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Denyse O’Leary and Immoral Atheists

The always ridiculous Denyse O’Leary writes at Uncommon Descent about immoral atheists.

Recently, there’s been some noise abroad that atheists are widely distusted, immoral, and foolish. As a generality, it puzzles me. If a guy wouldn’t kick the cat before he decided he was an atheist, why would he start afterward? Antony “There IS a God” Flew was an atheist for most of his career and – from the accounts I’ve heard – a highly moral man. He didn’t suddenly become moral when he admitted to Gerald Schroeder that design in life forms and the universe show that there is a God.

Then it occurred to me: It’s not so much that atheists are immoral, but that immoral people are often atheists. That is, the guy who kicks cats anyway, and fears divine retribution, may resolve his problem by deciding that there is no God and therefore no divine retribution.

Then he goes back to kicking cats in peace. Other atheists don’t like him but what can they do?


This is what passes for serious thinking over at Dembski’s Home for Wayward Sycophants. Yes, there are no doubt many immoral people who are atheists. Why this fact seems relevant to her is a bit baffling, but then most everything that escapes her mind is baffling. And it doesn’t get any better when she revisits the subject later.

It’s about determining a moral ground for doing so. Jurisdictions in the great white north are as well able as any other to enact laws against cruelty to animals, and even to enforce them. They could enact strange and useless laws that afflict both man and cat, helping neither party, but providing a living for bureaucrats. And, whatever the merits of their cause, people can risk taking the law into their own hands. The dilemma is, how to construct a rational and moral basis for saying that the Atheist League’s members, many of whom are active in animal welfare, are right and the cat kicker is wrong.

It gets more complex. Assume that the population’s makeup gradually changes. The town comes to be dominated by members of an ignorant and violent sect that believes that dogs and cats are unclean – and that it is a virtue to punish them accordingly. What sustains the atheist in the face of persecution for his animal welfare work – other than the conviction that sect members are ignorant and violent? However well founded, such a conviction is not likely to sustain a person long in the face of persecution.

This is the same old silly Christian claim that I refer to as the Simon Says argument. If you can’t say “God says” before every statement you make, according to this argument, then nothing you say has any rational basis at all. But this argument assumes the thing it is intended to prove, which is the existence of a god that gives us moral commands. If there is no such god then all of the “God says” statements in the world won’t make him come alive.

And of course, if there was an ignorant and violent group that wanted to punish dogs and cats for being unclean it is a virtual certainty that they would so so on the basis of “God says.” After all, that is what some sects of Islam do with dogs. It’s also what some Christian sects have done with cats at various times, believing them to be satanic and involved in witchcraft. It is religion which tends to turn such irrational actions into moral behaviors, not atheism.

Comments

  1. Pen says

    Then he goes back to kicking cats in peace. Other atheists don’t like him but what can they do?

    We could stone him?

    What sustains the atheist in the face of persecution for his animal welfare work – other than the conviction that sect members are ignorant and violent?

    How about the thought that this world and this life is all anyone is getting, so it’s worth investing in?

  2. abb3w says

    The “Simon Says argument” has two problems related to Hume’s is-ought problem. First, it involves the supposition that the existence of God provides the ONLY bridge from is-to-ought. More subtly, it involves the supposition that the existence of God provides ANY bridge from is-to-ought.

    What justifies the claim that God is any source of justification?

  3. Herod the Freemason says

    … and fears divine retribution, may resolve his problem by deciding that there is no God and therefore no divine retribution.

    Because pretending something doesn’t exist means it doesn’t exist. She thinks all these immoral atheists are as dumb as she is.

  4. jerry says

    If you can’t say “God says” before every statement you make, according to this argument, then nothing you say has any rational basis at all.

    No. It’s saying that morals based solely upon human rationality can rationally justify any and every behavior as “moral”.

    Look at the eugenics movement: a perfectly rational way to benefit society using the scientifically proven technology of animal husbandry. What could be wrong with that?

  5. Herod the Freemason says

    It gets more complex. Assume that the population’s makeup gradually changes.

    Sure, moral norms can change. Consider a few other examples, such as the treatment of women, or slavery… Suddenly the “written in stone” religious solutions don’t come off so well.

  6. Pen says

    No. It’s saying that morals based solely upon human rationality can rationally justify any and every behavior as “moral”.

    Let’s use human irrationality then, shall we? Because, you know that God fellow? That really is just people’s brains babbling randomly.

  7. speedwell says

    What could be wrong with that?

    Oh, I don’t know… perhaps the humanist, Enlightenment ideal of individual liberty?

  8. says

    That is, the guy who kicks cats anyway, and fears divine retribution, may resolve his problem by deciding that there is no God and therefore no divine retribution.

    Or then again he might just rationalize his immoral behavior as being condoned by God, or believe that because he is a godly man, his behaviors are automatically moral and his conscience clean.

    Unlike O’Leary’s hypothesis, this one has the benefit of having been observed empirically, many times over.

  9. says

    No. It’s saying that morals based solely upon human rationality can rationally justify any and every behavior as “moral”.

    Could be — but morals based on divine command can also rationally[1] justify any and every behavior as “moral” (and have been). The difficulty is in determining what the gods want, as what they say seems to be quite vague, changeable, and ultimately impossible to verify as originating from a truly transcendent being, as opposed to being made up by said deity’s self-proclaimed prophets. Morality is a hard problem, and I don’t think anyone has a really robust solution to it — but religious answers no better than secular ones.

    [1] It is perfectly rational to obey the commands of an omnipotent being. It may also be cowardly, but that’s a different issue.

  10. jerry says

    Oh, I don’t know… perhaps the humanist, Enlightenment ideal of individual liberty?

    Ah, yes. The same rational ideal upheld by those academics who at this very moment are seeking to have the APA declassify pedophilia as a mental disorder.

    Rationality! Is there anything it can’t do??

  11. scienceavenger says

    Jerry said: No. It’s saying that morals based solely upon human rationality can rationally justify any and every behavior as “moral”.

    Then it’s wrong, akin to saying that because I can choose to jump in any direction I choose, I can choose to jump over the moon.

    While there is some variation in man-made morals over both geography and time, they do not come close to “any and every behavior”, and I dare say their systems are more consistent and reasonable over both metrics than are religioun-based morals. I know of no human-based morality that has promoted anything as senseless as murdering people for working on a particular day of the week, or to appease the gods. We need religion to be that immoral.

    And spare me the “you can’t justify that moral judgement objectively” canard until someone provides an objective argument, dealing with real (not imaginary) scenarios, that demonstrates the necessity of objective justifications. It not only isn’t necessary, it is impossible.

  12. speedwell says

    Rationality! Is there anything it can’t do??

    Infect the fecal matter you stockpile in your skull, maybe? Anyone can certainly see that you’re an enemy of rationality. Enough said.

  13. jerry says

    Morality is a hard problem, and I don’t think anyone has a really robust solution to it — but religious answers no better than secular ones.

    Secular morality is usually based upon the arrogant and contradictory suppositions that (1) there is no ultimate good in the universe, and (2) humans can tell if something is good by comparing it to things they think are bad. This is the formula for every horrific act that humanity has committed.

    Religious morality is based upon humility and the acceptance of the fact that we would have no notion of what is good or evil if there were not an ultimate good in the universe to reference it to.

  14. Seeker Lancer says

    I like how they just randomly decide that atheists are more likely to be immoral when all crime statistics are contrary to that belief.

  15. Hercules Grytpype-Thynne says

    And of course, if there was an ignorant and violent group that wanted to punish dogs and cats for being unclean it is a virtual certainty that they would so so on the basis of “God says.”

    But that’s Denyse all over. If there were ever a poster child for scoring own goals and never noticing, it’s Densey.

  16. says

    Religious morality is based upon humility and the acceptance of the fact that we would have no notion of what is good or evil if there were not an ultimate good in the universe to reference it to.

    Ah yes, the humility that, for centuries, told European Christians that the Ultimate Good[tm] required despising and murdering Jews, subjugating the indigenous people of the New World, burning other Christians at the stake (for not having exactly the right “notion” about God), etc, etc.

    You’re an idiot.

  17. camanintx says

    @jerry,

    Ah, yes. The same rational ideal upheld by those academics who at this very moment are seeking to have the APA declassify pedophilia as a mental disorder.

    Maybe because people whose sexual interests are atypical, culturally forbidden or religiously proscribed should not necessarily be labeled mentally ill. There are other rational arguments against pedophilia that don’t require a medical diagnosis.

  18. says

    Ah, yes. The same rational ideal upheld by those academics who at this very moment are seeking to have the APA declassify pedophilia as a mental disorder.

    Rationality! Is there anything it can’t do??

    If you have to use consequentialism to debunk rationality, you’ve completely destroyed your own case.

  19. jerry says

    I know of no human-based morality that has promoted anything as senseless as murdering people for working on a particular day of the week

    You mean like feeding people to lions for entertainment?

  20. Chiroptera says

    jerry at 12:38: The same rational ideal upheld by those academics who at this very moment are seeking to have the APA declassify pedophilia as a mental disorder.

    Whoa! Someone brought up pedophilia in a thread not about gays!

    jerry at 12:50: Religious morality is based upon…

    …the arrogant assumption that we know how God thinks and that — what do you know? — he hates the same things I do!

  21. Abby Normal says

    (2) humans can tell if something is good by comparing it to things they think are bad.

    So we shouldn’t look at the results of actions to determine if they are good or bad.

    Religious morality is based upon humility and the acceptance of the fact that we would have no notion of what is good or evil if there were not an ultimate good in the universe to reference it to.

    Instead we can only know if something is good or bad by humbly accepting what others claim a disembodied voice told them. That sounds much better than arrogantly taking responsibility for the outcome of your actions.

  22. the guy says

    “Secular morality is usually based upon the arrogant and contradictory suppositions that (1) there is no ultimate good in the universe, and (2) humans can tell if something is good by comparing it to things they think are bad”

    Wrong. It is usually based on objective notions of harm and fairness. I guess you wouldn’t know anything about that.

    “Religious morality is based upon humility”

    So you’d better start showing some, instead of presuming to know how others think when they’re trying to explain to you how they really think.

    “and the acceptance of the fact that we would have no notion of what is good or evil if there were not an ultimate good in the universe to reference it to.”

    Is this “ultimate good” you refer to the God of the Old Testament, who orders the massacre of innocents?

    It’s not like religion is the only way to justify universals in philosophy.

  23. says

    “You mean like feeding people to lions for entertainment?”

    You are aware that this was because they refused to worship the Emperor as a deity, yes?

  24. scienceavenger says

    Jerry asserted: Secular morality is usually based upon the arrogant and contradictory suppositions that (1) there is no ultimate good in the universe, and (2) humans can tell if something is good by comparing it to things they think are bad.

    It’s also complete bullshit. Secular morality is based on the view that “the good” is that which conforms to our common human values, instincts, and desires, since there is no ultimate, contextless “good”. No contradiction whatsoever, and certainly no responsibility for the horrors committed in history by tyrants, who by definition, substitute their own values and desires for societies.

    And yes, gruesome as it is, feeding people perceived to be property, or criminals, or the occasional volunteer, to lions is FAR more rational than killing someone for gathering wood on Sunday, by an order of magnitude.

  25. jerry says

    You are aware that this was because they refused to worship the Emperor as a deity, yes?

    The historical account of Tacitus says otherwise. They were killed as scapegoats because Nero was being blamed for the burning of Rome.

    The salient point being that humans can justify any behavior using reason. After all, nobody liked the Christians anyway. Even Tacitus said they were abominable. It was then perfectly rational to let them die in the most theatrically enjoyable way.

  26. Dennis N says

    The salient point being that humans can justify any behavior using reason

    It’s even easier when you don’t use reason, and instead use religious arguments.

    It’s saying that morals based solely upon human rationality can rationally justify any and every behavior as “moral”.

    We don’t only justify actions based on rationality, we implement reason based on the standard of objective reality. Reality is a much better benchmark for decision making than making decisions based on what men claim a deity wants. Reality is here and now, objective, observable, and testable by everyone. Meanwhile, all we know about “god” is what men have said and continue to say about him, often in contradiction to each other.

  27. Rimmo says

    I think an obvious point that a lot of people have missed it that we all consider RATS to be perfectly fine to hunt and exterminate. These are mammalian creatures of near equal intelligence to cats and dogs, but atheists and Christians alike consider it perfectly fine to kill them through any means necessary. How can you defend one species in the name of god, and not the other?

    Of course, the real screwballs claim that god loves some of his creatures, but not others. (Serpents are a sign of the devil, don’t you know? And the goats too….)

  28. jerry says

    And yes, gruesome as it is, feeding people perceived to be property, or criminals, or the occasional volunteer, to lions is FAR more rational than killing someone for gathering wood on Sunday, by an order of magnitude.

    Lol! So a tribe of Hebrews killing a law-breaker is not as rational as, say, Nero burning Christians for political reasons?

    You are unwittingly making my point for me, my friend!

  29. Dennis N says

    These are mammalian creatures of near equal intelligence to cats and dogs

    Do you have a cite for this? I’ve never heard that before.

  30. jerry says

    We don’t only justify actions based on rationality, we implement reason based on the standard of objective reality.

    Right. Just like Eugenics was based upon the objective reality that animal husbandry works.

  31. Hercules Grytpype Thynne says

    Jerry, one of the reasons Nero chose to scapegoat Christians was that they were already the target of public distrust because of their refusal to worship the Roman pantheon, emperor included. The people feared that the failure of such “atheists” to honor the gods would bring down their wrath upon Rome, or at the very least would cause them to remove their protection, in much the same way that certain contemporary Christians blamed the 9/11 attacks on “the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way — all of them who have tried to secularize America.”

    Plus ça change . . . .

  32. the guy says

    “The historical account of Tacitus says otherwise. They were killed as scapegoats because Nero was being blamed for the burning of Rome.”

    The early Christians were referred to as “atheists” for refusing to worship the Roman gods. There’s a clear religious component to the anti-Christian bigotry that came from the Romans.

    “The salient point being that humans can justify any behavior using reason.”

    People can “justify” any behavior they want by claiming that God just so happens to agree with them.

    “After all, nobody liked the Christians anyway”

    And this is your idea of a secular rational reason?

    “Even Tacitus said they were abominable. It was then perfectly rational to let them die in the most theatrically enjoyable way.”

    Now you make it clear that you lack even the slightest understanding of secular morality. Rationality in this context isn’t “how can I do what I want in the most effective/efficient way” it’s about utility. Killing is recognized as harmful, therefore it is a universal bad (because it is always harmful, regardless of era or culture or majority opinion).

  33. Dennis N says

    jerry, no one here is defending Eugenics. In now way is Eugenics linked to atheism. Eugenics is most tied to Nazism, a majority Christian movement. If you read Mein Kampf and other writings, their reasoning was religious, doing God’s work on Earth, not atheistic.

    Eugenics is a failure in reasoning. It is conflating an is with an ought. Not only that, it’s a failure of every Humanistic morality I know of, as an example: utilitarianism (I’m not a strict utilitarianist, so don’t try to attack me on it). Eugenics does not result in greater good, therefore it is immoral.

  34. says

    The salient point being that humans can justify any behavior using reason. After all, nobody liked the Christians anyway. Even Tacitus said they were abominable. It was then perfectly rational to let them die in the most theatrically enjoyable way.

    Except within the moral frame we use now and consistently push for: Such an action would be a gross violation of the individual’s rights. Religious persecution is wrong. Any entertainment value would be more than cancelled out by the negation of individual rights: If the emperor is allowed to scapegoat one group of people and execute them, what’s going to stop him from doing it to another group, later?

    Of course, as others have pointed out, you’re subject to the same arbitrariness you accuse us of: a god can be used to justify any behavior. That’s pretty much what Divine Command Theory is all about, and that arbitrariness and subjectivity is what people like us typically complain about when it comes to religion being falsely tied to morality. Humanism at least tries for something resembling moral objectivity by trying to figure out through argument what’s most fair for everyone.

    Oh, yeah, viewing theatrical deaths for their sick and twisted entertainment value is something the biblical god seems rather fond of. I also seem to recall some theologian (Aquinas?) arguing that watching the people in Hell suffer is the best entertainment available in Heaven.

  35. the guy says

    “Lol! So a tribe of Hebrews killing a law-breaker is not as rational as, say, Nero burning Christians for political reasons?

    You are unwittingly making my point for me, my friend!”

    And you have unwittingly revealed yourself as a smug moron (although we already knew that thanks to rational analysis).

    “Just like Eugenics was based upon the objective reality that animal husbandry works.”

    Eugenics =/= animal husbandry. There is no “rational” bridge between the two. Anybody who thought so would be misapplying the scientific method.

    The simple reality is that you are trying to paint secular rationality as if it can lead to any conclusion. You are deliberately conflating reason with excuse-making. Reason, properly applied* knocks holes through excuses every time.

    That being said, you have failed to offer any basis for religious morality. In the Bible, God is depicted as demanding the slaughter of heathens. Do you agree with that? If not, on what basis?

    *And we can tell when reason isn’t properly applied, as it will be shot through with logical fallacies and/or faulty premises. Pseudoscience such as eugenics is an example.

  36. says

    Jerry drivels:

    The salient point being that humans can justify any behavior using reason.

    Yet somehow, they do it far more often using religion.

    Anyway, you’re confusing “reason” with “rationalizing,” which is no surprise.

  37. tacitus says

    Someone mention my name?

    Ah, yes. The same rational ideal upheld by those academics who at this very moment are seeking to have the APA declassify pedophilia as a mental disorder.

    Except they’re not. I actually went and read the source material and the only thing they are talking about even considering for declassifying as a mental disorder is attraction to post-pubescent early teens. Given the number of men you can see on an average day ogling sexually mature, young teenage girls as they walk by on the streets, they may have a point.

    They do believe that the current regime of extremely punitive treatment of pedophiles isn’t the best way to deal with them, and that it creates more child victims because when the pedophiles remain untreated and are simply left to rot as outcasts, they also continue to commit crimes.

    And not every pedophile has committed a crime yet. It is in society’s interest that they feel able to come forward and seek help before they act out on their compulsions. It may be an unsavory subject, but shoving it under the carpet is simply asking for more child victims to be created.

    It’s interesting that since the Norwegian massacre, we’ve heard a lot about from conservatives about how soft the Norwegian justice system is on criminals — short sentences, comfy “five star” prisons, etc. Yet somehow they all seem to ignore the fact that the Norwegian system works — it reforms criminals at three to four times the rate the American system does (20% recidivism rate vs. over 60% in the USA) because they put a large focus on reform and rehabilitation.

    Just think of the number of additional victims created by the punitive non-reformative American justice system has created over the last couple of decades because conservative people can’t abide the thought of giving criminals any assistance in turning their lives around (unless it involves paying lip service to Jesus, of course, which clearly isn’t helping). It must be in the millions by now. Conservative Christian “values” regarding crime and punishment just don’t work.

    So yeah, Jerry, it’s easy to bash people who want to tackle an unpopular subject and suggest there might be a better way to deal with it. This group isn’t NAMBLA or anything close to it, but it sure makes for an easy target when you’re seeking a vomit-inducing headline without any real consideration for the actual facts.

  38. says

    Oh, and I’ll throw in my two cents about eugenics on the human race:

    1) It’s stupid. Genetic diversity is a hedge against extinction. Last I checked, humanity already has a shallower gene pool than most people would think. Ever heard one of those chain emails about bananas going extinct? There’s a grain of truth to that: The common desert banana reproduces by clippings, making all the banana trees clones designed for a market purpose. If they were hit with a new blight, there’s no diversity for any to form natural resistance. It’s already happened to a different variety of banana that nearly went extinct. If someone were to cut out a segment of humanity, it would increase the risk we’d face if some super-virulent disease shows up.

    2) It’s contrary to the rights of sentient beings. There’s a reason why many people are okay with eugenics on non-sentient animals, but appalled at the idea of killing of “inferior” humans. Can you guess what the difference is? We don’t view people as simple resources to be exploited. Consent is required. To a godbot who believes in divine commands, humans are only means to arbitrary ends.

    3) As others have correctly pointed out, the Nazis were dominantly Christian, and used their god as an excuse for their immoral actions. I highly, highly doubt you’ll be able to find any atheists here who would support a eugenics program like the Nazis endorsed.

  39. jerry says

    jerry, no one here is defending Eugenics. In now way is Eugenics linked to atheism.

    I never said that. I said eugenics is based upon reason.

    Eugenics is a failure in reasoning. Eugenics does not result in greater good, therefore it is immoral.

    Wherever it was enacted it had the predicted effect of lowering the rate of birth for genetically undesirable humans as well as conserving resources for the more productive members of society.

    Very rational.

  40. says

    I said eugenics is based upon reason.

    Which part? The idea that eugenics can breed certain traits, or the idea that people should use eugenics?

    The former is true. The latter is where the argument is.

  41. jerry says

    So yeah, Jerry, it’s easy to bash people who want to tackle an unpopular subject and suggest there might be a better way to deal with it

    I’m not bashing anyone. As you’ve pointed out there are perfectly rational arguments for men laying with boys. Peter Singer has even come up with some very rational arguments for men laying with farm animals.

    I’ll make you all a bet. You come up with the most heinous, horrific, immoral behavior you can think of, then I will provide a rational justification for that act. Ostensibly, if I can convince a sizable representation of society’s powerful elite that my reasoning is sound I can then have this act institutionalized.

    Voila! Enlightenment at it’s rational best!

  42. says

    Wherever it was enacted it had the predicted effect of lowering the rate of birth for genetically undesirable humans as well as conserving resources for the more productive members of society.

    Very rational.

    1. Define “undesirable” in this context.

    2. Of course, it destroys the rights and safety of the individuals. Here’s a hint: That’s a bad outcome. Destroying those protections has a habit of destabilizing society. That’s bad for everyone.

  43. Dennis N says

    Wherever it was enacted it had the predicted effect of lowering the rate of birth for genetically undesirable humans as well as conserving resources for the more productive members of society.

    Very rational.

    jerry, no one here is defending Eugenics… oh wait, someone is. And it’s you.

  44. the guy says

    “Wherever it was enacted it had the predicted effect of lowering the rate of birth for genetically undesirable humans as well as conserving resources for the more productive members of society.

    Very rational.”

    You’ve demonstrated a willful lack of knowledge when it comes to rationality. What is rational about it here? That it’s supposedly the most efficient means to achieve the given goal? You didn’t even listen to Bronze Dog’s excellent reasons for why eugenics is wrong.

    Nor have you replied to several others who pointed out that your preferred morality is a relativistic as you want to believe ours is.

  45. says

    “I never said that. I said eugenics is based upon reason.”

    Yes. So too are the arguments against eugenics. That’s why those of us here who don’t accept faith-based morality think eugenics is wrong, and I’m pretty sure you know that. As I pointed out already, you are using an appeal to reason to try to defeat reason.

  46. says

    Something else I’d like to add: “Race,” as it’s commonly understood, has relatively little to do with genetics, last time I checked. It’s a social construct. The genetic variation among individuals is greater than the variation between the so-called races. That’s one reason why it’d be pointless to target traits by “racial” categories.

    In short, the typical eugenicists out there don’t even know what genes they’re trying to emphasize or get rid of because they’re driven by (often religious) ideology, not reason.

  47. jerry says

    Which part? The idea that eugenics can breed certain traits, or the idea that people should use eugenics?

    Both. If we know something works and can benefit society then it is irrational not to do it.

  48. Chiroptera says

    jerry at 2:40: You come up with the most heinous, horrific, immoral behavior you can think of, then I will provide a rational justification for that act.

    You can probably also find some kooky religious justification for it. I do know of a lot of heinous crimes that had religious justifications.

    At least if someone has a rational justification for something, you can try to use reason to talk them out of it. You can also try to use reason to try to talk someone out of something justified by irrational beliefs.

    But someone using irrational, kooky religious beliefs as a justification? I’m not sure that you can win with more irrational religious kookery.

  49. Dennis N says

    If we know something works and can benefit society then it is irrational not to do it.

    Eugenics is not beneficial to society. See the rational, reasoned arguments laid out by Bronze Dog at 2:22 pm EST.

  50. says

    An important aspect of society jerry seems to not be acquainted with:

    The benefit of the majority versus the rights of individuals.

    The problem is that everyone left after the first individuals get executed have to live in fear of being labeled as the next minority to be crushed. That, naturally, has a cooling effect on all debates, thereby undermining society’s progress towards useful ideas or solving existing problems.

    These costs also apply to eugenics: You kill someone for not being genetically good enough, you’re paving the way for someone else to kill you for similar, arbitrary excuses, and even if it doesn’t happen, people, including following generations, will still suffer from the anxiety of a looming death threat.

    A society where everyone is protected will have members who feel safe enough to do something with their lives instead of wasting resources or squandering opportunities by hiding.

    If Divine Command Theory was the majority moral view, I’d be terrified of strangers for fear they might hear a voice in their head telling them to kill.

  51. tacitus says

    I’m not bashing anyone. As you’ve pointed out there are perfectly rational arguments for men laying with boys. Peter Singer has even come up with some very rational arguments for men laying with farm animals.

    Say what? I didn’t even remotely mention anything about “men laying with boys”, and certainly gave no rational arguments for it.

    Either your reading comprehension is woefully inadequate, or you’re simply trying to distract from the fact that you can’t present any substantive arguments of your own.

  52. jerry says

    1) It’s stupid. Genetic diversity is a hedge against extinction.

    So is intelligence. It’s perfectly rational to breed for the best traits, including intelligence.

    Last I checked, humanity already has a shallower gene pool than most people would think.

    All the more reason to weed out the less intelligent. This already happens naturally. Eugenics just helps the process along in a controlled efficient manner.

    It’s contrary to the rights of sentient beings.

    Ha! Spend a night alone on the Serengeti and proclaim your “rights” to the hyenas as they snack on you!

    Or better yet, spend a night in an Afghan village and proclaim your “rights” to President Obama as he drops a daisy-cutter in your backyard.

    Your “rights” are just as subject to reason as any other man-made moral imperative.

    I highly, highly doubt you’ll be able to find any atheists here who would support a eugenics program like the Nazis endorsed.

    Irrelevant. The reasoning and science behind eugenics is sound. Your moral objections are just irrational squeamishness – sort of like a first year med student declaring it’s wrong to perform surgery because it’s gross.

    Irrational.

  53. jerry says

    Say what? I didn’t even remotely mention anything about “men laying with boys”, and certainly gave no rational arguments for it.

    If you don’t consider a 13 year old boy to be a boy then I suppose you’re right. Good one!

  54. Dennis N says

    I’m so glad we have jerry here to tell us what is rational and what is irrational. Meanwhile, he holds ridiculous faith beliefs without warrant.

  55. Chiroptera says

    jerry at 3:27: The reasoning and science behind eugenics is sound.

    Actually, it’s not.

    First, it’s not clear how many of the characteristics that the eugenicists felt desirable are actually genetic.

    Second, the main goals of most eugenicists were the alleviation of specific social problems, like crime rates. Problems that experience has shown can be solved much more simply and much faster with proper social policies.

  56. says

    Jerry,

    Andrea Yates drowned her five children because God told her to do it. We would all appreciate it if you would explain how Andrea’s decision-making process was preferable to using rationality.

  57. CJColucci says

    the guy who kicks cats anyway, and fears divine retribution, may resolve his problem by deciding that there is no God and therefore no divine retribution.

    Then he goes back to kicking cats in peace.

    In my experience, there are people (some of them theists, some of them atheists) who kick cats, and people (some of them theists, some of them atheists) who don’t. I’ve seen cat-kicking theists who, confronted with the supposed religious fact that God doesn’t approve of cat-kicking do either of two things: (1) kick cats anyway and try not to think about it; or (2) decide that God really doesn’t mind if you kick cats, and may even like it. I’ve never seen any theistic cat-kicker resolve the contradiction by saying: “God? Oh, never mind; I guess I don’t believe in Him.”

  58. jerry says

    The problem is that everyone left after the first individuals get executed have to live in fear of being labeled as the next minority to be crushed.

    I sincerely doubt that the Eugenics Society “lived in fear” of eugenics.

  59. says

    So is intelligence. It’s perfectly rational to breed for the best traits, including intelligence.

    Funny thing, intelligence: The more you get, the less influence genetics has on individual variation. Better education, freedom of speech, and protections for all citizens has more directly visible and measurable effects than anyone can currently predict using genetics.

    All the more reason to weed out the less intelligent. This already happens naturally. Eugenics just helps the process along in a controlled efficient manner.

    Until we’re all clones of each other, and raise the risk of human extinction or at least bigger plagues? Our intelligence is great for developing medicine, but it’s not perfect. I’d rather hedge our bets by working on both, rather than risk crippling overspecialization.

    Ha! Spend a night alone on the Serengeti and proclaim your “rights” to the hyenas as they snack on you!

    Is that how you think of all other human beings?

    Or better yet, spend a night in an Afghan village and proclaim your “rights” to President Obama as he drops a daisy-cutter in your backyard.

    The existence of human savagery does not negate the fact that respecting peoples’ rights leads to prosperity.

    Your “rights” are just as subject to reason as any other man-made moral imperative.

    1. It’s reason that lead us to these rights, and societies that have greater respect for them do tend to accomplish more, unless you want to argue it’s all just chance.

    2. What do you propose that’s better? A society where everyone listens to random voices in their heads?

    The reasoning and science behind eugenics is sound. Your moral objections are just irrational squeamishness – sort of like a first year med student declaring it’s wrong to perform surgery because it’s gross.

    Irrational.

    What’s wrong with pointing out well-known and immediately visible risks to the eugenics strategy? Do you expect me to believe that a society where you can kill someone based off of some minor genetic trouble will even hold together for years, much less centuries?

    Funny thing: Like that racist troll I mentioned, your whole spiel reeks of genetic determinism, which science argues against. It’s irrational to base a policy on unscientific grounds. It’s also irrational to destroy the huge environmental benefits of society for the tiniest scraps of genetic improvement.

    I don’t burn down a working million dollar mansion in the endeavor of picking up a few pennies down the line. What’s rational about such risky behavior?

  60. Chiroptera says

    jerry at 3:50: Many of them are indisputably genetic.

    Actually, I can’t think of a single one. Tendency toward crime? Laziness and poverty? These were the issues that the eugenicists were worried about, not lactose intolerance.

    Eugenics WAS a proper social policy. It was upheld by the Supreme Court.

    Uh, we haven’t had a Supreme Court run by atheists. Did you forgot the point you were trying to make?

  61. says

    I sincerely doubt that the Eugenics Society “lived in fear” of eugenics.

    I’d argue it was irrational short-sightedness on their part, for all the dangers I listed in the course of this thread. Dangers that you don’t seem to acknowledge.

    Of course, eugenics itself is irrational because the immediate and long-term costs outweigh the small and dubious benefits it offers.

    Unless you’d care to tell me of benefits I’m not aware of. Be specific if you’d like to bring them up.

  62. scienceavenger says

    Apparently Jerry’s definition of “rational” is “anything Jerry declares to be rational”. That’s the basic problem here: The Jerry’s of the world don’t recognize a difference between reason and faith, in a similar way that creationists don’t seem to grasp the difference between actual science and creation “science”. Anything with the trappings of “reason/science” is equivalent to reason/science to these guys. They understand the form, but not the substance of the exercise.

  63. Abby Normal says

    Jerry, I thought trying to determine if something is good by comparing the results to something we think is bad was the source of every horrific act anyone’s ever done. So isn’t judging rationalism by eugenics, even if you can build a link, pointless at best and horrifically evil at worst?

  64. says

    Jerry, rather than continue to waste everyone’s time claiming that secular reasoning is faulty because it leads to the “wrong” conclusions — a self-defeating argument, since it requires the premise of secular reasoning — why don’t you tell us how it is you know that eugenics is wrong? If it’s because god says so, please show us where. Or if it’s because it was inscribed on golden plates that you found in the sand, describe the plates for us and tell us how you know that the plates are correct. Whatever it is, just explain to us without any rational analysis of the consequences of eugenics, or any other appeals to reason.

    This should be no difficulty for someone who is so snidely confident in the superiority of his belief system.

  65. says

    You know, this is getting more and more ironic by the minute. A dominantly Christian eugenics movement gets supported by a court that was dominantly Christian, (probably using all sorts of logical and legalistic fallacies) and he expects us to take that as a ringing endorsement for eugenics.

    Who are you trying to convince, and of what, jerry? It’s sounding more and more like you’re irrationally devoted to eugenics, trying to convince yourself by ignoring the huge, well-demonstrated dangers we bring up.

    The risks and costs of a eugenics program greatly outweigh the questionable, small benefits.

    Another funny thing is, if you treat intelligence as a genetic trait and neglect the environmental causes (schools, nurturing family figures, safe, stable society, etcetera), you’d eventually end up with more and more poorly educated, genetically “intelligent” people in charge of the program.

    The easier, safer, and better demonstrated rational solution is to not implement a eugenics plan and help everyone get their full potential without letting your ideas of genetics bias the results. Treat all kids well, and the ones with the smartest genes will still excel. It also makes the genetically “dumb” students benefit society more than they would in the mad eugenics dystopia. Kids flourish better when you don’t try to put ideological limits on them, based on 19th century pseudoscience.

  66. says

    Jerry, rather than continue to waste everyone’s time claiming that secular reasoning is faulty because it leads to the “wrong” conclusions — a self-defeating argument, since it requires the premise of secular reasoning — why don’t you tell us how it is you know that eugenics is wrong?

    Thanks for once again emphasizing that point. As far as I can tell, Jerry’s grasping at the (dominantly Christian-led) eugenics straw because he knows he’s got nothing better to offer than moral randomness.

    That’s my problem with god-based morals. Theists have yet to convince me that their god(s) are anything other than random, doing or commanding whatever they feel like on a whim. That’s why you get truly bizarre things like stoning people for wearing blended fabrics in their “holy” books. Most divine command theorists I meet tend to either rage against us for daring to be consistent in morality and forming safer, more stable societies, or they embrace the madness and nihilism of their theistic, so-called “morality” and laugh whenever a piece of the world burns.

  67. says

    Another funny thing about divine command theory: I’m certainly unaware of it ever being practiced and leading towards a safe, stable society. Usually, it lead to bloody war and/or stagnation. Civilizations that adopted humanistic principles are the ones that prospered the most.

    I also find it funny that DCTers seem to be a minority among Christians. They’re a loud (and crazy) minority, but still, if I were to survey Christians at random on moral questions and their reasoning, most of them would probably use humanistic reasoning to explain why action A is more moral than action B.

    The same would probably be true of many self-professed DCTers: They might say morality comes from their god when they’re in contact with atheists, but they often act to the contrary in other everyday contexts. Granted, they’d make exceptions for specific issues for DCT, but I suspect that would even be a minority of their opinions on morality.

    About the only consistent DCTers I’ve encountered were trolls who would blindly perform any sort of atrocity on the say-so of a voice in their head. Or at least, they’d claim they’d follow through when presented with such a hypothetical situation.

  68. Danny Boy says

    Jerry-

    Animal husbandry is the practice of breeding and raising livestock. The equivalent process in human society is marriage (or other form of selecting a mate) and child-rearing, not “eugenics”.

    According to the man who coined the term, eugenics is “the study of all agencies under human control which can improve or impair the racial quality of future generations.” As such an all-encompassing term, it has been used to refer to things as innocuous as pre-natal care.

    Continually calling eugenics “rational” without addressing the flatly irrational aspects pointed out by others (e.g. Bronze Dog) just makes you look dogmatic and foolish. And you wouldn’t want that, would you?

  69. Chiroptera says

    jerry at 4:54:

    Animal husbandry is well established applied science.

    For species with generation times of a couple of years at most.

    For a species like humans, which has a minimum of a dozen years between generations, it would take a long, long time for a breeding program to even begin to show results.

    I’m not sure why it’s supposed to be more rational to use a method that will take several hundred years if not longer (and which may not even show results) to solve pressing social problems when other public policies are known to get good results in a single generation or less. As a technology that is supposed to achieve results, it kind of sucks when applied to humans.

    Furthermore, most of the traits that were considered desirable, like “rob fewer people” or “be less poor” or “speak less Spanish” are not genetic in nature, so, no, eugenics really can’t be classed as an established science, no more than phrenology.

  70. says

    As far as I can tell, Jerry’s grasping at the (dominantly Christian-led) eugenics straw because he knows he’s got nothing better to offer than moral randomness.

    This is where jerry’s argument (and this is far from the first time I’ve seen it) becomes self-defeating. He tosses up eugenics and Roman circuses and so on as consequences of reason-based morality, and we’re all supposed to recoil in horror and reject reason on that basis. But if we are disgusted by these things, then surely the *rational* thing to do is, well, not practice them. And to that end we have erected a system of universal human rights that say we can’t feed people to lions, or forcibly prevent them having children. We do this because *rationally* we perceive that guaranteeing some basic rights to life and self-determination to *everyone* is the best way of securing it for ourselves. We didn’t need God to tell us any of this (which is good, because he sure as hell didn’t — we figured it out for ourselves, notwithstanding the attempts of the Christianists to retroactively claim it for their deity).

  71. Captain Mike says

    You come up with the most heinous, horrific, immoral behavior you can think of…

    Rape.

    …then I will provide a rational justification for that act.

    Good luck.

    For the record, Jerry, no one said it was okay for grown men to have sex with 13-year-old boys. That isn’t even vaguely close to what was said. You have to work on your reading skills.

  72. Danny Boy says

    And, swinging back to the topic at hand…

    Jerry said:

    It’s saying that morals based solely upon human rationality can rationally justify any and every behavior as “moral”.

    Yup. So what?

    Just because a given human society can rationalize ANYTHING as moral, that doesn’t mean we are obliged to consider EVERYTHING to be moral (or, more correctly, amoral).

    Morality is a social construct, which changes considerably as you move across time and place. As an individual, I am free to live my life according to whatever moral compass suits me — but I should also expect consequences when that compass leads me to act in ways contrary to what society at large has determined to be “right”.

    And if I believe society’s view of morality is wrong, I am free to try and change it. However, for example, there are very good reasons why murder is considered by our society to be immoral, regardless of the existence or non-existence of God. Convincing the majority of my fellow citizens that we should be allowed to run around slaughtering each other is likely gonna be a bit difficult…

  73. Danny Boy says

    Jerry:

    It also involves preventing undesirable traits through castration, sterilization and segregation.

    And “eugenics” involves prenatal care and laws against inbreeding.

    So?

  74. Danny Boy says

    Bronze Dog:

    Another funny thing about divine command theory: I’m certainly unaware of it ever being practiced and leading towards a safe, stable society. Usually, it lead to bloody war and/or stagnation. Civilizations that adopted humanistic principles are the ones that prospered the most.

    QFT.

    I suspect it has something to do with morals with a rational basis behind them are much more stable and readily accepted by the population than those dictated by supernatural fiat.

    After all, if the answer to “Why shouldn’t I have sex with children?” is “Because God said so”, what happens when someone manages to convince a sizable chunk of the populace that God told HIM the exact opposite?

  75. says

    Once again, jerry deliberately tries to ignore the dangers I spoke of, such as the destabilizing of society as a result of taking away the protections and benefits of society. Does he seriously think there’s no drawback to overthrowing the foundations of a civilization?

    It’s like he expects all humans to be blase towards others being killed for dubious, unspecified, and ultimately tiny improvements.

    As for anti-plague measures, why should we ignore the benefits of genetic diversity, especially since they don’t require we do anything?: If we do nothing, people will still fall in love and continue to form novel genetic combinations, including potentially beneficial combinations and mutations that would not be allowed under a madcap eugenics scheme. A supposedly science-based eugenics program would require vast resources in order to obtain some very meager results, and at staggering opportunity costs.

    So, what is your eugenics dream offering us, jerry? Be specific.

    Of course, there’s still the elephant in the room he’s ignoring: Even if he were able to establish some kind of rational eugenics program, he still wouldn’t have gained anything in this argument, because he doesn’t have anything better to offer than depraved savagery: He’s trying to argue that an arbitrary, bloodthirsty tyrant god is better than a bloodthirsty tyrant human.

    And he’s trapped in this self-defeating argument/perfect solution fallacy because he doesn’t understand the most basic principles human societies are built on, and how we benefit from those principles.

    He’s not trying to provide a better, hopeful option. He’s essentially pointing out that civilization isn’t perfect, therefore we MUST choose the anarchy of Divine Command Theory. That’s what the perfect solution fallacy is. He expects us to accept a logical fallacy as inherently a rational choice.

  76. Chiroptera says

    jerry at 5:19: This was used with great success in the early 20th century.

    Is this true? What were the goals of the eugenics movement that were accomplished? Did it actually reduce poverty? Reduce crime? Improve the “breed” in any measurable way?

    ‘Cause, quite frankly, if eugenics was successful, I can’t imagine that the conservatives would be making it a huge plank in the Republican platform.

  77. Danny Boy says

    Jerry:

    Very rational.

    Uh, did you even READ the quote you’re using to support your “point”?

    Picking a scapegoat is the height of IRRATIONALITY.

  78. Chiroptera says

    jerry at 5:43: Very rational.

    In what way? I don’t see much in the way of reasoned analysis in the part that you quoted. Do you understand what the meaning of “rational” is?

  79. Danny Boy says

    Also… I said that convincing people “we should be allowed to run around slaughtering each other” would be difficult. And it would be.

    Unfortunately, convincing people to slaughter those OTHER people has traditionally been much easier.

  80. says

    Oh, yeah: On the topic of child molestation, do you really want to go there, jerry? Religion’s been sheltering and otherwise aiding a lot of child molesters. Child molestation that was made easier by the “holy” man invoking his deity as justification, and police investigations were made harder by religious arrogance to claim that their association with god protects from the law, but the children, apparently, aren’t so lucky.

    Divine Command Theory can still justify any atrocity. I haven’t seen you do anything to show otherwise.

  81. says

    “I never said secular reasoning is faulty.”

    Oh FFS, what then was the whole point of your boneheaded yammering about secular reasoning being used to support eugenics, or pedophilia, or whatever? You’ve had more than enough time to explain yourself.

  82. harold says

    Jerry –

    Are you trying to defend Denyse O’Leary’s implication that atheists are even more immoral than religious people? You haven’t addressed that. Also, Denyse specifically referred to animal abuse. Can you defend a claim that atheists are more likely to abuse animals?

    I’m not religious because I personally see no evidence of supernatural entities. It doesn’t matter whether I “would be more moral if I thought Jehovah existed”. I don’t think I would, but that’s irrelevant. I wish Santa Claus was real. I’d probably be happier if he existed. But I see no evidence to support his existence, and substantial evidence to the contrary. So I accept reality and view him as imaginary.

    Many of your comments seem to be either deceptive, or else very ill-informed. Your comment about pedophiles was deceptive. Your comments about eugenics, in addition to suggesting to me that you yourself, not anyone else, are titillated by the subject, reflect an ignorance of genetics. Even your comments about the well-known works of Tacitus are deceptive and bizarre.

    You make brazenly illogical statements like this –

    Religious morality is based upon humility

    Then why do you take an arrogant tone?

    and the acceptance of the fact that we would have no notion of what is good or evil if there were not an ultimate good in the universe to reference it to.

    This is a debatable philosophical statement, which some atheists would agree with, or at least have, historically.

    It has nothing to do with whether or not your personal deity exists.

    False dichotomy.

    I’m neutral on whether “ultimate good” could be said to exist. That sounds like semantics to me. I believe in the existence of abstract concepts – as abstract concepts. The salient point is that assertion of the existence of your particular deity of choice (if you have one) neither make the existence of that deity plausible, nor makes that deity the “ultimate good”, even if it does exist.

  83. says

    It would be strange if it could not call upon those who already sap the strength of the State for these lesser sacrifices, often not felt to be such by those concerned, to prevent our being swamped with incompetence. It is better for all the world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind. The principle that sustains compulsory vaccination is broad enough to cover cutting the Fallopian tubes.

    His premise is the enthymeme of genetic determinism. If the premise is false, the argument is unsound.

    Genetic determinism for humans has no supporting evidence, and plenty that contradicts it.

    Therefore this nutbar’s conclusions are logically unsound.

    For an argument to be sound or cogent, its premises must be true. I see no reason to believe in genetic determinism, therefore it is rational to reject his baseless assertion.

    What part of this do you not understand?

  84. I'mthegenie!Icandoanything! says

    Of course you’re right, but I’m curious why anyone would bother to answer the Dumbest Person in Canada, or even read something that accumulated by chance upon UD, even for laughs.

    D’oL! poses no threat to anyone, nor could Christ himself persuade her she was both utterly stupid and not even wrong about literally everything in Creation, so why give her time you could spend beating off, or twiddling your thumbs, or even ssomething worth doing?

  85. Danny Boy says

    A very rational argument from one of America’s greatest progressive minds.

    Okay.

    Why is he wrong?

    Because God said so? (Where did God say “Thou shalt not tie the Fallopian tubes of the poor and imbecilic”?)

    Your arguments against rationality only hold water if something other than rationality is necessary (not just sufficient) to argue against the morality of a particular evil.

    In this case, while one CAN make the argument that Holmes was being “rational”, one can just as easily make a rational argument that allowing the masses to starve not only weakens society in the future (depriving it of potential leaders, thinkers, artists, and yes, laborers) it significantly destabilizes the present. (See Bread & Circuses.)

  86. says

    In this case, while one CAN make the argument that Holmes was being “rational”, one can just as easily make a rational argument that allowing the masses to starve not only weakens society in the future (depriving it of potential leaders, thinkers, artists, and yes, laborers) it significantly destabilizes the present. (See Bread & Circuses.)

    That’s another funny thing: The fact that jerry is completely and utterly unable to see the value of these allegedly “inferior” individuals suggests to me that he really and truly supports eugenics, but the only thing that prevents him from coming out and saying it is the irrational belief that some mass murdering magic man in the sky will roast him for doing so.

    Said god sees nothing inherently wrong with mass murder and involuntary surgical procedures, he’s just randomly declaring these specific instances to be wrong for no reason beyond shits and giggles.

  87. harold says

    Jerry –

    You seem to have a personal obsession with eugenics.

    Eugenics is not associated with atheism (as you concede above).

    There is, in fact, nothing in the Bible that argues against involuntary sterilization. In fact, Christian societies commonly practiced castration on some of their unfortunate male members for centuries. So it isn’t prevented by religious morality, either.

    I would object to eugenics even if a reasonable “rational” case could be made for it. I can’t speak for other non-religious people, but my ethics are based on empathy-grounded subjective values as well as on rational social contract thinking.

    However, genetics has advanced since the days of Oliver Wendell Holmes. I would object to eugenics very strongly either way, on the grounds of human rights (and to some degree on social contract grounds), but from a scientific, rational point of view, eugenics would not provide the results that Oliver Wendell Holmes thought it would.

    This was actually pointed out by early population geneticists. It is largely because of the existence of recessive alleles that this is the case. Phenotype-based eugenics would simply not tend to reduce the population frequency of the traits it claimed to target at any reasonable rate over any reasonable period of time (and in the case of environmentally created traits mistaken for genetic traits, it would literally have no effect at all – or might increase their frequency). It was the demonstration of this, as much as ethics, that made the idea die out.

    There is nothing “rational”, nor “atheistic”, about eugenics.

    Your obsession with the topic is your own problem.

  88. harold says

    Bronze Dog –

    The fact that jerry is completely and utterly unable to see the value of these allegedly “inferior” individuals suggests to me that he really and truly supports eugenics, but the only thing that prevents him from coming out and saying it is the irrational belief that some mass murdering magic man in the sky will roast him for doing so.

    I’ll take it a step further. 1) He comes across as a sadist who has an obsession with eugenics. 2) He might not even believe in the magic man in the sky. 3) He might just think that pretending to be religious will help advance the type of science-denying authoritarian politics that might cause suffering to “inferior” people.

    Just a guess, of course.

  89. Chiroptera says

    jerry at 6:02: A very rational argument from one of America’s greatest progressive minds.

    Uh, jerry, we’re talking about atheists.

    You seem to be supporting our contention that believers in magical deities are no better at ethical reasoning that atheists.

  90. says

    jerry at 6:02: A very rational argument from one of America’s greatest progressive minds.

    Chiroptera at 6:32: Uh, jerry, we’re talking about atheists.

    You seem to be supporting our contention that believers in magical deities are no better at ethical reasoning that atheists.

    Heh. I’m getting closer to actually laughing out loud.

    I feel a need to bring up the Divine Command Theory’s common perception of humans as mere resources to be exploited for the god’s ends, and how it looks for a Christian eugenicist to speak about people like that.

    jerry certainly is making fundamentalist Christianity look bad. I’m beginning to wonder if we might have been double-reverse trolled by a poe or something.

  91. harold says

    Jerry made some very unintelligent comments about “intelligence”, which I will now correct.

    1) It’s stupid. Genetic diversity is a hedge against extinction.

    So is intelligence. It’s perfectly rational to breed for the best traits, including intelligence.

    Where to begin…

    1) Intelligence, as quantitatively measured in humans, is a set of cognitive behavioral traits that can be measured with certain useful but imperfect tests. These tests are especially useful in identifying people whose academic or social problems are not due to a cognitive problem that would impact the test; that is, the only way to get a high score (other than being astronomically lucky) is to get the right answers.

    There are many ways to get a low score, but if a person is sincerely trying and linguistic/cultural/physical factors are not biasing, another use of the tests is to help identify specific learning disabilities.

    There is no rational reason to suspect that an ever higher score on these particular tests is always better. After a certain level, the predictive value of additional “points” with regard to academic or professional achievement is nil.

    2) There is a fair degree of heritability associated with the collection of human traits we label “intelligence”. Ill-informed people are often confused about the difference between “heritable” and “genetic”. There is also some evidence that at least some “intelligence” traits have some genetic component.

    3) However, the correct arguments made to Jerry, againt traditional phenotype-based “eugenics” were both an anti-inbreeding/loss of zygosity argument and an ethical argument. Both of these are valid arguments against forced breeding of “high IQ individuals” with each other and/or sadistic treatment of people with lower IQ scores. Jerry counters with an ill-informed argument about “breeding for intelligence”, revealing that he didn’t understand the arguments that were made.

    Last I checked, humanity already has a shallower gene pool than most people would think.

    All the more reason to weed out the less intelligent. This already happens naturally. Eugenics just helps the process along in a controlled efficient manner.

    No, Jerry, it is an argument against deliberately reducing genetic diversity.

  92. harold says

    Area Man –

    He’s a troll and I’m done now, but he’s using rather common fallacies that are frequently seen, so it was worthwhile to briefly counter them, for the sake of third party readers.

  93. says

    I’ll probably stick around, since I’m on the verge of full blown laughter. It’s been a while since I’ve had this sort of fun at a troll roast.

  94. Michael Heath says

    Jerry,

    Have you no shame or are you a masochist looking to get smacked-down? What’s the motivation to repeatedly post such idiotic posts, go down in flames, and then dance around in some sort of delusional victory dance?

    It’s obvious you care little about better informing yourself or adopting cogent positions plus no one here is tempted to fall for your foolishness. So what’s your motivation for posting your comments?

    From my perspective it appears you’re looking to be the recipient of an intellectual gang bang. I find such behavior repugnant and can’t imagine why anyone would put them through such a shameful display of dishonesty and idiocy. Please fill me in.

  95. says

    One of the topics many people forget to factor in to even “rational” moral landscapes is retaliation. It’s the elephant in the room because many rationalists question whether the threat of retaliation really is a deterrent, etc. Is vengeance a good strategy? Well, I submit that it appears to have been, because we and many other animals have evolved tit-for-tat and punishment behaviors. Maybe punishment in any specific instance is not rational but over an entire population it might have a benefit (whether it’s ‘moral’ or not is another question) but if you set vengeance opposite altruism you greatly strengthen the game of “carrot and stick” people play with society. Or should I say society plays with people?

    Why does this matter? Simply because nobody rational wants to live in a world in which people are culled for arbitrary criteria, because some day they may fall on the wrong side of the line. Suppose we’re practicing eugenics – one might think “I’m smart, so I’m OK” and favor eugenics, all well and good until they decide to cull out all of us scandinavian-descended pink males because we have no sense of rythm. ( <- kidding! ) Kant tried to address this with his Categorical Imperative, but he focused on the positive aspects rather than the retaliatory side.

    Eugenics actually doesn't make sense, rationally, because it's arbitrary. Perhaps, instead of trying to be smarter and live longer, we should be trying to breed back to being more like bacteria. Eugenics depends on some kind of external value system which you cannot assess rationally, by definition, if you're a moral nihilist.

    So to re-frame the discussion about eugenics, we could posit the following: "how would you like to live in a world in which a committee of 'experts' arbitrarily decided on attributes that would be culled or carried forward and you have no way of knowing in advance which of your attributes would result in you, personally, being bred or culled?" Framed that way, we see that the 'rational' answer is pure self-interest. When your moral system is indistinguishable from your assesment of your self-interest you're a moral nihilist.* The rational response to that framing would be "would you want to serve on a committee of eugenics experts if, periodically, the people you chose to try to cull rose up and gave you a tumbril-ride, thereby demonstrating that perhaps they're more genetically fit than you are, after all?"

    (*I am)

  96. says

    “how would you like to live in a world in which a committee of ‘experts’ arbitrarily decided on attributes that would be culled or carried forward and you have no way of knowing in advance which of your attributes would result in you, personally, being bred or culled?”

    IOW: the Rawlsian rebuttal to eugenics (and any other arbitrary scheme of discrimination).

  97. Modusoperandi says

    harold “I wish Santa Claus was real. I’d probably be happier if he existed. But I see no evidence to support his existence, and substantial evidence to the contrary. So I accept reality and view him as imaginary.”
    Lies! If Santa doesn’t exist, who drank all the booze and misassembled my bicycle? My father? Puh-leez!

    Eamon Knight “IOW: the Rawlsian rebuttal to eugenics (and any other arbitrary scheme of discrimination).”
    Lou Rawls is highly under-rated as a philosopher.

    And also, Jerry, what are you arguing for?

  98. Aquaria says

    Die in a fire, Denyse, you sociopathic scumbag.

    Rwandan Prime Minister Jean Kambanda revealed in his testimony before the International Criminal Tribunal that the genocide was openly discussed in cabinet meetings and that “…one cabinet minister said she was personally in favor of getting rid of all Tutsi; without the Tutsi, she told ministers, all of Rwanda’s problems would be over.”

    You are a fucking moron.

    Do we need to remind you, lying moronic scumbag that you are, how Christians were the primary murderers in the Rwandan genocide? Or how they aided and abetted the killing?

    Do we need to remind you of the name of Athanase Seromba, the priest who gathered together 2000 Tutsi refugees in his parish church, and then ordered the Hutu murderers to bulldoze his church–and even shot some of the survivors of that himself?

    Or how about priest Emmanuel Rukundo who ordered Hutus to kidnap and execute Tutsis who were seeking shelter at his church as well?

    Or how about priest Wenceslas Munyeshyaka, the same bullshit of having refugees in his church and getting them murdered–except he decided to commit rape as well?

    And just to make it clear that it wasn’t just Catholics reveling in the bloodbath, how about the 7th Day Adventist scumbag minister, Elizaphan Ntakirutimana, who was the first (of many clergy to be found guilty of genocide? Ntakirutimana transported Tutsis to their death! Hundreds of them!

    And why wouldn’t Christarded scumbags have participated in genocide, when they worship a genocidal scumbag of a deity?

    Funny how everywhere Christard scumbags are, there’s always death and misery.

    Fuck off, you worthless death-cult piece of shit.

  99. laurentweppe says

    @ED:

    This is the same old silly Christian claim that I refer to as the Simon Says argument. If you can’t say “God says” before every statement you make, according to this argument, then nothing you say has any rational basis at all

    Actually, O’Leary is not using this “Simon Says” argument: she’s arguing that in the face of oppression, atheists, lacking a belief in an endless happy-fun-afterlife, are more likely to cave in and submit to any thug pointing a weapon at them: its the classic Me-Christian-ergo-Me-Moraly-Superior-and-More-Badass fundie canard, not the “Simon Says” one.

    ***
    @Jerry:

    You mean like feeding people to lions for entertainment?

    Yeah, because as we all know, Rome was a shining beacon of rational thought during their pagan years.

    Religious morality is based upon humility

    Which, coming from you, seems to imply that you are deprived of both secular (since you despise it) and religious (since you’re lacking in the humility department) morality

    ***

    @Bronze Dog

    I highly, highly doubt you’ll be able to find any atheists here who would support a eugenics program like the Nazis endorsed

    Well, once in a while, far-right douchebags come in the scienceblogs, proclaim their über-atheism, and start trolling about how the world would be a much better place if those eeeeeviiiiiiiil and dangerous Muslims living in the western world were ethnically cleansed or how science has already “proven” that white skinned dudes are the only subgroup of humans intellectually above pets and cattle, etc… I see now reason why the same thing would not also happen here every now and then.

  100. jerry says

    I’m neutral on whether “ultimate good” could be said to exist. That sounds like semantics to me.

    What’s your reference point then? Is it just whatever you think is good? Is it whatever society decides is good? Whatever feels good? Whatever doesn’t harm small animals?

    You are trying to measure something for which you have no established standard. Anything and everything can be considered good and it can all be reasonably justified. This world is simply a “might makes right” world. Every horrible deed imaginable can be called “good”.

    Since atheism can lay no claim to a standard measure of good, no atheist can know whether something is good or not. All that an atheist can do is tell us if something “feels” good to them. And this “feeling” is likely to be negated by some future generation who “feels” differently.

    I think Denyse has a point. Atheists may think they know what good is but if pressed on the issue no atheist can really tell you why something is good or not without simply making up a standard out of thin air.

  101. Captain Mike says

    I’m happy to use the Sam Harris definition for good and evil. Anything that promotes happiness and decreases suffering is good, anything that does the opposite is bad. It’s actually really very simple.

    I don’t expect you to actually interact with this statement in any meaningful way. You haven’t bothered to take the time to understand what anyone else has said so far.

  102. Chiroptera says

    jerry at 8:44: You are trying to measure something for which you have no established standard. Anything and everything can be considered good and it can all be reasonably justified. This world is simply a “might makes right” world. Every horrible deed imaginable can be called “good”.

    And yet every single example you gave on this thread of evil being done was evil being done by god believers.

    Funny, isn’t it?

  103. democommie says

    Well, I didn’t read every comment in its entirety, but I read a LOT of them.

    This:

    “Fuck off, you worthless death-cult piece of shit.”

    is as cogent a reply as is necessary when talking to lying fuckbag for JESUS like Jerry.

    I don’t know much about much, but I do know if there’s a Kentucky Derby entrant by the name, “Gish GalloP”, I will be betting the house!

  104. says

    Jerry, you are absolutely clueless about the full extent of your moral failings. Let me illustrate, by changing a few words in your last post:

    What’s your reference point then? Is it just whatever you think is good? Is it whatever society decides is good? Whatever feels good? Whatever doesn’t harm small animals?

    You are trying to measure something for which you have no established standard. Anything and everything can be considered good and it can all be reasonably justified. This world is simply a “might makes right” world. Every horrible deed imaginable can be called “good”.

    Since [theism] can lay no claim to a standard measure of good, no [theist] can know whether something is good or not. All that [a theist] can do is tell us if [a voice in their head says it’s] good to them. And this [“voice”] is likely to be negated by some future generation who [“hears”] differently.

    I think Denyse has a point. [Theists] may think they know what good is but if pressed on the issue no [theist] can really tell you why something is good or not without simply making up a standard out of thin air.

    You’re asking us to tear down every good, demonstrably successful principle our society was built on because you’d rather have anarchy via Divine Command Theory, where anyone can make up anything they want their god to say. You’re the one demanding that morality be built on thin air.

    Or, to use a phrase you might recognize: Get the beam out of your own eye!

  105. Danny Boy says

    Jerry @ 8:44 AM:

    All that an atheist can do is tell us if something “feels” good to them. And this “feeling” is likely to be negated by some future generation who “feels” differently.

    I think your definition of “atheist” is a bit off. Someone who bases their sense of right and wrong on what “feels good” is called a sociopath.

    More likely, our atheist friend bases his views on rational and verifiable reasons WHY something is “good” (or “evil”). And if future generations realize that reasoning was flawed, or changing circumstances alter the benefits (or detriments) to society of a particular act, they are free to change their view of morality accordingly.

    Atheists may think they know what good is but if pressed on the issue no atheist can really tell you why something is good or not without simply making up a standard out of thin air.

    Dammit, Jerry. My irony meter just burst into flames.

  106. says

    It’s only your efforts at oversimplifying the simple that makes utilitarian morality as bad as divine command theory. History has shown that having strong, broad protections for society’s members leads towards more happiness for everyone, as well as a safer, more stable society. Isn’t that the point of morality?

    Oh, wait, I forgot. I’m talking to a nihilistic divine command theorist who believes there is no point to anything. Jerry believes this is a world of might makes right, so the almighty blood god can randomly dictate whatever he wants.

  107. Danny Boy says

    The promotion of happiness and the decrease of suffering can be used to justify any act. Any act at all.

    And, we’re back where we started.

    Once again, just because someone can use “rationality” to justify ANY act does not mean that EVERY act is moral. For every example of an “evil” act you’ve tossed out, others have shown the rational argument justifying the act was flawed and/or there is an equally valid (if not more compelling) rational argument against that act.

    I’m done now, until you (Jerry) can explain why it is the God hypothesis is necessary (not just sufficient) to counter the anarchy that you think inevitably follows from a rationally-based, secular morality.

  108. Chiroptera says

    jerry at 10:27: And of course, the atheist notions of happiness and suffering are no less ambiguous than the atheist conception of good and bad.

    You know, jerry, you should look into the concept of empiricism. That means that all the theories and philosophizing and logical reasoning (I’ll be a little broad on this last one for your sake) is pretty much vacuous self-indulgence until it is compared to what actually happens in real life.

    The fact is, most atheists are perfectly moral and ethical, no worse than most religious folks. You may not understand it, but there it is. If your theories can’t account for it, then the problem is with your reasoning (broadly interpreted) and with your inability to accept what actually happens in real life.

  109. Danny Boy says

    Good, to the Christian, is God alone.

    Well, that’s a relief. I mean, since there’s a single, unified understanding of what God wants from us, life should be really simple.

    First off, we all need to stop eating beef that hasn’t been properly presented before the tabernacle.

  110. Chiroptera says

    jerry at 10:45: Good, to the atheist, is whatever the atheist says it is – even an internationally recognized Nobel Peace Prize recipient who proudly starts wars can be called “a good man”.

    Good grief. That President is a god believer, not an atheist.

    Are you even aware of what your point is any more?

  111. Danny Boy says

    There were perfectly rational reasons for Stalin to think that purging society was a good thing.

    Really?

    What were they?

  112. says

    Absolutely. There were perfectly rational reasons for Stalin to think that purging society was a good thing.

    You do realize that Stalinism, which rejected many moral values we endorse, and are part of the law in many developed nations, contributed to the collapse of the Soviet Union, right?

    So, how’s that supposed to make Divine Command Theory look any better? So far, it looks to me that DCT is pretty much Stalinism with an almighty Stalin instead of a mortal Stalin.

  113. says

    The funny thing about defining God as the one and only good: Why god? Why not Bob, across the street? Why are his desires not the foundation of morality? Divine Command Theory has no answer to this question, aside from:

    1) making vague threats, appealing to the (undetectable) cudgel of Hell, proclaiming might makes right, and who’s mightier than an omnipotent being?

    or

    2) Invoking randomness as the real source of god’s authority: god just ended up getting lucky in a decision no one had any power over.

    Do you have a third option I’m not aware of, Jerry? Either of the two would be consistent with what you’ve posted so far.

  114. Danny Boy says

    Jerry-

    You seem to be laboring under the (false) assumption that rationality means that whatever I want to be true is true. Thus, if Stalin thought his purges were “rational”, then they were they right thing to do.

    This is completely the opposite of rational empiricism. From Wikipedia: “It is a fundamental part of the scientific method that all hypotheses and theories must be tested against observations of the natural world rather than resting solely on a priori reasoning, intuition, or revelation.”

    So, on the one hand, we have someone who believes what is good for society should be tested against observations of how that society actually functions — and NOT just on what “feels good”.

    On the other hand, we have someone who believes that God dictates what is right and wrong — and, more importantly, that HE ALONE is privy to what God “really meant”.

    I ask you: which approach is the more humble?

  115. Danny Boy says

    What then? If every act can be rationally justified to be “good”, and every act can also be rationally justified to be “evil”, then you are simply affirming “might makes right”

    Once again: just because someone can justify for himself that an act as “good” does NOT mean that person is correct in his analysis. Rationality does NOT equate to “anything goes”.

    On the other hand, what you keep highlighting as a bug in rational thinking is in fact a feature; it’s entirely possible that one can, upon further review and/or the assimilation of more data, realize that one’s initial analysis of the “goodness” of a particular act was, in fact, WRONG — or at least no longer applicable as such.

    This is not possible under Divine Command Theory. Although society changes, it’s really difficult to explain how that infinite, unchangeable deity suddenly decided to change His mind… As a result, you get really stupid situations like someone with tattoos all over his body railing against the “evil” of homosexuality.

  116. raven says

    Good, to the Christian, is God alone.

    Which is a huge mistake and explains why the fundie perversion of xianity is so malevolent and evil.

    They worship the OT Sky Monster and end up being monstrous themselves. The one who invented genocide and made being a disobedient child, nonvirgin bride, adulterer, sabbath breaker, or heretic a death penalty offense. The one who has no problem with slavery and polygamy.

    Anyone following a biblical law lifestyle today would be doing multiple life sentences in prison. Warren Jeffs tried it and got life + 20 years.

    The Invisible Sky Monster does have one important redeeming quality. He doesn’t exist.

  117. says

    On DannyBoy’s point about humility:

    Divine Command Theory is inherently arrogant. It assumes one being’s desires trump all others. It’s like a monarch saying that the people of his kingdom are slaves that exist for his desires alone. And if we’re talking about the biblical god, those desires seem extraordinarily cruel. But if they’re god’s cruel desires, somehow, that cruelty is magically transmuted into the ultimate good. All because some guy says he has found the ultimate good.

    Our morality, on the other hand, doesn’t play such obvious favorites among members of a society. It’s a careful, imperfect balancing act that tries to make everyone happy and treat everyone fairly. We can acknowledge our morality isn’t perfect, but we can strive to learn more effective rules when we find unhappiness that hasn’t been addressed.

  118. Chiroptera says

    jerry at 11:03: Second, God centered morality is important because it anchors the concept of good in a singular, ultimate good – namely God. Also, it recognizes that humans are NOT good, and can NEVER BE good.

    Which might explain why the average god believer is no more moral or ethical than the average atheist.

    At any rate, in real life, atheists are no more immoral or evil than god believers. God believers are no more moral and just than atheists.

    All your theories and philosophizing really doesn’t amount to much if the conclusions don’t match up with real life.

    Reality. It is what it is.

  119. Danny Boy says

    Whatever the argument, it need only be accepted by the majority (or a powerful minority) to be adopted as “good for society”.

    And it’s all very, very rational.

    Even if you’re right (which you’re not, for reasons already explained ad nauseum), all you’re advocating for is an exchange of mob rule for tyranny.

    The rational atheist (or secular humanist) at the very least has the burden of explaining WHY an act should be considered “good” or “evil”.

    All the DCT adherent has is a tautology (GOD = GOOD) that is remarkably unhelpful when trying to deal with a constantly-changing world.

  120. Anteprepro says

    “What then? If every act can be rationally justified to be “good”, and every act can also be rationally justified to be “evil”, then you are simply affirming “might makes right””

    Bzzzt. Wrong, fuckwit. The quote you cite claims that there is more equally or more compelling rational argument against the behavior that you have labeled “rational”. That is that there are better reasons against them than for them. This isn’t “might makes right” it is “more rational beats less rational”. But you obviously don’t understand this, because you’ve repeated the same nonsense about one possible logical argument, ignoring all possible objections to that argument, is sufficient to deem the thing argued for “rational”. No counter-arguments need be considered. I guess it’s no wonder that you don’t esteem rationality much: you wouldn’t know how to make rational conclusions if your life depended on it.

    “Second, God centered morality is important because it anchors the concept of good in a singular, ultimate good – namely God. Also, it recognizes that humans are NOT good, and can NEVER BE good.”

    Here’s the problem with that: There is no hard and fast rules for what constitutes “good” even when providing whatever you call “God” as an “anchor” for it. That’s exactly the fucking problem that people have been discussing: that even when you suppose God as a basis for good and evil, it still leaves people to decide what it is that is good and evil. It is the same fucking situation, except now you don’t even need to offer up a good justification for associating something as good/evil! You just need a Biblical interpretation or a “vision” and that’s the basis of your “morality” in lieu of logic or considering the consequences.

    “The idea that humans can make up their own definition of good has been the impetus of every disgusting act of human treachery in history.”

    Yeah, sure it has been. Instead of humans adhering to a faulty, dogmatic view of what is considered “good”, without any concern whether it is logically consistent with an idea of fairness or whether it does no harm. Obviously, American slavery was due to moral relativists and not people shrugging their shoulders and saying “well, the Bible doesn’t forbid it…”. The witch trials in Europe were all about people coming up with their own definition of good, rather than people adhering to dogmatic superstition nonsense about good and evil, supported by God himself. Damn those humans and their nebulous ideas of what is good! Strict Biblical adherence in defining good is the only way to go.

  121. Chiroptera says

    jerry at 11:22: And it’s all very, very rational.

    Do you realize that the words you’re trying to use (like “rational”) already have meanings? You should use the standard definitions; making up your own meanings for words kind of makes what you write nonsense.

  122. says

    I’m happy to use the Sam Harris definition for good and evil. Anything that promotes happiness and decreases suffering is good, anything that does the opposite is bad. It’s actually really very simple.

    It’s “sucky” not simple. The problem with all intent-based moralities is that they are based on the actor’s interpretation of the greater good. What if, for example, nihilist Marcus decides that the way to eliminate suffering is to painlessly kill everyone after giving them a big tax break – they die happy and never suffer again. Now, of course that idea is absurd but it illustrates the problem with that sort of moral philosophy: people can be mistaken. Indeed it is proven to be ineffective simply by looking at the abortion debate. The “right to lifers” believe they are preventing a wrong and are protecting people’s happiness in an afterlife, and the “pro choice” side believe the other guy’s underlying premises are wrong, therefore their conclusions are wrong. Harris, in other words, is engaging in hand-waving. He’s a neuroscientist, not a philosopher. You don’t need to be Socrates to see that he’s hopelessly out of his depth.

  123. DaveL says

    The promotion of happiness and the decrease of suffering can be used to justify any act. Any act at all.

    You know, except for the ones that impede happiness and increase suffering.

    As opposed to “Divine Command” theory which literally can be used to justify any act at all.

  124. Danny Boy says

    Here’s the problem with that: There is no hard and fast rules for what constitutes “good” even when providing whatever you call “God” as an “anchor” for it.

    This.

    Returning to a question from yesterday: using only the God of the Bible as your touchstone, and NO rationality whatsoever, please explain why Oliver Wendell Holmes’ proposal (compulsory sterilization) is “evil”.

  125. says

    “What then? If every act can be rationally justified to be “good”, and every act can also be rationally justified to be “evil”, then you are simply affirming “might makes right””

    This moral nihilist would like to observe that, for all intents and purposes, that appear to be the way things work and have always worked. Any other moral system has to cross the chasm between being descriptive to being prescriptive, and that proves very hard.

    “might makes right” is simplistic, though, since it ignores the obvious fact that even the powerless often have a sense of right and wrong. I would re-write it as “right is just a shorter way of saying ‘what I want'”. If you step back from the problem and look at it with that perspective, a great deal suddenly makes sense: moral language is simply a way of hacking the discussion by implying that there is a consensus when, in fact, there may not be.

  126. says

    Shorter Jerry,

    “I have to be told what’s right and wrong, I don’t want to have to think about it.”

    That pretty well summarizes what’s been going on in this thread. Both the inherent authoritarianism involved in DCT he loves, as well as his inability to distinguish rational arguments from irrational ones.

    Though I think one aspect I’ll elaborate on: He apparently doesn’t want to deal with the fact that he’s imperfect, therefore he tries to cheat his way out of that imperfection by pretending he has an infallible communication link with an infallible entity. But the only way he would know such an entity is infallible would require that he himself be infallible.

  127. says

    You know, except for the ones that impede happiness and increase suffering.

    What if there are 10 of us who want Joe dead? We want it so much that it hurts us to know that Joe is alive. Set against his unhappiness and suffering is the greater unhappiness and suffering of the 10 of us.

    Lacking some external framework of prescriptive rules, you have no way of prioritizing that Joe’s life is somehow worth more than 10 people’s happiness. Utilitarianism looks good if you give it a very cursory glance but it appears that it only works if you have a pre-defined moral code already in which case you don’t need anything more than that moral code. Infinite regress.

  128. says

    Heh. On the metaphor of god being an “anchor” for morality, the mental image that comes to mind is a cartoon trope involving a fisherman hooking a giant fish and being pulled back and forth across the ocean, leaving a huge, destructive wake as he’s helplessly tugged along.

    That giant fish is the “anchor” of your typical god, randomly thrashing back and forth on the issues, and Jerry’s busy arguing that the fish is actually completely stationary, and it’s the universe that’s thrashing back and forth randomly.

  129. Danny Boy says

    Lacking some external framework of prescriptive rules, you have no way of prioritizing that Joe’s life is somehow worth more than 10 people’s happiness.

    While I agree that it’s not simple, I can’t accept there is no way of prioritizing this. As Eamon Knight said yesterday, “guaranteeing some basic rights to life and self-determination to *everyone* is the best way of securing it for ourselves.”

    Even from a self-centered, Godless viewpoint, there are clear reasons to conclude that LIFE > LIBERTY > HAPPINESS.

  130. says

    Here’s a hypothetical*
    Any moral code that is handed to one, cannot morally be adopted as a moral code, simply because for morals to have meaning, they have to spring from the individual’s choices and free will** – this is the response to Plato’s Euthypho. Thus, to be a moral being I must agonisingly construct my code, then follow it, and resolve any contradictions in it. This is what it would mean to be a moral being. Simply accepting “killing is evil” is as immoral as incorporating “killing is good” would be. Creos who claim that they get their morality from god have, in effect, said that they have no morals of their own, that they are immoral and worse that they want to stay that way.

    (* by which I mean I will pretend to believe in morality so I can attempt a moral argument)
    (** pretending, again)

  131. says

    While I agree that it’s not simple, I can’t accept there is no way of prioritizing this. As Eamon Knight said yesterday, “guaranteeing some basic rights to life and self-determination to *everyone* is the best way of securing it for ourselves.”

    Then that set of basic rights is your moral code and you don’t need a utilitarian layer atop it, unless it’s a sort of default rule (Kant gets props for trying that with the categorical imperative but really it’s just an appeal to self-interest)

    I do accept that there is a way of prioritizing it – I would prioritize it the way I wanted it. That’s what everybody does. Btw, in my case, I would let Joe live, even though it hurt me to do so, because that’s how I want to be – the kind of person I am. Moral nihilists are not always defaulting to choices that would upset everyone – some of us are really nice (whatever that means) and love puppies and kittens and hot tea in the morning. We just don’t bullshit ourselves that there are these moral codes floating around in the ether waiting to be harvested. :)

    (btw – arguments from self-interest don’t even hold, because peole can easily be mistaken about their own best choices at any given moment.)

  132. democommie says

    Well, since, Aquaria’s originally saying this:

    This:

    “Fuck off, you worthless death-cult piece of shit.”

    and my restating it in a later comment, a number of people have spent time and energy rebutting Jerry’s stuplicity. And in that time I suspect that the only thing that has happened is that Jerry has gone through a one pounder of Cheetos, a six pack of Mountain Dew and a box and a half of Kimwipes.

  133. DaveL says

    What if there are 10 of us who want Joe dead? We want it so much that it hurts us to know that Joe is alive. Set against his unhappiness and suffering is the greater unhappiness and suffering of the 10 of us.

    As Danny Boy pointed out, you have to also balance in the effect, if you were allowed to kill Joe, of knowing that anybody else will be allowed to kill you on a whim. This reciprocity is not an externally imposed moral prescription – it’s an observed fact of the psychology and behaviour of social animals. If you live around other humans, you’re stuck with the fact that they will exhibit reciprocal tendencies.

  134. says

    As Danny Boy pointed out, you have to also balance in the effect, if you were allowed to kill Joe, of knowing that anybody else will be allowed to kill you on a whim. This reciprocity is not an externally imposed moral prescription – it’s an observed fact of the psychology and behaviour of social animals. If you live around other humans, you’re stuck with the fact that they will exhibit reciprocal tendencies.

    Yeah, I pointed that out myself, earlier up-thread. Self-interest plus fear of retaliation is, really, all we’ve got. Of course those only work well enough in the large that we survive as social animals, but there are always going to be people who misunderstand their self-interest or who recognize that they have placed themselves outside of the threat of retaliation, like Stalin did. One of the reasons I am anti-religious is because it interferes with people’s already minimal ability to judge self-interest. For example, religion reveals its true nature as a tool for social control when it gets the believer to accept (indeed, it indictrinates them that…) there is a power hierarchy they are born into and framed within by threat of violence – but if they suck it up in the here-and-now, they get frequent flier miles in the afterlife, or a lexus or whatever. I am sure that exchange has spared a great deal of bloodshed by deflecting the question “why?” aimed at authoritarians. Oh, god’s will? Sure. Again, if I believed in morals I’d say religions – all of which offer retribution or payoff in an afterlife – are implicitly immoral because they are offering a trade they cannot possibly know anything about, to cynically manipulate the victim in the here-and-now. Religion, simply put, amounts to “I will gladly pay you thursday for a cheezeburger today.”

  135. Danny Boy says

    As long as you keep imagining that you have the capacity for good you are doomed to repeat mankind’s bloody, selfish history.

    And for the better part of 1500 years, the most powerful nations on Earth have been guided by those who buy into the “Man is evil” paradigm.

    How’s that been working out for us?

  136. says

    Since Jerry started quoting scripture, let’s also look at some scripture, using Jerrys vantage point that God is all good, and the source for all morality:

    Thou shalt not kill (Exodus 20:13)
    Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live (Exodus 22:17)
    Whoever strikes his father or mother shall be put to death (Exodus 21:15)
    Make ready to slaughter his sons for the guilt of their fathers; Lest they rise and possess the earth, and fill the breadth of the world with tyrants (Isaiah 14:21)

    The answer to man’s bloody, selfish nature is not a violent, selfish celestial bully.

  137. Anteprepro says

    “Christian morality is selfish and bloodthirsty. Christian morality changes on a whim. Christian morality says that the powerful decide what is moral.”

    Fixed that for you.

    “To the Christian, this is a fundamental truth – man has a sinful nature and cannot escape it by his own volition.

    As long as you keep imagining that you have the capacity for good you are doomed to repeat mankind’s bloody, selfish history.”

    And this is why you Christian morality is allowed to be such a mess: because mere humans are naturally awful, so who gives a fuck. Whatever good we manage to accomplish gets accredited to God, and all of the bad is ours alone to take responsibility for. If we come up with a few moral ideas that work, then really that was God at work, not human thought. But the moral ideas that don’t work, even if originally attributed to God, are just the fault of human error. And we can’t even expect to improve it of our own accord! That’s just an awesome little system you got going there, with an excellent dash of defeatism built in to boot!

    Questions for you:

    Based on your God, arbiter of all things moral, are child molestation, rape, and slavery moral or immoral? What are the possible methods that you can know your God’s opinions on this ? And, after you inevitably fail to answer those adequately, doesn’t it speak well of human morality that we can still view these things as immoral, without explicit, undeniable divine command against these behaviors?

  138. DaveL says

    Marcus,

    I agree with everything you said, except I’d say religion is more akin to “I’ll gladly pay you February 31st for a cheeseburger today.”

    Jerry,

    So humans are morally fallible, and the powerful make up the rules to suit themselves. Then we introduce religion. Now we find that humans are still morally fallible, and the powerful make up the rules to suit themselves, claiming divine authority. What’s been gained?

  139. says

    Divorcing morality from religion has only recently been practiced by governments at a large scale, Jerry. Read a history book. The bloodiest chapters of human history are nearly monopolized by religious people. The rest of the atrocities tend to have numerous irrational fallacies involved in their justification, or involve a cult of personality that involves assuming the personality they worship is the ultimate good. You’ve done absolutely nothing to separate your god from the vices we associate with those cults.

    Also, read the bible. It’s a vicious and bloody book, dedicated to a vicious and bloody god.

    Do you honestly think, for example, butchering 42 children for making fun of someone’s baldness by summoning a pair of she-bears to maul them is an act of ultimate good? No. It’s evil. A rational person with our moral basis would be appalled at the very idea that someone would seriously consider that course of action.

    All I see from god-based morality is a decline into worse savagery and anarchy. Today, I can go walk into town with relatively little fear that someone will arbitrarily try to kill me. That’s a benefit I would not have in a Divine Command Theorist society, where god can randomly sentence anyone to death for any reason, or even no reason at all.

  140. the guy says

    “Our morality is selfish and bloodthirsty. Our morality changes on a whim. Our morality says that the powerful and wealthy decide what is moral.”

    No, yours does, judging from the sort of person you are. Nothing in liberal morality supports this attitude. But, if you define rationality as selfishness, (and I have to fill in the blanks here because you’re too dishonest to give a definition) then your even dumber than I thought.

    You’re the sort of Christian who goes to a group of strangers and tells them that they act and must act in certain ways, and when we tell your that this is not how we act, you ignore us and continue to preach at us.

    You are a waste of time.

    “To the Christian, this is a fundamental truth – man has a sinful nature and cannot escape it by his own volition.”

    Is that your excuse for bullshitting us through 100+ comments?

    “As long as you keep imagining that you have the capacity for good you are doomed to repeat mankind’s bloody, selfish history.”

    So what’s the point of rules, in your Christian universe? No matter how arbitrary the rules assigned by your deity are, people can’t follow them! In turn, nobody could be blamed (if they can’t help it, so to speak) and yet you accuse us of being the nihilists.

    “‘There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins.'”
    Ecclesiastes 7:20

    See Job, Book of

    It is clear that you do not want an honest debate. You refuse to define how you are using key terms, and when you finally get around to addressing utilitarianism, you twist the concept into a grotesque strawman.

    To deny that people have a capacity for good actions and motivations is to deny a part of our humanity. And yet you accuse us of having no basis or motivation for moral behavior.

  141. Chiroptera says

    jerry at 1:13: All of history rebuts this.

    Our morality is selfish and bloodthirsty. Our morality changes on a whim. Our morality says that the powerful and wealthy decide what is moral.

    And most of European history has been Christian history.

    So we can deduce a couple of conclusions.

    Trying to figure out what it is that God wants is just as arbitrary as the bases of morality that non-god believers use, and

    god believers are no better at the morality/ethics game than non-god believers.

  142. Chiroptera says

    Bronze Dog at 3:27: Hell, in the story, he’s the one enabling the devil.

    Worse than that, he’s the one who offers Job to Satan as a challenge after deliberately goading and harassing him.

    Me, I’ve never felt God comes off too good in that story.

  143. laurentweppe says

    And for the better part of 1500 years, the most powerful nations on Earth have been guided by those who buy into the “Man is evil” paradigm.

    Nope: for the better part of 1500 years, most nations on Earth have been guided by hereditary aristocracies defending their class interest: the guiding principle was not “Man is evil”, the guiding principle was “I don’t give a shit, I just want to eat and drink and play and fuck while the underclass do all the heavy lifting”

  144. says

    So wait…

    jerry is arguing that Eugenics works, and betters society far greater than its draw backs…but that we shouldn’t do it?

    “well yes my computer would run if I just plugged it in, but I mustn’t do that!”

  145. says

    @jerry

    Hitler claimed that Jews were a subhuman race that were evil and intrinsically dedicated to the destruction of humanity and that they could not be reasoned with, compromised, or reformed

    Why was the Holocaust wrong from a rational morality? Because Hitler was factually incorrect.

  146. says

    What moral basis? Any of your moral justifications can be overturned in the future on a collective whim. Perhaps in a few years you may change your mind about those bears if the wind changes. Who knows? You certainly don’t.

    You just sit there in self-righteous judgement of the Creator of the entire Universe, the One who caused you to emerge from an obscure ball of dirt in an obscure galaxy, because He doesn’t do things the way YOU think he should.

    I note that you went out of your way of actually saying it but the implication is clear. If God wants to murder children it is morally right.

    Great. The difference between right and wrong are not based on what people feel or what impacts it has but on the opinion of one being. That isn’t an improvement nor is it any more stable than rationality which is bound by facts and reality. God’s opinion can change at any minute, whereas human opinion can be changed based on rational discourse. Only one has an effective appeals process.

  147. says

    You just sit there in self-righteous judgement of the Creator of the entire Universe, the One who caused you to emerge from an obscure ball of dirt in an obscure galaxy, because He doesn’t do things the way YOU think he should.

    The child getting his head ripped off by that bear is not arrogant for disagreeing with God’s decision that he should die.

  148. the guy says

    “You have no idea what evil is.”

    Harming people. Some actions harm people and are therefore evil. Others help people and are therefore good. Some actions do a bit of both, but are still evil because people should not be helped at the expense of others, especially when there is no need.

    “You have nothing to base your assessment on except other arbitrary definitions.”

    You have nothing to base your assessment on except other arbitrary Bible verses.

    “You call things evil simply because you arbitrarily find them distasteful.”

    Again, see above. It is obvious that you do not want to argue in good faith. Just in faith. You have not listened to what we have said, so you are wasting our time. There are many things I find “distasteful” such as Christian trolling, but I would not try to outlaw your ridiculous efforts.

    “You just sit there in self-righteous judgement of the Creator of the entire Universe, the One who caused you to emerge from an obscure ball of dirt in an obscure galaxy, because He doesn’t do things the way YOU think he should.”

    No, we sit here in judgement of ancient goat herders who wrote the passages of the Bible, the ones who cause people to believe they emerged from dust and magic on the only ball of dirt in the universe.

    Evidently you don’t even understand that atheism is the lack of belief in the existence of gods.

    The only reason you believe we are arrogant is because we reject your arbitrary moral beliefs which are based on quoting some verses of the Bible while ignoring others. The worst moral relativists are religious fundamentalists, who always have a convenient excuse at hand for their hypocrisy.

  149. amphiox says

    Any of your moral justifications can be overturned in the future on a collective whim.

    So what?

    The fact that it can change with time doesn’t make it any less of a moral basis.

    The morality derived from appeal to supposed divine beings also changes over time with collective whims, as history amply demonstrates.

    Change in moral bases by collective whim is the default condition, for which there are no known exceptions.

    You just sit there in self-righteous judgement of the Creator of the entire Universe, the One who caused you to emerge from an obscure ball of dirt in an obscure galaxy, because He doesn’t do things the way YOU think he should.

    You miss the point. These “self-righteous” judgements are meant to be ironic, to highlight the absurdity of basing moral judgments on a figment of fevered imaginations. Even in theistic traditions, He is supposed to be unknowable. If so, then any moral judgements favoring his reported (and unconfirmable) actions are just as self-righteously arrogant as moral judgements against them.

  150. Chiroptera says

    jerry at 3:58: You just sit there in self-righteous judgement of the Creator of the entire Universe….

    Well, this creator is the one who allegedly created us with an ability to recognize morality. The creator certainly has no right to complain when we recognize that he isn’t above criticism himself.

    If the creator doesn’t want to be judged, he shouldn’t do things that deserve to be judged. He especially shouldn’t be judging others himself — judge not lest ye be judged and all that.

    You call things evil simply because you arbitrarily find them distasteful.

    It doesn’t seem to be an improvement over things to call something evil just because the creator (if he existed) arbitrarily finds it distasteful.

    As long as we’re going to set up arbitrary rules for morality, I certainly trust my judgment over others’, especially over the judgment of some being who has clearly acted immorally without signs of remorse — even according to the very book he’s allegedly responsible for having written.

  151. says

    Oh good grief. jerry you stupid prat, you might have the beginning of an argument if you had any half-decent evidence you were in touch with the Creator and Lawgiver of the Universe, and could pronounce on what his will might be. But only the beginning of an argument, because you would still have to show why we should obey his commands (except out of abject fear) when they promote human misery, instead of ignoring the Cosmic Bastard and just doing what seems fairly obviously to promote general human happiness (eg. letting people mind their own sex lives, decide for themselves what to believe and do about gods, criticize their political leadership, work to better their economic condition — you know, all the stuff that the Christian church often opposed).

    But since you have no such evidence, we don’t even have to go there, do we?

  152. says

    What moral basis? Any of your moral justifications can be overturned in the future on a collective whim. Perhaps in a few years you may change your mind about those bears if the wind changes. Who knows? You certainly don’t.

    Foundational Premise: Sentient beings have wants and desires and feel good if their desires can be met

    Premise 2: If I allow others to do what they want to achieve those desires they will let me do the same

    Premise 3: The problem comes from when our needs are in conflict

    Premise 4: We seek to minimize our own suffering and maximize our own happiness.

    Premise 5: There are goals best achieved in groups, therefore if we also seek to minimize others suffering and increase their happiness they agree to do the same

    Premise 6: My freedoms end where another begins

    Lets run the bear story through it

    a) Children insult a man
    b) Man has his feelings hurt.
    c) he decides to kill them via magical bears
    d) This man has violated the rights of the children: he greatly increased the suffering of the children and their families in great disproportion to his own infliction.

  153. says

    also the brief ground rules I suggested don’t take into the fact that for most people the happiness of OTHERS does provide them with happiness. that makes the arrangement much easier.

    You just sit there in self-righteous judgement of the Creator of the entire Universe, the One who caused you to emerge from an obscure ball of dirt in an obscure galaxy, because He doesn’t do things the way YOU think he should.

    Why does my opinion not matter when compared to a hypothetical creators? Because he is more powerful? He made me weaker than him. Because he created me? I never agreed to any ground rules of servitude. Because he says he’s more important? Well that isn’t a good argument.

    What being would create sentient beings, with full knowledge of their intrinsic sense of fairness and their needs and desires, and make those beings intrinsically opposed to how they operate? is the creator sadistic, incompetent, or non existent?

  154. says

    You call things evil simply because you arbitrarily find them distasteful.

    It isn’t arbitrary. It is the result of a preferences and reflexes selected for by mellenia of imperfect biological replication and evolution that allowed the survival of my genes.

    The history of my family tree back to the simplest life form, molded me to find suffering distateful. I am not free to find the repugnant delightsome because of the commands or threats of a stronger being.

  155. says

    You have no idea what evil is. You have nothing to base your assessment on except other arbitrary definitions. You call things evil simply because you arbitrarily find them distasteful.

    So, are therefore arguing that mass murder via Summon Nature’s Ally IV isn’t obviously evil? What about rape? What about genocide? What about involuntary eugenics? How can we trust your sense of morality if you can’t answer these questions?

    Morality is what we use to form safer, more stable societies that enable self-improvement. How does mauling a bunch of children lead to that? Is there any hypothetical situation you can imagine where that would be moral?

    What moral basis? Any of your moral justifications can be overturned in the future on a collective whim. Perhaps in a few years you may change your mind about those bears if the wind changes. Who knows? You certainly don’t.

    The basics of human nature don’t change very quickly. The only thing that’s changed is how much thought we put into moral questioning. It’s not 100% immutable, but it’s a hell of a lot better than the nothingness you offer.

    You just sit there in self-righteous judgement of the Creator of the entire Universe, the One who caused you to emerge from an obscure ball of dirt in an obscure galaxy, because He doesn’t do things the way YOU think he should.

    Like I said…arrogance.

    And what right does that alleged creative act give him? How does that give him moral authority? How?

    How is judging another sentient being under identical moral standards “arrogant?” You’re giving your god a free pass on what basis, hmm? Your say-so? Random chance? His authority to give himself authority to say so?

    You and your nonexistent god have no moral basis except your arrogance.

    And what makes god’s alleged goodness good? If god commits a murder, murder suddenly becomes good. Until he changes his mind again. And again. And again. How is something as mercurial as your god’s random whims supposed to be consistent? Under your system of chaos, any “evil” is suddenly “good” if god does it. That’s why Divine Command Theory is an inherently subjective morality. There’s absolutely no attempt at objectivity or order. Everything is all up in the wind.

    You’re adrift in an everchanging windstorm with no direction, purpose, or grounding, and yet you criticize us for clinging to the most stable rocks we can find. I’d rather grab a slightly loose rock while searching for more solid ones, than give up and embrace the anarchy of a windstorm.

  156. Taz says

    You just sit there in self-righteous judgement of the Creator of the entire Universe

    Actually we’re only sitting in judgement of your concept of “the Creator of the entire Universe”. But you can’t possibly admit that your concept (or your sacred text) might not be all it’s cracked up to be. Seems like you’re the arrogant one.

  157. says

    Oh. Then why should your “preferences and reflexes” carry any more importance than those of, say, a jellyfish? After all, their genes survived too. And they were here long before you were.

    I asked the jellyfish and they couldn’t defend the importance of their preferences.

    I think that’s a big DUH

  158. DaveL says

    A perfect being need never change His opinion because his opinions are perfect.

    And so, apparently, were the opinions he previously held, and the ones before that.

  159. says

    jerry The Troll has been sitting on his ass repeating his mantra as if it meant something, all the while noticeably ignoring significant rebuttals to his own position. He’s obviously either unwilling or incapable of engaging the issues in any honest way.

    I’m going to restrain myself and stop feeding him. Suit yourself, but I suggest y’all do the same.

  160. says

    The Jellyfish are free to form societies and defend their rights to the best of their abilities, that’s only fair. They’re also free to petition and provide the necessary evidence that they cognitively are on equal footing with humans and thus deserve person-hood.

    They have the right to do so, but not the ability. As stupid as your question is if there was a freak intelligent jellyfish I would side with it and argue for legal recognition of its rights.

  161. says

    DaveL writes:

    So humans are morally fallible, and the powerful make up the rules to suit themselves. Then we introduce religion. Now we find that humans are still morally fallible, and the powerful make up the rules to suit themselves, claiming divine authority. What’s been gained?

    A joke i am reminded of: commissar is explaining difference between capitalism and stalinist socialism, “under capitalism, man exploits fellow man. Under communism, is just reverse!”

    @jerry – to simply accept moral teachings from another, how can this be moral? What if god’s morals are not beyond reproach? Indeed, we can see that god does things we would maybe say are immoral if humans do them. If a man had any moral beliefs would not the first thing on his todo list be to judge god? Being moral is a lot of work…

  162. the guy says

    “A perfect being need never change His opinion because his opinions are perfect.”

    And how do you know? Oh, Bible quotes? Fail!

    How can one say that God’s opinions are perfect? If God somehow embodies perfection, then God’s opinions are merely God’s opinions. If perfection is whatever God says it is, then it is meaningless. Mathematically, one might say x = x, with x being undefined. Completely useless. The reality here is that “perfection” could be defined (and redefined, as it undoubtedly is) over time. The definition of harm is much more straightforward.

    So, again; how do you tell right from wrong with your arbitrary moral system built upon arbitrarily quoted Bible verses?

    How can you be consistent when your morals will change over time depending on your whims, for which you can always find a verse to support your whims with?

  163. says

    “I believe that man and fish can peacefully co-exist”~George W Bush.

    I personally dream of a world where a being will be recognized, not on the presence or absence of notochords or vertebrae but on the merits of their thoughts and actions.

  164. Chiroptera says

    Eamon Knight at 4:35: …all the while noticeably ignoring significant rebuttals to his own position.

    Including that significant rebuttals to his own position that he himself has made.

    That’s kind of funny. But that may just be me.

  165. Danny Boy says

    A perfect being need never change His opinion because his opinions are perfect.

    Then why was genocide “good” when God commanded the Israelites to slaughter Amalek, but “evil” when the Nazis slaughtered the Jews?

    Is the basis for an act’s “goodness” is whether or not God told me to do it?

  166. says

    One of the funny things about god-based morality: It changes depending on who you ask. There’s an infinity of hypothetical gods and magical beings, including ones we have yet to imagine, and ones the limits of our neurology prevents us from imagining. And out of those infinite gods, Jerry is arrogant enough (AKA “faithful”) to think he’s lucked out on the one and only one that exists.

    That is, unless you’ve got good scientific evidence to support your god, instead of fate. If you’ve only got faith, the odds are one out of infinity that you are the chosen one to pick the right god out of that muck. Show us that your god is more likely than the rest of the infinite pile.

  167. says

    Jerry writes:

    A perfect being need never change His opinion because his opinions are perfect.

    How do you know it’s a perfect being? You, being imperfect and only having your imperfect senses to rely upon, are hardly in a position to rule on what is or is not perfect.

  168. says

    Oh, yeah, another fatal flaw for you, Jerry: If you, as a human, can’t tell right from wrong, how can you tell that the being claiming to be god is good or evil? How do you know you’re not unwittingly following the voice of Satan? Or Zeus? Or Pazuzu? Or the Flying Spaghetti Monster?

    An awful lot of this seems to be riding on the arrogant assumption (AKA “faith”) that you couldn’t possibly have picked the wrong being to worship.

  169. says

    A perfect being need never change His opinion because his opinions are perfect.

    So God lacks the power to change his mind? Then he is not only not omnipotent, but also not sentient by any meaningful criteria.

  170. says

    So God lacks the power to change his mind?

    Except that the God of the Bible does — he “repents” that he has made humans, because they’re such a bunch of wankers.

    So he has a tantrum and drowns the lot of ‘em — just to prove he’s a got a bigger dick than than all of them put together.

  171. says

    @jerry

    Um yeah…our society lead to longer lives, more people, less discord, and leisure that is beyond the wildest dreams of the richest kings of your bronze age people.

    We saw that those rules were not working and threw them out…and we improved.

    It is you, my friend, who arbitrarily has decided whether a law for a bronze age tribe is good or evil. Based upon what? Some feeling in your tummy? Some Whinny The Pooh story that your mommy read to you as a child? Some paperback pseudo-philosophy book by Sam Harris?

    What?

    Which would you live in? A society where you live if lucky to age 45, most likely toil and have no chance of advancement, no defense against abuse or disease or plague and where if you break any one of a set of hundreds of petty laws you will be brutally killed.

    or one with fewer laws, nuanced punishments, a life span in the 80s, great leisure, medicine, police, and military to ensure stability?

    It doesn’t seem to me to be arbitrary. I’d imagine if you got in a TARDIS and offered to any of those goat herders if they wanted to live in your society they would jump at it. It would seem to them as a land of milk and honey.

  172. says

    They broke the Law. You like laws, right? They help to create safer, more stable societies

    This is like saying that we must defend murder because someone beat a baby’s head in with a hammer and hammers are used to make beds which we like.

    Laws are tools. A law that promotes random executions and tyranny would not make a safer society. By definition if you live in fear of the state killing you you are not safe

  173. Chiroptera says

    Eamon Knight at 4:50: So he has a tantrum and drowns the lot of ‘em — just to prove he’s a got a bigger dick than than all of them put together.

    And then he repented of that! So much so that he made up for it by making rainbows.

  174. says

    It’s disturbing how jerry doesn’t seem to grasp the idea that people can develop morality through simple self interest and empathy. They apparently need it imposed by a book. That isn’t morality that’s obedience.

  175. Chiroptera says

    jerry at 4:48: Some feeling in your tummy?

    Isn’t that how god believers “know” when their god is speaking to them? Like when he is “telling” them what is good or bad?

  176. Danny Boy says

    It is you, my friend, who arbitrarily has decided whether a law for a bronze age tribe is good or evil. Based upon what? Some feeling in your tummy?

    Honestly, Jerry, either you’re a troll, just kicking the anthill to watch the activity, or utterly devoid of any capacity for rational thinking.

    Clearly, your conception of morality is that any act, in and of itself, is neither “good” nor “evil”. What matters is whether God approves of the particular act in that particular circumstance.

    Absent a prior ruling on every conceivable situation, or a direct connection with the Almighty, there is no way to know what God really wants us to do without using… wait for it… rationality!

    Perhaps more importantly, there’s no way for the REST of us to know what God wanted you to do. Morality based on the inconsistent dictates of an Almighty Being who leaves no physical trace of his existence is no morality at all.

  177. DaveL says

    As for the young men who were harassing the prophet, you can’t say they weren’t warned re: the book of Deuteronomy.

    Not youths, Jerry, little boys. The Hebrew phrase used was “qatan na’ar”, where “na’ar” translates much like “boy” or “lad” and could conceivably mean an adolescent or young adult. However, “qatan” is a diminutive qualifier, meaning “small” or “young”. Just as “boy” could mean an adolescent but “little boy” could not, “na’ar” paired with “qatan” cannot reasonably be construed as referring to “young men”. Young boys, young lads, little children, but not “young men.”

    Now here’s the interesting part: why do you suppose modern believers prefer to ignore the “qatan” qualifier? If God’s actions are always just and good why would you feel the need to make that substitution? Is your conscience bothering you or something?

  178. says

    Jerry fails to provide even the tiniest bit of solid basis for his morality, so he continues to provide fallacious attacks on real morality.

    As for the young men who were harassing the prophet, you can’t say they weren’t warned re: the book of Deuteronomy. They broke the Law. You like laws, right? They help to create safer, more stable societies. And you like safer, more stable societies, right? They’re so much more “moral” than those anarchic Theistic ones, right?

    You do realize there is such a thing as an unjust law, right? There’s also unjust punishment. These things can undermine the protections of society, which makes life more difficult for its members, sometimes to the point that they will break off to other societies.

    The fact that you’re making apologia for a mass murder means suggests you believe the prohibition against murder is subject to overturning by the whims of chance.

    What’s next?

    It is you, my friend, who arbitrarily has decided whether a law for a bronze age tribe is good or evil. Based upon what? Some feeling in your tummy? Some Whinny The Pooh story that your mommy read to you as a child? Some paperback pseudo-philosophy book by Sam Harris?

    What?

    Based off of the natural cause-and-effect progression, and whether or not it leads to a stable society that protects its members. When killing is performed so easily without protections, society tends to crumble. Like I’ve been saying this whole thread. You know this.

    You, on the other hand, still have not outlined any basis whatsoever for your random god’s decrees. Is your upbringing in a civilized society making you subconsciously ashamed to be cavorting with the forces of chaos, which then makes you unable to look upon yourself?

  179. says

    Foundational Premise: Sentient beings have wants and desires and feel good if their desires can be met

    Premise 2: If I allow others to do what they want to achieve those desires they will let me do the same

    Premise 2 needs work. On what basis do you assume reciprocity? We observe non-reciprocal transactions occur, thus refuting your premise.

    Premise 3: The problem comes from when our needs are in conflict

    Show your work. Problem #1: there might not be “the” problem – a single cause for conflict – there might be many. We observe multiple causes for conflictnother than just ill-defined “needs” (unless you broaden the use of the word “needs” to cover all motivations). Problem #2: We observe that people often “want” more stuff than other people think they “need” – this is not a conflict of “needs” but rather a conflict over the nature of “needs” themselves. Problem #3: we observe conflict over things that are hard to interpret as “needs” (e.g.: I do not need to live in a Justin Beiber-free environment but if I had arbitrary authority with no fear of retaliation from his fans, I would have anyone mentioning him in my presence thrown to the lions)

    Premise 4: We seek to minimize our own suffering and maximize our own happiness.

    This is also unconvincing, since it presupposes we know what our own happiness is. We might be able to wish to alleviate physical suffering (hunger, headache, Beiber) but “seeking” smells waffly.

    Premise 5: There are goals best achieved in groups, therefore if we also seek to minimize others suffering and increase their happiness they agree to do the same

    This one is absurd. We observe situations that are zero-sum, which exist and cannot allow group action. Simple example: I wish to be (“need to be”) king of the group. It is not possible to achieve that cooperatively wherein all benefit. In fact, any power relationship argues against the universality of cooperation.

    You could say “sometimes we cooperate” but, meh, “sometimes we think we are cooperating and were deceived” Case in point: I voted for Obama because he said he’d close gitmo. He did not. Your premise is refuted.

    Premise 6: My freedoms end where another begins

    Begging the question of your having “freedoms” was a nice try. Needs work.

    It has always appeared to me that humanist arguments about morals are worse than the ones the faithful offer. Well-meaning noise is a poor counterpoint to authoritarian bluster.

  180. says

    There’s also unjust punishment.

    Good point. If one thought there was such a thing as “just punishment” to begin with – which obviously god allegedly does – then we’d have to ask what kind of moral argument justifies collective punishment. “Original sin” is god blaming all humans for something that allegedly happened thousands of years ago.* if you believe in morals, is that “fair” or moral? Furthermore this god allegedly deals out infinite, eternal, punishment for transgressions that might strike some of us as relatively minor, or not even transgressions at all. How can that be “right”? Suppose I do something mildly naughty like kill someone – or even exceedingly naughty like suck some guy’s dick – is it fair to mete out an eternity of punishment for that? I can see maybe a week in a firey lake for a blowjob, or an hour for killing an unbeliever (or do I get a reward for that? I forget..) I would go so far as to argue that ANY infinite punishment cannot be fair response to a finite crime. I’m not very good at thinking in terms of morality but it seems I’m better at it than god.

    (* my ancestors were in Norway by then and had nothing to do with the alleged naughtiness that ocurred in eden)

  181. says

    Chiroptera writes:

    Isn’t that how god believers “know” when their god is speaking to them? Like when he is “telling” them what is good or bad?

    Oh, shit! I thought that was just gas. You mean I’ve been ignoring the voice of god all along?

    I used to think my tinnitus was the voice of god but after a while I got tired of him just blowing into the microphone and never saying anything coherent. :(

  182. Danny Boy says

    That isn’t morality that’s obedience.

    Which brings up an interesting thought.

    Granting the existence of a (Biblical) God, and assuming He granted us free will, I cannot fathom that the intent of that gift was for us to give it right back via unquestioning obedience.

    At a minimum, the expectation must be for humanity to use the brain in our head to explore the consequences of our actions, and realize that, in general point of fact, God isn’t expecting behavior from us that we wouldn’t expect from each other if left to our own devices. (At least by the time we get to the NT…)

    As Rabbi Garfinkle put it in an episode of “In Plain Sight”:

    You schmuck. God gave you life. God gave you a brain in your head. That’s it. The beginning, the middle, the end of all God did to you. All the rest, Avi, the lying, the cheating, stealing, that’s all on you, you self-involved child. What are you going to do? Spend the rest of your life trying to find someone else to blame? Or do you think that maybe it’s time that you use that brain in your head that God gave you?

  183. GravityIsJustATheory says

    I haven’t read through the whole thread (because based on his track record in the first half, I doubt Mr “I don’t support eugenics – honest” Jerry will come up with any better arguments in the second).

    So if this has already been addressed, I appologise. However, I’d like to take on one particular claim of his, because it is something I’ve heard a lot of “atheists can’t be moral” types say:

    What’s your reference point then? Is it just whatever you think is good? Is it whatever society decides is good? Whatever feels good? Whatever doesn’t harm small animals?

    You are trying to measure something for which you have no established standard. Anything and everything can be considered good and it can all be reasonably justified. This world is simply a “might makes right” world. Every horrible deed imaginable can be called “good”.

    “Good” is a word in the English language. As such, it has a meaning. The most basic meaning of “good” is “beneficial”. When talking about “good” in the moral sense, things get a bit more complicated, but the basic meaning of “beneficial” generally still applies.

    As such, the definition of the word “good” limits what can rationally be considered “good”. Not always very precisely, but enough to mean you cannot rationally or reasonably class (for example) killing off large portions of the population based on arbitray classifications such as “not us”.

  184. says

    If one thought there was such a thing as “just punishment” to begin with – which obviously god allegedly does – then we’d have to ask what kind of moral argument justifies collective punishment. “Original sin” is god blaming all humans for something that allegedly happened thousands of years ago.

    Oh, yeah, that’s another vicious can of worms Jerry’s probably afraid of addressing. Funny how the concept of Zoomies can absolve anyone of responsibility for their own actions (or hold the innocent responsible for other people’s actions), or can be used as an excuse to arbitrarily kill inconvenient people. Guilt by association, independent of actual guilt or innocence.

    But Jerry will probably give some flippant response about how the winds are blowing, and how that affected his perfect, unchanging god to declare that mass murder and rape were perfectly moral things to do on that particular day in the Bible, but absolutely appalling for a human to do.

    That’s another thing about defining god as good, and how it leads to another form of moral subjectivism:

    If god commands genocide for a particular reason, god is still good, and therefore it’s morally right.

    If Bob commands genocide for the exact same reason, he’s evil, but only because he didn’t win the raffle for arbiter of morality.

    Meanwhile, the vast majority of people who work under enlightenment values will say that god and Bob are both evil because there’s no justification for genocide. Genocide harms a lot of people for dubious gains, if any at all, which is why it’s evil, and the people who command it should be regarded as evil.

  185. Chiroptera says

    One should question jerry about what forms the basis of his morality. Why does jerry think that he has to do what God wants and not do what God doesn’t want?

    Just because God will reward him if he obeys, and he will punish him if he disobeys? If so, then that isn’t “morality” in any sense of the word. He’s doing “good” and avoiding “evil” for what he can get out of it. jery isn’t being a good person; he’s a moral nihilist who’s merely acting in his own self-interest.

    In the end, if “morality” has any meaning at all, jerry must think that obey God is “good” because he feels that it is right. How else can he justify it?

    In the end, jerry’s morality is no less based on that “feeling in his tummy” than anyone else’s.

  186. says

    One should question jerry about what forms the basis of his morality. Why does jerry think that he has to do what God wants and not do what God doesn’t want?

    Just because God will reward him if he obeys, and he will punish him if he disobeys? If so, then that isn’t “morality” in any sense of the word. He’s doing “good” and avoiding “evil” for what he can get out of it. jery isn’t being a good person; he’s a moral nihilist who’s merely acting in his own self-interest.

    In this particular case, he’d be endorsing the cowardly doctrine of “might makes right” as well as the idea that bribery is socially acceptable. Punishment from Hell is a rather large (and imaginary) cudgel Jerry and his savage god are appealing to.

    Appealing to the rewards of base pleasures in Heaven to convince us to perform actions we consider immoral is simple bribery. I’ve had plenty of fundie trolls shocked that I wouldn’t be satisfied with unprincipled hedonism.

    In the end, if “morality” has any meaning at all, jerry must think that obey God is “good” because he feels that it is right. How else can he justify it?

    In the end, jerry’s morality is no less based on that “feeling in his tummy” than anyone else’s.

    But, of course, he’ll refuse to see it that way, likely because the pixie dust of god being “supernatural” somehow makes his morality more grounded than boring old naturalistic things like compassion and empathy with an understanding of boring old causality building on those things.

    Of course, I think there’s still plenty of room to speculate that Jerry and his capricious trickster god, Loki, base their morality on selfishly maximizing their personal supply of shits and giggles at everyone else’s expense.

    …I’m having a flashback to that time VenomFangX dressed up in Joker makeup. Some people just want to watch the world burn.

  187. says

    Oh, yeah, Jerry, here’s another thought: If god deliberately designed morality and humanity so that humans are utterly incapable of understanding the simplest of its principles, (and thus incapable of determining the morality of any voice in our heads) whose fault is it when we can’t abide by it?

    And what makes you so superior to us that you can determine that god is good, while the rest of humanity can’t?

  188. Icarus says

    @Bronze Dog: Jerry can determine that because of his abundant humility which I think he has more than adequately demonstrated here… /snark

  189. jerry says

    It’s disturbing how jerry doesn’t seem to grasp the idea that people can develop morality through simple self interest and empathy.

    Had you been paying attention you would have noticed that I have said repeatedly that people develop their own morals all the time. Self interest and empathy are very rational reasons for coming up with morals.

    They also change constantly depending upon the circumstances. Sometimes from one day to the next.

    But God is unchanging.

    “For I, the Lord, do not change.”

    Mal 3:6

  190. Chiroptera says

    jerry at 10:52: But God is unchanging.

    If all god believers everywhere, and if all god believers at every time in history all had the same exact moral and ethical beliefs, you might have a point.

    But they don’t so you don’t.

  191. says

    But God is unchanging.

    “For I, the Lord, do not change.”

    Mal 3:6

    You should try reading more of the bible, rather than just tiny, convenient snippets.

    1. Your god is full of contradictions. Those contradictions are in the bible. God changes his morals and character all the time in there. Seriously. Read it.

    2. People who allegedly base their morals on god (like you claim to) have often radical disagreements. Have you been living under a rock?

    3. What makes you so sure God is perfect? What makes you so superior to the rest of us that an imperfect being like you can recognize perfection? Is it even possible for you to make a mistake?

  192. Anteprepro says

    “God”‘s morality is unchanging, huh? Funny, I seem to recall something called a “New Covenant” and an overturning of kosher laws, and a slightly less strong emphasis on stoning disobedient children and people who work on the Sabbath. Oh, that quirky God of yours. His morality is unchanging, even when he changes what he claims his moral expectations are from us. What a card.

  193. JohnnieCanuck says

    So without the carrot of eternal pleasure in heaven and the stick of eternal torment in hell, along with a little divine retribution like lightning; Christians posit that humans, because of their inherent sinful ways will do any evil thing they think they can get away with.

    If this really is the case, then I hope none of you manages to convince jerry that his religious beliefs are mere delusion. Innocent people around him will be hurt. Better then, that he stay delusional.

    Fortunately his delusion seems well anchored and there seems little danger of his losing it.

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