I’ve been sent two links of responses to my article last week, “What Exactly Is Objective Moral Truth?” Technically they are responses to Harris. But insofar as I am defending the same core thesis, and the links were sent to me, and both are by authors whose opinions I respect (even if I don’t always agree with them), they warrant a response here. These responses I think should be read by everyone, since they are common mistakes and misunderstandings, and my responses will clarify things you might need clarified…especially in the closing epilogue of this post.
In both cases, I must first reiterate the whole gist of my article:
One reason Harris is not the best one to use as your straw man in this debate is that doing that is lazy. It allows talking past each other far too easily. To avoid that I created a formal deductive proof of his core thesis (all the way back in 2011…and that was in development well before that, even before I read his book or even knew he was writing it–which means it is only a proof of “his thesis” in retrospect, since I had been developing the same thesis independently since 2004). What I asked people to do is find a logical invalidity or a non-demonstrable premise in my syllogism. Because that will prevent vagueries and misunderstandings and get right to the heart of who is correct. To do that, I told everyone to read my chapter “Moral Facts Naturally Exist” in The End of Christianity (indeed I said in last week’s article, quote, “the syllogisms you have to prove invalid or unsound are on pp. 359-64″). Hereafter I shall refer to that as TEC.
To keep avoiding this is to just lazily act like armchair problem solvers who can’t be bothered to actually look up the best version of the argument they are criticizing. Stop that. No more straw man fallacies. Address the best and most rigorous form of the argument. And do it correctly, i.e., actually identify an actual fallacy in those syllogisms or identify a premise in them that is false (or which you can prove we do not know is true).
Apart from simply not doing that (which is the biggest flaw in these replies, reducing them both to a classic straw man fallacy), here is also what’s wrong with the Babinski and Shook rebuttals…
The Babinski Rebuttal
Numbers are my own addition:
 “Science cannot determine human values because humans interact in competing spheres of rival concerns…”
This statement is factually false. It would entail sociology is not scientific for the same reasons. And economics. And cultural anthropology. And social psychology. And indeed the entirety of Game Theory. Obviously science can empirically determine such things as what spheres of rival concern exist and their effect on optimal human behavior (“best practices”), given even the most complex social systems.
I formally address the question of competing interests (e.g. competing imperatives, as would derive from competing spheres of concern) in TEC, pp. 425-26 n. 33. That directly responds to this point. Three years before it was even made. This illustrates what’s so often wrong with rebuttals like this: they are ignoring the fact they we dealt with these objections years ago. No progress can be made if you won’t even engage with what has been said.
To be fair, Babinski was writing in response to Harris’s book, not mine. So I am not so much criticizing Bababinski as anyone who thinks this is the way to go about answering the actual thesis Harris defends (rather than answering how Harris defends it). Maybe Harris doesn’t adequately deal with what Babinski says (though there is no evidence Babinski checked; e.g. he never quotes Harris or cites page numbers in Moral Landscape where Harris touched on any same or similar question, or should have but didn’t). But what is the use of sending me your rebuttal of a straw man of my argument?
That we have complex systems of value conflicts is in no way an objection to the core Harris thesis. It’s just a statement that the facts (that his core thesis is saying exist) are complex. Which Harris has never denied.
 “[T]he consequences people choose are based on values people or groups assign to each of those spheres of concern, and different people and groups assign different values to each of those spheres.”
First, that is a claim to scientific fact (it can therefore be proved or disproved empirically). It is therefore not an objection to the core Harris thesis. It is entirely possible that we will find multiple systems of morality, different ones for every individual or type of individual. That would not refute the core Harris thesis. It would in fact verify a form of it. So this rebuttal demonstrates a failure even to understand what Harris has written, much less what I have written.
I discuss this explicitly in TEC, pp. pp. 351-54, which must be understood in the context of the last paragraph on p. 350, which will make sense when you compare what follows with what preceded on pp. 347-50. See also my comments here and here and here (also relevant are my comments here and here). My discussion on TEC was again published three years before Babinski’s rebuttal. There, the section “That There Are Moral Facts to Discover” (pp. 347-50) ends with a paragraph in which I said (p. 350):
…this only establishes a realist version of moral relativism: there must necessarily be a factually true morality at the very least for every individual, which may yet differ from individual to individual (or group to group). In such an event, moral truth is relative to the individual (or the group of individuals possessed of the same relevant properties). Nevertheless, this does not change the fact that for any individual there must necessarily be a factually true morality that is not the mere product of their opinion or belief (therefore it is not merely subjective, and certainly not antirealist), but is entirely the product of natural facts (their innate desires and the facts of the world that must be accommodated to realize those desires, which are both real objective facts).
Babinski’s second point simply doesn’t respond to this conclusion. It in no way undermines or contradicts what I said. Indeed, it practically just repeats what I said. Of course, I go on to prove that there is probably a universal morality besides (pp. 351-54). But Babinski doesn’t respond to my argument there, either.
Again, Babinski is only responding to Harris. But what’s the point in rebutting a straw man? That was what my article was about. Don’t send me rebuttals of Harris, least of all in comments on my article explaining why you shouldn’t do that.
Second, there remains a valid question whether people are correctly assigning their values. The assignment of values and value hierarchies is entirely determined by two factors: unchangeable core values and the facts of the world. False beliefs about either can result in false value assignments. Thus the value assignments people “just happen” to make can be wrong, and science can prove it: by proving their assignments are based on false assumptions about the world (e.g. “fetuses have souls”) or false assumptions about what is valuable even to the person claiming it has value (e.g. “souls are valuable,” where the person in question cannot even explain why souls are valuable even to themselves, yet they just assume they are, or that they are more valuable than what that very same person in actual fact values more). People often do not get their own value hierarchies factually correct.
For example, “a drug high is the most important thing to me” is often asserted but easily refuted Socratically by showing that a person who says this actually in fact does value some things more–indeed the only reason they would ever value this thing at all is that they value other things more (e.g. “a greater satisfaction with life”). This becomes obvious when such people realize they can be more satisfied with their lives when they aren’t in thrall to a drug addiction, and for that reason take steps to end their addiction. Thus empirically demonstrating the fact of it: not only the fact of which life is more satisfying to them, but also the fact that they wanted something more than a drug high all along: a satisfying life, which even they did not correctly know (despite this being their own frakkin’ value system). Notably, the entire science of psychotherapy (e.g. Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy) is based on helping people realize empirically that their value hierarchies are factually false, and to realign them into a logically coherent, fact-based system. Exactly what Harris and I are talking about.
For both reasons (the first and the second), this statement fails as an objection to the core Harris thesis.
 All the rest of the questions Babinski raises are empirical questions for science to answer.
Such as whether moral facts are utilitarian–I have given extensive reasons to conclude they will not be, or at least will not be in a classical sense. They will likely be only in the sense of Fyfe-style desire utilitarianism, but the questions Babinski raised are mooted by desire utilitarianism because they don’t arise in it (thus, again, we have someone trying to rebut a philosophy who actually doesn’t know the philosophy he is rebutting; the entire Carrier-McKay debate I referred everyone to in last week’s article concerned desire utilitarianism).
Or such as how we should program AI so as to avoid what may in fact be its alien moral values (I have specifically addressed this problem on my blog before: see Ten Years to the Robot Apocalypse). Again, in this and every other case, I have already answered Babinski-style concerns. In fact, my answers show that Harris’s core thesis provides a better answer to these concerns than any philosophical system yet proposed. (My discussion of what we need to do about AI is the easiest demonstration of that to quickly digest; that McKay and I already agree with desire utilitarianism, and its superiority to classical utilitarianism, means if you don’t know what desire utilitarianism is, you have an additional learning curve to get to where we are on that debate.)
Babinski has communicated to me privately that what he was really concerned about is how we would effect change, i.e. convince people that any morality discovered by science is the true morality they should abide by. But that is not a relevant concern here. The core Harris thesis is not that we can convince all delusional, stubborn, ignorant, or irrational people that a certain moral system is true (it’s entirely possible there will always be unpersuadable people…and thus always creationists, racists, sexists, and so on…but that has nothing to do with what is true, and I wrote several paragraphs on exactly this point in my essay last week). The core Harris thesis is that there is something true about morality and we can discover it empirically, just as in every other domain of knowledge.
The question of how to convince people to accept scientific facts is thus a wholly separate question, and ultimately the same question that plagues geology, biology, cosmology, neurology, and every other science. But before you can start working out how to sell the truth, you have to work out what the truth is that you should be selling. And the core Harris thesis is about the latter, not the former.
The Shook Rebuttal
The Shook rebuttal contains six errors.
 Shook conflates my argument with Harris’s. He says “Carrier’s argument” is what he then presents (with numbered premises), when in fact what he presents was my attempt to make a clearer version of Harris’s argument, which I then proceeded to find fault with myself. Thus, Shook is misleadingly attributing my rewording of Harris’s argument to me, as if it were my argument. He has thus missed the point of my article, which was that he should not do that, but instead address my actual argument, because it avoids the problems with Harris’s.
As I said:
That makes it essentially a straw man (of Harris’s own making). But that does not mean there is no sound and sufficient answer to that question. I charge that if you really want to prove there isn’t one, you will have to respond to my answer to it in my own chapter on the subject, which, unlike Harris’s, went through several serious critiques by expert philosophers and was developed from extensive (and not contemptuous) research in the relevant philosophical literature, and with a concern for carefully laying out its formal logic (the syllogisms you have to prove invalid or unsound are on pp. 359-64; they formalize what is explained in the text).
So where is Shook’s “confutation” of my argument, the one on pp. 359-64 of TEC?
He doesn’t provide one. Instead he produces a refutation of Harris and assumes he has refuted me, the very thing my article explains is impossible. He can only refute my argument by refuting my argument, not Harris’s.
 Shook says his “confutation is basically this: That it can be proven that truths ‘exist’ does not necessarily, by itself, either constitute a method for specifically learning those truths, or supplying the grounds for deducing those truths so that they can be known.”
This is not even a response to the core Harris thesis.
The question of building methods is what must follow conceding the core Harris thesis, which is simply that there is something to find. I actually address the kind of methods that would be involved in both my treatises on the subject (e.g. SaG V.2.2.5-6, pp. 331-37, and TEC, pp. 340-56). Science already has developed some of them (see, again, REBT; likewise economics and social psychology and other behavioral sciences). But in general no one would say “I can refute the thesis that there is another planet in our solar system by pointing out that there is no established method yet for finding out.” That would be ridiculous. Obviously the latter, even if true, has no bearing on the former. And in practice science almost always innovatively solves the latter question when it seriously undertakes to answer any question like the former.
Only a creationist would say “a natural origin of life is impossible, because you have no method for proving which theory of natural origins is true.” That’s both false (we might well develop such a method, and we already have working methods for getting started) and fallacious (the conclusion doesn’t even follow from the premise). Shook’s argument is similarly false (in my printed work I have shown that we already have applicable methods in the fields of psychology, economics, sociology, Game Theory, cognitive science, and so on, and I explain that science could easily develop more and better ones) and fallacious (even if science lacks a method for finding x, that does not mean there is no x to find, and the core Harris thesis asserts the latter).
(See my concluding epilogue for an additional problem with Shook’s assumption that we have no means to find the necessary facts.)
 Shook says “moral truths there may be, but moral knowledge there may never be, if we rely only upon the sciences (broadly understood) alone. ” But he never explains what “other way of knowing” is supposed to fill the gap (a third eye? a crystal ball? prayer?). All claims to fact are empirical. All empirical claims are best studied scientifically (“broadly understood”). What’s left? Only sub-par approximations to science.
I address the problem of moral ignorance in TEC, pp. 343-47(see also my exact wording on p. 364, and analysis in n. 28, p. 424, and n. 35, p. 426). On the whole point in general see my comment here. That there may be unanswerable questions in a science in no way argues that that science is not to be pursued.
Shook also conflates situational directions with covering laws. See my discussion of the distinction, and how science can deal with it, in TEC, pp. 351-54. On which see my comment here. We solve this problem in tech fields all the time: engineers frequently must adapt general scientific rules to particular and unusual, even unique, situations. If we can do it in the science of engineering, we can do it in moral science, too. Indeed, what would you prefer? An engineer who has a large database of scientific results to work with when tackling unique situations? Or an engineer who has no database of scientific results to work with at all? Shook is like someone arguing for the latter, simply because engineers can’t expect to have a scientific paper addressing every single specific situation they will find themselves in. That’s illogical. Let’s build a big database of moral science for people to work from. That’s the Harris thesis. It’s obviously correct.
 Illustrating the peril of misattributing Harris’s arguments to me, and thus ignoring my actual published arguments, Shook gets wrong the distinction of what a fact is in the imperative domain. He prefers “What will maximize the satisfaction of any human being in any particular set of circumstances, as those circumstances are understood by that human being, is an empirical fact that science can discover” to “What will maximize the satisfaction of any human being in any particular set of circumstances, as those circumstances are understood by us science-minded observers, is an empirical fact that science can discover.” Yet he doesn’t realize this makes no sense in any other imperative science.
For example, would we really say that the scientific fact of what the best surgical practice is is a question of “What will maximize the success of that surgery in any particular set of circumstances, as those circumstances are understood by the surgeon” and not a question of “What will maximize the success of that surgery in any particular set of circumstances, as those circumstances are understood by science…”? Obviously the actual fact of the matter is the latter. Because the surgeon could be wrong. That’s why we do science, and why surgeons defer to the science that has been done.
The community process of scientific discovery is far more reliable than isolated individual perceptions, even of experts. Of course, the scientific community can also be wrong. But that’s true in all sciences. We don’t say therefore science is impossible because it’s sometimes going to be wrong. We say science is probably right about most things, and is more probably right about them than any other way of knowing the matter (barring specific demonstrations of a specific study’s flaws or invalidity, for example, but we’re talking about sound science, not bad science). Surgeons defer to what the scientific community has established. And the only sound time they don’t, is when they can prove thereby that the scientific community was wrong. Which would then become a part of the database of scientific facts.
This is how it works in every other science there is or ever will be. This is how it will work in moral science. So unless Shook is making an argument against all of science, he can’t be making any valid argument against moral science.
But possibly what Shook means is something else, that by “understood by [the acting] human being” he means “as would be understood by that human being if they were reasoning non-fallaciously from only true beliefs about themselves and the world,” but that is exactly what we mean (Harris and myself). That is what science can help us with. All moral arguments reduce to appeals to either (or both) of two claims to fact: the actual consequences of the available choices (not what we mistakenly think they will be), and which of those consequences the agent would most actually prefer in the long run (not what they mistakenly think they would). Both are objective, empirical facts.
But I don’t think this is what Shook meant. He meant the other thing, which makes even less sense. Because…
 Shook weirdly says “Suppose you instead claim, ‘No, it matters nothing whether a person grasps much of a connection between their circumstances and their moral duties’. This claim is unethical in the extreme. It denies a fundamental right to a person: to control their sense of moral duty.” In this statement Shook just said all moral condemnation of others is itself immoral. That is illogical. It’s like saying telling a surgeon he is doing it wrong is immoral because it violates his autonomy as a human being. Come on, Dr. Shook. You should have erased this sentence the moment you wrote it. Autonomy does not mean you get to ignore the facts, or treat irrational decisions (i.e. decisions based on fallacious reasoning) as on par with rational ones (i.e. decisions made without any fallacy). The facts tell you what is true, not the other way around.
Now, perhaps this was just a disastrously worded attempt to say that we might sometimes be ignorant of the objective facts and we can only operate on the facts as we know them at the time. But if that’s all he means, that is fully compatible with the Harris thesis. This again is just another facet of the issue of moral ignorance, which I address in TEC, pp. 343-47(and with the exact wording on p. 364, and analysis in n. 28, p. 424, and n. 35, p. 426). See, again, my comment here.
 Finally, every remaining point Shook makes is a question for science to answer. Not armchair philosophers. For example, a surgeon faced with multiple different situations in which the best procedures for carrying out a particular surgery will be different, would never claim the answer as to which was best in each unusual situation was not a question of scientific fact. He might say science hasn’t studied the question yet. But he wouldn’t say it couldn’t, or shouldn’t, or that its merely not doing so means there is no scientific fact of the matter (as if science creates facts rather than discovering them). As for medicine, so for morality.
Likewise, no one says that the word “life” is too vague, therefore biology is impossible. The question of defining terms and looking for distinctions are problems for science to tackle. Hence Shook’s remaining complaints completely ignore and fail to interact with any of the examples I discuss in TEC of how science might study specific questions in this domain. He claims such examples are impossible. That I have many therefore refutes him.
Even in general, the most dubious thing any philosopher can ever say is that “science can’t study that.” Science always proves them wrong. Time and again. For centuries. You’d think philosophers would learn their lesson after a while.
Ultimately, whether science “can” study something can only be determined by science. Philosophers cannot predict what science can and can’t do from the armchair. Not least because they aren’t scientists, and thus have no expertise in building research instruments in sociology, psychology, anthropology, economics, or cognitive science (the fields most directly relevant to a moral science). The question of whether they can do it is up to them to answer. The core Harris thesis is simply nothing more than that they should finally roll up their sleeves and look into precisely this.
Which all brings me back to my original charge: find the fallacy or false premise in the syllogisms of pp. 359-64. If you can’t, you simply have no refutation of my thesis. Or Harris’s.
I must close with an important point that seems to get lost in this debate. Everyone all too rapidly assumes that the only significance of the Harris thesis is that morality should become a science, just as nearly every other subject of philosophy has gradually become. That misses the most important point of the Harris thesis.
To correct Shook’s statement earlier, what we are saying is that “what will maximize the satisfaction of any human being in any particular set of circumstances, as those circumstances would be understood by that human being if they were reasoning non-fallaciously from only true beliefs about themselves and the world, is an empirical fact that science can discover.” Notably Shook never correctly articulated our actual thesis. Thus he cannot have confuted it. He may have confuted Harris’s badly worded attempts at explaining it (I don’t know; like Babinski, Shook never quotes Harris or cites any relevant page numbers, and thus shows no actual sign of even having read Harris, much less what Harris already says about the things Shook tries to take him to task for), but even then, that reduces Shook’s entire argument to a straw man fallacy. Which is a waste of everyone’s time.
Look at the correct wording of our thesis (items in bold above are the corrections I made to Shook’s misarticulated version of it). Remember what I said: that is what science can help us with. All moral arguments reduce to appeals to either (or both) of two claims to fact: the actual consequences of the available choices (not what we mistakenly think they will be), and which of those consequences the agent would most actually prefer in the long run (not what they mistakenly think they would). Both are objective, empirical facts. And importantly, neither are such that only a full-blown science can discover anything about them.
Let me repeat that last sentence, because it is absolutely crucial: neither facts are such that only a full-blown science can discover anything about them. Science is only better at doing that than available alternatives. It is, in fact, the best at doing that. So when we say morality should become a science, we are not saying no moral facts can be known until we make it a science. We are saying we would know more moral facts, with greater certainty and confidence, if we did. Therefore we should. Indeed, so far as we are able (and we are able), we are morally obligated to. Otherwise we are wallowing in our own willful ignorance of facts we could know more about but refuse to. Of course, individuals like myself don’t have this option (I’m not a scientist or a billionaire, so I can’t make this science happen, so my resulting ignorance is not willful), but the same cannot be said of our society as a whole, if no one steps up to start learning the facts we have the means to learn.
In the meantime, there are lots of moral facts we can know to some degree of certainty, even if it’s not all we could know, and even if it’s not known to a scientific degree of certainty in every case. Because the immediate consequence of the Harris thesis is that all claims to moral fact are empirical claims–even now. And that allows us to prove or disprove some of them even now, with already existing science and pre-scientific empirical observations. I’ve addressed this point in comments on my earlier article (see here, here, here, here, and here). Once we understand that all moral propositions are propositions about what the actual consequences of available options are and which of those consequences the moral agent would actually prefer if they were rationally aware, we can already begin to identify which moral propositions are baseless, which contradict known facts, which are testable, which have some evidence to back them up, and which have a lot of evidence to back them up, even before we begin testing them scientifically.
Ceteris paribus, for a decision to be more moral rather than less moral, the rest of your life in consequence of the choice you make must be more satisfying than it would have been if you chose differently. And that is a causal claim. Which is an empirical claim. Which is a question of scientific fact (whether science has tested it yet or not), which science can always better inform (even when it hasn’t tested it directly). Thus all moral claims are attempted approximations to scientific fact, “best guesses” as to what science would conclude if it actually carried out the required study, and like all “best guesses” (e.g. like as to how life began, how the universe began, whether a war will have the outcomes you expect, whether a political policy will work or not, whether there is a Loch Ness monster, whether God exists, whether there is an afterlife, whether naturalism is the most likely worldview), the certainty of the guess will be a function of how much science already has answered that relates to it, and how much can be directly and reliably observed empirically to fill in the gaps. As for all other best guesses at empirical facts science hasn’t yet directly resolved, so for best guesses at moral facts.
Thus, that a moral science has not yet begun doesn’t change the fact that the Harris thesis clears the decks of all bullshit and lets us know just what it is we are actually trying to guess at when making moral claims, and how to improve the accuracy of those guesses until we have an actual science doing it for us.
As I wrote in one of the comments I linked to above:
[E]ven before we engage such a science, all talk about moral truth simply is talk about what people really want and whether their actions really will produce it.
Analogously, before the 20th century there was no scientific psychology. But all talk about psychology was still talk about what things produce mental phenomena and how they work, which is all talk about empirical facts. Thus all propositions about psychology then were in-principle empirically testable hypotheses about mental phenomena and their causes, some of which even then were more likely to be true (e.g. the brain produces a mind; there is a localization of mental functions across the anatomy of the brain; etc.) than others (e.g. psychic powers; disembodied minds surviving destruction of the brain; etc.).
The same is true now: even before we have a science of morality, if our thesis is correct, then it is still the case that all propositions about morality are in-principle empirically testable hypotheses about shared human desires and the cause-effect relations between human choices and outcomes, some of which even now are more likely to be true (e.g. honest and compassionate people, ceteris paribus, more reliably live more satisfying lives than heartless liars do) than others (e.g. abortion and homosexuality are always immoral; eating pork and answering a telephone on Saturday are immoral; men ought to treat women as inferior and subservient; killing people who criticize religion is a moral good; etc.).
Likewise in another of those comments, I pointed out that:
The only way you could argue against [a conclusion in moral science] is to produce evidence that the consequences of accepting that [conclusion] would be unacceptable (and the latter is a covert reference to human desires: in this case, we would mean the consequences to ourselves [as moral agents], e.g. our consciences, directly and/or the consequences to others [or the society as a whole] in turn causing their behavior to then have consequences upon us that we would not like).
But if you could do that, then “what science found” would then be empirically falsified by the evidence you then produced (which the study you are confuting must have missed), and you would have thus produced the correct scientific conclusion in the matter.
And in another:
Moral facts follow from actual values–which does not mean the values you think you have or just happen to have, but the values you would have if you derived your values non-fallaciously from true facts (and not false beliefs) about yourself and the world. Hence, your actual values (what you really would value if you were right about everything).
As to questions like how we would measure satisfaction comparatively, that’s an empirical question for scientists to work out. It is not relevant to the underlying facts. That we didn’t have telescopes would not mean there are no mountains on Mars. Regardless of what instruments we presently have, the facts of the world remain objective facts of the world. Thus, a person’s greatest available satisfaction state is an actual objective fact about them. Whether we presently have instruments to detect it or not. And all moral discourse is covertly appealing to that and thus already making an objective fact claim about it–whether people realize it or not.
Hence I revisited the psychology analogy in yet another of those comments, like so:
Our situation now is comparable to psychology in the 19th century: there were scientific facts bearing on questions of psychology, but it was hardly a science. So one then could either draw inferences about psychology in as scientific a way as was available to you (and thus admit that what you are doing is attempting to predict what science would confirm if it checked, whether it could or not, and thus all your inferences are actually proto-scientific hypotheses, and thus would be revised the more scientific facts had been ascertained) or you could draw inferences about psychology in some other way (like getting it from the bible, or armchair speculation, or folklore and tradition, or ideology, or the whimsy of imagination, [or what we just “feel” is true], and so on). Obviously the former is the more correct way to do it. And so, too, morality now, even before we get it on a proper scientific footing.
Thus, we are not just saying scientists should start studying this, and stop giving excuses not to. We are also saying that all discourse about morality even now is approximating to a scientific understanding, which thus dispels most moral discourse as nonsense, and improves what remains in what sense it has, and in what ways it could be empirically confirmed in increasing degrees (only the gold standard of which would be a full-blown scientific study).
[Which is philosophy, but] not all philosophy is equal. There is bullshit (e.g. theism, supernaturalism, astrology, afterlife studies). And there is rigorous, scientifically informed philosophy that aims to develop better, more accurate empirical hypotheses about the world until we have enough information to start moving it into a science (e.g. naturalism, protobiology, immortality studies). We can start that process now. Because not all knowledge begins “scientifically certain” out of the gate (e.g. propositions about psychology in 1850); nor is what isn’t yet scientific “just as likely” as every other proposition on the matter (e.g. propositions about psychology in 1850).
[R]emember that this isn’t just about getting scientists to stop making excuses for not studying this. It’s also about getting all rational people to chuck in the bin all the baloney moral discourse (that is akin to theology, supernaturalism, astrology, afterlife studies) and learn how to be able to identify moral discourse that is actually science-based and at least starting to approximate something testable. That’s philosophy. But it’s the right kind of philosophy. Because it’s philosophy on the right track and capable of getting somewhere (that somewhere only being ultimately, in the long run, actual scientific research).
This is the lesson Shook doesn’t seem to get. In the end, any claim he ever makes about morality is a claim about either or both empirical facts (what will really happen, and what we really want). Otherwise he’s just talking rot. All his claims about morality would just be his own personal complaints about how people aren’t behaving the way he wants them to, and not true statements about how they actually ought to behave.
Until we realize this, we should never speak on morality as if we know any true statement about it. Because other than statements about what will really happen, and what an agent will really want, there are no true statements about it.