Open thread for episode 22.05: Tracie and John


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  1. Davide L says

    Hi,
    did you take calls via skype?
    As italian I was very surprised that so much americans are creationists.
    In Italy very very very few people believe in “Creation”, regardless or religion believs, and people laugh at them here.

    Ciao

  2. Wiggle Puppy says

    Ugh, Luke is becoming my new least favorite caller. Keeps asking the same questions about “moral imperatives” yet seems to have a kindergarten view of morality, willfully misunderstands and misrepresents the very simple answers the hosts give in response, and makes some snarky comment about the call not going anywhere before getting off the line. Dunning-Kruger, anyone?

  3. paxoll says

    Sadly Traci’s response to Lukes call felt like evasion. Yes, Luke needs to define what Morality is before the hosts can respond to this subjective morality label he tries to use, but the whole species, fairness tangent was pretty off topic. Does the possibility that dog have some kind of dog morality help define what morality is? Fairness is fairness, if you say an action is fair is that the same as saying that action is moral? You give your child an allowance but not the neighbor boy, is that fair? Is it moral? The response to the call felt very evasive and disingenuous. I love Traci and trust that was not her intent, but it was how it seemed.

  4. Wiggle Puppy says

    “Does the possibility that dogs have some kind of dog morality help define what morality is?” Yes, because “morality” refers to the rightness or wrongness of actions that promote the well-being of individuals within a social species. It is *not,* as Luke seems to clumsily suggest, based on the dictates of some authority empowered to make such pronouncements. “You give your child an allowance but not the neighbor, is that fair?” Yes, because we live in societies that give parents significant leeway to raise their own children as they see fit, with some exceptions. But this question is a red herring, since Tracie was not saying that fairness *equals* morality; she was pointing out that principles that lead to acts we would label “moral” (a sense of fairness, empathy, etc) can be found in many animal species, so this argument that humans are uniquely endowed with moral reasoning is obviously erroneous.

  5. paxoll says

    @wiggle

    It is *not,* as Luke seems to clumsily suggest, based on the dictates of some authority empowered to make such pronouncements.

    that wasn’t ever really addressed. Sorry, but I don’t think thats how we are using the term fairness.

    so this argument that humans are uniquely endowed with moral reasoning is obviously erroneous.

    that was never mentioned anywhere by anyone, so why are you bringing it up?

  6. Neil Graham says

    10 minutes of going around in circles with Luke, and he ends it with a snarky comment implying the hosts are the ones who don’t understand. Pretty frustrating to listen to.

  7. Wiggle Puppy says

    @paxoll: “that was never mentioned anywhere, so why are you bringing it up?” Because Luke has called twice before to argue that atheists can’t understand right from wrong because we don’t hold that humans have any kind of intrinsic worth beyond the worth we grant each other as a member of a social species that wants to continue existing and therefore has to create rules to govern conduct among its members. Watch the frustrating exchange at the end of the show a few weeks back featuring Tracie and Eric Murphy and then get back to me.

  8. kveg says

    Tracie’s explanation was way over the head of poor Luke. She did a great job explaining morality by using “tendencies” and “species”.

    Luke had no idea what he was talking about.

  9. paxoll says

    @Wiggle, obviously Luke has thought about it and come back to the same argument from a different direction. That is pretty irrelevant. If you don’t address the actual argument presented, then you are doing no good for anyone.

  10. Code says

    i agree, luke is quickly becoming one of my least favorite return callers. he refuses to try to listen and understand what the hosts are saying, and is basically doing the equivalent of sticking his fingers in his ears going “la la la, i’m not listening to you” and continuing to spout whatever bullshit he’s on about this week.

    and the hosts were not being evasive. tracie was trying to get a definition for morality, and luke was refusing to tell them. (okay, he said his definition once, but was a 7 year olds definition of morality(it’s what is right and wrong), tracie did kinda steam roll over that, a little) so in bringing up fairness, she was demonstrating what she meant when she said morality, which is completely on topic.

  11. Wiggle Puppy says

    @paxoll: Luke literally said at the end of the call tonight that he didn’t think Tracie and John are atheists because they are suggesting that there is something of “value” in human life. If you’re starting with the presupposition that only theism can provide human life with some kind of “value,” then OF COURSE a call in which Tracie explains that “value” in secular morality derives from the desire of social creatures to survive and continue living is a call that will end up going nowhere. Luke is either too obtuse or too dishonest to understand what he is being told; it has *nothing* to do with Tracie being either disingenuous or evasive. It’s as if a caller were to call in and ask a question about how lightning forms while assuming that only Zeus can create lightning bolts, and then when the hosts explain how lighting forms as a result of pressure changes in the atmosphere, the caller then complains that his question isn’t being addresses because the hosts are not acknowledging the fact that Zeus is the sole source of lightning bolts. I don’t know why this is so hard for you to grasp.

  12. says

    i am not a jungian but the first caller teddy brings to mind a quote from jung:

    “i have frequently seen people become neurotic when they content themselves with inadequate or wrong answers to the questions of life.”

    or restated in teddy’s case:

    “i have frequently seen people become neurotic when they attempt to content themselves with inadequate or wrong answers to the questions of an afterlife.”

    i’m mainly curious about what specifically triggered teddy’s phobia? there i suspect the cure lies; his preoccupation with hell may be only a symptom, or even a clever diversion from the real problem, seeing how the question was barely touched. a good psychologist should be able to draw this answer out.

  13. says

    Pseudo intellectuals.

    The atheist has to show it is logically impossible for God to have morally sufficient reasons to allow suffering.

  14. Robin says

    Wow

    What hearing filter did Luke use? He did not even listen or understand what was being said, all he could do was presuppose his own (religious) ideas onto what was said

  15. Barbara says

    Luke’s rather desperate, somewhat manic way of expressive himself in these discussions leads me to believe that his “faith” is shaken by the mere existence of people who don’t share his beliefs.

    For instance, if I was holding a pen, released it, resulting in it falling to the floor, and then said “It fell to the floor because of this phenomenon called gravity”, and someone responded by telling me that “what you call gravity doesn’t exist”, I’d conclude that the person is quite odd, and the idea of arguing with him would seem bizarre. That’s because if someone doesn’t acknowledge something that’s obvious and confirmable, that’s on them. There assertion would have no effect on me.

    So, if God’s existence is so obvious and evident, my saying that I haven’t seen that claim confirmed by evidence should be as non-threatening as someone making the easily dismissed claim that gravity doesn’t exist.

    And yet it seems that when theists are confronted with the most benign questioning about their views, they often become very agitated, like Luke. As far as I’m concerned, that’s a tell that reveals the theist’s insecurity regarding their views.

  16. Mobius says

    @14 aarrgghh

    Tracie did mention, briefly, that the caller should contact a mental health professional. The caller related that he had sought help but that his doctor had sent him to another specialist that turned out to be very religious. Tracie then pointed him toward secular help (Secular Therapy Project?).

    I agree that Teddy needs help. Perhaps Tracy and John should have reiterated that one more time since it seems to be an important point.

  17. tommyr says

    The second caller keeps referring to eyewitness accounts being evidence, those are the WORST kinds of evidences. There’s a reason why police look for hard evidence like fingerprints, footprints, tire tracks, hair samples, blood, video footage, etc. It’s because eyewitness testimony is often either made up or mistaken.
    We also know why so called “near death experience” happen, brain chemicals.

    Also the co-hosts need to be allowed to answer/talk more. Let John talk more for Christ’s(tm) sake.

  18. DMuir says

    This is for Teddy. I would highly recommend that you make contact with the Secular Therapy Project. They won’t push religion onto you.

  19. says

    Paxoll:

    >Sadly Traci’s response to Lukes call felt like evasion. Yes, Luke needs to define what Morality is before the hosts can respond to this subjective morality label he tries to use, but the whole species, fairness tangent was pretty off topic.

    I was using one moral tendency that is demonstrated, and pointing out that “sense of fairness” exists and has been demonstrated as real, not just in people, but other species. A species that can perceive “sense of fairness” has achieved what researchers label as a moral tendency. There are more of them, but basically, any species that has these tendencies in some demonstrable degree, can be said to exhibit “morality.” The caller asked me how I define morality, and that’s how I define it: The set of demonstrated, innate, intraspecies responses that allow a member of a social species to interact with others of its species in ways that demonstrate understanding of “sameness” that allows for regard of others as being worthy of similar treatment and regard. It serves as the basis for interpersonal cooperation between species’ members.

    It was simply an example of one such trait. The caller couldn’t understand why dogs would be invoked, but my definition of morality includes metrics demonstrated in other species—which he seemed to reject in his own definition. It was not a tangent, it was an example to the caller of what I am pointing at when I say “morality.”

    > Does the possibility that dog have some kind of dog morality help define what morality is?

    Yes. In fact, the research into whether, and to what degree, other species exhibit moral tendencies helps us understand how it functions in ourselves—much in the same way much animal behavioral psychology sheds light on human experiences to various degrees. If a caller rejects that other species are moral agents, and I believe they are, it is necessary for us to—even if we continue to disagree—understand what we mean when we say “morality.” But by the end of the call, I still had zero idea what, in reality, the caller is pointing to, when he says “morality.” I hope that by this point, he has a grasp of what I mean by it.

    > Fairness is fairness,

    That is a useless tautology.

    > if you say an action is fair is that the same as saying that action is moral?

    It is saying it conforms to at least one metric that species use to establish / judge an action as moral, amoral, or immoral.

    > You give your child an allowance but not the neighbor boy, is that fair?

    This is where judgement comes in. This is where the innate tendencies are going to be triggered in each member of that species that has a capacity to judge fairness. In judging whether this scenario is fair or unfair, an agent must have moral capacity—the ability to judge fairness. And we know dogs can do this.

    > Is it moral?

    If it conforms to equitable expectations of member treatment, it’s likely the judge will say “yes.”

    > The response to the call felt very evasive and disingenuous.

    I don’t know what else I can do, except answer his question. He asked what is morality, and my answer is that it’s a set of pre-defined attributes of particular types of species, that they use to moderate interpersonal interactions—in order to build trust and underpin society with a foundation of mutual respect and cooperation.

    > I love Traci and trust that was not her intent, but it was how it seemed.

    I don’t know if the above helps or not. But this is what morality means to me. I don’t know how else to answer it. For me morality isn’t what an agent does, it’s what an agent is capable of experiencing. “Is a particular behavior moral?” is a matter of discussion and debate. But if we don’t know what constitutes morality—there can’t be a meaningful discussion around whether or not any behavior conforms to “morality.” But “what is morality?” for me, has been answered by studies that seek to understand moral tendencies in all species, including human beings.

    In your response to Wiggle:

    > that was never mentioned anywhere by anyone, so why are you bringing it up?

    Luke did assert that he didn’t accept dogs can be moral agents, if I am not mistaken? At the very least he seemed surprised that was being suggested and confused about the concept. Maybe I interpreted his comments incorrectly, but I took him to be rejected the idea that anything but humans can be moral.

  20. says

    Tommy R:

    >Also the co-hosts need to be allowed to answer/talk more. Let John talk more for Christ’s(tm) sake.

    I don’t disagree. Not an excuse, but just to give you back story–Matt was scheduled, and due to some confusion, I wasn’t aware I was supposed to host yesterday (I thought I was hosting, but earlier in the week, I saw the schedule and figured Matt had taken it). I was notified early Sunday afternoon I was possibly needed at the studio. When I arrived, I told John that I was pretty tired, which can cause some regulatory brain functions to be reduced. He asked “does that mean you’ll talk less or more?” I replied that, for me, it means I will talk more–much, much more. I encouraged him strongly to proactively jump in, because I know how I can drone on when tired (many would say I do it, tired or not). Part way through the show I reminded him about this, and said he should jump in there. This is NOT AT ALL on John, but just to say I knew this was a potential issue, and tried to make sure John knew I was fine if he wanted to just insert himself however he needed to–no harm no foul. That didn’t happen, and I’m the host, so ultimately it’s on me one way or another. And I expected it would be observed by folks watching. So, your comment is no surprise. I am guessing many people would agree.

    The end result is that even *I* agree with you 100%. I would have preferred to have heard from John more, and I don’t fault the audience for recognizing that, and calling it out. I think it’s a valid criticism of this episode.

  21. einyv says

    Luke, your problem is you refuse to listen. You have a narrative in your mind that you will not sway from and that prevents you from listening. You are scared because it shows your beliefs are probably misplaced and you will refuse to listen to anything that goes against it. Fact is you do not need religion or a god for morality. Morality is independent of both. Besides if you are a Christian the concept of eternal punishment for finite transgressions is immoral. You know this to be the case so you must create this narrative in your head to give your god a pass on this immoral concept.

  22. paxoll says

    @Heicart,

    The set of demonstrated, innate, intraspecies responses that allow a member of a social species to interact with others of its species in ways that demonstrate understanding of “sameness” that allows for regard of others as being worthy of similar treatment and regard. It serves as the basis for interpersonal cooperation between species’ members.

    This describes every species. You are simply stating that each species recognizes its own and has a social structure. This makes morality nothing more then standard social behavior for a species. I don’t necessarily disagree with this but I find it lacking, as morality as most people would describe it involves free will. Whether that is possible or not is another problem, but the ability to choose to follow those social behaviors is I think fairly standard for most peoples idea of morality. This is why many people, not just Luke would be dismissive of talking about morality in other species. Why not simply define morality in a general term that can be easily comprehended in the case of humans while not excluding other species? Something like, morality is a societal judgement of when an individual places societal values above their own when making value based decisions that impacts others? It seriously boggles the mind that when asked what you think morality is the first thing you jump to is describing fairness in other species. Like I said, this feels like evasion because you are talking about who or what is capable of morality, not what IS morality. When I stated that tautology, I did it to point out that morality isn’t fairness, morality isn’t altruism, morality isn’t the golden rule, or self sacrifice.

  23. John Iacoletti says

    Luke was frustrated because we weren’t following his desired script. He kept trying to get us to say that morality is an imperative so that he could proceed to his next step (presumably “where does that imperative come from?”). The problem is that neither one of us considers it to be an imperative. I like Tracie’s framing of the subject, because it keeps us out of the rabbit hole of trying to define what constitutes “well being”. So, paxroll, she IS saying that her view of morality is the same as the innate fairness, altruism, compassion, etc. found in social species. Nothing more, nothing less.

  24. Carah says

    PLEASE let Teddy…the man who is afraid of hell to look into “Pure-O” which is a form of OCD with out physical compulsions. I have had this my whole life and i think this could be a possibility for him. Usually people with this disorder have a STRONG overwhelming fear of something.. and even though deep down its not rational at all they still can’t stop thinking, and being scared of this thing occurring, or happening or being real (they will compulsively look things up on the internet to calm their fears etc). A lot of times these fears are sudden and come out of nowhere and they slap you across the face.. and you don’t know why these obsessive thoughts are happening to you and why you can’t stop thinking them. Im not saying that this is 100% pure O… but this is something he might want to look into because if it is, he could get proper help for it. Im just reaching out because i feel for him if he does have this and if I can help… i want to.

  25. gshelley says

    Does anyone know who the person that apparently did a Bayesian analysis and got “the resurrection happened” was? Dr Watts? Or something similar? I’d be interested in looking to see if the flaws are obvious enough to pick out

  26. Walter says

    Re: Teddy in Gainsville. He said he is in college, so his father’s death probably brought his own eventual death into clearer focus for him. He said as much during his call. I hope he can find a secular counselor to talk to. This may help him come to grips with our reality.

  27. says

    Good show, interesting calls. Tracie, please don’t accuse John of ‘making you do all the talking’ and then interrupt him numerous times on subsequent calls. Here’s an idea if you really do want more of John’s input during calls: Have John handle a caller from greeting to deciding when to move on.

  28. gshelley says

    Like was frustrating. The hosts had it right by trying to get him to say what he meant by morality, but he somehow managed to get away without doing so and to have Tracy give her ideas on identifying moral agents. A couple of times he framed morality as “right and wrong” but wasn’t pushed on this.

  29. Robert, not Bob says

    On the “integrity of religious people” question, I think he’s using the wrong term. I say he’s talking about intellectual consistency, not integrity. One can have personal integrity while believing completely inconsistent things (like the Muslim feminists I have known, for instance).

  30. sayamything says

    I felt Tracie wasn’t so much avoiding the topic as addressing portions of the topic that get handwaved away.

  31. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Gazza88 says:

    The atheist has to show it is logically impossible for God to have morally sufficient reasons to allow suffering.

    Why do I, the atheist, have to show any such thing?

  32. says

    re mobius @ 18 & particularly walter @ 28:

    i did not miss those brief remarks and should have acknowledged them in my comment. but neurotic triggers are usually very specific, hence my emphasis. hypothetically speaking, perhaps seeing his father’s corpse was the catalytic event, or some depressing comment his father or someone made at the end. but because these triggers work subconsciously, it’s even possible that the catalyst had little or nothing to do with his father’s death, and the association is simply coincidental. for example, a catalytic event can become associated with an unrelated odor present at the time, and that odor can still bring back all the anxiety caused by the event long after the event itself has been forgotten, which complicates any diagnosis of the disorder. the odor itself is not the issue, and hell may be neither, since already understanding full well that pascal’s wager is invalid has done nothing to relieve teddy’s anxieties. whatever the case, there’s clearly more going on than was revealed in the call.

  33. Monocle Smile says

    @gshelley
    Richard Swinburne is the guy you’re looking for. IIRC, his “analysis” is mostly him assuming that a set of heavily disputed “facts” in the Bible are all completely true. Sadly, some atheists like Jeffrey Lowder are impressed by his turd polishing skills.

  34. sayamything says

    I don’t believe in Bigfoot deniers because where would they get their moral imperatives if not from Bigfoot?

  35. Mikey Tube says

    I really enjoyed this week’s show. I think Tracie and John were good with the callers, and made great arguments.

  36. says

    @Gazza88
    “The atheist has to show it is logically impossible for God to have morally sufficient reasons to allow suffering.”

    No, I don’t. It’s the same as any other moral assessment. Suppose you were to catch me in the act of stealing money from a charity. Naturally, you would want me to explain my behavior, but I could merely say, “On the contrary, the onus is on you to show it is logically impossible for me to have morally sufficient reasons to allow the suffering of these starving children.”

    I don’t think you actually believe that my response in this scenario would make sense. As such, at the very least, you have to show why there is a separate standard between God and an ordinary human. NOTE: This is not as easy as you would think.

  37. Richard Payne says

    Tracie, if you’re reading, could your thoughts about wrongs being justifiable in certain circumstances be summed up by:

    “A wrong is permissible if it protects another from harm caused a third party’s more severe wrong actions”.

    In the kill 1 to save 5 scenario, it would be wrong because the 1 has done nothing wrong to the 5 to be harmed.
    In the kill 1 attacker to save 5 scenario, it would be right (or at least permissible) because the one you kill was causing harm to the others.
    In the nazi example, lying to the nazis would be right because they are engaged in the far worse wrong of genocide.
    In the counter example of killing to protect someone from a lie (for example, someone blackmailing a politician with damaging, but false allegations), it would be wrong because killing is a worse wrong than the lie.

    Granted, you then have the difficulty of grading wrongs for comparison.

  38. JD & Co. says

    Luke’s call got seriously sidetracked. Mostly this was due to his sneaky intent to do a “Gotcha”, but I think it was enabled by Tracie’s innocent desire to answer his ostensible question. Problem was, what he was asking wasn’t what he was really asking.

    May I make a suggestion? If the conversation seems to be going nowhere (because the caller is dishonest about what they really want to ask, and is frustrated because it’s not going according to their script), that it would help if the AXP hosts would simply ask “Why are you asking this? What point are *you* trying to make?”

    Luke started out with “If you’re an atheist, why aren’t you a moral nihilist?” I was convinced his real question was “How can you be moral if you’re an atheist?” which is easily answered. It turned out his real point became “I don’t believe you’re atheists because you have [indistinguishable] something of value.”

    Definitions are important, but it was obvious (in retrospect) that wasn’t relevant to what he wanted to say. The fact that he kept refusing to define morality (and rejecting Tracie’s every attempt) was the tip-off for me that he wasn’t really talking about morality.

    As always, I’m in awe of the AXP hosts ability to go on, week after week, and having to think on the spot like this. I love the show. Thank you, Tracie and John and everybody.

  39. Joe says

    I would like to add my 2cents worth on the topic of “Morality” in humans. Consider these two books:

    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

    [1] “Free Will” by Sam Harris. Here is the summary from Amazon books:

    “A BELIEF IN FREE WILL touches nearly everything that human beings value. It is difficult to think about law, politics, religion, public policy, intimate relationships, morality—as well as feelings of remorse or personal achievement—without first imagining that every person is the true source of his or her thoughts and actions. And yet the facts tell us that free will is an illusion.

    In this enlightening book, Sam Harris argues that this truth about the human mind does not undermine morality or diminish the importance of social and political freedom, but it can and should change the way we think about some of the most important questions in life.”

    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

    [2] “The Fear Factor: How One Emotion Connects Altruists, Psychopaths, and Everyone In-Between” by Abigail Marsh. Here is a summary from Amazon books:

    “. . . What is responsible for the extremes of generosity and cruelty humans are capable of? By putting psychopathic children and extreme altruists in an fMRI, acclaimed psychologist Abigail Marsh found that the answer lies in how our brain responds to others’ fear. While the brain’s amygdala makes most of us hardwired for good, its variations can explain heroic and psychopathic behavior.”

    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

    Just from the summaries of these two professional publications I do not think I need to get in a long drawn out discussion and analysis.

    Reality is what it is: That is, we are the result of evolution that has shaped our brains to be hardwired in certain ways; however, errors in genetic copying (and probably some environmental factors) alter this in random ways such that there is a statistical Normal distribution of such moral behaviors observed in humans. The same processes apply to other species (e.g. chimps, dogs, etc…) and result in distributions of varying levels of “moral imperatives”.

    = = = = = = = = = = =

  40. jaroslav1949 says

    I noticed Tracee used my favorite argument on morality : lying tom the nazis. did she read it somewhere ?

    To the last caller, you can say : if abortion is murder, miscarriage must be manslaughter

  41. gshelley says

    @monocle smile #31
    Thanks
    I had seen his attempt to use Bayesian reasoning, but thought perhaps the caller knew of someone else I hadn’t heard of

  42. John Iacoletti says

    I believe Luke said “I don’t really believe you guys are atheists, because you are trying to implicitly say there’s something of value”. What I think he really meant was, “I don’t really believe you guys are atheists because you’re not answering my questions the way I want atheists to”.

  43. Wiggle Puppy says

    @ John: Yes, Luke didn’t get the answers he wanted and exited the call in frustration – much like the week before when he tried to argue with Russell about the definition of atheism, and Russell replied that if he’s getting hung up on the definition of a word, drop the word from the conversation and simply ask people what they believe and why – and then Luke whined that his point wasn’t being addressed and exited the call in frustration. Dude is maximally obnoxious.

  44. Joe II says

    With regards to Luke, I won’t say much more than others have already said, but I believe a mistake was made taking his question at face value.

    I sensed that he wasn’t listening, and a good way I’ve found to decide whether to continue a conversation is to politely ask them to sum up my argument. If Tracie had asked Luke “From what we’ve just been discussing, what is my morality and how is it derived?” I bet he wouldn’t be willing/able to answer. Because he wasn’t interested in listening in the first place.

  45. says

    That was a classic from Luke, “This isn’t going anywhere”. And “you’re not engaging with what I’m saying”.

    Translation, “I can’t make you agree with me, so I’m quitting”.

    I had my moment of clarity on this moral argument a while back. If we didn’t have what we call “morals”, we wouldn’t actually be what is known as a “social species”. Get it? Our ability to interact with each other without killing each other is what actually makes us a social species.

    Take the counterpoint of tigers, who are solitary and fight other tigers potentially to the death to defend their hunting territory.

  46. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    @jaroslav1949 #44:

    [Tracie] used my favorite argument on morality :lying to the nazis. did she read it somewhere?

     
    Article: Wikipedia – Categorical imperative

    One of the first major challenges to Kant’s reasoning came from the French philosopher Benjamin Constant, who asserted that since truth telling must be universal, according to Kant’s theories, one must (if asked) tell a known murderer the location of his prey. […] In this reply, Kant agreed with Constant’s inference, that from Kant’s premises one must infer a moral duty not to lie to a murderer.
     
    Kant denied that such an inference indicates any weakness in his premises: not lying to the murderer is required because moral actions do not derive their worth from the expected consequences.
    […]
    Constant and Kant agree that refusing to answer the murderer’s question is consistent with the categorical imperative, but assume for the purposes of argument that refusing to answer would not be an option.

  47. Monocle Smile says

    @Sky Captain
    Yes, philosophers of all stripes do seem to have a tendency to spew silly garbage, don’t they?

    moral actions do not derive their worth from the expected consequences.

    I’m not sure even religious zealots would agree with that. They would merely appeal to imaginary consequences instead.

  48. Jeremy Bittles says

    The caller that states the Gospels are evidence, does he feel the same about other religions scriptures and holy books?
    The Book of Mormon?
    Scientology?
    Islam?
    Almost certainly not, otherwise he probably wouldn’t be a Christian. So this is confirmation bias, claims made in his holy book are evidence, those made in others are not, but there is no real difference in the claims as all have no empirical evidence to back them up.
    I have no reason to accept any of them without empirical evidence.

  49. Quasirodent says

    I seem to recall one of the other hosts talking about getting the same letter with the same bundle of tracts and stuff not that long ago. Does anyone else remember this?

  50. rectorsquid says

    Tracie,

    You are awesome. There actually is no difference between a nose and a tendency towards fairness. Although the nose might be purely a DNA genetic thing and fairness might be a “nurture” thing, both are passed on from one generation to another and only survived in our species because of the survival benefit given to those of us that had it.

    And since dogs run in packs and treat their pack members better than members of other packs, I suspect that a lot of fairness in our species can very well be genetic.

    I loved the “Your not atheists because…” insult that Luke had to throw in at the end because he was maybe a little mad. What a jerk.

    Dave

  51. says

    @John

    Or alternatively, If I concede that you are in fact atheists, then if you are moral people, I have to also concede it is possible to be moral without god and therefore my whole argument goes up in smoke.

    The whole “I don’t believe you are really atheists” thing is insane. Who gets the right to tell someone else what they do and don’t believe?

    It’s similar to the Christian “atheist believe in god and they hate him” schtick.

  52. BluePrint says

    No comments on Kevin? (~30min in)
    I just have to mention his “reports of eyewitness accounts”… Literally ‘a friend of a friend’ reference.

  53. JustAnotherAtheist1 says

    @Paxoll

    “It seriously boggles the mind that when asked what you think morality is the first thing you jump to is describing fairness in other species.”

    How can it boggle the mind when you were given the answer that addresses this very concern. We are animals, so observing other animals can give us insight on our own behavior.

    “This makes morality nothing more then standard social behavior for a species. I don’t necessarily disagree with this but I find it lacking, as morality as most people would describe it involves free will. Whether that is possible or not is another problem, but the ability to choose to follow those social behaviors is I think fairly standard for most peoples idea of morality.”

    Are you suggesting that dogs don’t have free will? Or, perhaps more to the point, that other primates lack free will?

    The gap you are describing is merely cognitive (or, at least, can be explained through mere cognition). We have the ability to think on levels other species cannot, so this allows us to actually consider our impulses and decided if they should be “standard behavior”. It’s fascinating, but it doesn’t imply the fundamental distinction you keep shooting for.

  54. JustAnotherAtheist1 says

    @BluePrint

    There’s an even bigger problem with this argument that I’ve yet to see pointed out in conversations/debates. Namely, that the gap between natural and supernatural is entirely manufactured.

    For instance, if I asked, “is it a natural event or a quantum one”, you immediately see the problem. Sure, I’m probably using “natural” in replace of “classical”, so it’s not as if I cannot be understood, but the fact remains that both classical and quantum realms are natural. Likewise, if ghosts or souls or gods are discovered tomorrow, have we uncovered the supernatural? Or did we merely find something heretofore unknown about the natural? Is there a difference?

    Ultimately, the distinction between natural and supernatural is merely linguistic: no thing can be “outside” or “beyond” nature such that it ceases being natural itself, and no emphasis on nature philosophically bars the discovery of “supernatural” entities. The two sets overlap with supernatural being a specific subset of natural.

    I’d really like to see non-theists stop conceding this unnecessary point in discussions.

  55. theisntist says

    Shaun (#55): “The whole “I don’t believe you are really atheists” thing is insane. Who gets the right to tell someone else what they do and don’t believe?”

    I’m glad Shaun can see the folly of assuming to know another person’s true beliefs. Too bad he did the same thing to me two weeks ago on this blog when he thought I cared about animal welfare too much to be an omnivore and (wrongly) accused me of being a vegan in disguise:

    “I believe you’re a closet vegan who finds some percentage in pretending to eat meat for the purpose of debate.”… “For a meat eater, you make a great vegan. Why don’t you 1) just go vegan, or 2) just admit to everyone here that you are in fact a vegan who felt it would sound better if you claimed to be a meat eater.”

    To paraphrase this week’s Shaun, “The whole “I don’t believe you are really an omnivore” thing is insane. Who gets the right to tell someone else what they do and don’t eat?”

    When someone tells you who they are and what they believe and you refuse to accept it, it becomes impossible to have a productive conversation. I point this out to remind all of us on this blog that it is easy to see the fallacy of another’s arguments while having a blind spot towards our own. If a person doesn’t conform to our preconceived boxes, it’s counterproductive to shove them in there anyway.

  56. Ethan Myerson says

    @57:
    Oh jumping jesus, can we not with the veganism? I agree that people should argue in good faith, and that part of doing that includes not pretending to read minds. But we managed to have a show this week without vegans (or the vegan-friendly carnivores) forcing the train of the rails… can’t we continue that good feeling in the comments?

  57. says

    Let me just put this out there.

    If I say “I’m an atheist, but I like the idea that Jesus was the only begotten son of god who died on the cross so that all our sins could be absolved”, would you think I was being genuine in my assertion that I was an atheist or that I had an agenda and was being just a little deceitful?

    If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then say, I’m not a duck I’m a rabbit, what does one then think?

  58. JustAnotherAtheist1 says

    @Shaun #49

    I had my moment of clarity on this moral argument a while back. If we didn’t have what we call “morals”, we wouldn’t actually be what is known as a “social species”. Get it? Our ability to interact with each other without killing each other is what actually makes us a social species.

    Take the counterpoint of tigers, who are solitary and fight other tigers potentially to the death to defend their hunting territory.”

    Exactly, if we had evolved from tigers, the most immoral action would likely be trespassing on another’s property. Or had it been praying mantes, it would likely be perfectly moral to eat some of your children at birth.

    I’d ask anyone who disagrees with this to provide an example of a social species where indiscriminate killing is perfectly acceptable.

  59. Curt Cameron says

    There was some mention in the show of Matt’s take on objective morality, and I think the short version of what Matt would agree with is that if we take well-being as the idea behind morality, then there are behaviors that can be said as objectively better. He would acknowledge that having well-being as a goal is a subjective step that you have to accept first, but then he adds that if you’re talking about something other than well-being, you’re not really talking about morality anyway.

    My own preference is to just say up front that morality is fundamentally an opinion – an opinion of what behaviors someone should have. An opinion cannot be objective. If we agree on some fundamentals of what the goals of behavior should be, then we can in some cases objectively say what would or would not further those goals, but still it’s fundamentally an opinion.

    It’s a lot like the concept of beauty. We can judge that some things are more beautiful than others without there having to exist a perfectly beautiful thing to compare to. Pretty much every person would agree that Scarlett Johansson is more beautiful than the pus-infected anus of a water buffalo. That in no way means it’s objective.

  60. JustAnotherAtheist1 says

    I think sense of smell is the best analog for morality. Some smells are near-universally disgusting and some are near-universally pleasurable, with a wide swatch in between. Despite the consensus, no one claims that our judgement of smells needs to have some objective basis to be considered valid. Also like morality, tendencies are steered by evolution; both dog shit and indiscriminate killing invoke negative responses because of past survival advantages. Lastly, individual experience can modify our tendencies, but rarely can it do so at the extremes.

    Not only do I think it’s a strong analogy, I struggle to see how it isn’t a *perfect* one.

  61. JustAnotherAtheist1 says

    Just listened to William, the caller around the 2:00:00 who questioned the value of moral discussions. The problem with his argument is that the central premise is completely false. Sure, there are often mitigating circumstances for “immoral” actions, but that is hardly universal. Has he ever heard of white color crime? Is he under the impression that all of these acts are done by people in desperate situations? What about crimes of passion? Is the pain of finding your lover in the arms of someone else equal to the need to feed your starving children?

  62. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    To AllGodsMyth
    There’s an auto-filter for new posters. Sometimes, the hosts don’t get around to looking at the backlog. If it’s your first post, just wait. Given that you can post, that’s not the problem.

    There’s also a few auto-filters concerning links. If you post too many links, your post goes for review. If you post a link to a forbidden website, your post goes to review. (I don’t know why some sites are on a forbidden list. Like, I found this out while trying to post a link to a vegan website.) If you work around the filter in good faith (e.g. not spamming, and not avoiding warnings or bans), then the hosts and moderates here don’t care. You can use html code tags around links can help bypass the links filter. Splitting the post into separate posts can help bypass the links filter. Taking a link and mangling it like “www X google X com” will also bypass the links filter.

  63. sayamything says

    “If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then say, I’m not a duck I’m a rabbit, what does one then think?”
    That Bugs and Daffy should just kiss and make up.

  64. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    @JustAnotherAtheist1 #68:

    I think sense of smell is the best analog for morality.

     
    Article: Journal of European Psychology Students – On Disgust and Moral Judgments: A Review (2015)

    in humans, disgust is assumed to have extended from having its origins in distaste, then serving as a pathogen avoidance mechanism, and finally entering into the social and moral sphere. […] Furthermore, there has been a growing body of research agreeing that disgust plays a role in moral judgments. For instance, individuals report feeling disgusted as a reaction to acts deemed to be immoral. Their moral judgments are also more severe when experiencing the feeling of disgust, and people are more prone to consider certain actions as being immoral if they have an inclination to be easily disgusted. The connection of disgust with moral judgments has substantial consequences for how we look at moral cognition.

     

    there are still many questions that are left unanswered. For instance, is disgust also associated with non-moral judgments? How did disgust come to be connected to specific types of moral judgments (i.e., purity, harm)? How does disgust exert its increasing severity effect on moral evaluations?

  65. Monocle Smile says

    @Kevin
    What an embarrassing article.
    Wall goes for a slightly hackneyed version of Gary Habermas’ “minimal facts” approach. But this isn’t how an honest Bayesian analysis works; intentionally slicing out data (“minimal facts” directly implies “only counting some of the facts”) to fit a preconceived conclusion is transparently dishonest to anyone who isn’t already a sycophant.

    Here’s some lowlights from this guy:

    while some of the factors weighing in favor are:

    (C) the Fine-Tuning version of the Argument for Design.
    (D) circumstantial facts of Jesus’ life prior to his death, making him more likely to be the Messiah
    (E) multiple testimonies to the Resurrection,
    (F) modern-day miracles.

    (C) is not an argument in favor of Christianity.
    (E) is a blatant lie unless by “testimony” he means “third-hand hearsay at best.”
    (F) is laughable nonsense that Wall doesn’t even try to back up in the article.
    (D) is vague blather, it seems. When I look at a footnote to see if more is written, we get this:

    My point was just that, if we have even vauge circumstantial evidence that the pre-Resurrection Jesus was the type of person who might be the Messiah, then the common atheistic objection (at least people have said it to me multiple times) that Christianity is unlikely because Jesus is just one out of many people, and that resurrections are extremely uncommon in a group of 1010 people, is irrelevant

    So Wall sets up a rather silly straw man that he knocks down by arguing from his conclusion. What the shit is “the type of person who might be the Messiah?” Wall doesn’t know. Nobody knows…because we don’t even know if that’s a thing!

    There’s so much wrong in that article, and I haven’t even gotten into the numbers he uses, which appear to have been conjured out of thin air. It’s an out-of-touch article written by a desperate apologist committed to his cause, nothing more.

  66. says

    “The atheist has to show it is logically impossible for God to have morally sufficient reasons to allow suffering.”

    What the absolute F??!?

    In order to do this, ‘the atheist’ (using a term as a pejorative in this case, BTW) would have to operate from a premise contrary to his/her stance — he/she would have to start from the premise that a god exists.

    Utter treacle.

    THE THEIST must demonstrate that this god exists before any question of allowing suffering can be addressed.

    Shift the burden of proof somewhere else.

  67. DanDare2050 says

    Creatures that can survive better tend to do so.
    Most creatures that are still alive are those that are better at surviving.
    Creatures that consciously try to survive tend to be better at it than ones that don’t.
    Conscious survivors balance out protecting themselves from others and finding others they can cooperate with.
    Some outsiders can take advantage of trust/cooperation networks by cheating but if there are to many cheaters the group starts to shrink and lose strength.