It’s what I’d expect of Scotland »« It’s a Greta Christina invasion

If there is no transcendant moral law, asking us to submit to it is a bad idea

My opinion of the rabbinical mind is plummeting downwards, thanks to the determined efforts of one man, Moshe Averick. We’ve encountered him before, and he was most unimpressive. Now he’s got a new line of criticism of atheists: we’re on a slippery slope. You know what comes next? What horrible abominable practice we’ll be endorsing?

Pedophilia!

Yeah, because without god’s laws to guide us, we will start running around raping little children willy-nilly. Never mind that atheists haven’t shown, as a whole, any such pattern or predilection, it’s just inevitable that we’ll want to abuse children. I think it’s a bizarre case of projection, again: really, I have no desire to have sex with small children, to rob banks, to rape dogs, or even to set churches on fire. You might as well suggest that without god I’ll become a NASCAR fan, start chewing tobacco, or vote Republican, all things I have no desire to do and which are not a product of theism or atheism.

I’m always baffled by this argument. What, there’s something about church or synagogue that suppresses your natural urge to rape, murder, and rob? But I feel no such urge without church!

And then, of course, he’s picked the very worst example. Nowadays, mention the word “pedophilia”, and nobody thinks of atheists — you know, even though pedophiles are a minority in their ranks, everyone considers “Catholic priest” virtually synonymous with “child-raper”. So much for religion suppressing those urges — it’s more like it attracts and enables monsters.

And then, having gnawed on one foot, Averick sticks the other one in.

A wise man once observed that while belief in God after the Holocaust may be difficult, belief in man after the Holocaust is impossible. The choices before us are clear: we will either seek a transcendent moral law to which we will all submit, or we will seek our own personal and societal indulgence. If we turn to God in our quest to create a moral and just world, we have a fighting chance; if not, we are doomed to spiral into the man-made hell of the human jungle.

Germany at the time of the Holocaust was a predominantly Catholic and Lutheran country. Hitler claimed to have a transcendant moral law, as well — that his people were the Chosen People, the best and greatest Volk, who by their intrinsic physical and moral and intellectual superiority were compelled to maintain their purity and exterminate the lesser races. That’s where you end up when you decree a source of absolute morality, a morality that isn’t based on equality and empathy and fairness, but on authority, especially the intangible untestable authority of an invisible magic ghost.

All moral laws are manmade. Do we recognize that reality and struggle to make them better as a community of reasonable human beings, or do we pretend that a few of us have special privileges and insight into the desires of a cosmic tyrant, and let them tell us how to live? Given that anyone claiming such authority is mad and delusional, I say no.

Comments

  1. Brownian says

    I’m cool with a human-made hell for the believers.

    You don’t like life on earth? Well, I’m sure as hell not forcing you to stay here.

    Leave. Go be with your god(s), and I wish you all godspeed.

  2. Aliasalpha says

    Leave. Go be with your god(s), and I wish you all godspeed.

    But if god doesn’t exist, wouldn’t that make godspeed an even zero and leave anyone travelling at godspeed exactly where they started?

  3. Ing says

    At risk of sounding icky and controversial. It might be wise to, not endorse, but not go nuts over pedophilia the idea. We should of course out law and prevent the practice, but from what I understand there is some talk in the psychological community that our current method of treating pedophiles as monsters who inevitably molest and must be locked away is problematic if only because it keeps those who want treatment from seeking it out.

    Furthermore, I’d seriously doubt a good deal of child rape (say the stuff that goes on in war crimes in Africa) is actually done by pedophile. It’s rape as weapon or opportunistic rape of anyone vulnerable.

  4. Ing says

    But if god doesn’t exist, wouldn’t that make godspeed an even zero and leave anyone travelling at godspeed exactly where they started?

    no because an exact speed of zero would logically be an absolute zero temperature and thus start off a chain reaction!

  5. Brownian says

    But if god doesn’t exist, wouldn’t that make godspeed an even zero and leave anyone travelling at godspeed exactly where they started?

    If every theist spent their life in a cloister praying and theologising and just oozing as much faith as they can muster to solve that holy sacred mystery, it would be a good start.

    Frankly, I don’t give a shit what the answer is.

  6. Brownian says

    Besides, ‘godspeed’ comes from the Middle English expression “God spede (you)”, invoking a god to hurry you on your way.

    Doesn’t say you can’t hurry yourself. Or someone else. Just that God should also do so.

  7. anteprepro says

    My response to when Ed Brayton posted a post about the same article:
    “here’s the kicker: On top of all the other atrocities in the Torah/Bible that you mention, and the existence of child molestation among the religious in the real world, the Torah/Bible lacks any explicit condemnation of child molestation. It fails to mention a concept of an age that is too young for sexual activity, it fails to suggest that there might be age gaps too wide, and “wives” too young. And thus, throughout the history of the good ol’ Abrahamic faiths, there have been preteen/early teen wives for older (sometimes, much older) men. The fact that, given the history and the complete and utter silence of their holy book on the subject, the religious try to suggest that sexual relations with children somehow is an albatross around the neck of ATHEISM makes me wonder if these people are actively trying to undermine their own credibility. The fact that plenty of ignorant folks will bleat in agreement with the good Rabbi, though, makes me doubt that. And it also makes me terribly, terribly depressed.”

    Also, PZ, like Ed, missed the hilarity at the end of the article, from “The atheistic notion…” to the article’s conclusion, where Averick finally puts his cards on the table instead of playing slippery slope based on his incredulous response to the views of two atheist philosophers. In his response, he manages to reveal that he doesn’t understand evolution, doesn’t understand separation of church and state, believes a prohibition against child molestation is in the ten commandments, claims that equality and freedom are Christian concepts (taking credit for the Declaration of Independence), and finishes up by bragging about how his imagination of what the Torah/Bible says is objective morality and not “by proxy of some pragmatic social contract that can be amended and revised as often as societal whim and convenience demands”. So many paragraphs spent mocking philosophers, and he offers this tripe up as an alternative, showing his biases and blind spots. Typical religious dross.

  8. anteprepro says

    Related to Ing’s statement, we should also try damn harder to distinguish “pedophile” and “child molester/rapist”. Not all pedophiles molest children, and vice versa. Pedophilia is simply an attraction, and Averick conflates acknowledging that fact with trying to make it permissible to rape children.

    From the article: ” B4U-ACT has already coined a bland, innocuous, and inoffensive term to make the idea of child-sex more palatable: “minor-attracted persons.” This phrase sounds almost pleasant, distinctly unlike those nasty and soon-to-be-politically-incorrect words like “pedophile” and “child molester.” (How does pedophobic grab you?) ”

    This disgusting level of misunderstanding/dishonesty shouldn’t be left unopposed. Especially when it is also used as a cudgel to beat homosexuals with, in addition to demonizing pedophiles who never actually act on their urges.

  9. raven says

    On the well known and time tested principle, of “You hate what you are”, I would say Rabbi Averick has a problem himself. I wouldn’t let my kids near such a man in a zillion years.

    All the authoritarian religions have a problem with child sexual abuse. The second highest correlation for child sexual abuse is “membership in a conservative religioun”. The first is drug and alcohol abuse.

    We all know about the Catholic priest problem. The Mormons, fundies, and JW’s have the same problem. I don’t know about the “conservative” Jewish cults specifically, but it would surprise me if they don’t have the same problem.

  10. says

    All moral laws are manmade.

    Ehhhhh… sort of.

    Humans devise and test chess strategies, for example, but that doesn’t mean they are entirely ‘manmade’. There are constraints built into the fundamental rules of chess (‘pawns move like this’, ‘knights move like this’, etc.) that strongly influence what strategies actually work. (Assuming you have a goal, a desire, to win the game, anyway.)

    Strategies develop over time and with experience, too. The way chess is played at the higher levels has changed a lot since the 1800s.

    Humans have desires and the universe has laws of physics. I see moral laws as strategies, as schemes for how humans are to live together. Some work better than others, and we learn more over the course of time (I love Steven Pinker’s essay ‘A History of Violence’ as an example.)

    The theists aren’t exactly wrong when they sense that there are more constraints than just human whim on what’s ‘moral’ or not. They just wrongly identify the nature and source of those constraints. And they’re very wrong if they insist that atheists can’t recognize them.

  11. raven says

    According to Rabbi Avericks own magic books, the Hebrew bible (Xian OT) and Torah, are just fine with child sex abuse and female slavery.

    In Exodus, you can sell your kids as sex slaves for a few bucks, if you are hard up for cash or sick of picking up their toys.

    Solomon, that hero of the OT, had 700 wives and 300 sex slaves.

    And of course, if you are fortunate to be in on the genocide or war against nonJewish tribes, the surviving women and children are yours as slaves. The bible even has instructions on how to sexually break in captive women.

  12. Brownian says

    I wouldn’t let my kids near such a man in a zillion years.

    Even with supervision? I think it’s important for children to realise that individuals with cognitive disabilities are people too, and such empathy is only learned through exposure.

  13. Lynxreign says

    At first glance, I thought you’d posted:

    “Now he’s got a new line of criticism of atheists: we’re on a slippery slope. You know what comes next? What horrible abominable practice we’ll be endorsing?

    Philadelphia!”

    The horror!

  14. randomfactor42 says

    I’d read that “Godspeed” actually refers to the Divine urinary function. As in, “we’re not leaving on this trip until godspeed.”

  15. raven says

    Oh for Cthulhu’s sake!!! I just put a few terms into google and yeah, it turns out the Jewish Ultraorthodox cults do have a problem with child sexual abuse.

    Rabbi Moshe Averick has got some explaining to do here. The probability that he is a pedophile just went up about ten fold.

    And BTW, Rabbi Moshe Averick. Fuck you, hate filled hypocritical fundie xian wannabe.

    Ultra-Orthodox Jewish Groups
    w ww.rickross.com/groups/ultra.html – Cached
    Ultra-Orthodox Jewish Groups, Aish Ha Torah, Lubavitch, Chabbad, Chabbad House. … Shame of Sexual Abuse Among Believers · Leaving the Fold: Film … Israel issues international warrant against sect leader suspected of child abuse …

    The ultra-Orthodox face up to abuse | Rosa Freedman | Comment is …
    w ww.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/…/ultra-orthodox-child-abuse – Cached

    Similar
    You +1’d this publicly. Undo
    May 5, 2010 – Perpetrators of child sexual abuse within ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities …. I wonder, too, about Christian sects such as the Amish: people …
    “Yeshiva” of Brooklyn also Guilty of Child Abuse: We Have Enough …
    e xposemolesters.blogspot.com/…/we-have-enough-gun-control-wha… – Cached

    May 9, 2010 – Perpetrators of child sexual abuse within ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities have been … Sexual Abuse Rampant Across Denominations. …

  16. raven says

    http://w ww.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2010/may/05/ultra-orthodox-child-abuse

    The ultra-Orthodox face up to abuse
    Catholicism doesn’t have a monopoly on child abuse scandals, as the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community has discovered

    The uncovering of sexual abuse perpetrated by religious leaders in the Catholic church is mirrored within the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community. As with the Catholic church, where the abuse was uncovered early on in the US, institutional child sexual abuse is starting to be prosecuted in New York. And as with the Catholic church, which has begun to change its stance on prosecuting priests, ultra-Orthodox Jewish leaders are beginning to permit the reporting to police of these crimes. As with the Catholic church, Jewish victim support groups and advocates have brought these crimes to the public’s attention. The question is whether, as with the Catholic church, this is far too little far too late.

    A little known Jewish law called mesira, found in the Talmud with some scriptural support, forbids a Jew from reporting another Jew to the gentile authorities.

    Says it all. Not only do the Ultraorthodox have a problem with sexual abuse, they’ve been covering it up. Just like the Catholics.

    Rabbi Moshe Averick’s moral high ground isn’t looking so high. It’s about as high as the Dead Sea basin which is only slightly above hell.

  17. says

    Ing #4 and anteprepro #9, the same concern struck me as I read the “monster” reference in the post. I’ve been churning this around recently, and I think its not just wrong but unhelpful to demonize those whose sexual orientation is only (or primarily) toward children. I don’t think pedophiles have a choice in sexual attraction any more than anyone else does, but they do have a choice to act on the attraction, or not. Those who act on it and thereby harm children in the process are behaving like monsters. The same goes for rapists and anyone else who feels entitled to harm others for their own gratification.

    Rereading PZ’s sentence, it’s unclear whether he is making such distinction or not. When it comes to PZ, I tend to give him the benefit of the doubt.

  18. says

    @Ing:

    Pedophiles aren’t the problem as long as they realize they’ve got an attraction that is illegal to carry out. It’s the child molesters / abusers who I want drawn and quartered (well, rehabilitated, but in my righteous anger when I hear about these things I want those predators destroyed.)

  19. says

    The good “Rabbi” needs to read Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl:

    Based on his own experience and the experiences of those he treated in his practice, Frankl argues that we cannot avoid suffering but we can choose how to cope with it, find meaning in it, and move forward with renewed purpose.

    “Meaning” does not imply, or require, religion.

  20. says

    Iris Vander Pluym –

    I don’t think pedophiles have a choice in sexual attraction any more than anyone else does, but they do have a choice to act on the attraction, or not.

    Reading that, it occurred to me that many theists use similar language with reference to homosexuality – “they do have a choice to act on the attraction, or not”. However, there’s a big difference in practice between pedophilia and homosexual acts between consenting adults.

    With pedophilia, you have demonstrable psychological harm (and physical, too, quite often).

    On the other hand, with adult homosexuality, the ‘harm’ is generally ‘spiritual’ (that is to say, unfalsifiable and undetectable). And in cases where the harm is demonstrable… well, two words: “consenting” and “adults”. (Nor is any demonstrable harm limited to homosexual relationships; it’s just as possible in heterosexual ones as well.)

    Just clarifying a distinction. I’ve been on various theist websites, and it’s forced me to think very carefully about how words can me misinterpreted.

  21. says

    Just one datapoint:

    “The Holocaust—the murders of six million Jews by a purportedly “Christian” people—posed a direct challenge to Christians throughout the world. They were confronted with the consequences of the anti-Semitism that had been supported by Christian churches for centuries, and which made the Holocaust possible. More crucially, Christians had to acknowledge the churches’ failure (and, in most cases, the lack of any attempt) to stop the Nazi persecution of the Jews.” — Barnett, Victoria, “For the soul of the people: Protestant protest against Hitler”, pg. 290

  22. Maverick says

    If you want to know about pedophilia and Orthodox Judaism (and basically everything else wrong with it), this is a good site: http://failedmessiah.typepad.com/.services/blog/6a00d83451b71f69e200d83451b72269e2/search?filter.q=pedophilia

    Biblically, the only thing that stands against pedophilia is that people *might* not be allowed to have sex with someone who isn’t their wife/husband (as long as the women is unmarried), and men can’t get married to someone under 12 (for technical reasons). So girls under 12 might accidentally be protected, although I don’t believe there would be a punishment for sexually molesting them (religion is beautiful, no?).

    According to Rabbi Averick, why isn’t there as verse “Don’t lie with a man as you lie with a woman…and never, ever, under any conditions lie with a child”?

  23. joed says

    Morality begins with a big “IF” as in IF you want to live with other humans “THEN” you will obey the rules.
    “While in Rome do as the Romanians”
    But this is not relativism. There are a few moral rules that are common to all cultures. For example,
    take care of children untill they can care for their selves, you can’t kill just anybody you want to kill, and you may never piss on the camp fire,

    From Act 2, Scene 2 of Shakespeare’s Hamlet:

    HAMLET: Denmark’s a prison.
    ROSENCRANTZ: Then is the world one.
    HAMLET: A goodly one; in which there are many confines, wards and dungeons, Denmark being one o’ the worst.
    ROSENCRANTZ: We think not so, my lord.
    HAMLET: Why, then, ’tis none to you; for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so: to me it is a prison.

  24. peterh says

    @ #2:

    Ah, the old “I will take very figurative (in this case sardonically figurative) language and treat it as though it were open to a literal understanding.” The fundies do that all the time.

  25. says

    I might agree that a very small percentage of the population is sick and needs professional medical help to avoid molesting children…but when you equate their sickness to that of rapists in general, you lose me. Rape is about power, not sex. Claiming otherwise does a disservice to survivors.

  26. anteprepro says

    Peterh: “Ah, the old “I will take very figurative (in this case sardonically figurative) language and treat it as though it were open to a literal understanding.” The fundies do that all the time.”

    So, someone makes a cute little joke about a common quasi-religious expression, and you jump all over them with “fundies do that all the time”? Do you know what else fundies do all the time? Betray the fact that they have no sense of humor. And act like clueless hypocrites. Well done on both counts, good sir!

  27. frankensteinmonster says

    Could someone explain to me what is a transcendental moral law ? I mean, I could understand what moral laws are ( see for example #11 Ray Ingles here in the thread ), I also know what transcendental numbers are, but transcendental moral laws ? What are they supposed to be ? What is the difference between regular and transcendental moral laws ?

  28. Bill Gascoyne says

    All moral laws are manmade. Do we recognize that reality and struggle to make them better as a community of reasonable human beings, or do we pretend that a few of us have special privileges and insight into the desires of a cosmic tyrant, and let them tell us how to live? Given that anyone claiming such authority is mad and delusional, I say no.

    “At least one way of measuring the freedom of any society is the amount of comedy that is permitted, and clearly a healthy society permits more satirical comment than a repressive, so that if comedy is to function in some way as a safety release then it must obviously deal with these taboo areas. This is part of the responsibility we accord our licensed jesters, that nothing be excused the searching light of comedy. If anything can survive the probe of humour it is clearly of value, and conversely all groups who claim immunity from laughter are claiming special privileges which should not be granted.”
    Eric Idle

  29. Ibis3, féministe avec un titre française de fantaisie says

    @raven

    All the authoritarian religions have a problem with child sexual abuse. The second highest correlation for child sexual abuse is “membership in a conservative religioun”. The first is drug and alcohol abuse.

    We all know about the Catholic priest problem. The Mormons, fundies, and JW’s have the same problem.

    I know you were focusing on Moshe and his merry band of Jewish child rapists, but in your list of religious groups having a problem, you left out Muslims. Wouldn’t want to get all the Christian fundies crying out with fatwah envy, so here you go:

    http://www.thestar.com/news/crime/article/1040602–toronto-religious-leader-charged-in-sex-assaults?bn=1

    At least the followers are starting to wake up and actually report these predators to the police.

  30. John Kiefer says

    Ten times a year, Freethought Today, the newsletter of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, publishes a double tabloid-page feature callled Black Collar Crime. They never seem to have a shortage of clergy of all flavors who have been accucsed, convicted, or sentenced for all flavors of crimes. And not hardly all sex crimes, although those may be in the majority. But also plenty of property crimes, generally dipping their sticky fingers in the collection basket. And yes, there are the occasional murders too. Overll, I would say they are not doing any better than us godless heathens.

  31. raven says

    I know you were focusing on Moshe and his merry band of Jewish child rapists, but in your list of religious groups having a problem, you left out Muslims.

    Well, I did sort of forget. So many religious child sexual abusers, so little time.

    And most of the Moslem ones happen Over There, while we live Over Here.

    Not something I know too much about. But IIRC, child sexual abuse is a huge and common problem in Pakistan and Afghanistan among others.

    Just goes to show everyone what Rabbi Averick pointed out. Religion is *** the source of all morality. (Except he left out the *** = not part).

  32. Therrin says

    Says it all. Not only do the Ultraorthodox have a problem with sexual abuse, they’ve been covering it up. Just like the Catholics.

    Oh come now, they’re not really ScotsJews (right DM?).

  33. Anonymous says

    #4 Ing
    #9 anteprepro
    #19 Iris Vander Pluym

    I would really like to thank the three of you. Reading your comments literally made me clap joyfully. As a pedophile it deeply irritates me when we are automatically assumed to be savage beasts gruesomely craving the abuse of children. I am sexually attracted to very young girls. I didn’t choose that and I can’t stop a sexual attraction. I have no desire to hurt a child. EVER. Psychologically or physically. I would never act on my urges because I understand what the repercussions of those actions would be. I consider myself an atheist and a humanist. I have met countless others like me online as well. People who feel the attraction but don’t use it to rationalize harming another human being.

    I don’t hope for anyone to promote pedophilia. I just hope for more people to realize that demonizing us and torturing us and portraying us all as savages isn’t going to help anyone. This social stigma only pushes pedophiles into becoming self-loathing and angry, thus developing a desire to become violent and apathetic. It’s extremely counter-productive.

  34. Pierce R. Butler says

    The closest I could find to the pithy aphorism attributed to “a wise man” via a DuckDuckGo search:

    … the Holocaust may make faith in God difficult; but it makes faith in man impossible.

    Unfortunately, that came from an excerpt from a Dennis Prager book (click on the “show more” button under the “Read an excerpt” tab), which ipso facto rules out the “wise man” ascription.

    M.Averick might have been a passable old tv show, but so far his 21st-century manifestations have lacked a certain depth (though commenter # 24 above shows promise). How ’bout a citation, rabbi dude?

  35. says

    Ray Ingles 22:

    Reading that, it occurred to me that many theists use similar language with reference to homosexuality – “they do have a choice to act on the attraction, or not”.

    I’ve noticed theists use similar language to atheist and secularists in all sorts of contexts, not just their drivel on homosexuality (e.g., creation “science,” anti-choice slogans, etc.) I had hoped the sentences immediately after the one you quoted would clarify the key distinctions I was making:

    Those who act on it and thereby harm children in the process are behaving like monsters. The same goes for rapists and anyone else who feels entitled to harm others for their own gratification.

    You are correct in pointing out that both “consenting” and “adult” are critical to the distinction I was attempting to make, and I apologize if I was not clear.

    Sylvia Sybil #27:

    I might agree that a very small percentage of the population is sick and needs professional medical help to avoid molesting children…but when you equate their sickness to that of rapists in general, you lose me. Rape is about power, not sex. Claiming otherwise does a disservice to survivors.

    Excuse me? Molested children are rape survivors. Speaking as a rape survivor myself: repeating the fiction that rape is only about power and not at all about sex does a disservice to reality.

  36. says

    Iris Vander Pluym 38: Actually, I wasn’t clear. I was simply tying to point out a way your words could be misinterpreted, and head that off. I didn’t think you thought that.

  37. Sastra says

    Ray Ingles #11 wrote:

    The theists aren’t exactly wrong when they sense that there are more constraints than just human whim on what’s ‘moral’ or not. They just wrongly identify the nature and source of those constraints. And they’re very wrong if they insist that atheists can’t recognize them.

    I agree: when you go back to the most basic types of principles and ideals (“fairness,” “kindness,” “honesty,” “love,” goodness”) there’s a general consensus by human beings on human values. The devil is in the details: arguments about the underlying frame, the facts of the matter, or competing values. There are no societies or cultures which advocate “being evil.” If they do evil, they usually justify it as good.

    Which is why the rabbi’s confusion over doing wrong because you can get away with it — and doing wrong because you think it’s right — is so frustrating. Godly morality is only the final answer to an ethic which assumes that “it ain’t wrong if you don’t get caught.” But no system is better at redefining good into evil or evil into good than a system based on arbitrary supernatural “facts” that by their very nature can only be known by the very few. There’s no reliable, common, natural court of appeals against laws and rules and beliefs that make no sense … and make no sense on purpose.

    Does the rabbi really think the problem of getting all people to agree on and work towards what is reasonable for the promotion of human flourishing is going to be a harder task than getting all people to agree on what “God” is like and what “God” wants? Of course not. He’s not really searching for some sort of universal ethical system that transcends narrow and parochial viewpoints to persuade all. He’s just notifying others that he has adopted a narrow, parochial viewpoint which doesn’t care if anyone else is persuaded: his views are right by divine fiat.

    He forms himself into the image of God and worships that.

  38. Qwerty says

    I guess since it doesn’t involve children or animals, having sex with a blowup doll is morally okay.

  39. Sastra says

    “… the Holocaust may make faith in God difficult; but it makes faith in man impossible.”

    Oh, I hate that quote — it’s just so typical of a theistic mindset which tries to force every view into being a slightly distorted version of their own. Atheists (secular humanists) do not “worship” or “have faith” in Man (humanity.) At least, not in the same sense that religion does. There is no universal mandate that forces every world view to assume we are on an inevitable road to Perfection: discovering ‘to our surprise’ that human beings are flawed is supposed to show that atheism won’t “work.” It won’t work because it won’t make everything perfect by magic. Like theism will. Right.

    The only “faith in man” that’s necessary is the belief (or hope) that if we work hard to be more fair and reasonable, then things will improve — or at least be better than they would be if we instead throw up our hands, give in to our primitive superstitions and tribal loyalties, and wait for a magic Skyhook to save us. Right. That works.

  40. Dick the Damned says

    Anonymous #36, you have my sympathy; I am sure that what we find sexually attractive is hard-wired.

    What i like is unavailable to me, (except at a price), & i too would never consider trying to force my attentions on a victim.

    If we are the product of genes & environment such as to cause us to have ‘inappropriate’ desires, there are explanations that fit well with natural selection, although they might not be obvious, & sometimes may be just errors in a process that is prone to error. But such a view is anathema to the religious, because it means that their god would be at fault, hence their refusal to believe that sexual orientation is fixed, & it explains their efforts to ‘cure’ the ‘deviant’.

  41. lazybird says

    PZ:

    Germany at the time of the Holocaust was a predominantly Catholic and Lutheran country.

    And didn’t their “transcendent moral law” prohibit killing others? It seems most Christians have no problem setting aside that particular “commandment” when it becomes inconvenient.

  42. Gord O'Mitey says

    Qwerty, #41, well, having sex with a blowup doll is morally okay, so long as she agrees to it, eh.

  43. Carlie says

    Given that a large percentage of theists don’t think that consent has anything to do with sex in the first place (see the post below this one of the Vision Forum), I’m not surprised that they don’t understand the difference between having sex with a willing partner and abusing children.

  44. Erulóra Maikalambe says

    Excuse me? Molested children are rape survivors.

    I didn’t read that comment as saying that molested children shouldn’t be equated with rape survivors, but that being attracted to children should not be equated to raping them. Surely we can agree on that.

  45. Brownian says

    He’s not really searching for some sort of universal ethical system that transcends narrow and parochial viewpoints to persuade all.

    I think he’s just taking potshots at atheists because it’s fashionable to do so these days. He wouldn’t dare criticise agnostics like that.

    </fatwah envy-envy>

  46. Qwerty says

    Yes, Sastra, and the believers don’t see anything wrong with thinking that we’ll be thrown into a lake of fire for eternity for simply not believing; so, this quote is just more self-serving crap.

  47. Sastra says

    Brownian #49 wrote:

    I think he’s just taking potshots at atheists because it’s fashionable to do so these days. He wouldn’t dare criticise agnostics like that.

    That’s right! Go after agnostics and they will swiftly retaliate by thoughtfully considering the criticism and provisionally holding back on accepting it pending the appearance of further evidence which may (or may not) make a better case. Atheists are a safer target, because we’ll hold still.

  48. says

    For what it’s worth, earlier this year I probed rabbi Averick’s eternal and absolute moral values by asking him to name an action that, if God were to perform it, would be evil.

    Basically, he danced around the question, which leads me to conclude that Averick, like Craig, believes that rape, murder, and genocide are okay when they’re ordered by God.

  49. tim rowledge, Ersatz Haderach says

    I also know what transcendental numbers are, but transcendental moral laws ?

    Well they certainly can have an Imaginary component, some people see them in everything (pyramids!), they’re derived from some very odd premises and equations, and they often go on and on without end.

  50. anteprepro says

    No big surprise there, arensb. He’s clearly a politically right Biblical literalist. “Genocide is A-Okay if God does it, because God is the best thing EVER” is part of the very long list of doublethink doctrines such people tend to have. Just look at how he defended genocide in his conversation with you, by invoking WWII, intentionally ignoring the whole fact that God is supposed to be infinitely powerful and wise and what-not, as well as good. Averick sincerely wants you to believe, and wants to pretend that he believes, that such a God could come up with no more moral of a solution than to kill a large group of people for being immoral, punishing them after the fact. And further wants to suggest that this is anyway comparable to mere mortal armies working under the pretense of actually saving lives and/or acting in self-defense. How often omnipotence and omniscience are swept under the rug to excuse the fact that God is less moral than the majority of human beings, even by God’s own (pathetic) standards.

    Tim Rowledge: “Well they certainly can have an Imaginary component, some people see them in everything (pyramids!), they’re derived from some very odd premises and equations, and they often go on and on without end.”

    What is all religious/most political discussions, Alex?

  51. says

    Erulóra Maikalambe 48:

    I didn’t read that comment as saying that molested children shouldn’t be equated with rape survivors, but that being attracted to children should not be equated to raping them. Surely we can agree on that.

    Yes we certainly can agree on that: That is why I did not equate being attracted to children with raping them. Specifically, I equated those who act on the attraction and thereby harm children with rapists and anyone else who feels entitled to harm others for their own gratification.

    Anonymous 36, you have my respect. Pretty much everyone has powerful impulses (sexual or otherwise) that would be harmful and destructive to other individuals and to society if we were to act upon them. Moral people with empathy do not act on them. Apparently some theists lack that wiring.

  52. KG says

    Given that a large percentage of theists don’t think that consent has anything to do with sex in the first place (see the post below this one of the Vision Forum), I’m not surprised that they don’t understand the difference between having sex with a willing partner and abusing children. – Carlie

    You’re absolutely right, of course, but there are cases which are not easy to assign to either category, because we don’t allow any expressions of consent from children to count as such for legal (or ethical) purposes: they are held to lack the capacity to consent to sex. Even if we think the expression of consent was sincere, we don’t accept it as justifying an adult in having sex with a child. Also, of course, there’s an unavoidable degree of arbitrariness in a legal age of consent, and marginal cases like two sexual partners with a few months between them, or a year, or two years… but even without these, it’s an over-simplification to say that anything to which everyone consents is OK. We might also doubt whether that applies to absolutely everything between consenting adults, up to and including deliberate killing. So I’d say consent must be at the core of a rational and humane sexual ethics, but it’s not the whole story.

  53. quincyme1970 says

    Fair play to the man, he does respond to some comments but I was forced to interject when he made a comment about sucking penises. Of any one group of people ( save the catholic priest), rabbis probably know more about mutilation and sucking of infant genitalia than anyone else. God made so perfect that he demanded we mutilate our new borns. Either that or he fancied a bit if crackling.

    No apologies, because it’s disgusting.

  54. andrewm says

    It’s always seemed to me that this argument of “if you don’t believe in god then morality is meaningless” is kind of self-defeating. Let’s suppose that, due to some kind of previously undiagnosed mental condition, Averick’s argument was able to convince me. So what? Plenty of things are meaningless if religion isn’t true – prayer, for example, is basically just talking to yourself – but I don’t miss them since they’re… well… meaningless.

    Averick’s whole house of cards relies on the assumption that morality has some kind of value, something about it that we would want to keep. But if morality has any value beyond “it’s what god says you should do” then that value is in itself the meaning Averick says doesn’t exist.

  55. Robotocracy says

    KG 56:
    I think the key is informed consent. We can all agree that a child lacks the capacity to give informed consent for sex, and thus child molestation is necessarily a form of rape.
    Going with your example about deliberate killing – it would be unethical to assist in the suicide of, say, someone with bipolar disorder who had just entered a severe depressive episode. The individual would not be thinking rationally at that point, and thus would be unable to give informed consent. However, it would not be unethical to assist in the suicide of someone who had a debilitating and painful terminal illness. If someone has rationally thought over their options and chose a quick painless death over a slow painful one, they have every right to seek help in doing so. Again, informed consent is the basis for this ethical framework.

  56. says

    Iris:

    Excuse me? Molested children are rape survivors.

    Where did I say otherwise? I said that equating pedophiles (mentally disturbed) with rapists (criminals) did a disservice to survivors, no matter their age.

    Actually molesting, assaulting and/or raping someone is about power. The very act is imposing your will over another’s and using sex as a weapon to hurt them and make them powerless. It doesn’t matter if the survivor can’t consent (underage, drunk, mentally disabled) or won’t consent (pinned down, afraid) – rape is rape.

  57. frankensteinmonster says

    Averick’s whole house of cards relies on the assumption that morality has some kind of value, something about it that we would want to keep.

    This assumption is pretty uncontroversial. Most humans make that assumption.

  58. KG says

    Robotocracy,

    I wasn’t thinking of assisted suicide because of ill-health, where I completely agree with you, but rather of cases like the the man who consented to have his penis cut off, fried and eaten, then be killed, as a result of his sexual pathology – as I think we can call it. The case, in Germany, was treated as murder, although AFAIK it was not disputed that the victim had expressed his consent.

  59. KG says

    frankensteinmonster,

    You have missed andrewms point, which is a good one, and one I’ve not seen before. The point is, the argument relies on morality having a value independent of being obedience to God.

  60. 'Tis Himself, pour encourager les autres says

    I fail to understand how the dictates of a sadistic, bullying megalomaniac with the emotional maturity of a spoiled six year old can possibly be moral. The rabbi’s god kills people just because he can. How is that moral?

  61. anonymous says

    44 Dick the Damned & 55 Iris Vander Pluym, it’s a really nice change of pace to actually be defended by people who aren’t pedophiles as well. The stigma in society is so deep that even if you don’t think our mere attraction to children made us the scum of the Earth you would be wise not to explain why. People will probably give disgusted stares and hide their kids from you pedo sympathizers. I wouldn’t be surprised if people called you pedophiles too. From what I’ve seen, anyone publicly suggesting pedophiles are anything less than savage rapists get labeled as pedophiles themselves.

    I don’t want a pride parade or anything like that. I just don’t want to be viewed as as a violent beast that will surely rape your kid if I’m left alone in a room with her. I may be a pedophile but above all I’m a caring human being. I wouldn’t manipulate, molest, or so much as place a hand on a child. I’d be too afraid of what it might do to them psychologically.

  62. Ing says

    That brings up an important point that if there isn’t some form of support or aid for pedophiles that is legitimate and healthy, the void will be filled (as it is now) by orgs like NAMBLA which DO encourage illegal behavior.

  63. Sili says

    That’s right! Go after agnostics and they will swiftly retaliate by thoughtfully considering the criticism and provisionally holding back on accepting it pending the appearance of further evidence which may (or may not) make a better case. Atheists are a safer target, because we’ll hold still.

    Ah. That’s our Sister Main Gauche of Enlightened Compassion alright.

  64. frankensteinmonster says

    The point is, the argument relies on morality having a value independent of being obedience to God.

    He didn’t mention it, and even if it were true, it would not change the fact, that most people assume that the morality is something valuable. What ever reason they may have to make this assumption, the result is still the same.

  65. Anonymous says

    67 Ing I don’t think I’ve actually heard of any legitimate aid for pedophilia. Is there a way to reduce or reverse sexual attractions? Apart from the religious nuts who think they can cure homosexuality. The aid for pedophilia probably wouldn’t be any better. Shock therapy and the such… Just ways of forcing yourself to deny the existence of sexual urges.

    Maybe support groups would help. Group therapy in which we can discuss why our actions would be wrong if we acted on our urges. Why manipulating a child into consent isn’t rational. Talking and thinking about it in logical ways is really the only way to legitimately deal with it.

  66. Qwerty says

    Thanks for the laugh Gord.

    I’ve reread the rabbi’s article and it seems he is just equating pedofiles with atheism and homosexuality which is nothing new.

    He does quote Judith Reisman, a woman who teaches and Liberty University and constantly rants against homosexual advocacy groups as well as demonizing Kinsey.

    I’ve been reading some of her articles this afternoon and apparently if I call PZ Myers a “breeder”, I am a homosexist who thinks homosexuality is better than heterosexuality.

  67. KG says

    I think the key is informed consent. We can all agree that a child lacks the capacity to give informed consent for sex – Robotocracy

    So we can, for a prepubescent or just-pubescent child. But in reality, we know that such a capacity isn’t just switched on at the magic age of consent, and may be far greater in many adolescents below the age of consent than in some adults. I don’t think we always treat (or necessarily should treat) equivalent degrees of capacity equally: most of us heathen don’t believe adults with moderate learning difficulties should be denied a full sex life, yet many 13-year-olds might understand the possible consequences of sex better, and be less liable to victimisation. I think there is a justification of the difference precisely in the immaturity of 13-year-olds: we consider that sex at 13 is too committing, likely to close off too many possibilities.

  68. raven says

    I’ve reread the rabbi’s article and it seems he is just equating pedofiles with atheism and homosexuality which is nothing new.

    Looks like Rabbi Moshe Averick is just a mindless bigot spitting out some hate at a convenient target for something to do.

    It doesn’t even look like he is bright enough to think up some hate and targets on his own. He stole it from the fundie xian death cultists.

    I suppose he also thinks Obama is a Kenyan born, Moslem terrorist, Michelle Bachmann has a brain, global warming isn’t real, the earth is 6,000 years old and the center of the solar system, and whatever else the fundie xians have managed to get wrong..

  69. says

    What Anonymous said. It must be damn hard living your life with desire screwed down tight. If there wasn’t so much demonizing, maybe we could have some research into what harmless outlet could satisfy the need and what causes it so we can try to avoid the experiences that create this kind of attraction, if possible.

  70. peterh says

    @ #28,

    I’ve observed plentiful jumping in both directions in theses threads. There have been a great many tongue-in-cheek instances called out for literalist reasons & vice versa. YMMV

  71. Moonkitty says

    @Sylvia Sybil #60

    Where did I say otherwise? I said that equating pedophiles (mentally disturbed) with rapists (criminals) did a disservice to survivors, no matter their age.

    Actually molesting, assaulting and/or raping someone is about power. The very act is imposing your will over another’s and using sex as a weapon to hurt them and make them powerless. It doesn’t matter if the survivor can’t consent (underage, drunk, mentally disabled) or won’t consent (pinned down, afraid) – rape is rape.

    I think you and Iris are on the same page. The disagreement–or confusion–comes down to the motivation of the attacker. Some sexual assaults are primarily motivated by power (and anger)–by a desire to control and demean the victim. But some may be motivated primarily by sexual desire. Of course, a sexually motivated rapist doesn’t bother to obtain the victim’s consent and simply imposes xir will over another, and in that sense rape is always about power.

    Because it’s so important (and, frustratingly, so frackin’ difficult) to get people to understand (1) the sense in which rape is “always about power”, and (2) that many rapes are solely or almost solely motivated by power issues, i.e. by anger and/or a desire to control the other person, some feminists will bristle at the suggestion that the main motivation for some rapes may be sex. But it may be so. Not sure there’s a scientific consensus as yet.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Causes_of_sexual_violence

  72. Nick says

    It seems to me that a lot of the language used to talk about peadophiliac attraction now is similar to the language that was used 150 years ago to talk about homosexuality. As a few others have mentions, the societal blind spot when it comes to peadophilia, treating peadophiles as monsters rather than people who have a potentially dangerous sexual attraction, means that we are stuck in a loop where a reasoned way of dealing with, and helping peadophiles to not cause harm, is not possible.
    Oh, and as for the vile Rabbi. I am assuming he bases he’s rant on statistics of religious affiliations of convicted peadophiles.

  73. Stardrake says

    frankensteinmonster @ 29:

    Could someone explain to me what is a transcendental moral law ?

    It’s a moral law that can only be understood when your teeth are being filled under hypnosis.

    I’ll be here all week. Try the lutefisk.

  74. says

    >All moral laws are manmade

    Perhaps all moral laws are made by humans, but that does not mean that there is no basis for identifying preferred courses of action that mostly correspond with our intuitions about avoiding pedophilia or killing old ladies and that also correspond with objective evidence. Consequentialism in general and versions of utilitarianism are ethical philosophies that can be based on objectively observable evidence, such as well-being (as in life span, capacity for specific skills needed to thrive in today’s world, and self-reported happiness or pain as rough indicators). Depending on how the system is framed, it requires little or no speculation about metaphysical moral truths or metaphysical entities.

    A couple sources that might be appropriate for this forum are Sam Harris’s book The Moral Landscape and Brad Hooker’s book Ideal Code (summarized here: http://www.felicifia.com/index.php?title=Ideal_Code,_Real_World_(book)). Sam Harris tried to solve the is-ought problem by asserting that moral questions are questions about human well-being. He then argued for a consequentialist ethic that would identify any behavior that compromises well-being to be bad and any behavior that supports well-being as good. I think he made a small metaphysical leap here, but there might be other ways to frame what he said.

    My variation would be that mammals have evolved to elicit behaviors that drive them to continued existence as individuals and as a species, and that it is very difficult to overcome this propensity. Given the reality of our evolutionary condition, the best way to achieve our evolutionary goal is to use our abilities toward that end, and this would lead us to adopt the good/bad ideas proposed by Sam Harris. Brad Hooker’s book has a better foundation in philosophy than Harris’s, but Harris discusses the objective foundation of well-being, which relates to the post here.

    There does remain the ethical question of whether we should expand our circle of consideration to include all animals, all life, or all of nature. The same arguments above combined with a philosophical principle of equal consideration might lead people to act more favorably toward the broader planet; however, I do not know the degree to which the typical human has the capacity to follow that path. If others lack the capacity to follow that path, it would not constitute an excuse for my actions.

  75. says

    I don’t think I’ve actually heard of any legitimate aid for pedophilia. Is there a way to reduce or reverse sexual attractions? Apart from the religious nuts who think they can cure homosexuality. The aid for pedophilia probably wouldn’t be any better. Shock therapy and the such… Just ways of forcing yourself to deny the existence of sexual urges.

    Maybe support groups would help. Group therapy in which we can discuss why our actions would be wrong if we acted on our urges. Why manipulating a child into consent isn’t rational. Talking and thinking about it in logical ways is really the only way to legitimately deal with it.

    From what I gather, the current reporting laws won’t allow basically anyone who wanted to to officiate and keep the confidentiality of the group. That’s a problem. There’s some hope as serious talk so being made on reclassifying the condition and some momentum to change the policy.

    I don’t think E-shock would be effective even…from what I gather it’s mostly for depression and other mood disorders or addiction. Then again it also isn’t nearly as bad as it sounds (in its modern incarnation).

    The only other method I’ve heard actually offered for preference removal/alteration that has any chance of working is chemical castration. Which seems…extreme to me.

    I’d hope the ideal would be a group therapy thing officiated by a trained therapist and to promote coping mechanisms and redirect energy else where.

  76. Nobody says

    “There is nothing that atheistic societies are incapable of rationalizing and accepting – including the sexual molestation of children.”

    Old Moshe here, like most religious people, is missing two crucial points: facts, and consideration of others.

    It is a fact that molested children pretty much always suffer for it. And atheists, being generally thoughtful and empathetic folk, consider that suffering and try their best to avoid it. So, any society that values the safety and health of children could never rationalise or accept paedophilia. Which is why child marriage exists in very religious societies.

  77. Hazuki says

    The irony of someone criticizing atheism for lacking a transcendent morality and then pointing to Yahweh is so pungent it put a hole in my poor septum the likes of which you can usually only get on a 6 month cocaine bender.

    It all comes down to enforcement of morals. By force. Argumentum ad baculum. I am reminded of HL Mencken’s comment that when people say we need more religion, what they really mean is we need more police.

    Also it’s very interesting how all theistic moral arguments come down to a variant of divine command theory. Shouldn’t we have some way of decisively refuting this meretricious crap by now?

  78. ike says

    @80: Uhh, I’m not sure if I’m reading you right, but I’ll state it anyway: Sam Harris did not invent utilitarianism. If what you say about his views is correct, there’s absolutely nothing to “his” definition of morality that wasn’t proposed by some or other Englishman hundreds of years ago. If you doubt what I say, you may want to google “Jeremy Bentham”, “William Godwin” or “the history of moral philosophy” and check it for yourself. I’ll also note that defining moral questions as “questions about human well-being” won’t solve the is-ought problem.

  79. Hazuki says

    @84

    I’ve been curious about this for a while: is there really an is-ought dichotomy? Given what we know of evolution, of intelligence, of our close primate ancestors, of cooperation and social behavior in other animals, is there really? Where does “is,” the brute facts of existence, become “ought?” Isn’t this is-ought distinction a relic of soul-body dualism?

  80. Snoof says

    Where does “is,” the brute facts of existence, become “ought?”

    …it doesn’t? Isn’t that the whole problem in the first place, that you can’t (rationally) derive one from the other? Unless you’re a fatalist, I guess.

    Isn’t this is-ought distinction a relic of soul-body dualism?

    Would you mind elaborating on this? I’m not sure what you mean.

  81. S. Taylor says

    Simply a correction on your remark about Hitler; according to Albert Speer he did not actually hold the “German Volk” to be physically superior, in fact towards the end of the war he would rant that the Asiatic Russian’s physical superiority was one of the reason why the eastern front had effectively collapsed. He also justified denying Jesse Owen’s medals on the grounds that the “negro” race was physically superior and thus it was not fair for a “negro” to win anything.

  82. says

    @84 ike: I wasn’t saying that Sam Harris invented utilitarianism, but his argument was directed to address morality in a way that I thought might appeal to the people who read this forum. I am quite familiar with early utilitarians (Bentham, J.S. Mill, Sidgwick), but I have never read William Godwin. I’ll have to add that to my list.

    As for the Sam Harris book called The Moral Landscape, I think he framed the first principles of utilitarianism in a way that Godwin, Bentham, J.S. Mill, Sidgwick and others could not have done because of their lack of access to modern science and technology (with some of Harris’s theories being futuristic). He thinks that neuroscience will increasingly help to document the effects of certain actions so that those actions can be identified as good or bad in a utilitarian/consequentialist sense. My example from his ideas would be to use neuroscience to research the changes in the brain that are associated with certain policies of discipline used on children, and the answers there guide behavior instead of relying on some moral principle written by somebody 2,000 years ago. The neuroscience could link child-rearing behavior, to physical changes in the brain, then to behaviors in the child and that is the basis replacing old-school morality.

  83. says

    @85 Hazuki: IS-OUGHT

    When people claim that there is some metaphysical moral truth that cannot be observed scientifically and that this moral truth or commandment from a divine being says that you ought to do or not do something, there is no rational basis for believing that claim. When people make observations that are considered scientific (e.g., Joe killed a rabbit and ate it), we have gotten no closer to demonstrating why that action is right or wrong according to some moral truth because that moral truth cannot be observed scientifically.

    There have been many attempts to resolve the is-ought problem. Singer (“The Triviality of the Debate Over ‘Is-Ought’ and the Definition of ‘Moral’,” 1973) tried to avoid the problem by saying that people can provide reasons for actions and that these reasons are not moral in a metaphysical sense. I don’t think that would satisfy deontologists. The Sam Harris book (The Moral Landscape) is far from perfect, but one of his attempts to address the fact-value (is-ought) problem is to recall a lecture that he gave in which a political aid said that it is not wrong for the Taliban to pluck the eyes from somebody who violated a Sharia law (that is not recognized in the U.S.). He says that plucking somebody’s eyes from their head can be scientifically shown to adversely affect well-being and that his claim is not violating any philosophical is-ought dilemma. His idea of “well-being” is the same basis used in his version of consequentialism, so he believes that he has avoided the is-ought problem.

    I would say that those attempts to side-step the is-ought problem have their appeal, but are missing another statement that explains why a person should choose their prefered idea of “substitute-morality” instead of another version (I mentioned above the possibility of expanding moral consideration to animals or all of nature). The end of my post #80 contained some of my thoughts on dealing with that gap–in other words, leaving the selected basis of morality as either a hypothetical or assertoric imperative with some reference to evolutionary motivations to thrive, but at the same time questioning if we (or some of us) should extend moral consideration to all of nature.

  84. Caek Noms says

    I’m pretty sure evidence has shown the presence of religious institutions tends to encourage child rape.

  85. ichthyic says

    I thought it would be a good idea to post my favorite atheist creed for the “good” moshe…

    An Atheist’s Creed

    I believe in a purely material universe that conforms to naturalistic laws and principles.

    I believe that the life we have is the only one we will have, that the mind and consciousness are inseparable from the brain, that we cease to exist in any conscious form when we die, and that it is therefore incumbent on us to enable each person to live their one life to the fullest.

    I believe in the power of science and reason and rationality to further deepen our understanding of everything around us and to eventually overcome superstition and erase the petty divisions sown by religion, race, ethnicity, and nationality.

    I am in awe of the beauty, vastness, and complexity of nature and the universe, and the fact that all arose purely by the working of natural laws.

    I believe in the power of ideals such as peace and justice and shared humanity to inspire us to create a free and just world.

    I believe in kindness, love, and the human spirit and their ability to overcome challenges and adversity and to create a better world.

    I believe in the necessity for credible and objective evidence to sustain any belief and thus deny, because of the absence of such evidence, the existence of each and every aspect of the supernatural.

    I refuse to bow, prostrate myself, or otherwise cower before the deities of any religion.

    I am neither tempted by the fiction of heaven or any other form of eternal life nor fearful of the fiction of hell.

    I choose to live the dignified and exhilarating life of a free-thinker, able to go wherever knowledge and curiosity takes me, without fear of contradicting any dogma.

  86. John Morales says

    Brownian,

    I’m cool with a human-made hell for the believers.

    Yeah, but.

    Surface Detail

    Much of the plot occurs in various simulated environments. As the book begins, a simulated war game—the “War in Heaven”—is running to determine whether to allow or to disallow cultures in the galaxy from running Hells, simulated afterlives in which the mind-states of the deceased are tortured.

  87. John Morales says

    Hazuki:

    is there really an is-ought dichotomy?

    Nope. It ain’t a dichotomy; rather, it’s (supposedly) a problem.

    (Not much of one, IMO.

    The ‘ought’ is just opinion (i.e. subjective), the ‘is’ is fact (i.e. objective) — so they’re different categories)

  88. Mike Dunn says

    I would suggest that not all moral laws are manmade. Anthropologists will tell you that the only universal moral law is against incest.

    That’s a ‘moral law’ that has a genetic basis. Are there any others?

  89. denise says

    “A wise man once observed that while belief in God after the Holocaust may be difficult, belief in man after the Holocaust is impossible.”

    Really? So Hitler was stopped by what exactly? ‘Cuz I had been under the impression it was humanity that banded together to stop him, but apparently he read a different history than the one I’ve got.

  90. drbunsen le savant fou says

    Nobody:

    It is a fact that molested children pretty much always suffer for it. And atheists, being generally thoughtful and empathetic folk, consider that suffering and try their best to avoid it.

    emphasis mine

    I think this, in turn, misses a very important point.

    It’s not atheism per se that leads to a condemnation of child-adult sex. It’s rationalism, empiricism and humanism.

    It took empirical evidence to show, after centuries of hushing it up, that child sexual abuse was a widespread phenomenon. It took empirical evidence, after centuries of treating it as no big deal, to show that child-adult sex was almost always harmful to the minor. It took humanist compassion to care enough to keep fighting in the face of mass social denial. It took all three to make this into the public disgrace it always deserved to be – to enact laws, to enforce them, and to give recognition, aid and help to the victims. To finally say – this is happening, this is harmful – and we need to make it stop.

    That’s an empirical (“is”), humanist (“ought”), stance, not an atheist one.

  91. says

    Actually, I thought my chess analogy addressed the “is-ought problem” head on.

    As I noted, there are certain fundamental structures of chess that define it – the ‘rules of the game’. An 8×8 board, 8 pawns per side that move in certain ways, two rooks per side that move in other ways, castling, the initial configuration of the pieces, etc.

    Now, when playing chess, there is no rule that you can’t sacrifice your queen in the first few moves of the game. It’s illegal to move your king to a threatened square, but it’s perfectly acceptable by the rules to stick your queen in front of a pawn at the start of the game.

    However, if you want to win the game, you shouldn’t do that. There are almost no situations (at least, assuming evenly-matched opponents) where giving up your queen at the start will lead to your victory. Similarly, it’s rarely a good idea to move your king out to the center of the board. It’s usually a bad move.

    Note words like “shouldn’t” and “bad”. They are value judgements. They prescribe ‘oughts’. They are not part of the ‘rules’ of chess. From where do they come?

    They arise from the combinations of two things – first, the rules and structure of chess, and second, from the player’s desire to win the game. They are strategic rules. A player is free to disregard them, but they do so at their peril – it’s unlikely to further their goal.

    Hopefully the parallel to wider life is obvious. We have ‘rules of the game’ in life, too – the laws of physics, for example. We are not free to violate these strictures. (Well, technically, if we find a case where they are violated, we reformulate the laws and our theories to take into account the anomalous case.) Many of them are so well-established that it’s difficult to see how they could be wrong to a significant degree. (Unless you can produce a magic carpet, I think we can expect to have to obey the laws of gravity, for example.)

    We also have desires and goals as well. Some are very basic and inborn and apparently universal (air, water, food, sleep, shelter, etc.) and some are so common that only extremely rare individuals seem not to need them (e.g. the company of other people), and some are deeply personal and not common at all (a desire to write a novel, say).

    So we can conceive of strategies that would arise from the combination of natural laws, and our own desires.

  92. says

    @98 Ray Ingles

    Which of the “laws” that you mentioned identify how people should act: laws of physics do limit our actions, but there have been no debates over the morality of physics. How about desires and goals? It might seem that we can draw inferences from the desires of people, but there are some hidden assumptions in your statement. Are you saying that nature or God designed people such that their desires conform to some type of metaphysical law (this is natural law theory), or are you saying that we just vote and accept a legal prescription when X% of people approve of a measure, or are you saying that a dictator should explore his or her intuition and then set rules for how the common people should live? If it is the first, then it is unscientific, if it is the second, then you would agree that it would be OK if people on planet earth voted to make people like you slaves, and if it is the last, it would be OK if the dictator made you a slave.

    Based on the common desire that all mammals have, I would agree that people have good reason to agree to work toward a common gaol of sustaining life, but the are remaining questions of the degree to which we should be forced to help other humans or be forced to preserve the well-being of animals and nature–common sense intuitions don’t answer this.

    I do support the idea of basing a “moral code” that is based on well-being (without any spooky stuff), but some important details hang in the balance and reflect the is-ought problem.

  93. says

    I was most offended by the picture of Singer with the goat. They have the caption of

    “Peter Singer, atheistic professor of “Ethics” at Princeton University – pictured here with a strapping, healthy, strong young ram – approves of bestiality and has stated that, “I don’t have intrinsic moral taboos.” Photo: Derek Goodwin”

    I was grossed out at the their description of the goat as “strapping, healthy, strong young ram” and then talking about bestiality. Seem really low.

  94. azkyroth says

    Where does “is,” the brute facts of existence, become “ought?”

    When you declare, at minimum one additional axiom to the ones that you use as a foundation for understanding the is.

    I’ve never understood why this was supposed to be hard.

  95. says

    rehoot –

    Are you saying that nature or God designed people such that their desires conform to some type of metaphysical law (this is natural law theory), or are you saying that we just vote and accept a legal prescription when X% of people approve of a measure, or are you saying that a dictator should explore his or her intuition and then set rules for how the common people should live?

    None of the above. I’m proposing something more like “moral engineering”.

    Engineers try to put together working mechanisms in the face of many uncertainties and unknowns. They frequently have to resort to ‘rules of thumb’, approximations, and techniques that have historically worked, even if why they work isn’t always fully understood. (“Engineering does not require science. Science helps a lot but people built perfectly good brick walls long before they knew why cement works.” – Alan Cox)

    Engineers generally have to design conservatively, and build in redundancy, and add margins for error. Engineering moral (and legal) codes is similarly complicated… but that does not imply that it’s impossible. Engineering continually improves and finds new ways of doing things, sometimes better than the old, sometimes merely applicable in certain special cases. I’d contend that the Pinker essay I linked to above documents such a progression of improving strategies.

    And we’re not starting from scratch. Depending on how you define ‘human’, we’ve been human for about 200,000 years and other humans have been an utterly critical element of our environment for that whole time. Our primate ancestors going back quite a bit before that lived in groups, too. We have some pretty good instincts (for fairness and empathy and so forth) that we can use to help guide our experiments.

    Still, we can take some lessons from game theory and psychology when crafting such codes. If there are conditions that help encourage cooperation (long horizons of interaction, clear and fairly-enforced punishments for violating rules, etc.) we should make sure to arrange for them as much as possible. Sometimes we may have to settle for a less-than-optimal situation in exchange for stability (see “Hawks and Doves”). But the fact that humans can plan and coordinate (and the fact that we do have built-in capacities for trust and cooperation as shown by the Traveler’s Dilemma) gives us some hope that we can do better than armed truces and Mexican Standoffs.

    I’d say slavery, to take one of your examples, has been pretty conclusively discredited at this point – even if you ignore empathy and fairness. It was an improvement over “slaughter everyone you conquered”, but it results in stagnation for the cultures that practice it. (Greece could have developed applied science and engineering – they had the knowledge necessary for steam power, for example – but they had slaves to do the work. The American South never matched the North in industrial output and fixated on cotton, in part thanks to the policy of slave labor distorting pricing.)

  96. anteprepro says

    “I was grossed out at the their description of the goat as “strapping, healthy, strong young ram” and then talking about bestiality. Seem really low.”

    It doesn’t seem really low, it undeniably is. But it’s okay. He is only smearing an atheist, and he is doing it in the name of Religion, so no-one gives a fuck if he is a smarmy, dishonest asshole while doing so. He can go on and get his article, full of distortions and possibly outright libel, published in a newspaper run by Fucking Elie Wiesel. All because he is religious and his targets are atheists. I beg you to imagine the comparable reverse situation: an atheist philosopher writing a news publication, suggesting that a prominent rabbi fucks goats based entirely on the fact that the rabbi doesn’t believe in punishing people who do, and then going on a spiel that believing in divine command theory will inevitably lead to child rape. I’m sure that the response to that hypothetical article would be just as tepid as the response to the current article, and that there are no double standards at play here. Not at all.

  97. Kol says

    I appreciate so much that nonsense like this continues to be dragged into the light of reason. It’s almost certain that the authors of such self-righteous delusion will never give an inch of ground when confronted with a massive deluge of logic.

    What gives me faith in Humanity is precisely what saved me from wasting the remainder of my life on supernatural drivel; the likes of you people coming to the rescue of the likes of me.

    You may not consider yourselves to be heroes. For the most part, you simply plop down in front of your laptop and say things that would have had you tortured to death not that long ago.

    I see nothing less than being shaken awake before I could infect my children.

    They’re safe, by the way.

    I’ve only just stopped believing the veracity of Scriptures adhered to by any religion claiming to have some secret knowledge about reality. Actually, in retrospect, I simply kept the belief in there as a failsafe. At one point Xenu-dogma threatened to dethrone Jesus.

    Now, I’m witness to Bible Thumpers who claim individual knowledge of a supreme being yet they cruise from day to day fueled by a belief system forced upon them during childhood. They revile churches for the hypocrites they see there and then behave as hypocrites themselves.

    Their lives, for all intents and purposes, HAVE BEEN VIOLATED AS CHILDREN.

    Pedophiles need not be categorized as those who only violate the flesh.

    I think it’s time to add forced indoctrination to the definition if it hasn’t been already.

  98. anteprepro says

    Kol: “Their lives, for all intents and purposes, HAVE BEEN VIOLATED AS CHILDREN.

    Pedophiles need not be categorized as those who only violate the flesh.

    I think it’s time to add forced indoctrination to the definition if it hasn’t been already.”

    Certainly agree with the “violated as children”, but I have a caveat: Categorizing indoctrination as a form of pedophilia is sloppy, demonizing both the religious and pedophiles in the process. Indoctrination is not done out of sexual attraction for children, it is done because of an excessive sense of entitlement, with adults viewing it as their right to cram falsehoods into a child’s skull and to manipulate them emotionally as long as it gets the children to adopt beliefs and behaviors that the adult agrees with. Indoctrination, when done with minimal coercion, is just biased education. Indoctrination, when done wrong, is emotional abuse of children. It is not, however, sexual abuse, or done because of sexual attraction, and should emphatically NOT be lumped in with pedophilia.

  99. Kol says

    anteprepro,

    Thank you for making the distinction. I suppose I was just lumping child abuse into a category associated with predation in general. For some reason, I feel as if my life has been “raped” even though my body was never abused.

  100. says

    Excellent post. I used to be checking constantly this blog and I’m impressed! Very useful information specially the last section :) I care for such info a lot. I was seeking this particular information for a very lengthy time. Thank you and good luck.