well as skeletal matching.  We have feathered dinosaurs flying all over modern Earth.

    Birds both were then , and are now, flying dinosaurs whose ancestors survived the KT extinction 65 million years ago.

  • 213
    Cairsley says:

    Alas! Jon has closed his RDF account. Was he just trying to make it seem that the findings of geneticists cannot be used as a basis for firm conclusions about life on Earth? Given his own muddled-minded use of information taken from genetics research reports, he may honestly have believed that himself. But I suspect, somewhat unkindly I admit, that his aim was to convince us enough of the unreliability of genetics findings as a basis for firm conclusions about biology in order then to argue that a creationist account of biology (based on the facile principle “God did it”) is at least as credible as the currently accepted theory of evolution! If that was the strategy he was trying on us, then I marvel at the lengths to which some religionists will go to justify, at least to themselves, their clinging to ancient, long-discredited beliefs that still comfort their infantile hearts.


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  • 214
    Michael 100 says:

    Cairsley # 213:  Well, I don’t know if our good friend Jon will continue to read our posts, but in the off-chance he does, I’ll offer the following thoughts of my own.  I suspect that he is a committed creationist rather than a curious student of evolution who was not here to begin an argument, as he stated early on.  The Christians must have passed some new dispensation which allows them to lie and misrepresent their true motives when talking to those who are not persuaded by their pseudo-intellectual ramblings. 

    Jon:  Regarding your question about our relationship to chickens, tomatoes, fruit flies, bananas, mice and “chimps,” if you haven’t done it already, you might want to take the time to read The Ancestors Tale by Richard Dawkins.  Here you will see the genetic connections between all living things – humans, other apes, “chickens, tomatoes, fruit flies and bananas.” We organic creatures, whether animal or plant, all have a common ancestor.  That fact is beyond dispute by reputable and credible scientists.  Of course, new information will continue to be discovered which further explains how the process of natural selection began and worked through the hundreds of thousands of millions of years, but the basic principles of Darwin’s scientific theory have been beyond dispute since the early decades of the 20th century.  Since then, those who dispute the scientific theory have demonstrated time and again that their disagreement with Darwinism is rooted in fundamentalist (in my opinion, fringe) religious thinking that has no scientific basis – which is why creationism may not be taught in public schools.  Educated religious people such as Rev. George Coyne, S.J., the former director of the Vatican Observatory, do not hesitate to acknowledge that evolution is the best scientific explanation of life on the planet earth.  Check out the YouTube videos of his conversation with Professor Dawkins.  If you want to learn about evolution, Professor Dawkins’ books on the subject are a wise place to begin because they are written in very readable and understandable way while at the same time being scientific and accurate.  And, this site is a good place to ask questions and receive knowledgeable answers.  But it seems to me you will be wasting your time if you think you have some argument that will convince us that Darwin was wrong and that the quest for understanding can end by reading a collection of writings which predate any scientific understanding.  The Judeo/Christian bible, whatever it may be, is not a science book.  And here is a news- flash – the debate over the validity of Darwinism is over … Darwin won, Darwin continues to win, and more than likely Darwin will always win “unto the ages of eternity.”


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  • Hello,

    I am in search for a discussion from a scientific perspective on the work of Sam Parnia on NDE and the work of Prof Ian Stevenson on the concept of rebirth. I have been searching for sometime but in most cases it is not very clear why some of these phenomena occur, though that some of these phenomena occur is something I have first hand experience. One good way of thinking initially was modelling the experience as a probabilistic phenomenon but since probability is a way of giving a mathematical structure to experience rather than a reasonable cause-effect basis as to why something as profound as these occur to several people, so it is interesting in its own right


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  • jon says:  #210

    The source i linked is from the official human genome project, its about as official as someone can get.

    I did not question the source I questioned where you got the 12% from.  I also have made no claims as to exactly what the difference is and in relation to what number of similar alleles?  Number of genes?  Number of functioning genes?  I have simply asked you to justify with citation your 12%.  I can find that figure on creationist websites I have not found that figure in the links you provided.  As I explained I’m not great at maths, perhaps I missed it please provide me with the source of your 12% and exactly what you mean by this and exactly how this calls into question the theory of evolution through natural selection.

    To help save on time, Lets assume we are 99.999% similar to chimps, that still doesn’t prove anything because we are 50-60% similar to bananas ( https://bit.ly/3etuaa9 ) we are possibly 60% similar to fruit flys ( https://go.nasa.gov/2YOywSt ) and 60% similar to tomatoes https://bit.ly/3fBIIVd

    And all of that is exactly what we would expect from natural selection.  The theory of evolution states that ALL LIVING THINGS HAVE A COMMON ANCESTOR thus we would expect those things closest (those we most recently separated from) to us to have the most genetic material in common.  We share many of the same chemical and cellular processes to insects, trees and bacteria so we would expect that say generating ATP in cells of all organisms that do this might have similar genes for doing so, hence the large amount of common genes or genes with similar coding.

    I want this part separate because chickens only have 1 billion base pairs ( 2 billion in total ) while humans have 3-6 billion, so, take this however you want to, but 60% of the genes they do have, are similar to humans. Does anyone try to claim chickens, tomatoes, fruit flies and bananas must have evolved from the same common ancestor? No, for pretty oblivious reasons.

    And here you show you ignorance of even the most basic fundamentals of the theory of evolution.  ALL LIFE SHARES A COMMON ANCESTOR!!!  ALL OF IT!  SO YES THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT IS CLAIMED!

    I’d also like to point out how that works against the idea of dino to bird evolution as well.

    No it doesn’tOn mouse genes.  Did you read the article?  https://bit.ly/3egg77J a) these findings are contested

    A version of the mouse genome is already available free of charge on the internet, assembled by researchers at publicly-funded institutes around the world. The Sanger Institute is one of the participating institutes and Hubbard claims that the Celera data is inferior.

     

    “We have fewer gaps, and overall our fragments are larger,” he says. He dismisses the Celera paper as little more than a puff for the company: “It’s a taster for what they are selling.”

    b) they suggest that the difference may be due to switching of genes

    c) this is an article in a magazine you should use sources in the peer review literature.  Did you not read my comments about the megafauna extinction?  There may be 10-20 different points of view on this and competing and conflicting data.  Magazines (even science ones) will often publish speculative work like this.  What you should be doing is looking for criticism of this in the literature.  for example if you look at the abstract from the paper itself you find this

    The mouse genome is about 10% smaller than the human genome,

    So clearly they are not talking about absolute parity here as 10% is bigger than 2.5% right?

    In fact the claims from Celera’s work have been heavily criticized

    https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn1999-rivals-dismiss-celeras-human-genome-draft/

    I personally am not qualified to understand half of what is in these papers but I suspect that the theory of evolution is probably quite safe.

    This is yet another example of cherry picking data and using it bolster your faith.  You are taking claims out of context and trying to shape them to call into question all of science on this issue.

    Let’s say that Celera’s method is in fact better than everyone elses and the difference is only 2.5% difference between humans and mice.  Well if they then went and remapped (using their technique – because that’s what this is about they are using a different method) the chimp genome and found that chimps were 99.999999999999999998% and similar for other species of apes then diminishing down to 2.5% for mice would you concede that evolution is absolutely true or would you be looking to cherry pick some other data set?

     

     

     

     

     

     

  • 217
    Cairsley says:

    Sumantam #215
    I have not heard of Sam Parnia or his work on near-death experiences, but I see that there is a Wikipedia article about him and his work, listed simply under his name, Sam Parnia. If you have any further thoughts on him and his work, feel free to tell us about them.

    Prof. Ian Stevenson I vaguely remember as a psychiatrist who studied cases of people who claimed to remember one or more of their previous lives. The general question he was then studying was the possibility of life after death and reincarnation. Now that he has died (in 2007), it would be apposite if he found a way to come back and tell us about it; but I know nothing about the queues souls may have to wait in before their turn comes up again for reincarnation, and of course, if he is reincarnate, he may not now be living in a society whose culture has enabled him to make any sense of any memories he may have of his previous life. Besides, the year of his death was only thirteen years ago; if he is well educated or in some other way well positioned in this subsequent life, it may yet take another twenty or more years for him to work out what his memories may mean and how to build a case to substantiate his understanding of them as memories of a former life. So we shall have to be patient about that. What can be said with some certainty concerning his work on reincarnation during the life we can all know that he lived is that it has been rendered scientifically worthless on account of methodological flaws, such as not countering parental influence on children being interviewed, working through translators whose impartiality remained in question, and failing to take measures against confirmation bias.

    On both questions, near-death experiences and reincarnation, all arguments so far presented in their favor fail on account of that pesky logical fallacy called petitio principii (Latin that literally means ‘asking for what one begins with’) and in English is usually known as begging the question. Until objective, publicly verifiable evidence is produced that one can be conscious independently of brain activity, the premise that consciousness is independent of the brain cannot be stated as true, and any argument based on that premise necessarily fails to justify, for example, interpreting near-death experiences as proof of consciousness independent of brain activity. Our knowledge of the workings of the brain is still too limited to permit us to draw such a conclusion from the cessation of certain identified and monitored brain activities. If I find, on dying, that I am still conscious, I shall be very surprised, because it is not at all what I have any real reason to expect; but I will do my best to make the most of it. All that we know about consciousness, however, indicates that it is generated by our brains and that it ceases with the cessation of the underlying brain activities.


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  • Last night I watched the DVD of Night Train to Lisbon (based on the novel by Pascal Mercier) and was forcefully struck by this speech given by one of the main characters. I’m sharing it here because it seems relevant to so much that has been discussed on this thread: the way fundamentalist religion actively obstructs true morality through its focus on personal virtue rather than on righting wrongs in the world; and now, the whole idea of life after death.

    The only context you need to know is that this part of the film is set in deeply Roman Catholic Portugal during the brutal dictatorship of António de Oliveira Salazar (fascism in all but name):

    I would not like to live in a world without cathedrals. I need their beauty and grandeur against the dirty colours of military uniforms. I love the powerful words of the Bible. I need the force of its poetry. I need it against the decay of language and the dictatorship of worthless slogans.

    But there is another world I do not wish to live in. A world in which independent thinking is disparaged, and the finest things we can experience denounced as sin. A world in which our love is demanded by tyrants, oppressors and assassins. And most absurdly, people are exhorted from the pulpit to forgive these creatures and even to love them. But it is for this reason we cannot just put the Bible aside. We have to throw it away completely, for it speaks only of a vain, holier-than-thou God. In his omnipresence the Lord, observing us day and night, he takes note of our acts and thoughts.

    But what is a man without secrets, without thoughts and wishes that he, and he alone, knows? Does the Lord our God not consider he is stealing our souls with this unbridled curiosity? A soul that should be immortal. But who would, in all seriousness, want to be immortal? How boring to know that what happens today, this month, this year, does not matter. Nothing will count. No one here knows what it will be like to live eternally. And it’s a blessing we never will. One thing I can assure you, it would be hell, this endless paradise of immortality. It is death, and only death, that gives each moment beauty and horror. Only through death is time a living thing. Why does the Lord not know this? Why does he threaten us with an endlessness that can only be unbearably desolate?

    I would not want to live in a world without cathedrals: the lustre of their windows, their cool stillness, their imperious silence. I need the holiness of words, the grandeur of great poetry, but just as much, I need the freedom to rebel against everything that is cruel in this world. For the one is nothing without the other, and no one may force me to choose.


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  • Cairsley  217

     

    Until objective, publicly verifiable evidence is produced that one can be conscious independently of brain activity, the premise that consciousness is independent of the brain cannot be stated as true,

    I can’t remember who said but the quote was something like you’re not dead until you are warm and dead.  I think it was originally in relation to hypothermia and how some drowning victims in icy lakes have been revived after 30 minutes under water with no brain damage.  Point being having your heart stop does not mean nothing is going on in the brain either as drowning or shortly after you start getting revived that might play to hallucination or hearing voices or even seeing things.

     


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  • 222
    Cairsley says:

    Reckless Monkey  #221

    Thanks for the fine example. The brain is the most securely protected organ in the body. Without it, an organism cannot interact with the world, because what it knows of the world is what the model that the brain makes of it out of the information received via the senses. In that sense, all our experiences are produced by the brain, and, when things go wrong, the brain can still be able to produce experiences (hallucinations) from all the information stored in it, even when its links with the outside world have been cut. In my previous comment, I had more in mind the cases where brain activity is claimed to have ceased and yet the patient is later revived and tells of what he or she saw or heard and so on. In such a case, it is necessary to be able to align the time of the patient’s experience and the time of the supposed absence of all brain activity, as well as establishing that there was indeed not the slightest activity going on in the brain at that time. And as your example indicates, the shutting-down of brain processes and interventions to reactivate the brain can certainly stimulate hallucinations in the patient, who is unable to know the precise objective time when he or she experienced those hallucinations and will naturally assign the experiences to the time of brain shutdown as a whole, rather fudging the precise facts that might contribute to establishing that consciousness occurs or can occur independently of the brain. But accounts of near-death experiences have long been fashionable at soirées, and there we should leave them, where they contribute to the hazy intermingling of the occasion.


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  • Cairsley says:

    In that sense, all our experiences are produced by the brain, and, when things go wrong, the brain can still be able to produce experiences (hallucinations) from all the information stored in it, even when its links with the outside world have been cut.

    I put links explaining these medical features on this other thread.

    https://www.richarddawkins.net/2013/02/near-death-experiences-can-they-prove-or-dis-prove-the-concept-of-afterlife/#comment-239493


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  • What we humans refer to as morality is simply the outcome of evolution. Wolves do not eat their young-contrary to belief. Moral is simply what we are. It is inescapable. As these big brained things, we will develop certain modes of applying justice in different tribes. Such as stoning woman to death for being raped. This is not an instinctual, genetic drive, yet the outcome of men’s ineptitude, and stupidity. His drive for control. And it is a terrorist’s mentality.


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