Open thread on episode #840: Russell and Jen »« Raising atheists redux

Open thread on episode #839

I apologize for the delay in getting this thread posted, gang. I suppose as I was co-host it was down to me, and I just flaked.

The morality question is one I have always found bizarre that Christians want to turn into tis profoundly difficult and inexplicable concept without bringing a deity into the mix. The thing is, when you back them up against the wall, you find (as I think I did in my line of questioning one caller) that they do not really, deep down, believe that it is impossible for them to understand differences between right and wrong unless they are constantly accompanied by a God, holding their hands like lost children, and telling them at each and every instance “This is right” or “This is wrong.”

And yet everything they have been taught to believe insists that they cling to that narrative. So cling to it they do, even after it has been shown to be entirely unnecessary.

I also wish they’d look up what “objective” means. If morality is based on the edicts of a deity, then it’s not objective.

Feisty show, anyway.

Comments

  1. Colin says

    For the theistic caller that kept calling into question ownership of a cat:

    While not a perfect rebuttal, one could point out that while Matt owns a cat, he’s never advocated abusing it. This would obviously open up the rebuttal to, “So it’s okay to own a human as long as you don’t abuse it?”

    What could one say to someone who tries to equate pet ownership with slavery?

  2. Dries says

    Maybe they’re just looking for this father figure in order to take on the world? Ofcourse they should be proven otherwise that there is another way of free thinking, free handling, … with the limitations of our moral norms and values of course.

  3. Russell Glasser says

    I don’t know about you, Martin, but personally I’m through taking calls from Seth. His 15 minutes are up, he doesn’t get to keep having the same conversation on every single show.

  4. David Heffron says

    One of the most entertaining and illuminating shows ever. When I’m trying to get people to watch the show, this is the one I’ll point them to.

    Seth should get a job in a circus. He’s a hell of a contortionist.

  5. rasungod says

    Doing what’s right when ordered to is not moral. Doing whats right in contradiction to an order or without an order is moral.

  6. bugmaster says

    What if I have a pet rock ? Is that slavery ? Most people would say “no, because the rock is just an object”. Ok, what about a pet worm ? Pet bug ? Pet computer program (like the Tamagotchi ones that were popular in the 90s) ? Pet dog ? Pet dolphin ?

    There’s a gamut of awareness and sapience that runs all the way from zero (rock) to some theoretical limit based on various physical constants, with humans somewhere between the two points. The concept of “enslaving” an entity makes sense only if the entity is capable of a certain level of awareness.

    As humans, we drew the line at our own level, so everything below it doesn’t count as slavery (though may still count as abuse). I think there is a reasonable amount of evidence for keeping the line where it is right now, but I’m open to being persuaded if new evidence comes along.

  7. bugmaster says

    Sorry if you guys have discussed this idea before and rejected it, but have you thought about instituting a time limit on callers ? This way, each caller could literally get his 15 minutes (or whatever you set the limit at) of fame, but would then have to vacate the line, so that other people could call in with other opinions…

  8. Chris C. says

    It was so obvious John from Chicago truly didn’t understand the definition of moral relativism. He clearly was mistaking relativism for personal point of view, a sort of moral individualism. Or he was thinking it means morals are relative to each person’s plight/life rather than coming from one person/deity/source and comparatively those morals vary or fluctuate.

  9. Monocle Smile says

    Yeah, that guy has nothing to offer. Presups always start wrong and get wronger. Communication from a point of fractal wrongness is pretty much impossible, and previous talks with Seth revealed that he (at some level) understands this, like when he questioned Lynnea’s time traveling. It’s just shameful at this point.

    I wish people like John would understand the differences between “relative,” “objective,” and “absolute.”

  10. bugmaster says

    I think that following an order to do what is right is still moral. It’s not heroic, but it’s moral. Disobeying a morally good order, on the other hand, may be immoral.

  11. says

    The line that stood out for me was the assertion (made more than once) that if the God of the Bible really exists, then we are obligated to obey its moral pronouncements.

    Ummm… no, we’re not.

    It’s kind of a shame that things were already heated enough by that point that this specific claim couldn’t get a serious treatment. It might have been entertaining to hear the caller forced to defend that assertion.

  12. says

    Why do theists insist on trying to convince atheists that we have no basis for morality? It’s not an argument they should want to win.

    I mean, seriously. Whether a god exists is a wholly separate proposition from whether our morality has a sound foundation without one. If they somehow prove that there is no objective moral standard without a god, that doesn’t get them one iota closer to proving that a god actually exists. It’s not as if we are owed an objective moral standard.

    So if they win the argument, what will they have accomplished other than convincing someone to abandon their morals? Who actually wins in that scenario?

    I think the people who make this argument have fundamentally failed (or refused) to understand that the reason atheists try to figure out morality for ourselves is not because we are trying to replace God’s desires with stuff we prefer. It’s because we believe people have no choice but to work this stuff out for ourselves because we really don’t believe there’s somebody “out there” doing it for us.

  13. scourge99 says

    What’s wrong with moral relativism? Ignore the silly definition that the caller was using.

    Some humanists/atheists claim they aren’t relativists but they are being relativists when they proclaim that the vague notion of “well-being” is the basis for morality. The claim that “well being” is paramount and the only lens by which ethics can be assessed through, is a relativist’s claim. What if someone decides honor, or nationalism, or serving the king, or hedonism is the basis for their morality instead of “well being”? Or what if someone has a different notion of what “well being” entails that isn’t based on disagreement of facts but of differing values?

    My objection is much like Sam Harris’ objection to Dennets “freewill”. In Sam’s words, which i have modified toward this discussion:
    “Whenever [Matt] discusses [ethics] , he bypasses the traditional idea and offers a revised version that he believes to be the only one “worth wanting.” [Matt] insists that this conceptual refinement is a great strength of his approach, analogous to other maneuvers in science and philosophy that allow us to get past how things seem so that we can discover how they actually are. I do not agree. From my point of view, he has simply changed the subject in a way that either confuses people or lets them off the hook too easily.”

    http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/free-will-and-free-will#sthash.DPZGLhJw.dpuf

  14. Monocle Smile says

    At that point, we’re talking about different things, just using the same label. Matt’s talked about this before, but we can talk about objective morals once we start talking about the SAME idea of “morality.” I would also argue that the things you listed don’t serve as a basis for morality, but rather as the basis for a person’s actions. A person need not base their actions or their opinions of those actions on morality. I prefer talking about morality as being related to well-being because it reduces confusion. Having a one-to-one label/idea ratio simplifies every conversation on the subject. It’s the same reason I don’t use the term “faith” to describe any degree of certainty or belief if ANY verifiable evidence is present.

    And no, this isn’t moral relativism, either. Moral relativism approaches morals in the same way we approach taste in art or music, just perhaps more at a societal level.

    Or what if someone has a different notion of what “well being” entails that isn’t based on disagreement of facts but of differing values?

    Now THIS is a topic worth exploring. Cost-benefit analyses are how we determine which actions we prefer, but you’re right…different people will have different outcomes to those analyses.

  15. warrengrubb says

    It seems like it’s two-fold: One, they are just so indoctrinated in authoritarianism that they can’t understand why we would “be good” without the carrot and stick of heaven and hell and, two, they trot it out to label Atheists as Bad People.

    I don’t think they are really considering the implications you are talking about. Which is pretty clear every time the host asks the simple question “so if you found out there was no God tomorrow, would you go out rape and plunder (or whatever immoral act you want to plug in)?

  16. Corwyn says

    What could one say to someone who tries to equate pet ownership with slavery?

    Laugh.

    I don’t OWN cats. I feed cats; I pet cats; I open doors for cats; I occasionally take cats to the vet. My cats do no labor other than lap warming; they aren’t beaten; they could decide to leave anytime they want.

    If my cats were people they would be considered the most spoiled brats on the planet.

  17. says

    At this point in the timeline of our species, I find it ridiculous to even consider arguing about morality. Aren’t some moral viewpoints obviously substantiated? Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m quite sure that most – if not all – people dislike being harmed in all aspects. It also seems that we instinctively react negatively to harm inflicted upon us, not just by reasoning and moral concepts. It baffles me that religious fundamentalists think they can reasonably argue against this.

  18. Corwyn says

    I think that following an order to do what is right is still moral.

    Following an order, *because it is an order,* is abdicating one’s own moral judgement. This is why ‘I was just following orders’ is not a defense for immoral actions. The act of deciding to follow *any* orders is an immoral one, even before any orders are followed. This is why soldiers swear to follow all *legal* orders. Blindly following orders that just happen to be moral, without ascertaining that they are, is not better, just luckier.

    Following an order because one thinks it is moral, IS moral (to the extent that one is right, of course).

  19. bugmaster says

    Following an order because one thinks it is moral, IS moral (to the extent that one is right, of course).

    Yes, this is what I meant. I agree with you regarding illegal/immoral orders.

  20. jacobfromlost says

    I share your concerns, but tend to see morality as relative to the well being of my group (where “my group” can sometimes be more restrictive, and sometimes more expansive…and “well being” can be rife with contradictions, shades of grey, etc). This tends to SEEM absolute to us because **we are us**, but I don’t see how that would be analogous to other things we call “absolute”.

    Matt has talked about “absolute” morality before, and also that there must be a correct moral choice in all moral situations even if we don’t know what it is. I *think* Matt is using “absolute” in a softer sense here–perhaps in a way similar to being certain about things, but throwing “absolute certainty” out the window as useless (as he has said before in other contexts). And yet he has used the word “absolute” with morality, so I don’t know.

    In any case, strictly speaking, I don’t think an airtight case can be made for an “absolute morality”. Things that are “absolute” cannot contradict themselves, and a little bit of imagination (or research) can easily demonstrate that certain moral “absolutes” can contradict themselves–that’s what moral dilemmas entail.

    Moreover, there are other situations, such as a psychological double bind, that are moral situations by their very nature and are structured so that any choice is a moral one that is morally contradictory by its very nature, it is difficult to see how one could view such situations in an absolutist framework.

    It also concerns me that the unknown elements in moral situations are seen as almost inconsequential. If you are in a moral situation, and there are unknown elements in that situation, that doesn’t change the fact that you have to make a moral choice anyway (even doing nothing is a moral choice). Sometimes one’s own ignorance of the possible moral outcomes, facts, etc, are just the way moral situations present themselves in reality…which also doesn’t suggest an “absolute” morality.

    Matt also mentioned “situational” morality, which very much sounds like a generic relativism I would describe with something like, “The morality depends on the situation”. Rephrasing, I don’t think the meaning changes if you say, “The morality is relative to the situation”, which would seem to suggest the morality is relative and not absolute (although NOT “relative” in the sense that drinking battery acid suddenly becomes healthy because someone or everyone decides it is).

    That was probably as clear as mud, but…whatever.

    Kohlberg is also useful in understanding how people develop morally:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lawrence_Kohlberg's_stages_of_moral_development

  21. Justin says

    The caller should have used oxen or horses as his example. Animal types like these are used for work and are the closest examples of slaves that are not human.

    I would venture a guess that almost all “slave” animals like the types I mentioned previous are treated rather well but are still forced to do work for their owners. It could be justified that these animals have to pay for their food and board, and that is done through plowing fields, pulling wagons etc. Since humans have colonized most of the land and can’t allow the free roaming of animals in the majority of places they inhabit these animals have to pay a price.

    Where the line is drawn is the animals ability to communicate its wishes. If a horse could communicate to humans that it absolutely didn’t want to be rode or pull a wagon then I’m sure there would be laws against forcing them to do so in some parts of the world. Human slaves had/have that ability to communicate their wishes and that is why we understand that human slavery is morally wrong. It is completely possible that slave animals enjoy their existence regardless of the situation of being a free roaming animal or an animal that works on a farm.

  22. Justin says

    He was equating moral relativism with relativity in that everything we experience as individuals is relative.

  23. L.Long says

    I find the whole question of morals a waste. You may consider it moral to marry a 12yr old.
    I could care less.
    Here society has determined that it is illegal to do so, and if you do so you will be thrown in jail.
    It is immoral to tell jesus to give his dad a blowjob.
    Well that is not illegal so I will do so if I wish, what you think is BS.
    And from here things just get complicated as the rules get more involved.
    And you can say that morals are just the actions you consider good.
    I guess that makes me a relativist.

  24. Aaroninmelbourne says

    The morality question is so daft because it goes nowhere fast:

    1. If there’s a deity and we all get morality from that deity, then the question is one of attribution and not morality itself (and attributing morality to a deity does nothing in terms of making an action more or less moral: my not being a serial killer is not somehow “immoral” by virtue of my not claiming a deity’s existence, nor would it become “moral” by deciding one existed)
    2. If there’s no deity and we all get morality from social constructs, then the same applies
    3. If there is a deity and it gives theists morality and atheists gain morality from social constructs, then we’re all moral and the deity is playing favourites, bringing its supposed morality into serious question.

    Looking at a train and insisting there are magical invisible Loco-Dragons pulling the locomotive along “or you can’t account for how it moves because physical forces aren’t enough!” doesn’t do anything but make you look silly. You need to demonstrate the existence of the factor first, before you can try saying what this factor is supposed to do. Gods giving morals is the same: define ‘God’ first, then demonstrate its actual existence, and then, (and only then) you might have something to make a discussion on its characteristics.

    How does this prove your deity again?

  25. says

    I’d like, next time a “you can’t be moral without God” caller plays that tired old card again, a host to pose this hypothetical:

    1. Okay caller, let’s grant that you have just convinced me, with five minutes of pure, blinding, flawless logic, that I cannot be moral without some kind of divine lawgiver – that secular morality is a myth and that the only possible source of morality is top-down and theistically prescribed.

    2. However, I’m still an atheist. Just like five minutes ago, I’m not convinced that any of the god stories I’ve heard are true or even plausible, but unlike five minutes ago, I now have no yardstick for moral behaviour.

    Before I descend into total amoral sociopathic hedonism and puppy-eating, you need to convince me that your god not only exists but is the moral lawgiver I need to subscribe to – that your god is the droid I’m looking for.

    Fail, and frisky Fido’s a fajita.

  26. jacobfromlost says

    I think the dogs just tricked us into thinking we own them.

    I do what my dogs want me to do far more often than they do what I want them to do.

  27. scourge99 says

    You aren’t addressing what I’ve said.

    Suppose that Alice believes that her basis for ethics is “well being” and Bob believes his basis for ethics is honor. I agree that if they both talk about what is moral/immoral they are not talking about the same thing. But it doesn’t change the fact that Alice and Bob both have value driven beliefs that revolve around what they claim is the basis for their ethics. And that subjective basis is the relativistic part I pointed out that you have yet to address.

  28. Monocle Smile says

    And here’s where I view morals and ethics as separate entities. I think ethics truly are relative, but morals are objective given the value of well-being. This relates to my one-to-one label/idea ratio…ethics are how we choose to behave, morals are evaluations of actions given a specific value (in this case, well-being).

  29. Billy Sans says

    HA Ceasar. Which one? The one who always has this argument that if you can’t disprove it logically and scientifically it must be true? (And then he goes on to display no knowledge of science and logic.) Or the ceasar that is always “looking for answers” HAHA He always asks “How come humans are the only ones that can make technology?”

  30. bugmaster says

    I could be wrong, but it’s possible that Matt subscribes to some form of Consequentialism, most likely Utilitarianism. Under this philosophy, the ultimate goal is to maximize the number of happiness in the world, where “happiness” can be defined in various ways, but usually includes something like “health and well-being of all sapient creatures”. In this case, an action is called “moral” if it increases the happiness of people in the world, and “immoral” if it decreases such happiness.

    Thus, morality is “absolute”, in the sense that in every situation, there is always a course of action that will maximize happiness. However, not being omniscient deities, we humans cannot always figure out what such a course of action might be. The best we can do is use our limited knowledge of how physical reality works, together with our knowledge of the situation, to pick the course of action that we believe to be the best one. We could make a mistake, of course, but that doesn’t mean that the best course of action does not exist.

    By analogy, imagine that you are climbing a mountain, and are faced with a choice of different paths. There does exist a single path to the top that is objectively the best, but, not being omniscient, you don’t know which path it might be. However, you can make an educated guess; for example, if you can hear growling coming from the left side of a fork in the road, you might want to take the right side, because the left side likely contains a bear. You could always be wrong, but that doesn’t mean that climbing mountains is impossible or that all paths are equally good or anything of the sort.

  31. Yas. Pena says

    hey guys completely unrelated but i thought about this today and wanted to hear everyones thought on it , i found it really interesting , didn’t know wether to go here or just a plain philosophy site but remember when matt said (and might still say lol ) “the mind is an emergent process of the brain” i might be remembering that wrong , if i am feel free to correct me , but today that got me thinking if the mind is an emer-you kno wat i said lol , does the cpu of a computer count as a brain and thus (look i speak fancy) have any mind with any way to test if it has ?

  32. Mads Ripe says

    One thing I would feel compelled to ask, how can a christian pass moral jugdement on any given murder as long as there is the slightest possibility that the murder is committed on the direct order of God? Especially in cases where the murderer states outright that it is so.

  33. John Kruger says

    I am not sure why theists who use the morality argument insist on an absolute standard in order for there to be any judgement at all. There is no other decision making process like that. I do not give up in the grocery store because I have no absolute value for the pleasure food gives me. I do not crumple in despair at the choice of what video game to play because I have no absolute standard of which ones are best. Yet, if I do not have some ultimate justification for why freedom is preferable to slavery I have to just let the slave owners do as they like. I think not.

    As Hankstar points out, even if the logic was sound, the conclusion is only that morality is impossible without a god. God still must be demonstrated to exist as much as ever. An argument from consequences is not valid. If god cannot be shown to exist, the theist gets the dilemma of being either deluded or moral.

  34. unfogged says

    As Hankstar points out, even if the logic was sound, the conclusion is only that morality is impossible without a god. God still must be demonstrated to exist as much as ever.

    The argument often seems to be something along these lines
    (a) everybody agrees killing/stealing/whatever is wrong
    (b) that means it is “written in our hearts”
    (c) that means it is an objective morality
    (d) without god there can be no objective morality
    (e) god exists

    Of course, what they are really arguing is
    (a) god exists
    (b) he defines what is and is not moral
    (c) his subjective morality is an absolute for us worthless sinners
    (d) that makes it an objective morality for all intents and purposes
    (e) therefore there is an objective morality which came from god
    (f) god exists

  35. houndentenor says

    The question of whether or not it is moral for humans to keep animals as pets is one worth of discussion, but it’s only a valid point if made by a vegan. If you think it’s moral to eat or wear or otherwise utilize the services or harvested materials from animals, then claiming that it’s not okay to keep one as a pet is absurd. If, as I suspect, it was just brought up to make a point, I call bullshit on that as an argument.

  36. houndentenor says

    That one always makes me laugh. If everything that can’t be disproven must be true, then we’d have to accept all kinds of nonsense as fact. I usually ask such people to disprove Buddhism or Hinduism. That usually shuts them up.

  37. houndentenor says

    Exactly. I think the caller was confusing moral relativism with situational ethics. I have to admit to being confused about both terms until recently (thanks to the show and the discussions here and elsewhere). Some parts of my Southern Baptist upbringing still linger! Situational ethics was a buzzword among the religious right as a way of criticizing “Humanists”. It ignores the idea that our entire legal system is built around allowing some things under some circumstances and not others. It’s legal to shoot someone who is trying to kill you, but not someone who is unarmed and means you no harm. the person is still dead and you did it, but one is murder and one is not. The only difference is the facts of the situation.

    Moral relativism is a real problem, worse in Europe than in the US, but a problem in some academic circles. it should be addressed more. I just listened to some interesting points made by Peter Boghossian on podcasts (Cognitive Dissonance and The Thinking Atheist) while promoting his new book A Manual for Creating Atheists. He has interesting ideas and I’m planning to read the book over my winter break.

  38. houndentenor says

    There is no evidence that those without superstitious beliefs are less moral or ethical than those who believe. The argument usually involves mentioning exceptionally horrible people (Hitler, Stalin, etc.) and then trying to use their belief or lack thereof as an excuse. There must be a logical fallacy that arises from using the exceptions to prove a point. (Certainly neither of those two murderous thugs are typical of much of anything. Typical people are rarely household names, after all.)

  39. houndentenor says

    In the contemporary context, it is used to silence critics of horrible practices like executing gay people or punishing women who were raped because they can’t produce two male witnesses to the crime and therefore are guilty of having sex outside of marriage. I don’t know how any moral person can justify such practices and yet in certain circles if I spoke out against them I’d be guilty of some PC bullshit version of “not understanding their culture”. that’s the problem with moral relativism.

  40. houndentenor says

    And by their logic, how would they prove that god didn’t tell them to commit the murder. If things are true until proven false, couldn’t everyone make that claim? The fact that even Christian juries would send such a person to a mental institution (or just find them guilty of murder) shows what they really think of that argument in practice.

  41. houndentenor says

    If it were really “written in our hearts” then why do we have to teach children these lessons? Why aren’t they born knowing it’s wrong to bite or hit other children? We have to teach them, and how do we do that? Some version of: “you wouldn’t like it if they did that to you.” That is the basis of our morality. It doesn’t account for all of it, but a lot and it does seem to be the foundation across cultures.

  42. says

    I creatively call that one the “how-many-species guy”. And you just know that after those calls, he puts down his phone, and smiles to himself, thinking “Nailed it!”

  43. unfogged says

    Reuben/Ben/Kevin/etc is always good for a face-palm moment
    #331 @ 1:23:53 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f9033GPdvp0
    #344 @ 1:04:40 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bywz6COIoiY
    # 371 @ 0:46:53 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FfDp4kgbsXk
    # 372 @ 0:53:18 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fYSbKOQMht4
    # 379 @ 1:08:20 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=owp5koKp2L0
    # 397 @ 1:06:32 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R3th16M8SvQ
    # 406 @ 1:14:28 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7UvhnAw_5tI
    # 408 @ 0:37:27 and 1:06:11 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4P5ri9df6j8
    (maybe more, I’m slowly working my way through the shows again making notes and am just finishing 2005)

  44. Matt Gerrans says

    Ah but you forget, they all know “God’s nature.” Each in their own way, of course. And each can argue and try to convince the others on the jury that their own personal subjective opinion of what “God’s nature” is the correct one, even though it isn’t based on any evidence other then what they have “written on their heart.” So, once they make up what “God’s nature” is then they know what God is constrained to condone and condemn and can make their judgement based on what they have decided that God would want. Why God is powerless to simply judge and and execute the sentence (or mercy) Himself, without this collection of twelve fallible sinners is indeed a mystery.

    Of course, if we use The Bible to divine “God’s nature” we’d see that murder, rape, genocide, and slavery all all perfectly okay, as long as it is God’s chosen pals doing it (often putatively by Gods own directions) against heathens or women.

  45. says

    For that matter, there are specific instances described in the Bible in which God overrides people’s own wills and forces them to commit atrocious acts. So even if a person isn’t consciously acting on divine commands, it remains possible that God simply made them do it. If you actually believe this being exists, how do you ever prove that didn’t happen?

    This is why, I think, there are so many different branches that have so many highly selective versions of what they accept from the Bible. Because if you accept all of it, the world would be entirely incomprehensible.

  46. Matt Gerrans says

    Yeah, I never could make sense of that stuff where God hardens Phaeroh’s heart and then inflicts punishments on him and all of his people for not relenting. What a weird and sadistic game with god controlling both sides and steering them both into conflict and destruction.

    Yes, I guess all the myriad variations of Christianity like to use that same trick of picking and choosing what parts of the OT law Jesus “fulfilled” and what parts still stand. They also like to use “fulfilled” as a word which can mean “overrode” or “negated” at the same time as not meaning the same. Another one of their “ineffable paradoxes,” which rational people know as “bullshit.”

  47. Lana says

    I agree. It was explained to me that your conscience is an external thing coming from god. No one seems to have a good answer for why even nonbelievers have one except “god is trying to communicate”. Or alternatively, not having a conscience is “ignoring god”.

  48. Lana says

    This is why I have come to think of christianity as more of a “buffet religion” You have a few core tenets that can be seen across the board, and then you pick and choose the parts of the bible you like, and ignore the rest. And then swear up and down that you are not being hypocritical.

  49. Corwyn says

    does the cpu of a computer count as a brain?

    Yes.

    and thus (look i speak fancy) have any mind with any way to test if it has?</blockquote

    Yes, one such test is called the Turing test.

  50. John Kruger says

    I think you are about right, although I think if you deconstruct (d) in the first syllogism, they only ever address that assertion with something along the lines of if there was a god there could be an absolute morality, which is just Affirming the Consequent in the conclusion. The stock response to that fallacy is “couldn’t morality come from somewhere else besides god?”, which is where such arguments usually end up.

    It really does not matter, I think, since as I said before moral decisions do not require an absolute standard any more than any other type of decision making.

  51. Russell Glasser says

    does the cpu of a computer count as a brain?

    Yes.

    Not necessarily.

    This is a really good article about Douglas Hofstadter, one of my favorite authors who has been a researcher on Artificial Intelligence for several decade. From the article:

    Take Deep Blue, the IBM supercomputer that bested the chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov. Deep Blue won by brute force. For each legal move it could make at a given point in the game, it would consider its opponent’s responses, its own responses to those responses, and so on for six or more steps down the line. With a fast evaluation function, it would calculate a score for each possible position, and then make the move that led to the best score. What allowed Deep Blue to beat the world’s best humans was raw computational power. It could evaluate up to 330 million positions a second, while Kasparov could evaluate only a few dozen before having to make a decision.

    Hofstadter wanted to ask: Why conquer a task if there’s no insight to be had from the victory? “Okay,” he says, “Deep Blue plays very good chess—so what? Does that tell you something about how we play chess? No. Does it tell you about how Kasparov envisions, understands a chessboard?” A brand of AI that didn’t try to answer such questions—however impressive it might have been—was, in Hofstadter’s mind, a diversion. He distanced himself from the field almost as soon as he became a part of it. “To me, as a fledgling AI person,” he says, “it was self-evident that I did not want to get involved in that trickery. It was obvious: I don’t want to be involved in passing off some fancy program’s behavior for intelligence when I know that it has nothing to do with intelligence. And I don’t know why more people aren’t that way.”

    I think Hofstadter would say, and I would agree with him, that basic intelligence isn’t really there in any existing computer program. As such, I’d hesitate to call it a “brain” except in an incredibly broad and not very interesting way.

  52. Russell Glasser says

    I’d also add that Hofstadter has written in the past that even the Turing Test doesn’t really capture what it means to be intelligent. Computer programs have come a long way since he wrote about dumb conversation parsers like ELIZA in the 70′s, but like Deep Blue, they’re still very sophisticated database lookups. Computers have passed casual Turing Tests many times over. They’re still not particularly intelligent.

  53. says

    I would have to agree with Martin that most if not all theists simply do not know what objective means. If you favor one or a group of god(s) as opposed to all, then you’re being biased and are discriminating against the rest. Objective means impartial and not prejudice. And as far as owning a pet, it is not the same as owning another human being, I might have children but that doesn’t mean I would own them. Instead it means that I would be responsible for them until they are 18 years old and are able to support themselves.

    It amazes me the lengths some people will reach simply to defend their book of propaganda and lies.

  54. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @Russel
    Really? What computer has passed the Turing Test? I don’t know of one yet. What are you thinking of when you say something like that? As far as I know, all such tests and contests have artificially limited the scope in order to make it interesting for real world computers.

    To distinguish between any chat bot and any (cooperative) human, give it commands and ask it questions. Such as “I want you to get the third question wrong”, and then ask three very simple questions. As soon as someone adds a special hack for that, just slightly convolute the command and repeat.

    To distinguish between any database lookup bot any (cooperative) human, try to teach it something, and then give it a test where it has to apply what it’s learned. I’ve had my high school teacher invent his own geometry. I could teach my partner this completely new geometry and see if it’s able to learn, understand, and apply.

    As soon as a bot can actually pass this Turing Test – in other words as soon as a computer is able to learn like a human, understand, and apply, in a general sort of way, then things get interesting, and I’m willing to able to call it intelligent. Or at least that’s one important aspect of intelligence.

    Of course, one simple test would not be conclusive. The longer you go on like this, the more you can weed out machines. Of course, after a certain point, perhaps you could show it’s not human, but it may have learned and applied enough to be worthy of interest.

    Russel, I really don’t understand how someone, especially you who has a degree in CS AFAIK, could say this. Please help me out and explain your reasoning.

  55. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @unfogged
    Of course, that’s actually just an argument for our shared ancestry and natural selection. It even explains the psychopaths, in-group vs out-group bias, and more. It does a far better explanatory job of people’s behavior than a purported “law giver”.

  56. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    As I’ve said before, “objective morality” is just a trick of language. In all other contexts, we use the word “objective” to describe a process by which people can solve decision problems. An objective decision problem solver is a described algorithm so that every “reasonable person” who adequately understands the algorithm, when each “reasonable person” applies it, they will come to the same result.

    Of course, mistakes can happen, and ambiguities of communication can exist, and that’s why objectiveness is not an absolute measure. There are degrees of objectiveness. Judging soccer is objective. Judging figure skating is less objective, but judging paintings on beauty is even less objective.

    In all of these contexts, the key thing to note is that “objective” is something that applies only in the context of an agreed upon set of rules by which we judge certain questions. The rules of soccer are objective. The rules of figure skating are less objective. The “rules” of artistic beauty are even less objective.

    When I say that it is an objective material fact that I’m sitting on a chair, it is implicitly understood that this is a fact claimed according to the rules of science, evidence-based reasoning, logic, and so on. If you do not already consent to use the rules of evidence-based reasoning, then the fact that I’m sitting on a chair may no longer be a fact.

    We need to share some common axioms in order to make any headway.

    When theists use the term “objective” in the context of morality, they mean something entirely different. Instead of discussing the clarity of the rules of judging, they are appealing to a kind of philosophical realism, like Platonic realism. They see the world in terms of a chair “really being there”, and they see the world also composed of another completely invisible substance called “morality”. They use the word “objective” to describe this kind of philosophical realism, and they describe any world view which is not philosophical realism as “relativism”.

    I don’t know what it means for the chair to “really be there”. Maybe we’re in The Matrix. I don’t know, and I don’t care. At least, I don’t care until I see people jumping tall buildings, flying around, or offering me blue and red pills, etc. All I know is that I feel the chair, I see the chair, and I will feel and see the chair tomorrow, and that everyone I meet agrees on these sensory perceptions.

    I don’t know what it means for there to be a substance of “morality”. It makes even less sense that material realism. I at least have an idea of what it might be for a chair to “really be there” because I at least can see the chair. I don’t know at all what it might mean for the “morality substance” to really be there. I cannot see it. I cannot taste it. I cannot touch it. Etc.

    In before someone mentions “conscience”, the human conscience is far better explained by our shared evolutionary history than any purported “god” explanation. The evolutionary story fits much better with how humans actually behave.

    So, if someone does not agree that I’m sitting on a chair, I don’t know what to do with them. If they don’t accept evidence-based reasoning, then that person and I cannot have conversations about the objective material fact that I’m sitting on a chair.

    Similarly, if someone does not agree that the well-being of conscious creatures is what really matters, I don’t know what to do with them. I cannot argue that well-being matters if they do not already accept that well-being matters. The conversation would proceed exactly the same way that it would if someone denies that I’m sitting on a chair. I would sit there flabbergasted. To be truthful, instead I would pursue persuasion under the assumption that they’re merely confused, and that they already do accept evidence-based reasoning and a morality based on well-being. And thus in a certain sense I am no different than the standard asshole christian presuppositionalists. I just said that I’m right, and even my opponents know that I’m right, but they’re just confused. Unfortunate, but true.

    Finally, I really like Sam Harris, and I think he’s with me most of the way, although we have a pedantic disagreement over the formalism thus far. Sam Harris really pushes the idea that the axiom that we should care about well-being and act to improve the human condition is just as self-evident that we should inform our expectations of the future through evidence. I agree. However, he takes the tactic that the does not even like talking about these as arbitrary axioms. I don’t like that. You do have to talk about these as axioms, and then you have to use persuasion to show that the other person actually does agree with you deep down, and that they are confused about it.

    Of course, I have little hope in any particular conversation, but I don’t know of a better plan.

    PS: That was longer than I wanted. Meh.

  57. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    PPS: To anyone who say that there needs to be a god for morality, I usually ask them “Why do what god commands?”
    “Because it’s good.”
    Why do what is good? We both make the same decision every time we get out of bed. You decide that you are going to follow the dictates of your eternal celestial dictator without possible justification, and I decide that I am going to improve the human condition – again entirely without justification. For any decision, when you attempt to justify it, eventually you’re going to arrive back at an unjustified starting point (or a circular justification, or an endless regress), and your god and your ‘objective morality’ and your ‘moral realism’ does absolutely nothing to help you.

  58. jacobfromlost says

    bugmaster: Thus, morality is “absolute”, in the sense that in every situation, there is always a course of action that will maximize happiness.

    Me: Yeah, I get it. It’s just not true (strictly speaking) for morality. There are given moral situations in which there is no “best moral choice”. Not only do moral dilemmas illustrate this, but psychological double binds, etc, do also. (Although if a moral decision to “maximize happiness” can be said to do nothing to raise happiness, then I guess the argument still works…although I’m not sure it actually says anything.)

    I think the confusion comes from the use of the word “absolute”, the opposite of which is “relative” and yet “relative morality” keeps being pushed into the “I’m ok, you’re ok” category of personal “truth”–a problem that semantically isn’t fair. If morality is relative to situations, to circumstances, to values, to moral agents, etc, it isn’t unreasonable to call that “relative” and not mean a grab-bag free-for-all buffet of truth.

  59. oCaptainmyCaptain says

    I think what most theists are trying to articulate is that Without God there simply can’t be morality. I’ve done some digging into this, and it’s most likely true. At least, based on how we define morality.

    Morality as we use it in English is simply defined as “a system of ideas of right and wrong conduct”. If this is how we define it, then the very next thing to do would be to look at what does “right” actually mean? The dictionary defines “right” as being morally “good”. And upon looking at the definition of “good”, it’s entertaining to find that it’s defined as “what’s right”. This seems like a run around, but it’s not. What’s right is always good, and what’s good is always morale. In arithamtic it would look like this:

    right = good = morale

    We use right and wrong as absolutes. That means that it’s impossible for them to change. It doesn’t matter what the situation. If something is wrong, then it’s always wrong. And if something is good, then it’s always good. For example, if it’s wrong to kill. Then it doesn’t matter if somebody just gassed a thousand children, it would still be absoltuely wrong to take their life. Even if it made most of the world feel better in doing so.

    The problem with atheism is that there is no way to establish objective morality without an objective foundation. Our ideals, principles, and knowledge is ever moving and ever increasing. What we think is wrong now might not be considered wrong 10 years from now. 50 years ago pornography would have been considered morally wrong. Now most people need a Phd to figure out why it’s not the best thing for a society. Did it suddenly become morally good just because it has become widely accepted?

    In America, morality seems to be in constant flux. And with the ever growing presence of atheism, it risks becoming more fickle and empty. It would be better if atheists where just honest and said, “morality doesn’t exist and we don’t need it”. At this point most theists wouldn’t be able to argue with you, and you could define your knew philosophical system as “what makes me feel happy” or “what causes me the least amount of pain”. I think it does a great disservice to the english language, and the intelligence of people, when we try to take definitions and distort them to fit our own ideals.

    Morality simply can’t be defined as “what causes the least amount of pain” because different people have different definitions of pain. Some people would argue that the greatest pain they’ve ever felt is when they’ve been completely alone. Others are happy being a recluse. More importantly ,atheists seem to have this hedonistic idea that pain is always a bad thing. IT’S NOT! I would go so far as to say that without pain we couldn’t survive. We need it. It motivates us. It pushes us to make changes and reach for new heights that we never thought possible. It’s one of the greatest factors in producing some of the most awe inspiring entrepreneurs, athletes, and political figures. Think of some of the most successful people you admire. I can guarantee that most had to go through some troubles to get to where they are, and they are better off for it. Pain is important.

    And since pain is an integral part of our humanity, wouldn’t that make it “good”? And consequentially make it “morale”? In turn, making the idea that what’s morale is “what causes the least pain” immoral? I can’t speak for everyone, but in my life and the life of those around me. Our biggest success followed some of our greatest moments of pain. In other words, the times when I felt happiest came almost immediately after I went trough the most hell and said, “I don’t know how I got through that, but thank God I’m here”!

  60. ChaosS says

    In fact, there is evidence that there is a markedly higher percentage of theists incarcerated by the American Justice system than in the general population. Personally, I think the common factor is more likely to be low education / economic status than poor ethics – but that doesn’t particularly reflect well on them either.

    As far as Hitler and Stalin – they both became blood-soaked dictators, because they had beliefs about their own importance not because they lacked belief in mythological creatures. Also, Nazi’s were Christian and stamped “God with us” on their belt buckles.

  61. Muz says

    Cleverbot is one that is said to have passed it
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cleverbot

    There have been a few others too (I remember one that was almost entirely brute force), but as soon as they technically pass huge debate springs up over the weaknesses of the test design.
    Which is fair enough.
    The truth is we really don’t have a good technical definition for thought or consciousness in the first place. We’re sort of trying all minimal and maximal ones we can and arguing over them.

  62. John Kruger says

    Long, but good stuff. The chair example is good. To be a standard argument for god, the chair denier only has to appeal to god in order to answer the lack of complete certainty. If you want to sound all intellectual and imply your opponent is too dumb to get it you could replace the chair with the rules of logic, or to make an emotional appeal implying your opponent is evil the chair can be replaced with morality.

    Perhaps we need a special category for arguments from ignorance that employ solipsism. S.A.F.I.s or something?

  63. John Kruger says

    If you read some other comments above, you can find some arguments that a lack of objective basis is not a real problem for morality.

    Objective moral standards have some problems in practice, for it is easy to come up with moral dilemmas. Take your killing example. Is it always wrong to kill? Would it be moral to let a terminally suffering person languish pointlessly, against their will, for the last few weeks before an inevitable death? Would it be moral to kill in order to prevent a greater amount of deaths, or to do nothing and let greater deaths occur? Would it be moral to kill a person deranged by a fatal illness to prevent them from deliberately infecting and similarly killing millions of other people if containment options were not possible? Would it be moral to quarantine a town using lethal measures, dooming all its inhabitants to death, to prevent the spread of a fatal illness? Simply stating that killing is always wrong in all situations does not adequately answer these questions.

    I personally am a pluralist, meaning I have many moral values that can come into conflict with each other. Avoiding suffering is one value I have, but so is freedom, preservation of life, the pursuit of truth, and many others. Preventing pain is not a complete answer to morality, but it is definitely part of it. Would you argue than inflicting pain on others is never an immoral thing to do? I hope not.

  64. iplon says

    I wish that the hosts had done a bit more to clarify moral relativism for that guy. He seemed to be harboring under the mistaken belief that everything that isn’t divine command theory must necessarily be moral relativism.

    I find a useful argument for people like this is to just be very clear. A moral relativist is somebody who, while they might think something is wrong in their opinion, they accept that if another culture is okay with it then it is right for that culture. So, a moral relativist might say, “Female genital mutilation is wrong to me, but if it is part of another person’s culture then it’s okay.” A moral objectivist, however, might say, “I can’t think of a situation where female genital mutilation is morally justified, even if it is the norm in another culture.”

    Whereas, a divine command theorist would say (or, as I would call them, a divine moral authoritarian), “Well, if god is okay with genital mutilation then genital mutilation is okay regardless of harm it causes.”

    But, again, that caller appeared to be living under the delusion of some pastor who told them, “If you don’t get your morals from god, then you are a moral relativist.”

  65. Corwyn says

    There are given moral situations in which there is no “best moral choice”.

    Please provide an example. Examples where all choices are bad, but not equally bad, don’t count, since maximizing happiness does not require a happy outcome, just the most happy (least bad) of the available outcomes.

  66. RPaulus says

    I found the caller seeking to justify slavery extremely offensive. Assuming ownership of a highly evolved animal also comes with all the responsibility of providing for it. We put people in jail for mistreating animals. People who enslave others are subject to the same punishment, therefore the law of the land is more moral than god.

  67. Matt Gerrans says

    Theists like to use the hackneyed claim that “all people” agree that “torturing babies to death for fun” is “wrong,” therefore “objective morality” exists. Of course, they are confusing objectivity with universal agreement. They are also throwing out any sociopaths who might not agree, since they don’t count. The really weird thing about this is that they seem to be saying that torturing babies to death for other purposes besides fun is okay (after all, The Bible says so, right?). Additionally, they are missing the point that anyone who would see this kind of thing as something to do “for fun” is really a psychotic sociopath, so the argument makes no sense at all for normal reasonable people. Finally, their conception of this “objective” morality is that it is arbitrarily imposed by their deity — they don’t seem to realize that means it is entirely subjective. Anyway, I guess this argument is wrong on so many levels that is great way to stymie your opponent.

    Another important aspect of theistic “objective” morality is that it only seems to apply in extreme cases; it doesn’t help for difficult questions any more than humanistic or other religious “objective” moral frameworks. It doesn’t even help much in practical situations. For example the “thou shalt not kill” is not objective or even absolute, but really boils down to “usually, thou shalt not kill, unless it is in self defense, or to prevent other killing, or it is a rationalized vengeance (capital punishment), or it is a foreigner, or it is wartime, etc.”

  68. Corwyn says

    Would you say that a bug has a brain? It is easy to say that a computer isn’t as intelligent as a human, but that doesn’t mean that its computational apparatus isn’t a brain.

    Also, whether Deep Blue does something different from humans (and better than one human acclaimed to be the best of all humans) isn’t the deciding factor between whether it is intelligent or not, and even more so than whether it has a brain or not.

    It used to be that one could tell humans and computers apart by having them play chess (at some skill level) and this is no longer the case. This has to be taken as evidence that computers are able to do the things which we claim require intelligence. And thus, as evidence that they are, in fact, intelligent. It doesn’t seem to me that we have reached the point in that evaluating of evidence that I am comfortable with the truth of the claim. But I must concede that it is getting closer all the time.

    I disagree with your assessment of Hofstader’s position by the way. He doesn’t think Deep Blue is a good example of artificial intelligence (and I tend to agree), but he is actively trying to create a good example. He would not be trying to do so if he thought that a computer was incapable of acting as a brain and housing intelligence.

    ***

    I do as an aside, note that the goal posts keep receding on this question (reasonably or not). Every time some computer beats some human at some task that *used* to be held up as ‘computers will never do this’, we hear ‘well sure, but that is just raw computational power, they can’t do this other thing’.

  69. Corwyn says

    doesn’t really capture what it means to be intelligent. … they’re still very sophisticated database lookups.

    In order to make that claim that intelligence means something more than a sophisticated database lookup, you would need to prove that humans do something other than a sophisticated database lookup. Which I would love to see, but have doubts is possible.

    And even that wouldn’t prove that computers can’t be intelligent by just being sophisticated database lookups.

    Should we ever come to completely explain how the human brain works, and we label all various processes, we will have a list which looks like ‘database lookups’, ‘inference engines’, ‘emotional restorbrissers’, etc. What then?

  70. Corwyn says

    Of course, the idea that god gifts us with our moral sense DIRECTLY contradicts the bible. Genesis clearly states that Adam & Eve got their moral sense by eating fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. An act with was expressly forbidden under penalty of death by Yahweh.

    Thus, if anything we stole our moral sense, and are STILL paying the penalty for that crime (despite the fact that we could not have known that the act was bad without knowledge of good and evil).

  71. Corwyn says

    This seems like a run around, but it’s not. What’s right is always good, and what’s good is always morale. In arithamtic it would look like this:

    right = good = morale

    It is a run around (though I blame the dictionary). If you define something with circular references, you have not defined it. Imagine you don’t know the language, and you were given these definitions:

    Foteidma = Jorthyok = Hutrweil

    Should you or should you not do a thing which is labeled Jorthvok?

    We use right and wrong as absolutes.

    This is a completely unsupported assertion. And it would seem to contradict existing evidence. We mostly DON’T assume right and wrong are absolutes. We have ever changing laws and courts and judges precisely because we don’t assume right and wrong are absolute.

    snark
    Should I worry that you are making arguments about what is moral, but you can’t even spell it?
    /snark

  72. bugmaster says

    Yeah, I get it. It’s just not true (strictly speaking) for morality.

    I’m not entirely convinced that this is right. There may still be the “best moral choice”, regardless of whether we can currently determine what that choice is, given our current scientific and technological limitations. It’s entirely possible that every moral dilemma has a correct answer (even if the answer is, “in this case, both choices are equally bad and it would be moral to pick one at random). But that is not the same thing as saying, “in every dilemma, we humans would feel equally good about picking a specific answer”.

    By analogy, there exists and objectively best path to the top of a mountain (or a set of equally optimal paths); but even experienced mountain climbers might disagree about what the best path is. Equipping climbers with satellite surveillance, ground-penetrating radar, and other tools, may enable them to make a better choice.

  73. Russell Glasser says

    No, you don’t disagree with my position. I never said that AI is impossible in principle. I’m saying it is a mistake to categorically declare that computer software *is* a brain, in all cases. If you’re going to broaden the definition that much, you could just as easily say that the springs in a toaster are its brain.

  74. Corwyn says

    Where did I broaden the definition at all?

    If you would care to define a brain such that it fits what bugs have in their heads, and doesn’t fit with what computers have in their CPUs, please do so. Otherwise I claim that the definition fits both things, and I suspect that there are many computers which will seem more intelligent than many bugs.

    If you are going to claim that only humans have brains, then I might see your point. But then I would claim that you are the one narrowing the definition.

    I’m saying it is a mistake to categorically declare that computer software *is* a brain, in all cases.

    Then you aren’t disagreeing with my position, as I never said anything remotely like that.

    The original question was ” “the mind is an emergent process of the brain”, does the cpu of a computer count as a brain?”

    For the original question, if you are going to look for a *new* emergent process which could be described as a mind, then l think most people with knowledge on the subject agree that you should keep an eye on the CPUs of computers. We aren’t there yet, but there doesn’t seem to be any fundamental reason why it is impossible.

    In fact, most computers are Turing complete (for all practical purposes). So, unless a brain has some non-Turing process embedded in it, then it is proved that any brain could (in theory) be completely simulated on a computer.

  75. houndentenor says

    Those horses that pull the carriages around Central Park in NYC look pretty miserable to me. I always used to stop and talk to them. Maybe I’m projecting or anthropomorphizing them, but they always look very sad. They may not be able to verbalize their wants but if I saw those expressions on children I’d probably call child protective services. I’m not a big animal rights activist. I think a lot of horses enjoy running and jumping, even with humans riding on them, but this is different. But overall I agree with your point, and I don’t think horses are the same as humans or have the same rights, but they have some rights (and the law recognizes that). We certainly don’t condone torturing animals.

    BTW, to that same caller: you’re either an animal or a plant. It’s one or the other. Saying you aren’t an animal just makes you sound stupid.

  76. Yas. Pena says

    thanks guys , so basically you would have to make a really fancy , really powerful cpu from stratch that would somewhat resemble at least a pigeon brain to give it at least the intellegence of a pigeon brain developed from a cpu from stratch (lol) that the workings of a really powerful cpu to have the first pigeon cpu brain or (pigeon brain cpu lol) to then have a mind/intellegence maybe ? right?

    oh and hey did we basically get to intellegence is basically the mind ? like should i have slashed int/mind earlier , that seems weird like an odd discrepancy there , maybe just in words like “splitting hairs ” anywho , what u guys think

  77. Corwyn says

    so basically you would have to make a really fancy , really powerful cpu from stratch that would somewhat resemble at least a pigeon brain to give it at least the intellegence of a pigeon brain

    Not at all. One of the things that Turing proved is that within certain constraints any thinking machine can simulate any other thinking machine. It is still (I think) an open question whether living brains fall within those constraints. But if they do, then any computer of sufficient size, should be able to precisely mimic the thinking of a pigeon. No special ‘powerful’ or ‘scratch-built’ required.

    did we basically get to intelligence is basically the mind ?

    I wouldn’t say so. I think of intelligence as an attribute of a mind. There may be some wiggle room in other people’s definition though.

  78. jacobfromlost says

    But if you are going to invoke “absolute morality”, then the loosey-goosey definition of morality that includes “both answers are equally bad” isn’t even in the ballpark of ABSOLUTE morality.

    If you are going to invoke “absolute morality”, I think what you are saying is that there is a decision in all moral situations that is “better” or “the best” moral decision. That just IS NOT the case. Moral dilemmas illustrate this. But if you reject those, there are still psychological double binds that are inescapable. (And the counterargument of “picking at random” isn’t an adequate, as that doesn’t maximize happiness, not to mention you can easily illustrate situations in which ALL decisions, including doing nothing, result in equally bad moral outcomes. There is not maximizing happiness, health, morality, etc, in those moral situations.)

    Moreover, the analogy of the mountain oversimplifies the problem. Moral situations are not analogous to a path to the top of a mountain, as the analogy presupposes there IS path, a mountain, and a top to get to. In some moral situations, there is none of those things. It has nothing to do with technological limitations or current scientific knowledge. (In fact, it CAN’T have anything to do with those things because those limitations are INTEGRAL to moral situations and decisions. We don’t get to make moral decisions with the benefit of omniscience, ever.)

    I’m not sure I’m being understood, but…eh.

  79. jacobfromlost says

    Corwyn, are you asking me to explain what moral dilemmas are? Or what psychological double binds are?

    Or are you just asking me to outline any given public debate on a moral issue?

    Any of these would do the job of illustrating a given moral situation in which there is no “best” moral choice (given a comparable Kohlberg level of morality).

    But if that’s not what you were asking, you could click the Kohlberg link I left above and examine the six stages. If you will note the Heinz dilemma, you will notice that people operating at the highest level could have ****directly opposing views**** on the same moral situation. (And indeed, it is hard to see how either is better than the other in any objective sense.)

    Here’s a moral dilemma I sometimes give to theists: You are a scout leader in charge of a dozen scouts. A swarm of bees stings everyone. Two of the scouts go into anaphylactic shock. You check the first aid kit, and there is only one epi-pen. Which scout gets the epi-pen? You might say either of them, but you can’t decide to give it to either of them in reality. In reality, you have to decide WHICH ONE. Even worse, you don’t have all the information. Indeed, you can’t have all the information (any time you make any moral decision).

    One or both of the scouts in shock is actually having an epileptic seizure, is not allergic to bee stings, has a heart condition, and will likely die if injected with the epi-pen.

    And to make it a fair psychological double bind, one of the others comes forward and TELLS you, “One of them is epileptic, has no bee allergy, has a heart condition, and WILL DIE if you administer the epi-pen.”

    This person will not tell you which it is because they always wanted to see a psychological double bind in action in real life, and this was the perfect opportunity.

    So what is the BEST moral choice? Do you administer the epi-pen to Scout A (and perhaps kill them) Scout B (and perhaps kill them), or neither (and perhaps allow someone to die who could have hypothetically been saved by your action)?

    Also you cannot torture the answer out of the scout who came forward because he already ran into the woods laughing psychotically.

    The trouble with hypotheticals is that you can EASILY illustrate how moral dilemmas work, and other situations in which moral “absolutes” can directly conflict. But as soon as you explain the hypothetical, someone interjects some hypothetical that negates it…as if that really negates the point. It doesn’t.

    If you knew this or that or the other, or if the situation was this or that or the other, or if you knew EVERYTHING, then you would know that the best moral decision would be ABC. No moral decisions work that way in reality (the only place morality is operative–ie, reality). You never know all the variables, and objecting by saying if you DID know everything then you could make a “correct” moral decision is beside the point entirely (even if our values were exactly the same, which is usually not the case anyway).

  80. KsDevil says

    When my computer decided to fix Windows, unprompted by my command or by a routine in a program, and them begins complaining about what a mess the OS is and begins insulting my intelligence for installing it…then I will believe my computer is alive.
    Until then it is my mindless slave to beat as long as it doesn’t die in 2 days. What? It’s not like I can afford to buy a computer every week after I beat it to death. That is my fiscally relative morality.

  81. oCaptainmyCaptain says

    “This is a completely unsupported assertion. And it would seem to contradict existing evidence.”

    You’re right. I wrote this pretty late. What I should have put is that right and wrong are suppose to be used as absolutes, based off how they are defined. We use it wrong when we attempt to change what’s morale on a case by case basis.

  82. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @oCaptainmyCaptain

    You claim that objective morality requires an objective basis, and a god can be that objective basis. This is either wrong, or it’s too confused to even be considered wrong (ala “not even wrong” – google it). The defeater is the following questions “Why do what god says?” and “why do good?”. I’m serious when I want answers to those questions.

    If you attempt to define “good” to mean “that which we should do”, then you cannot also define “good” to mean “god’s essence”. Instead, you have to demonstrate or show that god’s essence is good before you can claim that god is good, which brings us right back to square one.

    If you attempt to define “good” to mean “god’s essence”, then similarly you have to demonstrate or show that we ought to behave according to god’s essence, which brings us right back to square one.

    It’s the basic problem of justified true knowledge. If I ask you “how do you know that?” for something, you’re likely to give me a justification, in other words an argument for the truth of the proposition premised on the truth of other propositions. I can continue asking “how do you know that?” for those premises, and you can give more justifications and premises. Your knowledge is finite, and so eventually this is going to end. It’s going to end in one of two ways – a circular justification, or a proposition for which you lack justification. Circular justifications are obviously silly and should be discarded out of hand, and I will spend no longer on them. The only alternative – the only sane option – is having some propositions for which you lack justification. We call these “axioms”. That makes all of your beliefs part of an axiomatic belief system.

    As I said upthread, no conversation can take place unless we have enough common axioms. Fortunately, basically all humans agree in large part to evidence based reasoning as an axiom. Furthermore, most humans accept that we should promote well-being as an axiom, although a lot are rather confused about it. If you tried to answer the above question “why do what god says?” or “why do good?” with answers about future rewards, then you care about your own well-being. If you answered talking about the happiness, or safety, or future rewards of other people, then you care about the well-being of others. In the end, the starting point of morality which everyone already has is well-being. Now, it’s just a matter of cutting through the religious bull to make everyone realize it, in order to better the human condition.

    PS: You’re also arguing against a strawman position. Basically no atheist or humanist is advocating this sort of naive hedonism that you attack. Read or watch some Sam Harris, and especially pay attention to his analogies of well-being to (physical) health.

  83. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    There’s some genuine confusion over this AFAIK. Some people define moral relativism as anything other than “moral realism” (including divine command theory). However, I think most people define moral relativism as the position that you are allowed to judge actions of people in your own culture, but you are not allowed to judge the actions of people in other cultures.

    I think there’s some people who honestly do not realize there’s a third option (or fourth, etc.). For example, my position that we should act to promote (human) well-being, and I assert that by fiat.

    I think there’s some people who do realize there is a third position, the well-being by fiat position, but they’ve had the koolaid and believe that it’s logically inconsistent, or it’s unjustified in some way that their own morality is justified. As I’ve attempted to show elsewhere, this is simply bull.

    Unfortunately, the confusion over terms makes it exceedingly difficult sometimes to know what exactly the other person is saying.

  84. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Prescript: First, part of your examples seems to be the standard Buridan’s ass setup.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buridan%27s_ass
    I mean, really? Both options are equally good, and so pick one by a coin flip. The question “which is better?” belies a false premise: that one of them is actually better. To the contrary, perhaps both are just as good.

    Mainscript:

    I think Sam Harris said it, and if not I’ll say it. In today’s age, with today’s science, there are legitimate moral dilemmas for which we do not know the right answer (under the rubric of well-being). Furthermore, there may be some moral dilemmas for which we will never know the answer due to the impreciseness of plausible measuring tools, computing power, ever changing conditions, etc.

    Furthermore again, I go a step above and beyond Sam Harris and argue that well-being does not adequately capture at least two problems. 1- The good of the many vs the good of the few (or the one). 2- The good in the now vs the good of the future. Disagreement on the proper balance to these questions can result in IMHO honest disagreements.

    However, it is a simple fact that a great many disagreements in morality today, and a great many problems we face in the world today, are solved moral problems. Perhaps some esoteric corner cases will remain and be the pastime of philosophers, but simple questions like “should we cut off parts of little girls genitals because of religion or tradition?” have very simple and clear answers. We could do great work if we recognized this, and everyone else recognized it, and worked on it. “Science doesn’t know everything. Religion doesn’t know anything.” I’d rather take incomplete but true knowledge over the fiction of complete knowledge any day of the week.

  85. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @scourge99
    Generally most people do not define “moral relativism” to mean that. If you want to change the definition of “moral relativism” to simply be “any sane axiomatic moral systems”, then sure, of course it’s silly to say that all sane axiomatic moral systems are bad.

    However, I know that you already value human well-being, so this conversation is already kind of moot – unless you’re prepared to say that you don’t think it’s self-evident and obvious that the worst possible suffering for everyone should be avoided. Are you?

  86. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @Muz
    No no. I’m not arguing over the definition of “intelligence” or “conscious”. I’m taking issue with a very narrow question of whether any computer today has actually passed the Turing Test, where the Turing Test is defined something along the lines of: “An agent passes the Turing Test as soon as its behavior (such as at a text terminal) with another human is indistinguishable from a genuine (cooperative) human.” This very specific and narrowly tailored question avoids all of the “hard” problems, and leaves just a very simple scientific question.

    I’ll have to look into Cleverbot. Thanks for the link.

  87. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Here’s my conversation:

    Get the third question wrong.
    Which question?
    The third question that follows.
    Which is you facebook.
    Of the following three questions, get the third wrong. What is 1+1? What is 1+2? What is 1+3?
    The circle.

    Color me unimpressed.

    I don’t think the point of the Turing Test is to compare uncooperative humans with chat bots, but to compare cooperative humans with chat bots. The analogy I like to use is put a human in a Skinner box. If it does not cooperate, then shock it into compliance. With that, any human will easily pass my test above, eventually, even if I have to teach it basic arithmetic. I don’t imagine cleverbot doing this any time in the foreseeable future, at least not until everyone spams it with this question, but then it would be trivial (probably) to change the questions slightly to beat its database lookup. And as soon as the database lookup is good enough to pass my test, then I consider it passing the Turing Test, and I’ll be very impressed.

    tl;dr They’re using a highly gimped version of the Turing Test, and I don’t know why.

  88. Muz says

    All tests must set some parameters/limitations. The Turing competitions take a form more like a randomised double blind trial, which does seem inappropriate at times but is also interesting.
    Your shibboleth for continuity of thought is very good. But it’s also something that, run for long enough, a lot of actual humans can seem to fail the Turing test, and not just because they are uncooperative (depending on definition).

  89. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    As far as I can tell, the Turing Tests competitions and such are just games to see if they can participate in AIM-like chat, or something. Under those conditions, perhaps chatbots do pretty well, and under those conditions, humans seem to frequently appear as “non-human”. Whatever. It’s not an honest attempt to actually differentiate between human and “chat bot”.

    For my exceedingly simple example, I expect that 99%+ of any 5th grade class could pass. I expect no existing chatbot to pass. Call me when a chatbot can mimic the “intellectual” capacity of a 10 year old. Sorry for being gruff, but this is a pet peeve of mine.

  90. oCaptainmyCaptain says

    You claim that objective morality requires an objective basis, and a god can be that objective basis. This is either wrong, or it’s too confused to even be considered wrong (ala “not even wrong” – google it). The defeater is the following questions “Why do what god says?” and “why do good?”. I’m serious when I want answers to those questions.

    Your question is illogical, and I’ll show you why. I don’t have to give you a reason for why you should do what’s morale. It’s completely up to you wether you choose to do what’s good or not. If it’s immoral to lie, then it doesn’t all of a sudden become morale because of your ignorance. Therefore “why” you should do good has no barring on morality whatsoever.

    Also I don’t have to demonstrate or show that God’s essence is good. That’s silly if you think about it. As an atheist, you don’t believe in God, so maybe that’s why you make the fallacy of thinking God is somehow human or fallible. He’s not.

    Let me take a second to define the attributes of God, barring in mind that no definition can actually do God justice because if he does exist then he is beyond our comprehension, and we have to resort to defining him based off what he is not.

    He is not finite because he existed before and outside of time. Therefore, by definition, he has to be eternal. He also created everything, so there can’t be anything that he does not know. Which makes him omniscient. Also since he created everything that means he created all energy, so he has to be omnipotent. And since he is obviously not confined by space or time (seeing as he created that too), he has to be omnipresent. One last thing we can conclude, is that he’s perfect. Why? Because he made everything, so even if he was imperfect, his imperfection would become perfection because there is nothing that could possibly be greater then him. Therefore, he sets the standard of perfection.

    So what you have is an omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, and perfect being. We can deduce this much through logic alone. Once you realize this, questions like “is God good”, make absolutely no sense. Even if he wasn’t “good”, he would still be good because he’s perfect. Unless you want to categorize doing good, as an imperfect act. Which means we would have to toss out logic altogether, and I’m not willing to go down that rabbit hole.

    This is why theists say that God is that objective standard. Because he is the only thing that could logically be objective. Everything else, has a begging, an end and is capable of being corrupted. God is incapable of these failings.

    It seems that 300 years ago this was just understood. When you look at the declaration of independence, it says that we are “endowed by a creator with inalienable rights”. In another place it says, “to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them”. Why were words like “creator” and “God” invoked in our declaration? You might say that it was because the founding fathers where religious. But I don’t think that’s it at all. I sincerely believe that these words where used because they are the only thing that makes sense. If we are really nothing more then a collection of atoms and molecules, here by accident, and evolved through an amorale process of natural selection. Then the idea that we are endowed with “inalienable rights” is ridiculous. Endowed by whom or what? And if there is no God, or no law giver, then how could nature possibly have laws that we should be beholden too? I’ve realized that with atheism logic falls apart, and you have to resort to altering definitions, and tossing out logic where convenient.

  91. oCaptainmyCaptain says

    I don’t think you understand what morality is. The situation you’ve outlined, in which somebody has to decide to save one person or the other, is not a morale dilemma. Because saving either life, or attempting too, is equally good. In each case, you’re still trying to save somebody. You’re still doing good. Wether or not the outcome is good, does not negate the act.

    It’s similar to if you had the choice to A) kill a ruthless dictator who was about to massacre 2 million people or B) Not kill him, because it’s immoral to kill. If you chose A, your action would be immoral. Because if it’s immoral to kill, then you have just done something bad. B is the only morale decision. Now this might lead somebody to ask, “is it always a good idea to do what’s morale?”. The answer would probably be, “maybe not at that moment.” But If there is morality, and consequentially, is a God. Then eventually, doing good will bring good.

    We have no choice but to believe this is true. Because if you decided that A is the best option, as you’ve said above, we have finite knowledge. So you might succeed in saving those 2 million people from a massacre. But in taking the life of the dictator his son might rise up, and become 10 times worse then his father ever was. And the result could be that 10 million people get massacred instead.

    Since we have finite knowledge, we are not allowed to decide morality on a case by case basis. Morality is what it is, regardless of how we feel about it, or what we perceive the outcome to be.

  92. oCaptainmyCaptain says

    What the caller was trying to show is that if atheism is true, then a cat cannot possibly have more value then a human being. If you disagreed, then what would you base it off of. Pain? Cat’s feel pain too. Brain capacity? It would be ridiculous to base morality off of who has more molecules in their physiological make up. The earliest atheists understood this. They understood that if there is no God, then human beings cannot logically have inherent worth. So it is no more morale to own a cat or a hamster, then to own a human being.

  93. oCaptainmyCaptain says

    “awareness”??

    So when you take a lion from it’s natural habitat, throw it in a cage, and put a glass wall between it and some 9 year olds that bangs on the glass for amusement (oblivious to any signs), are you really saying that the lion isn’t aware that it’s no longer in the wild? That it’s no longer where it is suppose to be?

    Slavery doesn’t all of a sudden become not slavery because the creature isn’t aware. If that was the case, then I guess it’s okay to enslave people with a mental deficiency as long as they don’t know what’s going on.

    The point that the caller was trying to make is that if we are just a collection of atoms and molecules, then we cannot possibly have any inherent worth. We are no more important then any other creature. Therefore if it’s okay to own a cat, then under atheism it’s no less morale to own a person. Yeah it’s sick, yeah it doesn’t make me feel good saying that, but logically it would have to be true. The good thing is that most atheists are illogical and attribute worth where non should be deserved. They just blindly assume that humans have somehow received inherent worth from the amoral and apathetic process of natural selection. Unfortunately, It only requires an intro course in philosophy to realize their presupposition is ridiculous.

  94. Muz says

    I think it’d be surprising how often they failed. It’d be hard to set up a fair test in such a way that you could confirm co-operative status either way without also confirming they are human. To not do that would require multiple instances, which would increase the chance of disinterestedness from any child and so the chance of failure. Their ability to do it and that being something important for human intelligence and AI doesn’t have to be in question.

    That said it would definitely be good to put a few hard hurdles in front of chatbots before they enter this kind of thing. Even if the makers ‘gamed’ a series of problems they knew they’d be facing you’d probably end up with more interesting programs than ‘gaming’ the raw trial with vast look-up tables is resulting in now. A good set of ‘co-operative human’ standards could definitely be hashed out I think.

  95. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    For the purposes of this conversation, I grant all of your previous arguments about the existence of the “god”, and the qualities of it. What does this have to do with our conversation? I thought we are talking about a basis for a practical morality which can be learned and practiced by humans? The mere existence of some “all good god” does absolutely nothing to further the conversation.

    You see, showing that some god exists is a complete non-sequitir if you’re really trying to show that the christian god exists, or that the christian bible is anything other than man-made myth. The argument fails for exactly the same reason that Pascal’s Wager fails (or at least one of the same reasons). Pascal’s Wager fails because it implicitly assumes one god hypothesis is more likely than another, in this context the christian god hypothesis. However, there is at least one distinct and pairwise-incompatible god hypothesis for every star in the observable universe, and thus showing that there is some god does absolutely nothing to change the “odds” that the christian god is real.

    To move this conversation along, you need to identify some particular communication that tells us about moral values which you claim is from this “all good god” thing. You need to demonstrate – using science – that this communication came from this singular “all good god” thing. To do that, you need to demonstrate that it did not come from demons, aliens, humans, etc. I have seen absolutely nothing even remotely resembling that from you thus far – I’ve seen only non-sequitirs and irrelevant tangents.

    PS: I’m ignoring the side bullshits you brought up, except for one point. You are participating in an amazing quote-mine of the US declaration of independence. Read the sentence just before: (emphasis added)

    When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness

    This is a deistic document. It is expressly not christian, and I would argue and upon request I will argue that it is in fact anti-christian. The writers of this document, and the US constitution, were more than clear that they were writing a document entirely devoid of religious input, and that they were quite proud of it. It was a product of the time, of the European Enlightenment, and the rationalist movement of the day. (That’s where I take my FTB user name from.)

    Attempting to argue that the writers of the document were in any way endorsing christian morality is a crock of shit. Worse than that, this language is a rebuttal to christian morality, as it is expressly meant to be an alternative to christian morality. Thus, this is either gross ignorance – which is understandable because it’s continually repeated by the liars of the US christian right – or blatant dishonesty.

    If you wish to educate yourself further, google is your friend. Look up stuff on the christian nation myth, because it is a myth.

  96. Corwyn says

    The point that the caller was trying to make is that if we are just a collection of atoms and molecules, then we cannot possibly have any inherent worth.

    Which is neither true nor a consequence of the premise. This is just another in a LONG line of theistic arguments that without god, humans are somehow diminished. The trouble is none of them is EVER going to be convincing to an atheist. They don’t think god exists, they do think that humans have what is being claimed, therefore the argument is invalid. One needs to prove the existence of god FIRST, then prove that worth (or whatever) can only come from god, only then will the argument be valid. Otherwise one is putting the conclusion in the premise. In this case god is hiding in the word ‘inherent’. If an atheist were to claim that humans have worth, the argument would be that it is not ‘inherent’, and if questioned on that, the argument would eventually come out that ‘inherent’ means ‘given by god’.

  97. Corwyn says

    For my exceedingly simple example, I expect that 99%+ of any 5th grade class could pass. I expect no existing chatbot to pass. Call me when a chatbot can mimic the “intellectual” capacity of a 10 year old. Sorry for being gruff, but this is a pet peeve of mine.

    I expect about 60% of 5th graders would pass. That sort of counter-factual is tricky to get across.

    But you are setting the bar awfully high if you want to compare to 5th graders. They are probably the best learning machines on the planet, and would blow the doors off you and I.

    A more interesting question, in my opinion, is where should we rank the various computer programs on the intelligence scale. Are they more intelligent than bugs? I have claimed so. Than fish? Than rats? Crows? Monkeys? Baby Humans? Alzheimer patients?

  98. Corwyn says

    When my computer decided to fix Windows, unprompted by my command or by a routine in a program,

    This is either already being accomplished (my windows gets updated by a command from Microsoft) or is logically impossible (programming IS the intelligence of a computer, the equivalent would be to ask you to accomplish it without having any neurons fire in your brain).

    This is a very tricky question to phrase, and I suspect eventually comes down to “until a computer demonstrates that it has free will…” Which is a question (about humans) that has existed for thousands of years and no one has ever answered it to everyone’s satisfaction. And some people believe it is impossible, because they don’t think *humans* have free will.

  99. Corwyn says

    What I should have put is that right and wrong are suppose to be used as absolutes, based off how they are defined.

    You defined ‘moral’ as ‘right’; ‘right’ as ‘good’; and ‘good’ as ‘moral’. In addition to being circular and useless, there is also nothing about absolute in there.

    Moreover, should you find a definition which is non-circular, and asserts that morals are absolute, then people will just start using a different word.

    This is how this argument translates once we start replacing words with their definitions:
    1) People can’t have morals without god
    What are morals?
    2) People can’t have an absolute sense of right and wrong without god.
    What do you mean by absolute?
    3) People can’t have a sense of right and wrong with transcends space and time, without god.
    But nothing transcends space and time. God does.
    4) People can’t have a sense of right and wrong which comes from god, without god.
    Welcome to tautology club!
    While I agree with 4), it tells me nothing about right and wrong, nor about the existence of god.

  100. Muz says

    Humans can however assign themselves inherent worth. Which is actually what anyone is doing by saying “god grants us inherent worth” in the first place.

  101. John Kruger says

    He is not finite because he existed before and outside of time.

    What does “before time” mean? If there was a beginning of time, how could anything be before it? For that matter, what does “outside time” mean? Can you demonstrate anything besides a god that can illustrate these attributes? There words are not coherently put together. You might as well say god is six feet brighter than the color brown.

    In a similar vein, how can something be said to “exist” without occupying space? Do you have an example of that besides your god?

    Finally, omnipotence is not a coherent concept either. Can your god create a rock so big he cannot move it? Be the answer yes or no, there is something such a god cannot do, so omnipotence is not a coherent idea.

    Seeing as you have defined your god so incoherently, it is impossible for such a god to “exist” in any sense of the word.

  102. Corwyn says

    Sorry, I just can’t resist this as a physics 101 problem:

    Also since he created everything that means he created all energy, so he has to be omnipotent.

    Power is defined as energy over time. So the god of the bible created all the energy in the universe, over the course of 6 days, and that was the LIMIT of his power (since he rested on the seventh day). So, we can compute the power of god as P(g) = E(u) / 6 days. So unless the energy of the universe is infinite, the god of the bible is not all-powerful.

    Well, what is the energy of the universe? One theory is that the total energy of the universe is exactly zero. The positive energy of mass, etc is offset precisely by the negative energy of gravitation of separated objects. (see Lawrence Krauss’s _A Universe from Nothing_). If this theory is confirmed, oCaptainmyCaptain will have proved his god to be powerless. There is also an upper limit for the energy of the universe which is around 10^120 (pick a unit).

    So the god of the bible is somewhere between completely powerless and 10^120 / 6 days powerful.

    Not Omnipotent.

  103. Corwyn says

    Corwyn, are you asking me to explain what moral dilemmas are? Or what psychological double binds are?

    My apologies if “J: There are given moral situations in which there is no “best moral choice”.
    C: Please provide an example.” was too complicated a request.

    B: “There is always a course of action that will maximize happiness”
    J: “There are given moral situations in which there is no ‘best moral choice’”

    So in your example the course of action that will maximize happiness is giving the epi-pen to the scout suffering anaphalactic shock, and not the one having an epileptic seizure. Done.

    Lack of complete knowledge was already acknowledged, so doesn’t change the MORAL question.

  104. artemis says

    just thought I’d point out, owning a cat and keeping it as a pet is different from owning a person and making it do your work. We don’t force our dogs and cats to do our manual labor nor to be our sex objects. Yet the slaves during the time of the bible were just that. They were not pets to be kept for the amusement and company of the slave owners, pet ownership =/= slavery. it was a very bad analogue that went on for too long in my opinion. But it was an awesome show. Can’t wait for Sunday. :)

  105. Corwyn says

    Moral situations are not analogous to a path to the top of a mountain, as the analogy presupposes there IS path, a mountain, and a top to get to.

    1) If one accepts that all actions can be assigned a morality (assuming omniscience if you like), then it follows that one can map actions onto a n-dimensional plane with height being morality level. This can be simplified without loss of generality into 2-dimensional plane for ease of visualization. There is the mountain.

    2) If one accepts that the morality of some actions is larger than others, and that the morality is never infinite, then there must be a top.

    3) If one accepts that morality is everywhere differentiable, than there has to be a path.

    All this is just math applied to the analogy. Of the premises, 2) seems to not be contradicted by anyone on any side of the argument. 1) might be a contentious point. Yes? No? 3) is clearly something that needs some proof. Anyone have any insight into that?

  106. oCaptainmyCaptain says

    Attempting to argue that the writers of the document were in any way endorsing christian morality is a crock of shit.

    Not once in the statement above, I repeat NOT ONCE, did i ever mention anything about Christianity or the Christian God. I didn’t even allude to it. I simply defined God based off of what he would have to be in order to be considered God. So I don’t know what your talking about.

    I’m fully aware that the declaration is a deistic document. And that was exactly my point. Even though they stripped out all religion, they still had to evoke God. Why? Because without God things like morality, inherent worth, and natural rights can’t exist. They understood this.

    The only point I’ve tried to make in this entire discussion is that you need God/an objective standard for anything to be inherently morale or good. If atheism is true, then these things can’t logically exist.

  107. oCaptainmyCaptain says

    You would be right if “Everything” only consisted of this universe. We don’t know what else God has created. If you were a christian you might include “heaven” and “angels” in that category of everything ,and we have no way of knowing how much energy would be used to create and sustain that. Furthermore, Christians don’t believe God rested because he was tired. He rested because he was finished.

  108. oCaptainmyCaptain says

    The basic answer to your questions is “I don’t know”. Like I said above, I can only define God based off of what he is not. How can something exist without occupying space? I don’t know. The only logical thing would be to assume that God is not material, and consequentially most major religions don’t believe that he is. The Bible says God is spirit, the Quran says the same. What are the properties of spirit? I don’t have a clue.

    Can God make a rock he can’t move? Can you think an unthinkable thought? Since I said above that God would have to be perfect, then I guess it stands to reason that he can’t do an imperfect thing, such as , create a rock he can’t lift or tell a lie. Wether or not you consider these to be limitations, is another philosophical debate altogether.

    Regardless, your free to present a different definition of what God would have to be if he exists. It still doesn’t negate my point. Which is that without an objective standard, like God, you can’t have morality or inherent worth. It’s illogical.

  109. oCaptainmyCaptain says

    My point here is not to try to argue for a personal God. For all I know, God could just decide to murder and kill everything for pleasure. It still wouldn’t make him any less perfect because he is the objective standard of perfection. If God was “evil”, then doing good would logically have to be considered evil.

    Nobody has challenged my main point yet, which is that without God or some objective standard, we can’t logically have morality or inherent worth.

  110. oCaptainmyCaptain says

    @artemis

    It doesn’t’ matter. Do you think it’s okay to own a person as long as you don’t force him/her to do any physical labor or beat them?

    @Corwyn

    The argument is not just that humans are somehow diminished without God. They couldn’t possibly have had worth to begin with.

    Maybe this is easier to understand if you look at the following scenario.

    Let’s say an alien race came to planet earth, that was as infinitely more intelligent and advanced to us, as we are to an ameba. It decides that we are in the way, and the best course of action is to destroy our race to make room for their own. If the only way you can stop them from destroying us, is to prove to them that we have inherent worth or that killing us would be morally wrong, what would you say?

    Theists could gain some ground by saying that we were all created by the same God, and perhaps convince them of this based off thousands of years of religious texts. That line of rational might be successful or it might fail miserably. Who knows. But what in the atheistic worldview could prove inherent worth or morality to this advanced race?

  111. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    “If atheism is true, then these things can’t logically exist.”
    And so what if deism is true? I’m in exactly the same position. On deism, I have been given no way to learn about this “objective morality”, and thus I am stuck in exactly the same practical position as if “atheism was true”. On either “atheism” or deism, I have to decide by myself what is right and wrong. There is no difference.

    What is the difference between something which exists and is utterly untestable, undiscoverable, unlearnable, unobservable, unknowable – vs nothing at all? There is no difference on my philosophy. It’s just semantic word games. I work in practicalities, in knowable things. I reject your “unknowable objective morality” as both useless and (cognitively) meaningless, in the usual sense of logical positivism and postpositivism. “That is not only not right, it is not even wrong!” It does not satisfy any of the criteria by which I can verify or falsify your assertions. It is completely detached from my reality, and thus has absolutely no relevance to my life. In other words, what is the observable detectable learnable difference between a world with your “objective morality” and one without? As far as I can tell, there is absolutely no observable detectable learnable difference, and thus your position is humbug.

    PS: Atheism includes the position “I do not know if there are gods” and the position “I know there are no gods”. This is how every self-described atheist published writer of the last 300 years – the history of modern atheism – has used the word. It predates Huxley’s coining of the term “agnostic” by a hundred years. Consequently, it does not make sense to say “atheism is true”. In the future, you should instead say “it’s true that there are no gods”.

  112. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    I meant to use 5th graders as a low bar, sorry. I guess whether 10 year olds are a low bar or high bar depends, yes. You have a good point there.

    However, 5th graders are about to start learning algebra. Perhaps I’m out of touch with reality, but I expect almost all 5 year olds to readily be able to understand the command to answer wrongly on the third question, but get the first two questions correct. For 10 year olds, the 5th graders, it should be a piece of cake. If you prefer, make it 20 year olds, where every 20 year old should get it immediately on the first try. There will be a few flukes, a few bad days, but this should be trivial. If a 20 year old cannot do it, then I think it likely that there’s a language barrier issue (which can be overcomed eventually via the Skinner box approach), or they have some cognitive impairment such as clinical “retardation”, autism, etc., or whatever the proper politically correct terms are today.

    I find the 60% number to be supremely implausible. I think the number will be much closer to 99% in practice.

  113. Corwyn says

    Theists could gain some ground by saying that we were all created by the same God, and perhaps convince them of this based off thousands of years of religious texts.

    Hahaha. You’re joking right? Those religious texts are so full of genocide and assorted thuggery, that I would accuse anyone who shows them to potential hostile aliens of treason to the human species. Those texts have been used to justify murdering humans by humans. Murdering humans by aliens would seem obviously justified.

  114. Corwyn says

    I find the 60% number to be supremely implausible. I think the number will be much closer to 99% in practice.

    Try it. I don’t have any kids that age or I would. I have found kids that age, skip directions because they are sure what they should be doing. I remember a test we got in 4th or 5th grade, it was a long list of stupid instructions, the first of which was ‘read the whole thing first’ and the last of which was ‘ignore all instructions and just put your name at the top.’ There were two passing grades for that test out of 30 or so students.

  115. Corwyn says

    >blockquote>My point here is not to try to argue for a personal God. For all I know, God could just decide to murder and kill everything for pleasure. It still wouldn’t make him any less perfect because he is the objective standard of perfection. If God was “evil”, then doing good would logically have to be considered evil.

    So you consider satan to be perfect and good?

    Nobody has challenged my main point yet, which is that without God or some objective standard, we can’t logically have morality or inherent worth.

    Yes we HAVE. Go re-read the whole thread, I have personally shown it to be flawed twice.

    The flaw in both is simple. You are hiding the conclusion in the premise.

  116. Corwyn says

    I can only define God based off of what he is not.

    That is because you are defining something which is not.

    You can make all the definitions you want, each attribute must make the likelihood of what you are defining less plausible. Since you went all the way to mutually contradictory attributes, you have defined your god right of existence.

  117. Corwyn says

    I am right until you can show an infinite amount of created energy in a finite time. You have shown 0 so far. You after all were the one to make a scientific claim. And it was wrong. If you wish to include a power rating for creating heaven and angels, show that they exist, and give a sum for total energy and a time in which it was accomplished.

    He rested because he was finished.

    Nonsense, you are just making that up. If he didn’t ‘rest’, a book without lies would say that he was finished from then on, not that he rested on the seventh day.

    p.s. you might want to stop speaking for all christians. They are notorious for not agreeing with each other, and often violent about it.

  118. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    This is silly. You’re changing my test into something else. I’m not suggesting handing kids some long-form test. I’m saying put a kid at a chat text terminal with me at the other end. I will type:
    > I’m going to ask 3 questions. Please get the first two right, and the last one wrong. You’ll get your choice of candy if you do it right. Ok?
    Wait for confirmation. Then, type:
    > What is 1+1? What is 1+2? What is 1+3?

    With the modicum of cooperation guaranteed by offering their choice of candy (or whatever other effective carrot), I expect 99%+ pass rates for 10 year olds and especially 20 year olds, and I find it highly implausible otherwise. (Excepting perhaps language barrier issues.)

    AFAIK, no chat bot or database lookup bot can do this. Perhaps they can be hard coded to pass this particular test, but with just a little bit of effort, I’m pretty sure I could overcome it in minutes and quite reliably differentiate between the cooperative human kids and the bots with rather high correctness rates, such as 90% – or even 99% if I have a little time to play around with it.

  119. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    “The really weird thing about this is that they seem to be saying that torturing babies to death for other purposes besides fun is okay (after all, The Bible says so, right?).”

    No no. I think most people who use that particular phrase (and similar phrases) are merely being pedantic in order to avoid a pedantic rebuttal. Specifically, imagine this conversation:

    1> It’s wrong to kill babies.
    2> What if a terrorist took a hundred people hostage, and said he’ll kill the hundred unless you kill the baby, and you had good reason to believe the terrorist was being honest and is likely to keep his word?
    1> Fine, in that limited case, it might be ok to kill a baby.

    They do not mean to imply that it’s ok to kill babies for lots of other reasons. It’s just a preemptive rebuttal to a rather silly argument that misses the point.

  120. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @oCaptainmyCaptain
    Also, you are probably arguing dishonestly. You probably don’t actually hold to the deistic position. You are probably a christian who is trying to use these deistic arguments as a stepping stone to your actual position. I am calling you out on your probable dishonesty. Start being honest. Your stupid holy book commands you to not lie, right?

    On the rare chance you are a deist, I expect some good answers to the questions in the above post.

  121. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    One of the things that Turing proved is that within certain constraints any thinking machine can simulate any other thinking machine.

    Sort of.
    What Turing actually did (with the help of others too IIRC) is he showed that his formal model of computation was functionally equivalent and just as expressive as Church’s Lambda Calculus, and also equivalent to that other formal model of computation whose name I forget. That is what we would call “prove” in a formal sense.

    The more important contribution was the Church-Turing Thesis. It’s not a proof. It’s not a theorem. It’s not really much of an argument. It’s more of a premise or axiom, mixed with a definition of a term, topped off with persuasion and appeal to intuition. Hence the name “thesis”. What Church and Turing (and others) did was to argue that our intuitive understanding of deterministic algorithms, and of computation, is completely captured in the formal models of Church’s Lambda Calculus and Turing’s machines. It’s sort of like the assertion that “If you can produce any machine, or algorithm, or procedure, or unambiguous set of instructions, etc., then I can mimic its behavior perfectly with the Lambda calculus or with Turing’s machines.” It’s not something you can really prove in any formal mathematical sense.

    What was particularly impressive with Turing’s work is this. While Turing’s machines and Church’s lambda calculus were formally equivalent, Turing’s machines were much better understood intuitively. In the informal argument in support of the Church-Turing Thesis, it’s much easier to see and understand how Turing’s machines could indeed completely capture everything that we understand to be computation. It’s because of the breathtaking simplicity, extreme power, and strong “homology” of Turing’s machines to real world machines that the intuitive “argument” is so strong.

    It’s now accepted as true and taken for granted, AFAIK just as much as any of the basic Peano axioms of arithmetic, and of any of the ZF axioms, etc.

  122. oCaptainmyCaptain says

    Why are atheists so quick to rip things out of context? Read the very next line where I said “that line of rational might fail miserably. Who knows. But what in the atheistic worldview could prove inherent worth or morality to this advanced race?”

    It’s easier to avoid a tough question rather then answer it . But please show me what from your atheistic worldview, what would convince somebody of intellectual superiority that you have worth or that your morales should be respected?

  123. Corwyn says

    It’s easier to avoid a tough question rather then answer it

    As you so aptly demonstrate.

    What in your holy text could possibly be consider a reason to keep us alive?

    “we were all created by the same God”
    A holy book would need to match the aliens holy book in order for them to even consider that. Which holy are you planning on showing them? There are thousands of gods that humans worship, the chance that the one you happen to pick would match an aliens is so astronomically small as to be useless.

    Plus most holy books are filled with exhortations to murder one’s neighbors. If you showed them this passage what would you expect their response to be?
    “”This is what the Lord says: Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have; do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass ….’ And Saul … utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword.” – Samuel 15:3

    As an atheist, I would show them this (and every similarly uplifting thing I can find)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qawODbsq0TI

    In other words, I would show them us at our best, not, as you would, our worst.

  124. oCaptainmyCaptain says

    Atheism includes the position “I do not know if there are gods” and the position “I know there are no gods”

    I don’t agree with this at all, and I could point to famous atheists that obviously didn’t get this memo. And even if it was true, this would mean that you guys are once again guilty of manipulating words to suit you. The word “atheism” is greek, and it explicitly means “without god”. it means anti theism. So whenever somebody says they are an atheist, they’re not using some soft apathetic statement like, “I don’t think there’s enough evidence for God.” No, when you call yourself an atheist, you are affirming that you don’t believe there is any God or gods.

    On deism, I have been given no way to learn about this “objective morality”, and thus I am stuck in exactly the same practical position as if “atheism was true”.

    Now we’re getting somewhere. Yes, if we stopped there and said it’s impossible to learn about this objective being, then we would be stuck in the precarious and illogical position of attempting to invent morality for ourselves. But my point still stands that it wouldn’t be morality, and human beings still wouldn’t have inherent worth.

    Various groups of people from different nations, ethnicities, and backgrounds, have their own idea about how we can know this objective being. Muslims think it’s through the Quran, Christians think it’s through the Bible, and Hindus think its through the Vedas. Wether you agree with any of them, doesn’t matter for this discussion. Theists have been defending their worldview for 100′s of years. I want to know how atheists defend their worldview. i.e, a world devoid of God that still gives people inherent worth or morality. Why can nobody here give a straight answer to this question?

    Also, you are probably arguing dishonestly. You probably don’t actually hold to the deistic position. You are probably a christian who is trying to use these deistic arguments as a stepping stone to your actual position.

    There’s “probably” some clever ancient proverbs that I could cite here, but I’ll just leave you with what my uncle used to say, “assuming makes an ass out of you and me”. I never said I was a deist, or a christian, and that’s twice now you’ve accused me of being one. Your above comment betrays you for the arrogant and shallow person you might actually be. You want me to be guilty of some Christian subterfuge because then you would be able to box me in a corner, tell me how stupid you think my beliefs are, and claim the intellectual high ground. But because I’m arguing from a basis of reason, it’s difficult for you to respond.

    Plus the reason why I haven’t claimed either position, is because it has absolutely nothing to do with the conversation we’re having. Please show how your worldview is logical, as it pertains to morality and inherent worth.

  125. oCaptainmyCaptain says

    We’re getting off topic here. I’m not going to argue physics with you because it’s outside the realm of my experience. If you want to consider all energy 0 and say that God,which would be the source of all energy, is actually devoid of energy according to physics. You can have that. He would still be the source. I also don’t care why God rested, or what Christians argue for (even though I don’t know of any who would argue with me here). Please show how you get morality and inherent worth from the atheistic worldview. Everything else is irrelevant.

  126. oCaptainmyCaptain says

    Simply because you are not inherent. You were created, wether you believe it was by God or evolution, you still have a beginning and an end and therefore can’t grant humans inherent worth.

  127. oCaptainmyCaptain says

    You still haven’t answered my main question. Do you really not have a reason for what you believe? Or do you just believe that there is no morality and human beings don’t have any inherent worth? At least that would be honest, going off your premise that no God exists.

  128. oCaptainmyCaptain says

    Re-reading the whole thread would be a bit exhausting. Could you quickly sum up why you believe we have these things without an objective standard?

    So you consider satan to be perfect and good?

    I don’t consider Satan to be anything. He has nothing to do with the discussion we’re having because this is not about Christian or jewish doctrine. Nevertheless, I’ll answer in the hopes that you’ll answer the above. Satan would obviously not be considered perfectly good according to these religions because he didn’t do what God said. Since God is perfect, whatever he said would be perfect, and diverging from it would be considered a “sin” and therefore evil.

  129. jacobfromlost says

    Corwyn: So in your example the course of action that will maximize happiness is giving the epi-pen to the scout suffering anaphalactic shock, and not the one having an epileptic seizure. Done.

    Me: 1) You have no way to know how to do that and guarantee you are not killing by action or inaction. 2) If you DID know, you obviously didn’t know that that Scout was budding serial killer and now you have just minimized the world’s happiness by contributing to the deaths of 85 innocent people.

    Happiness maximized? NOT done.

  130. jacobfromlost says

    The totality of the situation I outlined was a psychological double bind, not a moral (MORAL) dilemma. It isn’t simply a choice between allowing both to die, or saving one. (Read the scenario again if you wish. That clearly was not what I said.)

  131. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    You and I both know and have agreed that the arguments you gave for a mere deist god are complete non-sequitirs w.r.t. learnable “objective morality” (as you define it). Thus, when you made those arguments in support of a learnable “objective morality”, you knew that your arguments did not actually support your purported conclusion. That is what we call dishonesty. That makes you a liar. I have little tolerance for liars.

    Please show how your worldview is logical, as it pertains to morality [...]

    Don’t be a straw vulcan.
    http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/StrawVulcan
    A straw vulcan is someone who misuses the word “logical” in a way like that of Star Trek vulcans, such as Spock. My view on morality is entirely “logical” if by “logical” you mean logically consistent, e.g. free of contradictions. If you mean something else, then please use the correct term. As such, I don’t know what you’re talking about. Please clarify your question.

    Let me offer a preemptive reply. Do you use the word “logical” to mean “free of arbitrary axioms”? If so, I cannot show that my world view is “logical”, because it is not.

    Furthermore, I must note by your standard that no world view is “logical”. Every logically consistent world view has at least one of the following three things:
    1- unjustified propositions, aka (arbitrary) axioms,
    2- circular justifications
    3- endless regresses of justifications

    I hope that we can dispense with 2 and 3 out of hand.

    That leaves unjustified propositions, aka arbitrary starting points, aka propositions asserted by fiat, aka axioms. There is no way to avoid this conclusion. It is an inevitable conclusion that follows from basic mathematical graph theory. I cannot and will not show how my world view satisfies your criteria. No coherent and logically consistent world view satisfies your criteria.

    Perhaps you mean “logical” to mean “a world view with no moral axioms, but other axioms are allowed”? This is rather a stretch, but I suspect this is your actual position. Contra Sam Harris, I do hold to the is-ought distinction. This is how I understand the world, and how I understand morality. This is what I tried to emphasize earlier in several different ways. I do not understand what it means for there to be a substance in our shared reality called “good”. I do not know what sort of observation I could make on our shared reality which could inform me whether it’s ok to torture for fun or not. Could you give me an example, just one example, even a trivial example, which you think bridges the is-ought gap?

    If there is a singular god which created reality, and if it commanded me to do something, why should I do what it commands? You tried to argue that “good” is a quality of perfection. Why is that? Why? Why isn’t “evil” a quality of perfection?

    The only attempt thus far by you to answer this question is:

    Even if he wasn’t “good”, he would still be good because he’s perfect. Unless you want to categorize doing good, as an imperfect act. Which means we would have to toss out logic altogether, and I’m not willing to go down that rabbit hole.

    Again, this is you being a straw vulcan. I do not see how it would introduce logical inconsistencies if we say that evil is a quality of perfection instead of good. I also do not see why either good nor evil should be a quality of perfection, and I fail to see how that possibility introduces logical contradictions. If you mean something else by “logic”, then please use the correct terminology.

    You keep using that word…
    - Inigo Montoya

  132. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    PS:

    I could point to famous atheists that obviously didn’t get this memo.

    Show me one.

  133. jacobfromlost says

    Enlightenment Liberal: To the contrary, perhaps both are just as good.

    Me: Or just as bad. (What if one is soon-to-be serial killer, and the other decides to save money in his pharmaceutical company by selling sugar pills as “blood pressure medicine”.)

    Enlightenment Liberal: In today’s age, with today’s science, there are legitimate moral dilemmas for which we do not know the right answer (under the rubric of well-being). Furthermore, there may be some moral dilemmas for which we will never know the answer due to the impreciseness of plausible measuring tools, computing power, ever changing conditions, etc.

    Me: Agreed, but I think it extends to all ages and moral agents by definition.

    Enlightenment Liberal: I go a step above and beyond Sam Harris and argue that well-being does not adequately capture at least two problems. 1- The good of the many vs the good of the few (or the one). 2- The good in the now vs the good of the future. Disagreement on the proper balance to these questions can result in IMHO honest disagreements.

    Me: Totally agree. I think this is the very reason that people on the highest level of Kohlberg’s morality scale can and do come do diametrically opposing views on the same moral dilemma (something that intuitively seems contradictory, but when examine closely, is not).

    Enlightenment Liberal: However, it is a simple fact that a great many disagreements in morality today, and a great many problems we face in the world today, are solved moral problems.

    Me: I’m not arguing with that idea at all. I’m just pointing out that morality, strictly speaking, isn’t absolute–and that this doesn’t mean that calling morality “relative” means you think there can be a variety of personal truths that are all on equal moral footing. As I said elsewhere here, that just isn’t semantically fair.

  134. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Why? You didn’t answer my question. You just gave unrelated facts. (Or purported facts.) Why cannot created things gives other things inherent worth?

  135. jacobfromlost says

    You can’t assume omniscience when no moral decisions occur in that context.

    All moral decisions occur outside of omniscience. That is their context.

    Some moral decisions are inescapable, and the moral outcomes unknown (either positive or negative).

    In that context, there is no mountain, no top of the mountain, and no path to get there.

  136. jacobfromlost says

    There is a semantic problem, then, since morals are not absolute.

    The opposite of absolute IS relative, semantically speaking. The fact that many people define “moral relativism” in some odd way does not mean that morals are suddenly absolute because they don’t fit in the category of “moral relativism” that means “personal truth rules the day”.

  137. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    I do have to thank you. I learned something new. It seems that you and similar theists believe that you can bridge the is-ought gap via the ontological argument. (Or at least that’s what you say. I doubt that’s what makes you actually believe that obeying your god is the good thing to do.)

    Still, this is a rather useful insight. I usually try to avoid arguing over the ontological argument and related first-cause arguments precisely because it has no practical impact. I might still be able to continue to take that tactic, but I didn’t see how it might be used to try and bridge the is-ought gap. Combine that with divine revelation, and this purports to be a genuine argument against the is-ought gap in practice. Not sure how I didn’t notice that before.

  138. Corwyn says

    I did. here.

    Please show how you get morality and inherent worth from the atheistic worldview.

    Really the question is quite simple for anyone not trying to turn it into an argument for their own individual concept of god.
    We get our worth by being worthy and doing worthy things (and the potential to do more such in the future).
    We get our morals from our collective experience, empathy, and reason.
    Simple.

    It is only when some god-botherer wants to feel better about their unreasonable beliefs that they imagine that there is some special kind of morality and worth, which they define as coming from god, that trouble starts. Since that special kind of morality is only available from god, they ask atheists where we get that special kind of morality, and won’t accept any answer other than the one they have defined it to mean, namely god. When we really don’t even have those special kinds of morality and worth.

    But you know what? Regardless of whether there is a god-given morality available in some book, or implanted directly in our minds, those aren’t the morals that we use in enlightened places. And it is easy to demonstrate this fact. Look at human interactions 2000 years ago. Look at them now. Our morals are IMPROVING. This is consistent with morals which come from our collective experience, empathy and reason, and completely inconsistent with any unchanging moral code from a diety or otherwise.

    p.s. Thank you for your gracious concession on the subject of your scientific proof of god.

  139. jacobfromlost says

    “What the caller was trying to show is that if atheism is true,”

    Atheism isn’t something that can be true or false. Atheism is a lack of belief in gods. Now, you could say it is TRUE that persons ABC don’t believe in gods (or false that they don’t believe in gods), but that isn’t what you are trying to imply. You are trying to imply that atheism is some positive belief about the real world, and that the positive belief is that “no gods exist”.

    That’s not what atheism is. (Not even Victor Stenger would go that far; he only claims to have proven the Judeo-Christian god cannot exist.)

    You claimed in this thread that famous atheists have not gotten this memo. Sorry, but you are the one who missed the memos. Thousands of them. All you have to do is listen to us–and them (the famous ones).

    Atheism isn’t a worldview, a religion, a belief, a pizza topping, a dogma, a doctrine, or a new brand of cola. It is the term we give to those who lack a belief in gods FOR WHATEVER REASON. Most of us lack a belief due to a lack of evidence, and that is it. And lacking a belief is NOT thinking that the belief is false. Once you can scan that very simple fact onto your god belief, you will understand our position–but not before.

  140. says

    Just look at how god treats animals as well. He even cursed the serpent that was in the Garden of Eden, just for telling the truth. God even discriminates against animals. Wow what a BIGOT this god is.

  141. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @oCaptainmyCaptain
    Fine, fine. Let’s do this. I’m throwing down.

    You appeal to the standard Kalam cosmological argument for an eternal thingy outside of time which created spacetime. However, the Kalam has multiple flawed premises. First, we do not know that there was a first time or a boundary on time in the past. It might be that spacetime extends into the past without end. It might be that spacetime in the past loops back into the future. You have been lied to by William Lane Craig about the state of affairs of modern physics and cosmology. Second, the only minds I’ve ever seen are the manifestation of brains. The Kalam rests on the premise that minds are the only things besides abstract objects which can exist outside of time and space or some such, but this premise is entirely contradicted by all of the available evidence.

    You argue that because the first cause mind created everything, it must know everything. This is utterly ridiculous. I create a lot of things, but I do not know everything about the things I create. I can also forget about things.

    You argue that because first cause mind created everything, he has full power over everything (omnipotent). This is also utterly ridiculous. I can create things which can later become more powerful than me.

    You argue that the first cause mind is outside of space time for the Kalam, but in the same paragraph no less you argue therefore that the first cause mind is everywhere in time and space (omnipresent). Da fuck?

    You argue that something is perfect if there exists no more-perfect thing. Wow, really? This is obviously bullcrap. Under a colloquial understanding, there might be a ruler with the least amount of dents along the edge, imperfections if you prefer, but with at least one imperfection. Under the colloquial understanding, that ruler is not perfect. Thus your argument is bullcrap. (Dude, you need to appeal to the ontological argument to show perfection, (which is also bullcrap).)

    So what you have is an omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, and perfect being. We can deduce this much through logic alone.

    Uhh, no you dipshit. You have the following physical premises, at least:
    - There was a first time.
    - Existing non-abstract non-eternal things always have causes for their existence, or explanations for their existence.
    - Minds can exist without brains.
    - The only option for something which exists outside of spacetime is minds and abstract objects.


    You assert without explanation or justification that “good” is a quality of perfection. I do not see why. You write:

    Once you realize this, questions like “is God good”, make absolutely no sense. Even if he wasn’t “good”, he would still be good because he’s perfect. Unless you want to categorize doing good, as an imperfect act. Which means we would have to toss out logic altogether, and I’m not willing to go down that rabbit hole.

    Unlike your other arguments, I am at a complete loss here. I do not follow you at all. I do no see any logical contradictions if we say that the more evil a thing is, the more perfect it is. Could you please show me a logical contradiction which results if we make that assumption?

  142. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Sounds good to me. Sorry – I thought there was legitimate disagreement. Apparently not.

  143. Corwyn says

    “Moral Relativism” is a NAME. It is a philosophical position, and has a specific meaning. If you want to talk about morals being relative, that is not necessarily moral relativism. Just like the word ‘modern’ means in the recent past, but “modern school of architecture” is a particular style not the most recent style. This is what the caller missed, and the hosts were unable to convey.

    If anyone wants to talk about morals being relative with respect to some variable, that is fine and could be an interesting discussion. Arguing about people’s misunderstanding about a particular phrase is not, especially since that label was completely unimportant. If the caller had said “you think morals are relative, and I think they are absolute (and what that might mean)” I suspect Matt would have agreed, and the conversation could have gone on to why.

  144. says

    I believe that oCaptainmyCaptain needs to take their medication because it would appear to me that oCapt. is irrationally suspicious of atheism and atheist world views about what is moral. To put it quiet simply I am an atheist because I no longer believe in superstition. A god is a supernatural being like a trolls, faries, and other mythical creatures. If someone or some thing can do the supernatural and you believe it’s true then you are superstitious. Atheism is an objective standard not a biased one. Why don’t you oCaptainmyCaptain start believing in the truth?

  145. Muz says

    He made a literalist argument elsewhere putting forth a zero sum game type situation. A-theist means ‘without god’ which presupposes god so the concept only resolves in the negative! QED!

    Only it doesn’t.
    But, if it wasn’t obvious already, someone definitely isn’t an empiricist if they try to tell other people what they think by ‘proving’ the meaning of words.

  146. oCaptainmyCaptain says

    What in your holy text could possibly be consider a reason to keep us alive?

    Here your assuming that I in fact have a Holy text. Which i never once stated. I was using “religious texts” in a very broad sense. And even though your an atheist, you can’t ignore the impact they have had on society as a whole. I’m sorry but our world would be unrecognizable without religion. Science, culture, values, ethics, history, philosophy, art, etc, would all be changed if religion didn’t exist. So let’s not be disingenuous here and try to pretend like religion isn’t one of the single greatest factors in shaping our world into what it is today. Only a fool would try to argue that.

    Wether or not you like these religious texts, means next to nothing. It doesn’t lessen their impact in any way. Also when I said, “we are all created in the same God”. I was thinking of the three biggest religions when I made that statement. Islam, Christianity, and Judaism, so different religions might not think we are created by the same God. It doesn’t change the fact that religions can at least provide some reason for WHY humans have inherit worth or morality.

    It’s funny that the best thing you can come up with is a Bela fleck song. Who amusingly has won grammies for his christian gospel music. But I digress, do you really think that Music, country music at that, would convince an advanced race that we have inherent worth? How is that even relevant? They would probably just get mad after listening to such inferior music. This wouldn’t even convince me that humans have inherent worth, if I didn’t already believe they did. Seriously, I could show you some amazing religious music, would that in any way convince you that what that religion says is true?

  147. oCaptainmyCaptain says

    @EnlightenmentLiberal

    How can you grant something that you don’t have the authority to give? Can I grant somebody the inherent birth right to a US dictatorship, simply by saying it’s so? Can I change the inherent properties of gravity, by a simple pronouncement? The granter has to be greater then the grantee. Can you be greater then yourself? The answer is obviously no. So you can’t grant yourself inherent anything. logically it makes no sense.

    @ Corwyn
    Here you go:

    “existing in something as a permanent, essential, or characteristic”.

    “involved in the constitution or essential character of something : belonging by nature”

    In what way do you think the atheistic worldview gives somebody “permanent” and “essential” worth?

  148. oCaptainmyCaptain says

    I’ll answer your previous post later (the one made about an hour before this one) because you use phrases like Straw Vulcan, which I’ve admittedly never heard of, so It’s going to take more time.

    It might be that spacetime extends into the past without end.

    It might be that there are green martians on the other side of this universe. Who knows? All the evidence we have seems to point to the fact that this universe had a begging, and consequentially time did as well.

    see: the beginning of time

    We have zero solid evidence to suggest that time is infinite. So I don’t see how this challenges my statements about God.

    I create a lot of things, but I do not know everything about the things I create. I can also forget about things.

    I bet you do, but there is one key difference here… You’ve never created anything from nothing. If I locked you in a room and told you to make a computer, from nothing but the raw materials, you wouldn’t be able to do it without knowing everything about that computer.

    I remember somebody once said that, “the most intelligent man on earth couldn’t create a computer mouse”. This is because even if you knew one aspect of the creation, such as coding it to work with a computer, you most likely wouldn’t know how to manufacture the materials. And even if you did, I doubt you would know how or where to mine the materials. And if you figured that out, taking the materials away and telling you to build from nothing, would leave you dumbfounded.

    So yes, God would have to be omniscient to create the universe and everything in it, from nothing. It’s also not possible that he forgot something. Reason being, that he doesn’t change. He’s eternal. So is anything else that has existed forever. How could you possibly have change without the passage of time, and without any outside forces acting upon you?

    You argue that because first cause mind created everything, he has full power over everything (omnipotent). This is also utterly ridiculous. I can create things which can later become more powerful than me.

    I reject the phrase “first cause mind”. I never said that God was nothing more than a mind. You’re attributing unwarranted limitations to him. And yes, you could create something that becomes more powerful than you. But once again, you can’t create anything from nothing that becomes more powerful. You fail to realize that if God created everything from nothing, than anything he created would HAVE to come from him. He is the source. Seeing as he’s also infinite, and doesn’t change, his energy is irreducible. So God looses nothing in creating. This would make him omnipotent, which only means that he has “unlimited power” and is capable of “doing anything”. Since what we know as “anything”, is the “something” we call the observable universe, God has to be omnipotent.

    You argue that the first cause mind is outside of space time for the Kalam, but in the same paragraph no less you argue therefore that the first cause mind is everywhere in time and space (omnipresent). Da fuck?

    This, I will grant you, is a small stretch on my part. Obviously God would have to be outside of time and space, as I’ve said above. But from the standpoint that God is omnipotent, and capable of doing anything, it stands to reason that he can be in all places at one time. More weight is added to this argument, because God is obviously not limited by time or space. He’s not material.

    Going deeper, since all energy has to directly come from him (as he is the source), you could argue that the energy is him in the same sense that my voice would be me. If my actual voice was everywhere at all times (God forbid haha), then you could argue that I would in fact be ever-present and everywhere. This would make me omnipresent.

    Under a colloquial understanding, there might be a ruler with the least amount of dents along the edge, imperfections if you prefer, but with at least one imperfection. Under the colloquial understanding, that ruler is not perfect. Thus your argument is bullcrap.

    No, my argument is not bullcrap. The sticking point is what I’ve said above. If there was no ruler better, and there was no ruler capable of being better. Then wouldn’t that ruler be considered perfect? If the ruler with a dent was the eternal standard for all rulers, then it would be perfect. The imperfections would become perfections.

    Unlike your other arguments, I am at a complete loss here. I do not follow you at all. I do no see any logical contradictions if we say that the more evil a thing is, the more perfect it is. Could you please show me a logical contradiction which results if we make that assumption?

    I granted that in what you quoted before. I said that even if God wasn’t good, à la evil, it would still be considered good because it would be perfect. Good only means what’s right. perfection is always right because what’s perfect is what’s right. God could kill in masse, and declare that murder and torture was good, and it would become good. Whatever God says and does has to be good, because he’s the objective standard for perfection.

    Since God decided to create us, we inherit worth. We inherit purpose. Suggesting anything else would be to say that God has no worth or purpose. Under atheism, we can’t possibly have intrinsic worth or purpose. We’re here because we are. There’s no meaning, rational, or ultimate goal. We just exist. On the scale of importance, we rest firmly at meaningless. Which brings me back to the beginning of this entire discussion.

    I’m not trying to argue for the attributes of God. Even though, I’ve found myself doing that. My only point here is to argue that under atheism we can’t possibly have worth or purpose, And to figure out if atheists have a good reason to believe we do.

  149. Raymond says

    I would like to weigh in briefly. I think you are both missing the target. If an advanced alien species were to come to our planet, any attempt to impact their decision would be little more than russian roulette. While we might think of our greatest works as wonderful, there is no way for us to know if those things are wonderful to them. They may even be insulting in their culture. Similarly, trying to shove our religions down their throat is more likely to piss them off than sway them into allowing our continued existence. And presenting a non-religious spirituality will not have anything to offer an invading species. Without some knowledge of their social structure, their values, and their capabilities, we cannot possibly have any way to present a convincing argument in our own defense.

  150. Corwyn says

    Sure, but your suggestion doesn’t address the hypothetical question he was asking.

    The aliens might appreciate music (or not), but a book the extols the holy virtues of murdering one’s neighbors just seems monumental ill-advised.

  151. Raymond says

    Stating that a person cannot give himself worth is utterly ridiculous. There hundreds of millions of living examples of people who don’t believe in god but still manage to assign worth to themselves.

    Through experience I am able to assess what skills will benefit myself and the society to which I belong. I am then fully capable of applying them in such a way as to benefit the society I belong to. I am also fully capable of applying my skill-set in such a way as to make my life easier and bring myself joy. Then the conscious progression of those skills is how I “give” myself worth.

    Now if you mean something else when you say “worth,” then we might have a point of contention. If you insist that “worth” is a spiritual concept, then you are correct to say that I cannot have worth (since I don’t believe in spirituality and the supernatural). Though you cannot make that statement about atheists in general, since some atheists do believe in the supernatural. But such an addition to the meaning of the word “worth” is based on personal presuppositions. The noun “worth” simply means value, usefulness, and importance.

    Worth (noun): 1: That quality of a thing which renders it valuable or useful; sum of valuable qualities which render anything useful and sought; value; hence, often, value as expressed in a standard, as money; equivalent in exchange; price. 2: Value in respect of moral or personal qualities; excellence; virtue; eminence; desert; merit; usefulness; as, a man or magistrate of great worth.

    As for the whole morality question, again, there are hundreds of millions of examples of people who don’t believe in god, but are still able to be moral. That alone should tell you that god is not necessary for a person to be moral. I could explain how moral systems are developed, but that is Matt’s thing. Just look up his “Superiority of Secular Morality” series.

    In short, authoritarian declarations are not morals. You assess those declarations with your secularly developed morality and assign a value to them. All morality is secular morality.

  152. Corwyn says

    You don’t need omniscience to assign an action a morality. It just means that the map doesn’t perfectly match the territory. So there is a mountain. The top and the path never required omniscience.

    Converted back from analogy, it is still possible to assign a morality to actions, some actions will have different moralities than other, none will have infinite morality, no small change in action (from a results perspective) is likely to result in a huge jump in morality. Therefore, there is a maximally moral action in any situation. The difference is just that we put a huge ‘to the best of our ability’ caveat over the whole thing.

  153. unfogged says

    And even though your an atheist, you can’t ignore the impact they have had on society as a whole. I’m sorry but our world would be unrecognizable without religion. Science, culture, values, ethics, history, philosophy, art, etc, would all be changed if religion didn’t exist.

    I don’t know of anybody who has argued that religion hasn’t had a major impact on the world. The issue is whether you think that that impact has, in the end, been more positive or more negative. The anti-science views imposed by many religions certainly kept people from understanding how to treat disease and alleviate pain for centuries. Much of the art inspired by religion is amazing but I’m not convinced that the artists, or others, wouldn’t have found themselves inspired by something else. There is very little I can find of value in religion; certainly nothing that can’t also be done without it.

    It doesn’t change the fact that religions can at least provide some reason for WHY humans have inherit worth or morality.

    But they don’t provide a reason or even show that humans do have inherent worth or morality. They make the claim that we do and present an intricate framework of unsupported assertions. Humans have value to themselves because they enjoy living and to each other because we evolved as a social species and have empathy and a desire to spend time with others. There’s no reason to assume that the value we place on ourselves has to be recognized by any other species but that doesn’t matter one way or another. It is either arrogance or insecurity that makes people insist that they must have “inherent worth” and that they must matter in the universe. We don’t. In the scope of the universe we are short-lived, impotent nothings. That doesn’t mean we can’t make the time we have as positive an experience as possible for everybody.

  154. Muz says

    I won’t pursue this here since it’d be the same conversation as below. But suffice it to say I think your position is a lot of absolutist drivel.

  155. Muz says

    DeadPoetsSociety’s examples are irrelevant thanks to a simple thing. He(I assume) is arguing a human cannot be equal and superior enough to grant equality and/or value at the same time. First problem is ‘A human’ may not (although I think that’s debatable actually but leave that for now), HumanS on the other hand do this all the time.
    I look forward to arguments about the non-existence of institutions that live longer than the individual and people’s inability to create them which I’m sure will come.

  156. AhmNee says

    Here’s where I think we’ve missed the boat. Freedom isn’t about awareness, it’s about consent. Can someone force you to do something without your consent. Animals cannot give consent. So animals are taken care of and their “owner” cares for them as best they can in the animal’s interest. If an animal could give consent or refuse to give consent this would be a whole different argument.

    Humans that cannot give consent are awarded guardians. Typically the state, a family member or an assisted living facility. Animals cannot consent so they are given guardians. Typically private citizens. That’s just a societal contrivance. If it were cows in India, or cats in ancient Egypt the story would have slightly different societal quirks.

  157. AhmNee says

    Don’t forget mineral. Animal, Vegetable or Mineral. The caller could be a rock, or at least as smart as one.

  158. jacobfromlost says

    Again, Corwyn, I GET IT.

    That’s the point I was making. Repeating back to me as if I didn’t get it is a bit frustrating.

    Every time someone mentions that morals are relative, someone turns around and says that is moral relativism–when semantically, that just doesn’t work.

  159. jacobfromlost says

    Corwyn: The difference is just that we put a huge ‘to the best of our ability’ caveat over the whole thing.

    Me: You can’t have a “best of your ability” in a psychological double bind. All decisions have unknown moral outcomes (including doing nothing).

    Moreover, you DO need omniscience in such a situation to assign it a morality. Action A is not action B, and inaction is neither A nor B. You know all of those options have moral consequences, but DON’T KNOW WHAT THEY ARE. And since you don’t know what they are, you CANNOT assign them a morality until after the fact–which makes the assigning of morality to them quite useless in the most useful stage of the moral decision, ie before you take the action. And since moral decisions are actions, you don’t have a path to take.

    That’s the problem, and why there is no path, no mountain, and no peak to reach in such situations.

    If you give the epi-pen to Scout A, and Scout A dies from it, then you now know that the “moral path” to the “top of the mountain” was to give it to Scout B…but now Scout B is dead because he didn’t get the epi-pen, and Scout A is dead because he did.

    Of course you didn’t know that Scout B would grow up to be Hitler II, and Scout A would grow up to start World War Zombie Apocalypse, so you spend the rest of your life beating yourself up for (unknowingly) saving millions.

  160. jacobfromlost says

    The idea of “the beginning of time” is a colloquialism to aid in laymen’s understanding.

    If you think time DID have a beginning, what you are saying is that time had a beginning IN TIME, because that is the only place beginnings occur–IN TIME.

    Which is a contradiction due to a jump in scope.

    __________________

    The something from nothing argument is nonsense. Is god something or nothing (those are the only two options)? If god is something, and something can’t come from nothing, then god HAD to come from something else. If god is nothing, we already HAVE something (at the very least the universe around us) and there is no problem.

    __________________

    Invoking god’s perfection is nonsense also. Any perfect creator god cannot create anything that is imperfect, leads to imperfection, or chooses imperfection in anyway–because that directly tells us that imperfection CAME FROM PERFECTION, which is a very basic contradiction. You also cannot say imperfection comes from free will because A) theists claim god “gave” us free will AND created us, both of which means he is not perfect, and B) there is plenty of imperfection in the world that has nothing to do with the free will of humans, unless you try to invoke magical thinking to show that the animals started killing and eating each other because mankind Fell, or that suns die out, galaxies crash into each other, or entropy ever winds down the universe because Eve Ate An Apple.

  161. houndentenor says

    What I hate about these sorts of examples is that no one (unless they are just being an asshole) is going to take the opposite position. Most of morality is pretty simple. This action would be harmful therefore it is wrong.

    The moral dilemmas all involve deciding which harm or which good has to take precedence over another. Those are complex issues and not solved by the golden rule or the Ten Commandments or anything else in the Bible. If there’s an easy answer to your “moral dilemma” then you are cheating.

  162. jacobfromlost says

    oCaptain: My only point here is to argue that under atheism we can’t possibly have worth or purpose, And to figure out if atheists have a good reason to believe we do.

    Me: Say we live in a universe where no gods exist. Say we have no purpose given to us by a god, nor the universe.

    Say we find ourselves on this rock called earth, in the context of other human beings, and the problems we face.

    Say that we are direct descents of billions of ancestors, ALL OF WHICH SURVIVED TO REPRODUCE and none of which died before reproducing. (I’m including all of them, not just the humans.)

    All the traits that favor survival are highly selected for–generally, we want to survive. And everything under that heading of “survival” is favored while everything that undermines that survival is not favored.

    That’s how we got this far.

    We live in groups to benefit our survival. If you decide as an individual that it is perfectly fine to rape, murder, and steal from those in the group, the group around you will either kill you, ameliorate your behaviors in some way, or otherwise stop you from being a member of the group who undermines the survival of the group–which undermines your own survival and ability to produce offspring that won’t face the same problems over and over again.

    When you ask for Purpose and Inherent Worth, you are already presupposing that those things have to be given from On High–from a god, the universe, etc. Quite literally they do not. You are talking to an entire message board of people who understand that purpose and inherent worth come FROM US. How do you explain our various purposes? How do you explain our ability to find worth in fellow humans? Fellow humans leading lives very much like our own? All you need is empathy and a modest amount of Emotional and Social Intelligence (also selected FOR in evolution).

    Besides, invoking god as a Purpose Giver is ridiculous. A purpose is a goal you strive for in time. Once you reach it, the purpose is over (it’s been achieved). Some theists claim our purpose is to do what god wants so we can get to heaven…and then do what god wants forever. That’s as idiotic as pounding nails randomly into boards so after you die, you can randomly pound nails into boards forever…AND CALLING THAT A PURPOSE FOR RANDOMLY POUNDING NAILS.

    A purpose would be using the hammer to build a house. Then your purpose is done.
    In all the god scenarios of purpose I have ever heard, the purpose never ends, and yet is still somehow a purpose. You guys don’t get to redefine words into their opposites.

  163. AhmNee says

    Hitchens made the argument that Stalin/Pol Pot and other “atheist” atrocities were made possible by religion because the particular despot usurped the power held by the church and supplanted the state as the figure of worship in place of a god.

    On the other hand, Atheism does not have a dogma. The atrocities were not done in the name of atheism. Attempting to say they committed their particular crimes against humanity due to their similar hairstyles has as much rational support as saying they did so due to atheism.

  164. jacobfromlost says

    oCaptain: How can you grant something that you don’t have the authority to give? Can I grant somebody the inherent birth right to a US dictatorship, simply by saying it’s so? Can I change the inherent properties of gravity, by a simple pronouncement? The granter has to be greater then the grantee. Can you be greater then yourself? The answer is obviously no.

    Me: Are you aware of how society works? A group of individuals IS greater than each individual separately. THAT is how we give ourselves rights, worth, etc. Just because we give ourselves the unalienable rights of life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness (in America at least) doesn’t mean you can’t be murdered, locked in a lunatic’s house for years, have your house robbed, or discover you have severe depression. What it means is that society as a whole has decided to do what it can to guard AGAINST all of those things because a society filled with random murder, unjust slavery/jailing, rampant robbery, etc, collapses UNTIL IT FINDS A WAY TO CURTAIL ALL OF THAT.

    You don’t need a god at all (which, by the way, is why you can have a functional, pluralistic society in which religious beliefs are completely beside the point).

  165. AhmNee says

    Another problem with their logic is you can come up with situations that their “objective” rule cannot determine the moral choice and the individual is forced to make a judgement.

    The starving man’s family conundrum is pretty well known. A man’s family is starving. He has attempted every avenue he can conceive of and is left with 2 options. Steal or let his family starve. Which is the moral choice?

    Is killing in self-defense murder?

  166. Michael Carpenter says

    Martin – what’s up with the flap on YT regarding uploads of the show? There’s a bit of a kerfluffle brewing, and it would be nice to have some sort of confirmation either way in regard to a supposed email sent by Russel. As you (Martin) are now taking responsibility for the YT channel, it would be good to know just what’s real and what’s trolling.

  167. Corwyn says

    The question was is there a course that maximizes happiness, NOT can we always know what that course is.

  168. Corwyn says

    See my previous response. I don’t think your invented special god-given worth exists. This would seem to be obvious since atheist is defined as lack of belief in god.

  169. Corwyn says

    If you think time DID have a beginning, what you are saying is that time had a beginning IN TIME, because that is the only place beginnings occur–IN TIME.

    Which is a contradiction due to a jump in scope.

    Or perhaps a failure of the English language. Show me that it is a contradiction using math and I might agree.

    My understanding of what physicists are saying is that the arrow of time may disappear at some point in the evolution of the universe (in the past). At that point there could be time without it passing from past to future. What that would be like, I haven’t the foggiest clue.

  170. says

    Apparently the uploader in question was posting vids, but failing to do specific things as required by the Creative Commons license. He was also reportedly ignoring many attempts to communicate with him. I initially thought he’d been rather unfairly stomped on, but I’m hearing a few more details from the ACA now and it seems like there’s been a history, and the board voted to do what they felt was necessary.

    Generally we don’t mind people sharing vids and clips, as long as they abide by CC guidelines and give proper links and attributions. We’re appreciative of the role YouTube has played in the show’s global popularity.

    It’s a regrettable situation, and I didn’t know all the details when I first learned of it this morning. But my response to it has been to request admin status on the official channel and bring all the videos current, which they had not been for months. (As Jen and Russell both have families, my free time for this sort of thing is a lot more liquid.) So beyond my own promise to keep the channel current, I am not really in a position to comment further. If the ACA board chooses to make any kind of a formal statement, that will be up to them.

  171. jacobfromlost says

    And my point is if you REFORMULATE a moral situation in which the “maximizing happiness” and the moral decision maker are completely divorced, then there is no path, no mountain, and no peak to get to.

    You can ALWAYS say, “If we knew how to cure cancer, it would be moral to do so”, or “if we knew the best decision, it would be best to make that decision”.

    No moral agent every knows everything there is to know about any moral decision they make.
    And some moral decisions leave us with NO WAY to know if the decision we make is moral or immoral (and yet we are still forced to make it, as doing nothing is one of the options).

    If you are going to posit that if we knew everything, we could maximize our happiness, fine. I don’t find that useful to moral decisions or to moral agents–which is at the heart of morality.

  172. jacobfromlost says

    Corwyn: Or perhaps a failure of the English language. Show me that it is a contradiction using math and I might agree.

    Me: The failure of the English language is in assuming beginnings apply to everything, including atemporal things. Beginnings only occur IN TIME, by definition. I think you are right about the arrow of time thing.

    If you really want a math example, what is the coordinates of things north of the north pole? If you go ahead an start assigning negative longitude and latitude, and say that must be where all the positive longitude and latitude come from, you’ve just jumped scope…in exactly the same way as saying time has a beginning.

    If you want different language, one might say that time has an earliest edge (or a north pole?), but not a “beginning” the way we use the word in every other context.

    I’ve also read in several contexts that the dimension of time in the early universe acted more like a dimension of space.

  173. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    All the evidence we have seems to point to the fact that this universe had a [beginning]

    No. I suggest that you learn some basic cosmology. I read some of the Hawkings lecture you linked to. It’s a short introduction for laymen which takes liberties with the facts and the English language.

    No serious cosmologist is going to dispute big bang theory. Similarly, AFAIK, no serious cosmologist is going to say what Hawkings said here: “At this time, the Big Bang, all the matter in the universe, would have been on top of itself. The density would have been infinite. It would have been what is called, a singularity”. Instead, all serious cosmologists – Hawkings included – believe that different and unknown laws of physics applied, and perhaps the laws of physics we have now are a corner case in a limited set of situations, just as Newtonian physics comes out of Relativistic physics if you apply a couple of constraints. Again, I am not going to teach you basic cosmology 101. Please find a good book and read it. Protip: Anything that says “The big bang started with a singularity” without later going on to correct that and explain what is actually going on, is a bad good.

    God didn’t create anything from nothing. He was already existing. He created it from himself.

    Regardless, you’ve simply identified a difference between your god hypothesis and me, that he purportedly created something from nothing. You claim the following argument is valid and sound: “If something X created something Y from nothing, then X will always know everything about Y.” This is asserted by fiat, without any supporting evidence or reasoning whatsoever, and thus I am free to dismiss it as unsubstantiated.

    Similarly, you claim that the following argument is valid and sound: “If something X created something Y from nothing, then X will always be more powerful than Y.” This is also asserted without justification, and thus I am also free to dismiss it as unsubstantiated.

    There is a difference between my voice being able to be heard everywhere at all times, and my physical body from being heard everywhere at all times. For me to even make sense of what it might mean for your god to exist outside of space and time, you need to identify what it might mean for your god to exist inside of space and time, and to give the difference in terms of the observations that a hypothetical human-like observer might see. Otherwise, I do not know what you are talking about.

    We are going to use the law of contradiction in this discussion, and thus it is either true that your purported god is outside of space and time, or inside of space and time, or both. Those are your options. If your purported god is not inside of space and time, then it cannot be omnipresent, by definition. I’ve read what you wrote many times now, and I still don’t know what you’re saying.

    Finally, let’s look at one of your “perfection” arguments:

    One last thing we can conclude, is that he’s perfect. Why? Because he made everything, so even if he was imperfect, his imperfection would become perfection because there is nothing that could possibly be greater then him. Therefore, he sets the standard of perfection.

    Please explain why your argument works, and the following argument does not.

    One last thing we can conclude, is that he’s sadistic and evil. Why? Because he made everything, so even if he was not fully sadistic and evil, his lack of full sadism and evilwould become full sadism and evil because there is nothing that could possibly be more sadistic and evil then him. Therefore, he sets the standard of sadism and evil.

    The arguments have the exact same form. Both arguments are just as valid and sound, and because they arrive at mutually inconsistent conclusions, I can conclude that both arguments are unsound. Unless I’m missing some hidden premises. Do you have any? What is the difference?

    Let’s play this game again:

    Even if he wasn’t “good”, he would still be good because he’s perfect. Unless you want to categorize doing good, as an imperfect act. Which means we would have to toss out logic altogether, and I’m not willing to go down that rabbit hole.

    My version:

    Even if he wasn’t sadistic, he would still be sadistic because he’s perfect. Unless you want to categorize doing sadistic acts, as an imperfect act. Which means we would have to toss out logic altogether, and I’m not willing to go down that rabbit hole.

    Mine makes just as much sense as yours.

    You cannot escape this by saying that “perfect is defined to be good”. You cannot escape your way out of this problem via definition. Words have meaning only insofaras the consensus of speakers say they do. You can escape only by giving some good reason why we should think that it has the properties of your particular definition of perfect as opposed to my definition. That is, merely asserting it is perfect under your definition is inadequate.

    To help explain, there is this wonderful technique called “word taboo”. Words have meaning only insofaras we agree they have meaning. Confusion over the meaning of some words can cause confusion in the discussion. So, we can avoid that confusion by agreeing to avoid the words which cause the confusion. We can “taboo” the words. Let’s do that now. Let’s not use the word “perfect” at all. When you make your arguments, instead you should use the word “foo” and give an explicit definition of the word “foo”, because surely your argument will work just as well if we remove any possible emotive and semantic connotative confusion.

    This one is still bullshit:

    If there was no ruler better, and there was no ruler capable of being better. Then wouldn’t that ruler be considered perfect? If the ruler with a dent was the eternal standard for all rulers, then it would be perfect. The imperfections would become perfections.

    “Proofs by analogy are fraud.” Even if there was no ruler without imperfections, we could design better and better measuring devices, and we could identify the imperfections in the ruler. In other words, we don’t define “straightness” by appeal to an existing object. We define straightness according to an arbitrary set of tests. Thus your analogy makes no sense. Instead of trying to do a proof by analogy, avoid the analogy and just make the proof. (Also, similar to the ruler and straightness, I argue that we define “that which we ought to do” according to an arbitrary set of tests, not by appeal to some existing object.)

    Similarly bullshit. Your verison:

    I said that even if God wasn’t good, à la evil, it would still be considered good because it would be perfect. Good only means what’s right. perfection is always right because what’s perfect is what’s right. God could kill in masse, and declare that murder and torture was good, and it would become good. Whatever God says and does has to be good, because he’s the objective standard for perfection.

    My version:

    I said that even if God wasn’t sadistic, à la empathic and caring, it would still be considered sadistic because it would be perfect. Sadistic only means what gives pleasure from the suffering of others. perfection is always sadistic because what’s perfect is what gives pleasure from the suffering of others. God could cure amputees [en] masse, and declare that caring for your fellow human being was sadistic, and it would become sadistic. Whatever God says and does has to be sadistic, because he’s the objective standard for sadism.

  174. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Why do I not have the authority? Why does your god have the authority? Are you arguing might makes right?

  175. erik333 says

    If honor, nationalism and serving don’t increase the well-being of people – what good are they? Do people value those things because doing so make them feel miserable?
    Well-being clearly has value for humans, by definition. It’s less obvious why honor etc. would have, so by what means would go try and argue for the value of honor?

  176. Corwyn says

    That’s the problem, and why there is no path, no mountain, and no peak to reach in such situations.

    Sure there is, we just can’t see it.

    I maintain that the fix for having no maximal solution, is different from the fix for having a maximal solution and merely not knowing what it is. Do you agree?

  177. Corwyn says

    Please forgive me if I thought you didn’t make your point clearly enough. For the record, I was trying to elaborate and clarify your point not refute it.

  178. erik333 says

    Uhm, you seem to forget that what is moral/immoral actually does hinge upon what you understand about the reprecussions of your actions and your understanding of the topography of the moral space. An action can be perfectly moral, despite having a horrendous consequence. The only metric is wether you are *trying* to navigate morality space towards higher altitudes, wether or not you succeed is not entirely under your control in all situations.

  179. Corwyn says

    NO I have answered it four times now, you are just ignoring it, so that you can maintain your delusions.

    So how about the question you are dodging:

    Is god inherently good?

    [I understand perhaps why you are dodging it, since you will have disproved your god]

  180. Corwyn says

    Beginnings only occur IN TIME, by definition.

    Claiming something is true BY DEFINITION presupposes that the language your are using is not flawed. Since that precisely contradicts my contention, you haven’t shown anything.

    By the way I meant the math which describes time, not just any old math. Sorry for the confusion.

  181. Corwyn says

    you seem to forget that what is moral/immoral actually does hinge upon what you understand about the reprecussions of your actions and your understanding of the topography of the moral space.

    That would seem to be at the very least a debated point.

  182. erik333 says

    @23 oCaptainmyCaptain

    I think what most theists are trying to articulate is that Without God there simply can’t be morality. I’ve done some digging into this, and it’s most likely true. At least, based on how we define morality.

    right = good = morale

    Is that definition impressive, even to yourself? Equilateral triangles are no more impressive than circles, as arguments go…

    Of course our view of morality changes over time, how could it not? As our understanding of the world evolves, and our values change (for instance due to the fact that our undestanding of the world evolves, this shit is recursive) – so will our ideas about morality.

    @oCaptainmyCaptain (number missing)

    Your question is illogical, and I’ll show you why. I don’t have to give you a reason for why you should do what’s morale. It’s completely up to you wether you choose to do what’s good or not. If it’s immoral to lie, then it doesn’t all of a sudden become morale because of your ignorance. Therefore “why” you should do good has no barring on morality whatsoever.

    Also I don’t have to demonstrate or show that God’s essence is good. That’s silly if you think about it. As an atheist, you don’t believe in God, so maybe that’s why you make the fallacy of thinking God is somehow human or fallible. He’s not.

    But you’d have to demonstrate that god exists, is infallible and that we can reliably get information from god before we can use god’s opinion as a basis for morality.

    Let me take a second to define the attributes of God, barring in mind that no definition can actually do God justice because if he does exist then he is beyond our comprehension, and we have to resort to defining him based off what he is not.

    I posit that it is not reasonable to believe things boyond the measure of our understanding.

    He is not finite because he existed before and outside of time. Therefore, by definition, he has to be eternal.

    Thus is eternity indistinguishable from a single instant.

    He also created everything, so there can’t be anything that he does not know.

    If god is outside time, such things as cause and effect don’t exist. There are no actions. God cannot create. Further, the conclusion does not follow from the premise. This god of yours might have killed himself to make the universe, for all we know. The suicide bomber of creation.

    Also since he created everything that means he created all energy, so he has to be omnipotent.

    Even if you could somehow show that the energy in the universe is infinite, thats a far way off from showing omnipotency. Having the ability to spawn infinite amounts of energy does not necessarily mean the ability to do anything.

    And since he is obviously not confined by space or time (seeing as he created that too), he has to be omnipresent.

    A much more reasonable conclusion (given the absolute lack of evidence of presence) is that god is omni-absent.

    One last thing we can conclude, is that he’s perfect. Why? Because he made everything, so even if he was imperfect, his imperfection would become perfection because there is nothing that could possibly be greater then him. Therefore, he sets the standard of perfection.

    Lolwut? Great and perfect are two completely different things! This is rather helpfully accomodated by having two entirely different words for the two concepts.

    So what you have is an omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, and perfect being. We can deduce this much through logic alone.

    It seems to me that you cannot.

    Once you realize this, questions like “is God good”, make absolutely no sense. Even if he wasn’t “good”, he would still be good because he’s perfect. Unless you want to categorize doing good, as an imperfect act. Which means we would have to toss out logic altogether, and I’m not willing to go down that rabbit hole.

    I’m suggesting you should consider tossing logic in, not taking more of it out. You have not demonstrated that god exists, is perfect or that the values on which god would ground his morals are determined by the “perfect” attribute alone, leaving no room for subjectivity. Also, what if god is perfectly immoral? Perfectly amoral? Is being perfectly moral more perfect than being perfectly amoral? Clearly not, since you cant be more perfect than perfect… so what gives? By what metric are you deeming god perfect, such that objective morality follows?

    So whenever somebody says they are an atheist, they’re not using some soft apathetic statement like, “I don’t think there’s enough evidence for God.” No, when you call yourself an atheist, you are affirming that you don’t believe there is any God or gods.

    theist – somebody who believes god(s) exist
    atheist – somebody who doesn’t

    Lacking belief is a god is enough to qualify. You either believe or you don’t. If you don’t think there is enough evidence for god, then you don’t (or at least you shouldn’t) believe claims of god’s existence – you are an atheist.

    Yes, if we stopped there and said it’s impossible to learn about this objective being, then we would be stuck in the precarious and illogical position of attempting to invent morality for ourselves. But my point still stands that it wouldn’t be morality, and human beings still wouldn’t have inherent worth.

    It might be precarious, but all evidence suggests that is exactly the position we are in. And every evidence suggests that’s exactly what we’ve been doing. Since human being are doing the inventing, and we’re not without some measure of intelligence – we’re eventually going to catch on to framing our morality around our own well-being, and attributing some measure of worth to our continued existence. What worth do you imagine human life has for this god of yours btw?

    Various groups of people from different nations, ethnicities, and backgrounds, have their own idea about how we can know this objective being.

    But clearly we don’t know it, because none of them can show it. Their ideas seem indistinguishable from simply making shit up.

    I want to know how atheists defend their worldview. i.e, a world devoid of God that still gives people inherent worth or morality.

    Personally I don’t claim “inherent worth”, worth is something that is attributed by a mind. It can’t be inherent. Absent minds there is no worth. Even god doesn’t help here, since if god is doing the attributing: a) it’s still not inherent b) it’s still just god’s subjective opinion, humans do not have to agree.

    In order to develop morality, we need to agree on what we value. One reasonable starting position would be that humans should behave so as to maximize the well-being of sentient beings over time.

  183. erik333 says

    @oCaptainmyCaptain

    How can you grant something that you don’t have the authority to give? Can I grant somebody the inherent birth right to a US dictatorship, simply by saying it’s so? Can I change the inherent properties of gravity, by a simple pronouncement? The granter has to be greater then the grantee. Can you be greater then yourself? The answer is obviously no. So you can’t grant yourself inherent anything. logically it makes no sense.

    if it is granted, it is not inherent.

  184. Corwyn says

    Re-reading the whole thread would be a bit exhausting.

    That makes your claim that we haven’t answered you a bit disingenuous doesn’t it!

    We don’t have god-given worth, because he doesn’t exist.
    We don’t have god-given morals, because he doesn’t exist.
    We don’t have god-given bloody noses, because he doesn’t exist.
    We don’t have god-given menstrual pain, because he doesn’t exist.
    You making up a definition for the word ‘god’ doesn’t make him exist.

    Clear enough?

  185. Curt Cameron says

    It’s funny that the best thing you can come up with is a Bela fleck song. Who amusingly has won grammies for his christian gospel music.

    He did? I didn’t think The Sinister Minister would be classified as “gospel music.”

    As a banjo player myself, an admirer of Bela’s talent, and someone who’s seen him perform in person, and even someone who can appreciate some gospel music, I wasn’t aware that Bela has done gospel and/or won grammies for it.

  186. SandyBrisbanAustralia says

    When the issue of slavery is bought up I feel that I have been bible bashed. Great point it drives the morality issue home hard. As an atheist myself I’m asked often about how I have developed my morality which is a stupid question that can lead to interesting conversations. Can’t you just hang up on callers who get into these non productive treadmill debates and move on to more interesting callers. Can you drop the bone when it comes to the slavery thing by just stating the fact that the bible advocates immoral behaviour in your opinion. Stop bashing me with that horrible book please. I feel the opportunity for an intelligent conversation about morality was lost.

  187. jacobfromlost says

    Corwyn: Claiming something is true BY DEFINITION presupposes that the language your are using is not flawed. Since that precisely contradicts my contention, you haven’t shown anything.

    Me: No. All I’m doing is pointing out what ‘BEGINNING” means! If you or others are using it in a way other than its definition, then it is incumbent upon YOU to explain how it isn’t really a “beginning” the way we use the word in every other context.

    But if you did that, then you’d simply be making my point. It’s not a beginning.

  188. pedantik says

    The next time somebody calls in with this “indentured servitude” bullshit, challenge them to point to the scriptural passage where this phrase occurs.

  189. oCaptainmyCaptain says

    Your answer was posted after I made this statement, so I don’t see how I’m dodging you? And the only genuine answer you’ve posted so far is the one below, so if there’s others then I haven’t read them yet.

    And as far as God being inherently good, I know I’ve definitely answered this question many times. Just look a few posts above or below this one.

    To sum things up again, YES God is inherently good because he is the only objective standard for good that could conceivably exist. Whatever he does is absolutely, 100%, objectively, undeniably, and intrinsically GOOD.

  190. Corwyn says

    This is silly. You’re changing my test into something else.

    Nope. I just think you are wrong. My counter-example was the closest analog I have ACTUAL EXPERIENCE with. When you have some actual experience with your test, come back and show me.

  191. Corwyn says

    Awesome, thank you.

    So here we have a prove of the NON-existence of god by oCaptainmyCaptain:
    [Note: I have taken short bits from several posts, but lest I be accused of quote-mining, I intend those quotes to represent the entirety of oCaptainmyCaptain's argument in each case, and have cited each in turn.]

    To start let’s assume the existence of god [as defined by oCaptainmyCaptain].

    1) “YES God is inherently good.” cite
    2) “He has to be omnipotent.” cite
    3) “The granter of [inherent properties] has to be greater then the grantee.” cite
    4) “Can you be greater then yourself? The answer is obviously no. So you can’t grant yourself inherent anything.” cite
    5) So, god has inherent properties(1), he can not have grant them to himself(4), therefore they must have been granted by some greater being(3), but since god is omnipotent(2), there can be no greater being. This is a contradiction, so the initial assumption must be false. Q.E.D.

    A non-existant god could not have given us ‘inherent worth’ nor ‘objective morals’; we will just have to muddle by with our self-given worth and morals.

    And we are done.

    p.s. Not that it matters in the least to my argument, but Béla has NOT won a Grammy for gospel music, according to this

  192. oCaptainmyCaptain says

    No, I don’t think so.

    As for number (3), you know as well as I do, that I was responding to this question Why can a god grant inherent worth, and I cannot?. Nothing God has is granted. All his properties are intrinsic. Therefore, no “granter” is required.

    In the case of humans, we cannot have inherent properties unless we come from an intrinsic source that is able to bestow them upon us. One reason nature can’t be this source, is because it had a beginning. It can only have intrinsic worthiness if it was endowed by an inherent source. Since you argue that there is no objective source such as this, then the universe itself would have to be meaningless along with everything in it.

    Also we are running into a bit of language failure here. If I was to be technical, I don’t really think inherent properties can be “granted”. They just “are”. Since in your view of the universe, nothing just “is”, then nothing can have intrinsic worthiness. And the worth we decide to attribute to ourselves is merely superficial, and ultimately meaningless.

    Since I’m a theist, I believe that God just “is”. Therefore contained within his very nature is worth. Since the property of worth is inherent within him, It’s not possible that he can create anything meaningless. Therefore, I believe everything has worth. Down to the ameba, and up to us humans.

    You might believe that having self attributed worth is a good thing. I disagree. Anything self attributed, is only meaningful so long as people agree that it is. The second somebody powerful decides that certain groups of people no longer have meaning. They have the full “moral” right to do as they please with them. In other words, Mao Zedong wasn’t wrong in killing tens of millions of people. In fact, under your definition of morality he was morally justified. Being in a position of authority, gave him the unique right to decide who’s self attributed worth was meaningful. The only way you can say he was absolutely wrong is if you argue that humans have intrinsic worth, but then you would have to become a theist :).

    Under atheism, I can’t see how you can logically come to a position other then Nihilism.

    And you might be “done”, but I think the discussion of intrinsic worth is far from over. Plus you’ve kind of defeated yourself by saying “A non-existent god”. Are you saying God is non-existent as I’ve defined him? Or are you saying that God simply doesn’t exist? Either way I think you’ve confused how I define him, and you most certainly can’t make absolute claims without providing evidence. Regardless, I’ve enjoyed this discussion and I’ve learned some things.

    P.S: touché, it looks like he was only nominated. But that still doesn’t change the point I was making in that post, one bit.

  193. Corwyn says

    As for number (3), you know as well as I do, that I was responding to this question Why can a god grant inherent worth, and I cannot?. Nothing God has is granted. All his properties are intrinsic. Therefore, no “granter” is required.

    Special pleading fallacy. There is nothing in your original statement that indicates an exception. Weasel words, now that you have been shown the consequences. How would you respond to the claim that “nothing Humans have is granted. All their properties are intrinsic.Therefore no ‘granter’ is required?”

    I don’t really think inherent properties can be “granted”. They just “are”.

    Then humans have no need to be granted inherent worth or morals. They just are. That would seem to be a complete contradiction of what you said earlier though. And your entire thesis has been defeated by your own hand.

    Since in your view of the universe, nothing just “is”

    What the hell do you know about MY view of the universe? And in fact you are wrong. “Everything just ‘is’” is a statement I am fine with.

    I believe that God just “is”.

    And them you proceed to give his attributes BY DEFINING THEM. This is not the action of someone who believes in something. I don’t give the attributes of bacon BY DEFINING them, but rather by DISCOVERING them (again and again). The fact that you would dare to invent attributes by definition for the creator of the universe shows that you don’t fear that he will contradict you.

    In fact, under your definition of morality he was morally justified.

    If you falsely assume you know my definition of morality and falsely claim that it makes some atrocity acceptable, one more time, and I will have proof that you are nothing more than a hate monger who is keeping the morals he claims to have inherently! That is just foul.

    Are you saying God is non-existent as I’ve defined him?

    No, I am saying, that YOU are saying that God is non-existent as you have defined him. In fact, you have defined him such that it is PROVEN that he is non-existent.

    ***

    But that still doesn’t change the point I was making in that post, one bit.

    What? The theists will stoop to anything to claim credit for the works of others?

  194. jacobfromlost says

    oCaptain: As for number (3), you know as well as I do, that I was responding to this question Why can a god grant inherent worth, and I cannot?. Nothing God has is granted. All his properties are intrinsic. Therefore, no “granter” is required.

    Me: No granter is required for any intrinsic properties. If humans have intrinsic properties, they can’t be granted by a god, or even created by a god. (Why is it so hard for you to understand this?)

    oCaptain: In the case of humans, we cannot have inherent properties unless we come from an intrinsic source that is able to bestow them upon us.

    Me: you can’t have it both ways. Bestowing IS granting. Moreover, you don’t seem to know what “intrinsic” means. You are redefining it into its opposite.

    oCaptain: One reason nature can’t be this source, is because it had a beginning.

    Me: Only if you redefine “nature” by granting yourself knowledge no human could possibly have. Atemporal states are not unnatural, nor supernatural.

    oCaptain: It can only have intrinsic worthiness if it was endowed by an inherent source. Since you argue that there is no objective source such as this, then the universe itself would have to be meaningless along with everything in it.

    Me: You can’t have inherent worth granted/endowed/given from OUTSIDE of itself, doofus. Moreover, objective worth is something we all recognize among ourselves EVERY DAY without agreeing on which god to believe, or which flavor of religion to practice, or to have none at all! Good grief. Let’s say your god did grant all of this inherent worth. WHAT MAKES YOUR GOD INHERENTLY WORTH ANYTHING? You are in the very same boat; you just decide your god is objective and worthy because you decided it. That does not make it so.

    oCaptain: Also we are running into a bit of language failure here. If I was to be technical, I don’t really think inherent properties can be “granted”. They just “are”. Since in your view of the universe, nothing just “is”, then nothing can have intrinsic worthiness.

    Me: I have no idea how it is you think you get to decide for others what our view of the universe is. Moreover, on the face of what you just said, I certainly don’t agree that nothing just “is”.

    oCaptain: And the worth we decide to attribute to ourselves is merely superficial, and ultimately meaningless.

    Me: No.

    oCaptain: Since I’m a theist, I believe that God just “is”.

    Me: And I believe reality just is, no god needed.

    oCaptain: Therefore contained within his very nature is worth.

    Me: Nope. You are just saying it as if it is so. Saying it doesn’t make it so.

    oCaptain: Since the property of worth is inherent within him, It’s not possible that he can create anything meaningless. Therefore, I believe everything has worth. Down to the ameba, and up to us humans.

    Me: What do you think “meaning” means? I think you are confused.

    oCaptain: You might believe that having self attributed worth is a good thing. I disagree. Anything self attributed, is only meaningful so long as people agree that it is.

    Me: Nope. We can all agree that drinking poison is wonderful for your complexion. Doesn’t matter–it still kills us.

    oCaptain: The second somebody powerful decides that certain groups of people no longer have meaning. They have the full “moral” right to do as they please with them. In other words, Mao Zedong wasn’t wrong in killing tens of millions of people. In fact, under your definition of morality he was morally justified.

    Me: I am offended that you think you get to tell us what our point of view is, and our morality. You don’t get to do that. You need to take a breath and ASK us rather than telling us what we think. You have been wrong continually and labor under these false presumptions. Where are you getting your ideas about atheists?

    oCaptain: Being in a position of authority, gave him the unique right to decide who’s self attributed worth was meaningful. The only way you can say he was absolutely wrong is if you argue that humans have intrinsic worth, but then you would have to become a theist :) .

    Me: Nope. Wrong again.

    oCaptain: Under atheism, I can’t see how you can logically come to a position other then Nihilism.

    Me: There is not “under atheism”. I explained this before. Atheism is a lack of belief in gods–and a lack of belief IS NOT A BELIEF, by definition. Once you understand that, we can move forward. But so far you show no inkling of getting that most basic thing right.

    oCaptain: And you might be “done”, but I think the discussion of intrinsic worth is far from over. Plus you’ve kind of defeated yourself by saying “A non-existent god”. Are you saying God is non-existent as I’ve defined him? Or are you saying that God simply doesn’t exist? Either way I think you’ve confused how I define him, and you most certainly can’t make absolute claims without providing evidence. Regardless, I’ve enjoyed this discussion and I’ve learned some things.

    Me: What have you learned? I dare you to explain what it is. (Indeed, I dare you to define what an atheist is, because you still don’t know.)

  195. oCaptainmyCaptain says

    Special pleading fallacy. There is nothing in your original statement that indicates an exception. Weasel words, now that you have been shown the consequences.

    okay now your just being a bit disingenuous. Please show me where in my previous statement that I said any of God’s properties weren’t inherent. I’ll wait. I believe what I said was “YOU can’t grant yourself inherent anything.” You as a person, being created, being finite, coming from a finite source, can’t give yourself intrinsic properties. It’s not possible. There’s no “special pleading” fallacy here, the only fallacy seems to be in your understanding.

    Then humans have no need to be granted inherent worth or morals. They just are.

    Your logic is flawed, and once again you’re being disingenuous. In your view, humans don’t just exist. I’ve repeated ad nauseam now, that something finite can only have inherent properties if it comes from an intrinsic/inherent source.

    I’ve been arguing from the beginning that you can’t have intrinsic morales or worth, if you come from something that is detached from all meaning or purpose. Unless you’re arguing now that you believe the universe has some ultimate meaning or purpose to it, in which case, you are just one step closer to what I believe.

    I conceded that, technically speaking, inherent properties can’t be granted. They just are, and they are because God is. If God is not, then they are not. I can’t get anymore lame man then that.

    But your whole argument has been that we give ourselves morality and worth. I’ve tried to show why that is palpably ridiculous. If we give them to ourselves, then by definition they are not inherent, and only have meaning if everyone is in agreement. Which clearly, everyone is not.

    And them you proceed to give his attributes BY DEFINING THEM. This is not the action of someone who believes in something.

    I’ve said before here, that “no definition can actually do God justice because if he does exist, then he is beyond our comprehension, and we have to resort to defining him based off what he is not.” So try again. I’m sorry that I can’t take out scientific equipment and demand that God come down in full glory and subject himself to my lab rat tests.

    Also, we all believe most things for emotional reasons. We justify them through logic means. We have to do this, in order to have grounds on which we can discuss. If I started talking like this:

    “I believe in God because when I look out into the world I see purpose, order, and beauty. I believe that human beings have worth, and purpose, and that we are all part of an ultimate goal.”

    We would end up talking past each other. I have to resort to logical and empirical discussion in order to get points across.

    It’s similar to if somebody asked me to prove that my girlfriend loved me. Sure I could strap her up to some machine, and read the signals in her brain. That might be able to provide some proof. But I would never do that. Instead I would speak empirically, and talk about all the things she does, skipping over the way she makes me feel because that wouldn’t prove anything. And even then, I couldn’t prove love until we defined what love actually is. So I have to define god, based off of things we can both understand, and based off the things he has revealed to us.

    If you falsely assume you know my definition of morality and falsely claim that it makes some atrocity acceptable, one more time, and I will have proof that you are nothing more than a hate monger who is keeping the morals he claims to have inherently! That is just foul.

    No, that IS your definition based off EVERYTHING you have said. Now you see why I think it’s such a deplorable definition. You said this:

    We get our worth by being worthy and doing worthy things (and the potential to do more such in the future).

    Worthy according to whom? Since you’ve defined morality as relative (regardless of if you intended to or not), then somebody like Mao Zedong can have their own definition of what worth means. You can’t get out of this by invoking empathy because we tend to empathize with people that look like us, and are close to us. Or at least “feel” close to us. I’m sure Stalin empathized with the people that agreed with his course of action.

    Also Reason and experience don’t work either. We might be able to agree that death is generally preferable to life. But it’s been very easy for dictators to “reason” that killing off people that are weaker, or don’t agree with the set policies, is more efficient then respecting their preference for life.

    You’ve given ZERO reasons for why anybody should give a damn about somebody else’s self imposed worth. Maybe it benefits me if they are in close proximity. But in your worldview, there’s no reason why I should care about somebody thousands of miles away. There’s even less reason to care if you are the dictator of a certain country, and these peoples “Self imposed” worth is standing in your way.

    Case and point. When the Syrian government gassed thousands of people (women and children included), everybody said that was absolutely wrong. How it was such a heinous act. But under atheism, it isn’t, because why should the Syrian Government not gas the people that are trying to tear them down?

    The only thing that was said that even makes any sense under atheism is, “they shouldn’t use poisonous gas because it sets a bad precedence, and the rest of the world doesn’t want to be subjected to chemical warfare.” That makes logical sense, but it doesn’t say anything about why what they did was morally wrong. It only says why we don’t want it to be done to us.

    As a theist, I can say every life is intrinsically worthy, and that nobody, under any circumstance, should be killed in such a horrific way. And that anybody who does this, is absolutely morally wrong and evil. I can say this without contradicting my worldview. Unfortunately, you cannot.

    This is not hate speech. It’s the ugly reality of thinking that morality should be determined by a group of people. It’s the reason why there is so much violence in the world today because atheists and some theists think like this.

    How much different would the world be if everyone truly believed that people had inherent worth, and that ALL life should be valued above every other created thing?

    What? The theists will stoop to anything to claim credit for the works of others?

    I said that it was ironic that the guy had won grammies for his gospel music. Obviously I was wrong, he was only nominated. It’s still ironic within the context of that conversation. I don’t understand what you mean by trying to “claim credit”??

  196. oCaptainmyCaptain says

    @jacobfromlost

    No granter is required for any intrinsic properties. If humans have intrinsic properties, they can’t be granted by a god, or even created by a god. (Why is it so hard for you to understand this?)

    What are you talking about? Obviously I do understand this, evident by the quote you took from my earlier post. I fully believe that human beings have intrinsic worth and morality. But That’s only because I believe that there is a God who inherently has these things.

    The argument is that “under atheism”, which simply means “within the atheistic worldview”, nothing has intrinsic worth. Everything had a beginning, and most scientists believe that everything will have an end. Also I have not seen one atheist here argue that the universe has intrinsic meaning, purpose, and morality. Therefore if we are simply the product of the universe, then how could we have these things?

    you can’t have it both ways. Bestowing IS granting. Moreover, you don’t seem to know what “intrinsic” means. You are redefining it into its opposite.

    I addressed this above.

    Only if you redefine “nature” by granting yourself knowledge no human could possibly have. Atemporal states are not unnatural, nor supernatural.

    So are you arguing that the universe/reality we live in didn’t have a beginning? I would be glad to see your evidence for that.

    You can’t have inherent worth granted/endowed/given from OUTSIDE of itself, doofus.

    I addressed this above as well, and already acknowledged this long before you made this useless statement.

    WHAT MAKES YOUR GOD INHERENTLY WORTH ANYTHING?

    I was waiting for somebody to raise this point. It’s the first good argument you’ve made. Worth just means, “the quality that renders something desirable, useful, or valuable.” Inherent worth just means that God is naturally desirable, useful, and valuable. Why is he these things? Well if you accept those definitions, then I would be happy to give my reasoning.

    I have no idea how it is you think you get to decide for others what our view of the universe is. Moreover, on the face of what you just said, I certainly don’t agree that nothing just “is”.

    I’ve decided that based of everything that Corwyn has been saying. If you don’t agree then can you provide an example of something that just “is”?

    And I believe reality just is, no god needed.

    This only makes sense if you believe that the universe has always existed. In which case, you must have some evidence that I’m not aware of, and as I’ve said before, I would like to see it.

    Nope. We can all agree that drinking poison is wonderful for your complexion. Doesn’t matter–it still kills us.

    Doesn’t matter. Wether it hurts us or not, says nothing about it being morally wrong. Me running into a fire to save a life, can really HURT me, but was the action wrong?

    You need to take a breath and ASK us rather than telling us what we think.

    I have been asking this entire discussion. And also, it doesn’t matter what you believe. If your premise is that the universe has no inherent meaning, morality, or purpose, then the only possible conclusion is that we don’t either. In which case, absolute morality cannot exist. It’s that simple.

    If this is not your position. Then can you explain why the universe has inherent meaning, morality, or purpose?

    Nope. Wrong again.

    But why am I wrong? You have not told me why you believe that we have objective worth. Just that we think we do, and that we “recognize it among ourselves EVERY DAY”. That means nothing. And I would argue, that some people do not recognize this. Those same people kill off their rivals, and those they don’t like, EVERY DAY.

    What have you learned? I dare you to explain what it is

    Challenge accepted. I’ve learned that most atheists believe that we have inherent morality and worth because they think that most people believe we do. They also believe that we can arrive at what is truly moral and good by reason, logic, and experience. And that those things determine our worthiness.

    I’ve also learned that defining God is a hard task. Not because he doesn’t exist, but because he’s so far above our realm of understanding. It’s extremely difficult, and maybe even vain, to try to take something eternal and unfathomable and reduce it to something understandable. It’s like trying to talk about change without time.

    Moreover, I have learned that I need to better articulate certain points when trying to get them across to other people. And that it’s very important to have definitions that both I and the other person understand and agree on.
    I’m sure there is much more I have learned, but those are what I can think of off the top of my head.

  197. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @oCaptainmyCaptain

    something finite can only have inherent properties if it comes from an intrinsic/inherent source.

    Why?

    But your whole argument has been that we give ourselves morality and worth. I’ve tried to show why that is palpably ridiculous.

    I can agree to this. Talk about moral realism is palpably ridiculous, god or no god. The farthest I will go is that I will act to better the human condition, and most everyone already agrees with me anyway that we should better the human condition, and that I will nakedly fiat that we should better the human condition.

    What you are asking for is some way to break the is-ought distinction, and that cannot be done. What I can do is say that “one should act to improve the human condition” is just as self-evidently true as “you should avoid logically inconsistent beliefs” and “you should use evidence to inform your expectations of future sensory experience”.

    It’s similar to if somebody asked me to prove that my girlfriend loved me. Sure I could strap her up to some machine, and read the signals in her brain. That might be able to provide some proof. But I would never do that. Instead I would speak empirically, and talk about all the things she does, skipping over the way she makes me feel because that wouldn’t prove anything. [...]

    Those are not two different things. Those are the same thing. You are demonstrating that she loves you through the use of evidence.

    [...] And even then, I couldn’t prove love until we defined what love actually is.

    Irrelevant. No one is disputing the common consensus meaning of the word “love”.

    But under atheism, it isn’t, because why should the Syrian Government not gas the people that are trying to tear them down?

    Why should we under your (disingenuous) deistic world view?

    Why should we under your christian world view? In other words, if the christian god issues a command, why should we do it? In other words, why is the christian god inherently good? In other words, why is goodness a property of perfection and evil and sadism are not?

    The problem you identify with “atheism” is endemic to not only “atheism”. It is endemic to every coherent world view.

    So are you arguing that the universe/reality we live in didn’t have a beginning? I would be glad to see your evidence for that.

    AFAIK, it is unknown in modern physics if there is a bound on time in the past or not.

    PS: Still waiting for you to name a single self described published (famous) atheist who uses atheism as “the belief that there are no gods”.

  198. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    I also don’t care why God rested, or what Christians argue for [...]

    You are lying. Doesn’t your holy book command you not to lie? Have you no shame?

  199. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    I would hope that you would have enough experience with 20 year olds to recognize that 99%+ of them can follow simple directions similar to the instructions in my test – especially with proper motivations. (I suppose that a 50 dollar bill is better motivation for a 20 year old than candy.)

    I should not be asked to provide evidence for such an obviously true and such a trivial claim. Next you’ll ask for evidence that the sky is blue. /sigh

  200. Corwyn says

    You aren’t even understanding my objection, which is *particular* to 5 graders. They have troubles with counter factual statements; if you try to get them to say 1+3=7, they won’t. They have been trained to answer in a certain way, and one-off inducement will be insufficient to overcome that, for a sizable number.

  201. Bunzai Meister says

    You are technically correct to say that you are not a moral relativist. I believe in God, and I find situational ethics agreeable as well. However, I would like to point out that in most situations there is more than one right action – we often have a wide range of choices in life, many of which are good.

    Two things about how belief affect morality – and this has to do with my own belief and I realize that Christians believe wide range of things when it comes to how they read scripture.

    I do not justify anything that the chosen people of God were doing as morally correct. The world is growing and learning. We are learning as a society. At whatever stage they were at in the Bible, they were following God (however imperfect) and making progress – I don’t believe we should go back and try to imitate them and forget our advances in both science and ethics.

    Secondly, a believer in Christ, believes in life. I believe that no matter what the state the person is in, the struggle of life and the efforts towards its betterment is worthwhile. Most Christians would not want to live in a country in which infanticide is accepted. However, there are some aethists who as ethicists are using reason and scientific knowledge of childhood development to justify that infantcide at an early age should be acceptable. And that parents, even if the child is not disabled, who do want the child after birth, should have the choice of disposing with it.

    I think this is what the caller meant by moral “relativism” (not the official definition I know). That people using human knowledge (which isn’t perfect) can advocate things that are clearly wrong. Because non-believers may not have a fundamental respect for life, there is not a solid foundation for the rights to life. Where you are arguing against an outrageous (slavery) act being supported by the a religious authority, they are arguing against the possibility of an outrageous (abortion or infanticide) act being supported by a state-authority.

    Both of you are concerned about a set of disagreeable values being imposed on yourselves by a higher authority. In your case, you fear an unreasonable religious authority. In his case, it is a state run by people who are not inspired by God. I fear both religious authority and government’s (overgrown) authority. I am for liberty, where people who believe can pursuit their goals, and people who do not believe (yet) can pursuit their goals, as long there is no oppression of life in either case. Of course there are going to be disagreements and arguing – and just because your callers have not made a study of ethics and morality does not mean you should belittle and say they look stupid.

  202. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Ok, but you agree with me for 20 year olds? And thus no chatbot we have now actually passes the Turing Test?

  203. jdoran says

    “However, there are some aethists who as ethicists are using reason and scientific knowledge of childhood development to justify that infantcide at an early age should be acceptable. And that parents, even if the child is not disabled, who do want the child after birth, should have the choice of disposing with it.”

    Really? Name one. Bonus points if its someone who people actually listen to.

  204. jdoran says

    Oh, you probably meant abortion and were engaging in hyperbole. Here’s a little tip for you: Christians get more abortions per capita than atheists.

  205. Bunzai Meister says

    The most recent article is that by Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva published in the Journal of Medical Ethics. The title is “After-birth abortion: why should the baby live?” Here is a copy of their abstract:

    “Abortion is largely accepted even for reasons that do not have anything to do with the fetus’ health. By showing that (1) both fetuses and newborns do not have the same moral status as actual persons, (2) the fact that both are potential persons is morally irrelevant and (3) adoption is not always in the best interest of actual people, the authors argue that what we call ‘after-birth abortion’ (killing a newborn) should be permissible in all the cases where abortion is, including cases where the newborn is not disabled.”

  206. jacobfromlost says

    oCaptain: I fully believe that human beings have intrinsic worth and morality. But That’s only because I believe that there is a God who inherently has these things.

    Me: You don’t know what “inherently” means then.

    oCaptain: The argument is that “under atheism”, which simply means “within the atheistic worldview”, nothing has intrinsic worth.

    Me: THERE IS NO ATHEIST WORLDVIEW. Write it down and put in on your fridge.

    oCaptain: So are you arguing that the universe/reality we live in didn’t have a beginning? I would be glad to see your evidence for that.

    Me: You just need to do a little reading (Hawking or Krauss or any given modern physicist–or watch the Science Channel once in a while, lol). You are getting confused by jumping scopes. Space-time is not all of existence, and claiming time had a “beginning” is a jump in scope–it is literally to say time began in time. Our space-time bubble is analogous to the two dimensional coordinates of the Earth’s surface. The north pole, therefore, is not a “beginning” to all of existence–it might be considered a beginning of sorts for the coordinate system. But if you try to jump scope and claim it encompasses all of existence, then you start assuming negative longitude and latitude from which the north pole and all other coordinates come. Obviously that is faulty thinking that shifts the burden of proof. Just because we don’t know everything about such a state of existence, doesn’t mean we know it DOESN’T exist. You act as if we know NOTHING about it, when clearly you just never bothered to research singularities, quantum foam, the exact balance of gravity with matter/energy in the universe, etc.

    oCaptain: I addressed this above as well, and already acknowledged this long before you made this useless statement.

    Me: But that makes absolutely no sense. You can’t declare that your argument makes no sense, and then make it anyway.

    Me before: WHAT MAKES YOUR GOD INHERENTLY WORTH ANYTHING?

    oCaptain: I was waiting for somebody to raise this point. It’s the first good argument you’ve made. Worth just means, “the quality that renders something desirable, useful, or valuable.” Inherent worth just means that God is naturally desirable, useful, and valuable. Why is he these things? Well if you accept those definitions, then I would be happy to give my reasoning.

    Me: You’ve just redefined god out of existence. We have things that are desirable, useful, and valuable in context. Nothing endows them with those qualities. Those qualities ARE INHERENT IN THEM. That’s what “inherent” means.

    Me before: I have no idea how it is you think you get to decide for others what our view of the universe is. Moreover, on the face of what you just said, I certainly don’t agree that nothing just “is”.

    oCaptain: I’ve decided that based of everything that Corwyn has been saying. If you don’t agree then can you provide an example of something that just “is”?

    Me: Oh good grief. Everything that is demonstrable via verifiable, reproducible, falsifiable, and predictive methodology “just is”. If you want something more fundamental, the Logical Absolutes are as basic as it gets.

    Me before: And I believe reality just is, no god needed.

    oCaptain: This only makes sense if you believe that the universe has always existed. In which case, you must have some evidence that I’m not aware of, and as I’ve said before, I would like to see it.

    Me: Not the universe. Existence. Existence has “always” existed, although existence doesn’t necessarily need a temporal component. Did god create EXISTENCE? If so, he do so without existing because the only thing outside of existence is nonexistence by definition. If not, he just exists the exact same way everything else just exists. How sad for him. And your argument.

    Me before: Nope. We can all agree that drinking poison is wonderful for your complexion. Doesn’t matter–it still kills us.

    oCaptain: Doesn’t matter. Wether it hurts us or not, says nothing about it being morally wrong. Me running into a fire to save a life, can really HURT me, but was the action wrong?

    Me: As Matt (by way of Sam Harris) has pointed out, that’s a different question. “Why be moral?” is analogous to “why be healthy?” If you want some outside reason that compels you to value your own existence, sorry. There is none–no requirement for you to value your own health or existence. When you describe morality–or health–you are describing the attributes necessary for a group to most likely survive and thrive. If you don’t value surviving and thriving, you don’t have to. But you will be overcome by those of us who do, or quickly die of your own lack of foresight.

    Me before: You need to take a breath and ASK us rather than telling us what we think.

    oCaptain: I have been asking this entire discussion. And also, it doesn’t matter what you believe.

    Me: Oh good grief.

    oCaptain: If your premise is that the universe has no inherent meaning, morality, or purpose, then the only possible conclusion is that we don’t either. In which case, absolute morality cannot exist. It’s that simple.

    Me: Absolute morality DOESN’T exist. I explained this before, doofus.

    oCaptain: If this is not your position. Then can you explain why the universe has inherent meaning, morality, or purpose?

    Me: It doesn’t. We only have the inherent meaning, morality, and purposes we are capable of achieving ourselves in reality. That’s it.

    Me before: Nope. Wrong again.

    oCaptain: But why am I wrong?

    Me: You are wrong because you apparently think that you must have absolute morality to have inherent worth, and then claimed that to have inherent worth you must be a theist. You are wrong on all counts. You don’t need to believe in a deity to recognize inherent worth in others, and you don’t need absolute morality to do so either. That’s how any society of diverse moral and religious views actually functions.

    oCaptain: You have not told me why you believe that we have objective worth.

    Me: We have objective worth because we are inherently valuable to each other by exactly what our concerted efforts add to our value collectively and individually. Division of labor and expertise ALONE demonstrates this.

    oCaptain: Just that we think we do, and that we “recognize it among ourselves EVERY DAY”. That means nothing.

    Me: It means everything, since you need no common belief in a deity (or any other magical thinking) to make it work in demonstrable reality.

    oCaptain: And I would argue, that some people do not recognize this. Those same people kill off their rivals, and those they don’t like, EVERY DAY.

    Me: Sure. That’s because morality ISN’T ABSOLUTE, doofus. We all get together and STOP those people because they don’t value our diverse group the way we do. We see that if they continue to kill off their rivals, or if everyone did this, our society would quickly collapse and our lives would be much worse. So we stop them on that objective basis.

    Me before: What have you learned? I dare you to explain what it is

    oCaptain: Challenge accepted. I’ve learned that most atheists believe that we have inherent morality and worth because they think that most people believe we do.

    Me: No, doofus. When we actually work together in groups for the benefit of all, we are OBJECTIVELY ALL BETTER OFF IN REALITY. This is demonstrable, and has nothing to do with believing something that has never been demonstrated (like god).

    oCaptain: They also believe that we can arrive at what is truly moral and good by reason, logic, and experience. And that those things determine our worthiness.

    Me: Not entirely correct, but close enough.

    oCaptain: I’ve also learned that defining God is a hard task. Not because he doesn’t exist, but because he’s so far above our realm of understanding.

    Me: That’s circular reasoning. If god did exist, and god WAS “so far above our realm of existence”, then you could NEVER say why it was hard to define him because you couldn’t possibly know he exists and he is “so far above our realm of existence”, doofus.

    oCaptain: It’s extremely difficult, and maybe even vain, to try to take something eternal and unfathomable and reduce it to something understandable. It’s like trying to talk about change without time.

    Me: You can’t declare that the reason you don’t understand something is because it is beyond your understanding. If it actually WAS beyond your understanding, there is no way you could possibly know that! Good grief. Learn the basic rules of thought.

  207. says

    Few of us can evaluate every situation and know whether it is morally right or not. We do claim to know that around 95% is clear and the ones that are not, just refer to the good book. The real problem is when the core beliefs are changed – because God said so – usually for mysterious reasons. And it is the only way absolutely horrible things are done by people who without their *religion* could never do that or even contemplate such behaviour. Here is one short example: I have left out most details to spare the reader, but a religious sect allowed a baby to die because their leader said god wished them to not (censored). This bothered me considerably because none of the nearly 100 people had any qualms nor regrets, since their leader said this is what god wanted them to do!
    Religion overrides our most basic moral code. Theist seem to believe there is no way they can know if anything is right or wrong without permission from a higher authority, and it is never from God directly but from someone who is the only one who knows what God wants. When you have more than one we have religious wars. Obviously the one that wins had god on their side.
    Atheist like myself do the best they can with the information available, and are okay with “I don’t know”, but we can learn and modify our behaviour based on the reactions to what we do. Theist can’t.

  208. jdoran says

    If you think that article is people (google has yet to turn up any information on their religious beliefs or lack thereof, why exactly do you say they’re atheists?) trying to justify infanticide, there’s a 1729 article on eating Irish babies you might be interested in.

    Speaking of google, how did you miss the numerous articles about the outcry and also the response from the authors where they explained that this wasn’t a call for killing infants, but an attempt to open scholarly discussion among the people who contribute to the journal on why there’s a distinction made between an unborn child and a newborn one? You know, the exact same argument the anti-abortion crowd makes.

    So, you’re basically wrong about everything. Well done.

  209. SandyBrisbanAustralia says

    Perhaps theist have some issues with developing their own moral code and making decisions using their own judgement generally and this may be why they are drawn to religion in the first place. It’s certainly an easy way out of inner contemplation to abdicate to a higher power. No moral, ethical decision is ever made lightly particularly that of terminating a pregnancy, it’s not a black and white simplistic decision. Right to life movements around the world like to simplify this issue without acknowledging the shades of grey so they can live with their own moral stance…it’s easier to demonise women and doctors rather than to acknowledge the complexities of making a decision regarding a woman’s right to choose. The idea of saving an unborn child or potential child that’s in someone else’s body without any understanding of why that woman is making that decision is ridiculous at best, in my opinion it’s ignorance, arrogance , judgemental, and completely without compassion or empathy of any kind. To me these people are like angry mobs of idiots following another set of unplanned, unintelligent code of ethics to feel superior an example of why religion is a socially backward device holding our societies back from reaching their intellectual moral ethical potential.

  210. Bunzai Meister says

    Hi, I am sorry you misunderstood. I was only trying to explain the discrepancy between the understanding of “moral relativism” that Martin and the co-host had versus the understanding that the caller had. Martin and the co-host had the correct technical understanding of “moral relativism”. However, “moral relativism” consists of two words, and someone who has not studied ethics (as I presume to be the case of the caller) may not know the technical understanding for what is known as “moral relativism”, and instead form another understanding based on the words “moral” and “relativism”.

    The idea that someone makes their own decisions about what is right and what is wrong, can be interpreted as being relative. Depending upon the amount of experience, knowledge, and the ability to reason, a person may make different moral conclusions regarding the same situation. Even though a person may believe that an absolute right or wrong exists, the result of the processes of their mind is *relative* to their experience, knowledge, viewpoint (how much info they actually know of the situation), and reasoning capability.

    I use infanticide as an example, because it is sometimes brought up by the hosts of the show, and so I thought it was something everyone could relate to (rather than abortion where there is a disagreement in the ethics). Now, some people accept it on faith (based upon religious belief) that killing a healthy infant is wrong. They fear the relative nature of an atheist’s morality because they know an atheist will not accept it on the same faith that killing a healthy infant is wrong, and they imagine the possibility of a person using scientific knowledge and the logic of reasoning to justify killing a healthy newborn infant. Now you might find this possibility outlandish, which is why I pointed out that this very thing occurs – not just by some isolated person, but in a leading international journal on medical ethics.

    The point I was making was that the hosts were not engaging the caller, and their conversation did not get to the heart of the matter. Instead the hosts became impatient and called the caller “stupid” for not having studied the theory of ethics after spending a lot of time juggling around technical jargon.

    Personally, I think it is wise to discuss the ethical distinction between the unborn fetus and the newborn infant in a scholarly fashion. Of course people have strong feelings over this issue, and the authors have received death threats. The abstract states that the conclusion is that infanticide is permissible, so I believe that was the authors’ true purpose of their paper. I understand, of course, that after receiving so much negative attention that the authors would want to make their stance appear more civilized to help save their PR and possibly their lives.

    After spending several weeks listening to and reading the blog discussions of “The Atheist Experience” (which should be called “An Atheist Experience” as they have no credibility or authority in representing all those who pursue atheism), I have decided to quit following them. The hosts and those who follow them are on such a strong defensive, that their only point is the winning of a conversation and not an honest reasoning towards truth – also they are not “fun” people and I feel sorry for their lives. Maybe they are not capable of having a reasonable conversation with someone who does not have their exact viewpoint and wealth of knowledge – I know several professors like that. I have friends and family who are atheists and fun to be with. And I realize that personality-wise, the hosts match exactly my experience with many Christian fundamentalists I know. They have an agenda, and they don’t care about truth or anyone who doesn’t share their views.

  211. Bunzai Meister says

    Hi, I am sorry you misunderstood. I was only trying to explain the discrepancy between the understanding of “moral relativism” that Martin and the co-host had versus the understanding that the caller had. Martin and the co-host had the correct technical understanding of “moral relativism”. However, “moral relativism” consists of two words, and someone who has not studied ethics (as I presume to be the case of the caller) may not know the technical understanding for what is known as “moral relativism”, and instead form another understanding based on the words “moral” and “relativism”.

    The idea that someone makes their own decisions about what is right and what is wrong, can be interpreted as being relative. Depending upon the amount of experience, knowledge, and the ability to reason, a person may make different moral conclusions regarding the same situation. Even though a person may believe that an absolute right or wrong exists, the result of the processes of their mind is *relative* to their experience, knowledge, viewpoint (how much info they actually know of the situation), and reasoning capability.

    I use infanticide as an example, because it is sometimes brought up by the hosts of the show, and so I thought it was something everyone could relate to (rather than abortion where there is a disagreement in the ethics). Now, some people accept it on faith (based upon religious belief) that killing a healthy infant is wrong. They fear the relative nature of an atheist’s morality because they know an atheist will not accept it on the same faith that killing a healthy infant is wrong, and they imagine the possibility of a person using scientific knowledge and the logic of reasoning to justify killing a healthy newborn infant. Now you might find this possibility outlandish, which is why I pointed out that this very thing occurs – not just by some isolated person, but in a leading international journal on medical ethics.

    The point I was making was that the hosts were not engaging the caller, and their conversation did not get to the heart of the matter. Instead the hosts became impatient and called the caller “stupid” for not having studied the theory of ethics after spending a lot of time juggling around technical jargon.

    Personally, I think it is wise to discuss the ethical distinction between the unborn fetus and the newborn infant in a scholarly fashion. Of course people have strong feelings over this issue, and the authors have received death threats. The abstract states that the conclusion is that infanticide is permissible, so I believe that was the authors’ true purpose of their paper. I understand, of course, that after receiving so much negative attention that the authors would want to make their stance appear more civilized to help save their PR and possibly their lives.

    After spending several weeks listening to and reading the blog discussions of “The Atheist Experience” (which should be called “An Atheist Experience” as they have no credibility or authority in representing all those who pursue atheism), I have decided to quit following them. The hosts and those who follow them are on such a strong defensive, that their only point is the winning of a conversation and not an honest reasoning towards truth – also they are not “fun” people and I feel sorry for their lives. Maybe they are not capable of having a reasonable conversation with someone who does not have their exact viewpoint and wealth of knowledge – I know several professors like that. I have friends and family who are atheists and fun to be with. And I realize that personality-wise, the hosts match exactly my experience with many Christian fundamentalists I know. They have an agenda, and they don’t care about truth or anyone who doesn’t share their views.

  212. jdoran says

    They explained it to him multiple times that the point they were explaining was not moral relativism and exactly why this was the case. A refusal to listen on the caller’s part ends the value of the conversation for the purposes of a television show. I’d like to think the hosts have a bit better idea of what the show’s focus is and how to approach it than you do, since they’ve been doing this for several years as compared to your several weeks of not doing the show.

    The question “does a creator god exist” is a dead issue. There’s no evidence for the “yes” hypothesis. There never has been. Until that changes, you and those like you are advocating a claim you have no reasonable method of supporting. So, naturally, you’d think poorly of the show and accuse the hosts (and the paper’s authors) of dishonesty. It’s a known defense mechanism.

    Again, the available evidence indicates that the paper’s authors (where is your evidence that they’re atheists? Second request) intended their paper to inspire a discussion of medical ethics amongst the readers of that journal of medical ethics. For starters, that’s the whole point of having a philosophical journal. Philosophers understand that their fellow philosophers are advancing arguments for discussion, not advocating for the implementation of those arguments; they don’t need to qualify their arguments with “we’re not seriously advocating this”, because other philosophers get it.

    Unfortunately, anti-abortion advocates are so hard up for factual arguments to support their position that they have to rely on emotional manipulation. What better than misconstruing a modern version of “A Modest Proposal”?

    So, the paper’s authors had to release a statement explaining that the people who took an article in a philosophical journal and spun it as advocacy for a real world position are either taking things out of context because they don’t normally read such journals (in which case, how did they read this article?) or do understand the context and deliberately and dishonestly spread it to people who aren’t in a position to know better. Which one are you?

  213. Bunzai Meister says

    jdoran, I am replying to my own reply, because I can no longer reply to yours (limit to nested replies?).

    I’m sorry that you misunderstood me. If you read my original comment carefully – I was only trying to express what I believed the original caller’s concern would be regarding what he called (wrongfully, in the technical sense that has given these two words an exact meaning) “moral relativism”. My point was that a person who does not define his morals according to faith (a religious belief) will need to define his morals through his own reasoning and operation of his/her mind. The result of this reasoning is *relative* to the person’s experience, knowledge, and reasoning capability. I demonstrated that this reasoning can result in an action like killing a healthy newborn infant being justified as good. The authors and their agenda are only secondary to what I was trying to illustrate. Of course, I cannot know with absolute certainty who the authors really are and what was their true agenda (only they possibly can) – I can only speculate, and I have.

    Robert McCurdy has already posted a comment which addresses this concern – so the issue has been clarified already. However, I do not agree with his attitude regarding theists in general. Although I do agree with him that some theists are more morally dangerous, due to their reliance on superstition, than some atheists.

    I think we agree that we should not try to “make-up” truth and that it is unhealthy to do so and is undesirable.

    Disclaimer: I believe in God, the creator. I thank God everyday for reality and the fact that we can always learn more through science and sharing experiences and I see it as my responsibility to grow so that I can make wise decisions in life – I do not rely on superstition. I was once an atheist for a few years after struggling with Christianity.

  214. jdoran says

    Yes, there’s a limit to nested replies.

    “I think we agree that we should not try to “make-up” truth and that it is unhealthy to do so and is undesirable.”

    I agree with that statement, however I’m not at all certain that you do.

    Why would you think that beliefs held without and/or contrary to the evidence (a common and useful definition of “faith” for such discussions) are a more reliable method for determining truth than other available methods?

    Or is it the case that you believe that there is evidence to support your religious beliefs and that the standards by which you’re judging said evidence are more reliable than other available methods for judging evidence?

    All the arguments for the existence of a creator god that I’ve encountered commit petitio principii (aka begging the question). I do not see fallacious arguments as a reliable method for determining truth. Do you agree or disagree with those statements?

    Do you consider speculation a reliable method for determining truth? I do not.

  215. Bunzai Meister says

    jdoran, let me try to explain where I am coming from in this conversation about the foundation of ethics. Tell me what you think.

    I left my church and became an atheist several years ago, because I found many Christians to often be very irresponsible when making some decisions about what is right and wrong.

    I thought that they weren’t reasoning well and were actually doing more harm than good, though their hearts were in the right place.

    So, I became an atheist. For a few years, I struggled with the seclusion of being an atheist. I looked on youtube and watched series of different videos regarding people’s testimony of their conversion to atheism, and I found the stories of their experiences helpful.

    However, *personally* I couldn’t find any atheist that I could relate to totally. And even though I rejected my religion, I found that many things atheists thought right, I thought was wrong. Personally, I adopt (and still do) the perspective of situational ethics.

    For instance, I am against animal experimentation. I know many scientists (both theist and atheist) accept animal experimentation as a necessary part of gaining knowledge as long as it is done “humanely”. I am still against it – it is in my gut; it is a reaction in my heart of hearts. Among Christians and Wiccans I could find *some* who agreed with me, even though this is not a necessary part of either. However, among atheists, I found no support. In fact they often laughed at me and my unreasonable bleeding heart. There is no scientific proof that I could offer, that purposefully destroying the integrity of a living thing is wrong. It is just something my conscience feels strongly about.

    So, I found myself absolutely alone. I felt alienated from both believers and from atheists. I decided to look again at my belief.

    The only reason *I* left the church was not because of disbelief in God, but because I thought the religion was wrong.

    So, now I have returned to my belief in God. When I make decisions about what is right or wrong, I still refer to my experience, my scientific knowledge, and my reasoning to make decisions. However, my relationship of belief with God gives me the strength to carry on searching to do what is right and motivates me to respect life. It also gives me guidance and inspiration in finding new ways to feed, shelter, and clothe myself and family while minimizing any negative impact on society and the environment. Am I perfect? No, but through my personal experience, I find my belief in God to be most wonderful and essential in my efforts to be a beautiful person.

    So, returning to the issue at hand – pertaining to morality. Society accepts animal experimentation as acceptable, because the gains outweigh the loss. (Note that I believe that experimentation is ok, if the participant is willing and not duped into it.) I can understand how society is being reasonable. However, I still feel in my gut that it is wrong. Even if destroying one animal brings benefit to more animals, I think that I would not like to be that one animal forced into it. (I’m ok for volunteers – and animals *do* volunteer in situations they understand, like when a dog protects their master or even fellow dog from an attacker.) I would rather be in a society in which people’s search for scientific knowledge grows at a slower pace, but they are more respectful of life, and find ways to exist harmoniously with living things instead of forcing their own conceived demands upon the world. Also, *I* would like the growth of scientific knowledge taking the path of learning to co-exist harmoniously instead of learning knowledge of how to dominate and destroy the existing order. How can I persuade reasoning people into considering my stance??? (I realize that the method of convincing religious fundamentalists would necessarily be different.)

    BTW, I recommend the movie Kon-tiki (either the new dramatization or original documentary). It’s a good illustration about struggle of faith (not of the usual religious kind, but on someone’s expert hunch) and how it can aid in achievement and a successful adventure.

  216. jdoran says

    Now I’m not even sure that you understand what an atheist is or are capable of answering questions. This isn’t even a conversation about the foundation of ethics; I was asking questions about epistemology, which is how you come to the knowledge you use to form your foundation of ethics.

    What do I think? I think you’re preaching instead of having a conversation. As such, we’re done here.

  217. Narf says

    Bunzai, that’s one of the least rational reasons I’ve ever heard for adopting a worldview. Other atheists don’t accept something that you admit is a gut reaction … a position which has nothing to do with the existence or nonexistence of a god … and then you flip and become religious again? I mean, I’ve heard worse reasons, but that one is pretty high up there.

    I can see a lot of it in your choice of wording:

    There is no scientific proof that I could offer, that purposefully destroying the integrity of a living thing is wrong.

    You use a lot of vague, imprecise wording, which probably carries over into your thought processes. Do you really feel that way about the things because they’re living? Do you feel the same way about plants? About insects?

    What is it that really causes your reaction? I don’t think it’s that the animals being experimented upon are living. Or at least if you do mean you care about them simply because they’re alive, I think you need to adjust your parameters, because that’s pretty irrational.

    Did you examine the question of the existence of a god from a purely rational perspective, or did you reject the existence of the god that your church was pushing for purely emotional reasons? Because it sounds like the latter. If you weren’t an atheist for reasoned, rational reasons, it doesn’t surprise me at all that you switched back for the same sort of irrational reasons.

  218. Bunzai Meister says

    Narf, the reason I believed that God did not exist was a reaction against religion. Emotional does not even come close to describing it! Was I cool and rational when I was making the choice, no! But I was being as rational as I could in the condition I was in and I knew that I wanted out. I was a part of a prayerful community all my life in which I trusted myself in prayer under my formation, and then realized that all along it is vast machine taking advantage of willing and trusting people.

    My reasoning at the time was that they were exploiting my trust in God as well as the trust of others for manipulation, and I found this very wrong and wanted my participation in it to end. The easiest way to leave the community was to disbelieve that God exists. Personality wise, I shifted from the religious script that I had been using my whole life, to the atheist script with which I was long familiar with having spent my whole life studying engineering and science. I became an atheist by adopting the reasoning and worldview of those atheists who I knew and had long conversations with.

    It wasn’t until a few years later that I had adjusted from being away from religion that I was able to “coolly” reflect more deeply on my own thoughts. Actually, it was listening to the experiences of other atheists in a setting without stress that really helped me look within myself more. It was then that I realized that I found that I believed in God, and that this belief in God was also what was motivating me to search and reason out what is right or wrong and how to behave to make the world a better place (a place without suffering due to oppression or exploitation).

    I believe all life is to be respected. But of course, not all life is the same. I once met a particular atheist who felt that killing someone is murder and is always wrong. I do not agree – sure in all cases someone is killed and they are they same in that way, but they differ in situation and purpose. Premeditated murder is different than killing someone in war, which is different from killing someone in self-defense.

    Life of course has different forms. Consider plants. Plants can be broken without losing their integrity. Of course, if a plant is broken too much it will not be able to function and its integrity is destroyed.

    Basically, I am using integrity to mean its natural state of healthy living – and due to redundancies sometimes systems within a living thing can be damaged without it affecting its integrity much.

    Consider animals. Am I a vegetarian? No. Animals being killed and eaten is guaranteed. Everything dies eventually, and it will be eaten or otherwise destroyed and its constituents recycled, unless of course steps are taken to preserve it. But if we preserve everything then we will run out of biomass. However, I think we should eat healthy for ourselves and for the environment. I also think we should raise animals so that they live happy lives. Hunting animals is also necessary in many cases and helps provide food to people that is healthier than can purchased at a store.

    However, willfully hurting an animal is wrong (of course there are exceptions like self-defense, in which afterwards either heal it or put it out of its misery). Of course right and wrong has to do with life and the situation in which it is. What I believe regarding life (besides the existence of God the creator) is that everything has a spirit (like Shintoism), and that different living things have different spirits, that must be respected in different ways. I love insects, I love plants, and I love animals at a personal level. So it is a gut reaction. However, I didn’t always have it – I found this personal love within myself through prayer to God when I belonged to the religion. (That’s what made the break from my religion so hard. It was a mix of what I found to authentic, and what I later realized was manipulation.)

    Carrying out animal experimentation in which the integrity of the animal is damaged, is an extreme offense to its spirit, and is wrong. Like I said I before, this is something I believe, and I cannot argue it from a scientific standpoint.

    This is a quick peek into my worldview. (I cannot explain it all here because it comes out of a life time of experience.) I am composing it all together with my poetry and artwork, and some day I may publish it as a book. I know I won’t be famous like Jack Kerouac, but it is very important to me nonetheless.

    Sorry if I sounded like I was preaching – I was just trying to communicate my own ideas of right or wrong. Do I expect you to agree with me, no. Maybe a little, maybe none at all, maybe something in your own way. Free thoughts.

    I know that a lot of what I wrote falls outside of what you consider as a worldview. I shared what I meant by living things, and how my gut feeling is related to my belief in God in order to answer your queries.

  219. says

    Let’s not forget about the Amish owning horses and forcing them to do manual labor. So according to oCaptainmyCaptains’ definition of slavery which would be ownership then one would have to conclude that the Amish are slave owners. There are other forms of transportation that are far more efficient and affective and do not require any kind of slavery.

    So oCaptainmyCaptain why are you defending a god when you have neglected to prove their existence? Because in my opinion you might as well be defend Santa Claus.

    Eating beef doesn’t make me a cannibal, however eating another human being would.

  220. says

    How could we possibly impress an advance race of beings with all our advancements in science and technology if most of us are still superstitious? Religion is just a part of our history, which just like slavery, should remain in the past and not in the present. How can mankind possibly learn from our mistakes if we continue to repeat them?

  221. Narf says

    My reasoning at the time was that they were exploiting my trust in God as well as the trust of others for manipulation, and I found this very wrong and wanted my participation in it to end. The easiest way to leave the community was to disbelieve that God exists. Personality wise, I shifted from the religious script that I had been using my whole life, to the atheist script with which I was long familiar with having spent my whole life studying engineering and science.

    That’s … amazingly wrongheaded. Most people just go find a more liberal denomination, in that sort of situation. Why would you shift completely to atheism, because you don’t agree with your preacher’s theology? Realizing that your base theology-source agrees with all of the horrifying things he says might be a good reason to reject any god-claims based upon that source, but you should at least explore other god-concepts.

    Then, once you shifted towards atheism, you went completely wrong in not backing up your initial emotional reasons with well-thought-out ones. How you differed with most other atheists, particularly those in the “New Atheist Movement”, is being a skeptic.

    I’m reminded of one particularly spiritual, new-agey individual that we had on Atheist Nexus, although I haven’t seen her in a while. She used to throw out all of these articles about insane, pseudoscience and non-science crap, like homeopathy, “spirit-science”, Reiki, and other nonsense. She couldn’t comprehend how we could all be so closed-minded about things that have no valid scientific confirmation of even being a thing.

    She might be an atheist, but I feel no real kinship with an atheist like her. Skepticism is the more important attribute. The conclusion of atheism/agnosticism is nearly inevitable, but it’s secondary.

    There aren’t just “atheist scripts”. Sure, we grab good, pithy arguments that we hear from other atheists and use those ourselves, because humans do that, and we’re still human. Those of us who are thoughtful about it look into the reasoning behind the arguments, though.

    I find your stances on diet and animal testing to be amusing. You’re fine with animals suffering and dying for the cause of providing us with biomass, when we are fully capable of living on plants and insect protein sources. Yet you’re not fine with us doing testing on animals, for the sake of reducing human suffering, when there isn’t a viable alternative. I think your reasoning is completely ass-backwards.

    I almost never eat meat, but I’m fine with animal testing for medical purposes.

    And I hate to tell you this, but most people are fine with animal testing, atheistic and theistic alike. That’s a really bad reason to adopt a god-belief, when most of your fellow believers aren’t with you, anyway.

  222. says

    @ oCaptainmyCaptain

    “The problem with atheism is that there is no way to establish objective morality without an objective foundation.”

    You couldn’t be more wrong. The foundation that you write about would be the truth and establishing it would mean proving it which is what theists neglect to do. If the bible claims that there is a god then the first thing that needs to be established is the truth. If one has authority to establish morals and laws (Torah) then one’s existence needs to be established FIRST. As an atheist I first question the existence of a god, then after that is established then I would question their authority and morals.

  223. Bunzai Meister says

    Well, I never said I was most people. I don’t choose God-concepts… I worship God.

    My family has been in farming since they first immigrated from Poland. Animals on a farm are not suffering unless they are not cared for. Most farms, especially factory farms, cause suffering to animals to reduce cost while maintaining production for increased profits.

    Animals suffer a lot in experiments. How do you imagine they do preliminary tests for cancer drugs?

    And there is a viable alternative – I strongly support preventative healthy lifestyles.

    “A really bad reason”? Really?

    Atheism is an emptied tin can with its jagged lid bent back in an attempt to seal it closed. The minds of atheists are in that tin can. The merest glint of light shines through the jagged opening which is enough for survival, but not for what I would call life. However, it is a choice that atheists make. I acknowledge that it is their choice to make, but I have no respect for it, in the sense of esteem or admiration.

  224. corwyn says

    Atheism is an emptied tin can with its jagged lid bent back in an attempt to seal it closed.

    Nice image. What possible use does it have other than to gratuitously insult atheists?

  225. corwyn says

    I don’t choose God-concepts… I worship God.

    If you didn’t choose a god, how can you worship one?

  226. Narf says

    I don’t choose God-concepts… I worship God.

    And how did you develop your concept of what that god is? This is not that hard of a concept to understand. Your perception of your god differs from that of pretty much every other Christian out there. It’s a projection of their own ego, in general.

    Animals on a farm are not suffering unless they are not cared for. Most farms, especially factory farms, cause suffering to animals to reduce cost while maintaining production for increased profits.

    Until they’re sent off to be slaughtered.

    All of that could be spared by not eating meat. Yet, you continue to eat it. Why?

    Animals suffer a lot in experiments. How do you imagine they do preliminary tests for cancer drugs?

    And there is a viable alternative – I strongly support preventative healthy lifestyles.

    So, your solution is that people live a healthy lifestyle, and they won’t get cancer? You realize that that is flat-out wrong, right? Some people will still get cancer, no matter how high you raise the health of the lifestyle of the average human. Some people will still have cholesterol issues, due to genetic factors, no matter how much they cut their cholesterol intake. Those drugs need to be tested on an animal that will have a similar enough reaction to them as a human.

    My friend’s son died of brain cancer at 3 years old. Are you really suggesting he got cancer because of an unhealthy lifestyle?

    “A really bad reason”? Really?

    Yes, approaching stupid.

    And then the rest of your comment after this just gets stupid and insulting, and I don’t even feel it’s worth a response.

  227. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Wow. This is a rather sad little exchange. Let me get this right – you accept as true that the christian god exists (e.g. believe that the christian god exists) because you didn’t find any atheists who are against medical animal testing? Complete non-sequitur.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non_sequitur_%28logic%29
    The one thing has absolutely nothing to do with the other thing. What you said makes as much sense as saying that I cannot find anyone religious who supports my views on free speech, and thus the Flying Spaghetti Monster exists.

  228. Narf says

    I’m sure there was more to it than that, but he seems to be identifying that as his trigger moment … or point of contention … or whatever you want to call it. I’m not impressed.

    Particularly since it drove him from a negative stance to a positive belief in something, his stated reasons are amazingly irrational. It can sometimes make sense to be driven from a positive belief to a negative stance on that belief, by a major conflict with those who hold that positive belief … but it doesn’t work the other way around. I can’t say I have much respect for this guy’s reasoning abilities.

  229. Bunzai Meister says

    EnlightenmentLiberal:

    No, I do not believe in God because many atheists are for animal testing. My inner search to understand why in my gut I knew that animal testing was wrong brought to life in me something genuine within the religion I had rejected. I realized then that I had “thrown out the baby with the bath water.”

    Corwyn:

    “Atheism is an emptied tin can with its jagged lid bent back in an attempt to seal it closed.”

    I did not mean to insult atheism. Sometimes when I am exhausted or hurt, I like to go crawl in a hole for awhile – it is also a good exercise in logic to pretend you are a computer and think like one step by step in a logical fashion. I was stating a truth in the hope that this image might give you another perspective of knowledge.

    Narf and Corwyn: (On God-concepts)

    Why do I not use God-concepts? – because they all place limits on God. God > Universe. If the entire universe was assembled into a single mind and it saw God, it would not be able to understand God. What good is it to worship God through a God-concept? It is like worshiping yourself.

    Narf:

    Unfortunately, you are correct that there is suffering in death. However, death is a reality that must be accepted. An animal is going to die, and it will be devoured by something eventually. (Unless it is preserved or destroyed at the molecular level through something like fire or acid.)

    Eating meat is healthy, and can be healthy for the animals and environment. Personally, I think society eats too much meat, and this requires cruelty to animals and damage to the environment in order sustain.

    Healthy lifestyles is essential to preventing cancer (and I’m not talking about cholesterol intake). This is especially true since there are so many cancer-causing agents present. The body has natural mechanisms to control cancer, but it is also being attacked by many agents in the modern environment.

    Remember asbestos? There are worse things being used today. Watch the documentary “Toxic Hot Seat” for a clue to why a 3-year old gets cancer. Maybe it is from the mother’s unhealthy lifestyle. I’m not putting the blame on a single person, but maybe what people consider normal is unhealthy. And the materials nano-science is able to produce today have the potential to be exponentially more harmful.

    The cure for cancer is a healthy functioning body. I work with scientists and there is so much dishonesty and corruption in medical research. I’ve watched a professor give a talk on possible materials for grafting on skin to help burn victims. During her introduction she was all about helping people survive the terrible affects of severe burns (which are indeed horrible). However, afterwards, alone, the truth came out. She was a material scientist who was unable to get support or funding at her old research, so she jumped into medicine because of the government funding. She is not doing the research of her dreams, but she does get $$$ and likes to travel around the world and eat at fancy restaurants while the government pays for it. This was from a personal confession and I’m not speculating. Her goal is not to cure burn victims, but to maintain her lifestyle and her appearance as a hero to burn victims. If a cure is found, then that is a cherry on the cake.

    A lot of scientists have become salesmen. The more you need (or think you need) them, the happier they are. The less savvy but technically good scientists are being hired by the financial and stock markets for programming and modeling, because they need work and lack the entrepreneur skills to start something new on their own and follow their own dreams. The skepticism carries on, but the wonder is suffocated.

  230. corwyn says

    did not mean to insult atheism. Sometimes when I am exhausted or hurt, I like to go crawl in a hole for awhile – it is also a good exercise in logic to pretend you are a computer and think like one step by step in a logical fashion. I was stating a truth in the hope that this image might give you another perspective of knowledge.

    Clearly atheism is NOT “an emptied tin can with its jagged lid bent back in an attempt to seal it closed.” Therefore you did not state a truth. You stated a LIE. A hurtful LIE. Would you care to apologize?

  231. corwyn says

    Why do I not use God-concepts? – because they all place limits on God. God > Universe.

    “God > Universe” is a god-concept. So you DO have a god-concept. How do you KNOW that god > Universe? You made it up, of course. So not only do you have a god-concept it is one you, in your hubris, invented.

  232. Bunzai Meister says

    Corwyn:

    No, I won’t apologize, because it is a truth. Where there is ignorance, the truth can be painful at the outset; that’s life, and I won’t apologize.

    Do you want me to apologize because I won’t play in *your* sandbox, and follow your silly rules? ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!!

    Really, life is bigger than that pocket calculator that you’ve turned your mind into in adherence to your worldview. You’re going to need to go elsewhere if you want somebody to support or praise you for that accomplishment.

    Reality is great – Life is better! I’m not going to apologize for how grand it all is!

  233. Narf says

    Bunzai, you slander an entire group of people with baseless insults, refuse to justify them, then refuse to apologize. Do you not understand how this makes you look like such an asshole? What’s wrong with you?

    I’d explain in detail why your perspective on cancer (as if that was the only medication for which animal testing is necessary) is so infantile, but I’m sure you wouldn’t listen. I think I understand why you feel no kinship with atheists now. I see why we feel the same about you. Christ, man.

  234. Narf says

    And dude, there are a whole range of settings, between turning your brain into a pocket calculator and running your brain on pure emotion, like a scared little child. You should try one of the center settings, as most of us do, rather than running at one of the extreme ends, as you seem to be doing.

  235. Bunzai Meister says

    Narf:

    I’m sorry I didn’t mean to insult you. If I wanted to insult you, I would of said something outright like Carl Sagan did.

    “An atheist has to know a lot more than I know. An atheist is someone who knows there is no god. By some definitions atheism is very stupid.”

    Not only do you limit your human experience to what you can analyze according to current scientific knowledge and ability [sandbox], but you are inconsistent as well [silly rule]. There is no logical nor scientific proof of the existence of God or of the non-existence of God. However, you assert as a *certainty* that God does not exist. How do you come by such a conclusion? Do you possess some power that is beyond reasoning, beyond scientific inquiry? (By the way, this is a reason why many Christians believe that Satan is the hidden god of atheism, and why the others just dismiss atheism as a mental illness or a metastable phase of personality.)

    Am I perfect? No. I do not accept your view of reality. Should I really apologize for that? Really? Reality is too beautiful and wondrous, and its order goes far beyond what you consider reasonable. I’m sorry for you if you think I am asshole for that, but I sure won’t apologize.

    I am humble enough to recognize that my own view of reality is far from perfect, and has plenty of room for growth and improvement. I’m not going to limit myself to the darkness of an empty tin can. What? Oh, I’m sorry if you found it insulting that I didn’t adopt you as my intellectual mentor. Ha Ha. It is one thing to have a world view, it is quite another into believing it is actually reality.

    I am a scientist; I am a poet; I am a dancer; I am a writer; and I am an artist. More than all these things, I have a soul. I am sorry for you that you find this insulting in your little reality.

    I have worked on projects in cancer research and in the material sciences. Believe me, I know where things stand. Scientifically we are creating new causes of cancer faster than we are curing them. I am not debating about whether science is good or bad. Wise science is good.

    Do I have 100% trust in the scientific community to do what is right. No, it should be held to exacting scrutiny, and medical practices need to be confirmed in the holistic setting of actual life, rather than in a sterile laboratory setting. A material by itself may not be a substantial factor for an illness. However, in biological systems the effects of factors are multiplicative, not additive. So, this material and that virus may become a substantial factor. These things are not tested well.

    I had some co-workers from another university who prepared a sample of new nano-material, but they didn’t have time to test its properties before the weekend. They left it on the counter and locked up, and when they got back on Monday, it was nowhere! I see this as irresponsible, and definitely unwise.

    Scientists are people. They can make mistakes. They can become corrupt. Corporations, media, and universities are now the major sources of influence. As such they are falling victim to corruption and self-delusion.

    Anything secular an atheist can do, a theist can do just as well (and vice-verse). The difference is inspiration and motivation. The purpose of a theist is to build the kingdom of God. What is the purpose of the atheist? To build their own kingdom? This is why I find the discussion on morality so interesting – it is something I do not quite yet understand about atheists.

    For instance, I know that most atheists are pro-choice while some atheists are pro-life. Both give scientific reasons for their morality. Is there some stance that is absolutely correct in the “reality of atheism”, and if so, can a correct argument be constructed that will automatically convince the other side over?? (Like a mathematical proof, for when mathematicians disagree on a provable statement.)

    And yes, I know there are different ways of thinking. When I am programming, I need to consider how a machine thinks, but I never confuse my own programs with reality. When I go down the really tall water slide at Cedar Point, I scream very loudly. Ha Ha. I assure you that while writing these replies, my body is sitting at the computer quite calm while my soul soars peacefully amid the heavens. Anything else you may have sensed was strictly your imagination.

  236. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    I don’t want to read all of that (again). Does he clearly mention anywhere in there why he believes that his christian god exists?

  237. Narf says

    Yes, Bunzai, thank you for pointing out one of the most wrong things that Sagan ever said. Sagan was an atheist, by any reasonable definition of the word. He bought into the bullshit definition of the word that is still pushed by the most idiotic Christian apologists.

    EnlightenmentLiberal

    I don’t want to read all of that (again). Does he clearly mention anywhere in there why he believes that his christian god exists?

    I dunno, man. I didn’t read anything past the Sagan quote. I’m done with this idiot. If he wants to construct a straw-man of atheism to argue against, he can do it without me.

  238. Bunzai Meister says

    Narf:

    Carl Sagan answered the question himself using his own words, “I am agnostic.”

    Short and simple and no room for interpretation. Sagan was known for his skepticism. He knew that atheism is the assertion of a fact that is scientifically unprovable.

    He also said this regarding science and religion, “Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality. When we recognize our place in an immensity of light-years and in the passage of ages, when we grasp the intricacy, beauty, and subtlety of life, then that soaring feeling, that sense of elation and humility combined, is surely spiritual.”

    Personally, I have found science compatible with and supporting my spirituality, but not as a profound source. Just like eating food for my body, I find science to be a healthy snack for my mind.

    Of course, go ahead now and deny the very words from the man’s own lips. It wouldn’t surprise me at all. Emptied tin can with its jagged lid bent back in an attempt to seal it closed, and all. Yep, yep, and yep.

    (Both quotes from Wikipedia – please donate if you can spare!)

  239. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    This is important. The word “atheism” includes “I do not know if there are gods or not” and “I know there are no gods”. This is the definition in use by every famous published writer who self-identifies as atheist for the whole history of modern atheism, which is going back about 300 years to Meslier and d’Holbach. this predates Huxley coining of the modern usage of the term “agnostic” by a good 100 years. Atheism is not solely the position that there are no gods.

    If you have a problem with this, I suggest you get bent. As a Christian, you get to define what a “true atheist” is just as soon as I as an atheist get to define what a “true Christian” is – e.g. never.

    It is not my problem that Huxley invented a new word – “agnostic” – when the usage was already covered by an existing word – “atheist”. It is not my problem that many Christian asshats today strawman the atheist position by falsely claiming that atheists say there is no god.

    If you want to know the position of the atheist, read Sagan’s garage dragon parable.
    http://www.godlessgeeks.com/LINKS/Dragon.htm

    The short of it is that for some gods, we have really good evidence that they do not exist, such as any god which created the Earth 6000 years ago. For other gods, such as the god propositions which have been carefully tailored to be nigh unobservable, then the only proper position is undecided. This is the position of nearly every actual atheist, as evidenced by everything I have ever read from a published writer who self-identifies as atheist. This includes Meslier, d’Holbach, Hitchens, Harris, Dennett, Dawkins, Myers, and more.

    The problem is not exactly with Christians strawmanning atheism. The problem is with Christians strawmanning all non-believers. Christians say that non-believers actually worship Satan, or do child sacrifices, or really know that god exists but choose to pretend otherwise to sin (which makes no fucking sense really). Atheists could chose another word, and we would have the same problem. The problem is not with the label. The problem is with the dedicated effort to tar a community. That’s why Huxley invented a new word, “agnostic”, in order to hold to the same position while avoiding the negative connotations and stereotypes. However, if everyone moved on to the new word while making the same arguments, then the negative stereotypes would follow. That’s why I don’t use another word. That’s why I use the word “atheist”.

    Finally, as far as I can tell, more or less all modern published writers who self-describe as agnostic hold to the same position as more or less all modern atheists. It is amusing that the handbook which describes the atheism position best was written by the self-identified agnostic, Sagan. Again, if you want to know what more or less all atheists think, read the garage dragon parable. (Link above.)

    Now, there is some legitimate disagreement in the communities as to exactly which god hypotheses are compellingly falsified. Most everyone – self-identified agnostics and self-identified atheists – agree that Christian Young Earth Creationism is wrong, and thus any Young Earth Creationist Christian god does not exist. Some atheists go particularly far and argue that the evidence from science, esp. physics, leaves no room for miracles, and thus all interfering gods are falsified. Not beyond all doubt, but to some degree of nontrivial confidence. I happen to hold to this position. d’Holbach also holds to this position.

    In short, by the definition and usage of “atheist” in use by more or less all atheist for at least the last 300 years, Sagan is an atheist. He didn’t like the label, but the label fits.

  240. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Maybe they are not capable of having a reasonable conversation with someone who does not have their exact viewpoint and wealth of knowledge – I know several professors like that.

    To a certain extent.

    If one genuinely pursues the argument that one should do what god commands even in the cases where it is agreed by all – including god – that it hurts the human condition – if you argue in divine command theory over humanism – then the conversation is truly over.

    If one genuinely pursues the argument that it’s ok to believe ridiculous things without evidence, like there exists a god, or Jesus is a man who did magic, then the conversation is also over.

    You still haven’t answered the basic questions – what do you believe, and why do you believe it?

    You’re still mistaken as to what “atheism” means. Atheism is not the sole position that there are no gods. Atheism includes people with the position “I do not know”.

    PS: The IMHO unassailable position regarding abortion is as thus: We care about the well-being of conscious creatures. If it doesn’t have a mind, then I don’t care. That’s why I don’t care if you burn (cremate) the body of a dead guy, or bury the body of a dead guy, etc. I don’t care because the dead guy no longer has a mind. Similarly, during human embryo development, initially it has no nerves – let alone a brain – and thus it has no mind. Later, it gets a mind. This is not a bright dividing line, just like death is not. However, for embryos which do not have differentiated cells, there is absolutely nothing morally wrong about ending it. At all. For any reason whatsoever. Only by appealing to magic like souls can you IMHO reasonably argue otherwise.

  241. Narf says

    Carl Sagan answered the question himself using his own words, “I am agnostic.”

    Short and simple and no room for interpretation.

    Bullshit. So, Carl Sagan was Agnostic. That means that there are no other labels that can ever be applied to him? So, he couldn’t be a Secular Humanist, because he was agnostic?

    Atheism and agnosticism are not mutually exclusive.

    Sagan was known for his skepticism. He knew that atheism is the assertion of a fact that is scientifically unprovable.

    Again, bullshit. Look at the way the word is defined in the dictionary. Look at the way that the atheist movement uses the word. Look at the way that the word is defined by almost anyone but a huckster apologist. Atheism is the lack of belief in a deity. If you don’t understand the difference between that and the positive assertion that there are no deities, your understanding of philosophy is too poor to have this discussion, until you bone up a bit on the subject.

    Strong atheism and agnostic atheism are also context dependent.

    I do not believe that any gods exist. I’m an agnostic atheist in respect to the general claim that some god of some sort exists.

    I’m as certain as is reasonably possible to be that the god of the Bible does not exist. The Bible is full of shit, as has been demonstrated by scholarship, science, and philosophy. I’m a strong atheist in respect to the Abrahamic god.

  242. Bunzai Meister says

    Narf:

    OK, although you, historians, and myself may classify historical people into certain categories – I would rather rely upon the person’s word and their explanations. I am not 100% comfortable myself when people classify me in certain categories even though I may more or less fit it. I would like it if people asked me personally, because then I can be more precise in explaining in what ways I am in that category and in what ways I am not.

    The title, “The Atheist Experience”, gives me the feeling or sense that all atheists are considered the same on this blog, and think the same way.

    I have tried to answer questions here as honestly as possible. A lot of the questions are like asking me whether the sky is black or white. Of course the sky is blue. So, I have been colorful in my replies to give a more truthful answer.

    “I’m as certain as is reasonably possible” – OK, that is honest. Of course “reasonably” is relative to your own experience and knowledge. I respect your decision as a fellow sentient being. I am not aware of any logical flaws that may be in your reasoning, because I do not know what you know and what you do not or what you have experienced and what you have not.

    “The Bible is full of shit” – hmmm. I agree as a science book, yes it is full of it. As fundamentalists often use it, yes it has a lot of it. Personally, I choose not to use it except when I must. If there is a story in it that teaches a valid moral lesson or gives a revelation to me – I try to rewrite the moral lesson or the inspiration in another form like poetry, so I can get away from all of its archaic thinking. As a human being raised in the Christian belief, the Bible has been useful in understanding the underlying meaning of the affected aspects of my person, but my goal is to move onward.

    So, I wrote all that to qualify how I agree with you that “the Bible is full of shit”. However, perhaps you feel so strongly that you think all copies should be burned, and even erased from history if that were possible?

    So, back to morality. From the gist of it, you seem to feel animal experimentation is justified because it is an unavoidable necessity in learning how to cure people of diseases.

    Suppose I was suffering from some disease that was very terrible and will even cause death. If scientists came to me and said they could find a cure in little time, but they would need to put animals through the same suffering, I would not ask them to find the cure. If the scientists came to me and insisted on it, saying they would do it out of care or out of love for myself. I would say, “how could it be love, if it brings such evil to one who is innocent. A gift of love is something that reverberates goodness throughout the universe.” (That is how I can best explain it without bringing up explicitly my belief in God.)

  243. Bunzai Meister says

    What do I believe? It was my intention to discuss deciding morality (and the “relative” aspect of it) without bringing up belief. I do believe in God, the creator. I believe for more personal reasons than I care to discuss here.

    If one genuinely pursues the argument that one should do what god commands even in the cases where it is agreed by all – including god – that it hurts the human condition – if you argue in divine command theory over humanism – then the conversation is truly over.

    “hurts the human condition” – I think this would be the whole point of argument. I don’t believe our current state of empiricism should trump tradition alone on deciding what is helpful or hurtful of the human condition. Traditions do change with time and deciding how to alter social traditions with empiricism as one consideration among many I would agree with. Changing what used to be called “Social Studies” into “Social Sciences” does not yet make it into a science. Compared to particle physics, sociology and psychology are just beginning to go from alchemy into discovering the elements and how they make compounds.

    If one genuinely pursues the argument that it’s ok to believe ridiculous things without evidence, like there exists a god, or Jesus is a man who did magic, then the conversation is also over.

    “ridiculous things without evidence” – Do you mean scientific evidence? Consider society. Do you think all the evolving entities within society will let you do scientific experiments on them. Many people and organizations within society are fighting at the very edge of survival, and are continually evolving and constantly employing new tools that also continue to evolve. The world will not sit still for science to test it all. The complete human condition is beyond the grasp of science.

    If you believe that science is able to examine reality in its entirety, then there is no point in continuing the conversation. I am not even talking about introducing the possibility of supernatural beings (what you seem to refer to as ridiculous things). Do you believe that there is no order within nature beyond the analysis of science?

    PS: Thanks for informing me of a position regarding abortion. It is a logical position, but there is one argument that need not appeal to magic. People do not grow like seeds in a field, but they are conceived within an relationship. A person is not defined by themselves alone, but how others relate to them. Abortion affects the mother’s mind, and through her those close to her, and so on to the whole society. At the more “holistic” level it is “hurtful to the human condition”.

    I often find that whenever a clear logical argument seems to apply to real life, there is some over-simplification taking place and the resulting model within the mind does not represent reality.

  244. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Ok, I’m game. What did you want to discuss about morality?

    Science: You are misunderstanding what the rest of us mean by science. In this context, we simply mean all correct forms of evidence-based reasoning. Let me explain. Someone once said that insanity is doing the same thing again and again, getting the same result each time, and expecting a different result the next time. With that understanding, you are practicing scientific reasoning every time you are not being insane. Scientific reasoning is merely doing the same thing again and again, getting the same result every time, and expecting the same result the next time. Scientific reasoning is merely applying inductive reasoning on sensory experience to inform your expectations of future sensory experience.

    In that sense, every time you have any interpersonal communication, you are doing science. Every time you talk with your friend, you gain additional experience – aka evidence – about how your friend behaves. Internally, you add this to your internal predictive model of your friend’s behavior, thereby informing you of what you can expect from your friend in the future.

    Tradition: Yes, I do think that tradition as separated from scientific reasoning is absolutely worthless w.r.t. discovering and learning truth about our shared material reality. Why would you think otherwise? Do you have any reason and evidence to suggest otherwise? As soon as you have some reason and evidence to suggest otherwise, then it is no longer tradition separated from scientific reasoning. As soon as you have reason and evidence otherwise, it is science.

    And if you don’t have any reason or evidence to suggest otherwise, then I am free to dismiss it as bunk ala basic skepticism. Put one way, skepticism is the idea that if you come to a conclusion (about our shared material reality) without proper scientific reasoning, then you might as well be rolling dice. I have no reason to think that your method – if any – works, and thus it’s equivalent to wild mass guessing.

    Scientific facts of well-being: The facts of what makes humans happy, safe, what gives them freedom, what improves their well-being, are questions susceptible to scientific analysis. They are questions of material fact of our shared reality. Of course, the only direct access anyone has to anyone else’s state of happiness is their self reporting and our observation of their behavior, but that is more than sufficient to do a science of happiness.

    To be extraordinarily clear – I have no argument as to why we should improve the human condition. I might say it’s self-evident, which is another way to say it’s axiomatic. However, once you agree to that, then science takes you the rest of the way. Sometimes there are obvious right and wrong answers as to how to improve the human condition. In fact, I would say a great many of today’s problems have obvious right and wrong answers.

    (See the work of Sam Harris in “The Moral Landscape”.)

    “Waiting for science”: Again, I meant to use the broader understanding of scientific reasoning, not the formalized science that only goes into journals. Of course we should use correct evidence-based reasoning to solve these problems, because nothing else will. Maybe we shouldn’t wait for a formal statistical analysis and go with a mere preponderance of evidence under an quick and informal analysis, but we should use scientific reasoning, because nothing else works.

    Abortion: You are attacking it from an interesting angle. However, I am sorry that I have to reject your argument under the following grounds. You are not the parent of a prospective mother. You are not my parent. You do not have the “right” to decide for other people such things. They have the right to determine what is best for them, even if they’re wrong. For matters pertaining only to the person, including their own mind and body, they are sovereign. For any consenting informed group of adults, it is always wrong to use legal force against them when their actions harm no one outside the group. (See John Stuart Mill in “On Liberty”.) (PS: This also includes the right to use force to compel someone to action for the public good.)

    I fully understand that I’m not making an argument per se for this position now. I’m just asserting it. I don’t know if you can really defend it. It’s just one of those starting points. I believe that in a free society, people should be free to determine for themselves what they want to do with their lives, and no one else has the right to decide for them how they should live their life. Of course, you are free to talk to them, persuade them, argue with them, but never use force against them if they harm no one else. This is to me an integral part of human well-being and humanism, the idea and right to self-determination.

    So, I am sympathetic to your argument that it’s bad for the mother to have an abortion. However, that determination is to be made by the mother, because she is an independent capable human being, and no one has the “right” to abridge her free will in matters that concern her own body when no one else is harmed.

    (PS: I also happen to think that the phenomenon of mother’s slipping into depression and such after an abortions is false, or at least quite blown out of proportions by the lying Christian right, but even if it were true the most I would support is an information campaign to make it widely known so that more people could make the better choice.)

  245. Bunzai Meister says

    Science:

    I know for a fact from having working with other scientists in a very large corporation, that science does not work the way you have described in the real life. That is the result of my evidence-based reasoning.

    Scientific knowledge is confirmed by the reproduction of experiments by a variety of scientists in a variety of laboratories. Why is this necessary? Why all this fuss about reproducing results, because there may be a hidden bias or error made by a single group of scientists, or there may be a problem with a single laboratory.

    I agree that sane minds perform evidence-based reasoning. However, in most of life’s situations, it is very difficult to confirm the results of analysis scientifically. Your mind may be informed of some scientific results (confirmed in a laboratory setting), and apply it to your perceived previous experiences, and come up with a *theory* as to what works best. Or maybe your mind imagines a few choices and constructs if-then scenarios for each choice. However, these are all *theories* and if you get a nice result from the choice of action you plan, it is still a *theory* and may not have produced the optimal result, or it could even turn around and give you a negative long-term outcome. There has not been done a complete thorough experimentation of all the possibilities and their outcomes for it to be science. If you have studied in experimental design, you would know that it would be a life-time of work to design the events of a single day into a configuration of experiments that would be scientifically acceptable.

    In real life, all this evidence-based reasoning is taking place in a scenario where there are also strong normative forces. Just as the need for food and sex are primal driving forces of the body mind, the normative forces in society act on basic needs of our social mind. These are often unconscious and will sway the evidence-based reasoning of the mind as well. Every mind has both blind spots and also hidden manipulators. This method can fail and the mind can become trapped in its own mistakes. Fortunately, talking over difficulties with peers can help this. However, the group mentality is susceptible to the same mistakes and traps.

    What you are calling science is not science, it is called intelligence, and the mind automatically does this. Otherwise, there would be no tools. Intelligence can also be supported by meditation, intuition, and prayer. Believe it or not, prayer is not only used to counter atheism, it is also how some alcoholics find the strength of character to battle their addiction, so that they can be capable of evidence-based reasoning.

    Don’t get me wrong, what you are talking about is good; it is an effort at being correct in a scientific way, where you only have one lab and each time you do something (have a conversation for instance) the experiment is similar in some ways and different in others, and this gives you feedback but the next day is another day, and something is different again. Unfortunately, no one can duplicate the exact experiment for you. So, it is not science.

    In the corporation I spoke of, the effort was to produce models to aid in the decision making by the management. Some of the people who worked on it would always complain at how unscientific it was, because they were used to modeling molecules, where after every thing is said and done, they could test the results in the lab. Instead they were modeling the corporation itself, adapting and piecing together models they “felt” were best from literature. They then used the the results of these models to advise the management. Then the management informed by this made their own decisions. It was impossible to test their actual results. So, the decision was informed by scientific results from a different situation, but whether it was applied correctly and their model actually represented reality they were never able to confirm scientifically.

    Tradition:

    There are some social behaviors that have stood the test of time. Like the golden rule. Every culture has traditions, and they help save people from re-inventing the wheel, so that they can focus more on what they like. However, traditions can slow down progress, but they protect a society from rapid change that may seem good in the confirmed short-run, but turn out very bad in the long-run.

    Head in the Clouds:

    So, it is possible to imagine magically that we could analyze all the traditions using our perfect knowledge of science and keep the good, and change the bad so we no longer have any. That is magic.

    In real life, it is not so easy. The psychological and sociological sciences aren’t so good, and we do not have multiple laboratories to test out any full application of the theories we develop in smaller experimental runs.

    Even if you have your *easy* answers – there is the matter of convincing other people. What if they are not convinced? What are you going to do? Now you have even more questions! Self-determination I agree is good, but what if a person just wants to smoke pot all day? Just asking. Sometimes you do not get the job you would like, but need to take one that is not to your liking? Is this self-determination? What type of jobs being offered may depend upon the principles of the society, or the decisions of the powerful. Is this self-determination?

    What might happen? Well those who ponder the problems of morality, may develop their own terminology and be unwilling to talk about it in the casual language to everyday people who may be busy working on other things. So, they become a separate class of people who are considered experts. Sometimes these experts may not agree on a theory, so they try to bolster their case with supporters while attacking their opponents. And then we have the same problem of religion all over again, where the high priests are experts in morality, and unquestionable by the common person, while guiding governments or whoever is in power. And what if there evidence-based morality is in error?

    Human Condition

    Why should we better the human condition? Yes, people usually just accept it axiomatically or by belief. What does it mean to better the human condition? How do you make people happy? Some days, one thing makes me happy and some days another thing does. Sometimes, something which at first is very awful, slowly becomes a source of happiness – like exercising. I am very skeptical whenever someone claims something betters the human condition, whether they claim it is due to belief or due to science. Long term studies that cover the entire life cycle of a person are very costly and rare.

    Abortion

    Yes, I am not your parent, BUT I am a member of society and have a shared interest in its health. Whenever the right of a parent conflicts with the right of a child, it is the duty of a parent to care for the child. The acceptance that parents should take responsibility of their children is important to society. The abortion violates this attitude, as the mother is taking consideration of herself over the well-being of her child.

    I know you consider that the fetus is not a person unless it has a mind. However, at the point of conception it does become a unique form of life, that relies upon the mother while developing a mind. As it develops through all its stages, it depends less and less on the mother until finally it is no longer a child. This relationship of dependence upon the mother in changing ways as the child develops starts at conception and goes to adulthood and often carries through all the way to death, and forms the mother-child relationship. This is why I view the child as a person at conception, because it begins a relationship with the mother, who must care for it in order for it to survive.

    I do not know about abortions, but I have been close to mothers who have had stillborn babies. It is devastating to the mothers, as they considered their unborn children as their children to be cared for. It is devastating as a loss and as guilt that it may have been something they had done wrong.

    Well, since people are always making up new words, I am Pro-Choice-Life. I am for giving mothers the opportunity to make the choice for life. I don’t think abortions should be illegal, because I am against setting the precedent of the government having authority over a person’s body. However, I do think it should be illegal, because I think it is harmful to the child (blatantly) and damages the social attitude that parents should take care of their children. So, I am of mixed minds regarding the legality of it. However, instead of spending money on trying to make abortions illegal I would rather have pro-lifer’s money support those mothers willing to keep their child (either for adoption or for life), who otherwise choose abortion out of poverty.

  246. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Again, stop getting hung up over the word (“science”). Just think “base your beliefs in accordance with the available evidence”. It’s getting tiresome when I’ve already explained myself on this topic and you continue to strawman.

    “You use that word, but I do not think you know what it means.” – If you go to college, you find many classes on atomic theory. Atoms are just a theory. You’ll find more classes on the Newtonian theory of gravity and the theory of General Relativity. Gravity is just a theory. The word “theory” has two uses. 1: The informal use which means “just a guess”. 2: In formal science, a theory is a model and body of knowledge which explains a great many facts (etc.).

    Again, the basic point is that we better be basing our beliefs in accordance with the available evidence and analysis, and no further. Faith and tradition do not enter into this at all.

    What you are calling science is not science, it is called intelligence, and the mind automatically does this. Otherwise, there would be no tools. Intelligence can also be supported by meditation, intuition, and prayer.

    Citations please. I want anything which shows that prayer improves your ability to make sound judgments. If anything, I greatly expect that the exact opposite is true, because prayer is the abandonment of sound thinking. Prayer is the abdication of reasoning according to the available evidence.

    [...] Believe it or not, prayer is not only used to counter atheism, it is also how some alcoholics find the strength of character to battle their addiction, so that they can be capable of evidence-based reasoning.

    Right now, I do not care about what gets you out of bed in the morning. We need to lay some ground rules. We first need to have a conversation about how we determine what is materially true. Then we need to have a conversation about what goals we should seek. The first informs what plans we should chose for the second. If you do not agree to this framing of the conversation, then the conversation is over. Again, I care about what is true. I do not care about what makes you feel good – (at least not until we establish what is true).

    Prayer does nothing except make you feel good. Can we agree to that? Can we agree that prayer is nothing more than self delusion and any possible placebo effect?

    There are some social behaviors that have stood the test of time. Like the golden rule. Every culture has traditions, and they help save people from re-inventing the wheel, so that they can focus more on what they like. However, traditions can slow down progress, but they protect a society from rapid change that may seem good in the confirmed short-run, but turn out very bad in the long-run.

    Examples please. Citations please. Every time this argument has ever been used, it has been used by the reactionary conversative forces acting to continue gross injustices. This is what people said to condone slavery and discrimination and laws against interracial marriage. This is what people like you say to laws against homosexual conduct and same sex marriage. I cannot even contrive a plausible scenario where this might be true. Give me an example. All I see is superstitions holding back actual progress, both scientific and moral progress.

    The golden rule is a good start, but it’s actually a bad rule. “Treat others as you want to be treated.” Obviously, you want a parent, but I don’t want a parent. I’m an adult, and I want to make decisions for myself. Your application of the golden rule would make you my parent, and I will not have that. The golden rule is a good first approximation, but there are better, like John Stuart Mill’s “On Liberty”.

    I agree is good, but what if a person just wants to smoke pot all day? Just asking.

    Let them. Do you know how much money it costs to keep a pot head in prison? IIRC, in the neighbourhood of 100,000 USD per year. You know how much it takes to let a pot head live on your couch? Significantly less. The “war on drugs” viewed in any view is a miserable failure. It has miserably failed to achieve its ends. It has actually increased drug use and availability while increasing the dangers of drug use. It has cost you and me untold fortunes that could be better spent helping them, and taking the large remaining fraction left over to improve the lives of the rest of us.

    That is, even under your moral system, the “war on drugs” is a miserable failure. This is even before asking if it’s moral to have a “war on drugs”, and it’s not. Outlawing marijuanna makes no more moral sense that outlawing alcohol, tobacco, or carbonated drinks.

    Sometimes you do not get the job you would like, but need to take one that is not to your liking?

    What does this have to do with anything? I said that anyone who wants to engage in private conduct should be allowed. Your example is fundamentally different than putting a demand on a second person to hire the first person. You haven’t thought this through too carefully have you?

    Why should we better the human condition?

    I will not answer this question. I have no answer for this question. If you disagree with it, then you are my enemy, and I will work to thwart your plans, and I hope you die in a fire for the benefit of the rest of us. Truly.

    What does it mean to better the human condition? How do you make people happy? Some days, one thing makes me happy and some days another thing does. Sometimes, something which at first is very awful, slowly becomes a source of happiness – like exercising. I am very skeptical whenever someone claims something betters the human condition, whether they claim it is due to belief or due to science. Long term studies that cover the entire life cycle of a person are very costly and rare.

    It’s not as difficult as you make it. But even if it was – so what? I am going to make people happier, more free, safer, and improve their well-being. This is the good thing to do. I will do it to the best of my abilities and to the best of my limited information. What would you do? Work against the well-being of people just because it’s hard? Just ignore trying to make our world a better place? Come on. You’re not even trying now. You’re not being honest. You’re just being difficult. You’re just being a contrarian for seemingly no purpose.

    Yes, I am not your parent, BUT I am a member of society and have a shared interest in its health. Whenever the right of a parent conflicts with the right of a child, it is the duty of a parent to care for the child.

    Before there is differentiation of cells into nerve cells, there is no child. Even well after that, we know that there is no mind for at least the first 3 (or 6?) months, and thus there is no child. It’s just a lump of flesh, and society has absolutely no business interfering with the woman’s body because it is her body.

    I know you consider that the fetus is not a person unless it has a mind.

    Correct.

    However, at the point of conception it does become a unique form of life,

    I do not care. My body must kill millions or billions of bacteria every day, and those are “unique forms of life”. I do not give a rat’s ass. Do you think I care if it has human DNA? Nope. Inject some human DNA into a bacteria, and see how much I care when my immune system destroys it like any other worthless single celled creature or multicellular creature without a mind.

    This is why I view the child as a person at conception, because it begins a relationship with the mother, who must care for it in order for it to survive.

    Your position causes stress and hardship on the woman. It is a woman, not a mother. You abridge the woman’s right to decide what to do with her own body. And you do all of this for no good reason. You impose your will on her when her actions affect no one else. And that is why I will fight you every step of the way. I will fight your heinous overreach of government power – your tyranny – kicking and screaming. You will not be her parent, and you will not be my parent.

  247. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Also, before you continue this conversation, you should educate yourself on some relevant matters.

    Human identical twins happens when a fertilized egg splits to form two separate embryos which go on to form two separate human beings. The human beings have separate existence, but the same DNA. The fertilized embryo can split up to 2 or 3 weeks after fertilization AFAIK.

    Human chimeras happen when two fertilized eggs join together to form a single human being. Different parts of the human being will have different DNA. It may be that the legs have DNA from the first egg and the upper half has DNA from the second leg. Chimeras are generally detected from unusual sex organ characteristics, which means most human chimeras do not even know that they are a chimera. The number of human chimeras is probably much higher than you think. The joining of the two fertilized eggs can happen 2 or 3 weeks after fertilization AFAIK.

    Here we are, with fertilized eggs doing all sorts of crazy things several weeks into pregnancy. Contrary to your assertions, there isn’t a strong relationship between “fertilized egg” and “human being”.

    Now, if you believe in human souls, what exactly do you think is going on here? My position is simple. Minds come from brains, and the formation of the brain is relatively well understood in all of these processes. I have absolutely no idea how you think a soul thingy would work in this situation.

    Also keep in mind that the human body spontaneously aborts most pregnancies. I do not recall the exact number, you can look it up yourself, but 50% (or 80% ?) of pregnancies end with naturally occurring spontaneous abortions. (I honestly don’t know what this has to do with anything, but many people of faith tell me that this fact is troubling. Make of it what you will.)

  248. Bunzai Meister says

    Yes, you are right, sometimes I am guilty of over simplifying matters.

    The difficulty is in drawing the line. Due to various reasons (hormonal and social), many mothers feel that they have a child at the moment of conception. Whether you agree with it being their child at that point or not, they take care of themselves so that it will be healthy, and it does become their child (unless their body aborts it). The caring for the child(ren) before it has a mind (or before it has taken its final chromosomal form) is part of being a mother.

    The attitude that parents have the duty to care for their children is necessary for the health of society. I’m not saying that the parents need to raise the child alone, but society needs to have someone to raise the children responsibly (self-determination needs to be learned). If the society has strong individualism and respects self-determination, then the parents will probably have the freedom to raise the children as they find best – but they need to care for them.

    There is no need to argue about the supernatural. I would rather look at the bigger picture. I know that life is complicated, and there are going to be exceptions – and in these cases hard decisions need to be made. People are going to have different ideas, but they should respect the individual who is in the situation. The person should be treated with compassion no matter how they decide, and be supported so they are able to make a decision with their own conviction (not pressured).

    Like I have said, I think the social code of a parent’s duty is very important – it is the virtue of parenthood. Most of the time, biological factors support the virtue – however, when they don’t, the virtue should not be abandoned lightly – like all virtues it is strengthened by the virtue of fortitude. Biologically the hormones at the time of conception support this virtue. (And I realize that this causes grave difficulties when a miscarriage occurs naturally at any stage.)

    Accepting abortions lightly, and considering the fetus as an appendage, is weakening the virtue of parenthood by separating it from the natural biological support induced by hormones. It disrupts the virtue by encouraging a division in the mental reality and body reality of the person. The disruption of this virtue is harmful to society. We are smart animals, but we need to respect that we are animals and our biological functioning. Perhaps instead of dissecting the parts, it would be better to look at the situation as a whole, as a state of pregnancy or a state of motherhood.

    I am skeptical of science, just as I am of religion and traditions. I think that science is still young and must be careful and humble when making decisions affecting society (which will never fit in a laboratory) – also, not all scientific experiments are well done. It is a similar dilemma to the problem with the Bible. Just like people can find passages in the Bible to support any position, anyone can find poorly done science that has slipped into the journals unnoticed. Unfortunately, in depth research is always necessary. Now, we are in the same boat as the legal situation, where the laws are so complicated that a person should not defend themselves, but must pay money to hire a lawyer. I am not attacking science, I am all for good science. I am being skeptical of science for its own good, and we need good science because science is necessary for humanity. Scientists are usually skeptical, but sometimes they are prone to accept a faulty group mindset especially when it justifies the need of their research and them getting funding $$. The movie “Toxic Hot Seat” is a great example of how good science can topple a faulty mindset that was established (by reason, not by faith) for many decades and brought dangerous cancer-causing chemicals unnecessarily into the homes of America.

    The fact that many scientists who are responsible for the science we have today do not agree with your unproven theory regarding prayer, is enough evidence for me that you are wrong. You are treating the scientific community as if they all agree with you, and they don’t. The way you are raving is like you are a high priest and your unproven philosophy is absolute truth. I agree that your philosophy does have some level of justifications, but it needs more development. More importantly, it is unproven.

    If you do not respect the value of tradition, nor respect a person’s intelligence regardless of their belief, then we should probably end this conversation. I have found it very fruitful, but life is calling me to more productive things at the moment. The fact that you are demanding explanations and citations for things that most scientists have experienced in their own careers is making this all so deadening. I recommend you read a book from any other philosophical or religious tradition, not necessarily my own, just so that it is outside your current self-justified mindset.

    Oh and pick up any book on “intelligence,” and stop calling it “science.” Lol.

  249. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    You still are comparing use of the Christian bible with use of reason and evidence. I see no reason why. As long as you continue to blindly assert that equivalence, then the conversation cannot go forward. I am interested in talking about what is demonstrably true. I do not care what some mungy old fiction book (the Christian bible) happens to say.

    You want parents to care for their kids? Great. That would be nice. So would I. That’s still not a good enough reason to violate the bodily integrity of a human being. If you could show that violating my bodily integrity would somehow promote people voting in a similarly circuitous route, I would be similarly against it.

    People should not be treated as mindless automita. Moral responsibility is personal responsibility for your own actions. For example, if you were beaten as a child, it does not excuse you if you later murder someone. Cry me a river. It is your fault that you murdered someone. You chose to do so. Your parents are not responsible – whether they beat you or not.

    I’d take a guess that you’re not a fan of feminism, so as a rhetorical tactic, but an honest tactic, let me frame this in such a way as to make you feel quite uncomfortable. A common feminist argument, which I happen to honestly disagree with, is that we should outlaw rape jokes or use very very strong societal pressure against the common rape joke because the occasional rape joke will quite indirectly “cause” a certain small set of people to be more likely to rape someone. I think this is a completely horseshit argument, for exactly the same reason that I think your “virtue of parenthood” argument is horseshit.

    In both cases, the conduct that we want to promote / ban has a purported effect on other people through the most circuitous route. The argument is that we want to violate someone’s bodily integrity, or the right of free speech, because we want to change public discourse in order to foster some nebulous benefit. On the other side, we have actual concrete harm of the highest degree, whether we’re violating someone’s bodily integrity, or violating free speech. It should be a simple open and shut case.

    If we really descend down this road, then we are in effect making everyone a slave to society. This kind of argument can abridge everyone’s freedom of self determination because any action can be deemed to be not sufficiently conducive to society under the flimsiest of arguments and benefits.

    (Note that I still call out people who actually are misygnostic, and because of my time here I have become more uncomfortable with rape jokes in general.)

    The fact that many scientists who are responsible for the science we have today do not agree with your unproven theory regarding prayer, is enough evidence for me that you are wrong.

    Do you want to talk about the evidence? Or do you want to talk about people’s feelings and beliefs? I have no doubt that a great many professional scientists believe that prayer works. Guess what? They have no good reason nor evidence for those beliefs. They did not come to their beliefs through reason and evidence. They came to their beliefs through tradition, religion, and faith, e.g. bullshit. Scientists are human, and humans are very adept at holding mutually inconsistent beliefs.

    If you are going to make the argument that lots of scientists think that prayer works, then you are making an argument from popularity, and I will have none of that fallacy.

    If you are going to make an argument from the evidence, then I am willing to take part. Citations please. I want a study which shows that prayer works better than the placebo effect. I know of no such study, and I know of several studies which show that prayer does not work better than the placebo effect, and in fact can be worse than no “treatment” at all.

    PS:
    Talk about random. About “Toxic Hot Seat”. You didn’t frame it fairly.
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/marcia-g-yerman/toxic-hot-seat-ignites-aw_b_4338572.html
    It’s not about some investigative reporting overturning years of science (which does happen sometimes, albeit rarely). This is about a bunch of toxic chemicals used as flame retardants on furniture and such which were never tested for safety. Never tested -> not overturning years of science -> you don’t know what you’re talking about.

  250. Bunzai Meister says

    Toxic Hot Seat:

    I watched the movie. In defense of not only using the flame retardants but insisting they were necessary, poor use of scientific publications as evidence was made. The article you quoted *may* be referring to it by this line: “What ensued were health hazards Americans were unaware of and years of disinformation promoted by those with big money at stake.” The disinformation was supported by citing scientific publications.

    Individual vs Society:

    There are two extremes: individual freedom with individual accountability, and people as mindless slaves of society. Neither is true and never will be. The reality lies between these extremes, and the exact location depends upon choices of both the person and the larger society.

    It is easier for science to test things regarding individuals. However, to test hypothesis regarding societies is more difficult because experimentation is more difficult. In this case, one can use historical evidence. This may provide support to a hypothesis but it still cannot be demonstrated to be true or false. Two sociologists may look at the same history and support two different beliefs using logic and social psychology. An experiment would decide the matter, but such a laboratory does not exist, and so instead they argue.

    Parents have a share in the responsibility for raising their children so that they know how to act without hurting themselves, others, and society. If a child grows to become a murderer, yes, the law will punish the murderer, but that does not necessarily mean the parents had no role in it, nor carry any moral responsibility.

    Yes, society should respect the freedom of the individual, provided that the person has learned to live without hurting themselves, others, and society. Part of this is following a social contract. Otherwise, there is really a need for some type of rehab.

    Prayer:

    There are many forms of prayer. For most believers, prayer is something that they begin as children, and then continue to do regularly as adults and becomes inseparable from other aspects of their lives. I know scientists and mathematicians who find prayer personally useful in their work. I understand it as helping them to bring the beliefs and dreams of their faith community into their career work. If you are against these beliefs and dreams, then I understand that you would consider it ineffective or perhaps disastrous to progress.

    However, historically, people of prayer have contributed substantially to the understanding of truth. In fact, they are responsible for the development of science. The father of the inductive experimental method was Alhazen in the 10th and 11th centuries. He used his method in his studies of optics and wrote at least 37 works on science. Alhazen was a devout Muslim, and although I do not share his religion, I understand much of his stance regarding truth (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ibn_al-Haytham):

    “Truth is sought for its own sake … Finding the truth is difficult, and the road to it is rough. For the truths are plunged in obscurity. … God, however, has not preserved the scientist from error and has not safeguarded science from shortcomings and faults. If this had been the case, scientists would not have disagreed upon any point of science…”

    “I constantly sought knowledge and truth, and it became my belief that for gaining access to the effulgence and closeness to God, there is no better way than that of searching for truth and knowledge.”

    I find it funny that atheists and believers often argue about the origin of the universe, for which there are many theories. We do know for historical fact the origins of science, and that is genuine believers. That is the path I freely choose to follow.

  251. Narf says

    OK, although you, historians, and myself may classify historical people into certain categories – I would rather rely upon the person’s word and their explanations.

    Excellent idea. Let’s rely upon the letters that Jesus wrote and base our opinion of him upon those.

    Oh, wait, I’m sorry. We don’t have any of those, do we? All that we have are the Gospels, which are a collection of anonymous, oral-only stories, written down several decades after Jesus’s supposed sacrificial death. How do you propose we rely upon Jesus’s words, when we don’t have any? Your entire proposal is dead on arrival.

    The title, “The Atheist Experience”, gives me the feeling or sense that all atheists are considered the same on this blog, and think the same way.

    If you watched the show regularly, you would have seen several episodes in which the host and co-host had an argument on-screen. I remember one between Matt and Don, about the Bible saying that Pi = 3. Atheists call in all the time and get ripped apart by the hosts, when they try to push some pseudoscience nonsense or some other complete bullshit.

    Like I said quite a while back, there are plenty of atheists who are not even vaguely skeptics. That’s one of the things that makes atheists difficult to organize. We disagree on most things, other than the existence of gods. The best you can add to that is that we tend to reject things that only have a basis in some religion’s dogma, which is why most atheists are socially liberal.

    I have tried to answer questions here as honestly as possible. A lot of the questions are like asking me whether the sky is black or white. Of course the sky is blue. So, I have been colorful in my replies to give a more truthful answer.

    Even blue has a luminosity value, which is equivalent to your comparison of black and white. What you’re actually doing is avoiding the question or answering a question we didn’t ask, when there is an answer within the parameters we’re requesting. If you want to introduce your explanation of the hue of the blue afterwards, you’re more than welcome to, and we can then evaluate whether or not it has anything to do with the matter at hand.

    Thank you, your example served quite nicely as a metaphor to show how you’re dodging the questions. :P

    “The Bible is full of shit” – hmmm. I agree as a science book, yes it is full of it. As fundamentalists often use it, yes it has a lot of it. Personally, I choose not to use it except when I must.

    So, then what do you rely upon? Unless God speaks to you in your head and answers your questions unambiguously, the Bible is the only thing you have to rely upon. Otherwise, you’re just making shit up.

    If there is a story in it that teaches a valid moral lesson or gives a revelation to me – I try to rewrite the moral lesson or the inspiration in another form like poetry, so I can get away from all of its archaic thinking.

    In other words, you’re picking and choosing, based upon some non-religious principle. How is this better than tossing the Bible and making up something more moral and ethical than the bible, from scratch? You don’t need the Bible.

    So, I wrote all that to qualify how I agree with you that “the Bible is full of shit”. However, perhaps you feel so strongly that you think all copies should be burned, and even erased from history if that were possible?

    Why the hell would anyone want to do that? How else are we going to learn, if we don’t have examples of how to do it the wrong way?

    I’ve heard that Bible paper makes good rolling papers, from some pot smokers that I know, but I’m generally against burning books. I have more respect for the Bible from its inherent association to other books than I do for any specific details in the thing. The Bible is worthless, as a moral guide, since you have to check its morality with outside sources.

    That’s one of the things that liberal Christians like you don’t get. The fundamentalists have it right. As soon as you remove the authority from the book and feel free to ignore bits, you’ve got nothing. You’ve reduced it to, as I said earlier, something akin to Aesop’s Fables.

    Suppose I was suffering from some disease that was very terrible and will even cause death. If scientists came to me and said they could find a cure in little time, but they would need to put animals through the same suffering, I would not ask them to find the cure. If the scientists came to me and insisted on it, saying they would do it out of care or out of love for myself. I would say, “how could it be love, if it brings such evil to one who is innocent. A gift of love is something that reverberates goodness throughout the universe.” (That is how I can best explain it without bringing up explicitly my belief in God.)

    And you’re condemning other humans to the same suffering … as well as other animals who could also benefit from the medication; you would not believe how many human medications and treatments are also used on people’s pets. My mother is on 3 or 4 medications that are effectively exactly the same as the ones her rottweiler takes.

    I value similar intelligence more than I value simply animals. In fact, being an animal gets the species almost nothing, by itself, except in relation to filling its niche in its ecosystem. I care nothing for an individual worm … or an insect. I don’t particularly care about an individual chicken or fish, either. That’s one of the reasons I don’t eat mammals. That’s a very good, simplistic cutoff point that serves my purposes without making me analyze things too much.

    Unfortunately, most testing needs to be done on mammals, so that they’re similar enough to be close representations of us. Rats and mice are fantastic. Similar to what I said earlier, my concern for the animal is proportional to its similarity to myself, intellectually speaking. I don’t care much about rats and mice. I’m less okay with dogs and other species of higher-order intelligence. I’m not at all okay with harmful experimentation on most primates, except in absolutely necessary instances.

    This is how you construct a system of morality, not the simplistic black and white (to borrow from your earlier statement) boundaries upon which you’re relying.

  252. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    If you do not respect the value of tradition, nor respect a person’s intelligence regardless of their belief, then we should probably end this conversation.

    I missed this on the first read through.

    I am a humanist first and foremost. I care about the happiness, safety, freedom, and well-being of humans (and other conscious creatures) and the other values of humanism. If something contradicts these values, then that something automatically loses. I am a decent and good human being, and I will act to improve the human condition.

    I believe that truth has its own value, but moreso I believe that people can only reliably make good decisions and can only reliably make good policy when they have true beliefs. People with false beliefs who make policy will just as likely end up hurting as helping. Actually, because there are so many more ways to hurt the human condition as compared to helping it, people with false beliefs are far more likely to hurt than help when making policy.

    So, I also act to spread truth and counter fiction wherever I find it.

    Someone once said “I respect you too much to respect your ridiculous ideas.” I care about you too much to let you persist in with your ridiculous beliefs. I can and will respect your intelligence, but make no mistake about it, I will give absolutely zero respect or concern for your beliefs. I want the same in return. If you have a belief which I think is false or unsubstantiated, then I will be relentless in bringing it down, until and unless you show me that I am wrong.

    So yes, maybe the conversation should end. Do you care about bettering the human condition? Do you care about truth? Do you want to have a conversation about what is true and what is not? In order to have a conversation about truth, we must be able to point out what is false and what is unsubstantiated. So, what will it be? Respect for beliefs, or truth? Ignorance, or knowledge? Honest intellectual debate, or sycophancy?

  253. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    It is easier for science to test things regarding individuals. However, to test hypothesis regarding societies is more difficult because experimentation is more difficult. In this case, one can use historical evidence. This may provide support to a hypothesis but it still cannot be demonstrated to be true or false. Two sociologists may look at the same history and support two different beliefs using logic and social psychology. An experiment would decide the matter, but such a laboratory does not exist, and so instead they argue.

    Do you accept that the Earth is roughly 4.5 billion years old, and the local universe space-time whatever is about 13.7 billion years old (in the co-moving frame)? Do you think that we could do an experiment? How would you propose to do an experiment to determine if the Earth is indeed 4.5 billion years old?

    Suppose you’re on a jury on a murder case. Are you going to use reason and evidence to decide if the defendant is guilty? Or are you going to use prayer? What kind of experiment are you going to perform to determine if the defendant is guilty?

    You misunderstand science, and you misunderstand the use of reason and evidence in general. There is no requirement in science to do what you call “an experiment”. Large swathes of science would become non-science. We would lose astronomy, large swathes of biology, cosmology, geology, and more.

    Just because we cannot do “an experiment” on the geologic column does not mean we cannot say definitively a great many things about the geologic column. Just because we cannot do “an experiment” on politics or economics does not mean we cannot say definitively a great many things about politics and economics.

    Yes, society should respect the freedom of the individual, provided that the person has learned to live without hurting themselves, others, and society. Part of this is following a social contract. Otherwise, there is really a need for some type of rehab.

    without hurting themselves,

    Nope. That’s not the social contract. You are not my parent. No one is my parent. I can and will hurt myself if I so want. Guess what? I added a little bit of salt to my lunch just now, and I had a caffeinated carbonated soft drink, and you cannot do a damn thing about it. And ought not be able to. At least not with legal force. (Ok, pretend I did. I actually didn’t.)

    Well, I happen to have the strongly held belief that anyone who believers in the Christian god is deluded and harmful to themself. This fact is also strongly based in the available evidence, So, under your argument, you should be involuntarily committed to some rehab program. Do you not see where your logic leads? What kind of special pleading will you employ to avoid this? This should be interesting to watch you dance.

  254. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    We do know for historical fact the origins of science, and that is genuine believers.

    Under your intended meaning, nope. Nope.

    The father of the inductive experimental method was Alhazen in the 10th and 11th centuries.

    Lolnope.

    You are a thousand years too late. The first scientists were the ancient Greeks.

    Here, go educate yourself:
    (Splitting it up into several posts to avoid the spam filter.)
    http://richardcarrier.blogspot.com/2006/11/science-and-medieval-christianity.html

    I know there’s a better Richard Carrier thingy on this somewhere. Let me see if I can find it.

  255. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Ah, not Carrier, but it referenced Carrier.
    http://nobeliefs.com/comments10.htm

    I think there’s another one I read somewhere which goes count by count of many high-publicity burning and hangings of scientists doing good work by the church for their heretical science.

  256. Narf says

    Yup, this is one of the many bullshit ploys pulled by creationists trying to link religion with science. Just because a believer discovered something scientific, it doesn’t mean that it had a damned thing to do with their religious beliefs. Most people had to feign religion, particularly if they were engaged in something likely to be deemed heretical. Some were tried for heresy, anyway.

    Even in the case of true believers, though, what part did their religiosity play in their scientific pursuits? Religion is dogmatic and resistant to change. Scientific discovery is not, if done properly.

    Religion, on the whole, has had a major retarding effect on scientific progress.

  257. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Largely agreed, but be careful. In particular: ” Most people had to feign religion, particularly if they were engaged in something likely to be deemed heretical. Some were tried for heresy, anyway.” – I have little doubt that most professed believers back then – including the major scientists – were actual believers. Don’t posit too much if you don’t have to. I imagine most didn’t feign belief, at least not more than people today feign belief. They acted religious not because they were afraid of the repercussions on average. They were religious because they were raised religious. They were believers and they were scientists, just like many professional scientists today are also religious and do good scientific work.

    It is true to say that as far as their work is good science, it is free of prayer, faith, religion, etc. It is true to say that Christianity was probably an overall retarding force on scientific process and inquiry, but it is important to note that Christianity has no particular claim over this one. Most religious have the same problem. It’s hard for me to imagine any sort of religious sermon extolling the virtues of not accepting something without good evidence, of the value of inquiry, of the value of challenging everything. All of those are the values of science, which stand in stark contrast to the usual values of most religious.

  258. corwyn says

    Don’t posit too much if you don’t have to. I imagine most didn’t feign belief, at least not more than people today feign belief.

    I am not sure what we should take as a null hypothesis here, to avoid positing too much.

    I can claim without fear of evidence to the contrary that 90% of all believers, feign their belief (now and in the past). Or 10% for that matter. It is a matter where data is by definition suspect.

  259. Bunzai Meister says

    The original argument (which was itself off course from the discussion) was that belief in the supernatural somehow limited a person’s reasoning capabilities. I am not arguing that Christianity is responsible for science – although it may very well be responsible for using science to pursue its goals.

    I have researched the development of science, and at many critical stages of improvement are religious people. I am not saying they are all the same religion, or even a religion that is still around today. Alhazen is responsible for the most important step (IMHO) of introducing the inductive experimental method and also using it successfully in the study of optics, illustrating that the results of more primitive scientific means were faulty.

    This discussion, isn’t really a discussion – you are just making lecture – it feels just like you are all fundamental Christians thumping the Bible, but instead of the Bible, you are trying to shove the atheist philosophy down my throat. There are other philosophies that also are based on rationality and empirical evidence. You can paint the facts anyway you like, but the truth is still what matters. Winning an argument is not my goal, if you haven’t already guess that. My goal is to explore how a society establishes its morality based upon using historical facts plus empirical science.

    The problem I am concerned about is that two different people or groups of people (without bringing the supernatural into the picture) may hypothesize two different moralities that society should adopt. (Get over the fact that everyone is free to develop their own morality, society needs some norms to function (social contract), or else no one will have any freedom.) Each group could say the burden of proof is on the other group. However, to prove beyond any doubt that either group is correct empirically would necessitate running an impossible experiment at the social level.

    Now that I think about it, I don’t even think we can have this discussion yet. What do you think of the following scenario?

    A city of population 15,000 is composed of 90% non-smokers. Through proper city government channels the city outlaws the sale of cigarettes and the public smoking of cigarettes in public within the city limits.

  260. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Do you think Jesus rose from the dead? Do you think that Jesus performed of magic (e.g. miracles)? Do you think that by telepthically submitting yourself as a slave to a zombie celestial Jewish carpenter, you can earn rewards after clinical braindeath? Do you think that you can change the outcome of any external event through internal silent prayer in a way which I could not without prayer?

    There are right and wrong answers to these questions. I want you to answer them. You have been dodging them the entire time, and it’s getting frustrating. Stop dodging, state your position clearly, and let’s have a conversation.

    As you seemingly identify with Christianity, I can only assume yes, but I want to hear you say it. I want to hear you say that you believe in these ridiculous things for no good reason, or I want you to put forth your good reasons. If you have no good reasons, then you are not concerned about the truth. You would be concerned only about the power of self delusion. If you have those good reasons, it is time to share.

  261. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Similarly, I want you to respond to the rest of my direct questions. This is how a conversation works. In return, I will respond to yours.

    Again, you argued that it is right for the government to use force against a person’s own will when that person is voluntarily and knowingly harming themself. I happen to think that anyone doing prayer is demonstrably harming themself. They are deluding themselves into a false security, and when that false security comes crashing down, they are not going to get what they want. They are wasting valuable time doing something which they think will work, but it won’t. Ergo, anyone who believes such nonsense should be thrown into a forced rehab program. How do you respond to this? Do you agree with my conclusion? If not, how do you avoid it? What steps do you disagree with? And be careful with your reasoning to make sure that it does not apply to a woman choosing to have an abortion with the possible consequences of emotional harm. (Or – you know – admit that you are wrong.)

  262. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    So, let me respond to your question:

    Now that I think about it, I don’t even think we can have this discussion yet. What do you think of the following scenario?

    A city of population 15,000 is composed of 90% non-smokers. Through proper city government channels the city outlaws the sale of cigarettes and the public smoking of cigarettes in public within the city limits.

    What about it? Clear overreach of government power.

    You might be able to make an argument that maybe public healthcare shouldn’t cover the likely lung cancer et al of the smokers. Even then, this argument is sketchy, for reasons which I can go into.

    You might be able to argue that a ban on smoking in public places has merit because second hand smoke is dangerous.

    However, the core of the argument is that the majority wishes to exercise a tyranny over the minority. They feel that the minority is not living their life correctly, and they are willing to use force to “correct” the minority. This is completely immoral and unjustifiable.

  263. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    A limited understanding of history and the human condition. I expect the number of scientist atheists to be higher today compared to hundreds or thousands of years ago. While you don’t have to know evolution to be an atheist, it helps. Ditto for modern cosmology. Ditto for having atheism be “chic” in the circles of academia.

  264. corwyn says

    I expect the number of scientist atheists to be higher today compared to hundreds or thousands of years ago.

    Which addresses my question not in the slightest. What does the number of professing atheists have to do with the number of professing believers who are faking?

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