Jan 07 2013

Morality – Religion, Philosophy and Science

What is the proper basis for morality? This question comes up frequently in skeptical circles for various reasons – it tests the limits of science, the role of philosophy, and is often used as a justification for religion. There has been a vibrant discussion of the issue, in fact, on my recent posts from last week. The comments seemed to contain more questions than anything else, however.

Religion and Morality

Often defenders of religion in general or of a particular set of religious beliefs will argue that religion is a source of morality. They may even argue that it is the only true source of morality, which then becomes defined as behavioral rules set down by God.

There are fatal problems with this position, however. The first is that there is no general agreement on whether or not there is a god or gods, and if there is what is the proper tradition of said god. There are scores of religions in the world, each with their own traditions. Of course, if god does not exist, any moral system based upon the commandments of god do not have a legitimate basis (at least not as absolute morality derived from an omniscient god).

Related to this is the issue of religious freedom. It is impossible to base laws on religious beliefs without oppressing the religious freedom of those who do not share those religious beliefs.

Another fatal problem is that, even if we lived in a universe where there is a god who has moral commandments, nobody knows what those are. There is no one who objectively and verifiably knows the will of God, and God has not seen fit to unambiguously make their will known to all of humanity. We are therefore left with the interpretation of God’s will by people, and therefore at best all we know are the interpretations by very fallible and culturally biased people. If the multitude of religious traditions is any indication, this is an extremely variable and flawed filter through which to see the will of God.

Finally there is a philosophical dilemma inherent in basing absolute morality on religious faith. If God’s morality is perfect and absolute, is it so because it comes from God, or is it inherently perfect and God, who is omniscient, is simply able to discern it as so? The latter seems like an untenable position – morality is whatever God says it is, without any appeal to logic or any objective criteria of what a good moral rule would be.

This position, however, seems to fit the evidence from ancient religious texts. As many have pointed out, the morality of the god of the old testament was brutal and even evil by today’s standards – God apparently thought it was OK to murder children for poking fun at his prophets, to rape women, to engage in slavery, and to commit genocide.

If, on the other hand, morality is itself absolute and God simply knows what absolute morality is, then shouldn’t we strive to understand morality and derive proper moral decision-making on our own? If a moral position is objectively correct, then we can demonstrate that objective without appeal to religious faith, avoiding any problems with freedom of religion.

Science, Philosophy, and Morality

To what extent is our moral decision-making, including laws that derive from it, based upon science vs philosophy? I agree with the position, articulated by Massimo Pigliucci, that both science and philosophy are needed for moral reasoning. The other position, defended by Sam Harris in The Moral Landscape, is that we can develop an objective morality based entirely on science.

The problem with the science-only position is that it is dependent upon taking a particular philosophical position – that of consequentialism (also called utilitarianism). This is the philosophical position that the best moral decision is the one that maximizes human happiness. For distinction there is also deontological theory of morality, which states that an ethical system derives from rules. These rules are based upon the most fundamental assumptions possible. An example would be – it is unethical to deliberately deceive another human.

A third system is that of value ethics, which considers the effect of specific moral decision on the values of the person who makes them. This system essentially asks – what kind of people do we want to be, and what kind of society do we want to have?

Personally, I do not think there is any one ethical system that always works. It is legitimate to consider consequences, but also to have a system of rules, and to consider the bigger question of individual and societal values. These get mixed together in a complex way in order to make individual moral decisions. But there is no algorithm or method to always derive the right answer.

Science plays a role in all this – science can tell us about why we have the moral senses that we do. This is based mostly on evolutionary theory and on neuroscience. For example, most humans seem to have an inherent sense of reciprocity and justice. We feel that if we do something good for someone else, they should give back to a similar degree. Further, if someone does something bad against another person or (worse) the group, they should be punished in some way. These are evolved senses, based in the hardwiring of our brains.

None of this, however, can tell us if we should punish those who commit crimes.

Another contribution of science, however, is to tell us about outcomes. If we create certain laws or rules of behavior, what is the outcome? This type of evidence informs ethical decision making, but cannot makes the decisions for us. We still have to decide what outcomes we want, and how to value different outcomes when they conflict. How do we balance freedom and safety, for example? And how do we account for the fact that different individuals would draw the line in different places? How do we balance the rights of different individuals when they conflict?

Science cannot answer these question for us – it can only inform our choices by telling us what the likely outcomes will be.

Those defending science as the final arbiter of ethics either knowingly or unknowingly are taking a consequentialist view. Even if this view can be defended as the best system of ethics (and I do not believe it can), that is still a philosophical choice that needs to be defended philosophically.

Here is an example of why consequentialism breaks down. Would you consider it ethical to take someone against their will, kill them, and harvest their organs in order to save the lives of 5 people (or 6, or some other arbitrary number)? Most people would say no. However, you are saving 5 lives at the expense of 1, and it can be demonstrated that this will maximize happiness all around.

Ethicists would argue that the right not to be killed (a negative right) outweighs the right to be saved with a medical intervention – but this is now invoking ethical rules, not just considering outcomes. Further, we might argue that we would not want to live in a society in which one can be forcibly taken and murdered to have their organs harvested (a value ethics position).

Pure consequentialism, in my opinion, is not a tenable position. In any case, there is simply no way to avoid doing philosophy when thinking ethically.

By the same token it is difficult, and in some cases impossible, to apply moral thinking without having information provided by science. The two disciplines are complementary.

Conclusion

The best approach to morality and ethics, in my opinion, is a thoughtful blend of philosophy and science. I do not see a legitimate role for religion itself, however, cultural traditions (many of which may be codified in religious belief) are a useful source of information about the human condition and the effect of specific moral behaviors. There may be wisdom in such traditions – but that is the beginning of moral thinking, not the conclusion. Religious traditions also come with a great deal of baggage derived from the beliefs and views of fairly primitive and unenlightened societies.

 

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431 responses so far

431 Responses to “Morality – Religion, Philosophy and Science”

  1. nybgruson 07 Jan 2013 at 9:03 am

    It seems I posted my discussion/question over at your last post literally 1 minute before this went live (at least according to my RSS reader).

    It seems my thoughts were more or less in line with what you have written which actually makes me feel pretty good about myself considering how out of depth I (still) feel on the topic.

    One interesting thought I had whilst reading your post was this:

    Would you consider it ethical to take someone against their will, kill them, and harvest their organs in order to save the lives of 5 people (or 6, or some other arbitrary number)? Most people would say no. However, you are saving 5 lives at the expense of 1, and it can be demonstrated that this will maximize happiness all around.

    There is an added wrinkle – the knowledge that at any time you may be the one harvested (assuming random selection) would be likely to lower the overall happiness of society and could very well decrease overall happiness, irrespective of the negative right not to be killed.

    Or if the decision is to make only a specific subset of the population harvestable, which for argument’s sake would be easily and objectively defined and a small minority of the population at large, then the massive decrease in happiness from the minority in aggregate could also outweigh the increase in happiness of the population at large.

    Or the fact that (for example) I – and presumably others – would be unhappy knowing others were being harvested regardless of whether I am in danger of being harvested or not.

    All of these scenarios could be taken into account by an appropriately robust scientific model (though one must assume some sort of quantized objective measure of “happy units” which may or may not be feasible since now we get into the qualia of life and I can tell you that my fiancé experiences much more “happy” for things than I can possibly feel and I often envy her this).

    A last interesting question – what if we grew fully developed organs in a vat for harvest and transplant, no human ever required? What if we grew full human beings, minus a brain for the same purpose? What if we grew full human beings, but they were never awake? (There is an episode of the old TV show Sliders about this topic, for those geeky enough to recall).

    So I reckon I agree – they are complimentary to each other and that philosophy is necessary to answer the questions about which outcome is most desirable as generated by science and science is necessary to constrain the philosophers to reality (otherwise we get theologians which we have seen fails spectacularly). But I think that there is, at least in principle, a larger role for science in answering the questions than may be assumed by Massimo or yourself, but less than Harris thinks.

    Or maybe I just don’t have a clue what I am talking about. I always feel it incumbent to caveat that I am a neophyte in topics of philosophy.

  2. Zachon 07 Jan 2013 at 9:21 am

    Steven,

    Just because there is not agreement on a matter doesn’t mean it is untrue. That’s simply illogical. For example, the laws of mathematics would still be what they are if we didn’t understand them at all.

    “Related to this is the issue of religious freedom. It is impossible to base laws on religious beliefs without oppressing the religious freedom of those who do not share those religious beliefs.”

    Except we do this all the time. While I agree you cannot legislate morality effectively, we still impose our beliefs on others all the time – whether it be humanism, Judeo-Christian principles, etc.

    You said,
    “Another fatal problem is that, even if we lived in a universe where there is a god who has moral commandments, nobody knows what those are.”

    This implies that you have knowledge in which to be able to say that every religious view is wrong. You might be right, but you are assuming this when you shouldn’t. You simply do not know.

    “There is no one who objectively and verifiably knows the will of God, and God has not seen fit to unambigously make their will known to all of humanity.”

    Christians don’t agree with you. Neither do Muslims for that fact. What makes what you are saying true? It might be, but it’s a belief you hold.

    You said,
    “We are therefore left with the interpretation of God’s will by people, and therefore at best all we know are the interpretations by very fallible and culturally biased people.”

    This is all based on personal opinion. You can’t prove any of this with science.

    You said,
    “If the multitude of religious traditions is any indication, this is an extremely variable and flawed filter through which to see the will of God.”

    Again, this is based of the gambit that says because we don’t agree all are wrong or truth can’t be known. It’s a form of the ad populum fallacy.

    You said,
    “If God’s morality is perfect and absolute, is it so because it comes from God, or is it inherently perfect and God, who is omniscient, is simply able to discern it as so?”

    This is Euthyphro’s dilemma – Is an act right because God says it’s so, or does God say it’s so because it’s right?.
    This is a false dichotomy and Christians would reject both options. Rather, morality stems from neither. Morality stems from God’s character. See the following link for a basic explanation of this.

    http://www.gotquestions.org/Euthyphro-Dilemma.html

    You said,
    “the morality of the god of the old testament was brutal and even evil by today’s standards – God apparently thought it was OK to murder children for poking fun at his prophets, to rape women, to engage in slavery, and to commit genocide.”

    1. God kills lots of people, 100% of the population to be exact, and it doesn’t appear that the statistics are improving.
    2. Correct on the genocide.
    3. False on the slavery.
    4. False on the rape.

    Regardless, you claim the Old Testaments morality is burtal and evil. This implies that you are comparing this with some objective standard of right and wrong – Please, by all means hand over this objective standard from which we can then condemn this God’s evil morality….

    I am glad to see you reject Sam Harris’ view of morality. I was disheartned that someone with a philosphy background could make such basic errors in his view.

    You said,
    “Science plays a role in all this – science can tell us about why we have the moral senses that we do. This is based mostly on evolutionary theory and on neuroscience. For example, most humans seem to have an inherent sense of reciprocity and justice. We feel that if we do something good for someone else, they should give back to a similar degree. Further, if someone does something bad against another person or (worse) the group, they should be punished in some way. These are evolved senses, based in the hard wiring of our brains.”

    This is wrong on several accounts. Westernized culture might have traces of this, but by in large humanity has not functioned in this manner. Not only that, but it goes against evolutionary theory to say that we should care about those outside our family/tribe.

    Even worse, you have the problem that pre-Christ you completely lose the notion of “love your neighbor as yourself/the Golden rule”. Now, I know your objection to this, and it’s misplaced. I agree many religions say to do unto others as you would have them do unto you – Christianity is not alone here, but that’s not my point. Christianity revolutionized this belief. Christianity came along and redefined who your neighbor was, your neighbor wasn’t only those who were nice back to you, or those who caused you no harm, your neighbor was also your enemy! Make no mistake, this is unique to Christianity.
    Luke 10:25-37 – Parable of the good Samaritan
    Matthew 5:44 – “But I tell you. Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

    You said,
    “None of this, however, can tell us if we should punish those who commit crimes.”

    Christianity can, and does.

    You said,
    “We still have to decide what outcomes we want, and how to value different outcomes when they conflict. How do we balance freedom and safety, for example?”

    This is largely correct, and a good question, how do you answer it?

    “Science cannot answer these question for us – it can only inform our choices by telling us what the likely outcomes will be. Those defending science as the final arbiter of ethics either knowingly or unknowingly are taking a consequentialist view. Even if this view can be defended as the best system of ethics (and I do not believe it can), that is still a philosophical choice that needs to be defended philosophically.”

    True again. Glad you said it, coming from me it would cause a storm.

    You said,
    “Religious traditions also come with a great deal of baggage derived from the beliefs and views of fairly primitive and unenlightened societies.

    Every world view comes with baggage, don’t be mistaken here. The Eugenics movement was derived from naturalism/Darwinianism. Liberty itself was even used to commit atrocities in her name… the list goes on.

    Secondly, you might believe cultures to be wrong, but lets be real here, you don’t have an objective standard to demonstrate that they are wrong, you only have your personal opinion, which is largely based in your culture. So you might not “like” them, but who cares what you or I happen to fancy?

    Zach

  3. Ori Vandewalleon 07 Jan 2013 at 9:28 am

    I’m going to preface my comments by saying that I do not believe that any gods exist, and that I do not believe anyone has true knowledge about what system of morals is the correct one.

    That said, I have a great deal of understanding for the religious point of view which says that morality stems from religion. To those that subscribe to this belief, they also believe in a world in which their god created the universe and all the rules that govern it. From that point of view, morality can be seen as a property of the universe in the same way that gravity is.

    That is to say, morality is an objective system for determining what is right and wrong. There are no other assumptions required to start thinking about morality from this perspective. And this is where the religious perspective wins points with me. While many see the Old Testament god committing genocide as an obvious flaw in the morality of that system, they’re making the unfounded assumption that morality is about what is good and bad for the human species.

    It’s easy to see why we so often make this mistake. As Dr. Novella points out, we have an evolved sense of morality. And this sense of morality is clearly derived from its capacity to further the survival of the human species (or at least certain selfish genes of the human species). And it’s also pretty clear that any moral rules we have that derive from our religious beliefs are almost always our evolved sense of morality dressed up with religious justifications.

    But this doesn’t change the fact that any objective morality built into the fabric of the universe doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with humans or life at all. We hear the refrain from religious followers that God works in mysterious ways. This is usually an attempt to deal with the problem of evil, but it makes the point well: morality might not be concerned with humans in any way.

    Perhaps the morality system built into the universe values the creation of omelets above all else. If that’s the case, then it is morally justifiable to crack a few eggs to make an omelet.

    At this point, many people will say that, okay, that may be the system built into the universe, but if it has nothing to do with us, then why should we care? We should adopt whatever system benefits humanity the most.

    The problem with this approach is that it fails to realize just what objectively correct really means. It’s akin to saying, who cares if gravity exists, I can walk on air. And you can certainly try to walk on air. Nothing in the laws of physics prevents you from trying. But there will be consequences. Typically, you will fall down.

    Similarly, you can try to ignore the objective morality built into the universe, but there will be consequences. You may burn in the fiery pits of Hell, or you may cause the creators of the universe to lose the cosmic game of Chess they’re playing with our neighboring universe. Whatever the case, your actions are objectively wrong, in the same way that it is objectively wrong to say that the natural place of heavy things is the ground.

    All that said, I have no idea what system of morality is built into the universe’s rules, or if there even is such as a system. My only hope is that through the accumulation of knowledge (at least all knowledge in the universe), we might begin to figure out if such a system exists, and what that system says.

    But most people just aren’t going to care about that. Most people are only going to care about what’s good for life, or the human species, or their family, or themselves. And in that respect, this is where the perspective that many religious people have loses points with me. Many religiously-inclined individuals believe that nonbelievers (of whatever stripe) are incapable of being moral. This is wrong from two standpoints. Firstly, if morality is some objective thing that we are unaware of, then it’s perfectly possible for anyone to be moral, but we could only be moral accidentally. Secondly, if the only morality we can hope to know about is creating good for humanity, then our natural, evolved sense of morality will work for anybody who’s not a sociopath. (None of this holds up, of course, if that one person’s religion does happen to be true.)

    So, then, how to produce the most good for the human species? Well, that’s a question left for philosophers. Dr. Novella is largely right here that science can help us evaluate decisions (and create tools that allow us to do better for humanity), but it can’t actually tell us what is right and wrong. Science runs into the is-ought problem here, or even the naturalistic fallacy. You can look at science and observe that everyone dies, and therefore conclude that dying is good/natural. But we clearly don’t believe that to be what’s best for the human species. So a deeper, subtler analysis is required, and that has to come from thinking about what is best for the species.

  4. Kawarthajonon 07 Jan 2013 at 9:29 am

    Funny that advocates of religion as the only source of morality speak of it as a unified gold standard on how to act. In reality, morality is relative, even among very religious people. Take Catholics, as an example. While the use of birth control is not allowed by its members according to the official Church doctrine, each of it’s members have their own practice when it comes to using birth control. In Quebec, for example, where the vast majority of people identify themselves as Catholic, the vast majority of people are also in favour of using birth control (As an aside, they have the lowest birth rate in Canada, likely a function of their views on birth control).

    Another excellent example is the Christian Commandment “Thou Shalt Not Kill”. Some people interpret this as murder, meaning that it is ok for soldiers to kill their enemies or for police officers to kill people who threaten them or others (because it’s not murder). Others interpret this to mean that thou shalt not kill ANYONE, including your enemies.

    An additional problem is that there are so many religions and sects within each religion. Each religion and each sect have different (sometimes very different) interpretations of similar religious texts and have different takes on morality. Sometimes, as in the case of the Anglican Church, people inside the Church cannot agree on what is moral and what isn’t (as in the case of the Church’s position on homosexuality). New sects are popping up all the time.

    The problem is similar with non-religious and atheists – morality is based on your own diverse set of beliefs and even when the Church (or government) tell you to believe one thing, you may not agree and act in a way that fits with your own morality. Morality is a very tricky thing and not as black/white as some advocates of religion make it out to be.

  5. NotAnAtheiston 07 Jan 2013 at 10:03 am

    You do a nice job of discrediting any single God-free support for morality. Then in your conclusion give your own opinion about how morality should be determined using a blend of these flawed methods with religious methods.

    If we are going to argue about the source of morality, first we must start with its definition. Morality is a standard of right and wrong. It is a concept that is understood to be universal. If it is not universal then it is meaningless and devolves to nothing more than individual preference. From your article, I think you would agree with this definition.

    I read your link to “Another Response from Martignoni on Objective Morality
    “. In it you made the statement that an “objective” morality should be based on “logic, fairness, and universality”. I don’t see this as any support for morality at all.

    Logic requires premises from which to derive concepts. What would be your premises? Some specific moral I would guess.

    Fairness is itself a moral. From where do you derive this moral?

    Universality is a characteristic that morality must have by definition. I fail to see what you mean by making it a basis for morality.

    So you basically are saying we should base morality on morality itself. This is an incredibly weak argument. Basically your response is no response at all. You are simply pushing the question further back.

    I also wanted to address this argument:
    “Science plays a role in all this – science can tell us about why we have the moral senses that we do. This is based mostly on evolutionary theory and on neuroscience. For example, most humans seem to have an inherent sense of reciprocity and justice. We feel that if we do something good for someone else, they should give back to a similar degree. Further, if someone does something bad against another person or (worse) the group, they should be punished in some way. These are evolved senses, based in the hardwiring of our brains.”

    This explains only how certain morals might have evolved. It does not explain whether they are “right” or “wrong”. Scientific arguments can be made for how racism evolved and would be useful for a society. I thing you would probably agree with me that racism is morally wrong. Why? In order to have the “universality” that you seek in your morality, you must have an authority. There is no other way.

    I believe(Sorry, no scientific proof) the existence of God is made known through our conscience. Our conscience is given to us by God in order to lead us to Him. Because of our human nature, we can not fully understand God or fully follow the true moral code that He gives us. That should not stop us from seeking Him out.

  6. daedalus2uon 07 Jan 2013 at 10:03 am

    Zach, the distinction you seem to be making between “rules” and “moral behavior” is curious and self-defeating. On the one hand you say that God is the source of perfect and unchanging morality, but on the other hand you say that the rules a person must follow to be a moral person changed from the OT to the NT.

    So which is it?

    Dr Novella said:

    “There is no one who objectively and verifiably knows the will of God, and God has not seen fit to unambigously make their will known to all of humanity.”

    To which you replied:

    “Christians don’t agree with you. Neither do Muslims for that fact. What makes what you are saying true? It might be, but it’s a belief you hold.”

    Christians don’t agree with themselves. Mormons believe one thing, Catholics believe another, and (as I understand them) those beliefs are incompatible.

    If you consider yourself to be a Christian, and a member of the class of Christians you are referring to when you say “Christians don’t agree with you”, then you are (in effect) saying that Catholics and Mormons (and yourself) objectively and verifiably know the will of God. If all 3 know the will of God, then why do they say it is different things?

  7. Steven Novellaon 07 Jan 2013 at 10:06 am

    nybrus – that’s a good point and I did think of that interpretation. We can come up with endless other scenarios, however. What if only convicted criminals were killed to harvest their organs? What about people who have less than six months to live anyway? What about just harvesting organs from people who die but who did not consent to have their organs taken?

    What about animal rights? Now, do we consider animal happiness in our equation?

    All of these questions are philosophical. Plus, when you start counting societal happiness you blur the lines with value ethics.

    Bottom line – a measure of net happiness is an insufficient basis for a moral system.

  8. Flailon 07 Jan 2013 at 10:18 am

    Harris addresses utilitarianism directly in his book. His position is not that morality is maximizing happiness, but that it is maximizing human flourishing. He leaves “what is flourishing?” as a somewhat nebulous concept.

    We do all acknowledge that societies can be moral or immoral. A society that throws acid in the faces of women that don’t cover themselves with burkas is less conducive to flourishing than a society where women can participate equally. There is no objective proof of that statement, but if you disagree with it then I doubt we could have a meaningful conversation about morality in any case. That isn’t to say that I completely agree with Harris’ views on morality, but I find he is often misinterpreted or unfairly represented.

  9. Steven Novellaon 07 Jan 2013 at 10:19 am

    Zach – You said:”This implies that you have knowledge in which to be able to say that every religious view is wrong.”

    This is simply not true, and is a straw man argument. I am not saying that every religion must be wrong. I am saying no religion can prove, or even make a cogent argument, in my opinion, that their religious beliefs are the one true set of beliefs. Further, the many religious differ from each other, often in mutually incompatible ways. So by necessity you will have to argue that religion A is correct and religion B is wrong – try doing that without oppressing religious freedom.

    I agree that we restrict freedoms in society, that was not may point, however (so this is another straw man). My point is that if we are going to restrict freedoms, we need to justify it as a society based upon arguments that are valid and stand on their own – not based upon one subgroup’s traditions or religious beliefs. As a society we can come to a consensus about what moral values and rules to codify in our laws. This is an ongoing conversation, and hopefully we progress to ever more enlightened and nuanced laws.

    Finally, you keep challenging me to provide an “objective standard” of morality. Perhaps you missed the deeper point of my post but – there is no ultimately objective standard of morality, just as science does not give us final Truths. The standard is the best we can do as flawed humans, using science to help us understand ourselves, to understand the consequences of our actions, and using philosophy to reflect on a system that makes internal sense, maximized goals we can agree upon are good goals, and thinks through all the ramifications of moral decisions. It’s not perfect, but it can be very good, and it’s the best we have.

    Objective morality is an illusion. As I said – even if you think such exists, then you have to demonstrate how you know it exists, and how anyone can know what it is. Faith is insufficient.

    Regarding the brutality of the old testament, from Kings:

    2:23 And he went up from thence unto Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head.
    2:24 And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the LORD. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them.

    Please defend God mauling 42 “little children” for calling a man baldy.

  10. mufion 07 Jan 2013 at 10:24 am

    Bottom line – a measure of net happiness is an insufficient basis for a moral system.

    It’s also far from obvious how to objectively measure a subjective state like happiness, which itself can be defined in a variety of culturally biased ways.

    Still, I find it refreshing when a concept of happiness (or, better yet, flourishing) enters into moral discussion. It would really suck if we our ethics took no account of how we feel.

  11. bgoudieon 07 Jan 2013 at 10:52 am

    Despite claims that this “holy text was written by a god” , or this is what the god in flesh told me” we have no actual reason to think any religion’s morality is based on anything divine or supernatural. All we know for certain is that certain societies and groups of humans have taught and interpreted these moral guidelines.

    Even if we accept that the supernatural might exist (which is itself a giant leap away from rational thought) there is no way for us to determine which of the many competing faith’s is the one that got the message right. The “choice” of has it correct ends up generally being a matter of which culture were you raised in.

    All morality is defined by humans. We (as an aggregate) make the choices of what is and is not acceptable.

  12. Zachon 07 Jan 2013 at 11:15 am

    “On the one hand you say that God is the source of perfect and unchanging morality, but on the other hand you say that the rules a person must follow to be a moral person changed from the OT to the NT. So which is it?”

    Morality and rules are different, I fail to see how that is self-defeating…
    Are their similarities, yes, but to say that different rules equate to a diffenent morality is simply false.

    Let’s take murder and killing. Is it wrong to murder? Christians would argue yes. Is killing wrong, Christians would argue no. Is this a change in morality since in both situations it’s the question of ending a human life? Of course not, it’s a change in the rules applied to given circumstances.

    I’m not sure if that one will explain it for you so I’ll go a step further.

    Return back the drivers licence analogy (keeping in mind all analogies break down at a certain level).

    The rule tells me at 15 I cannot operate a motorized vehicle. The rules tell me then 2 years later than I now can operate a motorized vehicle…

    According to your logic we should call this a broken system since it is inconsistent. Can I or can I not drive a motorized vehicle…. well it depends. At 14 no, at 16 yes, but only if I have gone through the process of being licensed to do so.

    This is the same thing with Christianity and the Old Testament and New Testament. Notice, I am not talking about if the O.T. laws are icky, wrong, or savage, we are talking about the change – since that is all that matters for this conversation.

    In the Old Testament it is like a 14 year old wanting to drive – not ready yet. In the New Testament we are 16, and can drive. The moral nature of God remains the same, but a major event (Christ’s death on the cross) has come along allowing certain things to be different. It’s not a logical problem.

    You said,
    “Christians don’t agree with themselves. Mormons believe one thing, Catholics believe another, and (as I understand them) those beliefs are incompatible.”

    This doesn’t matter. Do all scientist agree on every aspect of scientific theory? Of course not. Does that mean the truth is not there and can’t be known, of course not. Now all scientist might be wrong, but the premise that unless you have universal agreement there an be no truth is fallacious.

    Steven,

    You said
    “This is simply not true, and is a straw man argument. I am not saying that every religion must be wrong. I am saying no religion can prove, or even make a cogent argument, in my opinion, that their religious beliefs are the one true set of beliefs. Further, the many religious differ from each other, often in mutually incompatible ways. So by necessity you will have to argue that religion A is correct and religion B is wrong – try doing that without oppressing religious freedom.”

    1. No, this isn’t a straw man, it’s an inference from what you said, I’ll show you why.
    2. When you say that no religion can prove itself or make a cogent argument (though you preference it with your opinion), that their religious beliefs are the the one true set of beliefs are you making the mistake of Niche. This is a self-defeating statement since it’s is a claim at the one true set of beliefs about all beliefs. It’s the biggest power claim on knowledge of them all. Religions are nothing but world views, and to assert your view of all world views as the only correct view is very thing you are condemning religions for doing.
    3. I will argue that Religion A is superior to religion B. Now, I do not think we should legislate religion per-say, and I believe one should be able to practice their religion (no matter how absurd it may be) so long as it does not infringe on individual human rights – a presupposition I hold that also is founded on my religious texts – what is yours founded on?
    4. All world views are not created equally. Nor are all religions. The bottom line is truth/knowledge is very difficult to decipher, but we have no other choice.

    You said,
    ” My point is that if we are going to restrict freedoms, we need to justify it as a society based upon arguments that are valid and stand on their own – not based upon one subgroup’s traditions or religious beliefs.”

    So you are putting forth humanism as your world view in which societies should make laws? Why is your world view superior to others world view? Do you have an objective standard from which to demonstrate this?

    “As a society we can come to a consensus about what moral values and rules to codify in our laws. This is an ongoing conversation, and hopefully we progress to ever more enlightened and nuanced laws.”

    This is largely false. In one breath you condemn religons contribution to that consensus, but then in the next you say it’s a consensus. Is this not an ad-populum fallacy? Please explain how that is not? Does majority rule? Might make right?

    Using words like enlightened means that you believe there is a better/worse morality – so what objective standard are you appealing to that will let us know when we are hot or cold (more enlightened or less).

    You said,
    “Finally, you keep challenging me to provide an “objective standard” of morality. Perhaps you missed the deeper point of my post but – there is no ultimately objective standard of morality, just as science does not give us final Truths. The standard is the best we can do as flawed humans, using science to help us understand ourselves, to understand the consequences of our actions, and using philosophy to reflect on a system that makes internal sense, maximized goals we can agree upon are good goals, and thinks through all the ramifications of moral decisions. It’s not perfect, but it can be very good, and it’s the best we have.”

    This really doesn’t mean much of anything.
    If there is no objective morality then what’s the point of this conversation? Morality is then nothing more than “I like this” or “we like this”. And who cares about what you or I like… and even worse, what determines who’s view of morality we go with? The Nazi’s? Might makes right?

    You said,
    “Objective morality is an illusion. As I said – even if you think such exists, then you have to demonstrate how you know it exists, and how anyone can know what it is. Faith is insufficient.”

    Then there is no morality, and survival of the fittest is all their is. The strong eating the weak is a major part of evolution, so why are you upset if humans do what is completely natural in the animal kingdom? Are we not just animals after all? Do you get upset when one animal kills the other for dominance? Why the double standard?

    “Please defend God mauling 42 “little children” for calling a man baldy.”

    First off, the Hebrew word is not for little children, it’s actually for teens, much much older. But regardless, I don’t need to defend God’s actions here, you need to defend your position that mauling teens (or even little children) is wrong. Please provide an objective standard for why it is wrong? When you do, we can then together condemn Yahweh as immoral, until then there is no immoral so who cares about mauling little children. You might not like his actions, but it’s nothing more than a preference then.

    The bottom line is your world view completely stands against the notion that humans are more valuable than rocks, trees, ants, or bees. Yet you continue to argue that they are by your illogical clinging to some moral system that isn’t even absolute as you just claimed its not.

    You have once again essentially cut the tree branch you are sitting on.

  13. mufion 07 Jan 2013 at 11:46 am

    Zach: The bottom line is your world view completely stands against the notion that humans are more valuable than rocks, trees, ants, or bees.

    Valuable according to whom? To most humans? I should think so – or at least to those whom we love or have no quarrel with.

  14. Kawarthajonon 07 Jan 2013 at 11:52 am

    Zach:
    “Let’s take murder and killing. Is it wrong to murder? Christians would argue yes. Is killing wrong, Christians would argue no. Is this a change in morality since in both situations it’s the question of ending a human life? Of course not, it’s a change in the rules applied to given circumstances.”

    Depends on your denomination. Making a blanket statement that all Christians would say one thing is inaccurate, as each sect has its own unique set of beliefs. These beliefs have changed dramatically over time – take, for example, the Christian expansion in Europe. At one time, it was acceptable and encouraged to wipe out (i.e. murder) all of the inhabitants of towns or communities that were not Christian (i.e. Jews, Muslims, Pagans, etc…). Today, this would be considered a war crime/genocide, as it was during the conflict in the Balkans in the 1990′s. As would widespread burning of women at the stake – was this not murder? Some believed it was, some believed it was justified and not murder.

    Morality is deeply contextual and changes as society changes. A few decades ago, no Christian denomination would have approved or supported same-sex marriages. Now, there are a number of sects that support this. Same could be said of pre-marital sex, co-habiting couples, divorce, etc… To say it provides a unversal moral standard is simply untrue. Morality is a moving target and it is relative to the times and the individuals within that time. Morality is not objective, it is subjective.

  15. Steven Novellaon 07 Jan 2013 at 11:53 am

    Zach – your reasoning is profoundly muddled. You are first creating a false dichotomy – absolute objective morality, or no morality at all, survival of the fittest.

    We as humans can agree on certain first principles – like, all things considered we would like to live in a world in which sentient beings have certain rights, like the right not to be killed. We can largely agree on a few such principles, and then work out from there, using logic, a system of ethical thinking that works toward those principles. That is the philosophy of ethics.

    This is not an argument ad populum because there are no empirical claims here (remember, this is philosophy, not science). This is not a law of the universe – just mutually agreed upon rules by which we are going to run our society. You are the one interjecting the whole notion of “objective” morals. You are assuming that, but it’s a faulty premise, and something you have to prove, not just assume.

    By this system – a philosophical system based upon first principals and logic, I can say that mauling children for making fun of someone is grossly immoral. It is such a blatant violation of any reasonable ethical principal that the notion of just saying – God works in mysterious ways – is laughable.

    Trying to boil this down to world views is also a red herring. Once again – you are trying to frame the discussion with your premises as conclusions. It’s not about world view. It’s about thinking very carefully through the logic and implications of a system of behavior. Philosophers have done this for centuries, and they actually have some pretty good arguments at their disposal. Logic, transparency, and basic first principles is not a world view – it is the only system that can hope to cut across cultural boundaries and justify ethical positions.

    You are offering faith and tradition to support a system that, in many cases, offends basic logic.

    Your argument about applying the same rules in different situations does not hold. This implies there is a deeper underlying ethical system, that, in your example, takes maturity and the resultant ability to consent into consideration. I do not see any analogy or extension of this, however, that can explain how it is morally objectively right to murder 42 teenagers for being sassy.

    That is an excellent example of how ideology distorts reasoning beyond all recognition.

  16. mufion 07 Jan 2013 at 11:59 am

    PS: That we can abstract from that more concrete forms of love (e.g. towards family and friends) to a wider circle (e.g to society or humanity as a whole, the vast majority of whom are strangers) says something about human nature and potential. It says little or nothing about metaphysical postulates, like gods, angels, demons, fairies, etc., however.

  17. SARAon 07 Jan 2013 at 12:03 pm

    There is an inherent problem with a morality that is applied to world in it’s entirety. Morality is demonstrably a very flexible concept.

    The universe is disinterested in right and wrong. We created those concepts in order to have a productive structure in which to co-exist. That is more than sufficient reason to embrace a certain level of morality.

    Essentially, I think all of our ethics and morals are informed by the implicit social agreement that nybrus points out – which is that we all agree certain rules must be followed or none of us feels safe. Those rules are the more obvious laws and expectations that inform our judicial system. But individuals break those rules regularly and entire groups get excluded from those agreements.

    However, studies show that humans (all of us, religious or otherwise) have sliding scale of moral behavior and it is heavily influenced by our immediate environment and recent suggestion.

    The bible’s conflicts of morality are in fact just a literary history of this very human process. Humans act very much in a “when in Rome” manner. So, when everyone in the tribe thinks it’s OK to kill babies or own slaves, then to people in that tribe, it is.

    When an individual is in a position to re-frame the social agreement without consequence, and to their own gain, they often will. And their particular religious or ethical background will not stop the fact that they will change the guidelines of their behavior on a situational basis.

    Morality is not immutable the way certain physical laws are. It is a concept with infinite variations.

  18. DOYLEon 07 Jan 2013 at 12:04 pm

    Morality stems from species evolution.The steady development of the social animal that recognizes,whats good for another is good for the individual,who must consider the aspect of the future as a cooperative survival system.

    ps. consider the reason of the mirror neuron system.

  19. NotAnAtheiston 07 Jan 2013 at 12:09 pm

    Steve

    You said:

    “Zach – your reasoning is profoundly muddled. You are first creating a false dichotomy – absolute objective morality, or no morality at all, survival of the fittest.

    If the word morality is to have meaning it must be universal, else you are only pushing the preference of one group over another.

    You said:

    “We as humans can agree on certain first principles”

    This is laughable on the face. When did this happen that everyone on earth can agree on first principles? If we as humans can all agree on the principles, everyone would follow them or at least try very hard to. You may find a consensus, not unanimity, on some principles. You could also find a consensus on racism at certain places and times in history. If you use first principles you must choose whose principles to use and impose them on others. Why are these principles right? Why does it even matter if there are any principles at all?

    Zach need not defend a specific God to show that an authority is necessary for morality to make sense.

  20. mufion 07 Jan 2013 at 12:37 pm

    SARA: Morality is not immutable the way certain physical laws are. It is a concept with infinite variations.

    Logically, yes. But, given the pro-social emotional and cultural traits that we inherit (or at least the overwhelming majority of us), those variations are in reality highly constrained.

    NotAnAtheist: Zach need not defend a specific God to show that an authority is necessary for morality to make sense.

    There are secular thinkers who would agree and argue that reason (or ‘Reason’) is the best and only authority here. That view has been hotly contested by other secular thinkers, however. As Hume put it:

    Reason is confined in its operation to matters of fact and the relations among ideas. Reason cannot and does not motivate action – it simply helps you satisfy your desires which have their origin not in reason but in passion. If passion dictates the destruction of the world, reason will simply lay out the means to that end. It is therefore ‘not contrary to reason to prefer the destruction of the whole world to the scratching of my finger.

    Still, no society functions for long on an “anything goes” ethic. On that I think we can all agree. It’s only a question of which actions our society is willing to accept under which circumstances and which it isn’t – for whatever “reasons” (i.e. passion-motivated arguments).

    No mention of gods (or angels, demons, fairies, or other imaginary beings) is required in order to have this discussion.

  21. mufion 07 Jan 2013 at 12:40 pm

    PS: Sorry, only the last portion of that quote is a direct quote from Hume (beginning with ‘not contrary to reason…’). The rest is a third-party description of his view. – source

  22. NotAnAtheiston 07 Jan 2013 at 12:57 pm

    mufi

    You said:

    “Still, no society functions for long on an “anything goes” ethic. On that I think we can all agree.”

    So what if society functions? Why is that my concern.

    You said:

    “No mention of gods (or angels, demons, fairies, or other imaginary beings) is required in order to have this discussion.”

    You are correct in saying that no mention of gods is necessary for one group to force their own will on another group. Now to claim that their will is one with a moral basis, an authority is absolutely necessary.

  23. tmac57on 07 Jan 2013 at 1:03 pm

    If you think that there is some unequivocal,objective Christian “word of god”,then take a look at this:

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

    The late start in writing down the text of the bible,and the many translations, interpretations,and culling of books of the bible results in a mish mash of flawed ‘information’ that contains historical anomalies and errors.
    Hardly the foundation for the last word on universal morality,I would surmise.

  24. Philosofrenzyon 07 Jan 2013 at 1:06 pm

    @NotAnAtheist

    You said “If the word morality is to have meaning it must be universal, else you are only pushing the preference of one group over another,” in response to Steve saying ““Zach – your reasoning is profoundly muddled. You are first creating a false dichotomy – absolute objective morality, or no morality at all, survival of the fittest.”

    You’ve confused objective with universal. They do not mean the same thing.

    You then said “This is laughable on the face. When did this happen that everyone on earth can agree on first principles? If we as humans can all agree on the principles, everyone would follow them or at least try very hard to. [etc.]” in response to “We as humans can agree on certain first principles.”

    You are not reading with any serious effort at understanding your opponent’s position. “We can do X” and “We already have done X” aren’t the same thing. Steve did not claim that we have a universal consensus on first principles. He claimed it would be possible (by rigorous philosophy) to come to such an agreement.

    What’s more, you’re failing to understand the concept of first principles. You’re thinking of it in terms of moral judgements–about racism, to point out the specific example you use. That’s not the point at all. A first principle would be something like “Life is preferable to death.” “We ought, when possible, to promote human well-being.” First principles are axioms from which the rest of the discussion can proceed. There’s nothing implausible about this.

  25. nybgruson 07 Jan 2013 at 1:17 pm

    A long post explicating complicated details is one thing. A long post jumping from topic to topic all whilst asserting as accepted facts and ideas which are far from it is a Gish Gallop. The rational amongst us here know which camp Zach falls into.

    For example:

    This is wrong on several accounts. Westernized culture might have traces of this, but by in large humanity has not functioned in this manner. Not only that, but it goes against evolutionary theory to say that we should care about those outside our family/tribe.

    Of course, someone who denies the veracity of evolution can’t be expected to understand what evolution actually says, but it is telling the types of caricatures are painted as an attempt to rebut. Altruism – even between species let alone tribes of the same species – is not only not against evolutionary theory, but predicted by it, accounted for mathematically, and witnessed regularly in the animal kingdom and a staggering variety of ways (even to the point where a cat and an owl can become playmates).

    Besides the fact that Zach can’t actually hold a coherent philosophy together, it is beyond blatantly obvious he doesn’t understand the science he so vigorously fights against.

    Sorry mate, but you are so far out of your depth here it’s beyond laughable it is just tedious. Though it is reminiscent of William Lane Craig and further evinces why so few people actually care to debate the pompous windbag.

  26. Steven Novellaon 07 Jan 2013 at 1:20 pm

    Also – a general agreement does not imply 100%. Most people do not want to be murdered. So – can we as a society agree to the basic principal that it is morally wrong to murder someone else? OK – but then let’s think carefully through all the implications of that, and other principals that may conflict.

    Some ideas are so non-controversial that we can use them as starting points of moral reasoning. No authority is needed.

    We can also agree on the principal of fairness that the same rules should apply to every person, with certain exceptions to minors and those who are unable to manage their own interests. Again – no rule or principle is absolute – they are just starting points.

    Stop using some hypothetical perfect absolute morality as the arbitrary standard. It’s and absurd premise, and is not necessary. All I am advocating is a workable and usable system of ethics, usable by us humans for our own society and behavior to meet our own interests.

    In any case – there is no perfect absolute morality, and there is no authority on which to base morality. If anyone claims that such exists and they have access to it, the burden of proof is on them. So far the evidence is so laughably childish as to not even warrant taking seriously. (i.e. bears mauling naughty teens)

  27. nybgruson 07 Jan 2013 at 1:25 pm

    @SARA:

    An interesting thought experiment a professor once had us do:

    Can you create a society where murder – the indiscriminate killing of anyone for any reason – is sanctioned and perfectly legal? In other words, can a society exist were any death of any kind always goes unpunished?

    This taps into the concept of an evolutionary society which Zach seems to think is the only other option to one based on an objective universal morality – after all what separats us from the animals that kill and eat each other without jail sentences?

    Well, the argument is that such a society cannot exist. Because inevitably the society will fractionate into groups that agree NOT to kill each other and protect each other against the other groups that would kill you.

    So the notion that a “first principle” is laughable is itself laughable. To think that it seems to be lauded as divine insight that “thou shalt not kill” is handed down from god himself and inscribed in stone is absolutely puerile. In any society – human or animal – the smallest functional unit is one in which the members agree not to kill each other and protect each other to flourish. That is not only consistent with evolutionary theory, it is necessary for it to work! And you can see examples of it in the wild amongst and between species.

    The problem is access to resources being limited. The corollary to the first principle of freedom from killing is the necessity to live – and if that means killing others it will happen. The difference with humans at this point is that we have the ability to ensure everyone has the resources necessary to live and thus the smallest functional societal units can be very large. Where resources are scant, and Maslow’s hierarchy is not met, you can see the fractionation of society. Just compare parts of Africa and the Middle East with places like the US, Australia, or other developed nations.

  28. NotAnAtheiston 07 Jan 2013 at 1:29 pm

    @Philosofrenzy

    Is this right?. Objective means that it may be applied from outside of a system. Universal means that it applies to everything in a system. I think both must be a characteristic of morality for the word to have meaning.

    Apologies if I misunderstood Steve’s position on agreement on first principles. I imagine that a future agreement on first principles must be right around the corner.

    I have no such misunderstanding on what first principles are. We will use yours.

    ” A first principle would be something like “Life is preferable to death.””

    Why is life preferable to death?

    What about:
    Terminally ill?
    Mentally handicapped?
    Unwanted children?

    Even if everyone agreed that life is preferrable to death it is still an arbitrary agreement unless there is some authority behind it.

  29. nybgruson 07 Jan 2013 at 1:31 pm

    Also – a general agreement does not imply 100%. Most people do not want to be murdered. So – can we as a society agree to the basic principal that it is morally wrong to murder someone else? OK – but then let’s think carefully through all the implications of that, and other principals that may conflict.

    And even then there will inevitably be outliers – like the man who agreed to be killed and cannibalized even eating his own flesh before being killed and the rest of him cooked.

  30. nybgruson 07 Jan 2013 at 1:38 pm

    Objective means that it may be applied from outside of a system. Universal means that it applies to everything in a system.

    Objective means everyone can agree to its veracity, not that it need be applied to the system as a whole or at all.

    Universal means it is everwhere in a system, regardless of whether we want it there or not.

    We can objectively say that cyanide will kill any human being in sufficient quantities. We may not want to actually apply that to the system but rather avoid it.

    We can say that senescence is universal to all humans, but we are actively trying to delay and prevent it.

    Neither are necessary terms for morality to be valid and functional and in fact a universal morality will be the only one certain to be immoral, since it cannot take into account circumstances or individual or community needs and preferences. This is why the religious right attempt to ban abortion in all cases citing it an objective and universal evil to abort a fetus is subject to so much backlash – it leads to idiotic statements by congressmen and deaths of women in Ireland.

  31. mufion 07 Jan 2013 at 1:45 pm

    NotAnAtheist: So what if society functions? Why is that my concern.

    Because you either live in a society that protects you and your interests or you desire to do so.

    If not, then by all means, try to survive outside of a society. I’m sure the wildlife will be very interesting in debating morality with you. :-)

    Now to claim that their will is one with a moral basis, an authority is absolutely necessary.

    The term “morality” can be used either

    1) descriptively to refer to some codes of conduct put forward by a society or,
    a) some other group, such as a religion, or
    b) accepted by an individual for her own behavior or
    2) normatively to refer to a code of conduct that, given specified conditions, would be put forward by all rational persons.

    source

    Now, with this (nuanced) definition in mind, a minimal criterion for morality is that it refers to a “code of conduct”, the basis of which can vary from tradition to personal choice to rational reflection.

    If you wish to call those bases “authorities”, then I won’t object, so long as we’re clear that they are not necessarily theistic – or even cosmic – in nature.

  32. mnestison 07 Jan 2013 at 2:13 pm

    I see lots of comments suggesting that morality is linked with religion, belief in God, etc. I also saw in previous days commenters suggesting that Steve does not understand philosophy and that morality ad philosophy inherently are not scientific. In support of Steve’s position that religion is not necessary for morality and philosophy, I provide the example of medical ethics. There is an ongoing debate about the ethics of new technologies and procedures that do not involve religion and are not derived from such. Instead, modern day ethicists use logic and evidence in coming to proposals. The end result comes from consensus, yes – but that consensus is derived from actual evidence and logic. The ethical codes of various professions (AMA, APA, etc.) are frequently updated with new considerations based upon new evidence, technology, etc. – and while none of these are perfect, the aim is to improve each iteration. They begin with underlying principles (beneficence, non-maleficence, equality) which form the basis of later principles. They are not perfect, and there are instances in which an ethical principle is in conflict with another – in which case one is provided recommended steps to consider to come to the best alternative (and always using the underlying core principles to guide one’s actions). This contrasts with religious morality – which is based upon the past and not updated to meet new demands or incorporate new knowledge.

  33. rezistnzisfutlon 07 Jan 2013 at 2:15 pm

    It seems that we’ve fallen into the typical pitfall of arguing with fundamentalist religious types, a la creationists, who attempt to obfuscate the problems with their arguments by muddying the waters and derailing the conversation.

    What it seems to me to be happening is a lot of academic nitpicking about minutiae as a red herring intended to distract from the fact that the people who claim absolute morality exists haven’t been able to satisfy burden of proof that it actually does exists in the first place. As an analog, this is exactly the same reason why atheists are atheists, because theists haven’t been able satisfy their burden of proof for the claim that their deity exists. So, what we see happening is a long string of logical fallacies, moving the goalposts by redefinitions, and intellectual dishonesty, all in order to maintain a belief that does not jibe with reality.

    One can rely on history to demonstrate that absolute morality indeed likely does NOT exist since what is considered moral in past societies has changed so often, even among those who have claimed absolute morality all along. So, not only has the burden of proof that absolute morality exists not been satisfied, there is evidence to the contrary. Keep in mind that this is not a strong position – I am not claiming that it DOESN’T exist, just that I see no evidence that it does AND that there’s evidence to the contrary – I’m open to new evidence that could compel me to rethink my position (if it ever arises).

    I don’t want to go into a lot of detail about what has already been discussed. I do believe that morality is society-based and typically comes from the human need and desire for cooperation for the mutual benefit of the group members. Even in the most heinous dictatorship, this must exist to some degree in order for society to function at all, even if the “mutual benefit” is for those running society.

    Unfortunately, no matter what system is in place, not ALL group members will ever be satisfied about every aspect, and some will invariably find happiness with the breakdown of the society, or unhappiness from having societal coherence “forced” upon them. In this regard, NotAnAtheist is correct: there is no system (that I can think of) where there’ll be complete consensus of ALL society members, and force will be necessary at some point.

    That being said, to rely on an ancient book whose authors lived thousands of years ago in pre-scientific superstitious societies is not relevant to today’s society. Heck, texts written hundreds of years ago wouldn’t be relevant (and is why we have amendments to our Constitution). Many rules in it will now be irrelevant. Many would be downright detrimental. Many are absurdly arbitrary. This is why secular humanity is vastly preferable, because it CAN change with the times as needed.

    Those who claim absolute morality are not thinking things through. Even just 50 years ago, many people had religiously moral objections to integration and interracial marriage. During suffrage, there was religiously moral outrage that women seek equal rights. Back in 19th century America, people had religiously moral reasons for owning slaves. Before then, it was moral to burn witches at stakes and wipe out so-called “godless” cultures. It’s a good thing that THESE morals are not absolute!

  34. Philosofrenzyon 07 Jan 2013 at 2:23 pm

    @NotAnAtheist

    While “Life is preferable to death” was obviously a gross simplification–and I don’t think I would stand by it as a good starting point–the form of your objection implies that if a principle isn’t *sufficient* on its own, it can’t be necessary. That’s a serious confusion.

    In any case, the whole point is that we can work through it rationally–with exactly this sort of give and take of figuring out where to start, and go from there to create a workable ethical system. The very fact we can have the discussion–and that someone can recognize that your objection (cases where death might be preferable) makes sense shows that we’re operating from a common axiom–something like what Sam Harris points out: that the worst possible misery for everyone is bad, and that we ought to avoid it to greatest extent we are able. If ‘ought’ means anything, that’s what it means. And if you ask “why should we avoid the worst possible misery for everyone?” then you’re either confused or dishonest.

    In any case, there’s no alternative to this approach to morality. It’s all we’ve got. There *might* be some objective “truth” about morality, but if there is, we have no access to it. And so whether there is or not, we’re left to work it out on our own as if there isn’t. It’s no different from physics, where the best we can do is create more and more accurate models–models that work better than then their predecessors.

    It might be the case that morality has some objective truth to it–but at some point in the chain, there comes a point where there’s an axiom that reads something like “We ought to…X.” Promote human well-being. Obey the Lord, your God. Whatever it is, the “ought,” enters the system in an axiomatic statement like this. And so regardless of the system, the sociopath gets to ask the question “Why? Why ought I to do that?” So the “Why?” question isn’t an objection to the rationalist morality; it’s an objection to morality, *period.*

    Ethics/Morality is a social technology. We make discoveries by thinking about it, discussing it, and by seeing what works and what does not. To frame this as being about different cultures having different “preferences,” is a a ridiculous parody.

  35. rezistnzisfutlon 07 Jan 2013 at 2:26 pm

    As a sidenote, I want to make clear the position of most atheists, since I’ve been seeing the argument flying around that atheism is a faith-based position claiming with certitude that there is no god. This is a strawman, because few atheists are gnostic about their beliefs. Atheism, by definition, simply implies lack of belief in a deity or deities – it does not delve into what a person claims to know or not know. That’s the realm of gnosticism/agnosticism. That’s why most atheists consider themselves agnostic as well.

    Indeed it WOULD be a faith-based position if an atheist claimed with 100% certitude that there definitely no God (few atheists, when pressed, will admit this). The only way to know that for certain would be to be omniscient. Most atheists maintain intellectual honesty by adopting an agnostic stance (incidentally, something you don’t see most theists do).

    This is relevant here since the claim has been made that atheism is every bit as faith-based as theism, and therefore an arbitrary stance based on personal preference. That argument is also a red herring since theism and secular humanity are NOT mutually exclusive. Case in point: the Executive Director for Americans United for the Separation of Church and State happens to be an a ordained minister with the United Church of Christ.

  36. daedalus2uon 07 Jan 2013 at 2:30 pm

    NaA, there does not need to be an “authority” for a common and shared system to develop among humans. Language is not derived from an authority, it is synthesized by the group of children that is growing up together.

    This is an extremely important aspect of human communication and human culture. When children re raised in a society where the adults speak a “well formed” language, the children learn and speak that “well formed” language as their first language. If the adults are not communicating with a “well formed” language, then the cohort of children growing up together takes the communication primitives that the adults are using and uses them to synthesize a “well formed” language de novo. This is how pidgin languages spoken by diverse adult immigrants are turned into a “well formed” Creole.

    There is no “authority” that dictates the “well formed” rules of the new Creole. The Creole arises spontaneously in the group of children. Language is an emergent property of a group of children growing up together. To a very large extent, a sound sequence has no intrinsic meaning, it only has meaning in the context of the language that has been synthesized.

    When humans need new terms, they can be coined and assigned meaning which can be logically fit into the structure of the language. New terms can be derived by analogy from old terms.

    A system of morality can form the same way. People collectively decide what actions are “moral” the same way that people collectively decide what meaning is attached to which sound sequence. People can deviate from those collective norms, but then they are considered to be immoral, or speaking gibberish. If you make a small “meta-leap”, and consider that just as all words need to mean the same thing to everyone, moral actions need to have the same universality; that is if everyone behaved that way the society would be stable and worth living in.

    Of course treating everyone “the same” is anathema to all of the patriarchal religions, even those that claim the same founder. They all demand that the self-proclaimed religious leaders have more rights than anyone else, and claim this is due to “The Universal and Unchanging Perfect Morality from God”, and if you don’t agree with them their “morality” tells them to kill you.

  37. NotAnAtheiston 07 Jan 2013 at 2:33 pm

    mufi

    You make make yourself the authority if you like. I will choose not to recognize your authority over morality. My point is that all rational people do have an understanding of morality to some degree ingrained in us not just for how we should act but for how your neighbor or even someone across the ocean “ought” to act. This urge we have is universal. Not all follow this urge and choose to follow other conflicting urges. Why should we have a notion of how someone completely unrelated to us “ought” to act?

    I believe that urge comes from God. Others may believe that urge comes from evolution. If so then it has no authority over me. I may kill, steal, rape and pillage as I please if it is only you as the authority. I may make a huge empire and do whatever I please. Why would it be better to follow some arbitrary rules based on some evolutionary urge that I have no problem suppressing? Why work a boring 9-5 job when I can have the exciting life of a renegade. Why would I follow “mufi’s rules for living” if I can have my empire by going against the rules? You are free to disagree and choose the 9-5. You are free to get together with likeminded people and make my lifestyle illegal. What you can’t do is say what I am doing is “wrong” without some authority.

  38. NotAnAtheiston 07 Jan 2013 at 2:38 pm

    daedalus2u

    You are correct that no authority is necessary for morality to develop. It is necessary however to determine whether a morality is “right” or “wrong”. I am not arguing if there is another way to explain the existence of morality. I am arguing that an authority is necessary for there to actually be a “right” or “wrong”. The morality of the sort that could allow one to judge a society that promoted slavery as an unjust, immoral society. Anything else is just preference.

  39. nybgruson 07 Jan 2013 at 2:42 pm

    @ rezistnzisfutl:

    Once again very well said.

    I will also add that, of course, I am an agnostic atheist. I cannot know there is no god or gods, but I have enough evidence against the possibility and no evidence for it to be confident enough to eschew the agnostic bit and just say atheist. It was quite funny when the newspapers went ablaze went Dawkins stated that he was an agnostic last year – as if that and his atheism were mutually exclusive and it was some new revelation that he was admitting the possibility of a god… all despite the fact that all this is clearly explained and stated in his book. Theists tend to cling to any hope that their theism could still be valid, however precious little there is. It reminds of the movie Dumb and Dumber when Harry is told there is a one in a million chance Mary would date him. “So you’re saying there’s a chance! Woohoo!”

    Lastly, while a must be agnostic towards the generic god or gods, I can be gnostic towards specific gods since their existence is predicated on claims that can be tested. No god proposed to date – even the Abrahamic one – passes this test as they are all either self contradictory or have sufficient evidence against their existence (or some combination thereof).

    So an agnostic atheist like me can say that Yawheh doesn’t exist – just the same as Vishnu and Allah don’t – and still be correct and intellectually honest.

  40. daedalus2uon 07 Jan 2013 at 3:03 pm

    NaA, so the society of the OT was unjust and immoral even though they were following “the rules” that God had dictated because they kept slaves? And allowed those slaves to be beaten provided they didn’t die for a couple of days?

    Exodus
    21:20 And if a man smite his servant, or his maid, with a rod, and he die under his hand; he shall be surely punished.
    21:21 Notwithstanding, if he continue a day or two, he shall not be punished: for he is his money.

  41. mufion 07 Jan 2013 at 3:08 pm

    NotAnAtheist: What you can’t do is say what I am doing is “wrong” without some authority.

    Sure I can…with the implicit proviso that I’m expressing an opinion – however worthy (e.g. grounded in sensitivity to commonly shared core values, plus logic and evidence) an opinion it may be.

    Now, you’re free to imagine that some authority figure exists, whose opinion outweighs mine and every other human on the planet (both individually and collectively). But it’s not very likely that you’ll convince someone who doesn’t already share that delusion that s/he should play along with you, which makes it a practical non-starter with anyone except the most gullible.

  42. Philosofrenzyon 07 Jan 2013 at 3:10 pm

    @NotAnAtheist

    Your insistence that you need an authority confuses the right to enforce with being ability to recognize the truth of the proposition. You don’t need an “authority” to recognize that objects near the earth’s surface fall at 9.81 m/s^2. You just need the intellectual persistence to figure it out and demonstrate that it’s true. Neither would you need an authority to recognize when an action violates ethical principles.

    Once you understand “wrong” to mean “an action inconsistent with human well-being,” for instance, it’s true to say “murdering that child is wrong.” In fact, it’s *objectively* wrong–and anyone who thinks about it long enough will be able to say that without needing an “authority.”

    Again, the theist holds atheistic, rational morality to a standard theistic morality doesn’t meet either. Compelling people to behave morally is a problem of motivation and encouragement–it has nothing to do with the ontology or epistemology of ethics.

  43. NotAnAtheiston 07 Jan 2013 at 3:41 pm

    daedalus2u

    I did not defend the passage in Exodus. You used your moral authority(from wherever it is derived) to condemn it though.

  44. rezistnzisfutlon 07 Jan 2013 at 3:44 pm

    @nybgrus

    Some very interesting and thoughtful points, as usual. The Dawkins situation is definitely indicative of how profoundly misunderstood atheism is by society at large. I would guess that likely that comes from the fact that most people get their definition of atheism from other theists, primarily their holy leaders who attempt to bestow what they consider the evils of apostasy and disbelief and villianize those who go that route.

    In this context, theists seem to be attempting to undermine those arguing against the notion of absolute morality (aka absolute authority) by conflating that with atheism, an ad hominem that attempts to point to a person’s personal belief (or lack thereof) instead of their actual argument. That’s why I had to mention that secular humanity and religious belief are not mutually exclusive.

    In other words, it’s another attempt to obfuscate their inability to meet the burden of proof for their positive claims and to derail the conversation by muddying the waters with their nitpicking at minutiae.

  45. NotAnAtheiston 07 Jan 2013 at 3:49 pm

    Philosofrenzy

    “You don’t need an “authority” to recognize that objects near the earth’s surface fall at 9.81 m/s^2. You just need the intellectual persistence to figure it out and demonstrate that it’s true. Neither would you need an authority to recognize when an action violates ethical principles.”

    Sure, I can agree to that. You first must decide which ethical principles and that WOULD require an authority.

    You said

    “In fact, it’s *objectively* wrong–and anyone who thinks about it long enough will be able to say that without needing an “authority.””

    How is it *objectively* wrong without an authority? I do not see it. What meaning would you be using for the word objective? Thinking about it long enough=objective?

  46. Philosofrenzyon 07 Jan 2013 at 4:07 pm

    @NotAnAtheist

    You seem to have unnecessarily strict criteria for considering something objective. You seem to use the word to mean almost “necessarily true,” or something like that. Objectivity isn’t some magic property; it means little more than “factual.” In order for it to be objective it only needs to be the case that the facts are true, and that the conclusion follows logically from them, such that someone aware of the facts cannot rationally conclude anything else.

    Murdering children creates a scenario in which human flourishing is vastly diminished. This a fact about the world that can be observed and learned–not “just an opinion.” Once it is learned, “it is wrong to murder children” follows logically from the axiomatic premise “it is wrong to engage in activities that move us away from a higher degree of human flourishing and toward the worst possible misery for everyone.”

    So anyone adopting this axiom–and I contend that nobody disagrees with it, except hypothetically, and for the sake of argument–anyone aware of the facts can speak, objectively, about the wrongness of murdering children.

    But please, you’re still ignoring the challenge: how does a theistic, god-based morality avoid any of the problems you’re raising against rationalist morality?

  47. rezistnzisfutlon 07 Jan 2013 at 4:29 pm

    @Philosofrenzy

    “But please, you’re still ignoring the challenge: how does a theistic, god-based morality avoid any of the problems you’re raising against rationalist morality?”

    I see what you’re trying to achieve here, and that’s cool if you want to go that route, but it seems to me that we’re just playing his semantic games. With the highlighted statement, we’re operating under the assumptions that a supernatural god exists and that it’s a specific god of a specific religion, that that god defines morals, that some of them are absolute, and that those morals are preferable to anything humans are able to come up with on their own – not only preferable, but necessary or else. Raising issues with rational morality on these bases is simply another red herring in attempts to alleviate their burden of proof, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts. Doing so is an academic exercise at best, and I for one would like to see them address their burden of proof first.

    Going under the assumption that god exists and his morals are outlined in the bible (to pick on christians a bit here), it seems to me that the only real benefit of having an authority that dictates absolute morals is that it allows followers to defer to that higher power without having to think about it. I can see where that would be comfortable to people as it doesn’t actually require work or thought.

    NAA argues that rational morality still requires a moral authority. Even if that were true in some cases, which is arguable, it’s still preferable because it’s predicated upon the maximum well-being and the minimum hardship and suffering of ALL citizens. The “authority” comes directly from humans (which I argue has always been the case) instead of a handful of religious prophets who claim to be speaking for their god.

  48. Karl Withakayon 07 Jan 2013 at 4:31 pm

    @NotAnAtheist,

    “I may kill, steal, rape and pillage as I please if it is only you as the authority. I may make a huge empire and do whatever I please.”

    You may certainly try to do so, until the those in authority and the rest of society try to stop you.
    ——————————–

    “Why work a boring 9-5 job when I can have the exciting life of a renegade. Why would I follow “mufi’s rules for living” if I can have my empire by going against the rules?”

    Well, the rest of us probably won’t let you openly live that renegade life or build that empire unless you do so while abiding by our rules.
    ——————————–

    “What you can’t do is say what I am doing is “wrong” without some authority.”

    You really need to rephrase that, because anyone clearly can say that what you would be doing is wrong, with or without any authority. Collectively, society can decide that what you would be doing is wrong. You may not agree that they are correct, but anyone absolutely can say it.
    ——————————–

    Regarding your need for authority,

    From dictionary.com:

    au·thor·i·ty

    1. the power to determine, adjudicate, or otherwise settle issues or disputes; jurisdiction; the right to control, command, or determine.
    2. a power or right delegated or given; authorization: Who has the authority to grant permission?
    3. a person or body of persons in whom authority is vested, as a governmental agency.
    4. Usually, authorities. persons having the legal power to make and enforce the law; government: They finally persuaded the authorities that they were not involved in espionage.
    5. an accepted source of information, advice, etc.

    No mention is made in any of these definitions of divine investment as a requirement for valid authority.

  49. mufion 07 Jan 2013 at 4:36 pm

    Philosofrenzy to NotAnAtheist: You seem to have unnecessarily strict criteria for considering something objective.

    Not only that, but philosophers categorize Divine Command theory (that is, the meta-ethical view that “for a thing to be right is for a unique being, God, to approve of it, and that what is right for non-God beings is obedience to the divine will”) as a form of Ethical Subjectivism (e.g. see here).

    After all, even putting aside the more blatantly anthropomorphic language that we often hear (e.g. references to body parts, like “hand of God”), theists traditionally ascribe personal/psychological attributes to their deities (cf. Buddhist karma, which Gautama described as impersonal forces of cosmic justice). That alone renders them subjects (e.g. conscious beings) that, on a-priori-logical grounds alone, make them vulnerable to Euthyphro-like critiques, like the one that Plato made thousands of years ago and which Dr. Novella echoed in his post.

  50. Zachon 07 Jan 2013 at 4:53 pm

    Steven,

    “Zach – your reasoning is profoundly muddled. You are first creating a false dichotomy – absolute objective morality, or no morality at all, survival of the fittest.”

    Prove it. Simply throwing out fallacies without backing up your proof is pointless.

    “We as humans can agree on certain first principles – like, all things considered we would like to live in a world in which sentient beings have certain rights, like the right not to be killed. We can largely agree on a few such principles, and then work out from there, using logic, a system of ethical thinking that works toward those principles. That is the philosophy of ethics.”

    Are we living in the same world? Are we reading the same history books?

    The point is, this is not a universally held belief – and if it was it still requires a source or it is based on fallacy.

    You said,
    “We can largely agree on a few such principles, and then work out from there, using logic, a system of ethical thinking that works toward those principles. That is the philosophy of ethics.”

    This is wrong on every level.

    1. No we can’t work out such principles. – please show me a society that has ever done that? Societies are always divided. Your idea of individual rights and treating everyone equally is largely a western idea, don’t impose that belief on the rest of the world unless you have something other than, “I like this” to back it up. It’s nonsensical and hypocritical.

    2. Regardless this is all vague rhetoric, you aren’t embracing real issues and real questions and are just talking in generalities.

    You said,
    “This is not an argument ad populum because there are no empirical claims here (remember, this is philosophy, not science). This is not a law of the universe – just mutually agreed upon rules by which we are going to run our society. You are the one interjecting the whole notion of “objective” morals. You are assuming that, but it’s a faulty premise, and something you have to prove, not just assume.”

    1. It is ad populum – you are relying on a consensus that is rooted in opinion to justify something that your world view says cannot truly exist universally.

    2. What do you mean there are no empirical claims in philosophy and what does that have to do with ad populum not being applicable… You are justifying your position on a majority rule fallacy – there is no debate here. This isn’t just abstract ideas that don’t effect anything – these views matter and change the world.

    You said,
    “This is not a law of the universe – just mutually agreed upon rules by which we are going to run our society.”

    So if society agrees it’s ok to feed disrespectful teens to bears then you would be ok with that? Or would you object, and if so you’re entire point breaks down.

    “You are the one interjecting the whole notion of “objective” morals. You are assuming that, but it’s a faulty premise, and something you have to prove, not just assume.”

    No I don’t, unless you believe morality is nothing more than I like this or I don’t like that, and he doesn’t like this and he does like that – then it’s an arms race to see who enforces who’s favorites.

    “By this system – a philosophical system based upon first principals and logic, I can say that mauling children for making fun of someone is grossly immoral.”

    What system? majority rule fallacy? Might makes right? Morality is just opinion so on things you happen to like and not like?
    Ok, by the same system I can also say that mauling children (teenagers but you refuse to learn) for making fun of someone is moral and right.

    Now who’s system do we go with? Incoming might makes right fallacy.

    You said,
    “It is such a blatant violation of any reasonable ethical principal that the notion of just saying – God works in mysterious ways – is laughable.”

    More of the same – your entire view of morality relies on ad populum fallacy and argumentum ad passiones (Appeal to emotion).
    This is nothing but pontification.

    You said,
    “Trying to boil this down to world views is also a red herring. Once again – you are trying to frame the discussion with your premises as conclusions.”

    So you are telling me that you have not already pre-decided your conclusion?

    You said,
    “It’s not about world view. It’s about thinking very carefully through the logic and implications of a system of behavior.”"

    Ok, lets think them through. Now what? This statement requires an answer, you obviously have some pre-decided idea to what morals should move towards – that is where you fail to realize what you are actually appealing to. It’s your own personal opinion on what you care for. And why should anyone care about what you care for? Another conclusion you are now justifying, the very thing you said I just did.

    “Philosophers have done this for centuries, and they actually have some pretty good arguments at their disposal. Logic, transparency, and basic first principles is not a world view – it is the only system that can hope to cut across cultural boundaries and justify ethical positions.”

    More vague rhetoric that doesn’t mean anything.

    “You are offering faith and tradition to support a system that, in many cases, offends basic logic.”

    Actually I haven’t pushed that point yet, you refuse to acknowledge the basic logical processes that you are claiming to appeal to. I have simply said that if you are going to call any person corrupt (including the God of the Old Testament), you had better be able to provide some other

    “Your argument about applying the same rules in different situations does not hold. This implies there is a deeper underlying ethical system, that, in your example, takes maturity and the resultant ability to consent into consideration. I do not see any analogy or extension of this, however, that can explain how it is morally objectively right to murder 42 teenagers for being sassy.”

    Again, you have missed the point. I am showing the continuity between the Old and New Testaments – not defending that they are superior to other systems, there is a difference. Remember, the new testament isn’t all peaches and cream and love your neighbor. It ends with God killing half the world’s population, then the rest of the non-believers in the end and sending them to hell. Now, you might not believe any of this, but that doesn’t matter, I am talking about the continuity between the two that you try to deny.

    Also, you might not like the God of the Bible, but so what? That’s another appeal to emotion unless you can provide me with an objective alternative you are merely providing more fallacious reasoning to why it’s immoral.

    “I do not see any analogy or extension of this, however, that can explain how it is morally objectively right to murder 42 teenagers for being sassy.”

    Hey, you used teenagers this time, I’m truly impressed that you updated your argument. However, this is the fallacy of argumentum ad ignorantiam (argument from ignorance).
    Just because you can’t think of a reason doesn’t mean there isn’t one, and secondly God killed them not the prophet. I’m pretty sure 100% of the population dies so what’s the problem here? You are clearly appealing to some other objective moral standard, what it is?

    You said,
    “That is an excellent example of how ideology distorts reasoning beyond all recognition.”

    Cheap shot and irrelevant. Start answering my questions instead of glazing over them with trite meaningless romanticized based generalities.

    Tmac57

    “If you think that there is some unequivocal,objective Christian “word of god”,then take a look at this:”

    What’s the problem here? language evolves, so the need for constant new translations will always be there.

    “The late start in writing down the text of the bible,and the many translations, interpretations,and culling of books of the bible results in a mish mash of flawed ‘information’ that contains historical anomalies and errors.
    Hardly the foundation for the last word on universal morality,I would surmise.”

    Late start? What is late? 1st century 1st hand eye witnesses is late?

    Better throw out every historian then.

    Steven

    “We can also agree on the principal of fairness that the same rules should apply to every person, with certain exceptions to minors and those who are unable to manage their own interests. Again – no rule or principle is absolute – they are just starting points.”

    What world are you looking at? Entire culture’s disagree with this in practice all the time. India – caste system….

    You said,
    “All I am advocating is a workable and usable system of ethics, usable by us humans for our own society and behavior to meet our own interests.”

    Your definition of workable is a preference not agreed upon by mankind, so why is your view superior?

    “If anyone claims that such exists and they have access to it, the burden of proof is on them.”

    That sword slices both ways. You are making a claim about morality so that claim must be backed up. Please provide an objective standard from which we can determine if your view is correct or not.

    NotAnAtheist: So what if society functions? Why is that my concern.

    Mufi you said,
    “Because you either live in a society that protects you and your interests or you desire to do so.”

    Mufi, this isn’t a reason, you are just re-explaining the same thing. Why should he care about society accept when it suits him and directly benefits what he wants?

    This is sort of like asking the question what is the point of football – one responds, “to score touchdowns”. No, for scoring touchdowns is itself the game football. The statement is true, but doesn’t need to be said. (This is clearly demonstrated by C.S. Lewis by the way, just pointing this out encase someone accuses me of plagiarism).

    NotAnAtheist

    “I believe that urge comes from God. Others may believe that urge comes from evolution. If so then it has no authority over me. I may kill, steal, rape and pillage as I please if it is only you as the authority. I may make a huge empire and do whatever I please. Why would it be better to follow some arbitrary rules based on some evolutionary urge that I have no problem suppressing? Why work a boring 9-5 job when I can have the exciting life of a renegade. Why would I follow “mufi’s rules for living” if I can have my empire by going against the rules? You are free to disagree and choose the 9-5. You are free to get together with like minded people and make my lifestyle illegal. What you can’t do is say what I am doing is “wrong” without some authority.”

    Nailed it on the head. I truly can’t figure out why this point is so difficult for atheist/agnostics to swallow…

    “I did not defend the passage in Exodus. You used your moral authority(from wherever it is derived) to condemn it though.”

    Waiting patently for them to provide where this standard comes from that allows them to condemn it.

    Wrote this in a hurry – please excuse typos. And don’t take my directness as me being rude, I am writing quickly as it’s a busy day, and didn’t take the time to sugar coat things as much as normal.

    Respectfully,

    Zach

  51. RickKon 07 Jan 2013 at 5:02 pm

    Philosofrenzy, even though I’m most definitely an atheist, I have to agree with half of NotAnAtheist’s side of this debate. He says there can be no “objective” morality without an authority, and that’s true. I’m quite confident there’s no invisible guy-in-the-sky authority. The closest we come to “objective rules of morality” are examples of hard-wired evolutionary tendencies that are pretty much universal across (and beyond) human societies.

    Interesting that you use the example of murdering children. If you take the anti-abortion community’s definition of “children”, then we quite often murder children in a socially acceptable manner. The native people of Tikopia Island provide another example. Because of limited resources and their isolation from any external trading partners, their society could only persist through rigid population control. Infanticide was one of the accepted control mechanisms. If they hadn’t practiced infanticide or some other form of murder/suicide, they would have suffered the same societal collapse as Easter Island experienced. What is worse – the intentional death of a percentage of the population, or the unintentional death of the entire population?

    I would be interested in the Christian solution to the Tikopia problem, as we may one day face it on a global scale. But that’s a digression.

    There are tendencies wired into human psychology and behavior. But history demonstrates that there is no such thing as absolute or objective morality. That’s why philosophy is important, to provide guidelines by which we can adjust morals and societal norms to fit a variety of situations.

    Religion is just philosophy attributed to an omnipotent agent. Sadly, while many such agents have been claimed, none have been seen. An omnipotent being who doesn’t want to be found is indistinguishable from a being that doesn’t exist.

  52. nybgruson 07 Jan 2013 at 5:11 pm

    So I had a thought as I read through these posts.

    This is a skeptical blog, devoted almost entirely to demonstrated the principles of logical fallacy and cognitive bias. Post after post after post, with discussion, understanding, constructive critique, and refinement. Not a peep from any of the theistic contingent we see here today.

    Then a post directly dealing with religion and all of a sudden out of the woodwork they come pouring. I can’t believe that these folks have not been reading the rest of the posts all along and came here just for the ones turning skepticism on religion. Yet until this point they are clearly content to read and at least outwardly seem to have no beef with the skepticism of the posts here… until it abuts their theism. Especially if Christianity is even hinted at. I’d love to see an experiment where Dr. Novella posts about the inanities of the Hindu religion and deconstructs some of the Vedas. Do you think these folks would still come out and howl fallacy after fallacy at us? I would argue no, since their cognitive dissonance is not triggered when they can laugh along at how silly a four armed elephant god is. But point out that a bearded white dude in the clouds is just and silly and boy howdy how incredibly arrogant, strident, militant, and stupid we are; confusing science and philosophy, not understanding such simple premises as the fact that there not only is but must be an absolute objective more standard.

    I have to force upon myself some understanding though. It was (and still is) hard to turn the skeptical eye inward on myself. But I was also never indoctrinated in any particular ideology or world view as a child – all ideas were presented equally to me (well, with the exception that academic rigor and education is paramount to a succesful life). I read Greek mythology before I read Christian mythology. And by then the Christian stuff was boring. The Greeks told a much better story and had much more interesting and useful gods. I was baptised (long story) at about the age of 6 and even then remember thinking how incredibly weird this was and wondering if I was being put on. But I never had anyone beat it into my head that it was a “truth” or “right” to do so… merely that it was the cultural tradition of the family which sponsored our escape from the Soviet Bloc and we accomodated them as a courtesy to repay their kindness. LOL, I still remember thinking the holy water was disgusting since everyone dipped their fingers in it all the time and wondering what that weird metal thing making all the smoke was.

    It truly is a challenge to figure out how to get the likes of the theists we have here to realize that the “facts” and “truths” and “accepted premises” they keep laying down are only accepted by those who have had it driven into their heads to do so unquestioningly and that to anyone rational – or even irrational but not of their faith – they make no sense, let alone can be accepted as axiomatic.

  53. Philosofrenzyon 07 Jan 2013 at 5:15 pm

    @ Mufi

    Exactly. :)

  54. nybgruson 07 Jan 2013 at 5:21 pm

    This urge we have is universal. Not all follow this urge and choose to follow other conflicting urges. Why should we have a notion of how someone completely unrelated to us “ought” to act?
    I believe that urge comes from God

    And this is a perfect example of the utter fail. It is like when the Republican National Convention some years back had a speaker proclaim quite confidently that the Republicans hadn’t invented marriage, but marriage has always been between one man and one woman, in all cultures, and across all time and they were just there to defend it. The conclusion seems reasonable, but the premise is utter horse hockey.

    The urge is universal? Well I have an urge to make sure that my homosexual, bisexual, transexual, and polyamorous friends all have the right to and freedom to live happily and express their love to whomever in whatever way they wish with any number of consenting adults without judgement or scorn, with equal protections under the law. I have always felt this way (though not able to articulate it fully or feel as strongly) since I can remember… despite the fact that I am (and always have been) heterosexual and currently engaged to be married to a beautiful rocket scientist. Somehow there seems to be a fairly large portion of the population who seem to have an “urge” antithetical to mine.

    I also have this urge to ensure that young boys can grow up happy, healthy, and unmolested. The Catholic church doesn’t seem to share this urge with me.

    When you make absolute statements like the kind we have been seeing here (entirely from theists if you pay attention, though not all theists – here or otherwise – do so) one little contrary example shatters your entire argument leaving you pitifully defending nothing, like the Black Knight wiggling around in the leaves.

    Of course the never ending appeal to “authority” makes sense as well – they have willingly (or brainwashedly) subjugated themselves to an authority and if that is wrong, then everything they place value on is wrong.

  55. mufion 07 Jan 2013 at 5:22 pm

    Zach: Why should he care about society accept when it suits him and directly benefits what he wants?

    Strictly speaking, there’s nothing stopping someone from thinking & feeling this way, although (as Dr. Novella alluded in his post) there are certain brute facts about human nature (e.g. regarding our pro-social instincts, such as a tendency to reciprocate) that tend to work against the potential for anti-social behavior. And when nature & cultural upbringing fail (e.g. in the case of sociopaths), then we have legal and law-enforcement institutions to deal with those special cases.

    Sure, you can call this a “game” if you like. But, unlike in football, playing is not optional. It’s a game that we were all born to play and which society requires that we play in one version or another, whether we like it or not.

    Inventing some divine Game Master or Referee may or may not serve some added motivational purpose (provided one is not bothered by its implausibility). But I think it’s more likely to be a needless distraction at best.

  56. RickKon 07 Jan 2013 at 5:25 pm

    Re false dichotomy of absolute god-given morality or no morality, Zach said: Prove it. Simply throwing out fallacies without backing up your proof is pointless.”

    People with no experience of anything you’d call a God, Zach, still develop moral codes. Even other primate species demonstrate rudimentary moral behavior – fairness, reciprocity, etc. Do you deny this?

    Zach – what are you arguing? You keep criticizing Steve on the basis that not everybody agrees to a given society’s set of morals. So what? Do you think “God” is a solution to that? How many Christian sects are there? How many other versions of God and of religion? There’s a lot of people out there that think God will reward them for jihad against infidels – will yours?

    There’s no question that inventing a divine authority as a sort of omnipotent “Big Brother” is a great way to get people to be more moral when nobody is looking. It works – no question. But so does the concept of karma, so does getting people to pledge to be good every morning, so does your mother’s warning that “she will always know”, so do cameras in every room. You can achieve better compliance in a variety of ways without having to conjure up an impossible always-vigilant phantasm.

  57. daedalus2uon 07 Jan 2013 at 5:27 pm

    NaA, I don’t need an authority to tell me that beating people to near death is immoral.

    Applying the reasonable person criteria, and my empathy as a human being, I presume that servants being beaten such that they die in 2 days consider being so treated to be unacceptable and immoral. I presume that the servants being beaten to near death did not grant permission to be so beaten. It is not the presence of an authority that dictates that beating someone to near death is immoral to render such actions immoral, it is the lack of authority from the person being beaten that renders the action immoral.

    Your idea that an authority can authorize a behavior and by so doing it render it “moral” is called the “appeal to authority” fallacy when it applies to facts, it is no less a fallacy when it applies to moral actions.

  58. nybgruson 07 Jan 2013 at 5:29 pm

    I read Zach’s posts and all I can think is “wow.” As in “wow, I still always have trouble believing people can actually be so blinkered.”

    I mean for f&^%’s sake! He’s arguing the semantics of mauling chidlren versus teenagers as if that somehow means anything to the argument.

    Of course, it is patently obvious to me that he is yet another William Lane Craig acolyte since that is exactly the rhetorical tactics and examples he uses. His recent lecture about how the massacre in Newton was actually a gift from a loving god to remind us of the true meaning of the original Christmas was truly sickening… and could only be the product of such a warped mind poisoned by ideology and desperate rationalization.

    I really shouldn’t bother writing, reading, or engaging any of this drivel. But it is fascinating to me – like a rubbernecker watching a horrific accident in slow motion.

  59. tmac57on 07 Jan 2013 at 5:37 pm

    It just occurred to me that we should be VERY careful to not convert any theist who thinks that all morality MUST come from a higher source,because they would instantly become immoral,and who knows what they then might be capable of…right?
    Apparently they are right on the edge of mayhem but for the word of God.

  60. autumnmonkeyon 07 Jan 2013 at 5:43 pm

    Zach: “Not only that, but it goes against evolutionary theory to say that we should care about those outside our family/tribe.”

    Nope, it’s not against evolutionary theory at all. We’ve evolved to a broader view of what constitutes our tribe.

    Zach: “Christianity came along and redefined who your neighbor was, your neighbor wasn’t only those who were nice back to you, or those who caused you no harm, your neighbor was also your enemy! Make no mistake, this is unique to Christianity.”

    Not true. This idea was borrowed from Stoicism, along with other pilfered concepts.

    Zach: “In the Old Testament it is like a 14 year old wanting to drive – not ready yet. In the New Testament we are 16, and can drive.”

    You’re analogy fails in respect to the difference between the OT and NT. A proper analogy would be: A 14 year old drives a car, he gets stoned to death. Two years later, the driving center says we’re not stoning people anymore; people of all ages can now drive. The rules AND morality have in fact arbitrarily changed whether you can see that or not. The change makes absolutely no sense. There’s a rational sense between forbidding a 14 year old from driving on the streets and allowing a trained 16 year old. There’s no sense in killing children and then saying we don’t do that anymore because of a mythical zombie.

    Zach: “But regardless, I don’t need to defend God’s actions here, you need to defend your position that mauling teens (or even little children) is wrong. Please provide an objective standard for why it is wrong?”

    This is the logic found in a playground argument. You cannot defend the action, hence you declare you don’t have to defend it. Then, ABRACADABRA, you conclude it’s your opponent who has to prove the opposite! Bill Craig at his finest!

    daedalus2u: “If you consider yourself to be a Christian, and a member of the class of Christians you are referring to when you say ‘Christians don’t agree with you’, then you are (in effect) saying that Catholics and Mormons (and yourself) objectively and verifiably know the will of God. If all 3 know the will of God, then why do they say it is different things?”

    It’s amusing how they all claim to have a personal relationship with the same deity and yet their deity tells them all different things. This fact alone should stop them in their tracks in claiming an objective morality.

    NotAnAtheist: “If so then it has no authority over me. I may kill, steal, rape and pillage as I please if it is only you as the authority.”

    There’s no evidence that believing in a deity will stop you from doing those things. In fact, history shows the deity provides cover (at least those within the club) to do those crimes.

    NotAnAtheist: “I did not defend the passage in Exodus. You used your moral authority(from wherever it is derived) to condemn it though.”

    You offer an objective morality which forbids murder (from no less than the OT!!!) but when someone points out that the rampant and senseless murder in the OT is wrong, you say he can’t make that judgement without referring to some other source of objective morality? Your source of objective morality fails according to its own standards. The deity tells his people it’s wrong to murder, then tells them to murder. And atheists are the ones being illogical???

    AM

  61. Philosofrenzyon 07 Jan 2013 at 5:47 pm

    @ nybgrus

    “His recent lecture about how the massacre in Newton was actually a gift from a loving god to remind us of the true meaning of the original Christmas.”

    Ugh. I want to be surprised he would say such a terrible thing, but honestly, I’m more surprised that I hadn’t heard it until now than I am that he said it in the first place.

    After all, the same William Lane Craig who argued that we should pity the Israelite soldiers who were commanded to kill every man woman and child in the territories they conquered–not the people that were being murdered, but the poor soldiers who were commanded to do such difficult, tasteless work.

    You have to wonder how an intelligent man can honestly say things like that without hearing how absurd and terrible it sounds.

  62. ccbowerson 07 Jan 2013 at 5:56 pm

    Oh wow. Very nice post Steve, you gave a very nice overview of the morality issue and the roles and contributions of science and philosophy, and I think you are spot on. I appreciate your contribution to the comments as well.

    I’m only about half way through these comments (hospital is busy today), but I hope to read them all. The discussion/comments in this post is much more focused than the previous days posts, which makes it a bit more enjoyable to read.

  63. rezistnzisfutlon 07 Jan 2013 at 6:03 pm

    “I believe that urge comes from God. Others may believe that urge comes from evolution. If so then it has no authority over me. I may kill, steal, rape and pillage as I please if it is only you as the authority. I may make a huge empire and do whatever I please. Why would it be better to follow some arbitrary rules based on some evolutionary urge that I have no problem suppressing? Why work a boring 9-5 job when I can have the exciting life of a renegade. Why would I follow “mufi’s rules for living” if I can have my empire by going against the rules? You are free to disagree and choose the 9-5. You are free to get together with like minded people and make my lifestyle illegal. What you can’t do is say what I am doing is “wrong” without some authority.”

    This line of thinking is one of the most absurd, and insulting, line of thinking religious fundamentalists think of. Let me pose you this question: why is it that you don’t see atheists constantly in the news committing all sorts of horrific crimes? Why is it our prison systems are filled mostly with theists? What stays the hand of atheists from committing all of these crimes? Why don’t I want to go out and do these things? Why would an atheist want to help anyone? Why do they help others when they don’t have to?

    You guys really don’t think these things through. The “authority” comes from a self-realization that I don’t want to live in a society where murder, stealing, raping, and pillaging are acceptable and expected. Society wouldn’t be able to function if those things were acceptable and commonplace, it would be an anarchistic dystopia. I have empathy for how others feel because I can imagine what bad things must feel like myself, and I don’t want them to feel the same thing. THIS is where we get our morals from. That and I don’t want to spend time in jail, die, or be socially outcast.

    In reality, authority only EVER comes from our willingness to abide by it, whether it’s from an ancient book or from the realizations I described above. No one can make anyone willingly do anything. Given that it’s your religious FAITH (aka belief without evidence) that what the bible says is true gives it moral authority over you, you still have to agree to abide by that authority anyway.

    So, you can believe that “urge” comes from God all you want. That is your baseless religious belief that you cannot demonstrate and not everyone shares. There are thousands of other religions who have just as strong as claims as you do, with no evidentiary bases themselves, either. Secularists, on the other hand, base their morality on reality and how it truly affects the real world.

    I love how you guys create the false dichotomy of theism v. evolution, as if they’re necessarily mutually exclusive. There are MANY theists who accept evolution. Or are you now going to employ the No True Scotsman fallacy? Also, you get evolution wrong (as usual): considering that there are evolutionary advantages to cooperative teamwork and empathy for others, then it would actually be AGAINST evolution to commit harmful acts like murder, theft, rape, and pillaging.

  64. nybgruson 07 Jan 2013 at 6:19 pm

    @philosofrenzy:

    At your own peril:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DWHUmuDFXjc

  65. rezistnzisfutlon 07 Jan 2013 at 6:22 pm

    One example of arbitrary rules based on meaningless religious morality is the idea that homosexuality is a sin and an abomination, and that they should not have the same rights as everyone else. There simply is no good reason for this whatsoever. Homosexual marriage does not affect anyone whatsoever, nor is it harmful to society. The only harm that EVER comes from such unions is from the bigots, religious fundamentalists, and homophobes, and that’s THEIR problem, not the homosexuals.

    So, the idea that same-sex marriage is wrong and that marriage is only valid between a man and a woman has no basis in reality. In fact, there’s evidence that it’s helpful – it promotes familial stability, long-term monogamy, a stable environment for children (any couple wanting to adopt is typically more ready to raise children than those who have unexpected children), more fulfilled careers, greater societal happiness, etc. There is also evidence that restricting equal rights and respect under the law is harmful.

    How is this relevant to this conversation? It goes to illustrate the superiority of secular morality. Whereas religious morality is derived from the authority of ancient religious prophets who were steeped in superstition, fear, and scientific ignorance, secular morality is based on what is actually realistic for the greatest societal happiness and stability for ALL citizens, and what is least harmful. Since there is no real-world evidence that same-sex marriage is harmful nor does it affect opposite-sex marriage in any way, there is no need to reduce the happiness of a segment of the population, and therefore increases the happiness and stability of the population at large. Reducing the rights of others is nearly always denigrating.

  66. JJ Borgmanon 07 Jan 2013 at 6:24 pm

    Wow is right. The only conclusion I keep coming back to is that this has got have those rascals Novella, Jay and Bob, behind it.

  67. nybgruson 07 Jan 2013 at 6:29 pm

    @ rezistnzisfutl:

    As usual, spot on.

    I also pointed out the inanity of claiming evolution = mass murder and do whatever you please. There are so many examples of animal cooperativity for the benefit of the group at the expense of self it is mind boggling. And the mathematics of population genetics explains and predicts it perfectly, including K vs R selection. Unless God also has commandments for Ground Hornbills who can’t reproduce except at the reproductive expense of relatives that does seem to fall apart, doesn’t it?

    But even then all you need is one example to completely shatter the argument to pieces. And if you look at my med school class you’ll have a few hundred atheists who work hard to bring good to humanity – many of them even above and beyond med school duties.

    Or just look at me – as anti-theist as they come, yet somehow I am not filled with the urge for wanton murder and rampage and find the idea of rape and abuse of children to make me physically ill.

    Of course, that is why a theist like Marvin Olasky can write (and scores of theologians can think) over at Christian World Magazine that:

    Atheists don’t exist. Everyone believes in a god of some sort. Atheists even know that God exists. Chapter 1 of Romans tells us that, and so does a piece of lesser evidence: “Hallelujah,” a song written by Canada’s Leonard Cohen, initially released 28 years ago but decade by decade resonating ever more powerfully.

    Really? I don’t exist? I guess I don’t when you so desperately need to justify your world view. It’s pitiful really.

  68. nybgruson 07 Jan 2013 at 6:43 pm

    JJB and AM:

    Right? Wow indeed.

    ——

    I also forgot to add that it makes much more sense that morality is doing good things regardless of who is watching, promise of reward, or fear of punishment. Not because some authority told you.

    It doesn’t even pass the sniff test:

    Little Timmy: I don’t want to hit Jimmy even though nobody will ever catch me because that would be mean.

    Little Johnny: I don’t want to hit Jimmy because my dad is watching and he will ground me if I do.

    Which little boy is more moral?

    I am also often genuinely shocked and afraid when I hear that argument from Christians. It has happened to me in person. Are you really telling me that you have a seething desire to kill me and literally the only thing stopping you is your sky fairy saying you’ll go to hell if you do? What an incredibly horrible person you must be! If I think about what it would be like to kill someone intentionally and then think about how my mother, father, sister, and fiance would feel if I was the target of that murder and the pain and angst they would undoubtedly feel literally wells up inside me. I just couldn’t imagine doing it, law or not, sky fairy or not, Ceiling Cat or not.

    And they sit there and feel morally superior because the only thing constraining their vicious horrible selves is a book written by bronze aged goat herders in the most intellectually backwards part of the world at the time. Bah.

  69. rezistnzisfutlon 07 Jan 2013 at 6:43 pm

    @nybgrus

    Yea, I’ve heard that justification before, that there are “no real atheists”. Considering the passage that’s so often thrown at us that “only a fool in his heart says there is no god”, as well as the fact that the bible claims that disbelief is the one unforgivable sin, that would contradict the notion that there are “no real atheists”. If we truly believed in God, then there would be no need to add such passages or level the threat that disbelief is the one true sin, because disbelief in God would not exist.

    The bit about evolution is again a strawman and a false dichotomy. Strawman in that they get what Theory of Evolution is and says wrong, which stems from their scientific illiteracy, and the false dichotomy that if somehow evolution were disproven, that must mean the bible is true and God is real.

    If they only knew how utterly absurd and laughable their beliefs are to us, they’d probably quite trying so hard. I’ll always respect their right to believe whatever they want (as long as it isn’t harming anyone), and I’ll respect them as human beings, but I cannot respect their insane beliefs, especially when they allow those beliefs to inform their actions.

  70. rezistnzisfutlon 07 Jan 2013 at 6:47 pm

    @nybgrus

    If you haven’t already done so, check out Matt Dillahunty’s “Superiority of Secular Morality” series.

    What it comes down to for me is, even IF I believed in the christian god of the bible, I wouldn’t worship him for moral and ethical reasons. I’m better than that.

  71. tmac57on 07 Jan 2013 at 7:24 pm

    Philosofrenzy-

    You have to wonder how an intelligent man can honestly say things like that without hearing how absurd and terrible it sounds.

    Craig (and Zach) are two of the people I had in mind when I said that we should be careful that they NOT ever become atheists,for surely they will have no moral compass at that point, and are most likely very dangerous people who are projecting their inner ‘demons’ on to us.

  72. nybgruson 07 Jan 2013 at 7:37 pm

    If they only knew how utterly absurd and laughable their beliefs are to us, they’d probably quite trying so hard. I’ll always respect their right to believe whatever they want (as long as it isn’t harming anyone), and I’ll respect them as human beings, but I cannot respect their insane beliefs, especially when they allow those beliefs to inform their actions.

    I agree fully. Although sometimes I make myself laugh imagining some contrived movie scene where I am the fearless protagonist yelling at a hypothetical Congress about to pass thought-crime laws, “No damnit! This man deserves the right to believe in absolutely crazy and stupid $hit!”

    If you haven’t already done so, check out Matt Dillahunty’s “Superiority of Secular Morality” series.
    What it comes down to for me is, even IF I believed in the christian god of the bible, I wouldn’t worship him for moral and ethical reasons. I’m better than that.

    It sounds a lot like much of what Hitch has said in his debates and writings, and something I fully agree with as well. If you proved to me – to my own scientific satisfaction – that Yawheh of The Bible actually existed and was exactly as described in the book I still wouldn’t worship it.

    I liken it to the movie Independence Day. When faced with an overwhelming threat of death and eternal slavery, we don’t roll over and bow down… we fight damnit! It is such a common plot in movies I can’t fathom how no theist draws the parallel. Even if we talk about “creator” vs “magically or technologicall superior” (recall Arthur C. Clarke: Any technology sufficiently advanced is indistinguishable from magic) there are heaps of movie plots revolving around righteous rebellion against unfit parents.

    No matter how you slice it the god and religion hypothesis fails and fails spectacularly. But as the other saying goes, if you are going to lie, lie big!

    As for Dillahunty – I have heard of him, have watched a bit of him, and absolutely respect him and his work. I just have enough on my plate that I don’t feel I can justify another rehash of the same stuff I’ve learned and read elsewhere. Nothing against Dillahunty – just that I happened to read others and have just about had my fill. After all, unlike science where there is always more to learn, religion gives us nothing new so once you learn all the arguments it becomes rote tedium.

    Craig (and Zach) are two of the people I had in mind when I said that we should be careful that they NOT ever become atheists,for surely they will have no moral compass at that point, and are most likely very dangerous people who are projecting their inner ‘demons’ on to us.

    Indeed. What a scary thought. Though I reckon that the deconversion would (most likely) be accompanied by an understanding of the humanistic underpinnings of why to deconvert as well. Though an abandonment of belief in isolation would be a truly frightening thought.

  73. HHCon 07 Jan 2013 at 7:39 pm

    So Steve, you don’t like the Old Testament book written about 5,773 years ago? Did you know that European and Americans claimed they were reading a New Testament during the years 1933 through 1945?

  74. Zachon 07 Jan 2013 at 8:19 pm

    RickK, nybgrus, Philosofrenzy, tmac57, and the others.

    If you are interested, Tim Keller deals with some of the issues I am trying to explain below. It’s his talk he gave at Google followed with a Q&A session. I’d really be interested to hear your critique of him – but bear in mind he realizes that some points he doesn’t have time to make properly and fairly, but he does acknowledge that to one of the questions that is brought to him. I like Keller, he huge into philosophy and history. Quotes from modern skeptics all the time and doesn’t demonize them. I really dislike it when Christians demonize anyone who doesn’t agree with them as evil Satan possessed banshees.

    Tim Keller at Google doing a talk
    (A bit longer – but good, especially the Q&A at the end.)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kxup3OS5ZhQ

    nybgrus
    “Not a peep from any of the theistic contingent we see here today.”

    Well, I’m not sure about IAmNotAnAtheist, but the only reason you are hearing a peep out of me on this is because an skeptic agnostic friend of mine pointed me here to read the article on the light travel problem. After I provided my thoughts in a critic he encouraged me to engage in a conversation with Steven directly. So here I am. I had never heard of Steven or this blog until now.

    Nybgrus said,
    “It truly is a challenge to figure out how to get the likes of the theists we have here to realize that the “facts” and “truths” and “accepted premises” they keep laying down are only accepted by those who have had it driven into their heads to do so unquestioningly and that to anyone rational – or even irrational but not of their faith – they make no sense, let alone can be accepted as axiomatic.”

    Well, I am not trying to be stubborn headed, I am convinced on what I am convinced on and so are you. We are in the process of dialog and trying to convince each other of our own views. If this isn’t your thing you don’t have to jump in, but I for one REALLY enjoy it. If it wasn’t for my skeptic/agnostic friend, I would not have the interest in these conversations I do today. Iron sharpness iron and all that sort of thing. So I enjoy these conversations – they can get a bit heated, but it’s a discipline to not confuse disagreement with stupidity and get frustrated over the fact that someone doesn’t agree with you. If someone doesn’t at least understand my point of view I strive to not get frustrated with them, but work at being a better communicator. Now if someone understands my view and disagrees, well that is what it is and is still usually profitable conversation.

    The best conversations are ones that are actual conversations – as opposed to games of “Gotcha”, which usually is what internet conversations turn into – hence why I am trying to shy away from commentators here who simply just want to argue and not have a friendly conversation.

    I hope that clarifies your concerns.

    Mufi,

    You said,
    “Sure, you can call this a “game” if you like. But, unlike in football, playing is not optional. It’s a game that we were all born to play and which society requires that we play in one version or another, whether we like it or not.”

    Hey Mufi, I didn’t mean to say that the conversation of morality is game – it was just an analogy that I tried to use that someone else used to help me once in the situation. If it doesn’t help with understanding my point, feel free to drop it. Analogies are hit or miss for a person.

    RickK

    Hey RickK,

    You said,
    “People with no experience of anything you’d call a God, Zach, still develop moral codes. Even other primate species demonstrate rudimentary moral behavior – fairness, reciprocity, etc. Do you deny this?”

    No, I do not deny this at all. Would be pretty silly of me if I did huh. But this is a good question.
    My point is not that without God people will have no morality, every person alive clearly has some moral system whether they articulated it.
    The point I have been seeking to drive home is whether you hold to a certain morality or not, without a foundation it is only a personal opinion – and I have major concerns that that is an explainable way to justify moral nature.

    You said,
    “Zach – what are you arguing? You keep criticizing Steve on the basis that not everybody agrees to a given society’s set of morals. So what?”

    This is another great question. I’ll try to explain it.
    My entire point sums up to this – how do we differentiate which moral system is right – and how do we decide our morals.
    Steven appeals to a sort romanticized appeal to the common good will of mankind to work together and to perfect this over time. I believe he is mistaken for several reasons. I don’t think logic and science can direct our morality to a foundational basis for deciphering right from wrong.

    Let’s take this point to the practical application of it. I have already broken Godwins law so I guess I will just continue to do so. The Nazi’s believed they were morally right for exterminating the weaker races. They were a very modernized and scientific culture, this is unfortunately true. So on what basis do we tell them to stop doing what they believe to be right?

    As a Christian I argue that all human beings are created in the image of God and therefore have inalienable human rights. Now as Steven has pointed out, he think’s that’s a bad foundation for human rights and morality since God kills people, etc. etc.
    The point is not that my view is correct – a point which comes around to be argued later, the point is that even though I might be wrong, I at least have a logical foundation in which to rest my morality on. You might argue that it is bad morality, or w/e, but it’s the foundation that is the point. My question to Steve is what is his foundation for deciphering right from wrong? I assert he doesn’t have one that can be rooted in logic. That is VERY different from saying he has no morality. Sure he can say he believes that humans should be treated fairly, but on what basis does he say that? I have provided my basis, though you disagree with it, you must replace it otherwise you enter the realm of subjective morality based on different competing logical fallacies. I.E. Ad Populum (majority rule), appeal to emotion, etc. etc.

    You said,
    “Do you think “God” is a solution to that? How many Christian sects are there? How many other versions of God and of religion? There’s a lot of people out there that think God will reward them for jihad against infidels – will yours?”

    Yes I believe God is a logical sound conclusion to that. Notice I did not say that God is the absolutely necessary conclusion for that – there is a difference. But at this point I simply would like Steven to provide another possible sound conclusion for morality that takes all the different claims of his world view into the picture without cherry picking the applications of that. For example, evolution thrives on survival of the fittest – it is necessary that the strong eat the weak. Now, Steven doesn’t like this when it happens among humans…. ok, neither do I, but what does it matter what I like or what Steven likes? Reality is reality whether we like it or agree with it. The universe is a very cruel place full of death – everything dies. So based off Steven’s world view (and I assert he is a philosophical naturalists) how does he account for the “ought” of reality when the “is” is all his world view can accommodate?

    You said,
    “There’s no question that inventing a divine authority as a sort of omnipotent “Big Brother” is a great way to get people to be more moral when nobody is looking.”

    Sure, but that’s largely not my point as i demonstrated above. it’s not directly about getting people to fall into line (the mistake Steven keeps charging me of, saying if I appeal to religion then I will violate religious freedoms), but it is about a logically sound foundation from which to assert the “ought” of morality.

    Daedakys2y

    You said,
    “NaA, I don’t need an authority to tell me that beating people to near death is immoral.”

    I agree with you. You can tell yourself that you simply don’t believe this is correct behavior, but then you will be left without a logically sound foundation from which you can charge that mankind “ought” to not mistreat other human beings. You can believe it as hard as you want, that’s the not issue. The issue is where do you get off telling another human their morality that is different that yours is wrong. As I said, I have no problem telling another human being this, because I believe my foundation (which is logically sound) allows me to fight for human rights regardless of whether the nazi’s agree with me or not. If you believe morals stem from logic and basically comes from a consensus (as Steven does), how do you logically justify that? I don’t see how you can.

    You said,
    “Applying the reasonable person criteria, and my empathy as a human being, I presume that servants being beaten such that they die in 2 days consider being so treated to be unacceptable and immoral. I presume that the servants being beaten to near death did not grant permission to be so beaten. It is not the presence of an authority that dictates that beating someone to near death is immoral to render such actions immoral, it is the lack of authority from the person being beaten that renders the action immoral.”

    Now, I have to ask and I’m really not trying to be obnoxious about this, but it is a serious question I have, what do you do if someone say the same thing back to you but believes the exact opposite? They could argue logically that mankind is nothing more than the result of blind chance and unbiased processes that have created him to be exactly as he “is”, so what’s with the “ought”? He could argue that he is an animal and he can do as he feels and pleases – this is logical, but repulsive to you and I, but what do you about it? How do you justify your views as superior to his? Some appeal to an idea of what’s best for humanity as a whole? He will likely respond that why should give a damn about society as a whole except for when it happens to suit his tastes and benefits?

    You said,
    “Your idea that an authority can authorize a behavior and by so doing it render it “moral” is called the “appeal to authority” fallacy when it applies to facts, it is no less a fallacy when it applies to moral actions.”

    I think this is wrong. Here’s why. I don’t believe God authorizes behavior one day to be moral, and the next day to be immoral at a whim/roll of the dice. I believe morality stems from the nature of God – I linked a pretty good article explaining how
    Euthyphro dilemma’s is a false dichotomy. If you get the time to read it, it might make my position a bit clearer.

    Autumnmonkey

    You said,
    “You’re analogy fails in respect to the difference between the OT and NT. A proper analogy would be: A 14 year old drives a car, he gets stoned to death. Two years later, the driving center says we’re not stoning people anymore; people of all ages can now drive. The rules AND morality have in fact arbitrarily changed whether you can see that or not. The change makes absolutely no sense. There’s a rational sense between forbidding a 14 year old from driving on the streets and allowing a trained 16 year old. There’s no sense in killing children and then saying we don’t do that anymore because of a mythical zombie.”

    I don’t think you are right here, I’ll explain why. As I stated before, I am not attempting to prove with this analogy that the morality of the Bible is correct (that’s a different conversation), I am attempting to show that the morality of the Old Testament and New Testament is not one of the options of the Euthyphro’s dilemma.

    You might not “like the morality of Yahweh, and to be honest much of the things he does I don’t like either, but unless I have some other objective standard from which to say, “X is wrong, it should be Y”, I am really just giving an emotional response which I admit is largely a part of my cultural preferences and raising.

    I think the analogy works very well once you understand the point I am trying to make with it. God is not inconsistent and he doesn’t change his moral nature. Are the rules somewhat different at different times, yeah, but that’s not a shift in moral nature, it’s a difference like the one I stated above with the driver’s license, or the rules of the house changing depending on your age. If my analogy doesn’t work for you, I urge you to check out the one Paul himself employed when speaking to Old Testament Jews who had the same concern you do. In Romans he talks about the law extensively and how Christ is the end of the law to all those who believe. I really don’t want be dismissive and pontificate here, but it really is a huge conversation to explain how the death of Christ fulfilled the requirements of the law. It’s complex, but just because it’s complex doesn’t mean it’s illogical.

    Let me know if you want more information on that. I hope that helps make my position more clear – even if you don’t accept it.

    Rezistnzisfutl

    You said,
    “Let me pose you this question: why is it that you don’t see atheists constantly in the news committing all sorts of horrific crimes? ”

    Do you have any evidence for this? Also, do you really buy into the Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens argument that religious basically causes all the problems in the world?

    I mean I agree with you, religion is a major vehicle of problems in our world. But where I would disagree is that it is the main or only cause. I assert that the problem is with mankind who uses his beliefs to feel superior to others and then justify their mistreatment of them. This is not a religious only process.

    You said,
    “The “authority” comes from a self-realization that I don’t want to live in a society where murder, stealing, raping, and pillaging are acceptable and expected.”

    If this is all morality truly is, what do you with societies who don’t agree on this? Kill them? (Might makes right).

    You said,
    “I love how you guys create the false dichotomy of theism v. evolution, as if they’re necessarily mutually exclusive. There are MANY theists who accept evolution.”

    I don’t think anyone did this. Tim Keller (my second favorite author who majored in philosophy) is an old earther who believes that God used different aspects of evolution. I linked his video above. I high nothing but respect for him.

    Gentlemen, would this help if I agreed that many atheists and agnostics are just as if not more moral as many “Christians”. I know Muslims who are much better persons/fathers than I am. Its really not a matter of which system allows you to be better at rule keeping.

    Now… if one of you would be so kind as to inform on how to do these fancy quotes that look so fancy.

    Zach

  75. HHCon 07 Jan 2013 at 9:16 pm

    Unfortunately, none here will understand the concept, I am that I am.

  76. rezistnzisfutlon 07 Jan 2013 at 9:20 pm

    “Do you have any evidence for this? Also, do you really buy into the Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens argument that religious basically causes all the problems in the world?”

    Why yes. According to 1997 Federal Bureau of Prisons Statistics, approximately 0.2% of respondents identified as atheist. The rest of the respondents replied that they have some sort of religious affiliation that includes theism.

    I’m not aware that Dawkins or Hitchens ever said that they believe ALL the problems of the world are caused by religion. I’ve heard this claim by many theists, and nearly always they are either quote mining or misquoting. If you have citations, please post them. I do believe religion causes more problems than it solves, that there are no things religion can do that can’t be done by secular means, and secular humanity can have all the good trappings of religion while abandoning many of the bad ones. So in that light, I do believe that secular humanity is better, and that religion causes a lot of problems.

    “I don’t think anyone did this. Tim Keller (my second favorite author who majored in philosophy) is an old earther who believes that God used different aspects of evolution. I linked his video above. I high nothing but respect for him.”

    ” ‘I believe that urge comes from God. Others may believe that urge comes from evolution…’ ”

    Even with your first statement, it’s still a false dichotomy. I’m glad that you acknowledge that there are theists who accept evolution (in some form at least). However, your statement that “I don’t think anyone did this” is refuted by the last quotation by NotAnAtheist, which you said you agreed with. So, while at least you acknowledge that many theists accept evolution, and that there are many evolutionary biologists who are also theists, there are MANY theists who do not accept evolution because of their religion (YEC). Are you telling me that you do accept evolution? And to put it out there, accepting only some of evolution and rejecting other aspects is not accepting evolution, because it’s not a piecemeal proposition. One of the basic arguments of YECs is to attempt to undermine and overthrow evolution, as if by doing so will make their theism true. So, instead of trying to support their argument that theism is true, they instead argue that evolution isn’t true. That is a false dichotomy.

  77. Peter T. Hansenon 07 Jan 2013 at 9:31 pm

    This isn’t supposed to be a deep philosophical comment where every word is “proven”, but..

    Every time I read Novellas posts and comments they just seem so straight forward and make sense logically and “emotionally”. Where I see a round hole, Novella has a round peg.

    However, every time I read Zack and Nat my brain almost hurts, much in the same was as when reading conspiracy theorists and CAM arguments. Everything seems upside-down. It seems they try to find (or create) any tiny crack in the argument and then give the crack and the original argument the same plausibility, without any self-criticism. Zacks comments don’t even provide me a square peg, but something of a whole different class of objects.

    Are peoples brains wired together in so different ways? Can we say something from a neuroscientific point of view about this?

    Best regards,
    Peter

  78. rezistnzisfutlon 07 Jan 2013 at 9:32 pm

    “Its really not a matter of which system allows you to be better at rule keeping. ”

    While it’s true that individual morality is, well, individual, how we govern societies is not. What I’ve seen here all along is you insisting that God exists, that absolute morality exists, that it comes from the abrahamic God of the bible, and that’s not only preferable, but demanded on the threat of hell, and that’s how everyone should live.

    There are numerous problems with this when it comes to how to morally behave. First, all of those listed above are unfalsifiable and unprovable – it’s your specific religious belief that not everyone shares. Secondly, there is no evidence that absolute morality exists. The history of humankind is evidence against any sort of absolute morality. Thirdly, even if you demonstrate that absolute morality exists, what does it consist of? You have yet to demonstrate that your abrahamic God exists and that what is written in the bible is what he says they are and that that is better than what we could come up with otherwise.

    The burden of proof is on you to demonstrate a) your specific abrahamic God exists, b) that biblical scripture is indeed his written word and how he desires for us to live today, and c) this is preferable to what we could come up with independently as humans.

  79. rezistnzisfutlon 07 Jan 2013 at 9:37 pm

    @Peter T. Hansen

    “Are peoples brains wired together in so different ways? Can we say something from a neuroscientific point of view about this?”

    I used to BE those guys in my younger days, a creationist. While I didn’t outright deny evolution and science (I didn’t know much about it at the time), I did believe that God created the world and humans in his image as they are.

    Since then, I’ve grown up and become an agnostic atheist. My brain is still the same, it’s just that I went through a long, and sometimes painful, process of uprooting my confirmation biases. My intelligence didn’t increase nor my brain chemistry change, I just got an education.

    Sorry for the personal anecdote, but to be fair, most atheists in America started out in some sort of theism, and what I’ve seen is that they too have had similar experiences.

  80. Zachon 07 Jan 2013 at 9:49 pm

    Hey rezistnzisfutl

    “Why yes. According to 1997 Federal Bureau of Prisons Statistics, approximately 0.2% of respondents identified as atheist. The rest of the respondents replied that they have some sort of religious affiliation that includes theism.”

    That’s a super narrow view of the question, and I doubt your atheist/agnostic friends would agree with you on this. It’s pretty bad cherry picking of data.

    You said,
    “Are you telling me that you do accept evolution? And to put it out there, accepting only some of evolution and rejecting other aspects is not accepting evolution, because it’s not a piecemeal proposition.”

    Part of the problem is that the definition of evolution is not universally agreed upon. Now I’m not even talking about YEC boys, I’m saying, I accept the aspects of micro evolution of course, but if one supposes that this implies that all creators trace back to a common ancestor then I will depart from evolution there.

    You might say that’s the same thing as rejecting all of evolution, but I don’t think that’s accurate or fair.

  81. rezistnzisfutlon 07 Jan 2013 at 9:51 pm

    @Zach

    “For example, evolution thrives on survival of the fittest – it is necessary that the strong eat the weak”

    This is NOT what Theory of Evolution says, nor what survival of the fittest means. Fitness does not mean that the strong necessarily prevail. It means that organisms tend to survive and flourish better than others that are the most fit to live in whatever niche they live in. They could range from lichens to elephants. The most powerful creature that ever lived may not be as fit to survive in their environment as a less powerful creature, and could very well be wiped out by the less powerful, but more “fit”, creature.

    When it comes to humans, we tend to flourish when we work cooperatively. This is an evolutionary adaptation that can be seen in other animals as well and why it has been proposed that science and secular humanity can be used, and indeed can be better, than any religious belief for determining morality.

    Furthermore, you still are left with the burden of proof that your abrahamic God exists, that absolute morality exists and is what’s in the christian bible, and that it’s preferable and “logical” (as you express it) to anything humans can create on their own.

    Without satisfying your burden of proof, you really have no leg to stand on in saying that your moral compass comes from God, much less that it’s superior and preferable. Without it, it’s just another religious opinion, and in my estimation, not worthy of today’s society.

  82. rezistnzisfutlon 07 Jan 2013 at 10:02 pm

    “That’s a super narrow view of the question, and I doubt your atheist/agnostic friends would agree with you on this. It’s pretty bad cherry picking of data.”

    How is that cherry picking? It’s really the only data we have. You asked what evidence do I have that atheists aren’t going around committing all sorts of heinous crimes because they are atheists. Other than there BEING no other evidence that is the case, which is evidence in an of itself, showing a statistic that atheist comprise a VERY small portion of the prison population in the US is a strong indicator of how few atheists are indeed going around committing all sorts of heinous crimes.

    “Part of the problem is that the definition of evolution is not universally agreed upon.”

    Actually, no, that’s not the case. At least within the scientific community, there is an overwhelming consensus. Outside of that in the general population, then yea, that’s the case, but that doesn’t really count, now does it? What does it matter what Joe Bloe off the street’s definition of evolution is? You are again attempting to erroneously redefine terms in order to fit your preconceived worldview. Your definition of evolution is NOT what the actual definition of evolution is. I could tell people all day long that the atmosphere is 100% oxygen, but obviously that’s not precise or accurate.

    Seeing that macroevolution is simply the long-term form of microevolution, and that no biologist discriminates between the two, then yea, rejecting macroevolution IS rejecting evolution. “Macroevolution” is no less evolution than “microevolution”, distinctions that really only creationists use.

  83. rezistnzisfutlon 07 Jan 2013 at 10:22 pm

    @Zach

    It’s very difficult to have any meaningful conversation with a person about the science when they consistently get the science wrong. I’m not sure if this is intentional on your part or if you are just truly ignorant, or what. It seems to me that you’re just not willing to learn what it is, and that’s a large part of the problem here. Much of the time is spent correcting you on what the science actually says, and you aren’t absorbing it. You continue to repeat the same mistakes over and over, and it’s discouraging to continue a conversation with someone so close-minded.

    No one is asking you to agree with the science, but at least get what it says correct. You have one of the most powerful search engines ever known at your fingertips, so there’s really no reason not to know. Heck, there are professional biologists here who could help you.

    Unfortunately, when you continue to repeat the same mistakes and creationist strawmen over and over again, you’re not going to get very far. If I were quoting a passage from Mark that is actually in Peter, and claiming that the Peter passage is really in Mark and what the Mark passage is all about, you’d probably try to correct me and get grumpy when I continued to use the Peter passage. It’s the same thing here when you get the science wrong and use creationist sources that also get the science wrong. It’s dishonest, disingenuous, and fruitless.

  84. ccbowerson 07 Jan 2013 at 10:28 pm

    rezistnzisfutl-

    “I used to BE those guys in my younger days, a creationist. While I didn’t outright deny evolution and science (I didn’t know much about it at the time), I did believe that God created the world and humans in his image as they are.
    Since then, I’ve grown up and become an agnostic atheist. My brain is still the same, it’s just that I went through a long, and sometimes painful, process of uprooting my confirmation biases. My intelligence didn’t increase nor my brain chemistry change, I just got an education.”

    I appreciate the anectdote. In retrospect, I imagine that you had the “aptitude” (for lack of a better word) for becoming an agnostic atheist. I don’t necessarily mean this specific to religion, but sometimes it appears that some people hold dearly to ideologies and have a confirmation bias way of thinking as a default. I assume that this was not how your mind worked/works but perhaps religion was a topic you did not challenge critically until later in life. Is this an accurate approximation? I am curious about these things.

  85. Zachon 07 Jan 2013 at 10:33 pm

    rezistnzisfutl are you deliberately avoiding my points and questions? I can’t figure out why you keep ignoring them and then rolling back to just complaining about how much you hate the YEC position… we aren’t even discussing that here….

    You aren’t striking me as being a very objective person by this behavior. If you aren’t interested in my position, then let it be, move on and be happy with w/e system it is you use, that you have yet to provide, for a foundation for morality.

    Peter T. Hansen

    I will respond with an appropriate Christian response taken from C. S. Lewis.

    “It is no good asking for a simple religion. After all, real things are not simple. They look simple, but they are not. The table I am sitting at looks simple: but ask a scientist to tell you what it is really made of–all about the atoms and how the light waves rebound from them and hit my eye and what they do to the optic nerve and what it does to my brain–and, of course, you find that what we call ‘seeing a table’ lands you in mysteries and complications which you can hardly get to the end of.

    A child saying a child’s prayer looks simple. And if you are content to stop there, well and good. But if you are not and the modern world usually is not — if you want to go on and ask what is really happening — then you must be prepared for something difficult. If we ask for something more than simplicity, it is silly then to complain that the something more is not simple.

    Very often, however, this silly procedure is adopted by people who are not silly, but who, consciously or unconsciously, want to destroy Christianity. Such people put up a version of Christianity suitable for a child of six and make that the object of their attack. When you try to explain the Christian doctrine as it is really held by an instructed adult, they then complain that you are making their heads turn round and that it is all too complicated and that if there really were a God they are sure He would have made ‘religion’ simple, because simplicity is so beautiful, etc. You must be on your guard against these people for they will change their ground every minute and only waste your time. Notice, too, their idea of God ‘making religion simple’; as if ‘religion’ were something God invented, and not His statement to us of certain quite unalterable facts about His own nature.”

    rezistnzisfutl

    “Without satisfying your burden of proof, you really have no leg to stand on in saying that your moral compass comes from God, much less that it’s superior and preferable. Without it, it’s just another religious opinion, and in my estimation, not worthy of today’s society.”

    I’m not sure where you think I did this, but I never even came close to demonstrating proof towards this. That’s another conversation entire, re-read my posts about showing logical soundess or not.

    The conversation is about morality requiring a moral law bringer, else there is no other possibility that does not abuse logical fallacies.

    I have demonstrated that my position is sound, I haven’t demonstrated that it is valid. There is a difference.

    Please provide an alternate objective standard.

  86. nybgruson 07 Jan 2013 at 10:40 pm

    Heads up – I’m going to put up a bunch of shorter posts to try and separate thoughts and avoid a giant wall of text.

    First off, has anyone noticed a very palpable change in the tenor of Zach? I mean a very obvious (to me at least) shift… almost a personality change. I’m not saying it is a bad thing – in fact, I think it is quite good. It is just throwing me for a loop.

    Next, since he asked, I will explain HTML markups real quick – they are simple, but I am not an expert so hopefully it will come out properly.

    First off the tage is always surrounded by the alligator brackets which look like this

    Next come what you would like it to do:

    i = italics
    b = bold
    blockquote = setting aside the quote

    like this

    the slightly tougher one is linking a URL to text it looks like this:

    a =href”http://www.url.com”

    Then you must “close” each one by using the same markup but with a / in front of it so:

    i then /i
    b then /b
    blockquote then /blockquote

    for the URL it is just the a part so

    a =href”URL” then /a

    So pretend that [] is the same as because otherwise it won’t show up it will just appear as the markup

    [i]italics[/i]
    [b]bold[/b]
    [blockquote]blockquote[/blockquote]
    [a href="URL"]LINK TEXT[/a]

    The only space that exists in any of that is between the “a” and the “href”

    Hope that helps.

  87. ccbowerson 07 Jan 2013 at 10:57 pm

    “The point I have been seeking to drive home is whether you hold to a certain morality or not, without a foundation it is only a personal opinion – and I have major concerns that that is an explainable way to justify moral nature.”

    You keep holding every moral system to an absolute objective morality standard, and if it fails that you see it as a flaw, but you fail to see that this is not a flaw, because an absolute objective morality does not exist. Even adding religion does not solve this problem as you describe it (it then becomes everone’s personal opinion of what their religions say), and it adds many other problems (which we do not have to go into).

    “Steven appeals to a sort romanticized appeal to the common good will of mankind to work together and to perfect this over time. I believe he is mistaken for several reasons. I don’t think logic and science can direct our morality to a foundational basis for deciphering right from wrong.”

    He did not say that science and logic alone can decipher right from wrong, in fact he said precisely the opposite. You often argue against statements that were never made (often the opposite), and I’m not sure why. It reminds me a bit of when Dr Novella went on the Oz show.

    “The Nazi’s believed they were morally right for exterminating the weaker races. They were a very modernized and scientific culture, this is unfortunately true. So on what basis do we tell them to stop doing what they believe to be right?
    As a Christian I argue that all human beings are created in the image of God and therefore have inalienable human rights.”

    So you think this is a solution to such actions? If we use gods as a foundation for arguing against a genocide (to use your example), the counter-argument could just as easily use their gods use of genocide for justification of the action. It fact I would argue it is much easier to justify terrible acts if they are mandated by gods. Its harder to make the case on a large scale if no ideology is driving justification for terrible acts.

    “Sure he can say he believes that humans should be treated fairly, but on what basis does he say that? I have provided my basis, though you disagree with it, you must replace it otherwise you enter the realm of subjective morality based on different competing logical fallacies. I.E. Ad Populum (majority rule), appeal to emotion, etc. etc”

    They are based upon agreed upon conclusions using science to determine facts, and then using logic and philosophy to analyze these facts in light of our collective values. Sure there will be some disagreements, but that is the nature of the problem. (Its not as if religion removes the disagreements, it just creates new ones)

    I would argue that most moral decision making is not done by analyzing religious teachings for even those who are religious. We make moral decisions all of the time, and it is largely done on the basis of our own moral judgements, which are constructed over the course of our lives influenced by our own thoughts and feelings at the time the decisions are made.

    “Now, Steven doesn’t like this when it happens among humans…. ok, neither do I, but what does it matter what I like or what Steven likes? Reality is reality whether we like it or agree with it. The universe is a very cruel place full of death – everything dies. So based off Steven’s world view (and I assert he is a philosophical naturalists) how does he account for the “ought” of reality when the “is” is all his world view can accommodate?”

    Morality is a human construct, and we can create this in a universe that doesn’t otherwise care about it. Just as “purpose” is.
    That doesn’t mean that they don’t exist, they exist because we create them. It is not true that there is no “ought,” the ought is what we decide it is, but this is not some arbitrary personal opinion on a whim, it is largely agreed upon (how is discussed above and many times previously). From a big picture perspective people largely agree on many aspects of morality, and where there is disagreement there is philosophy, logic and argument to work on the differences.

    “The issue is where do you get off telling another human their morality that is different that yours is wrong.”

    This is a weak argument. Does religion solve this quesion or make it worse? For example, someone could say: ‘Where do you get off telling me that your god says I’m wrong.’
    The way it actually occurs is as we described above through science, logic, philosophy and argument. In practice we agree upon certain rules and laws with regards to specific behaviors (as far as adressing the ‘where do you get off’ comment)

  88. daedalus2uon 07 Jan 2013 at 11:09 pm

    What Zach and NaT are saying is that they are legally insane. No, this is not ad hominem, it is taking them at their word.

    Legal insanity is the inability to tell right from wrong. Zach and NaT have said that they are unable to determine that it is not ok to beat people nearly to death unless there is a “rule” to not do so by what they consider to be a competent Authority, aka God.

    The analogy to rules of driving is not apt. There are circumstances where a 14 year old driving would be the moral choice. If a older driver had a heart attack, and needed to be transported to the hospital, and the 14 year old was a sufficiently competent driver to do so, then it could be morally acceptable for the 14 year old to do so, even if it was illegal. Saving the life of the heart attack victim is more important than obeying the driving regulations.

    In terms of Christianity (and in essentially every religion), the most important “rule” is obeying what God says to do, or what the religious leader says to do, no matter what it is. Like a 14 year old driving to save a life, killing because God says to kill is more moral than refusing to do what God commands. .

    Regarding Godwin’s law, Hitler was a Christian. The Nazi slogan was “Gott mit uns.” God with us.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gott_mit_uns

    The Nazis were taught by their leaders, including their religious leaders, that they were doing God’s work. Christians have long been taught that because God chooses the civil authorities, that civil authorities must also be obeyed.

    People who considered themselves to be “good” Christians, good Germans, good and moral people still did grotesquely immoral acts. Why? Because they didn’t “hear” God tell them not to. For example, the current Pope:

    “In a place like this, words fail; in the end, there can be only a dread silence, a silence which itself is a heartfelt cry to God: Why, Lord, did you remain silent? How could you tolerate all this?”

    http://archive.newsmax.com/archives/ic/2006/5/28/192052.shtml

    If your “morality” comes from “listening” to God tell you to not do certain things, and you don’t “hear” God tell you to not do them, then it gives people like Zach and NaT the excuse that it is God’s fault for not being more explicit.

  89. nybgruson 07 Jan 2013 at 11:10 pm

    Now to the meat of it. We need to take a step back and Zach, you will join me in these steps back if you have any genuine interest in having a productive conversation as you have recently claimed. I’ll be honest that I am quite worried I am wasting my time here as I have been burned before, but your change in tenor gives me hope and I am always interested in actually productive conversations.

    First off Zach (and actually NaA as well) – I hold a degree in evolutionary biology. I have since studied it on my own reasonably extensively. I am by no means an expert to the level of, say, Jerry Coyne or Richard Dawkins, but ask anyone around these parts and I can pretty well hold my own. I apply the principles of evolutionary biology to my study of medicine and even enjoy talking about comparative physiology and anatomy with my veterinarian. I am also not the only one here well versed in evo bio. As such, it would greatly behoove you to actually listen to what we have to say in that regard.

    This is very important because you hinge at least part of your argument on a false presumption of what evo bio actually says.

    Westernized culture might have traces of this, but by in large humanity has not functioned in this manner. Not only that, but it goes against evolutionary theory to say that we should care about those outside our family/tribe

    You’ve said essentially this same thing a few times. I’ve responded a few times. This is the last time I will make an effort with you if you do not acknowledge and address the point.

    Evolutionary biology not only is consistent with caring about those outside our family and tribe, it is consistent with pure altruism as a sacrifice of oneself – reproductively or otherwise – as well. Not only that, but it predicts this to be the case AND explains it mathematically. As long as you erroneously continue to think that evolutionary theory says we all must kill and ravage each other ceaselessly and mercilessly you simply cannot have a fruitful conversation. Let me reiterate – this is not what evolutionary biology says or predicts.

    A simple example would be cleaner shrimp and fish. Or remoras and sharks. Or ground hornbills. Or even humans.

    Part of the problem is that the definition of evolution is not universally agreed upon. Now I’m not even talking about YEC boys, I’m saying, I accept the aspects of micro evolution of course, but if one supposes that this implies that all creators trace back to a common ancestor then I will depart from evolution there.

    You might say that’s the same thing as rejecting all of evolution, but I don’t think that’s accurate or fair.

    Now this is the biggie here. You make the immediate mistake of the Nirvana fallacy. We do not need everyone to agree. But the fact is that greater than 99% of scientists in relevant fields and greater than 97% of all other scientists agree on the definition of evolution. This is not a point of contention. It is fact. And yes, that does mean common descent for all living creatures on the planet. This is absolutely indisputable fact and anyone telling you different is a creationist lying to you. I will not get into why – go to TalkOrigins and Why Evolution is True and educate yourself if you need to, but I can assure you with all kindness in my heart and the education to back it up – this is simply not a point of contention. If you reject this, then yes, you reject all of evolution.

    I apologize that I must state from authority that this is the case. I wish I could do otherwise, but the last time I did it took me around 7 or 8 months and 70ish single spaced typed pages to convince a creationist he was wrong and to accept fully evolution. I count that as my one “win” and simply don’t have the time or energy for more. But challenge yourself. I have read the creationist claims and found them lacking. Read actual evolutionary theory. Force yourself to slog through a few books of it. The worst case is you will be vindicated and can then argue against the likes of me even better.

    But seriously, the conversation cannot continue if you keep ignoring these points about evolution.

    Do all scientist agree on every aspect of scientific theory? Of course not.

    Once again the Nirvana fallacy. You do this often. We do not need universal consensus. As you have correctly stated this is a ludicrous idea to hold – that all people will absolutely agree. There are even people that refuse to believe the earth is round. Go check out the Flat Earth Society.

    But the overwhelming consensus – and in the case of evolution the so-massively-overwhelming-consensus-it-is-astounding – is in favor of evolution. Including so-called macro evolution and common descent. There is literally no theory in science that is better supported from all disciplines of science. None.

    Next I’ll get into your fallacious use of fallacy…

  90. Davdoodleson 07 Jan 2013 at 11:16 pm

    “I believe that urge comes from God. Others may believe that urge comes from evolution. If so then it has no authority over me. I may kill, steal, rape and pillage as I please if it is only you as the authority. I may make a huge empire and do whatever I please”

    Well, if it’s only your belief in Ceiling Kitteh that stops you from acting on those desires then, by all means, you keep worshipping. And medication may be useful too.
    .

  91. rezistnzisfutlon 07 Jan 2013 at 11:42 pm

    @Zach

    I’m not sure which question you’re referring to that I’m supposedly avoiding. Have you not read all my posts? I believe I have answered all your questions and points directed to me, so are you instead referring to more general questions and points you made earlier to others?

    “I can’t figure out why you keep ignoring them and then rolling back to just complaining about how much you hate the YEC position… we aren’t even discussing that here….

    You aren’t striking me as being a very objective person by this behavior. If you aren’t interested in my position, then let it be, move on and be happy with w/e system it is you use, that you have yet to provide, for a foundation for morality. ”

    You’re right, the YEC position isn’t the primary focus here. Sorry, but it’s hard for me to let it go when you spout something about the science that is just dead wrong. Other than that, I think the only time I’ve brought it up was when it’s relevant to the topic at hand. You are the one who has stated things about evolution that is wrong, not me, and I’ve addressed this already. It seems to me that you’re not really reading my posts.

    Who is truly objective? I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not an objective person, and I don’t believe anyone is. I try to BE as objective as possible, that’s a goal, but I don’t pretend that I AM objective. That’s an ad hom anyway, and it’s YOU who isn’t answering my questions or points here.

    About your position on this topic, I’ve already covered that ad nauseum above. To recap: You claim that objective morality exists, as does the christian god of the bible, that the bible is the word of god and that’s where we find most of our morality, as well as morality being “given” to us by god in the form of inalienable rights. Is that about the extent of it? I’m not sure where I”m misunderstanding you if that’s not.

    My position is that you have yet to fulfill the burden of proof that a) your god exists, b) absolute morality exists and it comes from your god, and c) that morality is preferable to anything humans can create on their own.

    “I’m not sure where you think I did this, but I never even came close to demonstrating proof towards this.”

    No, you haven’t, and that’s what I’ve been driving at. I have yet to see any posts from you that come anywhere near providing evidence, or proof, of any of your claims, the primary one being that absolute morality exists and comes from your christian god.

    “The conversation is about morality requiring a moral law bringer, else there is no other possibility that does not abuse logical fallacies. ”

    While that question is part of the discussion, again you have not yet demonstrated a moral law bringer is the case. We have explained to you already, again ad nauseum, where we get our morality from, and you then either dodge or play semantic games. I’m not sure what you mean in the latter part of your statement other than you’re claiming that any other possibility beyond a moral law bringer necessarily includes logical fallacies (one does not abuse logical fallacies, they either commit them or they don’t – there is no correct or incorrect way to “use” a logical fallacy).

    “I have demonstrated that my position is sound…”

    The only way your position can be regarded as sound, is if one accepts there is absolute morality that’s given by your christian god of the bible. Sorry, but that’s not a sound position, it’s an insane position.

    “Please provide an alternate objective standard.”

    This has already been done, ad nauseum. Objective morals come from factual data gathered via scientific means (see my post above regarding same-sex marriage). It seems that perhaps you’re confusing or conflating objective morals with absolute morals?

  92. autumnmonkeyon 07 Jan 2013 at 11:42 pm

    Zach: “I have simply said that if you are going to call any person corrupt (including the God of the Old Testament), you had better be able to provide some other”

    He doesn’t have to. He can measure Yahweh against Yahweh’s own objective morality. Yahweh says one thing and does another. And don’t pull the mysterious canard; it was you or that other troll who wrote something to the effect that goodness was simply a feature of your deity’s character. What we see is that your deity says X is right, then your deity does the opposite. The opposite of right is wrong. Spin that as much as you want. It convinces no one with more than a trailer park education.

    Zach: “Also, you might not like the God of the Bible, but so what? That’s another appeal to emotion unless you can provide me with an objective alternative you are merely providing more fallacious reasoning to why it’s immoral.”

    You haven’t demonstrated that your source of morality abides by its own rules. Don’t ask others to provide another center of morality when yours is a big fat fail.

    You and the other guy keep referring to the Nazis as though this was an example of majority morality. But it wasn’t. This was a brutal dictatorship that was never voted in by the majority. Even the minority who initially supported them had no idea they would do what they did. The Nazis knew what they were doing was wrong by the standards of their own society. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have tried to cover their tracks. And it certainly wasn’t Yahweh who stopped Hitler. It was the rest of the world, which, heh, constituted the real majority. Imagine that.

    Zach: “I’m pretty sure 100% of the population dies so what’s the problem here? You are clearly appealing to some other objective moral standard, what it is?”

    Thou shalt not kill, perhaps?

    Here’s the gist of it:
    Someone who does what he wants? Yahweh.
    Someone not bound by objective morality? Yahweh.
    Someone whose morality changes on whim? Yahweh.
    Someone who orders you not to envy but then in another commandment says he’s a jealous god? Ding ding, that’s Yahweh.
    Someone with a relativistic morality? Yep, it’s Yahweh.
    Someone against abortion unless it’s a Canaanite or other undesirable tribe’s fetus? Booyah! Yahweh! Kill them all! Yahweh’s people need living space! (Now what other thuggish belief system does that sound like???)

    Perhaps theists are projecting much?

    Zach: “Late start? What is late? 1st century 1st hand eye witnesses is late? Better throw out every historian then.”

    You have no first hand written eye witness testimony. Real historians don’t operate on hearsay. This is nothing more than keyboard fapping on your part.

    nygbrus: “If you proved to me – to my own scientific satisfaction – that Yawheh of The Bible actually existed and was exactly as described in the book I still wouldn’t worship it.”

    If I were an advanced alien race looking to depopulate and take over our planet, I can imagine how easy it would be to con the world’s theists into doing my horrific bidding. I would just have to make sure I didn’t appear to them as a dark skinned man, like a 1st century Jew.

    Zach, it’s apparent you’re nothing more than a YouTube-trained apologist, probably a young adult. You’re not a philosopher as you claimed. We’re debating a chimp throwing random poo at the plexiglass window to get attention. Congrats. You got it. But you still live in a theist cage swinging on a Flintstones tire.

  93. nybgruson 07 Jan 2013 at 11:45 pm

    It is ad populum – you are relying on a consensus that is rooted in opinion to justify something that your world view says cannot truly exist universal…What do you mean there are no empirical claims in philosophy and what does that have to do with ad populum not being applicable…I.E. Ad Populum (majority rule),

    The ad populum fallacy only applies when you are making an appeal to an empirically verifiable fact.

    For example, if you were to say that 99% of the population believes that the moon is made of cheese, therefore it must be made of cheese. That is an ad populum fallacy.

    But if you say that 99% of Californians agree that surfing is awesome, therefore Californians think surfing is awesome, that is not and ad populum fallacy.

    In the context of the philosophy of morality, since there is no empiric fact to test for the axiomatic principles on which to base morality, when 99% of people agree that enhancing the flourishing of humanity is a good thing, that establishes the axiomatic principle.

    So if society agrees it’s ok to feed disrespectful teens to bears then you would be ok with that? Or would you object, and if so you’re entire point breaks down.

    The problem with this is that it is not an example of an axiomatic principle. The purpose of an axiomatic principle is one that is irreducible and forms the foundation of philosophical discourse. Feeding teenagers to bears is many steps removed from the principle.

    A better example would be the comment that “all death should be avoided.” That is also not an axiomatic principle because we can reduce death into multiple subsets some of which should not reasonably be avoided, some that can’t be avoided, and some that can be avoided. It is thus removed from the first principle. The principle would be “all human life should be able to flourish.” Thus, if we talk about feeding teenagers to bears, that violates the first principle. If we talk about a person with cancer, we are justified in removing it even if the treatment causes some harm along the way. If we talk about a terminal patient we can then justify palliation since death is inevitable but in the time remaining we can do our best to let what life is left flourish as much as possible.

    I really don’t want be dismissive and pontificate here, but it really is a huge conversation to explain how the death of Christ fulfilled the requirements of the law. It’s complex, but just because it’s complex doesn’t mean it’s illogical.

    Being logical is necessary, but not sufficient. For example, you can study the tooth fairy scientifically and philosophically. You can create an entire, ahem, religion around the tooth fairy and then do tests to see how much money she leaves on average, what kinds of teeth she prefers, what time of night she arrives, and actually come up with data. All of this will be absolutely 100% logically consistent. But you haven’t established that the tooth fairy exists to begin with.

    So you can explain how the death of Christ fulfilled the requirements of the law and took away our sin. You can discuss how it was necessary, what the consequences were, and how the necessitates certain behaviors, actions, and devotions on our part. And all of it will be absolutely 100% logically consistent. But you haven’t established that Christ, sin, or the need for the law to be fulfilled exists in the first place.

    That, right there, is the fundamental problem of religion (and CAM, btw). Sure you can create these elaborate and complex explanations and stories that are internally logically consistent (obviously countless theologians have done this for countless sects of countless religions!) but the part that is missing is that the premise on which it is all based is established in the first place. You assume the existence of a god and then build a theology on that… without ever having established that the god exists in the first place!

    The Nazi’s believed they were morally right for exterminating the weaker races. They were a very modernized and scientific culture, this is unfortunately true. So on what basis do we tell them to stop doing what they believe to be right?

    This one may get Zach fired up. I’m happy to refer you to the 421 comment thread on the topic I was engaged in before if that is the case. There was one that broke 500 comments but I can’t quickly find it and I am not inclined to do so. Besides, Zach would be reasonably disinclined to read it anyways.

    Hitler was a Christian. The basis of his campaign was rooted in Christianity, not science, and not Darwinism. In fact, he explicitly eschewed Darwinian theory and called himself “a soldier of Christ.” He felt that he needed to finish Christ’s work of exterminating the Jews. He felt that only the Aryan’s were the superior race in the eyes of God. His first ever treaty was with the Vatican. The Pope made his birthday a day of celebration. He was raised Catholic. He soldiers wore belt buckles that read “Gott mit uns” – “God with us.” He wrote about his extensively in Mein Kampf. And to this day he is not excommunicated from the Catholic church.

    Don’t go barking up that tree Zach. The reality is that there has been no truly secular state in existence yet – Mao, Stalin, Pol Pot, Kim Jong Il all eschewed established religions to replace it with their own cult of personality. Kim Jong Il’s government is not secular – it can’t even be considered atheistic because he is the god!

    Some appeal to an idea of what’s best for humanity as a whole? He will likely respond that why should give a damn about society as a whole except for when it happens to suit his tastes and benefits?

    This statement is quite intellectually bankrupt. Why should he care? Because the rest of society will. It is really that simple. As NaA tried to claim – sure, go and do whatever you want. Be a serial killer, or start an evil empire, or live as a renegade in the forest. As long as you don’t abut the consensus view of society you will be just fine. Living in the woods as a renegade is probably your best bet. And plenty of people do that. My fiancé’s uncle does for a good part of his life. But he doesn’t harm anyone – he just lives off the land. It is anti-social and very strange, but harms no one.

    Hitler tried to create an evil empire and be a serial killer. We know how that turned out.

    So why should you care? Because if you don’t there will be sanctions imposed on you. And if you want to maximize your own happiness and prosperity (which you should care about – those who don’t are the most dangerous of psycopaths) then you would care what the consensus of society is.

    So you are putting forth humanism as your world view in which societies should make laws? Why is your world view superior to others world view? Do you have an objective standard from which to demonstrate this?

    Science demonstrates it to be so. The dark ages were dark for a reason. Secular and predominantly atheistic Nordic countries have better quality of life by almost all metrics. Middle Eastern and African theocracies have very low quality of life by almost all metrics. The US is a very strange grab bag reflective of both the progressive nature and the highly theistic population. These at least establish correlation. Deeper exploration will reveal strong evidence of causation.

    So is there one single objective standard? No. But when you look at multiple metrics they all tend to converge on these facts. So why is humanism better? Because it has evidence that it yields better results.

    For a simple question, name one theocracy that you would rather live in than the US, Sweden, or Norway.

    Well, I am not trying to be stubborn headed, I am convinced on what I am convinced on and so are you

    Except that I am open to new evidence. Not parroting of the same long discrediting apologist claims, but of actual evidence. You completely gloss over it, most notably in the arena of science on which myself and others here are at least somewhat expert.

    Late start? What is late? 1st century 1st hand eye witnesses is late?

    And it doesn’t end with merely claims of scientific theory. As was demonstrated to you, there was no author – ever – of any passage or book of the Bible who could have possibly been an eyewitness to the supposed life of one Jesus H. Christ. Also conveniently ignored.

    Though perhaps you could give me reference to just one author of the bible – or anyone really – that has been clearly established to have actually lived at the same time as my homeboy Jeezy Creezy.

  94. nybgruson 07 Jan 2013 at 11:48 pm

    “Why yes. According to 1997 Federal Bureau of Prisons Statistics, approximately 0.2% of respondents identified as atheist. The rest of the respondents replied that they have some sort of religious affiliation that includes theism.”

    That’s a super narrow view of the question, and I doubt your atheist/agnostic friends would agree with you on this. It’s pretty bad cherry picking of data.

    Asked and answered already but I’ll lend my support. No cherry picking there.

    Though, to be a true skeptic, I will add that a confounder is the hyper religiosity of the US. This could plausibly lead many criminals to claim to be religious without actually being so in the hopes of it looking like “good behavior.” However, there is data to demonstrate many prisoners are religious before entering and either way considering that the general population of the US is 80+% religious, any confounder could not make up for a 49.8% discrepancy to negate rezisnftl’s statement.

  95. nybgruson 07 Jan 2013 at 11:51 pm

    Oh yeah, sorry. Forgot to address Keller. Like I said, I read the first couple chapters of his book. He sucks like the rest of them. His premises are riddled with logical fallacy and false premises. His references are terrible – most of them reference other theologians or himself. He cherry picks quotes and data. The only appeal to him is he pays lip service to looking at the other side, but a brief look shows he doesn’t. I’m sorry but I’ve read enough apologists to absolutely not be willing to waste my time further on Keller.

  96. nybgruson 07 Jan 2013 at 11:56 pm

    @resiztnsftl:

    Sorry for the personal anecdote, but to be fair, most atheists in America started out in some sort of theism, and what I’ve seen is that they too have had similar experiences.

    This may be why I am so intrigued by these sorts of folks. I have never, ever, harbored religious thought. It has seemed ridiculous to me for as long as I can remember. The manner of thinking is so far removed from my own it simply fascinates me.

    For example, I cannot possibly fathom believing in something just because I want to believe in it. Faith is a concept utterly alien to me. I have held incorrect ideas because I thought I had evidence to do so, or because I hadn’t examined the question thoroughly, but never because I “just believed.” Without hesitation the first question that pops into my head is “Why should I believe that?” Sometimes I just don’t care enough and it doesn’t matter so I employ the Socratic method and decide to believe what I think makes sense. But I don’t delude myself into thinking it is actually true and if I get any evidence to the contrary I change my understanding immediately. But faith is as foreign a concept to me as how a bat “sees” with echolocation.

  97. Zachon 08 Jan 2013 at 12:09 am

    Hey nybgrus,

    blockquote = First off, has anyone noticed a very palpable change in the tenor of Zach? I mean a very obvious (to me at least) shift… almost a personality change. I’m not saying it is a bad thing – in fact, I think it is quite good. It is just throwing me for a loop. /blockquote

    I am trying to slow down and explain things in a much clearer way. I don’t want to take for granted that people will understand me with little effort.
    But I think you are right, it’s better for dialog.

    blockquote = You keep holding every moral system to an absolute objective morality standard, and if it fails that you see it as a flaw, but you fail to see that this is not a flaw, because an absolute objective morality does not exist. /blockquote

    So is morality subjective, and how so?

    blockquote = So you think this is a solution to such actions? If we use gods as a foundation for arguing against a genocide (to use your example), the counter-argument could just as easily use their gods use of genocide for justification of the action. It fact I would argue it is much easier to justify terrible acts if they are mandated by gods. Its harder to make the case on a large scale if no ideology is driving justification for terrible acts. /blockquote

    I actually completely agree with you here. You are correct.

    blockquote = “They are based upon agreed upon conclusions using science to determine facts, and then using logic and philosophy to analyze these facts in light of our collective values. Sure there will be some disagreements, but that is the nature of the problem. (Its not as if religion removes the disagreements, it just creates new ones)” /blockquote

    I don’t think this is true. Because there is no consensus and it would be an ad populum anyways – I can’t see a way around that since it’s rooted in personal opinion not absolute facts that must be discussed.

    Guys, religion is clearly a power for great evil as well as good, but I contend even freedom and science have been used for great evil.

    blockquote = I would argue that most moral decision making is not done by analyzing religious teachings for even those who are religious. We make moral decisions all of the time, and it is largely done on the basis of our own moral judgements, which are constructed over the course of our lives influenced by our own thoughts and feelings at the time the decisions are made. /blockquote

    Any evidence for this statement and how it avoids the logical fallacies it is known for?

    Hopefully the block quotes works.

  98. rezistnzisfutlon 08 Jan 2013 at 12:12 am

    @ccbowers

    “but perhaps religion was a topic you did not challenge critically until later in life. Is this an accurate approximation?…”

    In a sense, this is a true statement. When I was a theist, I would say that my understanding of my religious belief became more sophisticated. I think what really started it off for me was when I became a pentacostal with a friend for a while (who was a really nice guy and not pushy about it at all) and being confronted by some truly hardcore right wing fundamentalists. A lot of what they were claiming I knew right off wasn’t true at all, and a lot of what they were saying just rubbed me the wrong way but I didn’t know why. They just seemed so…hateful, it turned me off. I started to really question things at that time, but it was a decade and a half after that that I outright declared that I’m an atheist. This was after a LOT of soul-searching, voracious reading, and an almost frenetic clinging to beliefs that I was afraid of abandoning.

    I then went on to “experiment” with other religions, never really finding a place that I could call home. I never felt comfortable with the holy rollers or the speaking in tongues types. I then adopted a more studious and scholarly approach of the more “liberal” denominations. This suited me for a while, but I realized that they, too, were never able to answer some tough questions that simply did not jibe with reality. All that time I was learning more about science and history. I did not seriously question my base theism until I was eventually challenged on them by others, mostly on the internet. In attempts to defend my positions, I became aware of my cognitive dissonance. That’s probably when I completely dropped pursuing religion altogether. I didn’t outright call myself an atheist, because that term kind of scared me. It wasn’t until I had some conversations with atheists about what it really is that I realized that I am one. It had been hammered into my head how evil atheism was, that it was all these bad things, to me I regarded it like a gateway drug that would take me down a dark path.

    So, once I became “educated” on certain things, I became an atheist. Of course, there is a LOT more to it, but I don’t think several pages of text will be entirely welcome here. However, if I ever write my autobiography, I’ll let everyone know! lol

  99. Christopher Newellon 08 Jan 2013 at 12:12 am

    I happened the other day, to be mulling over a quote by Christopher Hitchens that I really like, “morality does not come from religion it precedes it.” But, I thought to myself: how can we know this for a fact? Maybe religion is the basis for morality and not visa-versa. I think that they’re tightly interwoven threads and hard to separate empirically. Certainly morality has deep biological roots that precede religion but it’s hard to tell exactly how they play off of each other. Likewise philosophy and science are woven into the tapestry but are far more recent and therefore more superficial in their relationship to morality than nature, culture or religion. So I think that the answer to the question of the proper basis for morality is: all of the above. That is, nature first, then culture, then religion, then philosophy, and finally science, in there chronological order of influence on our morality. Morality is a real and objective phenomenon, not a matter of debate, and its proper basis is not a matter of preference. It’s like a geological formation with a particular natural history.

  100. Davdoodleson 08 Jan 2013 at 12:20 am

    “Hitler was a Christian. The basis of his campaign was rooted in Christianity, not science, and not Darwinism.”

    Cue adding the “no true Scotsman” fallacy to the Gish gallop in three… two… one…
    .

  101. nybgruson 08 Jan 2013 at 12:23 am

    Sorry Zach, my instructions must not have been clear. Do exactly what you have been doing, except put no spaces in the blockquotes and do not put in the equals sign.

  102. nybgruson 08 Jan 2013 at 12:29 am

    So is morality subjective, and how so?

    That has been demonstrated over and over and over again. It you is you that has the burden of demonstrated that it is immutable.

    The simple examples are the changes in attitudes towards slavery, racism, sexism, and we are currently embroiled in the shift regarding homosexuality.

    I don’t think this is true. Because there is no consensus and it would be an ad populum anyways – I can’t see a way around that since it’s rooted in personal opinion not absolute facts that must be discussed

    Please read my section on why that is not an appropriate use of ad populum.. though I suppose I can see why you think it might be.

    We are saying that there is no absolute facts regarding this issue, hence a consensus cannot be ad populum. You cannot argue against us by citing ad pop if our argument is that the very principle at hand is that there is no absolute fact. You must address the actual argument – that there is no absolute objective morality. Just saying there is is not sufficient. And as I said, we have demonstrated repeatedly how there isn’t.

    Name a single moral edict from the bible that is complete, objective, and has been held immutably by any society.

    Guys, religion is clearly a power for great evil as well as good, but I contend even freedom and science have been used for great evil.

    That’s called a tu cocque fallacy. Yes, freedom and science have been used for evil. That does not address the argument at had, nor does it absolve religion of the evils its commits.

  103. nybgruson 08 Jan 2013 at 12:31 am

    @davdoodles:

    I would expect no different. Which is why I linked my previous comment thread, mentioned there is an even longer one here somewhere on NeuroLogica, said my peace, and will not address it further.

    But nevertheless it will either fizzle or be a spectacular display of NTS and cognitive dissonance.

  104. nybgruson 08 Jan 2013 at 12:33 am

    @Christopher Newell:

    I mostly agree with you. Certainly religion can inform morality. Though I would merely refine that by saying it can inform it as a facet of culture. There is no role for the divinity of it to inform religion. I would also argue that science should play a much more prominent role, as should philosophy. The fact that it is a late comer to the discussion doesn’t mean its power to inform isn’t great. That would be like saying that because Newtonian mechanics came first it should take precedence over quantum mechanics in explaining the universe, despite QM’s vastly greater predictive and explanatory power.

  105. nybgruson 08 Jan 2013 at 12:35 am

    @autumnmonkey:

    Though you are still, IMO, rather civil I endeavor to be even more so. But you are, once again IMO, absolutely spot on.

    While we may not show Zach the error of his ways here, we have hopefully planted a seed that will germinate into a mind of rationality someday.

  106. nybgruson 08 Jan 2013 at 12:36 am

    @rezistnftl:

    Very interesting story. I am always fascinated by such tales, which is why I found Dan Barker’s book such a great read.

    Congratulations for taking the blue pill. ;-)

  107. rezistnzisfutlon 08 Jan 2013 at 12:49 am

    @nybgrus

    I for one am mixed about how I feel starting out as a theist and becoming an atheist. On the one hand, it’s given me a lot of insight into religion, I’ve learned a LOT about myself, and it’s allowed me to grow as an individual. Considering that I’ve had to defend my atheism so often, I’m also glad that I have some knowledge of religion to arm myself as needed.

    On the other hand, a LOT of time was wasted grovelling, praying at Sunday service, and expecting intercessory prayer to work. Religion truly is a waste of time. It reminds of that quote ,”Two hands working accomplishes far more than a thousand hands praying”. That time could have been spent in scientific inquiry, reading, or just exploring the world.

    If you’re ever interested in hearing more “conversion” stories, there are many of them on Youtube.

  108. rezistnzisfutlon 08 Jan 2013 at 1:04 am

    @nybgrus

    Thanks! That’s exactly what I did!

    Another fascinating organization, that I think has been mentioned here recently, is The Clergy Project, where members of the clergy who no longer believe are able to find safe haven and egress from their religion (you can imagine the animosity expressed toward religious leaders with a conscience who cannot abide by their faith any longer). Dan Barker is definitely one of those, and he’s been associated with the project from time to time if I recall.

    On a related note, one of the things I encourage everyone to do is to read the bible. For believers, it’s so often the first step toward atheism (I don’t know HOW many atheists who have said doing that was one of the defining moments in their “conversion”). For non-believers, unfortunately it is a relevant historical and cultural piece of literature that is influential even today. IF nothing else, I do find religion an interesting institution to study for it’s sociological and anthropological value, as well as insight into human psychology.

  109. Thadiuson 08 Jan 2013 at 2:08 am

    Davdoodls-

    I would like to point out that Stalin outlawed the study of evolution in favor of lemarkinasm, a competing theory to evolution through natural selection. Just another thing most creationists and apologists get very wrong.

    Nybgrus-
    As for conversions, they fascinate me. I was not brought up in a religious environment, but it wasn’t secular exactly either. My parents were somewhat spiritualist but did not practice any form of warship. They seemed to hold a reverence for spirituality but in no consistent way, dabbling in Native American and new age spiritualism. Luckily for me I was skeptical of all of it since about the time i realized Santa wasn’t real. However i never really took religion too seriously, i assumed that most if not all Christians saw the bible as fable and metaphor, so in my eyes they were not much of a threat. That all changed when i went to college and was introduced to fundamentalism.

    For me it is amazing that anyone can be so deluded that those types of world views could even be considered. It is even more amazing that anyone so intellectually chained down can ever escape.

  110. rezistnzisfutlon 08 Jan 2013 at 2:53 am

    An interesting tidbit about Stalin. When he came into power, the original Russian Orthodox Church was indeed persecuted for not supporting his rule. Years later, he had thousands of parishes reopened with church leaders more sympathetic to his rule. Furthermore, he had been known to supply many communist muslims in China with supplies and weapons in order to fight against the anti-communist China at the time.

    What this indicates is that it wasn’t atheism that drove him to commit atrocities, it was his desire for power as well as the need to remove anyone who opposed him, a motive common with every dictatorship in history, religious and non-religious alike. If atheism was a true motive, he would have wiped out ALL forms of religions entirely and continued to prohibit them as long as he was in power.

  111. Zachon 08 Jan 2013 at 9:07 am

    “The ad populum fallacy only applies when you are making an appeal to an empirically verifiable fact.”

    So the laws of logic only apply to empirical facts?…. If that’s the case, how does one discovery morality, as Steven suggested with logic and reason?

    “But if you say that 99% of Californians agree that surfing is awesome, therefore Californians think surfing is awesome, that is not and ad populum fallacy.”

    Your hidden premise here is that morality is nothing more than a preference on what is awesome or not. As I have shown, that simply cannot stand. For why should your opinion on what is “better” be superior to another’s opinion? What makes you an authority on how people “ought” to live? Do you realize you are largely a product of your environment and culture? I’ll get back to this in a moment.

    “In the context of the philosophy of morality, since there is no empiric fact to test for the axiomatic principles on which to base morality, when 99% of people agree that enhancing the flourishing of humanity is a good thing, that establishes the axiomatic principle.”

    No, but we can apply basic logic to premises for the foundation of morality to see if it can withstand – I contend, and have shown, that if morality is nothing more than a preference then we have no ground to stand on in which to declare someone evil – for evil wouldn’t be a real thing, it would be like the Californians saying those who hate to surf are morally depraved evil monsters, why? Because they happen to favor the act of surfing. So what if they favor surfing, why should I care? They might suggest that if a society all enjoys surfing together it will be a “better” society… in which the response will inevitably be, who’s definition of “better” are you using? And around and around the maze of circular logic goes.

    “The principle would be “all human life should be able to flourish.” Thus, if we talk about feeding teenagers to bears, that violates the first principle.”

    In which I will respond asking you to define “flourish”. Flourish is nothing but another word for “better” – which implies better or worse, which implies some objective standard for what is “better” and what is “worse”. Not everyone agrees on this “better” or “worse”, so you must provide your objective standard from which to have ground on which to show that something is actually “better” and not just what you favor.

    “Being logical is necessary, but not sufficient. For example, you can study the tooth fairy scientifically and philosophically. You can create an entire, ahem, religion around the tooth fairy and then do tests to see how much money she leaves on average, what kinds of teeth she prefers, what time of night she arrives, and actually come up with data. All of this will be absolutely 100% logically consistent. But you haven’t established that the tooth fairy exists to begin with.
    So you can explain how the death of Christ fulfilled the requirements of the law and took away our sin. You can discuss how it was necessary, what the consequences were, and how the necessitates certain behaviors, actions, and devotions on our part. And all of it will be absolutely 100% logically consistent. But you haven’t established that Christ, sin, or the need for the law to be fulfilled exists in the first place.
    That, right there, is the fundamental problem of religion (and CAM, btw). Sure you can create these elaborate and complex explanations and stories that are internally logically consistent (obviously countless theologians have done this for countless sects of countless religions!) but the part that is missing is that the premise on which it is all based is established in the first place. You assume the existence of a god and then build a theology on that… without ever having established that the god exists in the first place!”

    This is a common error I find skeptics making. First, they will complain that the Bible is inconsistent with itself, when I attempt to show them that the book is in fact completely consistent with itself, they jump back to arguing with me that I have never proven it’s supernatural claims, etc. They are two completely different conversations, and when discussing the consistent message of the Bible, one must take the Bible for what it says about itself and it’s message. In that conversation one doesn’t get to say, “oh well it’s all made up anyways”. That might be true, but it’s irrelevant to the conversation since the conversation is (at that moment) not at all about the accuracy of the Bible’s claims, just the consistency or inconsistency of the message. I am more than willing to have the conversation about whether or not its claims are true, but that’s a different conversation entirely. I hope that makes sense.

    “Hitler was a Christian. The basis of his campaign was rooted in Christianity, not science, and not Darwinism. In fact, he explicitly eschewed Darwinian theory and called himself “a soldier of Christ.” He felt that he needed to finish Christ’s work of exterminating the Jews.”

    This is more complicated than you are making it. How many politicians today are “really” Christians, and how many are just using the claim “Christian” to get favor with the public?

    Hitler’s world view was a mixed bag for sure, but there is no doubt that eugenics was his driving motivation. Eugenics is Darwinianism taking to it’s logical but scary end. This doesn’t make all Darwinian’s Nazi’s, but to claim Hitler’s eugenics came from Christianity is to completely ignore the history of Hitler’s day. Eugenics was popular not only in Germany but in America.

    “Don’t go barking up that tree Zach. The reality is that there has been no truly secular state in existence yet – Mao, Stalin, Pol Pot, Kim Jong Il all eschewed established religions to replace it with their own cult of personality. Kim Jong Il’s government is not secular – it can’t even be considered atheistic because he is the god!”

    This is the no true Scotsman fallacy. You sound very similar to my Marxist comrades who claim that there has been no true Marxist state yet.

    “This statement is quite intellectually bankrupt. Why should he care? Because the rest of society will. It is really that simple. “

    Do you not realize this is circular reasoning. The question is why should he care about society, and your answer is “because society cares about society”….

    No it’s not that simple, you assume it to be that simple because you assume all mankind will actually care about society.

    “As NaA tried to claim – sure, go and do whatever you want. Be a serial killer, or start an evil empire, or live as a renegade in the forest. As long as you don’t abut the consensus view of society you will be just fine.”

    This is a consequentialist view, and Steven already explained why this doesn’t work.

    “Hitler tried to create an evil empire and be a serial killer. We know how that turned out.”

    He almost succeeded – so if he had succeeded would that have been morally correct? Why not?
    There are many other people in history who have appeared to have gotten away with their “evil”. Society was even on board with it. Were they wrong? Why?

    “So why should you care? Because if you don’t there will be sanctions imposed on you. And if you want to maximize your own happiness and prosperity (which you should care about – those who don’t are the most dangerous of psycopaths) then you would care what the consensus of society is.”

    Consequentialism – again, doesn’t work. Sure, I agree I won’t do things that will definitely end my existence, but there is an entire host of things I could do and more than likely get away with. Things that don’t benefit society but benefit me. What’s wrong with that?

    “Science demonstrates it to be so. The dark ages were dark for a reason. Secular and predominantly atheistic Nordic countries have better quality of life by almost all metrics. Middle Eastern and African theocracies have very low quality of life by almost all metrics. The US is a very strange grab bag reflective of both the progressive nature and the highly theistic population. These at least establish correlation. Deeper exploration will reveal strong evidence of causation.
    So is there one single objective standard? No. But when you look at multiple metrics they all tend to converge on these facts. So why is humanism better? Because it has evidence that it yields better results.”

    You forget that science is rooted in Christianity. It came from the premise that the world was created and therefore functioned off rules and laws that could be discovered.

    You also are ignoring the impact of Christianity on America’s culture and morality.

    The entire basis for individual human rights stems from the idea that each person is endowed with inalienable rights given from their creator.

    “Except that I am open to new evidence. Not parroting of the same long discrediting apologist claims, but of actual evidence. You completely gloss over it, most notably in the arena of science on which myself and others here are at least somewhat expert.”

    Opinion not provable by science =)

    Again, you are making assumptions you can’t possible know the answer to and being pretentious. It’s a waste of time.

    “And it doesn’t end with merely claims of scientific theory. As was demonstrated to you, there was no author – ever – of any passage or book of the Bible who could have possibly been an eyewitness to the supposed life of one Jesus H. Christ. Also conveniently ignored.”

    Are you skipping my posts? When do you think Paul lived….? When do you think Matthew lived? How about John?

    For what reason are you claiming these authors were not around when Jesus was? I don’t understand where this is coming from. Even Bart Erdmann acknowledges this.

    “Oh yeah, sorry. Forgot to address Keller. Like I said, I read the first couple chapters of his book. He sucks like the rest of them. His premises are riddled with logical fallacy and false premises. His references are terrible – most of them reference other theologians or himself. He cherry picks quotes and data. The only appeal to him is he pays lip service to looking at the other side, but a brief look shows he doesn’t. I’m sorry but I’ve read enough apologists to absolutely not be willing to waste my time further on Keller.”

    This is slander and a complete lie. If you think Keller cherry picks his quotes and data to deceive you are wrong. Keller majored in philosophy and relies heavily on Alvin Plantinga… I think Alvin Plantinga knows a thing or two about logic… he’s the most influential philosopher of our century – go read him. He is well known for critiquing humanism’s moral claims and showing that it is bankrupt.

    I am the one who is unwilling to look at the counter-evidence?

    “That has been demonstrated over and over and over again. It you is you that has the burden of demonstrated that it is immutable.”

    I have asked you a series of questions in which the answers prove morality cannot be subjective. You still haven’t answered them.

  112. NotAnAtheiston 08 Jan 2013 at 9:23 am

    @ nybgrus

    You said:
    “Then a post directly dealing with religion and all of a sudden out of the woodwork they come pouring.”

    I saw this blog two days ago linked at RealClearPolitics if that answers your question. I knew nothing of this blog before that time. I thought I would help provide an actual opponent to the views instead of you folks having to make one up. I am not a philosophy major so I can’t throw around all of the technical logical terms that are used here but I am in a profession that is mathematics based and intensely dependent on logic.

    On the creation topic, I don’t have the scientific knowledge to get into the weeds of specific scientific evidence other than to say that I have not seen anything that contradicts the creationist world view.

    This topic only requires deductive logic on an elementary level. I think the question mainly comes down to a definition of terms. I think most people define morality in a way that they mean it to be universal and objective. Such a morality can exist only with an authority that is above humankind. You may try to redefine these terms morality, universal and objective in such a way that they have a justification of a morality that is not authority-based but you must understand that you are not talking about the same concept at all.

    I will probably continue to read this blog as I am always interested in what skeptics think. I might even add a comment or two if something is interesting to me but for this topic I will be done.

  113. NotAnAtheiston 08 Jan 2013 at 9:27 am

    P.S. Zach is seriously bringing it. I can’t really add much of substance that he hasn’t covered. Kudos

  114. mufion 08 Jan 2013 at 9:44 am

    NotAnAtheist: I think most people define morality in a way that they mean it to be universal and objective. Such a morality can exist only with an authority that is above humankind.

    Except that God (were such a mythical being real) would not be objective. Rather, God would be subjective – albeit, much better informed than the average person (after all, He’s omniscient, right?), and a lot more effective at forcing His views on to others (after all, He’s omnipotent, right?) – but subjective, nonetheless.

    That doesn’t mean that the theist and the atheist are in the exact same boat, but neither of their boats are as water-tight as they might like to believe.

  115. mufion 08 Jan 2013 at 9:51 am

    Incidentally, the late philosopher Richard Taylor was critical of other secular moral philosophers, as this book description alludes:

    To ancient Greek and Roman philosophers, ethics was chiefly the study of how individuals attain personal excellence, or ‘virtue’, defined as intellectual sophistication, wisdom, strength of character, and creativity. With the ascendancy of the Judeo-Christian ethic, says Taylor, this emphasis on pride of personal worth was lost. Instead, philosophy became preoccupied with defining right and wrong in terms of a divine lawgiver, and the concept of virtue was debased to mean mere obedience to divine law. Even today, in the absence of religious belief, modern thinkers unwittingly continue this legacy by creating hair-splitting definitions of good and evil.

    That said, I wonder if the preoccupation with “authority” exhibited in this thread is a symptom of this condition.

  116. nybgruson 08 Jan 2013 at 10:26 am

    So the laws of logic only apply to empirical facts?

    No. That law of logic applies only to empirical facts. The reason is simple: empirical facts are independent of the observer. Therefore it doesn’t matter whether 99% of the population doesn’t believe in evolution because it is a fact and it has happened.

    But if something exists only as a construct of our mind, then obviously the consensus of opinion is what defines it. If 99% of Californian’s believe surfing is awesome, then they do. It becomes fact. When a large population of white sharks comes to the coast and they no longer think it awesome, then that fact changes.

    Your hidden premise here is that morality is nothing more than a preference on what is awesome or not

    Hey, now you are starting to get it! Though we need a little bit more than just that otherwise we fall into an extreme form of moral relativism. That little bit more is scientific inquiry.

    As I have shown, that simply cannot stand

    You have shown no such thing.

    For why should your opinion on what is “better” be superior to another’s opinion? What makes you an authority on how people “ought” to live?

    Nothing makes me an authority. But if I have a good idea as to what is “better” and it appeals to the largest number of people, then my idea is given authority by the consensus. I know this is a difficult concept to understand because everything in your experience is handed down to you from your imaginary higher authority. That is why the Jesus crusaders like to tell me that I deserve no credit for saving a patient’s life because it is merely God acting through me, and it was God that gave me my brain, and my aptitude, and my work ethic.

    So you see the whole premise of our entire discussion is that morality is a dynamic, relative, and agreed upon construct. Certain aspects are more dynamic than others. Some tap into our evolutionary wiring. Some come from the cultural milieu. This is why good and effective laws are often quite difficult to write and why philosophers and ethicists do not have an easy job! The best moral and legal codes will be the least restrictive, the most protective, and appeal on first principle to the most people. That is hard to suss out period, but especially since it actually changes.

    Do you realize you are largely a product of your environment and culture? I’ll get back to this in a moment.

    Oh yes, I realize it quite well. And just like good science tries to reduce out all the extraneous bits to get to the meat of what is actually there and necessary, so does good philosophy, morality, and law. We have the added benefit of varying levels of sanction for transgression against societal laws and mores – from the death penalty (which I now oppose, but that is a different story) all the way to people simply thinking you are a weirdo and everything in between. The Socratic method applies here as well.

    No, but we can apply basic logic to premises for the foundation of morality to see if it can withstand – I contend, and have shown, that if morality is nothing more than a preference then we have no ground to stand on in which to declare someone evil – for evil wouldn’t be a real thing

    Bing bing bing!! Evil is not a real thing. This is absolutely correct. Evil is a purely religious construct with no basis in reality and no sense in application. It necessarily implies some source of supernatural badness being imbued into an action. But the universe doesn’t care about us one way or another, good or evil.

    Lanza was a bad person because his actions were directly and significantly contradictory to a functioning society. But we wasn’t evil – he was the product of his neurophysiology, culture, and the situation in which he had access to the guns he did.

    The only context in which evil makes sense is a theistic one, and since our premise here is that you (and nobody) has met the burden of proof to demonstrate any theism or deity of any kind actually exists, then the assumption of evil is also an unfounded one.

    They might suggest that if a society all enjoys surfing together it will be a “better” society… in which the response will inevitably be, who’s definition of “better” are you using? And around and around the maze of circular logic goes.

    They might. And they could potentially demonstrate it. It may become something encouraged by the government. But considering that not everyone can do it, for various legitimate reasons, it would become stupid to force people to surf on threat of punishment.

    And then a scientist like me may come along and discover that it isn’t the surfing itself that is so great and wonderful, it is the exercise and commeraderie. And then we would reasonably advocate people do sports in general. And hey! We do that!

    In which I will respond asking you to define “flourish”. Flourish is nothing but another word for “better”– which implies better or worse, which implies some objective standard for what is “better” and what is “worse”.

    Really Zach? You can’t just look up the definitions? Just google it man!

    flour·ish (flûrsh, flr-)
    v. flour·ished, flour·ish·ing, flour·ish·es
    v.intr.
    1. To grow well or luxuriantly; thrive: The crops flourished in the rich soil.
    2. To do or fare well; prosper: “No village on the railroad failed to flourish” (John Kenneth Galbraith).
    3. To be in a period of highest productivity, excellence, or influence: a poet who flourished in the tenth century.
    4. To make bold, sweeping movements: The banner flourished in the wind.

    bet·ter 1 (btr)
    adj. Comparative of good.
    1. Greater in excellence or higher in quality.
    2. More useful, suitable, or desirable: found a better way to go; a suit with a better fit than that one.
    3. More highly skilled or adept: I am better at math than English.
    4. Greater or larger: argued for the better part of an hour.
    5. More advantageous or favorable; improved: a better chance of success.
    6. Healthier or more fit than before: The patient is better today.

    First off, they are clearly not the same word. Not even close. This is what I mean – a 5 second google search gives you the definition so you don’t say completely wrong things. As a side note, I usually do that very quickly to make sure what I am saying is correct as I write. I don’t just spew things off the top of my head – unless I am damned sure I double check… which means I double check constantly.

    Secondly, were in the definition of better is there a need for an objective standard? When I come in and round on my patient and say, “He is doing better” I am not comparing it to some objective standard of what a patient should be doing. I am commenting that he has improved since the last time. Now, if I want to comment on his progress I can say “He is doing better, but not as much as he should be for someone on post-op day 3 for this kind of surgery.” I can say that as an objective measure only because I have data on how patients on POD#3 should be doing on average but to make it clear that is what I mean I have to state that this is what I am referring to!.

    Just saying “better” in no way, shape, or form implies the invocation of an objective standard. You really need to stop listening to some much William Craig.

    This is a common error I find skeptics making. First, they will complain that the Bible is inconsistent with itself, when I attempt to show them that the book is in fact completely consistent with itself, they jump back to arguing with me that I have never proven it’s supernatural claims, etc

    Hey this skeptic will help you out!

    It is both internally inconsistent and has never proven its supernatural claims! I won’t back down from either premise since they are both correct!

    There are myriad sites that explain all the internal inconsistencies, but there is this cool graphic which does it all in one image. Each red line is a direct contradiction of 2 passages. That’s a lot of red, mate!

    But hey, I’ll ask you a couple questions about one part of the bible – since you are a Christian after all and know the bible well and know that it is absolutely consistent.

    Why is the Field of Blood called the Field of Blood? What did Judas do with the money he received for betraying Jesus? How did Judas die? Who bought the field of blood?

    Since the bible is consistent and these are stories integral to the story of Jesus, it should be really easy and straightforward to answer these questions unequivocally right? Use any version of the bible you want to.

    I am more than willing to have the conversation about whether or not its claims are true, but that’s a different conversation entirely. I hope that makes sense.

    It does entirely. I was not at all conflating the two. In fact, if you look back I never once brought up the consistency of the bible in my discussion. It was you that tried to create a strawman here by claiming we were talking about the consistency and then I switched to the supernatural aspects. I did not – I was only discussing the supernatural parts as germane to the discussion.

    But anyways, as I said, I stand by both statements. The fact is that even if it were consistent, that still wouldn’t matter. That is the point I was making. But it isn’t even consistent.

    This is more complicated than you are making it. How many politicians today are “really” Christians, and how many are just using the claim “Christian” to get favor with the public?

    BING BING BING!!! I knew you wouldn’t be able to stay away from the No True Scotsman fallacy! And davdoodles called it last night! (Well, at least you didn’t Gish Gallop it).

    Suffice it to say, no, it is that simple. We have exceedingly good evidence that he was a practicing Christian and everything he did, felt, grew up in, etc was Christian. Unless you want to tell me that you can read his mind posthumously to prove that the entirety of it was a facade there is nothing more to say.

    Eugenics is Darwinianism taking to it’s logical but scary end

    No, it isn’t. And, as I said, Hitler expressly denied evolution and Darwinism. So how could he have possibly used Darwinism – which he publicly rejected – as the foundation for eugenics? Especially when he explicitly stated he was completing Christ’s work?

    This is the no true Scotsman fallacy. You sound very similar to my Marxist comrades who claim that there has been no true Marxist state yet.

    Amazing how you can incorrectly apply it to me.. while commiting the fallacy yourself just a few sentences up.

    I am not claiming they weren’t true atheists or secularists, because no secularist would do that. I am stating that the evidence is quite clear that the motivation behind the regimes was not secular. Just as rezistnftl stated about Stalin.

    But anyways, the discussion is extraneous to the conversation at hand.

    Sure, I agree I won’t do things that will definitely end my existence, but there is an entire host of things I could do and more than likely get away with. Things that don’t benefit society but benefit me. What’s wrong with that?

    Nothing. That’s what a “free society” is. You don’t have to help society. You just can’t harm society. Some harms are small and not worth pursuing or are simply impractical to pursue. But larger harms are worth it and are pursued. It is your choice to contribute to society or merely be a passive participant in it. Welcome to freedom buddy!

    You forget that science is rooted in Christianity.

    [citation needed]

    That is one of the more ridiculous statements I ever heard. And the Muslims who invented mathematics and were the earliest pioneers of scientific discovery and inquiry might disagree.

    Trust me – I need no religion, let alone Christianity, to do science.

    You also are ignoring the impact of Christianity on America’s culture and morality.

    No I am not. I’m just contending that it has been more a negative impact than a positive one. I absolutely agree there have been positive impacts (and still are!) but that things like the fight against the end of slavery, the fight against women’s suffrage, the fight against civil rights and now the fight against gay equality is all rooted in… yup, Christianity.

    The entire basis for individual human rights stems from the idea that each person is endowed with inalienable rights given from their creator

    Fair enough. That is the word used in the constitution. But there is no indication of to who that creator is, let alone that it is Yawheh. Sorry, but you are trying for the “America is a Judeo-Christian nation founded on Judeo-Christian beliefs and the founding fathers were explicityly Judeo-Christian.” You need to stop watching Fox News and reading Dave Barton.

    Opinion not provable by science =)

    Again, you are making assumptions you can’t possible know the answer to and being pretentious. It’s a waste of time.

    I’m sorry Zach but if you think my expertise on evolution is an “opinion” and that I can’t know the answer to scientific questions… as a scientist… then what more do we have to say?

    Are you skipping my posts? When do you think Paul lived….? When do you think Matthew lived? How about John?

    For what reason are you claiming these authors were not around when Jesus was? I don’t understand where this is coming from. Even Bart Erdmann acknowledges this.

    The only two that were supposedly alive at the time were Paul and John. Even then the earliest gospel was written some 37 years after Jesus supposed death (which is nearly an entire lifespan back then). There is significant question as to whether the gospels were actually written by Paul and John, with very little if any extra-biblical confirmation of their writing.

    But fine, I’ll conceded that I made to sweeping a statement and one that is more contentious than I made it out to be. It is not necessary for my argument anyways.

    This is slander and a complete lie. If you think Keller cherry picks his quotes and data to deceive you are wrong

    Actually it would technically be libel since I wrote it, not said it.

    I also did not say he does so with the intent to deceive. I am sure he thinks he is being legit. But he isn’t. I’ve looked at his sources. After two chapters of nothing but garbage I put the book down.

    I think Alvin Plantinga knows a thing or two about logic

    Of course you do. He agrees with you. Or rather you blindly agree with him.

    I’ve read some Platinga as well. He is influential only in circles already pre-decided to his conclusions. He is not influential in any of my circles. Besides, saying Keller studied under Platinga and therefore he must be good is called the genetic fallacy. That would be like me saying that Kurt Wise studied under Steven Gould and therefore Wise must be a good paleontologist. But I know he isn’t.

    I am the one who is unwilling to look at the counter-evidence?

    I’ve said it before and I will say it again – I have read numerous apologists and watched innumerable debates. I’ve looked at the counter “evidence” and it is simply lacking. There’s a reason why Hitch, Dawkins, Harris, Dennett, Myers, etc absolutely destroy Craig, D’Souza, Demsbki, McGrath, Meyer, Swinburne, etc. Of course to those already convinced they are right they always seem to “win” don’t they?

  117. Steven Novellaon 08 Jan 2013 at 10:34 am

    Morality and ethics are simply a code of behavior that seeks to maximize some perceived good.

    There is no such thing as “absolute” morality, which implies that moral rules are somehow properties of the universe that are not invented but can be discovered (or revealed).

    Subjective vs objective requires more careful thought and definition, as these are not absolute states with respect to morality. The same is true of “universal.” There are degrees of objectivity and applicability.

    What the philosophy of ethics attempts to do is identify and derive principals that are as universal as possible for humans. Some human behaviors and feelings are “cross cultural” – which is not exactly universal but as close as we come (there are always exceptions).

    The closest we can come to “objective” ethical decisions are ones based upon a system of logic that attempts to be internally consistent and derived from the most fundamental and near-universal human conditions as possible – as opposed to parochial cultural beliefs, traditions, authority, or whim.

    A workable and logical system of ethics is partly situational – minors are treated differently than adults, the traditions of a culture do affect what is appropriate behavior in that culture, being convicted of a serious crime mitigates one’s right, for example. The more fundamental and important an ethical principle, the more extreme the conditions would need to be to modify their application. (Torture is a good example – it is reasonable to consider torture as always unethical, but what about the “ticking bomb – Jack Bauer scenario? Is there any number of people who could be saved from death that would justify torture?)

    When we talk about objective and universalizable ethics – the above is what we mean. Not absolutely objective or absolutely universal, because these things do not exist.

    My objection to the claim that such exists remains. People believe that their religious faith equates to absolute objective morality from God, but no one “knows” that any god exists, or what the will (morality) of any hypothetical gods is, and certainly cannot demonstrate such knowledge to others in a way that would justify imposing such beliefs onto others. We are left with battling faiths. Further, the moral system offered by those claiming faith-based morality appears to be primitive, childish, and brutal (even evil), and the assurance that “god works in mysterious ways” is not compelling to say the least.

    Zach’s response has essentially been that none of this proves there is no god with ultimate morality, but I am not claiming that it does. If such a god exists, and they have a moral code they wish for humanity – no one can demonstrate that they know what that is. The situation is indistinguishable from one in which there is no god or gods, and therefore no ultimate morality.

  118. JJ Borgmanon 08 Jan 2013 at 10:35 am

    “Victory” by filibuster. I predict this thread will soon take on the complexion of the US Senate floor during a filibuster.

    Now, I may be committing the fallacists fallacy, but neither Zach nor NaA have established the authority supposedly necessary to support the claim to a logically sound foundation for their morality assertion. If I recall correctly, at one point I believe Zach even admitted he thought his argument was sound, if not valid. I mean, if that’s considered establishing his authority, I sure don’t see it. The repetition has become ponderous.

    Having read through all these exchanges, though has got me thinking. It seems to me that establishing the “rightness” of morality claims among human beings lies rooted in egocentrism, the use of forces along the spectrum between dominance and cooperation and the community in which you reside. Increases in barbarism or civility in various places keeps the local definition in flux. The example of island infanticide given above was startling.

    Which, I think, someone has probably already stated, sort of.

  119. nybgruson 08 Jan 2013 at 10:44 am

    @ rezistnzisfutl:

    I understand. And probably you are right – it is better to have never been a theist in the first place for exactly those reasons. But the only upside is that, unlike me, you didn’t have to go into it completely uneducated on the topic and then have to learn BS in order to better combat the BS. You get more “cred” and have more knowledge than I do simply because you’ve studied it longer.

    The one distinct advantage I had is I went into the whole discussion genuinely not knowing. I had a few religious roommates in undergrad – a couple Muslims, a Bahai, and a Christian. So I actually was thinking “Well, maybe there is something to this god thing. The religion seems weird and stupid, and I don’t currently believe, but maybe they are right?” And I also heard about how “evil” and “strident” and “militant” the likes of Hitchens and Dawkins were. So I went into that thinking they must be a$$holes at the very least. In other words, I thought this was a genuinely open debate without resolution yet. Heck, I didn’t even read any Dawkins or Hitchens until after I started medical school!

    But after reading the Bible (yup I went through it) and reading apologists and then watching debates and then reading Dawkins, Hitchens, Barker, etc the answer became quite clear. But I had the benefit of not being bogged down in ideology going into it. I wasn’t looking to have one side vindicate my beliefs – I had no beliefs to be vindicated! I didn’t know what methodological naturalism meant until after I finished undergrad and even then it was more just a “doing science without really understanding science” sort of thing. I had never heard of philosophical naturalism until even later than that.

    I cross referenced texts between apologists and The Four Horsemen. I applied the same standard of rigor to every claim. And guess where I ended up? LOL.

    And yeah, I really like the Clergy Project and fully support it. I can only imagine how hard it is to be a priest who finally realizes his whole life was based on nonsense. That would be like me discovering evolution really is a lie and alternative medicine really is better! Thankfully my worldview doesn’t depend on a few supernatural events being true.

    Anyways, I did watch a lot of conversion stories on YouTube at the same time as well. My first year of med I was living alone, my girlfriend at the time (now fiance) was in a different country, and all I did was read medicine, learn about religion and CAM, and work out. I left that year with over 65,000 pages of non-fiction read and hundreds if not thousands of hours watched. And a 6-pack. I used to be able to run half marathons at a sub-8 minute mile pace and cycle full centuries at 20mph average. Man I miss those days. LOL.

    So that is why when I picked up Kellers book late last year and started reading through it (I was stuck at a Barnes and Noble for an excessively long time and it was within arms reach and had the promise of “sophisticated” and “clear” apologism) I was less than impressed. By then I had already heard all the same arguments rehashed about a billion times (maybe a slight exaggeration).

    But I can guarantee you one thing – if in my reading/watching the theistic contingent actually had a better argument and better evidence, I would absolutely be in that camp. Of course, as I said before, if it turned out Yawheh actually was real I still wouldn’t worship the sick 4!#$.

    Oh well. I am encouraged by the upsurge in the “nones” and the growing number of atheists here in the US and around the world. I’m convinced it is only a matter of time before the vast majority of religious thought dies out. I think it was Penn Jillette actually who said that what we are seeing in the revivalism movement is the death throes of religion. I don’t know that I can agree with certainty, but it does seem reasonable and has some evidence pointing to that (besides the growing population of nones, the majority of the theistic contingent remaining in in my parent’s generation so once they are gone we should see a radical shift). In the meantime though, I am happy to chip in my little part of it all and certainly find the discussion rousing.

  120. tmac57on 08 Jan 2013 at 11:11 am

    rezistnzisfutl- I like hearing the perspective of a former believer,since like Nybgrus,I have never,ever had any religious leaning. This has made me feel like,at times, that I didn’t ‘earn’ my agnostic/atheist position,and along the lines with your suggestion to read the bible,I have recently started listening to Robert Price’s “The Human Bible”.
    Anyway, Thanks for the input,and I re-christen (sorry) thee Rezistnzisuseful !

  121. Zachon 08 Jan 2013 at 11:33 am

    Alright, I think I got this blockquote thing figured out, here goes nothing.

    [blockquote] “No. That law of logic applies only to empirical facts. The reason is simple: empirical facts are independent of the observer. Therefore it doesn’t matter whether 99% of the population doesn’t believe in evolution because it is a fact and it has happened.” [/blockquote]

    Your hidden premise is that morality is subjective, I have demonstrated that is impossible to make sense with the reality as we know it – hence why whenever I ask you a specific question on how a certain moral dilemma could possible play out under moral relativism you don’t answer the question.

    [blockquote] Hey, now you are starting to get it! Though we need a little bit more than just that otherwise we fall into an extreme form of moral relativism. That little bit more is scientific inquiry. [/blockquote]

    If morality is equated to non-empirical facts how on earth do you look to scientific inquiry to discuss non-empirical facts. You cannot have your cake and eat it too good sir.

    [blockquote] You have shown no such thing. [/blockquote]

    I take your avoidance and silence of the moral dilemmas I ask as pretty clear evidence. But by all means, answer some of them and let’s see how this plays out.

    [blockquote] Nothing makes me an authority. But if I have a good idea as to what is “better” and it appeals to the largest number of people, then my idea is given authority by the consensus. I know this is a difficult concept to understand because everything in your experience is handed down to you from your imaginary higher authority. [/blockquote]

    So you aren’t an authority, but then in the next breath you authorize the claim that the largest number of people who like a given idea =’s the moral right.

    This is by default the definition of the “Might makes Right” argument. Your comparison to surfing is apples to oranges.

    Look, if I believe that killing kids who mouth off is the moral high ground and I get enough people to agree to that consensus then am I morally right? Of course not, but by your logic I must be. This is the definition of moral relativism. Now throwing in something about how science can demonstrate with logic that this is a bad thing is a counter-argument, it’s irrelevant. You can’t demonstrate that life is better than death, you can’t provide an objective standard for what humans should strive for, or what is better or worse. You only have your personal opinion on that it’s based in moral relativism. Look, if you want to be a moral relativist by all means go for it, but don’t whine about it when atrocities happen that you don’t like, you have no foundation from which to condemn that anything more than “I like this, or I don’t like that”.

    [blockquote] “I know this is a difficult concept to understand because everything in your experience is handed down to you from your imaginary higher authority. “[/blockquote]

    Pretentious cheap shot based off an straw man. Everything I believe is based off handed down authority.

    Ok, I believe that computer mice are functional devices for operating a computer.

    Not based on handed down authority. Proven wrong.

    [blockquote] “So you see the whole premise of our entire discussion is that morality is a dynamic, relative, and agreed upon construct. Certain aspects are more dynamic than others. Some tap into our evolutionary wiring. Some come from the cultural milieu. This is why good and effective laws are often quite difficult to write and why philosophers and ethicists do not have an easy job!” [/blockquote]

    Any evidence to support this assertion? I can provide a lot of counter-evidence again if you’d like.

    Please answer one question for me, the same line of questioning I have been asking without an answer for nearly this entire conversation.

    So morality is nothing more than “we like this so lets do it” – I don’t believe this is a straw man of your position once it’s boiled down, then is it evil when societies have decided that slavery was ok, and sacrificing infants to unreal god’s was ok, or ???

    If you say yes your entire position falls apart. For you are going against your own premise that morality is what society decides through consensus what is right.

    I assert would call those things immoral regardless of what a given society has determined, and if you do, you are back to square one looking for some sort of justification for why you get to say it’s wrong.

    [blockquote] “ The best moral and legal codes will be the least restrictive, the most protective, and appeal on first principle to the most people. That is hard to suss out period, but especially since it actually changes.” [/blockquote]

    This is extremely ironic that you wrote this following your previous statement.

    There is no consensus nor has there been that the best morality and legal codes will be the least restrictive, the most protective, and appeal on first principles to the most people. You are cutting off the branch you are sitting on.

    So please defend this naked assertion with some sort of logical reasoning or evidence.

    [blockquote] “Bing bing bing!! Evil is not a real thing. This is absolutely correct. Evil is a purely religious construct with no basis in reality and no sense in application. It necessarily implies some source of supernatural badness being imbued into an action. But the universe doesn’t care about us one way or another, good or evil.” [/blockquote]

    I’m glad you admit this – most agnostics will not. However, there is still one contradiction. How is rape any different than consensual love? There is no evil just actions we happen to favor – which implies that I should care about what actions society favors, which I contend since I have a brain and can think, if I can get away with it why not do it? Why care about another person’s emotions or feelings? Isn’t it arbitrary? I mean, if we want to be scientific rape happens all the time in the animal kingdom and it’s really nothing more than atoms and molecules moving together, so what makes that movement of atoms and molecules less favorable? You will likely invoke some line of reasoning of human flourishing, but this is an assumption you hold that I should care about human flourishing – many humans do not, hence why rape, murder, etc. occur all the time. Not only that, but you can’t defend your view of how you determined what flourishing is? And to make matters worse, altruism doesn’t even function in this way as you stated above. So why should one not rape other than consequentialism? And there are clearly many who can do so without having the consequences effect them negatively – other countries rape happens regularly and the men get away it all the time. So how do you deal with that without deceiving yourself.

    You know it’s wrong, but your world view tells you there is no right and wrong – only actions you happen to favor, and if someone favors the opposite actions you can’t do anything but embrace a might makes right argument – which is a fallacy.

    Hence I assert your world view is inconsistent with reality as we know it.

    [blockquote] “Lanza was a bad person because his actions were directly and significantly contradictory to a functioning society.” [/blockquote]

    Again, why should he care about a functioning society – altruism is of no help here and asserts the opposite does it not?

    [blockquote] First off, they are clearly not the same word. Not even close. [/blockquote]

    Really, this what you are going with? Arguing the semantics of the word better and flourish…..
    You get my point don’t you? Flourish implies that there is a better and worse – flourish is on the better side. That’s all my point was.

    [blockquote] Secondly, were in the definition of better is there a need for an objective standard? When I come in and round on my patient and say, “He is doing better” I am not comparing it to some objective standard of what a patient should be doing. I am commenting that he has improved since the last time. [/blockquote]

    Wrong on both accounts.

    1. you need an objective standard for better because when you look at something and declare it is in a better condition than before you comparing the state to a standard in order to say it has improved.
    2. If you say a patient is doing better your standard would be the normal functioning human who doesn’t need a doctor’s treatment.

    [blockquote] “You really need to stop listening to some much William Craig.” [/blockquote]

    Who said I did?

    [blockquote] “BING BING BING!!! I knew you wouldn’t be able to stay away from the No True Scotsman fallacy! And davdoodles called it last night! (Well, at least you didn’t Gish Gallop it). Suffice it to say, no, it is that simple. We have exceedingly good evidence that he was a practicing Christian and everything he did, felt, grew up in, etc was Christian. Unless you want to tell me that you can read his mind posthumously to prove that the entirety of it was a facade there is nothing more to say. [/blockquote]

    Yet you pull the same card for every atheist/agnostic example brought up.

    [blockquote]“Trust me – I need no religion, let alone Christianity, to do science.” [/blockquote]

    Straw man, I never said that.

    I did assert that the scientific movement spawned from Christianity and it’s world view – in which it did, look at the early scientist – what religion were they?

    Antiseptic Surgery Joseph Lister
    Bacteriology Louis Pasteur
    Calculus Isaac Newton
    Celestial Mechanics Johannes Kepler
    Chemistry Robert Boyle
    Comparative Anatomy Georges Cuvier
    Dimensional Analysis Lord Rayleigh
    Dynamics Isaac Newton
    Electronics John Ambrose Fleming
    Electrodynamics James Clerk Maxwell
    Electromagnetics Michael Faraday
    Energetics Lord Kelvin
    Entomology of Living Insects Henri Fabre
    Field Theory James Clerk Maxwell
    Fluid Mechanics George Stokes
    Galactic Astronomy Sir William Hershel
    Gas Dynamics Robert Boyle
    Genetics Gregor Mendel
    Glacial Geology Louis Agassiz
    Gynaecology James Simpson
    Hydrography Matthew Maury
    Hydrostatics Blaise Pascal
    Ichthyology Louis Agassiz
    Isotopic Chemistry William Ramsey
    Model Analysis Lord Rayleigh
    Natural History John Ray
    Non-Euclidean Geometry Bernard Riemann
    Oceanography Matthew Maury
    Optical Mineralogy David Brewster

    [blockquote] “but that things like the fight against the end of slavery, the fight against women’s suffrage, the fight against civil rights and now the fight against gay equality is all rooted in… yup, Christianity.” [/blockquote]

    You just said that you research things before you say them… how about reading up on who actually led the movements against slavery – Christians. Go look at Britians anti-slavery movement even. Christians…

    Go read Martin Luther King’s letter from Birmingham jail. He doesn’t make his arguments from humanism or secularism, he says Christians stop being hypocritical to Christianity and be MORE Christian – not less.

    [blockquote] “But there is no indication of to who that creator is, let alone that it is Yawheh. Sorry, but you are trying for the “America is a Judeo-Christian nation founded on Judeo-Christian beliefs and the founding fathers were explicityly Judeo-Christian.” You need to stop watching Fox News and reading Dave Barton.” [/blockquote]

    You need to stop making assumption on where I pull my ideas from.

    Not only that, it doesn’t matter if they were all Christians or not, it matters from where they got their ideas from, and without a doubt it was Judeo Christian beliefs.

    [blockquote] “There is significant question as to whether the gospels were actually written by Paul and John, with very little if any extra-biblical confirmation of their writing.” [/blockquote]

    I am sorry but you clearly are unaware on this conversation. No one says Paul wrote any of the gospels.

    Who do you think wrote Matthew?

    [blockquote] “Even then the earliest gospel was written some 37 years after Jesus supposed death (which is nearly an entire lifespan back then).” [/blockquote]

    If this is your standard for historical reliance then you better be prepared to drop most historical documents as being at all reliable.

    [blockquote] “which is nearly an entire lifespan back then” [/blockquote]

    You can’t be serious.

    [blockquote] Actually it would technically be libel since I wrote it, not said it. Of course you do. He agrees with you. Or rather you blindly agree with him. [/blockquote]

    I’m not offended, but curious – do you enjoy acting pretentious or is it just a defensive mechanism you embrace when someone challenges you?

    [blockquote] “Besides, saying Keller studied under Platinga and therefore he must be good is called the genetic fallacy.” [/blockquote]

    Straw man, but I know you like throwing out fallacy names whenever you think it might fit so I’ll excuse this one.
    You really need to work on that.

    [blockquote] “I’ve said it before and I will say it again – I have read numerous apologists and watched innumerable debates. I’ve looked at the counter “evidence” and it is simply lacking. There’s a reason why Hitch, Dawkins, Harris, Dennett, Myers, etc absolutely destroy Craig, D’Souza, Demsbki, McGrath, Meyer, Swinburne, etc. Of course to those already convinced they are right they always seem to “win” don’t they?” [/blockquote]

    Dawkins refuses to debate anyone but clergy and layman, grats to him. If you honestly think those guys win every debate you are indeed biased. I contend that Hitchens wins debates, he was an amazing debater. That doesn’t mean I agree with his arguments.

    I could say the exact same thing but from the other perspective. It doesn’t mean or prove anything. I could sit and keep postulating that you are stubborn and refuse to think rationally, blah blah blah, but it’s simply a defensive mechanism to hide my own insecurities that I refuse to acknowledge.

  122. Zachon 08 Jan 2013 at 11:34 am

    Blockquote failed. I lose.

  123. daedalus2uon 08 Jan 2013 at 11:37 am

    Zach, eugenics long preceded evolution. Humans have been practicing selective breeding of plants and animals for millennia. The definition of being Jewish, is based on the maternal line of descent. Royalty is based on eugenics. The line of succession is based on eugenics. The “divine right of kings” is based on eugenics. Chattel slavery in the US was based on eugenics.

    The concept of human rights doesn’t require a creator, all it requires is recognition of self-autonomy. If people have self-autonomy, then violating that self-autonomy requires authorization. If the only person who can authorize violations of that self-autonomy is the person who’s self-autonomy is being violated, then we have human rights that requires no creator.

    You want power and authority to come from the top-down, and can’t imagine anything else. Human rights don’t need to come from the top-down, they can come from the bottom-up, and that top-down authority is needed to violate the fundamental human rights that come from self-autonomy.

    You say that top-down authority comes from God, and so if you are doing what God says, you are doing what is moral. As far as Hitler was concerned, God told him to kill the Jews. As far as Abraham was concerned, God told him to sacrifice his son. As far as Andrea Yates was concerned, God told her to kill her children. As far as religious leaders and politicians in Uganda are concerned, God is telling them to kill the gays. When Abraham took his son up the mountain to sacrifice him, Abraham did not disclose his purposes to the people he was traveling with because they would have stopped him.

    A humanist perspective of Abraham’s actions is that they were immoral because Abraham doesn’t own his son as an object of property to be treated any way Abraham wants to, including killing as a sacrifice to Abraham’s God to induce that God to enhance Abraham’s power.

    For me, if I heard voices in my head telling me that it was God speaking and that God was ordering me to kill my son, I would voluntarily check myself into a psychiatric facility.

    If you heard voices in your head telling you that it was God speaking and God was ordering you to kill your son, what would you do, and how do you defend that choice?

  124. ccbowerson 08 Jan 2013 at 11:39 am

    “So the laws of logic only apply to empirical facts?…. If that’s the case, how does one discovery morality, as Steven suggested with logic and reason?”

    You don’t understand logic as much as you think you do since this is logic 101.
    The argumentum ad populum fallacy is an “informal logical fallacy,” meaning that it is not a fallacy in the structure of the argument alone (unllike formal logical fallacies which are incorrect regardless of the details), but is only a fallacy when used in a deductive argument to determine that something is true or not.

    This is not what we are doing when we attempt to arrive at a consensus about morality. You keep framing it as if there is a morality “out there” as your use of “discover” indicates, but you have to let this idea go in order to understand the opposing view. We, as humans, have to determine for ourselves which behaviors are acceptable (what is the alternative?). Religion does not help us in this case, because it just introduces vague rules from another time, still subject to individual interpretations. We still have to work it out for ourselves in our current time

  125. mufion 08 Jan 2013 at 11:42 am

    Zach: Use chevrons before and after “blockquote”, along with a forward slash in closing tag, like this:

    >blockquote<blahblahblah>/blockquote<

    (Let’s see if that example works the way I intend…)

  126. mufion 08 Jan 2013 at 11:43 am

    Almost. I’ll try again: <blockquote>blahblahblah<blockquote/>

  127. mufion 08 Jan 2013 at 11:44 am

    Last try: <blockquote>blahblahblah</blockquote>

  128. mufion 08 Jan 2013 at 11:45 am

    Almost, again. Move the forward slash to the beginning of the end tag, but after the chevron, and you should be golden.

  129. mufion 08 Jan 2013 at 11:46 am

    Woops! Crossed posts. The example in the post that begins with ‘Last try:’ is the proper syntax.

  130. nybgruson 08 Jan 2013 at 11:49 am

    Sorry guys I am done at this point. I just don’t have the time or energy to continue devoting to this. Besides, there are plenty of others here just as qualified (if not more) than I to do so.

    Suffice it to say Zach, the very foundational premises you take for granted are not only requiring evidence, but are simply wrong. I’m sure it all sounds great in your head but really you don’t actually make any coherent sense. You are only able to ramble on with pontifications, appeals to authority, and refuse to actually challenge your assumptions. I know you don’t think you are doing this. If you did, you would probably realize how far off base you were. Such is the nature of cognitive dissonance and a lack of understanding.

    Interestingly enough, you continue to refuse to acknowledge that your understanding of evolutionary theory and scientific inquiry is false. You don’t even touch the topic when challenged by an actual authority (yes, relative to to you I am an authority on evolution). You also don’t even touch the topic of consistency in the bible when I gave you very specific questions about it. This is part and parcel with the apologist attitude – cherry pick evidence, torture whatever you can to fit, and completely ignore anything else all whilst pontificating endlessly (funny how such a negative word stems from the religious pontiff…).

    In any event, unless it is something directly to do with your assertions regarding evolution or answering the specific questions about the Field of Blood and Judas I simply won’t be responding to you anymore. Take that as a sign of victory if you want. It doesn’t matter to me. It means very little for me to take candy from a baby, and it means similarly little for me to “win” an argument with a random person on the internet who can’t hold a cogent logical conversation.

    Lastly, if you just change out the bracket [ with the alligator < you will have the blockquotes correct.

  131. Steven Novellaon 08 Jan 2013 at 11:50 am

    Zach wrote: “So morality is nothing more than “we like this so lets do it” – I don’t believe this is a straw man of your position once it’s boiled down, then is it evil when societies have decided that slavery was ok, and sacrificing infants to unreal god’s was ok, or ???

    If you say yes your entire position falls apart. For you are going against your own premise that morality is what society decides through consensus what is right. ”

    This is a straw man, and why you cannot see our position.

    Philosophy-based ethics is NOT just consensus or what we like. It is a system based upon logic, carefully argued, with every conceivable consequence and implication explored, and informed by evidence where possible.

    There is also a difference between what academic philosophers come up with as a consistent and workable ethical system and what specific societies implement. Societies can be immoral or unethical (there is a branch of ethics that deals with this, in fact).

    The kind of consensus we are talking about is like a scientific consensus – not based on popularity, but the result of hammering out the best interpretation of what the evidence says (in the context of science), or what logic dictates (in the context of philosophy and ethics).

  132. mufion 08 Jan 2013 at 11:51 am

    ccbowers: Religion does not help us in this case, because it just introduces vague rules from another time, still subject to individual interpretations. We still have to work it out for ourselves in our current time

    Yup. That was more or less my experience of being an observant Orthodox Jew for six years. Merely knowing the biblical commandments solved practically nothing. It only shifted the realm of debate to one of interpretation and situational application.

  133. nybgruson 08 Jan 2013 at 11:51 am

    Thanks Dr. Novella… you said (part of) what I have been trying to say much more articulately and succinctly than I have been able to.

  134. Zachon 08 Jan 2013 at 11:52 am

    This is not what we are doing when we attempt to arrive at a consensus about morality. You keep framing it as if there is a morality “out there” as your use of “discover” indicates, but you have to let this idea go in order to understand the opposing view. We, as humans, have to determine for ourselves which behaviors are acceptable (what is the alternative?). Religion does not help us in this case, because it just introduces vague rules from another time, still subject to individual interpretations. We still have to work it out for ourselves in our current time.

    Answer my question about if it’s wrong if a society decides that the strong can eat the weak.

    I wish one of you would.

    I am willing to drop my notion, but you have to answer my questions so I can get there.

  135. Zachon 08 Jan 2013 at 11:56 am

    WOOT blockquotes worked, thanks guys!

  136. Steven Novellaon 08 Jan 2013 at 12:11 pm

    Zach – We have answered this. Yes, we can say that it is wrong for a society to decide the strong can eat the weak, because such a position cannot be justified by any internally consistent ethical system based upon any reasonable premises or principals.

  137. autumnmonkeyon 08 Jan 2013 at 12:13 pm

    Zach: “You forget that science is rooted in Christianity.”

    One can’t forget something that’s not true.

    nybgrus: “I absolutely agree there have been positive impacts (and still are!) but that things like the fight against the end of slavery, the fight against women’s suffrage, the fight against civil rights and now the fight against gay equality is all rooted in… yup, Christianity.”

    Give it another 15 years or so and they’ll try to take credit for the last item. One of the inane features of Christianity is that it fights tooth and nail against any kind of progress in human society (science, capitalism, democracy, free labor, human rights, etc), then tries to jump out in front of and lead the parade when the show’s over. Then again, I remember coming across more than a few of them during my Usenet days who argued that folks were better off living in feudal villages than they are today.

    Steven Novella: “Zach’s response has essentially been that none of this proves there is no god with ultimate morality, but I am not claiming that it does. If such a god exists, and they have a moral code they wish for humanity – no one can demonstrate that they know what that is.”

    We’re arguing for them to demonstrate there’s a creator of objective morality before we can even evaluate whether there’s an objective morality. My reading of their argumentation is that they insist objective morality is the only option therefore that “fact” proves the existence of their deity. We’re going at it from opposite angles. Hence the reason they’re ignoring our requests to prove their deity first. They’re spending their time trying to argue the non-possibility of a morality outside of an objective, unchanging standard. So, their chain of reasoning is: Relativistic morality is false, therefore an objective morality exists, therefore Yahweh exists. For them, it’s a matter of desperately proving the logical necessity of objective morality, even to the point of committing logical fallacies. We’re starting from empirical evidence and reasoning from there. For them, evidence is contingent on opinion and they make the mistake in thinking we operate by the same method.

  138. nybgruson 08 Jan 2013 at 12:30 pm

    Answer my question about if it’s wrong if a society decides that the strong can eat the weak.
    I wish one of you would.
    I am willing to drop my notion, but you have to answer my questions so I can get there.

    Try this exercise Zach.

    Pretend you are in a room with a Muslim, a Jew, a Buddhist, a Zoroastrian, and Christian Scientist, a Hindu, and a Sikh.

    Which religion, which god, and what writings do we base objective morals on? How can you prove to the others at the table that your religion, god, and writings is the correct objective one? Is it possible for you to reach a common understanding despite the differences in religion?

    You still haven’t addressed evolution or the Field of Blood and Judas.

  139. autumnmonkeyon 08 Jan 2013 at 12:36 pm

    Zach: “… you can’t provide an objective standard for what humans should strive for, or what is better or worse.”

    This is an apt description of your religion’s laws, which your self-proclaimed deity contradicted repeatedly. That’s the whole point that you miss. You tell others their system isn’t objective and unchanging, all the while you fail to see that yours isn’t.

    Zach: “You only have your personal opinion on that it’s based in moral relativism.”

    Which is what your religion does but you don’t see it.

    Zach: “I did assert that the scientific movement spawned from Christianity and it’s world view – in which it did, look at the early scientist – what religion were they?”

    It’s an irrelevant factoid. Your list includes all men but it would be equally fallacious to assert being good at science is a function of being male.

    Zach: “Go read Martin Luther King’s letter from Birmingham jail. He doesn’t make his arguments from humanism or secularism, he says Christians stop being hypocritical to Christianity and be MORE Christian – not less.”

    And go read the words of proponents of slavery. They were quoting from the Bible.

  140. Zachon 08 Jan 2013 at 12:46 pm

    Steven,

    This is a straw man, and why you cannot see our position.

    Philosophy-based ethics is NOT just consensus or what we like. It is a system based upon logic, carefully argued, with every conceivable consequence and implication explored, and informed by evidence where possible.

    The problem with calling every inference I make about your position a straw man is that just because you don’t realize the implications of your position doesn’t mean my inferences are incorrect.

    For example, if I said, “All toasters are items made of gold.
    All items made of gold are time-travel devices.

    Now, if you responded declaring, “Zach, you believe all Toasters are time-revel devices.”

    Now, I could shout, STRAW MAN I NEVER SAID THAT!

    It doesn’t matter matter, the logical inference remains true regardless of if I directly said it or not.

    Steven, you are completely mistaken if you believe science can demonstrate that we should value human life over rocks or trees or birds or bees.

    This is what frustrates me about your position. Here is a rundown of what I have gleaned so far.

    1. You claim that morality comes from consensus. But then when I demonstrate that consensus could lead to the strong eating the weak, or rape being the norm, etc. etc., you say, well it’s not JUST concensus…

    2. You then move to declaring that morality is a system based upon logic, carefully argued, with every conceivable consequence and implication explored, and informed by evidence where possible. When I point out that one cannot use the laws of logic to declare that life is preferable to death, or that society ought to flourish. I then ask by what standard you are defining flourish or improvements since this assumes that there is a standard of worse to greater, i ask what this standard is, and you revert back to the consensus argument, which is already been shown to be able to support morality on it’s own.

    3. You then grab the 3rd straw of your moral argument, science. You declare that the option 1 above is not based on sole consensus, but a more precise consensus – scientific consensus.

    Now, when I apply some of the brute facts of our universe to your scientific consensus you won’t acknowledge the questions or answer them.

    A. Humans are bigger brained animals
    B. Animals eat other, rape, kill, steal, etc. (humans do too) – this is the “Is” part of science.
    C. So when I observe that the universe appears to a beautify but cold and cruel place, you agree that it doesn’t care about our happiness or concerns. The strong eat the weak in the animal kingdom – Lions eat Zebras, Lions even kill other lions for selfish gain. Don’t take that point too far, you get the idea.

    If A B and C are true, then what does science tell us about our universe to conclude we should care about individual human life? You are inserting that premise into the evidence that doesn’t support it. Look, I agree, evolution would/should make us want to pass our genetic code on, etc. etc. but altruism (as someone pointed out above) doesn’t apply to all of mankind and society as a whole. It makes sense why I might care about my self (which is where I agree consequentialism will get us part of the way there, but it doesn’t explain why I should care about people outside my immediate family or tribe.

    the 4th point is consequentialism. This doesn’t tell us so much the “ought” of what we “ought” to do, it tells us the “is”. The “is” is if I go round killing everyone and everything then those being killed might not like it and kill me. So out of self-preservation I will not do that. I agree, but as Steven said consequentialism can’t be an all encompassing moral system because it only covers an extremely narrow aspect of our moral decision making. What about if I can do something that society has deemed immoral, and be guaranteed to not have that action come back to harm myself? Is it wrong? Of course we Westerners would say so, but why?

    5. When I ask this question, you all respond with some emotional appeal about how I wouldn’t want to be harmed and how I should care about society, but this is an naked assertion, that option 3 actually shows, to be contra-reality. The universe is cruel so why should I be any different?

    This is nothing but a maze of circular reasoning. When I attack one part of your argument you immediately move to another part and accuse me of a straw man. When I move to attacking that part you go on to the next well ignoring my questions and critique since I am after all only committing a straw man and morality is super duper complicated, so much that it requires all these aspects that can’t stand alone (which is fine), but they can’t even stand together without blatant and apparent contradiction.

    “not based on popularity, but the result of hammering out the best interpretation of what the evidence says”

    “Yes, we can say that it is wrong for a society to decide the strong can eat the weak, because such a position cannot be justified by any internally consistent ethical system based upon any reasonable premises or principals.”

    Steven it might helped if you took one example of something that you deem horrendous that a given society used to do, that we should no longer do, and then walk through how the morality of that given example is fleshed out and shown to be right or wrong.

    Maybe infant sacrifice or even take a hypothetical like burning babies with napalm for fun, make it extreme and nasty so it’s something that Westerners are repulsed by – it will facilitate the conversation better.

    To all those challenging my judeo-Christian moral system, you are fine to do so, but that is not the point I am defending. I am defending that my system is rooted on an objective standard that logically makes sense – yours is not. If you want to attack my objective standard as bad, then you need to provide an objective standard from which to stand on and declare that my standard is incorrect and has missed the mark.

    “One can’t forget something that’s not true.”

    So my list of the popular early scientists is made up?

    “Pretend you are in a room with a Muslim, a Jew, a Buddhist, a Zoroastrian, and Christian Scientist, a Hindu, and a Sikh.
    Which religion, which god, and what writings do we base objective morals on?”

    This is where you make a leap.
    I am not contending that we can even know what this God’s moral system is yet… that conversation comes much, much later, you take steps to get there, or maybe not there at all, that’s irrelevant to this point I am making. ALL that I am contending that if there is no moral law giver then morality is nothing but might makes right. A notion we all refuse to embrace, but logically follows.

    “You still haven’t addressed evolution or the Field of Blood and Judas.”

    You keep trying to fight about evolution, this thread is about morality, the other thread was bout light travel time being a problem for YEC. I am sticking to the discussion at hand. Plus, I’m not sure what you are trying to get at?

    What about the field of blood and Judas? Does this have something to do with the moral conversation we are having?

    “This is an apt description of your religion’s laws, which your self-proclaimed deity contradicted repeatedly. That’s the whole point that you miss. You tell others their system isn’t objective and unchanging, all the while you fail to see that yours isn’t.”

    As I stated above, this is a different conversation. You might disagree with my moral standard but I am not trying prove to you right now that mine is the correct standard, only that if one is going to assume morality there must be a standard from which to say one is right and one is wrong. Or better yet, all morality is nothing more than might makes right, but sadly no one here will admit that is the only other real possibility.

    “Which is what your religion does but you don’t see it.”

    Only if you conclude that my religious text is in fact the product of fallible human thinkers who only expressed their opinion. Oh trust me, I do see your point, you again are missing mine. I am using the Bible as to what it claims to be, not what you claim it is. You might be right, but we aren’t talking about that yet, we are only talking about the simple assertion that without a moral law giver morality cannot be anything more than Might makes Right. That’s my point. I have a moral law giver – though it might be wrong, it is not without a standard from which to justify morality.

    “It’s an irrelevant factoid. Your list includes all men but it would be equally fallacious to assert being good at science is a function of being male.”

    This is ignoring the context. I never said you need to be a Christian to be good at science, I said that Christianity is not contra-science since it was out of Christianity (Christians) who believed from their world view that science was possible.

    There is a huge difference.

    “And go read the words of proponents of slavery. They were quoting from the Bible.”

    So?

  141. nybgruson 08 Jan 2013 at 12:47 pm

    It’s an irrelevant factoid. Your list includes all men but it would be equally fallacious to assert being good at science is a function of being male.

    Bazinga!

  142. JJ Borgmanon 08 Jan 2013 at 12:48 pm

    @autumnmonkey

    Thanks for that last bit. It is helpful to my understanding of Zachs argument. Since Moral Objectivism seems to have worse problems than Moral Relativism, I’ll have to draw the conclusion that this “authority” may, but does not necessarily, exist and almost certainly isn’t YHWH.

  143. RickKon 08 Jan 2013 at 12:55 pm

    Zach:

    Answer my question about if it’s wrong if a society decides that the strong can eat the weak.

    “Wrong” in what context?

    It is NOT wrong in the context of that society. It is PROBABLY wrong in the context of the carefully considered, philosophically-derived set of principles that Steve is talking about. And it is DEFINITELY wrong in the context of the human social structures that have had the most success over time. Building a successful civilization has typically not been a zero-sum game, so social mores that support cooperation have proven to be more beneficial over the long run than pure every-man-for-himself competition.

    There is no “objective” morality outside of the instincts that evolution instills and what human thought and culture devise.

  144. nybgruson 08 Jan 2013 at 1:03 pm

    The evolution aspect is important because you keep citing it and science that you get wrong to support your claims. You claim science cannot inform the discussion of morality but demonstrate over and over again you don’t even know what science is, how it works, or what it says.

    The Field of Blood question is important because you claim internal consistency within the bible as part of the rationale for it being the arbiter of objective morality.

    My hypothetical is important because each person in the room would claim objective and absolute morality, just the same as yours. If you cannot assert evidence more compelling than they can, then the principles of logic mean the most likely reason is all of you are wrong. If you can come to a common agreement that means you have used human logic and moral subjectivism to do so, thus invalidating your argument.

    Your explicit and implicit assumptions are false. You create a ridiculous standard by which to adjudicate the conversation. We say that there is no such thing as moral objectivity. You say that the only way to prove that is to demonstrate that a different objective morality is better than your objective morality. In other words, you dismiss the very premise of the conversation – whether objective morality exists in the first place. You cannot argue against us by saying it does, simply by fiat, and then only accepting arguments from objective morality. Do you not understand how ridiculous that is?

    Nearly every single foundational premise on which you then build your logically consistent diatribes is false. Hence my tooth fairy analogy. You refuse to engage in an actual discussion of these foundational premises and instead just state them as correct with no evidence whatsoever. The Bible is not evidence. Certainly not even remotely close to sufficient evidence, anyways.

    ALL that I am contending that if there is no moral law giver then morality is nothing but might makes right.

    And there is the fundamental assertion that we do not agree with and you have not proven.

    Here, let me google that for you.

  145. JJ Borgmanon 08 Jan 2013 at 1:03 pm

    It also seems to me that “Might Makes Right” probably is a suitable alternative to what Zach is claiming. But then, it seems, YHWH and his creation are fully on board with that approach. On a small scale, sentient life utilizes reason and cooperation often times, but domination does seem to be the order of the day when push comes to shove and I mean that universally.

  146. RickKon 08 Jan 2013 at 1:06 pm

    Zach:

    What about if I can do something that society has deemed immoral, and be guaranteed to not have that action come back to harm myself? Is it wrong? Of course we Westerners would say so, but why?

    It is wrong in the context of what our society has taught us. You use “God” a the teaching tool. My parents used “being a good person” as a teaching tool.

    There is no “right” or “wrong” in the cosmic sense. “Right” and “wrong” are the intersection of our evolution-produced instincts and what society instills. Religions are just one of the inputs to “society” in that formula.

  147. RickKon 08 Jan 2013 at 1:11 pm

    People have struggled for millennia to define right versus wrong, and to provide some basis or authority for their definitions.

    The various gods who are attributed with moral oversight demonstrate all the characteristics of human creations, devised or designed to provide authority to moral decisions made through purely human and social mechanisms. Those characteristics include:

    - The definition of God(s) varies, often very significantly, from culture to culture, sect to sect. The Christian God alone varies across a wide spectrum from the Church of England to the FLDS enclave in Colorado City, AZ, to the Vatican, to the abstract being documented by Karen Armstrong to the God of the Westboro Baptist Church to the version promoted by the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda.

    - The definition of God(s) is handed down, from adults to children within a given society. The biggest determining factor in what version of God(s)-given morality you follow is what your parents believe.

    - People have attributed many things to God(s) or supernatural agents – Sun, Moon, stars, weather, floods, volcanoes, earthquakes, disease, psychoses, creation of Earth, origin of species, etc. – which have since been explained with non-supernatural, non-magical explanations. The reverse has never happened, where a supernatural explanation definitively replaced a natural explanation. “Morality” appears to be another example of this.

    - Over time, existing religions redefine what is morally acceptable. And these changes are prompted by changes in society, not changes in the religion. A comparison between Leviticus and today’s laws provide a striking example, as does the current transformation in the acceptance of homosexuality in Christianity or the acceptance of Black people in the Mormon church.

    - New religions grow out of purely human social phenomena. The transformation of magical charlatanism into Mormonism and the transformation of a self-help regimen into Scientology are well-documented examples.

    - New religions introduce different moral codes for their communities based purely on human decisions and human desires: plural marriage in Mormonism is the classic example.

    - What is morally wrong in one society is completely morally acceptable in another: infanticide in Western Europe today is treated very differently than infanticide in 18th century Tikopia. Cutting the fingers off of young girls is horrific in my community, but was the natural order of things in the New Guinea highlands 100 years ago.

    - God(s) do not reward “moral” behavior or punish “immoral” behavior in any visible way. Such reward and punishment is only claimed in invisible, untestable places as in Heaven, Hell or Karma & reincarnation.

    - “God’s word” as stated in holy texts like the Bible can be interpreted to any purpose. I just had a guy in a gun control argument tell me that Jesus told his disciples to carry swords, therefore if Jesus were alive today, he’d be packing a Glock. This fellow was apparently unfamiliar with Matthew 5:38.

    All of these are consistent with the premise that God(s), the “words of God(s)” and the moral principles they confer are simply the invention of human minds and human societies.

    Zach, there is the premise and the evidence. Prove God(s) is not a purely human creation.

  148. Christopher Newellon 08 Jan 2013 at 1:27 pm

    @nybgrus: This is Hume’s classic is–ought problem. Yes, science ought to play a much more prominent role, as should philosophy. I was merely describing what is, not what ought to be. The fact of the matter is that people learn morality from their parents, society, institutions, and research indicates that a good deal of it is hard wired. There’re a lot of feedback loops in the culture which include science and philosophy, although I wouldn’t count them as the biggest influences. What a world it would be if your average Joe had a greater appreciation of these things. I think that science does have a great power to inform moral decisions although it’s not a power that’s often used.
    This raises the question of how much is hardwired and how much is cultural. Do we have the power to change it even if we could tease apart the threads? I think that morality will just go on evolving in the natural, historic and cultural contexts that it emerged from, indifferent in our attempts to modify it. So, I answered the question “What is the proper basis for morality?” The other question “What ought to be the proper basis for morality? “ I think is a moot point if we can’t control it.

  149. Zachon 08 Jan 2013 at 1:27 pm

    Again, you are not hearing me. I don’t need to prove or even assert that we can know God’s will on morality, I am simply pointing out the logical obvious, without a moral law giver there can be no morality other than might makes right – which is a logical fallacy.

    Again, my post walked through your points, and demonstrated the fallacies in each. Yet here we are with everyone shouting “YOUR RELIGION IS EVIL”….

    Ok, maybe it is, what standard do you have to demonstrate that it is evil. Maybe it was just what the society at that time period concluded to be right. So for them it was right. Today we don’t care for that behavior (at least some of us westerners don’t), so we don’t embrace it. That doesn’t make it wrong or evil, just unfavorable to our preferences. But yet again, who cares what we prefer – the universe is a pretty brutal place when look at it scientifically.

    Again then again, might makes right right?

    Potter’s field… that’s not even one of the good ones.
    http://www.gotquestions.org/Judas-die.html

  150. Steven Novellaon 08 Jan 2013 at 1:28 pm

    Zach – the problem is that you are making the wrong inferences from what I (and others) are saying and you do not appear to be reading carefully or thoroughly enough to see those errors. Or perhaps I am just not explaining things carefully enough.

    I never said that science can determine our moral values, like the value of life. I wrote an entire blog post explaining why science cannot determine such values (sheesh). Science can only inform our values, not determine them.

    When I spoke of consensus I only made an analogy to scientific consensus. I did not say or imply (and you should not infer) that I meant morality was based on scientific consensus. A defensible ethical system is based on philosophical consensus. The point I was making is that philosophical consensus is not just a popular belief or “what we like” – it is built on something – logic and careful arguments hammered out over literally centuries, all the way back to Aristotle. This is no more an argument from popularity than a scientific consensus is about an empirical claim (that was the analogy – which you misunderstood). Is that clear now?

    It may seem as if we are going around in circles, but only because we are chasing your circular arguments – which I think the comments clearly document. So let’s try to stay on these few points and drill down to see if we can reach an understanding.

    Your point #1 above – you missed the point, as above. You are misunderstanding what I meant about consensus – I then clarified what I meant by consensus (which I have now repeated above), I did not change my argument or add anything to it. I corrected your misunderstanding of what we mean by consensus. It should be crystal clear now, but please let me know if it isn’t.

    Piont #2 – again you misunderstand. The philosophy of ethics is a logical system. Logical systems are not based on logic, they are based on premises and then proceed from there using logic. You still need premises. In ethics the premises are fundamental first principles, which have to be justified by argument and informed by facts. The goal is to start with the most universal (never absolute, as I pointed out above), most non-controversial, self-evidence, and simple ideas possible. This includes, for example, the principal of non-maleficence – the idea that most people do not want to be harmed. Is it reasonable to take as granted that people, then, have a right to not be harmed?

    This is not based upon any stone tablet, anything written into the laws of the universe. It is just a really good idea that most reasonable people can agree on. If you think it is an unreasonable premise, please tell me why.

    Assuming the principal of non-maleficence, what ethical rules can we derive from that? What other principals can we justify, and how do they interact? That is the beginning of the philosophy of ethics (you should check it out sometime).

    Your point #3 is a misunderstanding of what I said, as I explained above.

    Point 4 – not sure how this fits in. I agree that consequentialism (an underlying ethical philosophy) is valid but not complete, and breaks down if you explore all of its implications. It does not just deal with harm to self, however. Ethical principals include the notion of fairness – if I think that I should have certain rights, then it only makes sense that other people should have the same rights. I cannot prove scientifically that it is better to be fair than unfair – I am willing to take this as a reasonable premise.

    But again – consequentialism informs ethics. It is reasonable to favor a system of ethics that results in outcomes generally considered to be desirable.

    5. The universe is cruel? No. It’s indifferent, but I get your point. It’s just not relevant. The universe is indifferent – so what. Ethical systems are not there to please, accommodate, or fit into the character of the universe. They are there so that humans can live together. You are the one making an is/ought confusion. What the universe is does not determine what we ought to do (it may inform, but does not determine – a subtle difference you may be missing).

    Can you focus on these five points that you articulated? I think I have conclusively demonstrated that you are wrong or mistaken on each point. If you disagree, please explain why. I am happy to admit I am wrong on any point if you can give me a good argument to justify that conclusion.

  151. Zachon 08 Jan 2013 at 1:31 pm

    This raises the question of how much is hardwired and how much is cultural. Do we have the power to change it even if we could tease apart the threads? I think that morality will just go on evolving in the natural, historic and cultural contexts that it emerged from, indifferent in our attempts to modify it. So, I answered the question “What is the proper basis for morality?” The other question “What ought to be the proper basis for morality? “ I think is a moot point if we can’t control it.

    Completely curious, how many of you reject the notion that we have actual free will, instead of just fulfilling our programming handed to us from evolution?

    And if so, how do you explain how evolution set our wills free? Wouldn’t are decision making actually be a product of evolution that guides us to survive? Like religion (as you believe), isn’t it just an illusion our brain gives us to survive better? The whole Dawkins tiger in the bushes thing…

  152. nybgruson 08 Jan 2013 at 1:45 pm

    @C Newell:

    I guess we only disagree on the notion that we cannot control it. I think we certainly have trouble now, and that it certainly won’t ever be easy to control, but that in principle we can.

    Now this is a point where reasonable people can disagree. My only argument would be that at least trying to control it is better than not doing so, since if we try we can make active efforts towards betterment.

  153. Zachon 08 Jan 2013 at 1:54 pm

    Steven please provide “a defensible ethical system is based on philosophical consensus”.

    The point I was making is that philosophical consensus is not just a popular belief or “what we like” – it is built on something – logic and careful arguments hammered out over literally centuries, all the way back to Aristotle. This is no more an argument from popularity than a scientific consensus is about an empirical claim (that was the analogy – which you misunderstood). Is that clear now?

    Sorry Steven, that’s not clear to me.

    Correct me if I am wrong, but you are applying some sort of evolving mindset to morality – seems like you are saying that what do is what is right since over time we get better and better, so there is no right and wrong just progress.

    Am I mistaken?

    Maybe your view of free will would help me understand you better.

    “but only because we are chasing your circular arguments – which I think the comments clearly document.”

    I fail to see how my view of morality is circular. It is simple, if there is a moral law mandates a moral law giver. I am not attempting at this point to convince you that Yahweh is the law giver. I am simply defending that one point – how is it circular?

    In regards to your comments on my points – numbered by responses to each numbered point.

    1. We still are not commuicatingon this but I clarified my questions above, I will wait for that response.

    2. What about those who reject your premises and first principles? How do you make sense of that? Might makes right?
    It seems to me as if you are saying that the ethics are based on presuppositions.

    This is not based upon any stone tablet, anything written into the laws of the universe. It is just a really good idea that most reasonable people can agree on. If you think it is an unreasonable premise, please tell me why.

    This is a loaded statement.
    a. Why is it a good idea? Who gets to determine the good ideas from the bad? Who gets to enforce certain good ideas from the bad? What happens if bad ideas get enforced? Are they still bad or do they become good since that’s what was decided on by society?
    b. You exaggerate the agreement you find on moral issues. We have anything but agreement on them. Sure we might agree on some fundamental basics like we should not kill all of humanity at once, but even then there are those who don’t agree with that and think of Humanity as a virus that needs to be exterminated to allow the earth to thrive. How do you argue with these people – I don’t agree with them, but I understand their position and why they think as they do.
    c. You don’t get to assume any principles like non-maleficence. For to assume that would require some evidences to lead you to do so. Does the universe promote this idea? Not even close, it’s a pretty cruel place. Does evolution? Absolutely not, it guided the process of creatures like us who kill, rape, murder, and make up fake god’s who kill kids with bears…

    “if I think that I should have certain rights, then it only makes sense that other people should have the same rights. I cannot prove scientifically that it is better to be fair than unfair – I am willing to take this as a reasonable premise.”

    Saying that I have rights so then so do others is a leap. How do you define others? Squirrels are individuals, yet you don’t give them the same rights. How about even with people, fetus’s, etc. etc. It’s a naked assertion and for a scientist who doesn’t allow other’s naked assertions you shouldn’t excuse your own.

    I am willing to take this as a reasonable premise.

    That doesn’t mean much in this context, you might, but someone else might conclude it is reasonable to conclude the opposite since the universe is a cruel place, we only live once, etc. etc. so hedonism it up till you are gone. You are entering the arena of morality and turning it into a mere shouting match instead of as I assert, a principle of truth about reality as it is, whether I agree with that reality or not.

    “It is reasonable to favor a system of ethics that results in outcomes generally considered to be desirable.”

    Please provide an objective standard for which we can decide what is desireable and undesireable human behavior.

    “The universe is cruel? No. It’s indifferent, but I get your point. It’s just not relevant. The universe is indifferent – so what. Ethical systems are not there to please, accommodate, or fit into the character of the universe. They are there so that humans can live together.”

    This implies that you have some inside information for how humans “ought” to live together. Please share this objective standard so we can throw out these non-sensical views of killing kids for being sassy.

    “Can you focus on these five points that you articulated? I think I have conclusively demonstrated that you are wrong or mistaken on each point. If you disagree, please explain why. I am happy to admit I am wrong on any point if you can give me a good argument to justify that conclusion.”

    Let me know, but I think I stuck to your points and pointed out concerns I have with your hidden premises that you are leaping to.

    I re-read your points numerous times before responded to try to make sure I am doing my best to understand your position. I (as you appear to be), am not interested in playing games of “gotcha” with the villiage atheist.

    So if you can shed some light on my questions it might help us get nearer to understanding one another.

    Respectfully,
    Zach

  154. tmac57on 08 Jan 2013 at 2:13 pm

    Biblical scholars,clergy,heads of churches and adherents to Christianity have been arguing and debating for centuries exactly what the word of god says,and intends for us to do.Philosophers do the same as regards ethics.Religions argue (and war) among themselves for the same reason.Christian (mostly) lawmakers in this country do the same when making law.
    How on earth can one conclude from this that there is some objective ‘truth’ out there when we can empirically see that this continues?

  155. bgoudieon 08 Jan 2013 at 2:26 pm

    Is anyone else starting to feel that Zach is engaged in some kind of cargo cult like attempt to ape the arguments used against religious positions? He knows that skeptics often (correctly) point out the logical fallacies used by creationists. So he’s decided that if he uses the same terms (sadly incorrectly) it will put him on the same level of reason and logic.

  156. Steven Novellaon 08 Jan 2013 at 2:31 pm

    Zach – your latest post is a good example of how you keep going around in circles. You keep bringing up objections that I have dealt with in other points.

    Your position seems to come down to an assumption that there is no morality without some objective reference. But you are not arguing against my position (or that of anyone else here, or any serious philosopher, as far as I know).

    I am simply describing the philosophy of morality and ethics, which is the system that I advocate. As I have now written multiple, multiple times – yes, this is based upon premises that are taken as self-evident and cannot be proven. This is not a scientific system, although it is informed by science. Yes, people and societies disagree on ethical systems (which should be obvious from observing the world). These are straw man points because no one is arguing them. We can agree on these things as common ground.

    How do different societies resolve differences of opinion with regard to morals and ethics? Various ways – but the preferable way is with arguments and evidence – the exchange of ideas. No one has the monopoly on absolute truth. There is no absolute truth. Hopefully we learn from each other to grow and mature. Of course, we often duke it out and the victor gets to determine what moral construct wins out. This does not make it right.

    And again – you frequently confuse the philosophy of ethics as discussed by expert professional philosophers, and what the average person believes and even how governments act. These are, unfortunately, two different things.

    to the points:
    1 – yes, there is an evolving mindset of the philosophy of ethics. How could there not be. We are, individually and as a culture and a species, trying to figure this all out. I think we make progress over time. Sometimes morals just changes, sometimes they progress, and not uniformly.

    This is (in this limited analogy – please don’t misunderstand again) like science. Science is out understanding of reality. It evolves, sometimes it just changes, generally it progresses – because the methods of science are valid.

    I would argue that the methods of philosophical reasoning are valid also, but their results are imperfect and tentative, always evolving as we pick over and argue over the details endlessly.

    2 – I mostly answered this – but how can you say I can’t assume first principals? According to what? This is NOT science, remember. I am not making empirical claims. I am just saying that these are reasonable starting points. If people or societies disagree, we can discuss it, exploring the implications of alternatives. But there may be some points on which different societies disagree – because they have different values. So what? This is only a problem if you are after some absolute morality – which I am not. (You keep misapplying this criteria to my position, but it is an assumption of yours, not mine).

    In short – there is no absolute objective standard. There are reasonable and logically valid standards – but ultimately reliant upon some value judgements. So every time you ask me to give you an objective standard of something you are only demonstrating you unwillingness or inability to read and understand my position.

  157. DevoutCatalyston 08 Jan 2013 at 2:34 pm

    @bgoudie

    Have felt that about William Lane Craig

  158. daedalus2uon 08 Jan 2013 at 2:52 pm

    Zach, an example of a behavior that was once considered moral and acceptable and is not considered so today is slavery.

  159. NotAnAtheiston 08 Jan 2013 at 3:01 pm

    @Steve

    I think this statement is the crux of the confusion.

    “And again – you frequently confuse the philosophy of ethics as discussed by expert professional philosophers, and what the average person believes and even how governments act. These are, unfortunately, two different things.”

    Morality according to the vast majority of people means a set of “rights” and “wrongs” by which we may make judgements about others. Morality that you are describing is more like ethics, by which anyone may choose how to live and maybe make suggestions to others about a better way for people to live.

    I think to some extent most atheists(ok, ok agnostics) want to have it both ways. They want to be able to judge societies or other groups, e.g. Christians with a morality that is of the 1st type, while claiming to only be defending a morality of the second type.

  160. Zachon 08 Jan 2013 at 3:08 pm

    your latest post is a good example of how you keep going around in circles. You keep bringing up objections that I have dealt with in other points.

    I am only going in circles because you keep assuming my questions have been sufficiently answered by appealing to some unproved assumptions about morality that goes against basic logic. When you start actually answering them specifically instead of appealing this romanticized view of ethics then I will be satisfied.

    Your position seems to come down to an assumption that there is no morality without some objective reference. But you are not arguing against my position (or that of anyone else here, or any serious philosopher, as far as I know).

    It’s the logical inference that cannot be avoided, ignorance the evidence by appealing to some philsophy of morality and ethics that is based off unproven premises does not get out of the problem you have.

    I am asking you specific questions how what will determine the moral answer in a specific situations – you keep dodging them.

    I am simply describing the philosophy of morality and ethics, which is the system that I advocate. As I have now written multiple, multiple times – yes, this is based upon premises that are taken as self-evident and cannot be proven.

    So if I respond that there is black tea pot revolving around mars and it is soo small it cannot be seen (or the supernatural in general) and that this is based off premises that are taken as self-evident and cannot be proven how would you respond? I might say it is not a scientific system, although it is informed by science.

    I highly doubt you would accept this self-evident claim as true. I might say that most people in culture agree that their is the supernatural, and you would say that’s an ad populum argument that is not based on facts. I could then respond that ad populum only applies to scientific facts and the supernatural (like your view of morality and ethics) is outside that realm and is based off premises that are taken as self-evident and cannot be proven.

    I’m going to go ahead and guess this wouldn’t work for you. You are doing the same thing essentially.

    “Yes, people and societies disagree on ethical systems (which should be obvious from observing the world). These are straw man points because no one is arguing them. We can agree on these things as common ground.”

    Evidence?

    Yes, people are arguing these points. What common ground are you talking about?

    Is female circumcision wrong? is it wrong to kill your daughter if she converts away from Islam? Is it ok to leave your female daughter on a hill to die because girls are worthless?
    Start using real world examples instead of some romanticized view of reality that isn’t real.

    How do different societies resolve differences of opinion with regard to morals and ethics? Various ways – but the preferable way is with arguments and evidence – the exchange of ideas.

    Why is the most preferable way with arguments and evidence? is this another assumption that I need to take at face value? It’s entirely circular! You tell me that moral statements are laregely based off premises that are taken as self-evident and cannot be proven. Then you tell me that the best way to decide moral systems is from arguments and evidence. Why do you get to have the premises that are not agreed upon or proven be the standard of which to decide which culture is correct? This is probably difficult to understand but think it over a bit. You in essence are saying morality and ethics is based on self-evident truths, but when those truths are clearly not self evident to certain cultures and it comes time to figuring out the different culture’s morality and which one is superior you appeal to logic and evidence… it’s completely circular.

    No one has the monopoly on absolute truth. There is no absolute truth.

    Ok, so you are a moral relativist, that explains why my points hold no weight with you.

    First off, this is a self-defeating statement. You are essentially saying that no one has the monopoly on truth except for me and this statement, I happen to know that everyone’s view of truth is wrong in some regards, so therefore I am correct in being able to weigh it all and declare not one of them gets it right.

    That IS self-defeating. The only way to know if that is true is if you had all knowledge yourself, and as your statement goes, no one does. So neither do you and your statement defeats itself.

    The is no absolute truth huh? Do you absolutely mean that?….

    The irony….

    Of course, we often duke it out and the victor gets to determine what moral construct wins out. This does not make it right.

    Why not?

    but how can you say I can’t assume first principals? According to what? This is NOT science, remember. I am not making empirical claims. I am just saying that these are reasonable starting points. If people or societies disagree, we can discuss it, exploring the implications of alternatives. But there may be some points on which different societies disagree – because they have different values. So what? This is only a problem if you are after some absolute morality – which I am not.

    1. The burden of proof is on you. If I got all presuppositional apologetics on you you’d get ticked and tell me the burden of proof was on me to prove that something is a first principle. You made this claim, I did not. Evidence?

    2. So what? So what about genocide, so what about killing kids for getting sassy. You seem to be pretty bothered by the things Yahweh does in the Old Testament for someone who believes it’s just a matter of disagreement on what different culture’s favor. Look, if you are ready to say that morality is nothing more than “I like this”, then I will concede and even agree with you that your moral system makes sense and even works. You will be consistent. But the problem I believe you will run into is that you will not be able to stomach the notion that genocide is just as favorable in the right context to love and peace – an unavoidable conclusion if you apply your moral relativism to it’s logical implications.

    “There are reasonable and logically valid standards – but ultimately reliant upon some value judgments. So every time you ask me to give you an objective standard of something you are only demonstrating you unwillingness or inability to read and understand my position.”

    I believe I understand you. I didn’t realize that you were a postmodern moral relativist. Just be read to embrace that when someone slights you.

  161. rezistnzisfutlon 08 Jan 2013 at 3:23 pm

    Zach is performing a trick that is nearly ubiquitous in religious apologetics by shifting the burden of proof that absolute objective morality exists, and that that by itself is proof that there is a moral lawgiver and it would be his christian god of the bible. He is incorrectly asking us to disprove his positive claim that absolute objective morality exists rather than correctly providing evidence himself that it exists. This is nearly identical to how religious apologists engage atheists by demanding that they disprove the existence of their god.

    Disregarding the fact that it’s a false dichotomy – even IF he were to adequately demonstrate that absolute objective morality exists, that does not automatically approve that it MUST come from a divine law giver, much less that it’s his christian god of the bible and that the objective morality is what’s outlined in the bible. It’s the same fallacious reasoning that, if the atheist cannot “prove” his god doesn’t exist, then that means god MUST exist.

    It seems to me that he is hoping that if he can get us to somehow admit that there is such a thing as objective morality, which would then somehow “prove” his god exists and it’s the bible we should all be taking our morality from. It’s the very same tactic used against evolution, that by poking holes in it, it will eventually come crumbling down, thus proving god exists.

    Sorry Zach, but it doesn’t work that way. As far as I’m concerned, all this so far has been a lot of rhetorical hand-waving to distract from your necessary burden of proof for your positive claims that absolute objective morality exists, that your christian god of the bible exists, and what we can read in the bible is what the absolute morality is.

  162. rezistnzisfutlon 08 Jan 2013 at 3:35 pm

    Zach, you are again misunderstanding subjective morality. You seem to think that it means that “anything goes”, that one guy’s morals are just as valid as the next guy’s, that all morals are equally valid, and it would basically degenerate into us eating each other.

    Sorry, but no. Not all morals are equal to each other. How do we know this? By the collective harm one action does compared to another. I won’t go into detail about what constitutes harm and by what measure since that’s already been done before, ad nauseum. What I will say is that, someone setting off a bomb that kills dozens will carry a LOT more weight to it than somebody lying to their parents about how well they did on their test.

    Again, you fallaciously set up false dichotomies that are based off of your misunderstandings of what is being said. I’m not sure if that’s intentional or you truly don’t understand. You then create strawmen about “strong killing the weak” and “might makes right” when no one is suggesting anything of the sort.

    How many times do we have to repeat the concept of collective discussion based on logic, scientific evidence, philosophy, cultural tradition, and rationality as the basis for societal morality?

  163. daedalus2uon 08 Jan 2013 at 3:41 pm

    Zach, at one time, slavery was considered acceptable, and was sanctioned as acceptable by God in rules laid out in the OT. In the US it was only outlawed 150 years ago.

    There were a number of premises that people used to justify slavery, premises that we now know to be false. The primary premise was that certain people were subhuman, and so they didn’t have the normal “human” traits that justified treating those people the way “real” human beings (aka white male landowners) were treated, so making them (and their descendants) slaves was perfectly acceptable. Many people still hold to this premise, even though it has been demonstrated scientifically that humans of different ethnicities are essentially indistinguishable. This is the problem of xenophobia, racism, bigotry and misogyny. If someone is perceived to be less than human, then they don’t have full “human rights”, and so the niceties of laws and morality don’t apply to them. They are a non-human “other”, and so they don’t deserve human rights. I have blogged about this in some detail.

    http://daedalus2u.blogspot.com/2010/03/physiology-behind-xenophobia.html

    I see most human political and religious systems as mechanisms for “othering” certain people so they have reduced social status and can be harmed by those with higher status with impunity. This is what the Patriarchal religions do, they put God at the top, then His prophets, priests, followers. At the bottom are non-believers who are not considered worthy of fair treatment, hence they can be enslaved or killed.

    Humans are social animals, and live together in societies. For a society to be stable, new generations must be conceived, born, nurtured, educated and raised to adulthood and parenthood. From the society’s perspective, maintaining the group as a stable society is its primary survival goal. Maintaining a society in a stable state requires that each link in the chain from infancy to parenthood be maintained in perpetuity.

    If we accept that maintaining a stable society is a fundamental goal, we can examine proposed actions and see if they are consistent with this goal or not.

    How about the strong killing and eating the weak? Infants are always weak compared to adults, adults are always strong compared to infants, if adults killed and ate infants the chain of development from infancy to parenthood would be broken and the society would terminate. Any society that accepts as a fundamental premise that the strong can kill and eat the weak will fail. I don’t want to be a part of a society that will fail, so I support preventing the strong from killing and eating the weak. I support this even though I am a strong adult.

    I think the conceptual problem you are having is due to hyperactive agency detection, and a subconscious conceptual requirement that every action must have an agent that causes it. In effect every action must have a top-down cause which you attribute to God. Rules must have a rule-maker, morals must have a morality-maker, language must have a language-maker. Language does not require a language-making agent. Language synthesis is an emergent behavior that a cohort of children growing up together exhibit. If synthesizing language does not require an agent, then the idea that large and complex things require creation by an agent is shown to be false by counterexample.

  164. Steven Novellaon 08 Jan 2013 at 4:01 pm

    Zach – I have been very patient with you to see if I can get you to argue reasonably, but you have demonstrated beyond any reasonable doubt that, at least for now, you are incapable or unwilling to actually consider and try to understand my position, respond to my points, or examine your own position. You keep going around in circles because you appear to be anchored to an apologetic position that you will keep coming back to no matter what point the other person is actually trying to make. For this reason we are making no progress.

    Here is just one example. You wrote:
    “So if I respond that there is black tea pot revolving around mars and it is soo small it cannot be seen (or the supernatural in general) and that this is based off premises that are taken as self-evident and cannot be proven how would you respond? I might say it is not a scientific system, although it is informed by science.”

    So yet again you come back to the fallacy of confusing an empirical claim with a value judgement. Whether or not a tea pot is in Mars orbit is an empirical claims. Just saying it is not is irrelevant. Moral judgements are not empirical claims. If you cannot wrap your head around this basic difference, no further discussion is of any utility.

  165. JJ Borgmanon 08 Jan 2013 at 4:08 pm

    To lighten the mood and, perhaps, actually understand much of what is being communicated here, I recommend a bowl of popcorn along with a full viewing of the original Ice Age movie. Seriously.

  166. Zachon 08 Jan 2013 at 4:10 pm

    Rezistnzisfutl

    Yes, I am a magician playing tricks on you with witch craft based logic.

    =)

    “Zach is performing a trick that is nearly ubiquitous in religious apologetics by shifting the burden of proof that absolute objective morality exists, and that that by itself is proof that there is a moral lawgiver and it would be his christian god of the bible.”

    No. I have not even attempted to come anywhere near suggesting it’s the God of the Bible – nor that the moral law giver can be actually known. But for whatever reason you keep assuming this.

    “He is incorrectly asking us to disprove his positive claim that absolute objective morality exists rather than correctly providing evidence himself that it exists.”

    Wrong on both.

    I am demonstrating that evidence we in logic and within us and looking at our own nature shows that without a moral law giver morality is unable to be logically explains to be satisfactory.

    In short, concluding that there is a moral law and therefore a moral law giver better explains the evidence compared to moral relativism.

    There is a pretty substantial difference between this and what you claim I am claiming.

    “This is nearly identical to how religious apologists engage atheists by demanding that they disprove the existence of their god.”

    Who does this? I surely don’t.

    “even IF he were to adequately demonstrate that absolute objective morality exists, that does not automatically approve that it MUST come from a divine law giver, much less that it’s his Christian god of the bible and that the objective morality is what’s outlined in the bible. “

    I have literally said this several times already. Are you reading all of my posts or just skimming them, or possible only reading Steven’s posts?

    “It seems to me that he is hoping that if he can get us to somehow admit that there is such a thing as objective morality,”

    Honestly, I don’t care too much if you admit this or not. I just desperately want to find a atheist/agnostic who uses proper logic and can defend a principle of morality that is consistent with the world as we know it.

    It bothers me how they don’t seem to see the glaring logical problems that I wouldn’t have enough faith to accept – just accepting certain premises without evidences doesn’t cut it for me.

    “Sorry, but no. Not all morals are equal to each other. How do we know this? By the collective harm one action does compared to another.”

    Why is harm bad? Saying harm is unfavorable is simply another form of moral opinion. You assume too much. Start backing up your claims with logic.

    “What I will say is that, someone setting off a bomb that kills dozens will carry a LOT more weight to it than somebody lying to their parents about how well they did on their test.”

    So what? You are merely telling me that you BELIEVE setting off a bomb is worse. What objective standard are you appealing to in which to conclude that action is actually worse? So far it’s just an emotional feeling you have.

    “Again, you fallaciously set up false dichotomies that are based off of your misunderstandings of what is being said. I’m not sure if that’s intentional or you truly don’t understand. You then create strawmen about “strong killing the weak” and “might makes right” when no one is suggesting anything of the sort.”

    This isn’t a straw man. I am suggesting these things since they are a reality. You are avoiding this reality in your discussion and viewing the world through rose colored glasses.

    “How many times do we have to repeat the concept of collective discussion based on logic, scientific evidence, philosophy, cultural tradition, and rationality as the basis for societal morality?”

    Repeat it? You don’t need to, but for whatever reason feel the need to. When you can demonstrate that it’s not based on circular reasoning and logical fallacies I will drop it.

    Steven. I understand the difference between empirical claims. I suspected you would not go for that analogy so I also added the supernaturalism argument. Perhaps I should have stuck with that since it will demonstrate my point better. My point was the burden of evidence, so I understand your complaint.

    Steven I believe I understand your position, but you are ignoring my points about the actual ramifications of your world view applied to real life situations.

    I have asked you numerous times to talk through specific examples of dealing with moral monsters. You reverted to postmodern moral relativism.

    I’m not sure what else I can say to demonstrate the logical problems that exist with your subjective morality and how it does not mesh with reality as we know it to be.

  167. bgoudieon 08 Jan 2013 at 4:14 pm

    Zach we do understand and use proper logic, you have shown little evidence that you even understand the term.

  168. Steven Novellaon 08 Jan 2013 at 4:47 pm

    Zach – I have already done this, and the results will be predictable. But here goes:

    Slavery was once accepted as moral. This was based upon the belief in some cultures that some humans were inherently superior to others. At other times slavery was felt to be the proper spoils of war.

    These positions were not justified by any cogent ethical argument or consistent philosophical system. They were asserted in the absence of such thinking.

    What changed was partly the challenge by philosophers to ethically justify such behavior. It became clear that such behavior could not be justified – that if we accept certain basic principals, such as non maleficence, justice, and self-determination, slavery of one people by another is unjustifiable.

    You will respond to this by saying that I cannot prove that the above moral principals are valid. This is true. I never claimed I could. I just hold that they are reasonable, fairly universal, and lead to an ethical system that is workable and desirable. That is the only goal I have for a moral system.

    (But – it is not fair to call this position postmodernist moral relativism. You don’t know what that term means. First – postmodernism is not the same thing as moral relativism. Second, at best I am taking a descriptive relativist stance – that different people have different ideas about morality. I am NOT saying that there is NO standard – just that there is no absolute standard. I do hold that some moral positions are superior to others, and I oppose the view that any moral position can be justified by saying it is the norm in some culture. This is yet another straw man on your part, but I suspect you are just missing all the nuance in the philosophy of ethics and this hampers your ability to really follow the discussion here.

    I also hold it is the only choice we have, because there is no absolute morality, and even if there were no human has access to it – so in any case we are left to our own devices.

    You have claimed multiple times that absolute morality is consistent with the evidence. I must have missed this argument – how is that? I see no evidence that there is an absolute morality in the universe. This is an extraordinary claim and the burden of proof is on you to reasonably demonstrate this as a premise. You haven’t.

  169. autumnmonkeyon 08 Jan 2013 at 4:55 pm

    Zach: “So my list of the popular early scientists is made up?”

    No, you drew a conclusion from irrelevant premises.

    Zach: “Maybe infant sacrifice or even take a hypothetical like burning babies with napalm for fun, make it extreme and nasty so it’s something that Westerners are repulsed by – it will facilitate the conversation better.”

    I realize you keep framing this that Westerners are influenced by an objective moral system in order to bolster support for your religion. But many non-Westerners are repulsed by burning babies, while many Westerners are not.

    We can study what works in our current society, what worked well and didn’t work well in the past, and draw conclusions in how to proceed from there. We have more information available to undertake this endeavor (not to mention do it in a disciplined, scientific manner) than the ancient Hebrews who didn’t know squat about psychology, biology, physics, astronomy, economics, and so on. You’re making it sound like the rules we operate under today are somehow impossible, yet… they are there. They work better than those from 6000 years ago. We’ve made great progress in figuring this out. You’re inventing a problem that really only exists in the mind of a theist. If atheist morality was such a rotten arrangement, you would see millions of atheists rampaging through the streets and filling up our prisons. You would expect these skeptic societies and message boards to be full of axe murderers and thugs. But you don’t see that.

    Zach: “To all those challenging my judeo-Christian moral system, you are fine to do so, but that is not the point I am defending. I am defending that my system is rooted on an objective standard that logically makes sense – yours is not.”

    The only thing you’ve done is assert that you don’t make your own rules. If I wrote a rule book, then you accepted it, then that’s what you apparently call an objective system from your standpoint, no? But this book isn’t objective. It was written by a person. And your evaluation of the book, and whether to accept all of it or parts of it, is a subjective act. That’s how we see the Bible. We see no point in arguing about a hypothetical objective system that can’t possibly exist. The very nature of an objective rule set would require that the rule set writes itself. An emotional intelligence, supernatural or otherwise, can not create a purely objective moral system!

    Zach: “ALL that I am contending that if there is no moral law giver then morality is nothing but might makes right.”

    We understand your contention. This was answered in various ways many times. You seem stuck on this idea that people only act morally under the threat of coercion. The person who harms others without concern for their well-being isn’t someone acting under a rational system. In many cases it’s someone with a medical pathology. Or they’ve been heavily brainwashed by religion or political ideology. The might makes right argument is exactly what theism operates under. I have no compelling reason to follow an irrational theistic arrangement other than to give in to the intimidation and threats of violence levelled against me.

    Zach: “You might disagree with my moral standard but I am not trying prove to you right now that mine is the correct standard, only that if one is going to assume morality there must be a standard from which to say one is right and one is wrong. Or better yet, all morality is nothing more than might makes right, but sadly no one here will admit that is the only other real possibility.”

    What I’ve said is that your standard isn’t objective, as you claim. We’ve disagreed with your assertion that might makes right is the only alternative to an objective morality. This conclusion doesn’t follow what we know. It doesn’t follow on a logical level, it doesn’t follow the evidence. Counter examples abound.

    Zach: “I never said you need to be a Christian to be good at science, I said that Christianity is not contra-science since it was out of Christianity (Christians) who believed from their world view that science was possible.”

    You wrote, “You forget that science is rooted in Christianity.” To support this you list a bunch of scientists that you also claim to all be Christian. There’s no logical connection between the two facts. (I can’t even evaluate whether they were really Christian, or just professed such. I suspect it wasn’t exactly a popular career move during their times to be publicly against the prevailing religion, so it’s better to play along.) I can give a list of Muslim scientists that predate those you listed and it would be just as fallacious to claim science is rooted in Islam.

    Zach: “So?”

    So stop arguing that person X was a Christian, person X did Y, therefore Y is rooted in Christianity. You really don’t want to go down this path. If your religion is going to take credit for all the good that occurs in society, you’ll have to own all the bad as well.

    Zach: “Again, you are not hearing me. I don’t need to prove or even assert that we can know God’s will on morality, I am simply pointing out the logical obvious, without a moral law giver there can be no morality other than might makes right – which is a logical fallacy.”

    If we can’t know your deity’s will on morality, then any discussion about religious morality is a waste of time.

    The argument that there has to be an objective moral system created outside the bounds of human society is illogical in itself. Morality doesn’t exist until one human interacts with another. Why an invisible third party has to introduce pre-existing, eternal rules that have no application outside human relations is beyond me. There’s a redundancy there.

  170. rezistnzisfutlon 08 Jan 2013 at 5:01 pm

    @Zach

    “No. I have not even attempted to come anywhere near suggesting it’s the God of the Bible – nor that the moral law giver can be actually known. But for whatever reason you keep assuming this. ”

    Ok. So, are you admitting that two of your assumptions are NOT that this moral law giver is the christian god of the bible, and that it’s the bible that humans are able to know what the absolute morals are? If that’s the case, I’ll drop those points as items you need to demonstrate to be true.

  171. rezistnzisfutlon 08 Jan 2013 at 5:11 pm

    @Zach

    “No. I have not even attempted to come anywhere near suggesting it’s the God of the Bible – nor that the moral law giver can be actually known.”

    I would disagree that you haven’t come anywhere near close to suggesting it’s the god of the bible that is the law giver. In fact, that’s an outright fabrication. You yourself said that you as a christian get your morals from your god, and that you believe that your bible is the word of god.

    This exchange demonstrates that you think it’s the christian god of the bible that is the absolute morality law giver:

    Dr. Novella: “There is no one who objectively and verifiably knows the will of God, and God has not seen fit to unambigously make their will known to all of humanity.”

    Zach response: “Christians don’t agree with you…”

    Another statement confirming your belief as a christian:

    Zach: “As a Christian I argue that all human beings are created in the image of God and therefore have inalienable human rights.”

    You’ve even gone as far as quoting biblical scripture to make points about morality and where they are derived (from the bible):

    “Even worse, you have the problem that pre-Christ you completely lose the notion of “love your neighbor as yourself/the Golden rule”. Now, I know your objection to this, and it’s misplaced. I agree many religions say to do unto others as you would have them do unto you – Christianity is not alone here, but that’s not my point. Christianity revolutionized this belief. Christianity came along and redefined who your neighbor was, your neighbor wasn’t only those who were nice back to you, or those who caused you no harm, your neighbor was also your enemy! Make no mistake, this is unique to Christianity.
    Luke 10:25-37 – Parable of the good Samaritan
    Matthew 5:44 – “But I tell you. Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

    You said,
    “None of this, however, can tell us if we should punish those who commit crimes.”

    Christianity can, and does. ”

    Not only are you most DEFINITELY proposing that it’s the christian god of the bible as the law giver that informs morality and that it’s absolute and preferable, but that the bible itself is the word of god that must be heeded and that’s where we can know what that morality is. So, either you’re simply being disingenous, or you’re being outright dishonest.

    Even if that were the case, the onus still is on you to demonstrate that absolute objective morality exists, and that it is determined by a law giver. Mostly, what I’ve seen is still you shifting the burden of proof claiming that we cannot demonstrate that it is necessarily an untrue proposition, which we have graciously done anyway even though it’s not up to us to DISPROVE your claim for you. Sorry, but quoting biblical scripture and interpreting “history” without corroborating evidence to back it up is NOT a valid claim that absolute morality exists or that a law giver exists, and that law giver is the christian god of the bible. You’re going to have to do much better than that.

  172. rezistnzisfutlon 08 Jan 2013 at 5:19 pm

    @Zach

    “I am demonstrating that evidence we in logic and within us and looking at our own nature shows that without a moral law giver morality is unable to be logically explains to be satisfactory.

    No, what you’re doing is attempting to have us explain to you why absolute morality does not exist and that there is no law giver. Again, that’s shifting the burden of proof for your positive claims that it DOES exist and that there is a law giver.

    And again, it’s a false dichotomy to think that, if you were to somehow disprove that subjective morality is the only morality there is, then that necessarily proves that absolute morality is derived from a law giver.

    “In short, concluding that there is a moral law and therefore a moral law giver better explains the evidence compared to moral relativism. ”

    That there is a “moral law” and therefore a “moral law giver” has most definitely NOT been demonstrated, so therefore it’s incorrect to conclude it.

    Let me try to make this clear: You demonstrate to us how there is such thing absolute morality, and if you’re able to do that, then demonstrate to us that it means there is necessarily a law giver. Very simple. Keep in mind that you have not come anywhere close to demonstrating this.

  173. rezistnzisfutlon 08 Jan 2013 at 5:22 pm

    @Zach

    ” ‘This is nearly identical to how religious apologists engage atheists by demanding that they disprove the existence of their god.’

    Who does this? I surely don’t. ”

    This is done all the time. A simple google search on “atheists can’t disprove god” yields many hits on the subject where theists claim that very thing.

  174. autumnmonkeyon 08 Jan 2013 at 5:27 pm

    Zach: “This implies that you have some inside information for how humans ‘ought’ to live together. Please share this objective standard so we can throw out these non-sensical views of killing kids for being sassy.”

    Why does he have to provide an objective standard when none has ever existed in the history of humanity? Where’s the need for it? Where’s the imperative? You’re inventing non-existent problems requiring impossible solutions.

    Zach: “Is female circumcision wrong? is it wrong to kill your daughter if she converts away from Islam? Is it ok to leave your female daughter on a hill to die because girls are worthless?”

    If you were putting forth these questions to a fundamentalist Muslim, they’d say those things are OK according to their objective standard. They would be arguing in the same manner you’re arguing.

    Zach: “No. I have not even attempted to come anywhere near suggesting it’s the God of the Bible – nor that the moral law giver can be actually known. But for whatever reason you keep assuming this.”

    What you’re doing, pathetically I might add, is demand an objective moral system from us but provide none in return. You’re trying to get us to do your work for you so then you can say, “Aha! See! There can be no law without a lawgiver! You admit there’s a god!”

    rezistnzisfutl: “It seems to me that he is hoping that if he can get us to somehow admit that there is such a thing as objective morality, which would then somehow ‘prove’ his god exists and it’s the bible we should all be taking our morality from.”

    Exactly.

  175. rezistnzisfutlon 08 Jan 2013 at 5:27 pm

    @Zach

    ” ‘It seems to me that he is hoping that if he can get us to somehow admit that there is such a thing as objective morality,’

    Honestly, I don’t care too much if you admit this or not. I just desperately want to find a atheist/agnostic who uses proper logic and can defend a principle of morality that is consistent with the world as we know it.

    It bothers me how they don’t seem to see the glaring logical problems that I wouldn’t have enough faith to accept – just accepting certain premises without evidences doesn’t cut it for me. ”

    You clearly have no clue what logic means. Logic is merely the means of determining internal consistency of reasoning to determine validity of that reasoning. Your consistent misuse of the terms “strawman”, “ad hominem”, “ad populum”, etc, clearly indicates you don’t know what logic means or how to apply it. I remember an quote from you about the abuse of logical fallacies, which, of course, is an absurdity.

  176. rezistnzisfutlon 08 Jan 2013 at 5:38 pm

    @Zach

    ” ‘Sorry, but no. Not all morals are equal to each other. How do we know this? By the collective harm one action does compared to another.’

    Why is harm bad? Saying harm is unfavorable is simply another form of moral opinion. You assume too much. Start backing up your claims with logic.

    ‘What I will say is that, someone setting off a bomb that kills dozens will carry a LOT more weight to it than somebody lying to their parents about how well they did on their test.’

    So what? You are merely telling me that you BELIEVE setting off a bomb is worse. What objective standard are you appealing to in which to conclude that action is actually worse? So far it’s just an emotional feeling you have. ”

    Why is harm bad, seriously? Did you read ANY of what anyone has been saying about it so far? This has been covered OVER and OVER again. It has to do with our desire to live and flourish. It’s a survival mechanism inherent in (nearly) all life. Again, you’re playing semantic games.

    If you can’t see why setting off a bomb is worse than a kid lying about a test score, then I don’t know what else to tell you. One action causes a lot of destruction and societal chaos, while the other does not. The point is, you seem to think that subjective morality means that “anything goes”, that one action is equally comparable and valid as any other. No, there are verying degrees. We have explained this time and again, but you apparently didn’t bother to read it.

    “What objective standard are you appealing to…”

    Are you serious? You are trying to trick me into saying that there is an objective standard? Really, that’s just stupid. The “objective standard” is that I don’t want myself or anyone else for that matter blown to bits by a bomb. I don’t want to live in a society that that is desirable. There is a near unanimous consensus of this. THAT is our “objective standard”.

    The objectivity comes from the measure of damage and destruction to society that decreases the flourishing of human life.

  177. rezistnzisfutlon 08 Jan 2013 at 5:41 pm

    @Zach

    ” ‘Again, you fallaciously set up false dichotomies that are based off of your misunderstandings of what is being said. I’m not sure if that’s intentional or you truly don’t understand. You then create strawmen about “strong killing the weak” and “might makes right” when no one is suggesting anything of the sort.’ ”

    This isn’t a straw man. I am suggesting these things since they are a reality. You are avoiding this reality in your discussion and viewing the world through rose colored glasses. ”

    No, these things are NOT a reality. Nature has shown time and again that fitness is not necessarily determined by “strong killing the weak” and “might makes right”. They are strawmen because there are more examples of cooperation and symbiosis than there are of destruction and chaos.

    Like all creationist fundamentalists, you rely on logical fallacies because the reality does not jibe with your fantasy and does not support your cognitive dissonance.

  178. BillyJoe7on 08 Jan 2013 at 5:48 pm

    Zach,

    Let me take a stab:

    You do not believe that morals evolve.
    On the contrary, you believe that morals are absolute and unchanging.

    But it is clear to us that morals do evolve. The world described in the New Testament is far more moral than the world described in the Old Testament. Our world today is far more moral than the world of the New Testament.

    But you have to maintain your belief that morals are absolute and unchanging and, therefore, your explanation for the above observation is that, in the past, humans have been ignorant of these absolute morals but that, over time, they have been in the process of gradual discovery of what these absolute morals are, and, as a result, the world has a better moral sense and hence has become better place to live.

    In other words, it just semantics:
    We say our morals have evolved.
    You would say that our moral sense (our understanding of absolute morals) has evolved.

    I guess the end play for you is that humans will eventually become fully cogniscent of these absolute morals and will come to realise and fully accept the implication of this – that God exists. And you will have some sort of explanation for why that God is the Abrahamic God.

    Of course, the implication that God exists is already here, isn’t it? Here is your reasoning:
    Relative morals are a logical fallacy
    Therefore morals are absolute.
    Therefore God exists.

    But morals simply evolved, just as life evolved, just as the universe evolved. Evolving from the simple to the more complex (not teleologically towards something complex as determined by an entity even more complex). We are simply trying to discover how morals evolved naturally and to try to build on that and give it a bit of a nudge along (just as we took what nature provided in the way of food (ie wild wheat) and improved on it).

  179. tmac57on 08 Jan 2013 at 6:05 pm

    Zach

    Why is harm bad? Saying harm is unfavorable is simply another form of moral opinion. You assume too much. Start backing up your claims with logic.

    Even a toddler can recognize that “harm” is “bad”,and that is long before the prosthelytizers can encode ‘god’s moral code’ in to them. If a bully comes up to them and punches them in the face,and steals their food or toy,you can bet that toddler will instinctively see that as both ‘bad’ and ‘harm’.
    That in a nutshell is,in my opinion,the genesis (can I use that word) of the development of the principle of reciprocity,and the reason that civilized society seeks to promote fairness and safety,and minimize harm for those who choose to be part of that stable system.

  180. RickKon 08 Jan 2013 at 6:18 pm

    Zach:

    I don’t need to prove or even assert that we can know God’s will on morality, I am simply pointing out the logical obvious, without a moral law giver there can be no morality other than might makes right – which is a logical fallacy.

    That is NOT logically obvious. By that logic, there can be no global economic system (a set of rules followed by individuals and organizations resulting in social benefit greater than the sum of the parts) without an economic lawgiver.

    Because, by your logic, without a lawgiver, EVERYBODY will cheat everybody (the economic equivalent of your strawmoral “might makes right”).

    So tell me Zach – which individual makes the rules that govern the system that fills your refrigerator with food from all over the world? Who is the global economic lawgiver?

  181. rezistnzisfutlon 08 Jan 2013 at 6:28 pm

    @Zach

    Let me pose it to you this way:

    How do YOU know that absolute morality exists, and if you know that absolute morality exists, how do you know it necessarily requires a law giver? (I won’t even go into which “law giver” it is)

    You claimed to be trying to demonstrate that, but what it seems to me is that the way you’re going about it is by having us explain to you why absolute morality doesn’t exist. We have yet to see YOU actually demonstrate to US that it exists.

    Give it a go, and let’s see where we get with it. Let me help you out a little, first, however: relying on the bible as evidence for it isn’t going to work here. You’ll have to do something else, since there is no way we can corroborate the contents of the bible.

  182. rezistnzisfutlon 08 Jan 2013 at 6:36 pm

    It’s interesting how Zach contends that if there’s no absolute morality, then it would be might makes right. I stopped counting how many times he’s repeated this. I’d like to know where he’s getting it from that without absolute morality it would necessarily mean might makes right.

    If he’s claiming that the only reason it’s not might makes right now is because absolute morality exists now, then how can he know that without absolute morality might makes right would necessarily be what happens?

    If he’s claiming that we have actually observed might makes right because of an absence of absolute morality that is what necessarily occurs, then why don’t we see more examples of that in human history? Certainly there are more than enough non-christian cultures to draw upon that demonstrates this is the case.

    If he’s claiming that absolute morality is “imprinted” on us as human beings, then where’s his evidence for this? How do we know it’s not just some innate property of humans? How do we know it’s not also, or exclusively, a product of our environment? How can we test this?

    Like with creationists, what it seem to me is that he’s trying to “logic” absolute morality into place (although logic isn’t really what he’s doing much of), just like creationists try to “logic” god into existence as the ultimate creator of the universe and humans. Without evidence to back it up, it’s all purely rhetorical semantics.

    Logic only exists internally, it MUST start with a premise to work from, and with the theist argument, there is no premise other than pure speculation and opinion.

  183. Insomniacon 08 Jan 2013 at 6:46 pm

    @Zack (poor Zack…)

    Let’s have an absurd step and to be kind, let’s forget about the atrocities that God demanded from his people in the Old Testament (for we mostly deal with Christian morality here).

    Suppose that our morals are absolute. Therefore what God once said must be in accordance with them. I pick something in the first book of Timothy – chapter 2 – verses 11 to 15 (KJ version) :

    “Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.”

    In some way these injunctions should be in accordance with the perfect moral code God inspired to those who wrote the New Testament. Here you haven’t the excuse that goes “Yeah, but you know this Old Testament stuff… Jesus came and said we didn’t need them anymore”. It’s in the very Testament Christians cherish.

    Then, you are faced with a choice. Either with nowaday’s hindsight you accept the fact that these verses aren’t that moral and the absolute aspect of your morals is disproved, or you keep on saying that scriptures in the New Testament must be accepted, and I don’t want to know what happens with the women you meet.

    You cannot say : “these were reccomandations for people from that time”, since the Bible is supposed to be a message from God to anyone on Earth, whatever its ethnicity and whenever he lives. Do you think even at that time it was moral to clearly consider women as less than men ? Was it moral and then today (or maybe in the 18th century, I don’t know) suddenly it’s not ? Wouldn’t the Bible be improved if instead of that rubbish I put some random things like “Woman and man are equal and should be treated in the same decent way. Both have the right to speak their mind and should be respected by one another.” Unfortunately the end of the Revelation tells me that I cannot modify any word of it, lest I “add unto [me] the plagues that are written in this book”

    When you add the Old Testament, it’s even worse indeed. If morals are absolute then they shouldn’t change, so why so much change between the two testaments ? Actual people were killed for imaginary crimes like alleged witchcraft or for their homosexuality, stoned or burnt or by any other way these barbaric desert tribes could imagine. Even if you reject this ancient moral code, the Christian God made it and it was once applied. The very fact that it is now widely considered as morally brankrupt proves that they are man-made (I mean, male made by the way), deeply rooted into their culture and thus wholly biased. The other solution of course is that God is not moral, but I doubt you would think such thing.

  184. daedalus2uon 08 Jan 2013 at 6:59 pm

    Zach really is stuck in only being able to perceive morality in terms of “might makes right”.

    What he is doing is saying that for there to be a universal morality, there must be an omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent, infinitely powerful agent that determines what that universal morality is by fiat. Omnipotent might makes omnipotent right.

    This is the whole point of all Patriarchal religions. The Patriarch is the head of the religion and is the most powerful human. He derives his power not from the will of the governed, but by being given that power by the omnipotent power, God.

    The whole “love your enemies” shtick only happened because the omnipotent power said so, by fiat.

  185. rezistnzisfutlon 08 Jan 2013 at 7:34 pm

    testing

  186. rezistnzisfutlon 08 Jan 2013 at 7:35 pm

    testing2

  187. rezistnzisfutlon 08 Jan 2013 at 7:39 pm

    testing click here

  188. rezistnzisfutlon 08 Jan 2013 at 7:40 pm

    @nybgrus

    Thanks for the instructions on html marks in text!

  189. RickKon 08 Jan 2013 at 8:11 pm

    The whole “love your enemies” shtick only happened because the omnipotent power said so, by fiat.

    And without the fear of Hell, people ignore it anyway, right?

  190. nybgruson 08 Jan 2013 at 8:50 pm

    @rezisntfl: No worries. I remember being in the same spot a few years back. Plus it helps others read and follow better.
    —-

    Absolutely fascinating. And education to me as well.

    I’ll be the first to admit I am out of my depth on the topic of philosophy, so reading all these posts gives me insight. My head feels quite full indeed (in a good way).

    I kind of feel like Jane Goodall watching the interplay and seeing what Zach and NaA come up with next.

    But I mean really:

    Why is harm bad?

    Somehow he can’t see that as an acceptable axiomatic principle unless this heretofore unnnamed [wink][wink] moral lawgiver says so?

    I mean seriously Zach, don’t you see how the very same system you are professing – one in which Mr. Moral Lawgiver defines and gives us the absolute moral code – is the ultimate might makes right system?.

    What if I disagree with your moral lawgiver. Lets just for argument’s sake say it is the Christian God. I’ll grant you that he exists. What if I disagree with him? He says it is an abomination for a man to lay with another man as with a woman. What if I disagree? He says it is wrong to kill and commit adultery. What if I disagree?

    Seriously. What if I disagree with God?.

    What would happen to me then? Why should I even bother to listen or care what Ol’ Mr. Yawheh says?

    Could it, oh I dunno, possibly be because he would send me to eternal hellfire if I don’t? Does that not sound like the eensiest bit like “might makes right”?

    Or is it because if I do what he says he will grant me eternal pleasure in paradise? Does that not sound also the eensiest bit like “might makes right”?

    It doesn’t matter if your Moral Lawgiver is Yawheh or anything else. But what if I disagree?

    You constantly berate us with the same asinine commentary – “what if I disagree that burning babies with napalm is bad? Does might make right then?”

    Well??

  191. ccbowerson 08 Jan 2013 at 9:19 pm

    “Somehow he can’t see that as an acceptable axiomatic principle unless this heretofore unnnamed [wink][wink] moral lawgiver says so?”

    In fact, he demands evidence for them, which misses the point entirely.

    Even worse is he keeps asking (in different words ) what absolute objective standard we are basing a moral system upon, and implies that since we can’t answer the question its a flaw in the argument, but fails to realize that is the point- there is no such thing as objective absolute moral code out there. He is holding us to a standard that he has created for himself. It is nothing more than begging the question dressed up in chaos

  192. Zachon 08 Jan 2013 at 9:51 pm

    Slavery was once accepted as moral. This was based upon the belief in some cultures that some humans were inherently superior to others. At other times slavery was felt to be the proper spoils of war.

    It was also used for economic purposes. When Western Americans hear the word slave they often immediately think of race based slavery, but that is just one of the many forms of slavery. Slavery also came in the form of indentured servanthood. But you seem to be aware of these differences so I will move on to your next point.

    These positions were not justified by any cogent ethical argument or consistent philosophical system. They were asserted in the absence of such thinking.

    This is a naked assertion and a logical leap. You skipped over the very point I keep asking you to camp out on and explain to me your entire thought process and how you would engage a world that was pro-slavery.

    It became clear that such behavior could not be justified – that if we accept certain basic principals, such as non maleficence, justice, and self-determination, slavery of one people by another is unjustifiable.

    Steven imagine you are a Roman living in that culture, and you assert to slave owners that they should accept such basic principles, such as maleficence, justice, and self-determination, etc. They will inevitably ask you why? In which you respond as you responded to me, something along the lines that it is reasonable, fairly universal, and lead to an ethical system that is workable and desirable.

    They would likely respond that these principles are not basic and that they do not agree with you. You claim that society is functioning fine the way it is with slavery and that slaves are better taken care of under them than if they were on there own with no means of which to feed themselves, etc. etc.

    It doesn’t matter what their response is, the point remains the same, you believe it to be wrong they believe it to be right. You appeal to your fellow mankind to accept your ethical principles based on reason and more or less an opinion based in an emotional and cultural basis.

    I say Slavery is wrong, you say say slavery is right.

    And we are back to square one. Why is your opinion superior to mine? Well mine is rooted in basic logic and reason, yet logic and reason will never tell you that non malefcience, justice, and self-dtermination, are inherit truths. You have to assume this, and you have admitted you do. I might argue that might makes right and me and my clan have the right to kill and own whoever we want – which puts us back to square one. Opinions vs opinions, and if morality is founded on opinions you have no right to tell other person that your view is superior to their. Why should we care about your opinion? You will reply that it’s best for society and provides a better environment (says you). But this assumes I care at all about your tribe/people in society. I don’t, so why should I?

    You said before that a person wants individual freedom, so thefore they deserve freedom. This is fallacious.
    I might say that all persons want to be wealthy/rich, so therefore they deserve to be wealthy. Uhhmm…. no… says who?

    An atheist view of morality encourages self centeredness – you should do the “right” thing not because there is actually an objectively right thing to do, but because this is what will make you happy.

    You will respond to this by saying that I cannot prove that the above moral principals are valid. This is true. I never claimed I could. I just hold that they are reasonable, fairly universal, and lead to an ethical system that is workable and desirable.

    You are right, which I just laid out above. If you can’t prove the above moral principles, why should I accept them and get on board with it? You still can’t give anything more than a subjective version of “I like this”, or “I think this is better/more reasonable”. Well good for you, but who cares about what you find to be more reasonable. I might well as say it’s not reasonable so we are back to square one.

    You don’t know what that term means. First – postmodernism is not the same thing as moral relativism.”

    Typical response. Yes, I do know what postmodernism is, and I never said said it was the same thing as moral relativism.

    I am NOT saying that there is NO standard – just that there is no absolute standard. I do hold that some moral positions are superior to others, and I oppose the view that any moral position can be justified by saying it is the norm in some culture. This is yet another straw man on your part, but I suspect you are just missing all the nuance in the philosophy of ethics and this hampers your ability to really follow the discussion here.

    First, you are calling out my inferences of your position as a straw man – that’s not a straw man when I make logical inferences of your views, you might disagree with me, but that’s not a straw man, you are mis-using that fallacy.

    Second, You say that there are different ideas about morality but they are not all superior. Good, I’m glad you admit that. But it brings you back to square one that the authority for what is morally right is you and what you like. That’s not a straw man it’s a logical inference. You believe certain premises to be true without having evidence in which to convince others of them. So what I said stands.

    “I also hold it is the only choice we have, because there is no absolute morality, and even if there were no human has access to it – so in any case we are left to our own devices.”

    Which is why your world view doesn’t mesh with reality as we know it. Keller address’s this issue head on in the Reason for God.

    ““The fact is, says Leff, if there is no God, then all moral statements are arbitrary, all moral valuations are subjective and internal, and there can be no external moral standard by which a person’s feelings and values are judged. Yet Leff ends this intellectual essay in a most shocking way: ‘As things are now, everything is up for grabs. Nevertheless: napalming babies is bad. Starving the poor is wicked. Buying and selling each other is depraved….there is such a thing as evil. All together now: Sez who? God help us.”

    You assume it is the only choice we have, I disagree. If we are left to our own devices then might makes right. And since we know that might makes right is not morally true, then we know that we must be left to our own devices.

    I am sorry but either might makes right and our view of morality is false, our hatred of cruelty is nothing but a cultural feeling we have, or there is an actual moral standard from which we can declare 2+2 = 4, if you put 5 you are wrong.

    Look, even if you don’t conclude that there must be some God behind it, you must at least see that their must be some moral code that is true no matter what a person thinks about it. If you admit that, you are started to make progress in understanding my revolution to your explanation of morality.

    Steven, hear me when I say, I understand your view – you think I don’t because of all the inferences I draw from it (which is mostly why you keep accusing me of making a straw man of your view). I get your view, it just can’t work with reality as we know it, that’s the point I have been demonstrating, which you need to realize. If you really believe philosophers are in agreement on this issue, I really would like to know where and how you got that idea. Just look into the revolution of Christianity that is happening with philosophers. Look at the growth rate of percentage of philosophers who were Christians at the start of the 20th century and how many there are now. It’s quite a remarkable increase, so I’m not sure what philosophical consensus you are appealing to.

    “We can study what works in our current society, what worked well and didn’t work well in the past, and draw conclusions in how to proceed from there.”

    Technically it all worked, humans seem to be passing on their genetic code quite well, but regardless, no you cannot. You can’t draw conclusions unless there is a universal acceptance of what it means for something to “work”. I might mean slavery makes the world work better because of it’s economic benefits to the intellectual class. You might argue that slavery makes the world worse and does not work because for you what works is people having the same opertunities. And here we are again back to the same problem. Who’s right and why? WHoever has the biggest gun?

    “They work better than those from 6000 years ago.”

    Says who? what standard are you appealing to when you claim this morality is better than that morality?

    “We’ve made great progress in figuring this out. ”

    This implies that you have some standard from which to measure progress, otherwise how do you know mankind really is progressing? Maybe we are regressing! How do we know?

    “You’re inventing a problem that really only exists in the mind of a theist.”

    Actually this problem exists in the mind of many secular philosphers. Your claim is sort of silly and obviously false. I only need to demonstrate 1 non-theist who sees the same problem to refute you. You really think I can’t do that?….

    “if atheist morality was such a rotten arrangement, you would see millions of atheists rampaging through the streets and filling up our prisons. You would expect these skeptic societies and message boards to be full of axe murderers and thugs. But you don’t see that.”

    This proves you are completely lost in this conversation. I never asserted that you need a moral standard to be a good person. In fact, if you read my previous posts, I said that many atheists and people of other religions are better persons than I am. So why are you saying this point if no one is asserting it?

    What I am saying is that even good atheists who are nice people are living in a contradiction to their world view since their world view doesn’t support the notion of “loving your enemy as yourself”.

    “The only thing you’ve done is assert that you don’t make your own rules.”

    CORRECT! Finally someone who gets my point. For whatever reason everyone here thinks I am articulated the evidence for why I believe Yahweh is the moral law giver. I haven’t done that.

    ” If I wrote a rule book, then you accepted it, then that’s what you apparently call an objective system from your standpoint, no? But this book isn’t objective. It was written by a person. And your evaluation of the book, and whether to accept all of it or parts of it, is a subjective act. That’s how we see the Bible. ”

    I understand you and this is reasonable. I never said it wasn’t. It is quite the leap to go from “morality demands a moral law giver” to “That moral law giver is yahweh.” I am not going to insult anyone’s intelligence by pretending that I don’t need to carefully articulate how I get from A to B there, but I haven’t tried to do that. Why argue B if you don’t agree even with A. Everyone keeps trying to get me to argue B (which I am glad to do), but it’s sort of pointless if they are missing step 1. I am only still on step 1.

    “”This was answered in various ways many times. You seem stuck on this idea that people only act morally under the threat of coercion.”

    I don’t think this nor have I said this.

    “The person who harms others without concern for their well-being isn’t someone acting under a rational system.”

    Wrong, it’s very rational to say you have something I want – TAKE!!!!!!!!
    Self-preservation and fulfilling impulses evolution has provided us is very rational. You might no like it, but I would argue it is irrational to suppress my animalistic instincts that evolution gave me.

    “What I’ve said is that your standard isn’t objective, as you claim.”

    It doesn’t matter about my standard right now, that’s not the focus of the conversation. The focus is on the notion that there must be an objective standard.

    “We’ve disagreed with your assertion that might makes right is the only alternative to an objective morality. This conclusion doesn’t follow what we know. It doesn’t follow on a logical level, it doesn’t follow the evidence. Counter examples abound.”

    … that’s what I have been saying all long. However, I am pointing out that the only logical second place alternative is might makes right. This subjective morality with all the nuancial hooplah is what is completely out in left field – it’s beyond illogical and is so swarmed in circular reasoning that it makes “might make right” look brilliant.

    “There’s no logical connection between the two facts. (I can’t even evaluate whether they were really Christian, or just professed such.”

    Yet atheist and agnostics will quickly attribute Christianity to Hitler and others any second they can…. Double standard much?

    So stop arguing that person X was a Christian, person X did Y, therefore Y is rooted in Christianity.

    I never said that, you did. I said that early scientist were Christians, and out of the belief that the universe was created by an intelligent mind, it could then be discovered and explored. That is true. I never said you must be a Christian to be a good scientist or anything like that. I am simply responding to the notion that Christians are anti-science. It’s false. My point was a demonstration of this false claim.

    “If your religion is going to take credit for all the good that occurs in society, you’ll have to own all the bad as well.”

    Agreed.

    However, even if we don’t take credit for all the good we still need to answer for all the bad.

    “If we can’t know your deity’s will on morality, then any discussion about religious morality is a waste of time.”

    Here is your line of reasoning. If morality requires a moral law giver, and we don’t know the will of the moral law giver – that means their must not be a moral law giver.
    That does not follow. What does follow would be that we can’t know morality because he/she/it didn’t tell us. Not that he doesn’t exist – he might not exist, but then morality definitely nothing more than “I Like this”.

    “Morality doesn’t exist until one human interacts with another.”

    Really? Any evidence for this naked assertion?

    Ok. So, are you admitting that two of your assumptions are NOT that this moral law giver is the christian god of the bible, and that it’s the bible that humans are able to know what the absolute morals are?”

    I would disagree that you haven’t come anywhere near close to suggesting it’s the god of the bible that is the law giver. In fact, that’s an outright fabrication. You yourself said that you as a christian get your morals from your god, and that you believe that your bible is the word of god.

    Of course that is my actual position, but it doesn’t matter. My position is consistent with the notion that a moral law requires a moral law giver – that is all that matters for this conversation.

    If you charge that my guide for the bosses rules are wrong, then that’s an entirely different conversation. You are complaining about the oranges when we are only talking about the apples.

    Just because I think something to be true, doesn’t mean that I have demonstrated that to you in the form of providing evidence – of course I haven’t demonstrated proof that Yahweh is the law giver…. I haven’t even tried to… that’s my point. It’s irrelevant right now.

    If you were to somehow disprove that subjective morality is the only morality there is, then that necessarily proves that absolute morality is derived from a law giver.”"

    Not if those are the only two options. If (A) and (B) are the only two options on the table, and (B) is disproven, then (A) is defaulted to proven.

    That is different than if I say if (B) is disproven then (A) is correct – when really there are options (C) (D) (E) and (F) etc. That would be a false dichotomy. There is a difference between the two.

    “You demonstrate to us how there is such thing absolute morality, and if you’re able to do that, then demonstrate to us that it means there is necessarily a law giver. Very simple. Keep in mind that you have not come anywhere close to demonstrating this.”

    The only two options is
    1. Morality is absolute
    2. Morality is not absolute.

    If I can demonstrate that morality is not absolute that proves that option 1. I am have been demonstrating the illogicalness of the claim that morality is not absolute. Steven keeps appealing to assumptions and premises that cannot be proven… if that works for you great. But I’m pretty sure as skeptics you guys are the ones who pride yourselves in not accepting things based of faith – so why the double standard.

    “This is done all the time. A simple google search on “atheists can’t disprove god” yields many hits on the subject where theists claim that very thing.”

    Well then I will stand next to you and condemn them and wrong for doing so. But you catch me making such a silly argument.

    “Why does he have to provide an objective standard when none has ever existed in the history of humanity? Where’s the need for it? Where’s the imperative? You’re inventing non-existent problems requiring impossible solutions.”

    You are mistaken. If I claim to you that the supernatural is true, you would ask for evidence on how to know it is true. The same for morality. If you claim that humans “ought” to live other than how they do (the “is” part), you need some evidence for that.

    If I claim that squirrels steal acorns ( the “is”) and they “ought” not do that, you would probably ask for some evidence for why not? Same thing here. You are assuming to know how humans should behave which implies that reality is more than “is”.

    Why?

    “If you were putting forth these questions to a fundamentalist Muslim, they’d say those things are OK according to their objective standard. They would be arguing in the same manner you’re arguing.”

    You are correct. I would then proceed to attack his objective standard as the wrong standard with evidence why I believe that.

    With atheist/agnostics, it’s a different conversation. They don’t even allow a conversation to be anything more than “hey buddy, I LIKE THIS YOU SHOULD TOO!”…

    uhhm… ok. no.

    What you’re doing, pathetically I might add, is demand an objective moral system from us but provide none in return.

    Thanks for cheap shot.

    But I’ll respond none the less. I already did say that I have objective standard – you said there are no such things and that is where the argument is stuck. Demanding that I prove that objective object to be the actual law givers laws is not relevant right now. Why? Because we are simply talking about whether or not the moral law requires a moral law giver. We are talking about whether or not morality can function without an objective standard. I say it can’t, you say it can.

    Jumping ahead to disagreeing with my objective standard comes later – much later. Because right now we are talking about a different issue.

    Step 1: is there an objective standard
    Step 2: what it is

    You can’t even provide a non-theistic objective standard – hence why I assert that your world view doesn’t work with reality as we know it because morality without an objective standard is illogical – it becomes nothing more than “I like this” and then you are back to wondering if you embrace might makes right, etc. There are only so many options available once you embrace a non-objective moral standard, and by a process of elimination I can demonstrate it must be objective.

    “Not all morals are equal to each other. How do we know this? By the collective harm one action does compared to another.’”

    More circular reasoning.

    You are saying that morals are not equal because some thing morals are not what you prefer.

    All morals are not equal I agree, but how do know that “collective harm” (another moral act) is the wrong one? You are asumming it without proof – as Steven admitted.

    “Why is harm bad, seriously? Did you read ANY of what anyone has been saying about it so far? This has been covered OVER and OVER again. It has to do with our desire to live and flourish. It’s a survival mechanism inherent in (nearly) all life. Again, you’re playing semantic games.”

    no you are making naked assertions, so yes seriously. Not everyone agrees that it’s wrong to harm others, OTHERWISE it wouldn’t happen all the time. Why does it happen then if it’s so blatantly obvious that we should’t do that?

    If survival is a survival mechanism so is everything else we do. So why are you saying somethings are natural and some are not. Aren’t we just animals? This double standard is painfully obvious.

    And again, how do you leap from “I want to live and be happy” to “I should care about others”

    Saying, I want freedom so therefore everyone should have freedom is a logical leap.
    It’s like saying, I want to be rich so everyone should be rich…. prove it.

    “If you can’t see why setting off a bomb is worse than a kid lying about a test score, then I don’t know what else to tell you.”

    I think it is, but because I have an actual objective standard from which to conclude that my reasons aren’t based in empty emotional preference. Why do you?

    “One action causes a lot of destruction and societal chaos, while the other does not”

    So? One could argue that killing a cancer is wrong because it causes destruction of the cancer cell. One could argue that eating animals is wrong because it ends their life and life is preferable to death. Prove it. You are simply providing your opinion on something you have no ground to stand on and assert. You might think it, but it’s only a nice thought for you in your world view instead of an undeniable fact about reality (as it is in my world view).

    “Are you serious? You are trying to trick me into saying that there is an objective standard?”

    It’s not a trick, you keep appealing to one whether you realize it or not. I just want to know which one it is.

    “The objectivity comes from the measure of damage and destruction to society that decreases the flourishing of human life.”

    Why should I care about the flourishing of other human life?

    “But it is clear to us that morals do evolve. The world described in the New Testament is far more moral than the world described in the Old Testament. Our world today is far more moral than the world of the New Testament.”

    You are appealing to an objective standard when you assert that something is MORE moral that something else. Can I see yours please?

    When apply the moral progress/evolving theory to morality, you have to realize that it basically says morality was wrong until today. And tomorrow today’s will be wrong because we will be farther along. But then that also presumes that you can in fact decipher which actions are morally better than others – which requires an objective standard unless you are like Steven, ok with accepting it on all blind faith. I am not.

    Not only this, but your theory that says we are morally superior is based on a western perspective of the world. Last time I checked mankind isn’t much better if you look at the world collectively – terrible things happen all the time just like they did 2,000 years ago.

    Plus, if you society looks back on us – take abortion for example. And concludes were morally wrong and science shows that we are killing human life, then that puts us drastically in a worse moral place. Sure other culture’s then sacrificed babies to Baael, etc. but number wise if abortion is in fact kiling a human, we take the cake with that issue alone.
    Re-read my point here if you are started to respond in a pro-choice return – that’s not my point.

    “Even a toddler can recognize that “harm” is “bad”,and that is long before the prosthelytizers can encode ‘god’s moral code’ in to them. If a bully comes up to them and punches them in the face,and steals their food or toy,you can bet that toddler will instinctively see that as both ‘bad’ and ‘harm’.”

    uhm…. don’t you see the problem here? The bully is harming the other child… so it’s obviously not instictive to assume all harm is bad…. otherwise there wouldn’t be bullies…

    But thanks for the response Tmac57 – I hope this helps clarify some things.

    “How do YOU know that absolute morality exists, and if you know that absolute morality exists, how do you know it necessarily requires a law giver?”

    Because its the only other option (morality is not absolute), and in can’t be defended logically or be shown to actually be usable in the world. It simply doesn’t explain the world as we see it.

  193. tmac57on 08 Jan 2013 at 10:20 pm

    Zach- In my example the toddler is the one who could safely grow up to be an atheists,because he could instinctively sort out right from wrong.The bully is the one who need god…but then you can identify with not internally knowing right from wrong by implication of your arguments.Sorry to break the bad news to you.

  194. Zachon 08 Jan 2013 at 10:45 pm

    Tmac57.

    Why is the bully the theist? I don’t understand your point.

    My point is that you are saying that even a child instinctively knows that cruelty is wrong – you provide an example of a kid who doesn’t like bullying.

    Except for your problem that the universe made the bully and bullee, so you are back to square one – people do NOT instinctively know that cruelty is wrong – otherwise there would be no cruelty.

    Blaming religion doesn’t work because from your atheistic world view religion is just another bi-product of evolution – tigers in the bushes sort of thing.

    So you are trying to have your cake and eat it to – you have not shown that cruelty is instinctively known to be wrong.

  195. jwalms2on 08 Jan 2013 at 11:01 pm

    “I don’t understand your point.”

    194 comments and you finally hit the nail on the head.

  196. nybgruson 08 Jan 2013 at 11:06 pm

    And we are back to square one. Why is your opinion superior to mine? Well mine is rooted in basic logic and reason, yet logic and reason will never tell you that non malefcience, justice, and self-dtermination, are inherit truths. You have to assume this, and you have admitted you do. I might argue that might makes right and me and my clan have the right to kill and own whoever we want – which puts us back to square one. Opinions vs opinions, and if morality is founded on opinions you have no right to tell other person that your view is superior to their. Why should we care about your opinion? You will reply that it’s best for society and provides a better environment (says you). But this assumes I care at all about your tribe/people in society. I don’t, so why should I?

    You’ve actually described exactly how the world works and what we are advocating. We just hope to win enough people over to agree with us. Those few that don’t, will be ostracized from society. Yes, this is imperfect. Yes, this leads to actions that some find morally abhorrent and others don’t. You asked for a real world example? That’s it right there. So if we can convince enough people that our foundational principles of secular morality are the better ones, then we progress. If we don’t, we fail. Just like how stem cell research, abortion, gay marriage, and now the defense of battered women are argued left and right. Does it mean we will always be right along the way? No. But it is the best we can do since there is no absolute objective morality. You are right though, you don’t have to agree with me. But if enough evidence and people support my view then you are left in the dust. That is not “might makes right” unless I actually use might to force my views on others. That is consensus by rational people based in evidence. Simple as that, mate.

    An atheist view of morality encourages self centeredness – you should do the “right” thing not because there is actually an objectively right thing to do, but because this is what will make you happy.

    Another sleight against atheists. Bollocks. Atheism is a lack of belief in gods. It is not a moralistic viewpoint. Secular humanism is. I do the “right” thing because I would like the actions I take to be done to me. The Golden Rule (note it existed long before Christianity). Simple as that. Now, if you have an issue with secular humanism, that is fine. Lay it out. And then we can discuss the pros and cons of religious morality vs secular humanism, rather than this ridiculous straw man of an objective morality or nothing else.

    You are right, which I just laid out above. If you can’t prove the above moral principles, why should I accept them and get on board with it?

    For frack’s sake! Because you think about them rationally and agree that they are good principles!! Are you really that fracking stupid? The nearly explicit statement you have there is that you won’t accept them and get on board unless some Moral Lawgiver which only you pre-ordain to be the Moral Lawgiver says so!

    I might well as say it’s not reasonable so we are back to square one.

    You might as well indeed. But if you do, you should justify why. And not just because it is not objective. Give a rational reason why. THAT IS WHAT PHILOSOPHERS DO!

    Which is why your world view doesn’t mesh with reality as we know it

    No, it is your worldview that doesn’t mesh with reality. Your reality is entirely based on the completely irrational and unproven notion of a deity and the religion thereafter. Sorry. Supernatural sky fairies who get mad when rib women get tricked by talking snakes is NOT congruent with reality.

    And hey – care to address my point about what happens if I disagree with your Moral Lawgiver?

  197. daedalus2uon 08 Jan 2013 at 11:13 pm

    Zach, by your criteria of what it takes for something to be “objective”, arithmetic is not “objective” because not everyone agrees that 2+2=4.

    In your way of thinking, the only way that everyone would agree that 2+2=4 is if the strongest person said that 2+2=4 and compelled everyone to accept that or be killed. But then if that strongest person told everyone to accept that 2+2=5 or be killed, then they would accept that. Therefore arithmetic is subjective because people would accept that 2+2=5 instead of being killed.

  198. RickKon 08 Jan 2013 at 11:28 pm

    Zach said:

    An atheist view of morality encourages self centeredness

    Stop it, Zach. This is an absurd assertion, and it makes you sound like a self-satisifed, pompous, and somewhat ignorant jerk.

    I am an atheist. I give time and money to family, friends and charities because I find it rewarding to help other people, just the same as you do.

    So why do I do this? Because of some cosmic moral absolute? No, because evolution has instilled me with empathy and with favorable feelings when my actions make others happy, and because our society provides esteem and other positive reinforcements for generous behavior.

    The same applies to you. Assuming you are generous, you do it for the same reasons I do.

    The only difference between you and me is you also believe in rewards in the afterlife for your behavior. Is that where you think your alleged superior theistic generosity comes from?

  199. RickKon 08 Jan 2013 at 11:32 pm

    Zach said:

    Because its the only other option (morality is not absolute), and in can’t be defended logically or be shown to actually be usable in the world. It simply doesn’t explain the world as we see it.

    A lack of absolute morality is EXACTLY what we see in our world.

    Name a moral absolute. Name one objective moral reality that cannot be explained by evolutionary or social forces.

  200. ccbowerson 08 Jan 2013 at 11:34 pm

    “The focus is on the notion that there must be an objective standard. ”

    Actually if this is the argument then you should be providing the evidence, not the other way around. You are the one making the claim here (that there is an objective standard), and your only “argument” is that there must be one. You are begging the question by asking questions that assume your conclusion. For example, one “weakness” you keep implying about the moral system Steve (and others) have put forth is that they have no objective and absolute standard to base their morality upon, and you fail to acknowledge that that is the very point we are trying to make. I’m not sure if this a mental block you have or a strategy

  201. ccbowerson 08 Jan 2013 at 11:37 pm

    Woops I forgot one important sentence, which I will add:

    Actually if this is the argument then you should be providing the evidence, not the other way around. You are the one making the claim here (that there is an objective standard), and your only “argument” is that there must be one. You are begging the question by asking questions that assume your conclusion. For example, one “weakness” you keep implying about the moral system Steve (and others) have put forth is that they have no objective and absolute standard to base their morality upon, and you fail to acknowledge that that is the very point we are trying to make – There is no objective and absolute standard. I’m not sure if this a mental block you have or a strategy

  202. daedalus2uon 08 Jan 2013 at 11:37 pm

    nygbrus, Zach is that _____. Stupid isn’t the right term. It is doublethink applied to religious belief.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doublethink

    “If one is to rule, and to continue ruling, one must be able to dislocate the sense of reality. For the secret of rulership is to combine a belief in one’s own infallibility with the power to learn from past mistakes.”

    This is how religions work. The leaders (and followers) of the religion must have the ability to deny reality, to be able to assert with perfect sincerity that 2+2=5.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2_%2B_2_%3D_5

    This is what is required to believe that the Bible is the absolute True Word of God, precise and accurate in every detail, while never having read it.

  203. rezistnzisfutlon 08 Jan 2013 at 11:46 pm

    Of course that is my actual position, but it doesn’t matter. My position is consistent with the notion that a moral law requires a moral law giver – that is all that matters for this conversation. “

    The only reason I brought this up again is that YOU are the one who claimed that you didn’t say anything about, yet you did:

    No. I have not even attempted to come anywhere near suggesting it’s the God of the Bible – nor that the moral law giver can be actually known.”

    Be honest for a change and accept it instead of backpeddaling and denying it.

  204. rezistnzisfutlon 08 Jan 2013 at 11:56 pm

    Not if those are the only two options. If (A) and (B) are the only two options on the table, and (B) is disproven, then (A) is defaulted to proven.

    That’s what you’re just not getting. It’s not up to us to disprove your claim (B), it’s up to you to prove your claim (A).

    I am have been demonstrating the illogicalness of the claim that morality is not absolute.

    Sorry, but you haven’t proven squat so far. Again, you’re shifting the burden of proof. Don’t you see how ludicrous this is? You’re trying to prove that morals are absolute by disproving that morals are not not absolute. Not only are you failing dismally at it, you should be spending time proving that morals are absolute.

    Furthermore, you have clearly demonstrated that you don’t have the first clue what logic is, much less demonstrated the illogicalness of anything.

  205. rezistnzisfutlon 09 Jan 2013 at 12:06 am

    However, I am pointing out that the only logical second place alternative is might makes right.

    Why? Why is “might makes right” the ONLY alternative if absolute morality isn’t true? That’s a false dichotomy and history has proven it is decidedly NOT the case. No one here has advocated it, it’s not what Theory of Evolution says, and you’ll find few atheists who are proponents of it.

    Fact is, your religion is all about “might makes right”. This was illustrated earlier. Your religion demands a certain moral conduct, or else there is the threat of eternal hellfire. Heck, in the past they used to just torture and kill anyone who didn’t obey biblical law. Good thing christianity was dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century.

    Wrong, it’s very rational to say you have something I want – TAKE!!!!!!!!
    Self-preservation and fulfilling impulses evolution has provided us is very rational. You might no like it, but I would argue it is irrational to suppress my animalistic instincts that evolution gave me.

    I’m sorry, but you’re an idiot. If you can’t even bother to find out what evolution is, then there’s really no point in having a conversation with you. You CONTINUE to spout a long string of strawmen, and this is a prime example.

  206. rezistnzisfutlon 09 Jan 2013 at 12:13 am

    If survival is a survival mechanism so is everything else we do. So why are you saying somethings are natural and some are not. Aren’t we just animals? This double standard is painfully obvious.

    And again, how do you leap from “I want to live and be happy” to “I should care about others”

    Saying, I want freedom so therefore everyone should have freedom is a logical leap.
    It’s like saying, I want to be rich so everyone should be rich…. prove it.

    Wow. Just, wow. I don’t know where else to go with this. We have already answered this, many times, and you just ignore it. It’s really astounding the level of pure, naked willing ignorance. Your cognitive dissonance is absolutely monumental – it has to be to outright ignore everything everyone has been saying so far. I really don’t know what to say that hasn’t been repeated and reclarified multiple times. Not only do you just not get it, it really looks like you just don’t want to get it.

  207. ccbowerson 09 Jan 2013 at 12:21 am

    (rezistnzisfutl) “Again, you’re shifting the burden of proof. Don’t you see how ludicrous this is? You’re trying to prove that morals are absolute by disproving that morals are not not absolute. Not only are you failing dismally at it, you should be spending time proving that morals are absolute.”

    Yes, this is just like ‘Russell’s teapot,’ and his teapot is objective absolute moral Truths. He thinks he wins when he asserts that we are unable to “prove” that the teapot doesn’t exist, and he then frames his questions in ways that assume the teapot exists. Its a circular argument, and that is why it takes hundreds of comments to discuss this. I think it has run its course, but I’m sure there will be many more comments to come

  208. rezistnzisfutlon 09 Jan 2013 at 12:26 am

    @ccbowers

    Agreed. I usually start my egress when things begin repeating multiple times in different ways to no avail. He is failing to comprehend evolution and gets it wrong, he is attempting to shift the burden of proof, he is fallaciously arguing for his position by attempting to disprove the opponents position, and clearly doesn’t have a clue what logic is. This doesn’t even go to the fact that he’s showing no signs of comprehending even the basics of what we’ve been trying to explain.

    It would be one thing if he showed that he DID comprehend and simply disagreed, but he’s clearly just not getting it. This has turned into a typical religious discussion very much a la creationism.

  209. daedalus2uon 09 Jan 2013 at 12:31 am

    Zach, it is perfectly logical for evolved social animals (like humans) to exhibit empathy and cooperate with other humans.

    To produce a stable society, the chain of reproduction has to continue unbroken. Infants need to be raised and develop into parents. Parents have to develop into grandparents, great-grandparents, great-great-grandparents and so on. Those future generations of grandchildren need other peoples grandchildren to be parents with.

    Why shouldn’t I cooperate and treat other people fairly? They might be the future great-grandparent of my future great-grandchild. Why wouldn’t I want a society that facilitated the growth and nurturing of everyone? I, and my children are part of “everyone”.

  210. Zachon 09 Jan 2013 at 12:31 am

    You’ve actually described exactly how the world works and what we are advocating.

    I told you understood your world view =)

    We just hope to win enough people over to agree with us. Those few that don’t, will be ostracized from society….That is not “might makes right” unless I actually use might

    to force my views on others. That is consensus by rational people based in evidence. Simple as that, mate.

    If this is not a might makes right argument than I don’t know what to tell you. You say that your view is superior because of your superior logic (whatever that ends up being), yet it’s

    not a might makes right because of the logic being on your side…? Sorry buddy, that’s might makes right, and it’s rooted in illogical fallacy, so saying your might makes right is

    justified because logic is on your side takes the cake for illogical. Maybe one of your fellow atheists can demonstrate to you that is a clear “might makes right” argument you have made.

    Yes, this is imperfect. Yes, this leads to actions that some find morally abhorrent and others don’t. You asked for a real world example? That’s it right there.

    Thank you for being brave enough to admit it. I respect that – though I won’t be a pain and ask you how you got this definition of perfect/imperfect =)

    Another sleight against atheists. Bollocks.

    No – maybe against atheism. But as I said, I know atheist/agnostics who are fine people. So that doesn’t follow. I am saying your worldview encourages self-centeredness, not that you

    yourself are a terrible self-centered person.

    “The Golden Rule (note it existed long before Christianity).”

    You are completely right. I also dislike it when other Christians attribute that solely to Christianity. However, where Christianity is unique, is Christianity said to love your enemies

    and pray for those who persecute you. Christianity took the golden rule and applied to one’s enemy. Quite a revolutionary idea that did not sit well, and still doesn’t all that much.

    “Now, if you have an issue with secular humanism, that is fine. Lay it out. And then we can discuss the pros and cons of religious morality vs secular humanism, rather than

    this ridiculous straw man of an objective morality or nothing else.”

    I think you mean false dichotomy, but I already explained that it is not since there are only 2 options.

    1. Morality is objective
    2. Morality is not-objective

    Disproving one will by default prove the other.

    For frack’s sake! Because you think about them rationally and agree that they are good principles!!

    Might makes right with some appeal to emotion. This is a naked assertion. Why should I get on board with your views? Who are you? You can’t prove it so why should I take what you deem

    reasonable as the way to live one’s life?

    Are you really that fracking stupid? The nearly explicit statement you have there is that you won’t accept them and get on board unless some Moral Lawgiver which only you

    pre-ordain to be the Moral Lawgiver says so!

    nybgrus,
    1st. Nice Battlestar Galactica language.
    2nd. If this stuff really gets you this upset you don’t have to keep talking about it. If the conversation isn’t enjoyable for you go do something else. I enjoy this stuff and it doesn’t

    upset me that you don’t agree.
    3rd. My statement is not what you said. it is, unless you can found your truth claims of morality in something other than “I like this you should too” I am not convinced. Sure you can

    appeal to logic, rational, thinking, but that just requires more definitions of what we all are seeking – which isn’t agreed upon in the first place. Sorry, but you are skipping over this

    and getting upset that I can’t. I have told agnostics several time that if they can demonstrate a moral system that isn’t based in might makes right or some sort of illogical fallacy,

    then I’d be thrilled! Sadly, no one can do that yet.

    “You might as well indeed. But if you do, you should justify why.”

    I agree, but then to be fair this sword slices both ways. I have asked you and others several time why I should care about other people, in which is a sling of illogical fallacies and

    logical leaps that come no where near. I have also provided many logical arguments against caring about other tribes, etc, all rooted out of evolutionary naturalism. Death is a natural

    part of existence, why are we so against it? Animals eat other animals all the time, why should I treat other humans like they are more valuable than rocks, trees, plants or bees?
    The atheist is perfectly capable of being good chap, and to killing their neighbor sure, and they might believe these things are the best way to live their life, but that doesn’t mean

    that it’s true, it just means they fancy certain behaviors over others. Now it then is also logical for someone else to come along and fancy the opposite behaviors – and all of this

    completely excludes the notion that there can’t possible be free will anyways. If someone is born gay why not born with other sexual tastes? you might say they need help, but why? They

    are a product of evolution and they are exactly what they are, so where do you get off telling them that they are inferior in their behavior? You might not like it, but then are you back

    to square one.

    “Sorry. Supernatural sky fairies who get mad when rib women get tricked by talking snakes is NOT congruent with reality.”

    This made me laugh pretty good, 7/10 would read again. =)

    care to address my point about what happens if I disagree with your Moral Lawgiver?

    !!!!!!!!!!! FIRE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    =)

    daedalus2u

    arithmetic is not “objective” because not everyone agrees that 2+2=4.

    This is false. The laws of mathematics were discovered not invented. Consensus has no bearing on them. Even if everyone believed 2+2=7 it wouldn’t matter, plugging that wrong math into

    your GPS (insert device here) would never prove to be accurate.

    Stop it, Zach. This is an absurd assertion, and it makes you sound like a self-satisifed, pompous, and somewhat ignorant jerk.

    I am talking about atheism not atheist. I have already said that I know lots of atheist/agnostics/Buddhists/Muslims who are finer persons than I.

    “The only difference between you and me is you also believe in rewards in the afterlife for your behavior. Is that where you think your alleged superior theistic generosity

    comes from?”

    Actually that’s not why I do it. But I understand why you think that. Most religions are nothing more than “you do this, and then God owes you this.”

    Christianity actually isn’t that. It’s the only non-religious religion there is…. I bet I get flack for this statement =)

    Actually if this is the argument then you should be providing the evidence, not the other way around. You are the one making the claim here (that there is an objective

    standard), and your only “argument” is that there must be one.

    I am. It is a logical truth that if there are only two options, the disproving of one will prove the other right. (this is not false dilemma, that is when one assumes two but there is

    actually three or more).

    I am attempting to show that your view can’t possibly explain the world as your world view says it is.

    “I’m not sure if this a mental block you have or a strategy”

    I would hope by this point you all would have realized I have zero interest in playing games of “Gotcha”. I’m not using any strategy to win a debate, this isn’t a debate, it’s

    conversation. Those who post “gotcha” questions I ignore and don’t respond too because I am not interesting in being right (look at daedalus2us posts for an example of this), I am

    interested in a conversation that will help us understand each other’s views better. You might not believe me, but that’s the truth.

    “The only reason I brought this up again is that YOU are the one who claimed that you didn’t say anything about, yet you did.”

    You can’t be serious… I never said I never said ANYTHING about Christianity or hinted that it was my world view… I did say that I am not defending the notion that Christianity is the

    correct moral standard. I believe that yes, but it’s not relevant to the conversation. Even if Christianity is NOT the standard it wouldn’t contribute anything to the conversation I am

    focusing on – a moral law requires a moral law giver. That’s not me backpedaling or being dishonest or denying it, it’s me saying that that conversation comes later, and those trying to

    distract me with it (a red herring) are missing the over-all point because they can’t stop worrying about that issue.

    Could one of you other atheist/agnostics who understand this difference please explain this to him. I have numerous times, and I can’t figure out what the confusion is over.

    “That’s what you’re just not getting. It’s not up to us to disprove your claim (B), it’s up to you to prove your claim (A).”

    If (A) and (B) are the ONLY two options – which they are according to the law of non-contradiction, then if Not B then A. So by disproving B I am validating A. There is no C so this

    isn’t a false dichotomy.

    A. Morality is objective
    B. Morality is not-objective.

    If not B then A. That’s it. So you can keep crying that I am assuming my view without proving it, but I am proving it if I discredit B…. does that help?

    Again, you’re shifting the burden of proof. Don’t you see how ludicrous this is? You’re trying to prove that morals are absolute by disproving that morals are not not

    absolute.

    It’s not about shifting the burden of proof when you have only two options. I assert that objective morality better makes sense of the universe as we know it, why? because examining the

    problems of morality not being absolute leave us in a spiral of circular logic that makes morality not a real thing or might makes right – another fallacy – so therefore it cannot be B.

    When I ask you why I should do or not do such and such, your answers end up being founded in a fallacy of some sorts. Sorry, but it ends up there so I can’t accept your view.

    The only problem with A (that I can think of) is that we might not even know this moral law givers laws… so now what? We are out of luck. But it’s logical to say that a moral law comes

    from a moral law giver, it is not logical to say that morality comes from preference is is not objective, because then one ends up lying down on a bed of fallacies in order to condemn

    behavior they don’t fancy.

    “Why? Why is “might makes right” the ONLY alternative if absolute morality isn’t true? That’s a false dichotomy and history has proven it is decidedly NOT the case.”

    Because if you say it’s based off consensus you end up there. If you don’t like might makes right substitute majority rule. What if the majority decide to exterminate the minority? You would say that’s wrong, but why? Saying a rational person would agree with that is not any better since you can’t demonstrate with the laws of logic that that is the case.

    “Fact is, your religion is all about “might makes right”. This was illustrated earlier. Your religion demands a certain moral conduct, or else there is the threat of eternal

    hellfire”

    This is absolutely not “might makes right” and I’m wondering if you understand the term even. It is more of a creator has dominion over His creation, that’s very very different than

    might makes right.

    “Heck, in the past they used to just torture and kill anyone who didn’t obey biblical law. Good thing Christianity was dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st

    century.”

    Why is this wrong? Do you have some objective standard by which to demonstrate that torture is wrong? You might like it, but what does it matter what you like? Every human dies, I don’t

    want to die, but what does it matter what I like – reality is still the same.

    If you can’t even bother to find out what evolution is, then there’s really no point in having a conversation with you. You CONTINUE to spout a long string of strawmen, and

    this is a prime example.

    How is this a straw man? Are we or are we not the product of evolution? If yes, why is taking wrong? Evolution directed the process of who I am, so if chemicals in my brain direct me to

    “take” why is that wrong? Is a lion to suppress their desire to hunt or other lion’s young? I think you are having a hard time drawing inferences from your own world view.

    “I’m sorry, but you’re an idiot.”

    Take a break from the conversation. You are clearly upset and not in a frame of mind to engage in civil and rational conversation.

    Have a good night gentlemen, I’m off to bed.

  211. rezistnzisfutlon 09 Jan 2013 at 12:52 am

    Civil, yes. Not rational when you get everything wrong. Sorry, but there’s little conversation to be had when you can’t even grasp fundamentals.

  212. rezistnzisfutlon 09 Jan 2013 at 1:05 am

    Zach, what if I told you that, in the bible, Jesus preached that white people were evil and commanded his disciples to kill anyone with fair skin and blue eyes? What if I continued to maintain this no matter how many times you objected and demanded that I point out where in the bible this was the case? You’d get grumpy, too, and frustrated at our thick-headedness.

    Well, that is how we feel when you continue to get evolution wrong and persist in your strawmen about what we would do or how we would be if there were no absolute morality, that we’d just be like rabid wild animals killing wantonly and taking whatever we wanted whenever we wanted (heck, wild animals aren’t even like that). We get grumpy when you don’t absorb anything we are attempting to explain to you.

    It’s one thing to simply disagree, it’s another to just repeatedly get it wrong.

  213. rezistnzisfutlon 09 Jan 2013 at 2:08 am

    It’s not about shifting the burden of proof when you have only two options.

    Wrong again, Bob. It doesn’t matter how many options there are. If you come here making a positive claim, then it’s up to you to provide evidence for that claim. That’s how the burden of proof works. You say that there is such thing as absolute morality. We deny that claim. It’s then up to you to provide evidence for your claim.

    The reason that “disproving B” doesn’t work is that you first have to demonstrate there is an A in the first place. Without A, there cannot be a B.

    It’s just like your claim that a supernatural deity exists. You don’t go about proving your deity exists by disproving the deity doesn’t not exist. You can’t disprove a negative. There simply is nothing there to disprove.

    It really is tiresome to me to continually run into this line of thinking with religious fundamentalists. As an atheist, I’ve encountered this many times with the statement from theists ,”You can’t DISPROVE the existence of my god”, when there is nothing there to disprove.

    Check out evidence of absence.

    So, just like with my atheism I’m also an agnostic when it comes to the existence of a supernatural deity or deities, with your claim of “absolute morality” I’m an agnostic, but I don’t believe it’s true. For both my atheism and your “absolute morality” claim, I disbelieve them because of lack of evidence as well as evidence to the contrary.

    You simply have yet to provide ANY evidence absolute morality exists. All you’ve done has been to resort to a long string of logical fallacies and frankly dishonest tactics in attempts to prove it exists.

  214. nybgruson 09 Jan 2013 at 3:57 am

    It seems Zach ascribes to the common theistic notion that we must be separate from animals by special decree from God imbuing us with a “soul.” This is why he is ok with micro but not macroevolution. This is why his only other choice is might makes right and complete plunderous anarchy.

    He thinks that the animal world is absolutely craven and if there is nothing magical and unique to separate us from that then we must be that. After all, we here are arguing that we are the biological brethren of every other animal, plant, bacteria, mold, fungus, and even archea.

    The funny thing is he doesn’t realize just how much civility and order there is the natural world. Yes, it is brutal. But so is humanity. He seems to think our only escape is magic through a deity. But the cleaner shrimp is born knowing it is safe in the mouth of a grouper, even though the grouper eats plenty of other shellfish. The grouper knows not to eat the cleaner shrimp, even though it would certainly be a tasty snack. And after all, the theory of evolution states that it is “might makes right” and “stronger eating the weaker.” The cleaner shrimp crawled into the grouper’s mouth! Why doesn’t the grouper eat the damned shrimp Zach?. Did they get together and read a holy book to tell them it is right to eat every other crab and shrimp it can get its hands on but the cleaner shrimp is also holy and chosen by god and must not be eaten? Who was the grouper to say it should eat the shrimp? And the shrimp knows it is protected from being eaten by other fish when it hangs out in the mouth of the grouper. After all God told them so, right?

    It is truly hilarious that you continue to make up willy nilly whatever you think evolutionary theory says, regarldess of whether actual evolutionary biologists are telling you. You sit there and claim you want to learn and have a discussion and you will drop your notions if you have evidence to the contrary. But then you won’t actually read the evidence. And when I tell you, you completely ignore it. I mean not even a word about it. Like I wrote nothing. How incredibly disingenuous can you be?

    You even make up this fanciful notion of what the natural world is like based on stories you’ve heard and theologians whose bilk you’ve swallowed. You pretend like evolution can’t possibly account for such activities and then ignore the fact that it does and is mathematically described and predicted by evolutionary theory.

    And again, how do you leap from “I want to live and be happy” to “I should care about others”

    For bloody hell’s sake, really? You go from “Why does harm have to be bad” to this?

    Don’t you feel like that is what you should do? Because I sure as fracking hell do. So unless your Moral Lawgiver still gives me all the same good stuff he gives you, I guess my body just managed to figure that one out on its own. And you know what? If God will be giving me all the same good stuff as you and I don’t have to take all the rest of that sadistic bastard’s baggage along with me, I’m cool with that.

    And if you don’t, we call you a “psychopath.” In fact, we have all this criteria and stuff and we keep updating and refining it so we can be more accurate and precise in identifting those people who find absolutely no reason to care about others. And we treat them medically. As defective, essentially.

    Is that right? Is that moral? Do you think that the psycopath likes being incarcerated and told he is defective? Isolated from society? His true “nature” suppressed?

    How did we decide this then? Because the vast majority of all societies and all people in those societies agree that this is a fundamental axiomatic principle of morality. Across cultures, religions, areligion, this holds true. Not 100% of societies, for sure. They have other issues that mask this problem. But quite a wide cross section.

    These peoples obviously don’t agree on the same god or lack thereof. Most of them haven’t even consciously discussed this concept with even themselves. It’s simply how they feel. Long before they have a religion or can even understand they feel this way. My 3 year old nephews expressed an understanding of what I’d call “right” and “wrong.” They didn’t always follow it, but they kept getting better and better. No religion involved. And me as their frickin’ uncle. Yet, same fundamental principle. Some kids are obviously not this way. We strive hard to rehabilitate them. So do many other cultures and societies. Those that can’t be, are incarcerated. Usually after commiting a crime. Since we agree we must give the benefit of the doubt, despite what we know about the child, until he does harm to someone else. What is considered harm is a scale. Some things are once again obviously harmful to almost everyone, regardless of religion or philosophy.

    These are the axiomatic principles. There is a might makes right aspect since we do incarcerate some individuals we deem dangers to society. And we argue exactly what those dangers are, are they even really dangers, have the dangers somehow been mitigated, how dangerous are they, what sort of punishment do they deserve, what is reasonable. Do you have a better solution? Do you have a system where nobody is incarcerted, everyone is happy, and nobody is subject to might makes right, ever? How about just more than now? If you do, lets here it. Oh yeah, and can you toss in a little evidence to try and convince us because you can’t exert might makes right on us and we won’t just take you on faith.

    Sorry, I am pretty sure that will go right over his head. But I felt an urge to write that. Hope it makes sense to the rational folk amongst us. It sounded good to me, but I might be biased.

  215. nybgruson 09 Jan 2013 at 4:09 am

    1st. Nice Battlestar Galactica language.

    LOL. Thanks. One of the greatest TV shows ever. Along with Stargate.

    And no worries. I’m not angry or not enjoying it. I am enjoying it. I just get frustrated from time to time. I am still human after all. Damned rib woman and her apple. If only I weren’t fallible…. :-(

    I have told agnostics several time that if they can demonstrate a moral system that isn’t based in might makes right or some sort of illogical fallacy, then I’d be thrilled! Sadly, no one can do that yet.

    You’re right! And nobody here is advocating a system that is 100% free of “might makes right! We all realize that is likely impossible and we are far from it. We strive for decreasing it.

    But here is the kicker – you haven’t demonstrated that you have a system that doesn’t use “might makes right” either!.

    I mean you still haven’t responded to what would happen if I disagreed with your Moral Lawgiver. Because I can. And I do. And if he can’t do anything about it, why should I care anyways? And if he can, he is using “might makes right” and suddenly your system is no different than ours. Unless yours uses less might makes right of course. But we need that little thing called evidence that it does.

    And that is why so many theologians must insist that “atheists don’t exist” and all this othe ridiculous garbage. I exist. And trust me, I am a bloody atheist. I’m about as damned near a gnostic atheist I can be, but I have to reserve intellectual honesty. Because the moment I exist, there entire Moral Lawgiver idea shatters into pieces.

  216. nybgruson 09 Jan 2013 at 4:16 am

    Animals eat other animals all the time, why should I treat other humans like they are more valuable than rocks, trees, plants or bees?

    And here is that complete caricature and misunderstanding of the natural world.

    That is not how animals treat each other. They do not just “eat each other all the time.” They eat only when they need to eat. If a snake goes by a mouse but it has eaten its fill, it simply won’t eat the mouse! The same with a lion – which is why they only roar after a kill. And as my example with the cleaner shrimp and the grouper they even form alliances to be fed in return for cleaning bacteria which would harm the grouper.

    Because, you dolt, you feel it is the right thing to do. And the funny thing is the more you get educated; the more you learn about other people’s suffering, the more you can understand what that is like, especially after having felt suffering yourself, you can and do feel even more that way. And you want to prevent other people from feeling suffering. Because you know it sucks!. Not because of punishment but because you want to. If you disagree with this and act on it then we use our might makes right.

  217. nybgruson 09 Jan 2013 at 4:18 am

    If someone is born gay why not born with other sexual tastes? you might say they need help, but why? They are a product of evolution and they are exactly what they are, so where do you get off telling them that they are inferior in their behavior? You might not like it, but then are you back to square one.

    What, what?? We absolutely agree that someone can be born with other sexual tastes besides hetero or even home sexual. We know this is a product of evolution so we do not think they are inferior in their behavior. It is pretty much mostly religious people who think otherwise.

    How on earth is this a critique of us?

  218. nybgruson 09 Jan 2013 at 4:23 am

    @rezsintflt:

    (heck, wild animals aren’t even like that).

    I read this after writing all my posts. I guess it doesn’t take someone with a degree in evolutionary biology to realize that. (I am assuming you don’t have a degree in evolutionary biology).

    *PS – I tend to type your ‘nym randomly but in such a way that you would be likely to recognize this. I both hope that this works and that you do not take offense at it. I am just much too lazy to get good at typing it or continually copypasta.

    As always, spot on and great points. Nice ditching the theism, ain’t it?

  219. nybgruson 09 Jan 2013 at 4:51 am

    A quite apropos post from none other than PZ Myers I just read.

    We are striving to work to something better. With good reason. We see support for our ideas growing and yours shrinking. All without violence.

    “Atheist” doesn’t describe a moral code or a person andy more than “religionist” does. But I’d wager I’m right and our system is better than yours. If I can’t convince you with logic and reason, c’est la vie. But I’m not under the mistaken impresison I would be able to convince absolutely everyone. But I think we’ll convince a lot more people than you will. People are seeing what a better way it is and leaving the old theistic ways in droves. And folks like you who can’t adapt and understand will be left out in the cold. Sorry, but there’s really little alternative.

  220. rezistnzisfutlon 09 Jan 2013 at 5:17 am

    @Zach

    I think I have an idea where you’re going wrong on this notion of disproving B proves A. You seem to think that, in this discussion, A and B are two separate but equally positive claims made about something, when in fact they are not. Here is an analogy to help explain.

    Scenario 1:
    There is a coin on a table that was flipped then covered up. It can only either be heads or tails facing up, it cannot be both. Two people then enter the room and are told to guess which side is facing up; one person claims that heads is up, while another claims tails is up. Both can’t be right, so at that point evidence must be given by both to demonstrate who is correct. It would be perfectly valid for the person who is claiming heads is up to rule out tails being up without actually showing heads is indeed up, if they are able to successfully show that tails is not up. Of course, the only way to know for certain is to uncover the coin and see.

    Scenario 2:
    I tell a couple buddies of mine that I found a priceless one-of-a-kind ancient Alexander the Great coin. They are skeptical because this is an extraordinary claim, so they ask for evidence. I tell them that I can’t actually show them the coin because I have it locked away in a safe deposit box in another city. They still don’t believe me and ask me to prove my claim.

    In this scenario, there is only one claim, that I have a priceless coin. That they don’t believe me isn’t a separate claim, it’s a rejection of my claim. It would be insane to then tell them I could prove that I actually have the coin by disproving their disbelief that I have a coin, especially in light of the evidence to the contrary; that I’m poor, have never expressed interest in coins, the sheer rarity and value of the coin in question, and that they can find no reference that that coin actually exists anywhere. Hopefully, you can see where this is going.

    As with scenario 2, it is the same as your attempt to prove your A by disproving B. That is fallacious. B is not a separate claim, it’s a rejection of your claim A. We don’t believe you when you say that absolute morality exists. All the hand waving about relative morality is attempts to muddy the waters in order to shift the burden of proof, because you have none FOR your claim. It’s literally no different than when creationists try to prove that creation is real by attempting to disprove evolution, or when theists try to prove their god is real by using presupposition. Those aren’t argument FOR their positions, it’s arguments AGAINST the rejection of their positions, which is fallacious.

  221. rezistnzisfutlon 09 Jan 2013 at 6:04 am

    @nybgrus

    No worries about my name. It’s not exactly easy to manually typing out every time. :)

    Yea, as you probably see from my posts, Zach’s claim that by disproving “subjective” morality will somehow prove his “objective” morality is identical to the creationist who think that debunking evolution will prove creationism is true. Not only is it a false dichotomy to begin with, it’s also begging the question as well as argument from ignorance (isn’t it peculiar how those three logical fallacies so often come packaged with theistic claims?).

    It’s a false dichotomy by thinking it can only either be objective or subjective morality, that it can’t be a little of both, or perhaps something else. I see what he’s trying to drive at with the “who’s morality do we then count on if it’s all subjective?”, but he’s just not understanding the concept of axiomatic principles as the foundation, the “objective morality” he’s referring to. A lot of it also stems from wide-sweeping misunderstandings of the fundamentals of science and logic. That’s what you get when you get all your information about science from answersingenesis and other junk creationist websites.

    It’s begging the question when the initial premise of “absolute morality” is assumed and no evidence for it is forthcoming. His “evidence” for it is to disprove the so-called necessary alternative of “subjective morality”.

    It’s an argument from ignorance in that he can’t imagine or conceive that humans can survive and thrive in a society based on “subjective morality”, so therefore “absolute morality” must be true, and that necessarily requires a law giver (another begging the question fallacy).

    Of course, he pretends that he’s not arguing that that law giver is his christian god of the bible and that the bible is the authority, but ultimately that is what he’s really driving at. Although he denied it later and I called him on it, he admits as much in earlier posts by proclaiming himself a christian who follows and obeys the bible, and that he believe the bible is how he knows what the morals are.

    I’m not sure how to cut through all the ignorance, scientific illiteracy, inconsistencies, intellectual dishonesty, and logical fallacies. He doesn’t strike me as a particularly dumb person, just a bad case of religiously induced cognitive dissonance that requires him to deny evidence, logic, and reason in order to maintain it. I believe that is why he continually gets the science wrong even though we keep correcting him on it. If he were to get it right, he’d have to acknowledge his cognitive dissonance at least somewhat.

    I don’t really know what else to tell him at this point. It seems that every post he puts gets more and more outrageous as he finds new and more incredible ways to dodge and justify his indefensible position. I’ve been here before in previous conversations, and it ain’t pretty. I can say that in all my time when I was a theist, I don’t think I ever clung to it so fervently.

  222. RickKon 09 Jan 2013 at 6:44 am

    Zach,

    In response to my assertion that the only difference between moral motivations and my (atheistic) moral motivations is his include the promise of reward or the threat of punishment in the afterlife, you said:

    Actually that’s not why I do it. But I understand why you think that. Most religions are nothing more than “you do this, and then God owes you this.”
    Christianity actually isn’t that. It’s the only non-religious religion there is…. I bet I get flack for this statement =).

    Then in response to nybgrus’s question “what happens if I disagree with your Moral Lawgiver?”, you said:

    !!!!!!!!!!! FIRE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    There does come a point where you have to pick one side of an argument to remain intellectually honest.

    So Zach, tell me… After you remove treatment in the afterlife, what is the difference between your moral motivations and an atheist’s motivations? Your church provides another social structure, but as we see with examples like the Westboro Baptist Church or the FLDS, that social structure is no different than any other human social organization (secular or religious) in terms of what morals and mores it encourages.

    Zach said:

    What if the majority decide to exterminate the minority? You would say that’s wrong, but why?

    We would say that is wrong because OUR majority, in our current society, finds it wrong and has built up a set of reasons why it is wrong. And our evolutionary desire to not be killed ourselves coupled with our evolutionary empathy reinforces its “wrongness”.

    No God required.

    Again, morality is not absolute – the world shows us that. The law-abiding majority of much of this country feels it is acceptable to put to death the most violent criminal minority. The Bible has plenty of examples of one group exterminating another with God’s blessing and sometimes his help.

    I’ll repeat my challenge – name one moral absolute that your Moral Lawgiver would never accept as justified.

  223. BillyJoe7on 09 Jan 2013 at 7:11 am

    I think it’s time for some light relief….

    http://m.youtube.com/#/watch?v=8sexy_THK0I&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3D8sexy_THK0I

  224. RickKon 09 Jan 2013 at 7:30 am

    Zach, have you ever had a cinnamon roll for breakfast? Have you ever considered the enormous, intricate system required to bring that cinnamon roll to your plate? The system combines the efforts of sugar cane planters in Central America, cinnamon farmers in Madagascar, assembly line workers in China who make the parts for the wheat combine used in Nebraska, truckers, agro scientists, warehouse owners, brand managers, lawyers, chemists, cleaning staff … the list of people who worked together to provide you with that cinnamon roll is quite astounding. And they all function with surprising efficiency by following a common set of rules and principles.

    Are those rules and principles absolute? Who is the Lawgiver of those rules? If there’s no Lawgiver, then won’t “might make right” and everybody cheat each other? How do we know what constitutes “good” or “bad” economic behavior if the Lawgiver doesn’t tell us?

    Or is it just possible that the global economic system, like any given culture’s guiding moral principles, simply grew out of human interactions guided by social forces and self-interest?

    Obviously, I know nothing we say will ever shake your complete confidence that God defines morality. You’re too invested in your side of the debate.

    But I’ve given you an example of a complex set of rules and principles that emerge entirely from human social interaction – a much more complex system than an early tribal concept of “right” and “wrong”. And others have given example after example showing that morality is not absolute. Even the Bible demonstrates the changing nature of “right” and “wrong”. Jesus the philosopher had a few good things to say, and a few that we (and you) have since rejected. This just reinforces Steve’s point – philosophy is a critical tool in evaluating moral rules and principles because there is no absolute rule book and no evidence of a cosmic Lawgiver.

    Now the question you face is which is more important: maintaining your belief system or maintaining intellectual integrity. If you want to maintain both, then you must provide reasonable proof of your Lawgiver’s existence, and you must give us some examples of moral absolutes that cannot be explained by social and biological evolution. Without these, you cannot support your argument that there is absolute, objective morality mandated by God.

  225. rezistnzisfutlon 09 Jan 2013 at 7:41 am

    @Rickk

    Again, morality is not absolute – the world shows us that…

    IMO, this is all academic and the semantic game that Zach wants us to get tangled up in. He has, rather successfully, managed to wriggle out of his burden of proof that there are “moral absolutes” by getting us to justify our position that there aren’t “moral absolutes” by impugning moral relativism. It’s really no different than a theist trying to disprove evolution with the supposition that by doing so, creationism is proven and therefore god is real. It’s the exact same line of thinking with the exact same goal in mind.

    The fact of the matter is, there’s absolutely no evidence for “absolute morality”, and nothing BUT evidence for relative morality. An analog to that would be that there is absolutely no evidence for a supernatural god, and all evidence for the universe being entirely natural; or, there is no evidence for creation, but all evidence for naturalistic origins.

    It’s all fine and good to bandy about academically, there is a certain intellectual stimulation to it, but it should in no way absolve Zach of his burden of proof. At this point, it should be clear that he doesn’t have the intellectual honesty or the scientific literacy to engage us in any meaningful academic exercise, and has no intention of absorbing anything anyone has to say about it. That’s why he’s resorted to tricks and misdirection, because likely he knows he’s got nothing.

  226. Steven Novellaon 09 Jan 2013 at 7:41 am

    Zach – this seems to be the crux of your position:
    “You are right, which I just laid out above. If you can’t prove the above moral principles, why should I accept them and get on board with it? You still can’t give anything more than a subjective version of “I like this”, or “I think this is better/more reasonable”. Well good for you, but who cares about what you find to be more reasonable. I might well as say it’s not reasonable so we are back to square one.”

    There are multiple problems with this, all pointed out which you have not answered adequately to. First, it takes a black or white, all or nothing approach to ethics – either it is objective or not (you directly stated this in another comment). But this is a false dichotomy. There are degrees of objectivity/subjectivity. No one here is arguing for absolute morality. But there is a meaningful difference between saying – I just want to behave this way for no particular reason, it is my subjective choice. And – centuries of debate and analysis by philosophers trying to hammer out an internally consistent logical framework for moral decision-making. If you are unwilling to concede that there is a meaningful difference here, that condemns your position to absurdity.

    Different culture may have different relative values that are unresolvable by any objective means. So what? If they have the ability to destroy each other, it is worth it for the two cultures to find common ground and find ways to live with their moral differences. Some differences, like slavery, are probably not acceptable. Others, like where to draw the line between safety, community and individual freedom, can vary greatly.

    But here is perhaps the greatest flaw in your position – it is completely inconsistent. You appear to have one set of standards for yourself, and another for secular morality.

    YOU have no objective basis for your morality. You have no way to convince others of your position except – my God says so, an if you don’t believe me then my God says you will burn in hell. It is inconsistent for you to condemn secular morality as “might makes right” (again, a simplistic false dichotomy), but somehow think that your position is any different. It’s worse, in fact. You don’t even have reason on your side – only a culturally determined faith. Tell me, how are you going to convince a Muslim that your moral system is the right one?

    Further – you don’t know if there is a God, and if there were a god, you don’t know what their morality is. You have tradition and belief filtered through ancient primitive societies – not direct access to divine wisdom. Having faith that you have access to divine knowledge is not having access to divine knowledge. It’s having faith.

    Further, when we support how an ideal moral philosophy can work, you object that this is not how it has worked out historically. This is irrelevant, but also – how has promoting your religious morality worked out historically? Oh – then suddenly that’s not a fair criterion.

    Philosophers reason. Ideologies go to war. That is what you are defending.

  227. ccbowerson 09 Jan 2013 at 8:49 am

    nybgrus-

    My gods, first a ‘Sliders’ reference, now ‘Battlestar Galactica?’ What a fracking nerd. Its interesting how we tend to gravitate towards the same things. Its as if we are tapping into the objective standard of TV show quality (Battlestar being superior in this case, of course).

    Coincidentally, I am in the middle of the Battlestar Galactica series now because Massimo Pigluicci mentioned it in his podcast Rationally Speaking back a few months ago. He must have been using that psychic power Steve was talking about in order to send me a message. I missed BG when it was running (it was a busy time of life when it started with school/rotations and then family starting, and kind of dismissed it after watching one episode). Now, I am about 60% through the series and I appreciate what they are doing so far, but I am cautiously concerned about where the series is ‘going.’

  228. ccbowerson 09 Jan 2013 at 8:59 am

    “I just want to behave this way for no particular reason, it is my subjective choice. And – centuries of debate and analysis by philosophers trying to hammer out an internally consistent logical framework for moral decision-making. If you are unwilling to concede that there is a meaningful difference here, that condemns your position to absurdity.”

    He keeps pointing out that someone could simply disagree and dismiss of ‘your’ verision of morality, and thinks that pointing this out is a flaw in not having an absolute moral standard, but the problem, of course, is this true regardless of position (as we have pointed out multiple times- another could simply dismiss his god, therefore his morality). I

    n many ways basing it upon a particular religious belief makes it easier to simply dismiss rather than coming up with good arguments.

  229. RickKon 09 Jan 2013 at 9:00 am

    Building on what Steve said: ..

    centuries of debate and analysis by philosophers trying to hammer out an internally consistent logical framework for moral decision-making.

    Centuries of debate which is informed by the experience of many human societies and by many social experiments.

    There is no cosmic absolute or objective morality. And there are certainly cases where the “philosophers” and the “cultural majority” disagree. But the combination of human experience, evolutionary hardwiring, and structured (philosophical, legal, etc.) consideration has built a set of principles that are very far from the “might makes right” free-for-all strawman that you repeatedly present as the only alternative to your supernatural lawgiver.

    You said yourself that you may not really know the morality of your supernatural lawgiver. Since we don’t have a single example of writing penned by the hand of God, then clearly we must rely on revelations and interpretations from humans. And we must SUBJECTIVELY select which revelations we add to the human moral canon. So you probably include most of the revelations given by Jesus and Moses, you probably reject the revelations given to Dan Lafferty and Warren Jeffs, and you pick and choose among the rest.

    How is that objective? How do you tell the difference between a revelation from God and an invention (conscious or not) of a human mind? You use the same set of moral principles invested in you by evolution and culture that we all use – no difference.

  230. ccbowerson 09 Jan 2013 at 9:08 am

    (Zach)
    “A. Morality is objective
    B. Morality is not-objective.
    If not B then A. That’s it. So you can keep crying that I am assuming my view without proving it, but I am proving it if I discredit B…. does that help?”

    You missed my reference of “Russell’s teapot.” Apparently you aren’t as familiar with philosophy as you thought you were. I see that rezistnzisfutl did a good job of explaining by this is not a good argument. You taking this position because you have no good argument for demonstrating A.

    ~The trouble is you can’t “disprove B” to “prove A” because your “B” is really “Not-A.” So, in other words you can’t prove the existence of something by demonstrating that it doesn’t not exist. Its a double negative, you actually have to provide positive evidence for it

  231. ccbowerson 09 Jan 2013 at 9:10 am

    Zach, please read my last comment, it is very important to understand this point in order to procede with any discussion

  232. Zachon 09 Jan 2013 at 9:58 am

    Wrong again, Bob. It doesn’t matter how many options there are. If you come here making a positive claim, then it’s up to you to provide evidence for that claim. That’s how the burden of proof works. You say that there is such thing as absolute morality. We deny that claim. It’s then up to you to provide evidence for your claim. The reason that “disproving B” doesn’t work is that you first have to demonstrate there is an A in the first place. Without A, there cannot be a B.

    This is illogical. By your notion I would have to prove that two opposite ideas are true before being able to decipher which one is true… No, that doesn’t even make sense. I am asserting that there are only two possibilities when it come to the question if morality is derived from an objective standard or not.

    Morality is derived from an objective standard
    Morality is not derived from and objective standard

    And you claim that I have first demonstrate that there is an A in the first place, which implies I would also for B? … I don’t think you understand how this works, that’s impossible, and the notion that one has to prove a possibility to be true before considering it is false.

    “You can’t disprove a negative. There simply is nothing there to disprove.”

    Are you serious?

    A “There are coins in my pocket right now.” (Affirmative). Scientist looks into my pocket, sees no coins, Assertion is false.

    B “There are NO coins in my pocket right now.” (negative) Scientist looks into my pocket, sees the coins, assertion is false. The negative is disproved.

    This also proves my point above. If someone can prove that there are coins in my pocket A, then B is automatically disproved.

    Some of you other atheist need to talk to Rezistnzisfutl, because he is making some really scary claims that I doubt you want attributed to yourselves.

    Sorry, but there’s little conversation to be had when you can’t even grasp fundamentals.

    I don’t get everything wrong – this is false.
    You are clearly upset and not able to continue in a conversation as a rational adult does. I will no longer respond to anything you write to help you keep that blood pressure down. I suggest going for a walk.

    “It seems Zach ascribes to the common theistic notion that we must be separate from animals by special decree from God imbuing us with a “soul.” This is why he is ok with micro but not macroevolution. This is why his only other choice is might makes right and complete plunderous anarchy.”

    Irrelevant, but ok, does this make you feel better or something? I don’t’ understand what it has to do with the discussion of morality right now.

    “The funny thing is he doesn’t realize just how much civility and order there is the natural world. Yes, it is brutal. But so is humanity. “

    So why do you complain when humanity is brutal but not when animals are, if after all we are merely bigger brained animals?

    “He seems to think our only escape is magic through a deity.” “

    Strawman, and secondly, why do you need an escape (explaining and justifying morality and arguing for a better morality)? Just let be what is be if you really believe this. Ironic how you can’t though huh?

    “The grouper knows not to eat the cleaner shrimp, even though it would certainly be a tasty snack. And after all, the theory of evolution states that it is “might makes right” and “stronger eating the weaker.” The cleaner shrimp crawled into the grouper’s mouth! Why doesn’t the grouper eat the damned shrimp Zach?.”

    This argument is not doing what you think it is for you. I never said that the strong should be moronic and destroy everything in it’s path, I am attacking the notion that I should put someone else’s well being ahead of mine. The grouper doesn’t eat the shrimp because it would effect his own well being, not because he believes the shrimp has inalienable rights and deserves a happy life. There is a vast difference and your analogy demonstrates my point, so thanks for handing it to me.

    “It is truly hilarious that you continue to make up willy nilly whatever you think evolutionary theory says, regarldess of whether actual evolutionary biologists are telling you. You sit there and claim you want to learn and have a discussion and you will drop your notions if you have evidence to the contrary. But then you won’t actually read the evidence. And when I tell you, you completely ignore it. I mean not even a word about it. Like I wrote nothing. How incredibly disingenuous can you be?” “

    You keep saying this, but then you don’t’ provide a specific example of how I explained evolutionary theory as wrong.

    Don’t you feel like that is what you should do? Because I sure as fracking hell do. “

    I do because I am a Christian and I believe man is made in the image of God and therefore deserves respect, freedom, and dignity. But why do you? And better yet, why do so many humans not agree with us on caring about others? You have a huge disconnect happening here, think about this question.

    “So unless your Moral Lawgiver still gives me all the same good stuff he gives you, I guess my body just managed to figure that one out on its own.” “

    Actually I believe that’s exactly why this notion of morality and deriving “oughts” from “is” haunts you. You know better. But your world view stands in blatant contradiction to this. But you have to try to make sense of it because you know better.

    “If God will be giving me all the same good stuff as you and I don’t have to take all the rest of that sadistic bastard’s baggage along with me, I’m cool with that.” “

    Why is it sadistic? What is your objective standard to say this is good and this is bad?

    “And if you don’t, we call you a “psychopath.” In fact, we have all this criteria and stuff and we keep updating and refining it so we can be more accurate and precise in identifting those people who find absolutely no reason to care about others. And we treat them medically. As defective, essentially.” “

    Are lions psychopaths for eating other lions young? Why the double standard?

    “How did we decide this then? Because the vast majority of all societies and all people in those societies agree that this is a fundamental axiomatic principle of morality.” “

    Ok, so you agree with might makes right. Thank you. If radical Islam takes over the world I hope you realize that they are right for it because if and by the time that happens they will be the majority.

    “My 3 year old nephews expressed an understanding of what I’d call “right” and “wrong.” They didn’t always follow it, but they kept getting better and better.”

    What is your objective standard for “better and better”?
    Why does the nephew have to work hard and train to not follow their natural instincts? Lions don’t do this, no animals do. Why the double standard? Live and let be.

    “ Some kids are obviously not this way. We strive hard to rehabilitate them. So do many other cultures and societies.”

    Was the Spartan society morally wrong? Look at how they raised their kids. And if they were wrong, why? You are appealing to an objective standard without even realizing it.

    “What is considered harm is a scale. Some things are once again obviously harmful to almost everyone, regardless of religion or philosophy.” “

    Are lions wrong if they harm other lions? Why the double standard? Aren’t we just bigger brained animals? Don’t all animals have instincts they follow? Aren’t we merely following ours?

    “There is a might makes right aspect since we do incarcerate some individuals we deem dangers to society. “ “

    No, it’s not just an aspect it’s the root of you entire view. It’s also a logical fallacy.

    “It sounded good to me, but I might be biased.” “

    Everyone is biased. Get used to it.

    LOL. Thanks. One of the greatest TV shows ever. Along with Stargate.
    And no worries. I’m not angry or not enjoying it. I am enjoying it. I just get frustrated from time to time. I am still human after all. Damned rib woman and her apple. If only I weren’t fallible…. “

    Yeah agreed. They drug it out too long and it got all weird though at times. The ending was a little sudden too.

    DAT RIB WOMEN AND HER SNAKE!!!! =)

    “You’re right! And nobody here is advocating a system that is 100% free of “might makes right! We all realize that is likely impossible and we are far from it. We strive for decreasing it.”

    Glad you think this way. But at this point based off the evidence, I can’t accept what you guys have come up with. I realize you believe you have no other choice, but I think that is because you refuse to consider my option of Morality demands some sort of moral law giver.

    The problem I have is that when I point out the logical fallacies imbedded in your moral system, instead of dropping that idea, you stick to it because you have no other choice. I mean how many times I have clearly demonstrated that you are heavily relying on a might makes right/ad populum type ideology? If I was you, that would drive me bonkers knowing that that was the best thing we could come up with.

    Not only that, but you keep appealing to some objective standard, then denying the existence of one. Then two seconds later you use words like better and worse which is appealing to some objective standard, but for whatever reason can’t see it. And then you jump right back into the might makes right to try to act like you didn’t appeal to an objective standard. That’s my frustration.

    “But here is the kicker – you haven’t demonstrated that you have a system that doesn’t use “might makes right” either!.”

    My system is not a might makes right. However, it is a “I created you so I know how you are to operate / makes right”. That might have it’s own problems, but my system is definitely not a might makes right argument.

    “I mean you still haven’t responded to what would happen if I disagreed with your Moral Lawgiver. Because I can. And I do. And if he can’t do anything about it, why should I care anyways? And if he can, he is using “might makes right” and suddenly your system is no different than ours. Unless yours uses less might makes right of course. But we need that little thing called evidence that it does.”

    This is a really good question. Well, we haven’t gotten there yet, but I believe in the Christian God (an assertion I haven’t tried to prove yet). And in that system we have answers for that question, and most other religions that I am aware of do too. Now, obviously they aren’t all right (if any of them are), but as I said above it’s not a might makes right. The moral law giver wouldn’t be right because he’s got more people and power on his side, he’d be right and justified in his view and expectations of us because he created us thus having authority over us. I mean, if I create a machine to do a specific task, it is in my hands to decide how that machine should operate. The machine doesn’t get to say, “No this is how I am made to work.”. (I realize this analogy breaks down as all analogies do, but the point still is shown).

    “That is not how animals treat each other. They do not just “eat each other all the time.” They eat only when they need to eat. If a snake goes by a mouse but it has eaten its fill, it simply won’t eat the mouse! The same with a lion – which is why they only roar after a kill. And as my example with the cleaner shrimp and the grouper they even form alliances to be fed in return for cleaning bacteria which would harm the grouper.”

    This is false. You need to come to my house. I swear cats are evil. They kill for fun and don’t’ even even what they kill. So I don’t see how this statement could possibly be true.

    CATS ARE EVIL!!!!!!!!!

    “Because, you dolt, you feel it is the right thing to do.”

    There are many men in history who don’t operate that way – entire societies in history. So what makes your feelings superior to theirs?

    “We know this is a product of evolution so we do not think they are inferior in their behavior. It is pretty much mostly religious people who think otherwise.”

    Are people born pedophiles? Is that also a product of evolution?

    “After you remove treatment in the afterlife, what is the difference between your moral motivations and an atheist’s motivations? “

    The same motivations I have for loving my wife. Because of who she is. I don’t love God and strive to obey him because I am afraid of hellfire and damnation – for Christianity says you can’t please God and escape hellfire and damnation by being a good person and obeying all the rules. You can only accept grace. I see the beauty of Christ and desire to be like Him and please him. No because I want something from him, but because he is magnificent.

    Does that help?

    We would say that is wrong because OUR majority, in our current society, finds it wrong and has built up a set of reasons why it is wrong. And our evolutionary desire to not be killed ourselves coupled with our evolutionary empathy reinforces its “wrongness”. “

    I don’t think this works. I am asking about in past (and maybe) future societies where you would have been the minority.

    Secondly, everyone wants to be rich, but saying I should have a desire then for everyone else to be rich does not follow. Same thing with the desire to not be killed.

    I’ll repeat my challenge – name one moral absolute that your Moral Lawgiver would never accept as justified. “

    Worshiping another God.

    You cinnamon role analogy is a false analogy. The moral system doesn’t tell us what the result ought to be – your cinnamon roll for breakfast analogy does. So we are back to square one of attempting to figure out on what basis we make moral decisions and determine if they are right or wrong.

    “Obviously, I know nothing we say will ever shake your complete confidence that God defines morality. You’re too invested in your side of the debate.”

    I don’t think you can say that. I simply want an explanation of morality that is logical without an objective standard. You can’t give one that isn’t rooted in logical fallacies.

    Steven,

    You claim I provided a false dichotomy but then do not offer a 3rd option. That’s now how it work.

    “But there is a meaningful difference between saying – I just want to behave this way for no particular reason, it is my subjective choice. And – centuries of debate and analysis by philosophers trying to hammer out an internally consistent logical framework for moral decision-making. If you are unwilling to concede that there is a meaningful difference here, that condemns your position to absurdity.” “

    Who says there is a meaning difference? Do you have any evidence for that naked assertion? Or must I accept that notion on blind faith?

    Not only that, but there is no consensus on morality amongst the philosophers, and even if there was that woudn’t make what they concluded right. What’s right is right no matter how many people think otherwise. Do you disagree with that statement?

    “So what? If they have the ability to destroy each other, it is worth it for the two cultures to find common ground and find ways to live with their moral differences. Some differences, like slavery, are probably not acceptable. Others, like where to draw the line between safety, community and individual freedom, can vary greatly.” “

    Do you I really need to list out all the unproven assumptions you have listed in this paragraph? Do you really expect people who don’t agree with you to agree based on blind faith that you know better based on your feelings?

    “You have no way to convince others of your position except – my God says so, an if you don’t believe me then my God says you will burn in hell. “

    What’s true is true regardless of if one remains convinced or not. My standard is objective. If God who created us says “this is how I created you to be and here is what you are for.” Then that is objective. How is that not objective?

    “It is inconsistent for you to condemn secular morality as “might makes right” (again, a simplistic false dichotomy), but somehow think that your position is any different”. “

    If I create a sand castle and that sand castle doesn’t meet my expectations is it wrong for me to smash it down? No. that is not a might makes right, it is a creator has dominion of the created. They are very different notions and you know it.

    “Tell me, how are you going to convince a Muslim that your moral system is the right one?” “

    First off, it doesn’t matter if they are convinced or not. Truth is truth no matter who accepts it.

    Secondly, if you really want me walk you through the methods of thought I embrace when talking to a Muslim I can, but it boils down to one thing, your standard is not the right standard and here’s why – list of reasons.

    “Further – you don’t know if there is a God, and if there were a god, you don’t know what their morality is.” “

    So you assume. I haven’t provided my evidences for this notion. You are still hung up on morality being from might makes right and other logical fallacies and refuse to consider the notion that morality actually comes from an objective standard. Now whether we can know that objective standard is a different conversation, one I’m willing to have, but you aren’t even willing to drop your fallacious logic and consider one that isn’t because you are scared it might lead to a God who has authority over you.

    “Having faith that you have access to divine knowledge is not having access to divine knowledge. It’s having faith.” “

    Having faith that your unproven assumptions about morality let you justify moral decisions over other decisions is not having access justify those decisions, it’s having faith.

    That sword slices both ways. Embrace it.

    “Further, when we support how an ideal moral philosophy can work, you object that this is not how it has worked out historically. ““

    No, I object that I want to know where and how you determined what “worked” means. This implies an objective standard in which tells you what things work and what things do not work. You already admitted that you assume certain un-provable assumptions about morality, yet you are ok with having blind faith in this regards. Why?

    “Philosophers reason. Ideologies go to war. That is what you are defending.”

    Reason doesn’t let you accept assumptions on blind faith, which you do in regards to morality.

    And regardless, why is reasoning better than ideologies or chaos?
    Why the “ought” from the “is”?

    “Zach, please read my last comment, it is very important to understand this point in order to procede with any discussion” ““

    Let me know if I addressed this enough. I’m glad to engage it further.

  233. Steven Novellaon 09 Jan 2013 at 10:16 am

    The relationship between religious belief and moral behavior is widely studied and complex. I will summarize the main findings:

    Religiosity is not consistently correlated with moral behavior.
    Community connection seems to correlate the best (but does not have to be religious)
    Social context also correlates – believing that one’s reputation is at stake – but again, does not have to be religious.
    In one study belief in an angry vengeful god correlated with less cheating, but not belief in a loving god.
    Countries like Sweden and Denmark that have tight social structures but very low belief in god score very high in terms of moral behavior and happiness.

    Bottom line – religion does not seem to be necessary or even beneficial to moral behavior by itself. Fear of retribution may motivate moral behavior, but social connectedness appears to be the most important factor. In general atheists are just as moral as the religious.

    Here are some links:
    http://www.slate.com/articles/life/faithbased/2008/11/does_religion_make_you_nice.2.html
    http://www.sciencemag.org/content/322/5898/58.abstract
    http://www.jstor.org/stable/27540053
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110420112334.htm

  234. JJ Borgmanon 09 Jan 2013 at 10:19 am

    Whew. Either:

    A) There is a god (in your pocket).
    B) There is no god (in your pocket).

    Scientists look (in your pocket) and there is no god.

    Therefore, A is false. And that means there is no lawgiver.

    Case closed.

  235. ccbowerson 09 Jan 2013 at 10:33 am

    (Zach)
    “A. Morality is objective
    B. Morality is not-objective.
    If not B then A. That’s it. So you can keep crying that I am assuming my view without proving it, but I am proving it if I discredit B…. does that help?
    …This also proves my point above. If someone can prove that there are coins in my pocket A, then B is automatically disproved. ”

    Again you miss the point of Russell’s teapot… its not floating in outerspace for no good reason. If the teapot were in your pocket this would not be an issue. Your pocket analogy fails right away because your approach only works with complete knowledge (at least of the factors relevant to the question). The point it that you must provide evidence for your absolute and object morality because the alternative is to eliminate the potentially limitless alternatives. Also saying “A” and “B” is misleading, since “B” is really “Not-A.”

    Also, “Not-A” is not necessarily the argument, the argument is that there is no evidence for A

  236. Steven Novellaon 09 Jan 2013 at 10:47 am

    Zach – your analogy does fail, and this seems to be the cornerstone of your position.

    You are trying to boil down the definition, philosophy, and practice of morality to a simple dichotomy – subjective vs objective. This is one place where your position utterly fails.

    Objectivity is not black or white, as I discussed above.

    Also – you have not established that morality requires a law giver. First, you premise this argument on defining morality as 100% objective or non-existent, which is a fallacy. Seconds, it’s the argument from final consequences fallacy. Even if your premise were true, which it isn’t, (that we need a lawgiver) that does not equate to there being a lawgiver. You need to independently verify or make a cogent argument for the existence of said lawgiver.

    For a moral system you then need to justify the morals of that lawgiver, and explain how you know what that moral system is. You have done none of these – nor has anyone else.

    It comes down to – this is your faith. Period. You call this a superior logical basis to morality than the philosophical traditions you seem not to understand and find so easy to dismiss in the simplistic terms of “might makes right.”

  237. ccbowerson 09 Jan 2013 at 10:51 am

    Another reason why the coin analogy fails because we agree that coins exist, and they could be in your pocket. If we didn’t then the only solution is to see a coin. Show me the coin.

  238. rezistnzisfutlon 09 Jan 2013 at 10:54 am

    And you claim that I have first demonstrate that there is an A in the first place, which implies I would also for B?

    Who says you have to demonstrate both? You only have to demonstrate one thing, that absolute morality exists. Not being able to does not necessarily mean that it doesn’t exist, but merely that you could not demonstrate it. If you WERE able to demonstrate it, then you’d have a bunch of converts around here and a whole lot of heaven points.

    We’re operating under what is most LIKELY to be true. Being an agnostic on this issue (because I desire to maintain intellectual honesty), I won’t go as far as say that I know for certain absolute morality does not exist. I just don’t BELIEVE that it exists because there is no evidence for it, that there’s evidence to the contrary, and the likelihood of its existence is extremely small. Just like why I’m an agnostic atheist.

    Are you serious?

    A “There are coins in my pocket right now.” (Affirmative). Scientist looks into my pocket, sees no coins, Assertion is false.

    B “There are NO coins in my pocket right now.” (negative) Scientist looks into my pocket, sees the coins, assertion is false. The negative is disproved.

    Really? I mean, really? Just when I think you couldn’t say something more asinine than you already have, you go and do it anyway. Do you even try to think?

    “There are NO coins in my pocket right now” is a POSITIVE claim. It’s an independent, testable claim. You COMPLETELY missed the point of what I was saying.

    If I were to tell you that I have coins in my pocket, that’s a POSITIVE claim. If you then tell me that you don’t believe me, that’s a NEGATIVE. It’s not even a claim, it’s a rejection of my claim.

    You claim that “absolute morality” exists. I inform you that I don’t believe you, rejecting your claim. I’m not asserting anything. Your “A” is the positive claim, my “B” is a rejection of your positive claim, not a new, independent claim. This whole business about disproving relative morality is something you invented in order to shift the burden of proof (a typical fundamentalist move). It’s literally no different than when you creationists try to prove your god by undermining evolution. It’s a red herring.

  239. RickKon 09 Jan 2013 at 10:57 am

    Zach,

    What’s right is right no matter how many people think otherwise. Do you disagree with that statement?

    Yes, I absolutely disagree with that statement.

    Me: Name one moral absolute that your Moral Lawgiver would never accept as justified.
    You: Worshiping another God.

    A nonsense answer that has no effect on humans in the natural world.

    You cinnamon role analogy is a false analogy. The moral system doesn’t tell us what the result ought to be – your cinnamon roll for breakfast analogy does. So we are back to square one of attempting to figure out on what basis we make moral decisions and determine if they are right or wrong.

    Nonsense again – did someone stand over the world economic system and say “thou shalt make cinnamon rolls”, or did the product evolve into being because it worked well? Is there a book written somewhere that lists all the acceptable outputs of the global economic system? The global economy is a set of rules, principles and values that results in a more-or-less functioning system. Just as morals are some of the principles that guide how to make and maintain functioning social systems.

    And just as the economic rules evolved out of human interaction, so do/did morals.

    You’ve yet to give a single example that would suggest otherwise.

  240. rezistnzisfutlon 09 Jan 2013 at 11:00 am

    I don’t get everything wrong – this is false.

    Um, yea, pretty much you do. Pretty darn close anyway. So far, you’ve gotten the science wrong, logic wrong, and what we say wrong. The few tidbits of correct that you get are very few and far between, my friend.

    I will no longer respond to anything you write to help you keep that blood pressure down.

    My blood pressure’s fine, don’t be patronizing. So I don’t always suffer fools easily, call it a character flaw.

    why do you need an escape (explaining and justifying morality and arguing for a better morality)?

    In your bloody anarchistic dystopia that you claim would happen if there were no “absolute morality”, sure, we’d want to escape. Good thing for us that’s not the case in spite of the fact that there is no “absolute morality”.

  241. Steven Novellaon 09 Jan 2013 at 11:00 am

    Zach –

    First – a false dichotomy does not require a third option, it can be a false dichotomy because there is actually a continuum, which is the position I articulated.

    You write:
    “First off, it doesn’t matter if they are convinced or not. Truth is truth no matter who accepts it.

    Secondly, if you really want me walk you through the methods of thought I embrace when talking to a Muslim I can, but it boils down to one thing, your standard is not the right standard and here’s why – list of reasons. ”

    Thank you – nice demonstration of your ad hoc double standard. I can also say – it doesn’t matter if the Romans are convinced about slavery, slavery is wrong no matter who accepts it.

    Secondly, you get to say your standard is right and here are the reasons – but I don’t get to say my standard is superior and here are the reasons? Wow. That is a striking level of self-contradition in such a short span of time. Impressive.

    Then you condemn moral philosophy as “blind faith” for having first principals. Are you admitting that your position is blind faith? Let’s at least get that straight.

    But this is also a false equivalency argument (also a major pillar of your logic). You argue, over and over, that anything that is not 100% certain is just faith or subjective, and it’s all therefore equivalent. This is demonstrable hogwash.

    As has already been pointed out to you – we can use some reasonable criteria for assessing moral principles. Do they lead to a consistent and logical framework? Do societies and individuals that hold to and apply those principles tend to prosper and be happy and fulfilled? Are they fair?

    Yes, the criteria themselves are just subjective, in that they are human concerns, but so what. Ethics is about human behavior is a human society, not about the universe. They are not empirical claims (although again, they can be informed by such).

    You seem to be saying that unless a moral system can be proven scientifically (an oxy moron) with certainty, then it has no value and is simple thuggery. This is absurd. That seems to be the best you have.

  242. rezistnzisfutlon 09 Jan 2013 at 11:21 am

    @ccbowers

    Whew. Either:

    A) There is a god (in your pocket).
    B) There is no god (in your pocket).

    Scientists look (in your pocket) and there is no god.

    Hmm. While this is logically consistent, I don’t think it accurately reflects what is going on here. Both A and B in this statement are positive claims. That is what Zach is arguing for, that we’re both submitting positive, and mutually exclusive, claims that we both have the onus to demonstrate.

    That simply isn’t the case. Zach is making the positive claim ,”absolute morality exists” (A), and we’re telling him we don’t believe him (B). Zach is trying to replace the B with a C that states that we’re claiming it’s not “absolute morality” but rather “relative morality” that we have in the world, and we’re accommodating him.

    I’ll try another analogy. Say Zach claims that a supernatural, all-powerful god exists. We tell him that we don’t believe him and to prove it. He then asks us what we think actually exists since we don’t believe him. We then go on to tell him we think that the natural universe exists and that’s all there is because of 1, 2, 3… He then proceeds to attempt to deconstruct what we know about the natural universe, saying that if he’s able to deconstruct what we know about the natural universe, then god must exist.

    That is exactly what’s going on here. While it’s all fine and good to explain to him what it is we believe and why, ultimately it’s up to him to prove his initial claim, not for us to disprove his claim for him (which is what he’s gotten people to do here). I call BS.

  243. ccbowerson 09 Jan 2013 at 12:11 pm

    rezistnzisfutl-

    I did not make the god in pocket statement, but I imagine that it was meant tongue in cheek.

  244. Zachon 09 Jan 2013 at 12:23 pm

    Bottom line – religion does not seem to be necessary or even beneficial to moral behavior by itself. Fear of retribution may motivate moral behavior, but social

    connectedness appears to be the most important factor. In general atheists are just as moral as the religious.

    I never said religion was necessary for moral behavior. I did say that moral behavior must be derived from an objective standard. Even IF that objective standard is given from Yahweh,

    that wouldn’t mean that unless one is a Christian they won’t have nice Christian-like morality.

    Christianity accounts for moral behavior, it does not create it from scratch, it reveal Yahweh’s objective moral standard. But it also reveals that Yahweh made mankind in His image, and

    has imparted a basis understanding of moral law to them. They might contribute that to another source, but it wouldn’t matter, this is called common grace. I am quickly explaining this,

    so if you need to explain this more let me know.

    Whew. Either:
    A) There is a god (in your pocket).
    B) There is no god (in your pocket).
    Scientists look (in your pocket) and there is no god.
    Therefore, A is false. And that means there is no lawgiver.
    Case closed.

    Agreed. This would be an appropriate solution if one was claiming God was in my pocket, and scientist could prove there wasn’t a God in my pocket. You get it, please explain this to the

    other atheists/agnostics here who keep accusing me of a false dichotomy.

    “Also, “Not-A” is not necessarily the argument, the argument is that there is no evidence for A”.

    I don’t think so, here’s why. At the most basic level morality is only one of two things – objective or not objective. That is the starting point for the discussion of morality. So me

    presenting the two options is appropriate.

    Many of you are confusing A with – YAHWEH IS GOD RAWR!!! BOW OR BURN! that doesn’t necessarily follow. It could be that morality is objective in that there are moral laws which can be

    proven with science (I don’t believe this is the case, but it’s a possibility many have put forth). It could be that morality is actually objective in that there is a non-personal mind

    that is the source of it and we haven’t discovered that yet (I don’t believe this to be the case). And it could also be that morality is objective and is derived from a personal-

    mind/creator. So it’s not just A = Yahweh. There are many atheist/agnostics who agree with me, but believe that it is A (based off the same logic I have provided), but simply conclude we

    have not arrived at the source yet, only the idea that there must be a source.

    “subjective vs objective. This is one place where your position utterly fails.”

    Steven, you have mis-interpreted me again.

    I have deliberately not defined B as subjective morality because I believe then I actually would be committing a false dichotomy.

    What I have said is that morality is either
    A. Objective
    B. Not-Objective (which is an umbrella that does cover more than just relative).

    Does that explain the difference?

    Now, moving on to what you said,

    “Objectivity is not black or white”

    Now, correct me where I am wrong, but I interpret this “Black or white” as true or false – or yes or no.
    It is pretty easy to show why this isn’t true. The Law of Excluded Middle is one of the three basic laws in logic. It says “Statements are either true or false.” “A statement is true or

    its negation is true.”

    So saying that morality which is nothing more than system of choice making between what is right and what is wrong is either black or white. This is not the same thing as taking

    something like art and saying it is either true or false, because you already admitted that some morality is superior to other morality so moral choices are not the same thing as do I

    like pizza with mushrooms or pizza with no mushrooms. For if that were the case then your position would work, so long as you were ready to embrace that and truly drop this notion of

    individual freedom being a universal moral law.

    So in summary
    1. You mis-interpreted non-objective as subjective – they are not exact synonyms. Subjective does fall under non-objective, but they similarity is not equal to identity – another logical

    fallacy.
    2. You broke the law of the excluded middle in claiming that morality is not black or white (in which I interpreted as true or false, right or wrong).

    Also – you have not established that morality requires a law giver.

    This is not true. I have established very clearly that morality cannot be logically derived from non-objective sources. It requires too many logical leaps based on blind faith and other

    logical fallacies – might makes right, ad populum, fallacy of emotional appeal, fallacy of authority, fallacy of assumption etc. etc.

    Essentially Steven, your point on morality existing is based on unprovable premises (which you agreed to previously). You are essentially doing the following.

    P1: Fairies Exist
    Therefore
    C2: Fairies Exist

    Or

    Point 1: My Moral premises are true
    Conclusion 1: My Moral premises are true

    I ask how you know they are. You essentially are saying because they are (or because they work best). This claim that something works best is an appeal to an objective standard of what “best” actually looks like. You don’t know, so you are back to assuming your conclusion.

    At this point I have shown that IF there is a morality, then it must come from a moral law giver. Now the option still is on the table that there in fact is no morality and rape is no

    better or worse (morally speaking) than feeding the poor. If you want to defend that position then by all means, I will switch gears.

    First, you premise this argument on defining morality as 100% objective or non-existent, which is a fallacy.

    No, I define this as

    A. Morality is objective
    B. Morality is not-objective.

    to say that there is a third option C: is without saying
    C. Morality is does exist.

    of course this is an option, but one that no one here is asserting since everyone here claim that some actions are deemed superior to others. If you want to argue for option C then lets do it and I will shift gears, but your continual framing of my view as a false dichotomy by embracing a straw man argument needs to end. I have listed what I am saying several times, quite clearly.

    “Seconds, it’s the argument from final consequences fallacy. Even if your premise were true, which it isn’t, (that we need a lawgiver) that does not equate to there being a lawgiver.”

    Steven, I have already said this several times to skeptics here who keep thinking I am trying to say without Yahweh there is no morality (something I have not attempted to say or prove).
    Yes, I agree with you mostly here.

    First, I have demonstrated clearly that either this a morality that can only come from an objective standard, or there is no morality.
    Second, I would rephrase what you said into, “Even though we need a lawgiver to have a morality does not equate to their being a lawgiver” But if this is true then it would end “therefore there is no morality since morality can only be objective.”

    “You need to independently verify or make a cogent argument for the existence of said lawgiver.”

    Maybe eventually because I conclude there is in fact a morality, but right now I actually don’t since that is not the point I am trying to convince you of. Carefully read what I am about to say or you will end up very frustrated and confused.
    My point is not that “there in fact IS a moral lawgiver and I can show him to you”. What my point is IF there is such a thing as morality “it is either objective or not objective, and therefore since it must be objective to exist, either it comes from a moral law giver (or a moral source outside of our opinions) (objective), or there is no moral law giver/source outside of ourselves and therefore there can be no morality whatsoever.”

    It might seem like a very subtle difference at first, but when you actually understand the two points they are very different – connected sure, but very different indeed.

    “For a moral system you then need to justify the morals of that lawgiver, and explain how you know what that moral system is. You have done none of these – nor has anyone else.”

    Why? Is it not as simple as the analogy I already provided early of me able to dictate how my own creations ought to perform and function? It’s really not that complicated. Sure I might not like the purpose I was created for, but it’s not immoral for the creator to inform me of the purpose he made me for. A toaster could get upset that we engineered it to make toast (if it was self-aware), but it wouldn’t matter. It’s purpose is to create toast, not hammer a nail.

    “Yes, I absolutely disagree with that statement.”

    So if enough people disagree that the earth is rotating around the sun then that means the earth is no longer rotating around the sun?
    If enough people agree that rape is preferable to consensual love, then rape is preferable?

    “A nonsense answer that has no effect on humans in the natural world.”

    What? If there is a creator this has a major effect on us. No idea how you came to this conclusion. But you asked for one, and now you say it’s nonsense?

    “The global economy is a set of rules, principles and values that results in a more-or-less functioning system. Just as morals are some of the principles that guide how to make and maintain functioning social systems.

    Again, false analogy. We already know the result/purpose of a global economy – to facilitate the transition of services and goods.
    With morality it is not the same. We don’t know the purpose of mankind (if there even is one), and we don’t know what the result of morality should be.

    With the economy we are setting rules for a specific pre-defined result, it is engineered for a specific purpose. unless you know the purpose of man and what the end result of morality should look like, this analogy is broken.

    “Thank you – nice demonstration of your ad hoc double standard. I can also say – it doesn’t matter if the Romans are convinced about slavery, slavery is wrong no matter who accepts it.”

    I agree with you. But you haven’t demonstrated with anything but blind faith that slavery is in fact wrong. You assume it. And why should the Romans get on board with what you think?
    You will likely respond with some appeal to reason that it’s best for society, but this implies that you in fact know what is best for society. You might say that what is best is what has the least amount of hard and encourages personal freedom – yet another belief that requires blind faith. You can say that we know this is the best because that’s what we want for ourselves, but then you make a logical leap to say that I should want this not only for myself, but for others.

    “Then you condemn moral philosophy as “blind faith” for having first principals. Are you admitting that your position is blind faith? Let’s at least get that straight.”

    I am saying that the SOURCE of how you determine what is preferable is rooted in blind faith since your first principles are faith based beliefs.

    “You argue, over and over, that anything that is not 100% certain is just faith or subjective, and it’s all therefore equivalent. This is demonstrable hogwash.”

    Straw man.
    I assert that your first principles are not agreed upon by humanity, therefore you must provide evidences for them, which you cannot, so you are functioning on blind faith.
    If first principles are universally true and everyone “ought” to agree with them to then be able to enter the circle of moral discussion, is that not appealing to a form of an objective standard? Is not your ‘first principles claim’ what you believe to be an objective standard.

    My point is that you are attempting to make your first principles function as an objective standard by an appeal to logical and reason, but logic and reason will never tell you that your first principles are universal, your first principles require a faith based leap to accept.

    “Do societies and individuals that hold to and apply those principles tend to prosper and be happy and fulfilled?”

    Why is someone else’s personal happiness of our concern (Hedonism?)? Do you have an objective standard to show that this is what we should aim for? Blind faith will not cut it.

    “You seem to be saying that unless a moral system can be proven scientifically (an oxy moron) with certainty, then it has no value and is simple thuggery.”

    you seem to being saying that your view of how to determine morality is the “right” way to do so because it’s based in logic (which it isn’t), it’s really based on your first principles which are arrived at only via blind faith. You can’t provide evidence that they are right (which you already admitted).

    For a scientist, you sure have a lot of faith…

  245. rezistnzisfutlon 09 Jan 2013 at 12:25 pm

    Opps, my apologies!

    Yea, after I reread my post, I was thinking I should have added something witty in there to reflect the tongue and cheek. That’s what happens when I get too focused on what I want to say and miss opportunities! :)

  246. nybgruson 09 Jan 2013 at 12:33 pm

    I mean wow. Just wow. The inisght into how the brain of a seriously indoctrinated theist works is quite interesting, telling, and a bit scary at the same time. Because a scarily large number of people think like he does. Thankfully from poll data, elections results, and laws passed we can see that more and more people are realizing how ridiculous that kind of thinking is.

    I was going to go through points again, but decided against it. Clearly Zach doesn’t even remotely begin to think about it anyways and all of y’all others here see it just as plainly as I do. So I thought it would be fun to just pull out a few of the most blatantly simplistic and painfully obvious wrong points.

    Oh yeah, and I’ll be the first to say that I not only stand by what Rezistnzisfutl says, but laud him for it. So no need to try and malign him by saying we wouldn’t. You could only dream of achieving the rationality and logic he has.

    So why do you complain when humanity is brutal but not when animals are, if after all we are merely bigger brained animals?

    Merely bigger brained animals? That bigger brain difference is bloody frackin massive! Merely. Ha.

    This argument is not doing what you think it is for you. I never said that the strong should be moronic and destroy everything in it’s path, I am attacking the notion that I should put someone else’s well being ahead of mine.

    O rly?

    From one of the pages there:

    “Examples of creatures caring for others at the expense of themselves are well-known. Ants, bees, and some birds will help their relatives raise kids rather than raise kids of their own. Even the simplest of social creatures, such as single-celled bacteria and slime molds and other microbes, sometimes sacrifice their own well-being for the sake of their group.”

    Hmm. Do the slime molds and bacteria have an absolute objective morality and a Moral Lawgiver? Why would they sacrifice their own well being for the sake of the group?

    And before you chime in with something stupid like, “Well that’s just in their own little family group not all bacteria” let me remind you that such a narrow version of “family group” is exactly what we had. We here advocate for the notion that all humans are part of our family group. Even the black sheep who can’t think rationally or logically :-p

    You keep saying this, but then you don’t’ provide a specific example of how I explained evolutionary theory as wrong.

    Seriously? Many times. Including just now. Where I provided you links and a quote to demonstrate that even bacteria evolved altruistic self sacrfice. It is a necessary function of evolutionary theory. That is just one of the things you get wrong about science that further makes your arguments beyond poor.

    But why do you? And better yet, why do so many humans not agree with us on caring about others? You have a huge disconnect happening here, think about this question.

    No disconnect. And I told you why I do. Because I know suffering sucks and I don’t want to suffer and so I don’t want any others to suffer as well. Absolutely no god needed. Ever. Unless you don’t remember my story about how I have never, ever, once, even for a second believed in the existence of a deity.

    Why is it sadistic? What is your objective standard to say this is good and this is bad?

    Why objective? How many times do we have to repeat that we don’t believe there is an objective morality! How can I provide you an objective standard for why I think it is bad, when I don’t believe such a thing exists?!?!

    Perhaps you can tell me which leprachaun told you it was bad. And unless it came from a leprachaun I won’t listen to you.

    Are lions psychopaths for eating other lions young? Why the double standard?

    Why the double standard? Wow, you really do think so incredibly little about the brain you evolved to have, don’t you? You genuinely can’t find a non-religious reason why we are different from lions and therefore a different standard applies? Hell, I can see a reason why me as a clinician is different from rezisntftl as not one and say that a double standard applies to some of our ethical behaviors. I hold myself to a higher standard, and those in my profession do as well. We police each other to a higher standard than the average person. Why the double standard? Aren’t we all just created in god’s image? Maybe it is because I know more and have more responsibility than rezistnftl when it comes to those concerns. And maybe the double standard with the lion exists because you know more and have more responsibility than the lion. Though I’m starting to doubt the “knowing more” part.

    Ok, so you agree with might makes right. Thank you. If radical Islam takes over the world I hope you realize that they are right for it because if and by the time that happens they will be the majority.

    Yep. And that is why I and others like me work hard to make sure they don’t get to take over the world and make a theocracy of it all. Same reason why we hard to make sure the US government doesn’t become a Christian theocracy. Because we can’t cast a magic spell and say our god says so and have things suddenly happen that way. That’s the way the world works.

    What is your objective standard for “better and better”?

    And yet again, please find me any definition of the word “better” that necessitates an objective standard. It does not. Never has. I mean getting science wrong is one thing, but refusing to learn the meaning of single commonly used word…

    Was the Spartan society morally wrong? Look at how they raised their kids. And if they were wrong, why?

    They weren’t “wrong” – how many times have we said there is no such thing as “right” and “wrong” in an absolute sense? We argue certain things are more wrong than others, but there are always exceptions.

    And why do I know they are wrong? Because I wouldn’t want to be one of the kids that got the short end of the Spartan stick.

    Are lions wrong if they harm other lions? Why the double standard? Aren’t we just bigger brained animals? Don’t all animals have instincts they follow? Aren’t we merely following ours?

    Once again, my instincts don’t lead me to act that way. Following my instincts makes me more moral than following your objective morality. And if your instincts really are like that, then I am scared of what would happen if you finally realized there is no god to keep you in check.

    I realize you believe you have no other choice, but I think that is because you refuse to consider my option of Morality demands some sort of moral law giver.

    So hard to rank how high on the “stupid” scale this comment ranks.

    No, we don’t refuse. We absolutely and 100% know and agree that your option of “Morality” demands a moral lawgiver.

    We disagree that your option of “Morality” exists in the first place.

    Not only that, but you keep appealing to some objective standard, then denying the existence of one. Then two seconds later you use words like better and worse which is appealing to some objective standard, but for whatever reason can’t see it.

    See above. And read a dictionary. Jeez.

    My system is not a might makes right. However, it is a “I created you so I know how you are to operate / makes right”. That might have it’s own problems, but my system is definitely not a might makes right argument…he’d be right and justified in his view and expectations of us because he created us thus having authority over us. I mean, if I create a machine to do a specific task, it is in my hands to decide how that machine should operate. The machine doesn’t get to say, “No this is how I am made to work.”.

    The escape for Zach here will be that I didn’t include his caveat about the analogy breaking down and that his “logic” allows him to weasel out that way.

    First off, you have zero evidence anything created us to have authority over us.

    Second off, it does not follow that in all cases that which created us has authority over us.

    Thirdly, even if it did, I can still say I disagree. What happens when I disagree?

    !!!!!!!!FIRE!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Hmm. Looks like your God is making right by enforcing his might on me. It’s amazing how your entire system of thought crumbled to dust the moment I say “Fuck your god. I don’t care if he exists I’m doing whatever I want.” Because in order for any of it to be true, he has to exert his might on me, against my will, with sadistic hellfire, which is exactly what you claim he doesn’t do.

    This is false. You need to come to my house. I swear cats are evil. They kill for fun and don’t’ even even what they kill. So I don’t see how this statement could possibly be true.

    I didn’t say all animals are always altruistic. But the fact that altruism exists – even amongst bacteria – is enough to demonstrate you wrong.

    Are people born pedophiles? Is that also a product of evolution?

    First off, I absolutely fucking despise theists who even tangentially make the analogy between homosexuality and pedophilia. I mean despise it you hateful little prick.

    Second off, yes. Through some combination of nature and nurture pedophilia is an evolutionary by product. One that harms people (unlike homosexuality) and we rightfully condemn.

    I don’t think this works. I am asking about in past (and maybe) future societies where you would have been the minority.

    How about the current society? The one were I, as an atheist, am the minority? And there is hateful speech against us, condemnation that we can’t be good or moral people, and in certain countries around the world are imprisoned or even killed merely for professing our atheism.

    So yeah, we know what it is like. Which is why we fight against the dominant religionist society on these fronts because we are the maligned minority. Where people are killed because they drew a cartoon of a fictional character from a story book. Where people are imprisoned because they wrote on FaceBook that “God doesn’t exist.” Or where Presidential candidates are happy to say that nobody can make good moral decisions to run the country without God.

    It’s nice and easy for you being with the in crowd, using your might makes right, looking down on us as lacking the ability to be good moral people. Why do you think we fight for what we do?

    So yeah, fuck you very much. I am the minority. And I refuse to bow to your theistic might. But I do so with rhetoric and reason, not incarceration, killing, and harassment.

    My standard is objective. If God who created us says “this is how I created you to be and here is what you are for.” Then that is objective. How is that not objective?

    It is objective. We aren’t arguing that. It just doesn’t exist.

    Now whether we can know that objective standard is a different conversation, one I’m willing to have, but you aren’t even willing to drop your fallacious logic and consider one that isn’t because you are scared it might lead to a God who has authority over you.

    And there is the common theistic trope. We are atheist and have subjective morality only because we don’t want to accept the authority of his god. Fine. We don’t. Even if he existed I wouldn’t. And now we are right back to his god using his might to force me to believe or else.

    What a sickening hypocrisy.

    Having faith that your unproven assumptions about morality let you justify moral decisions over other decisions is not having access justify those decisions, it’s having faith.

    So you get mad that we can only justify our axiomatic principles of morality on “faith” yet it is perfectly acceptable for you to assert the validity of your religion entirely on faith? What a fucking hypocrite. The very definition of religion is based in faith. That is a fundamental and inseperable part of religion. I reject your faith.

    And ladies and gentlemen for the cherry on top:

    Reason doesn’t let you accept assumptions on blind faith, which you do in regards to morality.

    …but let me reason my way into proving the existence of Yawheh.

  247. nybgruson 09 Jan 2013 at 12:44 pm

    I have a comment in moderation because I dropped an F-bomb or two. Decided I didn’t care to be quite so civil and since we are all adults here it wouldn’t matter much. Nothing egregious, and before you get all full of yourself Zach I’m not mad and losing it. Just wanted to throw in a little extra emphasis to how incredibly moronic you have been in this conversation. And no, that is not ad hom. I’m not saying your arguments are bad because you are a moron, I am saying you’re a moron because your arguments are bad.

    No hard feelings though. You can grow out of it if you try hard enough.

  248. nybgruson 09 Jan 2013 at 12:45 pm

    @ccbowers:

    My gods, first a ‘Sliders’ reference, now ‘Battlestar Galactica?’ What a fracking nerd. Its interesting how we tend to gravitate towards the same things. Its as if we are tapping into the objective standard of TV show quality (Battlestar being superior in this case, of course)

    Yeah dude. Super nerd here. Or hadn’t you picked up on that yet? :-p

    Best part? My fiancé, the lovely blonde rocket scientist, is just as much a nerd and was the one that made me rewatch the entire last season of BSG because she liked it so much. A pretty blonde, who is a rocket scientist working for NASA, is artistic and musical, kind and sweet, loves to have a good time, and best of all is completely atheist and rational, changes her worldview on evidence, and loves to watch Sci-Fi shows and science documentaries all the time. Oh yeah, and was thrilled that we spent literally 9 hours in the NYC Natural History Museum seeing every. single. exhibit. on the day I proposed to her. Seems pretty clear God must love me to have let my catch such a find, eh? :-D

    Now, I am about 60% through the series and I appreciate what they are doing so far, but I am cautiously concerned about where the series is ‘going.’

    It was in the 3rd (or maybe 4th) season that the producers at Sci-Fi (now ScyFy I guess??) forced Moore and Eick to have “filler episodes” in order to drag it out a bit more. They inititally refused, since they wanted the entire series to be progressing the story arc, with a completion at the end of the 5th season in mind from the get-go. Sci-Fi wanted to milk the success.

    It failed. The ratings tanked and complaints poured in. Eick and Moore were vindicated and Sci-Fi let them go back to making damned good episodes progressing the story arc.

    So if that is where you are, don’t worry, it will pick up. The last season is awesome. And every time I watch the series finale I tear up.

  249. rezistnzisfutlon 09 Jan 2013 at 1:09 pm

    I guess there is something to the geeky scientist stereotype. My girlfriend says she totally sees me in some of the nerdy characters on Big Bang Theory. I, too, am blessed with a girlfriend who likes watching nature documentaries and loves science, though my skepticism has yet to rub off on her. She always laughs at me when I go off on a million tangents about anti-vaccination, anti-GMO, etc…

    Nybgrus, I saw you reference Stargate earlier. SG1 continues to be my favorite show (though I’m giving it a rest for the time being). Of course, I love the spinoffs, too. Unfortunately, I’ve not yet gotten into BSG, but I will at some point, probably after grad school (I’m a non-traditional student if anyone is wondering) when I have more time, considering that it’s a nerd prerequisite (which means I’ll probably love it). You guys’ rave reviews only get me to want to see it more.

    That’s REALLY cool that you got to spend some time at the NYC Natural History Museum. I have yet to have the pleasure and am dying to go. I’d love to spend an entire week there.

    There are some really great nature documentaries out there. I just got done watching the NatGeo documentary series called Galapagos (three guesses on what it’s about), nearly as well done as the Planet Earth and Blue Planet series. Before that, I really enjoyed the series Planet Dinosaur – what stood out about it, besides the excellent production, was that it actually showed the lines of evidence for the points they were making, something I wish more science documentaries did. It’s astounding how much they’ve found in the fossil record in just the past 10 years! It had me geeking out for sure.

    Of course, Nova and Nova: Science Now always gets my geek on.

  250. Steven Novellaon 09 Jan 2013 at 1:31 pm

    Zach – I think I am narrowing down your logic. It is horrendously flawed, the challenge is in figuring out how to explain it to you.

    You are committing a false dichotomy and playing around with definitions.

    You are saying morality is either objective or not objective. But, as I have pointed out, objectivity does not have to be an absolute binary state. What you really mean is that morality is either 100% absolutely objective or not 100% absolutely objective. This would not be a false dichotomy. Your unstated major premise is that “objective” = “100% absolutely objective” and this cannot be assumed.

    Further, you then proceed to conclude that any moral system that is not 100% absolutely objective is not a moral system at all, and necessarily is dependent upon multiple assumptions and logical fallacies. I and others have already demonstrated how absurd this position is, but I will do so again. First, your accusation of logical fallacies for moral principles is incorrect, because you are mostly applying criteria of empirical claims.

    Morality is largely an agreed upon social covenant. As someone said, it is partly like money. Money has value because everyone agrees that it has value, but the value is real in any practical sense. You are saying, in essence, that money has no value because it has no 100% absolutely objective value. Saying it has value because everyone agrees that it does, you would say, is a logical fallacy of argument ad populum. This is as much a misapplication of that logical fallacy as applying it, as we are, to morality.

    To further clarify, as you have a penchant for repeated misunderstanding as needed – I am not saying that morality is based solely on popularity. Nor am I saying that any moral notion is absolutely universal. It’s all gray.

    So – a philosophy based moral system is a moral system – it is morality – whether you like it or not. Saying that there is no morality without 100% absolute objective morality makes no sense. You can criticize a philosophy-based moral system (either in general, or any specific system) but that does not mean it isn’t a moral system

    Your criticisms are also absurd. You challenge basic principals as being arguments from popularity, but that trivializes them and ignores the very real differences between different moral ideas. You won’t even grant the most basic moral concepts, like harm is bad, or most people would rather not be tortured and murdered, or it’s better to be fair than unfair. When you strip it down your rejection of moral philosophy is that it has to make the huge leap of faith and say that harm is bad. Wow – what a stretch. Yeah – moral philosophy collapses like a house of cards when you point out how shaky its foundations are. Harm is bad – what a crock.

    Tell me – who is making the bigger leap of faith. A moral philosopher for going way out on a limb and saying, “Ok, let’s assume we can agree with the basic idea that harm is bad,” or you for saying that magic man in the sky exists, has moral codes for us, imbued them into us and inspired a couple hundred religions to try to interpret his morals. Yeah – that’s objective and reasonable.

    Your double standard is unbelievable.

    Further, just to drive this home, you still are making the mistake of saying that anything less than 100% absolute objectivity is of no value and all equally worthless. Again – nonsense – a false equivalency argument. There are legitimate criteria you can use, even just basic logical criteria, to judge moral systems. For example, some moral systems are internally consistent, while others are not. So – is it fair to say that a moral system that is internally logical consistent is better than one that isn’t, even if both lack 100% absolute objectivity? If not, why not?

  251. nybgruson 09 Jan 2013 at 1:38 pm

    What I have said is that morality is either
    A. Objective
    B. Not-Objective (which is an umbrella that does cover more than just relative).

    Does that explain the difference?

    No, because a third option is “partially objective” – in other words some objectivity but a purely objective system is not sufficient. And other scenarios I can’t think of. Hence the dichotomy is false.

    Now, compare this with you later statement:

    First, I have demonstrated clearly that either this a morality that can only come from an objective standard, or there is no morality.

    So which is it? Objective or no morality or obective or non-objective?

    You also ignore yet another option – what if there actually is no morality? So we can have objective morality, non-objective morality, partially objective morality, subjective morality, or no morality at all.

    Your false dichotomies are too simplistic. And all these options are valid and if you want to claim one to be the case the burden on you is to prove it. Simple as that.

    What my point is IF there is such a thing as morality “it is either objective or not objective, and therefore since it must be objective to exist, either it comes from a moral law giver (or a moral source outside of our opinions) (objective), or there is no moral law giver/source outside of ourselves and therefore there can be no morality whatsoever.”

    Fail again. IF there is such a thing as morality and IF it is objective, it does NOT logically follow that there MUST be a Moral Lawgiver. The temperature of things in the universe is OBJECTIVE but not because there is a Temperature Lawgiver. Your logic fails.

    Sure I might not like the purpose I was created for, but it’s not immoral for the creator to inform me of the purpose he made me for. A toaster could get upset that we engineered it to make toast (if it was self-aware), but it wouldn’t matter. It’s purpose is to create toast, not hammer a nail.

    Spot on. But what if I don’y like the purpose I was created for? What if I want to do something different? Would your creator use force to make me do it anyways? What if I forced the toaster to toast instead of hammer a nail? That is using my might to make right (because I created it and am telling the toaster it is “right” to toast bread and not hammer a nail). If your “creator” forces me to act in accordance to what he created me for, then it is making right by might. And your argument crumbles.

    You simply can’t salvage the argument by pretending the standard of “might” and “making right” apply to absolutely everything else in the universe except your Moral Lawgiver (whomever or whatever that is). If it applies to me and Dr. Novella it applies to Yawheh, Allah, and this [wink][wink] Moral Lawgiver. If it doesn’t, you have to prove why. But first you have to prove that this Moral Lawgiver exists, which you CANNOT do by stating (or even proving!) that objective morality exists.

    Every single possible tack you take fails on basic principles and the rules of logic. You are trying to run around the paddock without even having left the gates yet.

    My very existence completely invalidates your claims.

    What? If there is a creator this has a major effect on us. No idea how you came to this conclusion

    IF there is a creator. Nobody has established that. Once again, running around outside without having even left the gates.

    I am saying that the SOURCE of how you determine what is preferable is rooted in blind faith since your first principles are faith based beliefs.

    I responded to a similar comment in my moderated comment but this is too delicious to not repeat a million times.

    The THEIST whose entire worldview is BASED IN FAITH and literally DEMANDS FAITH is critiquing US by saying that OUR sources are BASED IN FAITH.

    Let that sink in a minute. Or maybe not, lest your brain explode.

    I assert that your first principles are not agreed upon by humanity, therefore you must provide evidences for them, which you cannot, so you are functioning on blind faith.

    And there it is again. The critique from the guy operating on faith is that we are operating on faith.

    Doesn’t it hurt your brain to think such incredibly hypocritical and stupid things Zach? It hurts mine to read it!

    Wait, gotta do it again…

    but logic and reason will never tell you that your first principles are universal, your first principles require a faith based leap to accept.

    And the existence of god and the religious edicts therein require…. wait for it… A LEAP OF FAITH.

    Never mind that our principles don’t require faith because we back them up with the evidence of science, it is still just laughably ridiculous to hear this sort of critique of our position.

    Oh. Em. Gee. It keeps going.

    Do you have an objective standard to show that this is what we should aim for? Blind faith will not cut it.

    How are you even thinking this? I mean really. The THEIST here is saying that faith won’t cut it. The level of cognitive dissonance is astounding.

    Like watching a train wreck.

  252. nybgruson 09 Jan 2013 at 1:47 pm

    @ rezistnzisfutl:

    Nybgrus, I saw you reference Stargate earlier. SG1 continues to be my favorite show (though I’m giving it a rest for the time being). Of course, I love the spinoffs, too.

    Me too. Atlantis was great. My fiance hasn’t seen any SG at all yet, so that is next on our list. Just a tough one to tackle since there are so many seasons. I’ve seen every episode, many more than once. I don’t mind watching again.

    Unfortunately, I’ve not yet gotten into BSG, but I will at some point, probably after grad school

    You’ll love it. Completely different vibe than SG though. No comedic relief (well, very little anyways). Really intense gripping drama with a great storyline and amazing characters and cinematography.

    Congrats on grad school. I know how that goes!

    That’s REALLY cool that you got to spend some time at the NYC Natural History Museum. I have yet to have the pleasure and am dying to go. I’d love to spend an entire week there.

    It was her first time. She was incredibly jazzed. It was my 5th or 6th time. And I still loved every minute of the entire day we spent there.

    I make it a point to go to as many as I can. One of my favorite science museum is the Deutches Technik Museum in Munich, Germany. I’ve been there 3 times as well. They are all about the history of technological advances, with some amazing artifacts (like one of the original Enigma machines and Deisel’s first crank shaft he ever built. I have a picture of me riding it like a horse) and tons and tons of interactive and live demonstrations from electricity, to mechanics, to pendulums (one of the towers is ~6 stories tall or so and has a pendulum in it all the way to the bottom and you can stand on the stairs to look down and see it knock down pins due to planetary motion and thus count out the year as the axial tilt changes), to chemistry. They have literally a hundred or so displays with reagents in them and you push a button and it automatically mixes them to show you the actual chemical reaction, with descriptions for each one explaining what is happening and what the significance is, including any historical points about it.

    Beyond cool and definitely worth the price of admission. Plus there is a great beer garden a few blocks away and the Iser river runs past it which is beautiful.

    There are some really great nature documentaries out there.

    David Attenborough is the man. The most recent one I watched was Frozen Planet. Highly recommend, especially in hi-def.

  253. nybgruson 09 Jan 2013 at 1:50 pm

    Your criticisms are also absurd. You challenge basic principals as being arguments from popularity, but that trivializes them and ignores the very real differences between different moral ideas. You won’t even grant the most basic moral concepts, like harm is bad, or most people would rather not be tortured and murdered, or it’s better to be fair than unfair. When you strip it down your rejection of moral philosophy is that it has to make the huge leap of faith and say that harm is bad. Wow – what a stretch. Yeah – moral philosophy collapses like a house of cards when you point out how shaky its foundations are. Harm is bad – what a crock.

    Tell me – who is making the bigger leap of faith. A moral philosopher for going way out on a limb and saying, “Ok, let’s assume we can agree with the basic idea that harm is bad,” or you for saying that magic man in the sky exists, has moral codes for us, imbued them into us and inspired a couple hundred religions to try to interpret his morals. Yeah – that’s objective and reasonable.

    I picked up on this as well Dr. Novella, as I posted simultaneously to you.

    Sure, we all has assumptions. But the assumption that harm is bad is much easier to defend than any theistic assumption. The double standard Zach grants himself is absolutely astounding.

  254. rezistnzisfutlon 09 Jan 2013 at 3:05 pm

    Great posts guys, very comprehensive and thought provoking. I’m just afraid it may be lost on poor Zach, but I may be wrong, who knows. Afterall, the level of cognitive dissonance he operates at paired with his religious delusion allows for free and open expression of logical fallacies, intellectual dishonesty, and factual inaccuracies.

    I applaud you on your patience and willingness to do the heavy lifting for Zach – there is some heady stuff in there. I don’t expect he’ll understand or agree with most of it, but perhaps it’ll plant seeds of thought that may yet develop. I have to remember that I, too, was once a pretty hardcore theist who believed many of the things he does, though I don’t think I was ever quite that thick-headed. I certainly wouldn’t have gone out of my way to mangle and deny what the science and positions of those who are experts in the field said – if I were speaking with a physicist, for instance, I would at least accept what (s)he was saying about what physics says, and not try to challenge it like Zach is doing. I call that hubris.

    Even with the different tack you guys took, it still leaves Zach with the burden of proof that absolute morality exists and it necessarily requires a law giver (aka, the christian god of the bible).

  255. Zachon 09 Jan 2013 at 3:08 pm

    You are saying morality is either objective or not objective. But, as I have pointed out, objectivity does not have to be an absolute binary state. What you really mean is that morality is either 100% absolutely objective or not 100% absolutely objective. This would not be a false dichotomy. Your unstated major premise is that “objective” = “100% absolutely objective” and this cannot be assumed.

    We obviously need to further define our terms.

    Morality (or a moral system) is a determination of moral behavior – it is the principles that tell us what behavior is correct and what behavior is wrong. Or from the dictionary, “conformity to the rules of right conduct; moral or virtuous conduct.” Do you agree?

    Objective – “not influenced by personal feelings, interpretations, or prejudice; based on facts; unbiased: an objective opinion.”

    How can objective morality be 90% or 30% or 10% objective?

    You are correct that I do state that objective morality is EITHER 100% absolutely objective or 100% not absolutely objective. But you claim it can be somewhere in between, and doesn’t have to be 100% objective.

    You are wrong. As demonstrated by the very definition of the word, something can only be objectively true or objectively false. So it is not an unstated premise, it is a fact by the very definition of the words. This is nothing but equivocation.

    “Further, you then proceed to conclude that any moral system that is not 100% absolutely objective is not a moral system at all, and necessarily is dependent upon multiple assumptions and logical fallacies.”

    First, what other assumptions and logical fallacies – demonstrate then don’t pontificate them.
    Second, further implies that this train of thought proceeds from your previous point – which I just demonstrated to be false, but regardless I would fix this statement anyways. I say that a moral system that is not rooted an objective standard can either not exist, or exist only by relying on logical fallacies. There, I have provided you with a direct statement once again, go with that instead of making a straw man argument from equivocating the meaning of objective.

    “First, your accusation of logical fallacies for moral principles is incorrect, because you are mostly applying criteria of empirical claims.”

    This is nonsensical. You are assuming that moral principles are nothing more than what we like (relativism), make up your mind. You can’t have it both ways. Either slavery is absolutely wrong or it is not – would you say it’s only 52% wrong? Either slavery is or is not wrong. If it is not wrong you can say that that specific act happens to morally fine, or you could say that there is not morality in which all actions are equal. Explain to me how you arrive at some alternative idea of morality that excuses logic – but yet somehow is rooted in logic and reason…

    “As someone said, it is partly like money. Money has value because everyone agrees that it has value, but the value is real in any practical sense.”

    False analogy, we decided that money would be worth something. If you say we decided that some morality is better than others you are back to the notion of who decides which moral actions are worth more than others. This analogy doesn’t work unless you are a moral relativist (which is appears you are heading that way if not already there).

    “I am not saying that morality is based solely on popularity. Nor am I saying that any moral notion is absolutely universal. It’s all gray.”

    If this does not prove you to be a moral relativist then I don’t know what will. You are essentially over complicating something in order to avoid the ramification of any specific aspect of your moral view – it won’t work. If morality is gray then it is no more right to harm than to help. You can call it favorable, but this implies that you know what is actually favorable, unless you are willing to accept that it is nothing more than “I LIKE THIS”. And if that’s the case you are back to square one. Why is what you like any better than what Bill likes? You say because I have reason on my side and logic! No, you departed that train long ago when you charged that you can’t apply logical fallacies (or logic) to non-empirical claims. You have cut off the branch you are sitting on.

    “So – a philosophy based moral system is a moral system – it is morality – whether you like it or not. Saying that there is no morality without 100% absolute objective morality makes no sense. You can criticize a philosophy-based moral system (either in general, or any specific system) but that does not mean it isn’t a moral system”

    See my first point demonstrating this to be blatantly incorrect.

    “You won’t even grant the most basic moral concepts, like harm is bad, or most people would rather not be tortured and murdered, or it’s better to be fair than unfair.”

    Why should I? Evidence?

    Sorry, but I don’t accept blind faith as a reason. If that works for you fine, but I’ll stick with logic, reality, and the scientific method – thanks for the offer though.

    “Tell me – who is making the bigger leap of faith. A moral philosopher for going way out on a limb and saying, “Ok, let’s assume we can agree with the basic idea that harm is bad,” or you for saying that magic man in the sky exists, has moral codes for us, imbued them into us and inspired a couple hundred religions to try to interpret his morals. Yeah – that’s objective and reasonable.”

    This is nothing but desperation put into the form of a straw man argument with an appeal to emotion, doesn’t persuade me. I expect this from some of the others here, but not you. You should know better.

    “Your double standard is unbelievable.”

    Nothing but a “NO YOU!” remark. Appeal to emotion fallacy unneeded.

    “Further, just to drive this home, you still are making the mistake of saying that anything less than 100% absolute objectivity is of no value and all equally worthless. ”

    See my first point. You have the basic definitions of the conversation wrong. Fix that and you might see where you went wrong.

    “Again – nonsense – a false equivalency argument.”

    I thought we are talking about non-empirical claims so the logical fallacies don’t apply? Interesting how they only apply to me and not you…

    “So – is it fair to say that a moral system that is internally logical consistent is better than one that isn’t”

    Lets test this.
    John’s moral system says that he should slight everyone who was ever nice to him, and fulfill all of his basic primal desires – all well keeping consquentialism in mind.
    That is a logical system that is consistent. So why is yours better? Evidence please, no fallacy of emotion or faith based beliefs please.

    “No, because a third option is “partially objective” – in other words some objectivity but a purely objective system is not sufficient. And other scenarios I can’t think of. Hence the dichotomy is false.”

    Again, like Steven, you need to look up the world objective and tell me how this is not nonsensical equivocation.

    “So which is it? Objective or no morality or convective or non-objective?”

    A good question, glad you asked.

    I assert it must be objective otherwise it is non-existent (something no one wants, it might be, but if so that’s bad new bear for us), since Steven is doing a pretty solid job at demonstrating for us how flawed the non-objective view is and how faith based and fallacy driven it is.

    “You also ignore yet another option – what if there actually is no morality?”

    You are not reading my posts, read them please before responding, I address this issue directly as a 3rd option, but leave it out since no one really thinks this. It might be the answer, but why argue against a point no one is advocating.

    “Fail again. IF there is such a thing as morality and IF it is objective, it does NOT logically follow that there MUST be a Moral Lawgiver. The temperature of things in the universe is OBJECTIVE but not because there is a Temperature Lawgiver.”

    Again, I already directly covered this, you are clearly not reading my posts. I said that morality demands a moral lawgiver and that lawgiver could be like the laws of math or like a mind – personal and impersonal. Which is another reason when people attack my view of lawgiver being = to Yahweh they are mistaken. I never even said it had to be a God, I said it had to be objective, which implies impersonal or personal.

    “But what if I don’y like the purpose I was created for? What if I want to do something different? Would your creator use force to make me do it anyways? What if I forced the toaster to toast instead of hammer a nail? That is using my might to make right (because I created it and am telling the toaster it is “right” to toast bread and not hammer a nail). “

    This is not might makes right because do you really assert that the toaster has superior authority over my will? The creator of that toaster? Let’s be reasonable here. This is apples to oranges.

    “If your “creator” forces me to act in accordance to what he created me for, then it is making right by might. And your argument crumbles.”"

    No it it authority makes right. Which you agree to yourself if you stop and think about it. If this God didn’t make us and some other God did, and he came along and said “I”M BIGGER THAN YOU AND STRONGER DO WHAT I SAY!” then it would be might makes right.

    Does that help?

    “IF there is a creator. Nobody has established that. Once again, running around outside without having even left the gates.”

    I addressed your point about the “IF” being true. This is nonsensical to respond this way as if I asserted it when you did in this context.

    “The THEIST whose entire worldview is BASED IN FAITH and literally DEMANDS FAITH is critiquing US by saying that OUR sources are BASED IN FAITH.”

    When did I ever admit or demonstrate that I accept theism by bind faith? I reject blind faith, it’s nonsense. But if you want to think it’s ok for you then I guess I only appeal to reason and logic and hope you won’t.

  256. rezistnzisfutlon 09 Jan 2013 at 3:17 pm

    Oh, I’m there! It’s too bad I didn’t think about it when I was in Munich, I would have at least tried to make time for it. The chemistry demonstrations sounds like the coolest thing ever!

    Ok, I’m officially jealous now since you mentioned you’ve been to the MONH that many times.

    I try to make a point of visiting anything-related-to-science museums when I visit different cities that have them. There are some real gems out there in some very unexpected places. Probably the best planetarium I’ve ever been to is in Salt Lake City, along with a pretty decent science center as well, who woulda thunk it in Mormon Central? lol

    Have you watched SG Universe? From what I understand, it’s very similar in tone and writing to BSG. I didn’t like it as much as SG1, but I enjoyed it well enough. I just hope they do something with the franchise sometime in the future.

    Thanks for the tip about Frozen Planet, it’s officially on my list of next documentary to watch. Agreed about DA.

    Hey what’s your impression of Neil Degrasse Tyson? I really like him, I somewhat regard him as the Carl Sagan of our time, though perhaps not as philosophic in his approach (that I’ve seen so far).

  257. RickKon 09 Jan 2013 at 3:29 pm

    Zach:

    You ignored my challenge that the unknown moral rules of an unknowable god as interpreted through human revelations is are indistinguishable from the moral rules invented by those same people.

    So if enough people disagree that the earth is rotating around the sun then that means the earth is no longer rotating around the sun?
    If enough people agree that rape is preferable to consensual love, then rape is preferable?

    You asked if what is “right” is “right” regardless of how many people think it is.

    Physical facts and moral value judgements are separate things. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt that you understand your comparison with the Solar System is invalid.

    As for rape, rape as a physical assault violates our innate (evolutionary) sense of self-preservation, fairness and empathy. Those are hard-wired human traits, easily explainable by selfish genes – no God required. Consensual love? We have many societies where consensual love is secondary to family-arranged marriages. Is arranged marriage morally right or wrong?

    What? If there is a creator this has a major effect on us. No idea how you came to this conclusion. But you asked for one, and now you say it’s nonsense?

    Yes it is nonsensical because punishment in the afterlife is indistinguishable from no punishment at all. Again, God and the afterlife have all the characteristics of human invention. Until you can prove they are not human invention, they are an invalid realm for debate. A very significant early Christian sect believed the God of Jesus and the God of the OT were two separate Gods, both to be revered. So your example fails even within the realm of your own religion.

    With morality it is not the same [as economic rules]. We don’t know the purpose of mankind (if there even is one), and we don’t know what the result of morality should be.

    Again, nonsense. We can have and live by moral codes without knowing the ultimate purpose of humanity. Everybody does that every day. Economic rules are the rules that we follow to trade effectively. Moral rules are the rules we follow to live effectively. Both are human inventions and are emergent properties of evolution and culture.

    You’re just trying to hide. Your morality is based on the same things mine is – evolution and cultural influences. You just choose to apply an invented divine agent to your moral rules, just as humans in the past applied divine agents to earthquakes and celestial objects.

    But you haven’t demonstrated with anything but blind faith that slavery is in fact wrong. You assume it. And why should the Romans get on board with what you think?

    Slavery is wrong within the context of our culture. We have an innate sense of fairness and empathy, we have a non-zero-sum economy where greater levels of cooperation make everybody better off, and we have historical lessons that societies can flourish without the inherent unfairness of slavery.

    Larry Niven sets up a scenario at the end of “Lucifer’s Hammer” where a zero-sum society must make a choice between enslaving prisoners of war or killing them. In that case, slavery is seen as the superior moral alternative.

    There are no cosmic moral absolutes. There is only what evolution and culture instill, and what structured thinking refines and codifies.

  258. rezistnzisfutlon 09 Jan 2013 at 3:34 pm

    Zach, you really need to learn what a logical fallacy is, you are constantly misapplying them. You really need to learn what logic is – it seems to me that you’re equating logic with common sense, which is not correct.

    A logical fallacy is ALWAYS when a conclusion does not follow a premise. They come in two flavors: formal and informal. Most often in these forums we utilize informal fallacies.

    Here’s an example of one you misapplied:

    “Your double standard is unbelievable.”

    Nothing but a “NO YOU!” remark. Appeal to emotion fallacy unneeded.

    Concluding that you are holding a double standard satisfies the premise that you deride people here by saying that their morality is entirely faith-based when yours is necessarily faith-based as well.

    I could easily pull out a dozen more from you if I wanted, but in the interest of time and space, I’m hoping the one will suffice.

    Identifying logical fallacies can be a little tricky sometimes, but that can usually be resolved by identifying the premise and conclusion then seeing if they are logically consistent. Once in a while it’s pretty grey because of the language, at which point I personally err on the side of not accusing them of it, or better yet, clarifying with them.

    A lot of the guys here are pretty well versed in logical and logical fallacies, and can usually smell a rat pretty quickly even when the language is muddled. I still need to occasionally refer to google just to make sure what I’m seeing is indeed a logical fallacy. It’s called being intellectually honest and doing due diligence, perhaps you could give it a whirl sometime.

  259. autumnmonkeyon 09 Jan 2013 at 3:36 pm

    Insomniac:

    The other solution of course is that God is not moral, but I doubt you would think such thing.

    The theist response is predictable: Why would you assume those horrific practices are immoral? By what objective standard?

    And then the merry-go-round continues.

    Zach:

    I get your view, it just can’t work with reality as we know it, that’s the point I have been demonstrating, which you need to realize.

    By what objective standard can you say it’s not working? You’ve offered none.

    Zach:

    I might mean slavery makes the world work better because of it’s economic benefits to the intellectual class. You might argue that slavery makes the world worse and does not work because for you what works is people having the same opertunities. And here we are again back to the same problem. Who’s right and why? WHoever has the biggest gun?

    No, it comes down to improved human rights and living conditions. But if you’re referring to economics, slavery was much less efficient than free labor. There is no dispute in this among economists. The only ones who argued otherwise are those with a vested interest in the status quo, like the slave owners and some of the authors of the bible.

    Zach:

    This implies that you have some standard from which to measure progress, otherwise how do you know mankind really is progressing? Maybe we are regressing! How do we know?

    Because we’re better off Zach in every measurable aspect – health, happiness, wealth, legal and political environment, knowledge of how the world operates, family conditions, and, yes, we’re better morally. We can measure we’re better off by comparing what we have now compared with what we had before. Yes, we have standards, but they’re not absolute. Ever hear of the Sleep Number bed? By your reasoning, such a device is illogical because we can’t declare an objective level of comfort.

    Think of it another way. You’re asking us for an animal that can be used for riding that has a big horn on its head. We tell you that riding animals don’t come like that, but we do have horses. You point out the lacking horn on our horse’s head and thusly declare your unicorn must exist. (Don’t reply back that you said nothing about unicorns. I’m starting to use analogies because you don’t seem to understand when we tell you that you’re committing logical fallacies. I’m even wondering if we should start using parables and nursery rhymes.)

    Zach:

    Wrong, it’s very rational to say you have something I want – TAKE!!!!!!!! Self-preservation and fulfilling impulses evolution has provided us is very rational. You might no like it, but I would argue it is irrational to suppress my animalistic instincts that evolution gave me.

    How does that perverse rationality disappear with an objective moral system? There’s no penalty for violating the imaginary objective system. The penalty offered (hell) doesn’t exist. This is why I said you’re creating imaginary solutions to non-existent problems. You’ve got a long chain of invisible items to make it work (God, Jesus, Satan, hell, heaven, objective morality, resurrection, etc.), and yet it’s still full of illogical holes.

    It’s not rational to steal under the conditions we operate because there’s a real penalty called prison. Rational people can figure out going to prison is worse than having a plasma TV. I also don’t steal because I don’t want people stealing from me. I also feel an innate compassion for the person whose goods are being stolen. To go against those feelings requires something like a criminal pathology or rabid ideologue, but it’s not a reasonable mind.

    Zach:

    The focus is on the notion that there must be an objective standard.

    That sounds like those infomercials telling me I must own a 43 piece whisk set.

    Zach:

    Yet atheist and agnostics will quickly attribute Christianity to Hitler and others any second they can…. Double standard much?

    That attribution always comes after theists comparing Stalin or immorality to atheism. We don’t point that out as a serious argument. It’s pointed out to highlight the fallacy of what you’re doing.

    Zach:

    I never said that, you did.

    Liar. You clearly stated that science was rooted in christianity. This is indeed the argument you’re making: Person X was a christian, person X did science, therefore science is rooted in christianity.

    Zach:

    Really? Any evidence for this naked assertion?

    Yes, it’s called a dictionary. Morality is conformity to a set of rules for right conduct and virtuous character. The terms conduct and character and virtue are human properties demonstrated in relation to each other. They don’t exist outside those human relations.

    Zach:

    You are correct. I would then proceed to attack his objective standard as the wrong standard with evidence why I believe that.

    And you both would be engaging in a debate comparable to one about dancing angels on pinheads. You both assume things not proven to exist. Atheists don’t do that.

    Zach:

    You can’t even provide a non-theistic objective standard.

    No objective standard of any kind has ever been shown to exist, Zach. If you asked me to draw a five sided square I couldn’t do that, either. Show me your five sided square before asking me for one. I can draw you a four sided square (which is what we’ve been doing), but you keep coming back complaining what we’re drawing is missing a side.

    Zach:

    However, where Christianity is unique, is Christianity said to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. Christianity took the golden rule and applied to one’s enemy. Quite a revolutionary idea that did not sit well, and still doesn’t all that much.

    This idea came from the Stoics. This is the third time I’ve corrected you. I expect you to continue in your error, though.

    Zach:

    Animals eat other animals all the time, why should I treat other humans like they are more valuable than rocks, trees, plants or bees?

    Jeebuz Christ, there are DIFFERENT KINDS OF ANIMALS, Zach! Why the hell do you pretend humans and lions are the same thing? Some animals clean themselves with their tongue, but why would I think that without an objective moral system that humans will start doing the same?

    Zach:

    B “There are NO coins in my pocket right now.” (negative) Scientist looks into my pocket, sees the coins, assertion is false. The negative is disproved.

    If it were a theist’s pocket, he’d say the coins are transcendent coins.

  260. rezistnzisfutlon 09 Jan 2013 at 3:39 pm

    @Zach

    I have to hand it to ya, you’ve really hung in there, more or less keeping up with the conversation against several people who oppose your philosophy and thinking, some of them a little hostile [looking sheepishly around], and you haven’t lost your cool too much. Don’t get me wrong, I think your position is asinine, absurd, and puerile, but hey, credit where credit’s due.

  261. Steven Novellaon 09 Jan 2013 at 3:50 pm

    Zach – you are not understanding the difference between empirical claims and value judgments, and you keep shifting back and forth in your criteria or assuming we are because you keep missing the context.

    Right and wrong, or correct and wrong, are not absolute states. There are gradations – especially where value judgments are concerned.

    For example, is it wrong to say the Earth is a sphere? Technically, yes, but it is only a little wrong. It is correct to some extent, but needs tweaks to be technically correct.

    Is it wrong to say the earth is a cube? Yes, totally. It is more wrong to say it is a cube than to say it is a sphere – but how could it be “more wrong” if right and wrong are absolutes?

    Philosophical moral systems strive to be objective by starting with the most basic assumptions possible, by examining those assumptions cross-culturally, by using consistent logic, by using facts whenever possible etc. But they are not totally objective because there are first principles that have to be taken as givens. This is more objective than a system which is based upon the whims of a tyrant, for example.

    You are essentially saying these two systems are both worthless because they are not 100% objective. Further you are saying I have no basis from which to say the philosophical moral system is better than the whims of a tyrant. You equate this to “blind faith.” This is, again, absurd.

    You wrote:
    “I thought we are talking about non-empirical claims so the logical fallacies don’t apply? Interesting how they only apply to me and not you…”

    You misunderstand. I did not say that logic does not apply to philosophy or moral systems, only that you are falsely applying specific fallacies to statements as if they were empirical when they are not.

    The rest of your argument falls apart from there, as your premises are all faulty.

    So, to be clear you are unwilling to grant even the most basic and near universal concepts that philosophers can devise. How about – people generally have certain things that they would rather not have done to them. These things may differ from person to person, but generally speaking most people have likes and dislikes. This can even be empirically tested by psychological studies and surveys.

    It is true that is order to go from the above is to an ought you need to insert a value judgement – like harm is bad. You can dismiss that as blind faith, but it is then you who are playing emotional semantic games. I call this a reasonable first principle on which most people can agree. You call it blind faith.

    You missed another point I made later about internal logical consistency. I was just trying to get you to agree to the very simple statement that a moral system that is internally logically consistent is better than one that is not. I was not trying to say that this is a sole or sufficient criterion for a moral system, which you seemed to infer. Just one simple point. If you agree that internal logical consistency is better than being self-contradictory, then at least there is one objective criterion by which one moral system can be said to be better than another (even if both are not 100% objective).

    I am curious about your own moral system, however, which you have been quite squirrely about. How is it, again, that your moral system is objective? How is it based on anything other than faith? Are you saying that you can prove God’s existence, and/or that you can prove you know the will of God. Wow – that’s impressive. Do tell.

  262. nybgruson 09 Jan 2013 at 3:52 pm

    Sorry, but I don’t accept blind faith as a reason. If that works for you fine, but I’ll stick with logic, reality, and the scientific method – thanks for the offer though.

    Zach you owe me a professional keyboard cleaning. I was eating a sandwich when I read that and laughed so hard I spewed crumbs everywhere.

  263. nybgruson 09 Jan 2013 at 4:01 pm

    You are not reading my posts, read them please before responding, I address this issue directly as a 3rd option, but leave it out since no one really thinks this. It might be the answer, but why argue against a point no one is advocating.

    Because regardless of whether anyone is advocating it or not it is still a third option and invalidates your false dichotomy!!!!!!!!!!.

    This is not might makes right because do you really assert that the toaster has superior authority over my will? The creator of that toaster? Let’s be reasonable here. This is apples to oranges.

    The fact that you are stupid enough to subjugate your will to someone else does not negate the might makes right of it. I refuse to subjugate my will. The only choice is for your creator to use force. Just because you make a special exception to that use of force doesn’t change it. Your creator can go stick it where the sun don’t shine as far as I am concerned.

    No it it authority makes right. Which you agree to yourself if you stop and think about it. If this God didn’t make us and some other God did, and he came along and said “I”M BIGGER THAN YOU AND STRONGER DO WHAT I SAY!” then it would be might makes right.

    I’m sorry – why does he have authority over me because he created me? Can I have some evidence please? Remember, I am a person of science. I don’t like this blind faith based stuff that just baldly <i.asserts he has authority over me because he created me. Why should I believe you that he has authority over me? I don’t see any reason.

    I have thought about it. My parents “created” me. They do not have absolute authority over me. If you argue that they do, then you cannot say that child abuse and rape by parents of their biological children is amoral. If they do not have absolute authority over me, then neither does your god who supposedly created me. If he exerts that authority because he is stronger than me and makes me do it, then you’re back to having no argument whatsoever.

    When did I ever admit or demonstrate that I accept theism by bind faith? I reject blind faith, it’s nonsense.

    Oh sweet baby Jesus. The theist arguing that theism doesn’t require faith. What planet do you live on? Perhaps you and Bill O’ Reilly can get together and discuss how Christianity isn’t a religion either.

    Now you owe me an opthalmology visit because I may have harmed my extra ocular muscles rolling my eyes so far back into my head.

  264. autumnmonkeyon 09 Jan 2013 at 4:05 pm

    nybgrus:

    The temperature of things in the universe is OBJECTIVE but not because there is a Temperature Lawgiver. Your logic fails.

    His logic does tell him there’s a Temperature Lawgiver. It’s that same logic which is getting him in trouble with morality.

  265. rezistnzisfutlon 09 Jan 2013 at 4:08 pm

    @nybgrus

    “Sorry, but I don’t accept blind faith as a reason. If that works for you fine, but I’ll stick with logic, reality, and the scientific method – thanks for the offer though.”

    Zach you owe me a professional keyboard cleaning. I was eating a sandwich when I read that and laughed so hard I spewed crumbs everywhere.

    I know, right? I mean, that is pure audacity after the utter mangling of science, misuse of logic, and clear misunderstanding of all of those things he’s displayed. It’s a pretty outrageous statement, but a common trait among religious fundamentalists.

  266. nybgruson 09 Jan 2013 at 4:09 pm

    @resiztnftl:

    (BTW I always forget to comment I love your ‘nym too. Have you noticed there is also a locutsofbrg here as well?)

    Oh, I’m there! It’s too bad I didn’t think about it when I was in Munich, I would have at least tried to make time for it. The chemistry demonstrations sounds like the coolest thing ever!

    You should next time you get the chance. Really awesome stuff.

    Ok, I’m officially jealous now since you mentioned you’ve been to the MONH that many times

    My sister lived in NYC Manhattan for over a decade and I visited often. My first visit was around 13 years of age. My second date with my now fiance was in NYC, which is why I proposed to her there this year (3 years later).

    Have you watched SG Universe?

    No, that was right when I was getting too busy with other stuff and I recall watching a few episodes and was put off by it. I like the campy fun of SG-1 and Atlantis. I also didn’t particularly like Caprica (the prequel to BSG) though I tried a number of eps of it. Just didn’t captivate me the same way. In a world where I had unlimited time, I would still watch them, but with far too little time it just didn’t crack the priority list.

    Hey what’s your impression of Neil Degrasse Tyson?

    He is awesome and my fiance absolutely loves him. She just about fell over when she realized that I was taking her to the MONH where the Hayden Planetarium was… and who the director was.

    I am halfway through his great lectures series and it is great. I’m just more of a squishy scientist and, once again, time limitations mean I don’t focus so much on NdGT. My fiance listens to his podcast regularly though.

    BTW, thoroughly enjoying this little side convo. Pleasant change of pace from the brick wall we are otherwise trying to communicate to. I feel like that scene in ID4 where they fly the helicoptor with the lights to try and make symbols at the spaceship in an attempt to communicate. LOL. Thankfully he can’t just blow us out of the sky with impunity.

  267. Zachon 09 Jan 2013 at 4:16 pm

    “You ignored my challenge that the unknown moral rules of an unknowable god as interpreted through human revelations is are indistinguishable from the moral rules invented by those same people.”

    I didn’t ignore it, it’s irrelevant to the point I am asserting, which is morality is either objective or doesn’t exist. Objective doesn’t equal Yahweh so I don’t have to defend this notion.

    “As for rape, rape as a physical assault violates our innate (evolutionary) sense of self-preservation, fairness and empathy. Those are hard-wired human traits, easily explainable by selfish genes – no God required.”

    False. For if to not rape were truly our innate evolutionary attribute hard-wired into us, then there would be no human rape. You are claiming that we ought behave differently than we sometimes do. This requires evidence.

    “no God required.”

    Who said anything about a God? That’s not the point I am attempting to prove in this conversation. Sure I obviously conclude morality leads to the conclusion that it is attributed to Yahweh, but that is completely irrelevant since in this discussion I am NOT trying to assert that point for you to accept – for if I did that I would be required to provide logical reasons and evidence. I haven’t attempted to do so. I have simply attempted to demonstrate that morality is either objective or cannot exist. So stop making a straw man argument here.

    “Yes it is nonsensical because punishment in the afterlife is indistinguishable from no punishment at all. Again, God and the afterlife have all the characteristics of human invention. Until you can prove they are not human invention, they are an invalid realm for debate. A very significant early Christian sect believed the God of Jesus and the God of the OT were two separate Gods, both to be revered. So your example fails even within the realm of your own religion.”

    I honestly have no idea what you are saying. You merely asked me for a moral rule that Yahweh stated that is absolute and across the board. I gave one, now you are arguing about how there can’t be an afterlife or a God…. What? I don’t get it. You are all over the place.

    “We can have and live by moral codes without knowing the ultimate purpose of humanity. Everybody does that every day.“

    Which culture’s moral codes? Are all them equal? If not, prove it.

    “Moral rules are the rules we follow to live effectively.”

    Tell me more about this “Live effectively” and how that doesn’t assume you have inside information on the purpose of humanity? This suggests that you know what is effective and what is not effective – basically how we are to live. How are we to live and how did you determine that? Can I see your objective standard for how you came to that conclusion? You are clearly appealing to one.

    “You just choose to apply an invented divine agent to your moral rules”

    No, I am asserting that morality must be rooted in an objective standard not a divine agent, there is a difference. After that point it doesn’t matter at all if I think that objective standard is Yahweh, Allah, The flying Spaghetti monster, or rooted in string theory. Why? Because I’m not defending that notion right now. That question comes later once you all have dropped this nonsensical view of morality being not-objective.

    “Slavery is wrong within the context of our culture. We have an innate sense of fairness and empathy, we have a non-zero-sum economy where greater levels of cooperation make everybody better off, and we have historical lessons that societies can flourish without the inherent unfairness of slavery.”

    So is it right within the context of other past cultures? Did they not have an innate sense of fairness and empathy?

    Flourish? Ok, so what actions make for better results (flourishing). Can you please provide your objective standard that you are clearly appealing to?

    And again, why should I be unfair? Is this going to be another reason rooted in blind faith?

    No thanks.

    “Larry Niven sets up a scenario at the end of “Lucifer’s Hammer” where a zero-sum society must make a choice between enslaving prisoners of war or killing them. In that case, slavery is seen as the superior moral alternative.”

    So? You till haven’t explained your view with logical reasoning.

    “There are no cosmic moral absolutes. There is only what evolution and culture instill, and what structured thinking refines and codifies.”

    Then one should presume that you agree with majority rule (which is might makes right).

    If the majority decides that it is logical and better for the majority that killing off the sick and old is better for our flourishing then it is. If they decide that slavery is once again better for us, then it is.

    Say hello to moral relativism for me.

    Rezistnzisfutlo

    I am really not trying to be mean or spiteful, but I am literally skipping over your posts and not reading them. Not because I don’t want to engage your arguments, but because this stuff upsets you too much. So I figured I would warn you to help save you your time. Again, no offense is meant by this. Just being honest and trying to help you.

    “No, it comes down to improved human rights and living conditions.”

    Please provide your objective standard for what moral actions are improvements and what actions are not.

    “Because we’re better off Zach in every measurable aspect – health, happiness, wealth, legal and political environment, knowledge of how the world operates, family conditions, and, yes, we’re better morally. We can measure we’re better off by comparing what we have now compared with what we had before. Yes, we have standards, but they’re not absolute. “

    Better off,
    Happiness,
    Morally,

    Please provide your objective standard for these terms. You opinion on what they are is of little interest to me.

    “But they are not totally objective because there are first principles that have to be taken as givens.”

    Sorry I don’t have this kind of faith.
    Glad you do, must make thing easier, I don’t mean that in a derogatory way.

    “So, to be clear you are unwilling to grant even the most basic and near universal concepts that philosophers can devise. How about – people generally have certain things that they would rather not have done to them. These things may differ from person to person, but generally speaking most people have likes and dislikes. This can even be empirically tested by psychological studies and surveys.”

    How about you providing some evidence to why I a person should then take this notion, and leap to saying they should want that for others. Should they want that for platns, trees, birds or bees?

    Evidence please, not naked assertions.

    “It is true that is order to go from the above is to an ought you need to insert a value judgment – like harm is bad. You can dismiss that as blind faith, but it is then you who are playing emotional semantic games. I call this a reasonable first principle on which most people can agree. You call it blind faith.”

    Is the notion of everything that was created demands a creator a reasonable first principle on which most people can agree? I think you would call this false and blind faith. Why is your view any different?

    You cannot have your cake and eat it to.

    Objective evidence for why it is bad please. Your opinion is not compelling evidence.

    “How is it, again, that your moral system is objective?”

    Because it is rooted in something other than man’s opinion that is made up of unproven premises. Sure you might say that my specific standard is wrong, but my acceptance of the notion that morality is either objective or doesn’t exist has not been touched. The two stand alone. The second relies on the first but not the first on the second.

    “Are you saying that you can prove God’s existence, and/or that you can prove you know the will of God. Wow – that’s impressive. Do tell.”

    A conversation I am willing to have, but it’s not the one we are having, so it’s a Red Herring right now. My notion that morality is rooted in an objective standard stands separate from the notion that the exact morals can be known by observing what Yahweh has told us through yadda yadda yadda.

    The second is reliant on the first, the first is not reliant on the second. It is the first point we are discussing. If you don’t accept the first point then there is zero pointing discussing the first.

    “For example, is it wrong to say the Earth is a sphere? Technically, yes, but it is only a little wrong. It is correct to some extent, but needs tweaks to be technically correct.”

    Steven… no! By the very definition of objective that would be objectively wrong. If someone said the Earth is LIKE a sphere then that would be correct. I get what you are getting at but you are equivocating on the term objective once again.

  268. rezistnzisfutlon 09 Jan 2013 at 4:23 pm

    This is not might makes right because do you really assert that the toaster has superior authority over my will? The creator of that toaster? Let’s be reasonable here. This is apples to oranges.

    Superior authority? No, I don’t assert that. I assert that Mr. Toaster can ignore me and do as he pleases. He can even tell me to stuff it. The only option at that point is either MAKE him obey me by physically performing the act through him, which means I’M the one performing the act in reality, or punishing him for not obeying me. In either case, he is not submitting his will to me even though I’m his creator, which is might makes right.

    No it it authority makes right.

    If I choose not to obey his authority, what happens? Nothing? Then he’s not an authority. Throws me in the pits of hellfire for all eternity? Then it’s might makes right.

    Again, all this is semantic games that you invented by claiming that, if there is no absolute morality, then we’re informed by what evolution “tells us” (whatever that means) and one of those things is “might makes right”, which, of course, it doesn’t say. You’re being disingenuous in your refusal to accept what Theory of Evolution ACTUALLY says, but instead accept what answersingenesis says, which, of course, is a massive strawman.

  269. nybgruson 09 Jan 2013 at 4:28 pm

    Truly impressively mind boggling.

    Because it is rooted in something other than man’s opinion that is made up of unproven premises. Sure you might say that my specific standard is wrong, but my acceptance of the notion that morality is either objective or doesn’t exist has not been touched. The two stand alone. The second relies on the first but not the first on the second.

    But then you need evidence that it exists. Simply asserting that it must or else there is no such thing as morality doesn’t constitute evidence. You cannot on the one hand say our unproven premises are wrong, and thus that means your unproven premise of objective morality is correct. I can’t begin to count how many times this has been said to you in how many different ways.

    So before we can even begin to say if your morality is better or worse (right and wrong make no sense in this context) you have to establish that your morality exists – a purely objective one separate from mankind. You – nor anyone – has actually done this. It is a faith based bald assertion. Nothing more.

    So you’ve actually got your causality reversed here. The first relies on the second, not the other way around. FIRST you must prove that morality is objective THEN you can discuss if it is correct/better/worse/etc.

    Steven… no! By the very definition of objective that would be objectively wrong. If someone said the Earth is LIKE a sphere then that would be correct. I get what you are getting at but you are equivocating on the term objective once again.

    If you can’t understand this logical statement then you really are lost.

    The earth is not a sphere – it is an ovoid shape. Calling it “like a sphere” is correct. Calling it a sphere is incorrect. That much you have said yourself. Calling it a cube would be incorrect as well. Calling it a flat disk would be incorrect. We have 3 incorrect statements. Which one is closer to the correct statement? Which one is further away?

    Obviously, to anyone with a brain that can actually employ logic, the sphere is the least wrong, cube more wrong than that, and flat disk the most wrong.

    My 9 year old nephew understands this better than you.

  270. nybgruson 09 Jan 2013 at 4:38 pm

    The theist who critiques us for assuming axiomatic principles of moral philosophy on “faith”, also critiques us for playing semantic games when he is trying to convince us that enforcing your might on your creation is not actually might, but is really authority and they are totally different so nanny nanny boo boo stick your head in doo doo.

    What’s worse is that even IF he were able to prove his assertion, he would still be left holding the bag trying to prove who hold authority over me. It certainly isn’t a god that doesn’t exist. And if he does, he can come over and have lunch with me to prove it. I make tea and crumpets with marmalade. I think I’ll be waiting a while.

    I believe you stated you had a child (IIRC you said something about being a father). Tell me, since you created that child in every sense of the word, is there anything you cannot tell him/her to do or do to him/her that would be morally wrong?

    Or what about if I clone a human. Can I do whatever I want to it and have it be morally right?

    Maybe this is why so many theists are up in arms about cloning and stem cell research. If we have “creative authority” over another human, we become gods, and their worldview flies out the window. Just a random passing thought…

  271. rezistnzisfutlon 09 Jan 2013 at 4:41 pm

    Not because I don’t want to engage your arguments, but because this stuff upsets you too much.

    I question your motivation as well as reasoning for not talking to me, but I’d find your patronizing insulting if I didn’t find you amusingly absurd…

  272. rezistnzisfutlon 09 Jan 2013 at 5:02 pm

    Obviously, to anyone with a brain that can actually employ logic, the sphere is the least wrong, cube more wrong than that, and flat disk the most wrong.

    That’s the thing, his motivated reasoning and cognitive dissonance prevents him from seeing this. Dr. Novella was trying to illustrate through analogy that there are varying levels of what is “correct” just like there are varying levels of “right”.

    I also love how he turns around the rape scenario here:

    False. For if to not rape were truly our innate evolutionary attribute hard-wired into us, then there would be no human rape. You are claiming that we ought behave differently than we sometimes do. This requires evidence.

    Clearly, rape as a means of procreation isn’t viable and is detrimental to our survival as a species. He also doesn’t take into account how utterly unpleasant and physically harmful rape is for the victim, for although the rapist may get pleasure out of it, the trauma for the victim far outweighs any positive the perpetrator gets (not to mention the effect on the victim’s kin), and therefore societal survival is threatened. This is a concept based almost purely on science, because in a society where rape is considered morally good, then that society isn’t likely to survive long, and won’t be able to compete nearly as well where rape is considered immoral.

    Yea, this is going nowhere. You can’t reason with a person who denies logic, constantly shifts positions, equivocates, and commits a myriad logical fallacies, all the while proclaiming it’s what everyone else is doing. Amazing.

  273. Steven Novellaon 09 Jan 2013 at 5:03 pm

    Zach – I am not equivocating. I am trying to point out that knowledge is not absolute, but that does not equate to zero knowledge, which is essentially your premise (not-objective morality = no morality).

    In my example, let’s say we could only approximately measure the shape of the Earth. It is a sphere within the error bars of our measurement. We now know that this is wrong, it’s an oblate spheroid, but if the best we could do was say it is a sphere within our error bars – would that be a worthless statement? We can still map and navigate the world. In fact the sphere model works for just about every practical use. It is certainly better than a cube model (or flat model) – and that is my point. A sphere model of the earth is better than a cube, even though the sphere is not completely 100% correct.

    The analogy is – some moral systems can be better than others, even though neither is 100% verifiably objective. One system might be logically consistent while the other isn’t. One might conform better to known fact where they are relevant. One might start with first principles that are more cross cultural.

    You are trying to say that we are not talking about your moral system, but we are, because we are necessarily talking about what is the best (or at least better) approach to moral thinking. My position is that a well-thought out philosophy of morals is the best humans have, and it’s pretty good. You are saying it is the equivalent of no morals at all – a position that has been devastated here multiple times but you delusionaly claim is untouched.

    Please answer (not dodge) these questions.

    Is internal logic validity a virtue? Can it be used as a criterion to say one moral system (or any philosophical system) is better than another?

    Is imperfect knowledge the functional equivalent of no knowledge at all?

    Are there any basic moral principles that you would grant are reasonable to take as a premise for a moral philosophy? If it can be demonstrated scientifically that the vast majority of humans hold to a certain moral value, and that value generally benefits everyone, is that still a worthless premise (unless a god tells us it’s good)?

    Values are inherently subjective, no one is claiming that can be scientifically empirically proven, so why do you keep asking for such proof? The criteria we are advocating, quite clearly, is different that empirical proof.

  274. rezistnzisfutlon 09 Jan 2013 at 5:12 pm

    @nybgrus

    I was aware of locutsofbrg. As soon as I saw his handle I broke out laughing. I tried communicating with him about it, but I don’t think he saw it. So, you’d better be careful because there are two of us now and your biological and technological distinctiveness will be added to our own!

    I feel like that scene in ID4 where they fly the helicoptor with the lights to try and make symbols at the spaceship in an attempt to communicate.

    That’s exactly what it’s like. Zach is our hypothetical chess pigeon. Perhaps being a little unfair here, but I wonder if he’s done so, how many of his fundamentalist friends he’s bragged to that he really “stuck it to those atheists” and “they all think they’re so educated and logical, but they don’t know the first thing about anything!” I don’t think I was ever that smug, but I digress.

    While I do enjoy you guys’ posts, this repetition is getting a bit old. It’s not so much that he is simply disagreeing with you, he’s not absorbing anything anyone is saying. He’s just not getting it. I guess he has to be that way in order to maintain his CD. What can we do? I, for one, would hate to live life that way. Dunning-Kruger for sure.

  275. autumnmonkeyon 09 Jan 2013 at 5:12 pm

    Zach:

    Better off,
    Happiness,
    Morally,
    Please provide your objective standard for these terms. You opinion on what they are is of little interest to me.

    Go read a dictionary. And maybe think before writing drivel and hitting the submit button for a change.

  276. autumnmonkeyon 09 Jan 2013 at 5:17 pm

    Zach, here’s one for ya:

    What’s your objective standard for your objective morality?

  277. rezistnzisfutlon 09 Jan 2013 at 5:24 pm

    Values are inherently subjective, no one is claiming that can be scientifically empirically proven, so why do you keep asking for such proof?

    Unfortunately, I can see where this will likely lead to with Zach. It’ll be another moment where he askes ,”If your morality can’t be proven, then what makes your morality any better than anyone else’s? Since that can’t be determined, it would be bloody eat your neighbor’s baby pandemonium.”

    He’s just not absorbing anything no matter how many different ways it’s explained to him. Honestly, I’m at a loss as to what to offer, wish I could help, guys. I suspect it’ll be left where he completely dodges his burden of proof. Hey, at least we learned how to modify HTML text!

  278. nybgruson 09 Jan 2013 at 5:32 pm

    rezistnftl:

    Clearly, rape as a means of procreation isn’t viable and is detrimental to our survival as a species. He also doesn’t take into account how utterly unpleasant and physically harmful rape is for the victim, for although the rapist may get pleasure out of it, the trauma for the victim far outweighs any positive the perpetrator gets (not to mention the effect on the victim’s kin), and therefore societal survival is threatened. This is a concept based almost purely on science, because in a society where rape is considered morally good, then that society isn’t likely to survive long, and won’t be able to compete nearly as well where rape is considered immoral.

    I’ll pick a nit with you to keep it interesting for you.

    I disagree with this statement.

    Rape is a perfectly viable means of procreation. In fact, the evolution of the duck vaginal tract is a direct product of the incredibly rapey nature of ducks.

    I would also argue that we can’t scientifically quantize the “pleasure” a rapist guest to say it is countered fully by the “pain” a rape victim gets.

    However, what we can say is that societies in which rape is institutionalized or otherwise protected – as we have seen recently in India and in Middl Eastern countries as well – do not flourish as much as societies in which the well being of women is taken into consideration.

    I would also say rape is amoral since the axiomatic principle of do no harm and the empathy we feel for it precludes it. This is built into the definition of rape, since it is sexual congress without consent, regardless of whether it is forcible or otherwise physically traumatic. We recognize the mental trauma of it irrespective of physical trauma (though certain republicans would try and have us believe otherwise) and find that a society with less trauma of any kind allows for the flourishing of its citizens.

    So while the proscription of rape itself is not a necessary evolutionary construct, the empathy and social nature of our species gives us the evolutionary first principles to call it morally repugnant.

  279. ccbowerson 09 Jan 2013 at 5:57 pm

    I have lost interest in the content of the arguments with Zach due to the lack of comprehension and progress on his part. It is, however, a facinating example of motivated reasoning.

    He has created his own rules for applying logic, he has misinterpreted and misapplied both science and philosophy nearly every time, and he has misunderstood and disregarded all of the reasonable arguments that point out his errors. He does all this to make room for his ideology, which in reality is inconsistent with reality, so he needs to recreate his own rules to allow it to all fit.

    He utilizes circular reasoning, double standards, begging the question, the Nirvana fallacy, false dichotomy, false equivalence, begging the question, starman etc etc etc. all to make his ideology more palatable to himself. Perhaps worse is that he doesn’t even understand these logical fallacies, because he also misattributes them to others when they don’t apply. Its an extreme example of motivated reasoning, and it is interesting (although frustrating) to see it in action

  280. BillyJoe7on 09 Jan 2013 at 5:58 pm

    Zach,

    You are going round and round and round and round the merry-go-round.
    I think you should ask the man to stop the damn thing so you can get off, recover your balance, and have a good look around.
    Start by familiarising yourself with evolutionary theory and logical fallacies.
    You probably see yourself as David v Goliath but, unfortunately, you are hurling feathers from a sling shot made of a twigs and cotton.

    If you must continue perhaps concentrate entirely of Steven Novella’s three questions and give everything else a rest for a while. Otherwise you are going to lose your audience. Certainly I’ve had enough. So here’s your chance. Answer those questions honestly, with due consideration, and without resort to the reflex pat answers that have characterised your activity here so far.
    Are you up for it?

  281. rezistnzisfutlon 09 Jan 2013 at 5:58 pm

    Hmm, very interesting thoughts, and what you say makes a lot of sense.

    It seems to me that, given the competitive nature of living organisms, a society that finds rape morally repugnant would be more successful than the society where rape is commonplace, even morally preferable (as Zach would propose is just as possible as any other scenario given subjective morals). Though I will admit my statement that rape as a means of procreation isn’t viable (for which I meant in the context of long-term societal survival) isn’t necessarily correct, I am of the opinion that a society where rape is considered repugnant is going to be more successful and vibrant than a society where rape is morally preferable.

    While I concede that, on a purely physical level, a woman can easily biologically become pregnant and bear a rapist’s child, and perhaps be otherwise perfectly physically healthy, the psychological and societal toll would likely result in overall reduced well-being, reduced trust that a person can feel safe, reduced freedom, and reduced societal cohesiveness and cooperation overall. We’re not talking about a small segment of the population, but half (not to mention the effects of those who are physically and emotionally close to the victim). Risking an argument ad populum, I would further submit that there is a reason why rape is generally considered bad nearly universally in cultures in at least one form or another, if not absolute.

    I’ll also concede about the measuring the level of pleasure, if any, a rapist may feel. It would seem probable that the net negative emotional effect would nearly always be most with the victim, how much that is quantitatively is definitely relative.

    This is all pure opinionated speculation as I have no data to support my claims one way or another. In that arena, at least in the realm of biology and the medical sciences, you’ve got me smoked.

    When you say “amoral”, do you actually mean amoral, or are you meaning immoral? I just want to make sure I’m understanding your meanings correctly because in the context of your sentence it seems like it should be “immoral”.

  282. ccbowerson 09 Jan 2013 at 6:00 pm

    Woops,
    strawman not starman, thats something different altogether

  283. rezistnzisfutlon 09 Jan 2013 at 6:07 pm

    @ccbowers

    A fine description. I would also add that he’s an excellent poster child for cognitive dissonance.

    @BillyJoe7

    You make a great point. In a way, it’s sad that Zach is missing the opportunity for learning and growth. I did a lot of my learning when I was challenged on things. The thing is, and this is something he’s missing, is that it requires intellectual honesty and the humility to admit you’re wrong. Interestingly, I’ve observed nearly every one of the commenters here display a willingness to admit their mistakes and even learn a thing or two, save Zach. Unfortunately, that’s what religion buys you, especially his brand of religious fundamentalism.

    At this point, the only reason I’m here is some pleasant and stimulating conversation with you guys, and to make some interesting observations on Zach. Having relinquished any vested interest in having meaningful discourse with him, I now and enjoying identifying his many logical fallacies, from an empirical perspective.

  284. rezistnzisfutlon 09 Jan 2013 at 6:09 pm

    Haha, yea, I was about to google starman fallacy. I thought I was going to learn something new!

  285. JJ Borgmanon 09 Jan 2013 at 6:25 pm

    I’d like to hear Zach on the phone with Matt Dillahunty for about thirty minutes.

    A live unedited spontaneous conversation might be much more productive.

    For Zach: that would be: The Atheist Experience on Sunday afternoons at 4:30 Central. You can google it from there. They prefer calls from theists and on any topic. It is extra points (and time) if you’re from Austin (their local area), so to speak. No deduction of points or time if you’re not.

    But Zach, Matt will hasten you to your point, so be ready for it. He will accommodate clarification, but not a Gish Gallop.

    Here’s hoping you make the call!

  286. rezistnzisfutlon 09 Jan 2013 at 6:27 pm

    I have a feeling it wouldn’t be long for Matt to hang up on Zach. He doesn’t tolerate his pig-headedness. I hold out for the times Matt says ,”No, no, no, no, you’re done!”.

  287. Zachon 09 Jan 2013 at 6:28 pm

    “But then you need evidence that it exists. Simply asserting that it must or else there is no such thing as morality doesn’t constitute evidence. You cannot on the one hand say our unproven premises are wrong, and thus that means your unproven premise of objective morality is correct. I can’t begin to count how many times this has been said to you in how many different ways.”

    You can say it all you want, but it doesn’t change the logical laws and facts.
    A. Morality is Non-objective.
    Or
    B. Morality is either objective

    There are no other options unless one concludes morality doesn’t exist, which means rape is no better or worse than love.

    You keep telling me to prove that B is correct when I only need prove A is incorrect. I have done so. Steven’s attempts to defend some actions as morally right and some actions as morally wrong has led his view into a maze of circular reasoning to no end. To avoid this maze, he has postulated several in-compatible notions.
    1. Morality can be partially objective – yet this is a complete equivocation of the term objective, by its very definition it cannot be partially true or partially false. Either the earth IS spherical or the earth is NOT spherical. One might add that it is like a sphere, but the original statement did not say this, one is tagging that on in order to equivocate on meaning of objective. The worse part, is this is a clear denial of the basic logical law – the law of the excluded middle, a truth claim is either true or false. This leads me to the next problem that those who postulate option A. Have.
    2. Saying that I cannot invoke certain logical fallacies because these notions and statements on morality are not empirical. This notion is nonsensical. If I say that rape is better than love, that is not merely an opinion on which I prefer. It is MUCH different that saying I prefer love to rape, for that is not an empirical statement. This is another spot where Steven’s logic is misguided. Does he really believe that the statement, “Rape is wrong” is not subject to the logical fallacies and therefore the logical laws? He will call this a straw man but it’s not. He is not connecting the dots and making proper inferences from his own statements. If morality is based on consensus then it is majority rule/might makes right. He then charged that I can’t apply the logical fallacies to morality because they are not based on empirical evidence. Steven, what are they based on then? Opinion? Is this not moral relativism? Steven then thinks he gets out of the moral relativism corner because his view of morality is not based on illogical opinion but only common rational opinion that is rooted in logic.. what logic? Who’s rational opinion? How does he clarify what is rational opinion and what isn’t. Do not be misguided, this is nothing more than a discuss of saying what is morally right and wrong – it is rooted in circular reasoning. This moves Steven to his next point.
    3. Steven then asserts that how he arrives at what is rational is based off what calls “first principles”. Do not be deceived, this is nothing more than saying, I hold these to be true and self-evident so I need not defend that they are true, again circular reasoning. When I ask him why I should accept these principles in light of his world view, he commits the fallacy of appeal to emotion. He basically laughs at the fact that I won’t just accept them. Steven’s problem is that there have been numerous culture’s and people in history who have demonstrated that these first principles cannot be taken at face value and do demand evidences to come to conclude they are true. He provides no such evidences an cannot since his world view leads inevitably against the notion that these first principles are true.
    4. All throughout this conversation, there is the constant tantrum over the fact that I have not demonstrated what exactly I believe option B leads to. It is irrelevant. I only am attempting to demonstrate that option A is fallacious, and therefore option B is the only one left – unless of course someone is willing to defend the notion that morality doesn’t exist at all and that all actions are equally favorable depending on the person, situation, etc. Option B does not lead directly to the notion that there is a God who did it, or a creator. A non-theistic option would be to assume that the objective moral standard has always existed and is similar in origin to laws of mathematics. All of this is then on the table. The option that is not on the table is the notion that morality is not-objective, for as I am demonstrating over and over and over again, this is rooted in fallacious reasoning and relies heavily upon logical fallacies.

    “If you can’t understand this logical statement then you really are lost.

    The earth is not a sphere – it is an ovoid shape. Calling it “like a sphere” is correct. Calling it a sphere is incorrect.“
    Nybus,
    You are wrong. Look up the word objective and read the definition. I provided it above in my post.
    Then look up the logical law of the excluded middle.

    You are breaking that law. At this point I have proven you wrong. But will add one extra commend.

    “Which one is closer to the correct statement? Which one is further away?”

    What does “objective” care about closer or farther? Please, look up these words and logical laws. This closer farther nonsense is pointless and silly. We are talking about objective and its meaning, not some meaning you have decided to give it (equivocation). You guys really refuse to take anything I demonstrate… I can’t believe no skeptic here is understanding me, maybe one of them can point this out to you.

    Objective has nothing to do or say along the lines of “closer to being true” or “farther from being true”.
    You clearly don’t understand the terms. Please look them up.

    “Obviously, to anyone with a brain that can actually employ logic, the sphere is the least wrong, cube more wrong than that, and flat disk the most wrong. My 9 year old nephew understands this better than you.“

    Tell me where I denied or implied that one of the false answers is closer to being right than the others? I didn’t – straw man.

    I did say that this point has nothing at all to do with the term objective and Steven’s claim that something doesn’t have to be either 100% objective or 0% objective (true or false). Steven is wrong, he is equivocating the very meaning of the word objective and breaking the law of the excluded middle.

    Even IF he were able to prove his assertion, he would still be left holding the bag trying to prove who hold authority over me.

    No it would be both of our jobs and in the end we might have to conclude ignorance. But this notion of morality being semi-objective is absurd and illogical.

    “Tell me, since you created that child in every sense of the word, is there anything you cannot tell him/her to do or do to him/her that would be morally wrong?”

    This is a red herring, but I’ll bite. Last time I checked I didn’t create this child from nothing… I don’t own this stuff, I have it on loan. So with that loan come certain responsibilities, again though, another conversation. But the principle is obvious.

    “Or what about if I clone a human. Can I do whatever I want to it and have it be morally right?”

    Not if matter belongs to God since He made it. And this all assumes is that if this said God created you he has said anything goes with what you make. Or if you were independent from this creator and didn’t rely on him for your existence.

    Steven,
    Please read this thoroughly and fully respond where requested.

    “I am not equivocating. I am trying to point out that knowledge is not absolute, but that does not equate to zero knowledge, which is essentially your premise (not-objective morality = no morality).”

    Steven, after reading the definition of objective, and refreshing yourself on the law of the excluded middle, please explain your previous assertion that objective isn’t either 100% objective or 0% objective. I really want to know how this is not equivocating on the word objective to get the results you desire. You know full well that once you embrace a non-objective morality you must then rest your bed on logical fallacies, which is why you even suggested such an illogical idea that objective can be something other than true or false…

    “We now know that this is wrong, it’s an oblate spheroid, but if the best we could do was say it is a sphere within our error bars – would that be a worthless statement?”

    I think I now understand your confusion. Objective does not deal with the terms worthless or worthy, it only deals with true and false statements. Either something is objectively true or objectively false in this regards.

    If I claim that the world is a sphere, that would be objectively wrong. Now if you charge me that it is close to being right (which is true), objective doesn’t care. It doesn’t entertain the notion of “sort of true” and “sort of false” – law of the excluded middle. It simply can tell you that yes it is a true statement or no it is a false statement. So you entire notion of worthiness is irrelevant because it’s not even within the parameters of the definition’s capabilities.

    “We can still map and navigate the world. In fact the sphere model works for just about every practical use. It is certainly better than a cube model (or flat model) – and that is my point.”

    My point is that this point is irrelevant to objectiveness. The statement “rape is objectively wrong” can only be true or false. It cannot be sort of true since it is closer to consensual love making than napalming children for fun is.

    “The analogy is – some moral systems can be better than others.”

    What do you mean by “better”? If you mean that some moral systems can be closer to the correct system then I agree. But this implies that there is in fact an objective standard from which to compare which ones are better (closer) than others.

    “One system might be logically consistent while the other isn’t.”

    I agree, but there are many contradicting systems that are logically consistent. That doesn’t help you here.

    “One might start with first principles that are more cross cultural.”

    Steven, unless you have some way to demonstrate that I should accept your first principles you are appealing to emotion or some other fallacy. I can’t understand why you can’t see this, you are clearly an educated man, who I would bet has higher IQ than I do. But drop this, I have demonstrated over and over that it breaks down upon examination.

    If you are a man of faith and accept certain claims by blind faith then I can agree to disagree, because I can’t appeal then to logic or reason in order to persuade you. But for someone who claims to be a man of reason, this notion of first principles is absurd.

    “My position is that a well-thought out philosophy of morals is the best humans have, and it’s pretty good.”

    Define best and good with an objective standard otherwise provide me some evidences why what you think is best and good is better than what others think is best and good – and around and around we go down the maze of circular logic.

    “You are saying it is the equivalent of no morals at all – a position that has been devastated here multiple times but you delusionaly claim is untouched.”

    Again, a clear and blatant straw man. I have stated my view several times.

    Either
    A. morality is not objective
    Or
    B. morality is objective.

    If one chooses option A it leads to relying on logical fallacies in order to defend its view of morality over the next persons.

    That is very different than what you claim.

    I then conclude that since option A leads to reliance on logical fallacies and faith based assumption without evidence, it is a false claim and therefore morality is either objective or doesn’t exist.

    I have answered your questions numerous times and in several different ways demonstrating the fallaciousness of your reasoning. Please be willing to change and not cling to defeated ideas. I’m not telling you have to embrace Yahweh here, you don’t. But this notion of morality not being objective is fallacious across the board.

    And let’s not forget how many times you accused me of a false dichotomy saying objective ness is not only true or false, and something can be partially objective. I still want to hear your defense of that with the definitions of the word objective and explaining it in light of the law of the excluded middle.

    “Is internal logic validity a virtue? Can it be used as a criterion to say one moral system (or any philosophical system) is better than another?”

    Only in regards to whether a system is logical or not. It cannot tell you which of the systems that are logically consistent are better than the other – this is one of your major mistakes.

    “Is imperfect knowledge the functional equivalent of no knowledge at all?”

    No, but this has nothing to do with the word objective. A statement can only be objective true or objectively false.

    “Are there any basic moral principles that you would grant are reasonable to take as a premise for a moral philosophy?

    Steven…
    No, not with your world view as the explanation, it doesn’t work. Unless you have objective evidences to demonstrate otherwise, instead of bind assertions.

    “If it can be demonstrated scientifically that the vast majority of humans hold to a certain moral value, and that value generally benefits everyone, is that still a worthless premise (unless a god tells us it’s good)?”

    Who said anything about God? But nonetheless, I’ll bite.

    No, not unless you can demonstrate objectively what is beneficial and what is not beneficial. And until you do this you are relying on ad populum since you don’t even know what is beneficial or not beneficial, and many people will disagree with you.

    “Values are inherently subjective, no one is claiming that can be scientifically empirically proven, so why do you keep asking for such proof? The criteria we are advocating, quite clearly, is different that empirical proof.”

    Now here you are correct. Values are subjective I agree, but values and morality are different things.

    John might value rape and fulfills his passion for it.
    Susan might not value rape, and avoids it.

    If you believe morality is nothing more than values, then you are fine to do that, but then you inevitably run into the problem John’s values are icky and you don’t like them. But then John could say he doesn’t like your values. So now what? If morality is nothing more than values it is merely “I like this” and “I don’t like that”. Then it’s an arms race to see who can get the biggest army to enforce their values. And what can you say when the side you don’t like ends up on top, nothing more than such is the world, and their values aren’t evil, just not my values. If the larger group decides to exterminate the smaller group you can only logically recognize that as “different values”, not morally wrong.

    “Go read a dictionary. And maybe think before writing drivel and hitting the submit button for a change.”

    You will probably respond with, “I don’t care,” but this is a civil conversation. Keep it civil unless you want to be ignored like rezistnzistfutl.

    “What’s your objective standard for your objective morality?”

    That’s another conversation I’m not having with a person who doesn’t believe in objective morality. It’s pointless to talk about it with you.
    Imagine arguing over the flight pattern of fairy herds when I don’t even accept the notion of fairies. What’s the point? It’s a red herring to this conversation.

    “I have lost interest in the content of the arguments with Zach due to the lack of comprehension and progress on his part. It is, however, a facinating example of motivated reasoning.”

    K.

    Steven, I am reading your posts and spending time thinking your points over. I say this to say I hope you are doing the same and to assure you that I am fully reading your points attempting to fully understand you, not just play some game of “gotcha”.

    Respectfully,

    Zach

  288. Zachon 09 Jan 2013 at 6:29 pm

    Oh cool, it didn’t separate my numbered points above.

    Sorry about the wall of text people.

    =(

  289. JJ Borgmanon 09 Jan 2013 at 6:39 pm

    I admire the many who tried to take him to task here over the pasts several days, but you should know better…you never get those hours of your lives back, which is certainly your choice. PZ just did a blog on Matt and Tracys handling of a Christian reflecting exactly what you just stated. I have also listened to him really, really try to get through especially because of his debate experience and extensive familiarity with evangelical christianity, logic and many of the primary characters in the apologetics arena.

    You might be right, but I think Zach might last longer in a more real-time live conversation. He would not get to double-back or evade as he is able in a textual format. Matt would stop him in his tracks, drag him right back to his erroneous statement, warn him to not dodge…and, I think, Zach might try to not dodge (unsuccessfully), Matt would give him another shot at it, and then who knows. I’d still like to hear it.

  290. rezistnzisfutlon 09 Jan 2013 at 6:42 pm

    Oh yea, I’d like to see it, too. That is one thing Matt does that I really like, is addressing each individual claim as they come in. Gish Gallop is definitely something he’s averse to. I just don’t know how long it would last, though, considering the level of stubborn ignorance displayed here. Matt seems most amenable to those who are willing to listen and learn as much as talk, and show some humility and honesty.

  291. Zachon 09 Jan 2013 at 6:55 pm

    I have watched quite a bit of Matt’s show. He’s too angry for my tastes.
    I enjoyed his debate with Matt Slick though, wish it had been a little friendlier.

    I have never understood why people get so bent out of shape over this stuff.

  292. RickKon 09 Jan 2013 at 6:56 pm

    For if to not rape were truly our innate evolutionary attribute hard-wired into us, then there would be no human rape. You are claiming that we ought behave differently than we sometimes do.

    Stop the reductio ad absurdum, Zach. It’s just another way you try to create strawmen out of our arguments. I said we have a sense of empathy, that doesn’t mean we feel everybody else’s pain completely, with no concern for ourselves. We are also hard-wired to eat, but we are all individuals in how much, how often, and under what circumstances we eat.

    You accomplish nothing if you use some semantic trick to toss back an argument rather than actually facing it and addressing it.

    Who said anything about a God?

    You did when you asserted there can be no morality without a moral law giver, and then you steadfastly refused to accept that the “Law Giver” could actually be of human origin.

    Regarding one god’s prohibition against worshipping other gods – that’s no more relevant to the conversation about human morality than is a discussion about how to treat our midichlorians or whether it is immoral to tear the wings off fairies. Do us the favor of at least attempting to keep the discussion somewhere near reality.

    We can have and live by moral codes without knowing the ultimate purpose of humanity. Everybody does that every day.“

    Which culture’s moral codes? Are all them equal? If not, prove it.

    Zach,

    You didn’t address the fact that we live by moral codes every day without knowing humanity’s purpose. Millions of people would not even attempt to answer the question “what is humanity’s purpose” yet we do not dwell in moral anarchy.

    Tell me more about this “Live effectively” and how that doesn’t assume you have inside information on the purpose of humanity?

    Live effectively? To experience a life that one finds fulfilling, with enough happiness and sense of personal worth to balance out the inevitable misery. Yes, it is a SUBJECTIVE assessment.

    I am asserting that morality must be rooted in an objective standard.

    How do we experience this standard? How do we learn it? Where do I look it up?

    So [slavery was] right within the context of other past cultures? Did they not have an innate sense of fairness and empathy?

    It was morally acceptable, yes. But later cultures CHOSE to emphasize fairness and empathy and equality. And they were rewarded by fewer negative vibes on our hard-wired empathy nerves.

    Case in point today: Is the massive disparity between the richest and poorest people in the United States morally wrong? Is redistributing wealth morally wrong? Which is more morally wrong? Our nation is divided on this issue. We have no objective moral guide. We must weigh the various arguments for and against, discuss it politically and philosophically, try various balances to see which seems to provide the best overall sense of well-being and fairness.

    We must go through this sometimes tortuous process because there’s no objective moral standard to follow.

    Say hello to moral relativism for me.

    You can say hello yourself because you’ve utterly failed to present an objective standard or a source for such a standard. You’ve even backed away from “God” as a source for such a standard.

    We’ve given many examples, and more are found in the Bible, of behavior that was morally right in the past that is not now. Morality CHANGES.

    Morality and moral codes are relative. That doesn’t mean a baby-eating free-for-all that your reductio ad absurdum argument tries to paint. But they are heavily dependent upon culture, context and biology.

    Instead of semantically nitpicking what we’re saying, all you need to do is provide evidence that there is a cosmic objective morality.

  293. RickKon 09 Jan 2013 at 6:58 pm

    Ooops, first two lines should have been in quotes.

  294. Zachon 09 Jan 2013 at 7:12 pm

    “You did when you asserted there can be no morality without a moral law giver, and then you steadfastly refused to accept that the “Law Giver” could actually be of human origin. ”

    If you keep responding without having read my points, I am going to stop responding to you.

    I have clearly demonstrated that I don’t believe “law giver” directly equal a personal God. Read my posts please.

    “Regarding one god’s prohibition against worshipping other gods – that’s no more relevant to the conversation about human morality than is a discussion about how to treat our midichlorians or whether it is immoral to tear the wings off fairies. Do us the favor of at least attempting to keep the discussion somewhere near reality.”

    Rickk. You asked me for a moral in the bible, I didn’t bring it up. You did.

    “You didn’t address the fact that we live by moral codes every day without knowing humanity’s purpose. Millions of people would not even attempt to answer the question “what is humanity’s purpose” yet we do not dwell in moral anarchy.”

    Yeah, conflicting moral codes. So which ones are right ones. How do you determine which ones are better than others?
    I don’t mean to be mean to you Rickk, I really don’t, but I honestly do not believe you are reading these posts in detail.

    “Live effectively? To experience a life that one finds fulfilling, with enough happiness and sense of personal worth to balance out the inevitable misery. Yes, it is a SUBJECTIVE assessment.”

    Thanks, you are a moral relativists then.

    “How do we experience this standard? How do we learn it? Where do I look it up?”

    That’s a good question. And one we may never know, but we would have to explore that once you all get on board with an objective standard being necessary.

    “You can say hello yourself because you’ve utterly failed to present an objective standard or a source for such a standard. You’ve even backed away from “God” as a source for such a standard.”

    I know I haven’t, I haven’t attempted to. I am only asserting that there must be an objective standard for morality to exist.

    “We’ve given many examples, and more are found in the Bible, of behavior that was morally right in the past that is not now. Morality CHANGES.”

    So on what basis do you now that your morality today is right or wrong since morality changes and progresses. Your morality today will always be lacking to tomorrows.

    “Morality and moral codes are relative. That doesn’t mean a baby-eating free-for-all”

    If morality is relative, your claim that baby-eatnig free-for-alls is also relative, since that is a moral claim.

    “Instead of semantically nitpicking what we’re saying, all you need to do is provide evidence that there is a cosmic objective morality.”

    I did, by demonstrating that the notion that morality is not-objective is rooted in logical fallacy and therefore cannot be correct.

    You must realize most of the skeptics here do not claim to accept moral relativism, so you are on your own to defend that. Unless Steven wants to admit he is one.

  295. ccbowerson 09 Jan 2013 at 7:20 pm

    “You keep telling me to prove that B is correct when I only need prove A is incorrect.”

    You cannot do this because “A” is really “Not-B” and the basis of your argument is that A can’t be true because it’s not B. Its circular reasoning, and your underlying assumption is your conclusion, which you claim is true by assertion. Absolutely ridiculous. You still haven’t mentioned “Russell’s teapot” and why you don’t understand it.

  296. Zachon 09 Jan 2013 at 7:24 pm

    Ccbowers. That is very very wrong.

    Morality can only be one of two things,

    Objective.

    Not-obective.

    It’s not circular reasoning, those are the only two options in terms of whether or not morality is objective or not.

    If we had other options then you’d have a point.

  297. Steven Novellaon 09 Jan 2013 at 7:25 pm

    Zach – I think we need to go back and define what you mean by morality. You seem to be defining it in a circular way – absolute rules of behavior – so that if it is not 100% objective it doesn’t (by your definition) exist.

    Morality is more typically defined (as I am using it) as a system or code of behavior. All I am defending is the notion that you can have a worthwhile, practical code of behavior based upon philosophy with any lawgiver. No such system is 100% objective, it is, by necessity, based upon value judgments.

    You seem to be taking refuge in dictionary definitions, and trying to narrowly define your terms. But no one is buying it.

    For example, with whether or not it is “true” that the Earth is a sphere. Again, you are arbitrarily using “True” with a capital T – as if we have access to ultimate truth. But scientific truth (the context of the sphere example) is not absolute. The point that you are trying very hard to miss is that there is a certain amount of scientific truth to the statement that the earth is a sphere. It is true enough for most purposes, and it is true within certain error bars. It is not very precise – a more precise description is an oblate spheroid.

    And still you seem to evade my question – is it better to say the earth is a sphere or a cube, even though neither is perfectly correct?

    This applies to morality even more so, because morality is dependent upon values, human goals and values, subjective values. No one is denying that. Given that, we can still derive a logically coherent and internally consistent philosophy for how to apply those values.

    I grant you that morality is not 100% objective. If you wish to define objective as already meaning 100% absolute objectivity, then fine, morality is not objective. Then you make the massive leap to saying that without objective morality there is NO morality. You are nowhere close to justifying that position. At best you have a circular argument, because you assume morality must be objective. Morality is objective, so if you have less than 100% objectivity you have zero morality.

    But if you think of morality as a system of behavior, there is a broad range of philosophies, thoughtfulness, logic, and even evidence that can be applied to such a system. These criteria are not logical fallacies, as you say. They do not all boil down to “might makes right” as you claim. They can be used to meaningfully distinguish one system from another. They cannot be used to say that any one moral claim or system is perfect or the ultimate correct system. But logical arguments can be brought to bear to compare systems, to justify the positions of one system or another, and to work out differences with discussion and argument.

    We agree values are subjective. But you say morals are different from values. But they are based on values, and then proceed with logic and evidence. The values are subjective, the logic and evidence are objective (see – that’s how we get a system that is partly objective).

    Another point I think you are missing is that morality exists within a context. You can have an individual morality, which assumes you have some values. Or we can can have a moral or ethical system as a society, which is necessarily premised on some shared values. If we have no shared values, then there is no morality in the context of society – the concept becomes meaningless.

    You are missing this context completely, again by assuming your conclusion, that morals must descend from above or they don’t exist.

    All that is necessary is the agreement that some rules of behavior are desirable or necessary for society. That’s it, and it’s not a stretch. Once you have that premise, which is inherent to morality itself, you can begin to derive some basic first principles, like fairness and non-maleficence.

    You are unwilling to concede even the most basic human value, which is absurd, because you know that once you do your entire house of cards collapses. So you are forced to take the ridiculous position that it is not reasonable to take as a premise that harm is bad. To you, that is a fallacious position and act of “blind” faith. You would rather believe in the supernatural than admit that most reasonable people would agree that harm is bad. This is not about proof or an empirical claim – just a human value that is fairly universal.

  298. Steven Novellaon 09 Jan 2013 at 7:28 pm

    And stop misusing the concept of moral relativism – that is not my position. I am specifically arguing against moral relativism by saying that there are legitimate criteria to judge morals relative to each other, they are not all equal.

    That is, in fact your position, ironically. You are the one saying that without 100% absolute objective morality we have no morality (true relativism). I know you don’t believe this, but since no one has access to Truth, or absolute objectivity (even if they have faith that they do), then by your own logic you have no morality.

  299. ccbowerson 09 Jan 2013 at 7:41 pm

    “It’s not circular reasoning, those are the only two options in terms of whether or not morality is objective or not.”

    If you read what I wrote very carefully, this is exactly what you have done. The second half of your sentence has nothing to do with whether or not your reasoning is circular.

  300. JJ Borgmanon 09 Jan 2013 at 7:48 pm

    Once more, Zach, you’re confusing things: persistence with anger, or conciseness with anger or “harm and bad”. Matt won’t allow time to be wasted dancing in semantics and dancers, like you, don’t like that. But if you have a point to prove and can do it concisely, especially with an atheist (as you seem to wish to do), Matt is your guy. In real time. If you’re not ready, he’ll even invite you to go back, rework your arguments and come back for another go at it.

    All of the sudden, it’s not like a video game where you can just restart at your last successful level, or your last post. When you’re defeated, the games over.

    But, if you just can’t take the heat (ever notice how little heat there is in the text format?), well…

    That was Rays problem. He couldn’t deal with Matts directness, as I read it. “Oh, and by the way”…I believe Ray has an open invitation back to “debate” with Matt, but I think Ray thinks Matt is “too angry” for his tastes, too. Which surprises me. Civility is good in a subjective way, but passion is far better with a strong opponent when one knows one is “right”. Many apologists seem to prefer passivity to passion…is it for “style” points?

    Oh! I had a thought from something you posted much earlier. You said Christianity promoted loving your enemy and how that was a revolutionary concept. I don’t know if Christianity introduced it, but it’s a stupid concept. You must know your enemy intends to defeat you, you must respect your enemy, you must be willing to develop a relationship or, perhaps, even trust them once they prove themselves worthy of it, you must always be ready to defend yourself against your enemy, but you are naively ill-advised to ever love your enemy. Love opens the door to things to which an enemy isn’t worthy and which may be fatal to you. Once they are no longer your enemy, and only then, are they worthy of your love.

  301. daedalus2uon 09 Jan 2013 at 8:13 pm

    There is a problem with Zach’s approach, that of assuming that there are only two possible cases, either:

    Morality is objective

    Morality is not objective

    and that disproving one then necessarily proves the other. Godel showed that only works in systems that are complete.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incompleteness_theorem

    and all systems (more complicated than arithmetic) that are complete are necessarily also inconsistent.

    Any system of morality is more complicated than arithmetic and so will be either inconsistent or incomplete, and that no law giver can change this.

    This is an important conclusion. The premise that there is a law giver who provides a system of morality that is both consistent and complete is false. There can be no such complete and consistent system of morality, so the premise that there is such a law giver is shown to be false.

    Since we can’t have a perfect complete and consistent system of morality, we need to muddle through the best that we can and fall back on moral heuristics that work some of the time and work on making them as complete and as consistent as possible. In other words what we need is a morality model that works pretty well most of the time, sort of like how the Earth being modeled as a sphere works pretty well most of the time.

  302. Zachon 09 Jan 2013 at 8:28 pm

    “So that if it is not 100% objective it doesn’t (by your definition) exist.”

    Objective is only 100% true or 100% false. There is no sort of true with objective. Go grab a dictionary and look this up and then look up the law of the excluded middle. You ignored this point entirely.

    All I am defending is the notion that you can have a worthwhile, practical code of behavior based upon philosophy with any lawgiver.

    Ok, back around we go? Evidence? And don’t expect me to accept any naked assertions off of good will or blind faith.

    “You seem to be taking refuge in dictionary definitions, and trying to narrowly define your terms. But no one is buying it.”

    I would content you are taking refuge in your equivocating actual definitions to fit your pre-determined notion – which you already stated is rooted in blind faith assumptions on what you call first principles.

    “But scientific truth (the context of the sphere example) is not absolute.”

    This is jargon. Either the world is a sphere or the world is not a sphere.
    Do you not understand the law of excluded middle?

    “The point that you are trying very hard to miss is that there is a certain amount of scientific truth to the statement that the earth is a sphere.”

    This has nothing to do with objective truth. So what if there some things we don’t know, you are assuming that our knowledge is what matters in terms of something being objective or not. This is a glorified view of yourself and puts man at the center of logic and truth. Truth is truth – logic is logic – regardless of if we know it is or not.

    To say that the earth is “like” a sphere is a true statement.
    To say that the earth IS a sphere is a false statement. Unless of course one implies that you really mean it’s like a sphere, not an exact sphere.

    “And still you seem to evade my question – is it better to say the earth is a sphere or a cube, even though neither is perfectly correct?”

    I didn’t evade this, I said it has nothing to do with objectivity being true or false. You are confusing this.

    If you are asking my opinion on if I think the earth is LIKE a sphere, I will agree. But if you ask me if it actually IS a sphere, and answering objectively, I would have to say no.

    “This applies to morality even more so, because morality is dependent upon values, human goals and values, subjective values. No one is denying that. Given that, we can still derive a logically coherent and internally consistent philosophy for how to apply those values.”

    Ok, now we are getting somewhere. Morality is not contingent on what we value, I have demonstrated this over and over again that this cannot be the case, as you must then fall back on logical fallacies. If you say as you have said that logical fallacies do not apply, since values are subjective to the person – more like something you like instead of something that actually is, then you bunt heads with the wall that which values get to be applied? The rapists or the non-rapists? The second you invoke logical coherency you revert back to no longer talking about non-empirical claims, since what can logic tell us about whether or not blue or red should be my favorite color? If morality is about values – I value red you value blue, I value not raping you value raping – then you can’t invoke logic to derive set values. You are, once again, having your cake and eating it too.

    “If you wish to define objective as already meaning 100% absolute objectivity, then fine, morality is not objective. “

    Steven… it’s not matter about what I wish to do, look up the definition of the world and then apply the law of the excluded middle… you act like I am trying to sneak in and steal from you. I am not, this is what it is, you need to embrace it.

    “Then you make the massive leap to saying that without objective morality there is NO morality.”

    I don’t believe this to be a leap as the numerous times that I have asserted and demonstrated that morality is not mere opinion on what colors we happen to prefer. Read what I just wrote a paragraph ago.

    “You are nowhere close to justifying that position. At best you have a circular argument, because you assume morality must be objective. Morality is objective, so if you have less than 100% objectivity you have zero morality.”

    There is no percentage of objective or not objective… please please please go look up this word and then look up the law of the excluded middle.

    How is my argument circular?

    “These criteria are not logical fallacies, as you say. They do not all boil down to “might makes right” as you claim. They can be used to meaningfully distinguish one system from another. “

    Evidence? More naked assertions. You dropped morality being empirical and have now embraced it being relative, you are embrace moral relativism. So if morality is only virtues, and virtues are things we like, and morality cannot commit a logical fallacy since fallacies only deal with empirical claims, how do you then go back and appeal to logic on deciding which morality is best (when to you morality is by default like a color preference is – not empirical)?

    “But logical arguments can be brought to bear to compare systems, to justify the positions of one system or another, and to work out differences with discussion and argument….We agree values are subjective. But you say morals are different from values. But they are based on values, and then proceed with logic and evidence. The values are subjective”

    When you tell me how to apply logic to which color is the prettiest I will accept this claim. Until then, your claim that morality is subjective and the logical laws are not applicable because it is based on what we value instead of empirical evidences is a contradiction.

    “You are missing this context completely, again by assuming your conclusion, that morals must descend from above or they don’t exist.”

    The more we talk, the more it is clear that I am dealing with a moral relativist. I’m glad though, up until now I hadn’t run into a full-fledged one who had thought through it as much as you have. But still, read my previous points. You can’t appeal to logic on color preferences since they are preferences and not-empirical – so you can’t appeal to virtues as being better or worse than the next one based on logic.

    “All that is necessary is the agreement that some rules of behavior are desirable or necessary for society. That’s it, and it’s not a stretch. Once you have that premise, which is inherent to morality itself, you can begin to derive some basic first principles, like fairness and non-maleficence.”

    Alright, now this is true. If that is your view of morality then that’s fine, but you must say that it is equally valid to conclude that the first principles are cruelty, hatred, etc. Since after all, virtues are more like color preferences that empirical claims about what is and what is not. AND logic can’t be applied since how would one apply logic to which color is the prettiest?

    “You are unwilling to concede even the most basic human value, which is absurd, because you know that once you do your entire house of cards collapses..”

    Appeal to emotion. Again, why is it absurd? It’s just values right? Would it be ok to say those who like blue more than red are absurd?

    “So you are forced to take the ridiculous position that it is not reasonable to take as a premise that harm is bad.”

    I could say that it is unreasonable to believe that red is the best color and everyone should embrace like red the most. I value red, so what? Making an appeal to reason will do you no good since reason is mute to this.

    “To you, that is a fallacious position and act of “blind” faith. You would rather believe in the supernatural than admit that most reasonable people would agree that harm is bad. This is not about proof or an empirical claim – just a human value that is fairly universal.”

    1. First, who said objective standard meant supernatural? I didn’t.
    2. it is blind faith. You can’t demonstrate it.
    3. Fairly universal… so?

    Please spend some thing thinking this through. I have been thinking a lot about your position, and it’s really starting to make a lot more sense on where I believe you are wrong. Hopefully, we can focus further on those points and conclude I am wrong or right on my conclusions.

    Respectfully,

    Zach

  303. Zachon 09 Jan 2013 at 8:31 pm

    “You are the one saying that without 100% absolute objective morality we have no morality (true relativism.”

    Provide an example of something being 47% objective… or pick any number between 1 and 100, then compare it with the definition of objective – then look up the logical law of the excluded middle, then come back and explain how that works.

  304. BillyJoe7on 09 Jan 2013 at 9:17 pm

    Zach,

    If a moral system is made up of a number of elements, at least one of which is objective and at least one of which is subjective, wouldn’t you have to conclude that that moral system is partly objective and partly subjective (ie not 100% objective)?

  305. ccbowerson 09 Jan 2013 at 9:24 pm

    “How is my argument circular?”

    I have demonstrated this many times now, and I will do it once more. For the sake of argument I will take your statement (below) at face value, although there are some problems with it I can show its inherently circular reasoning. I am assuming you are taking one extreme of a spectrum of possible statements about morality (that is absolutely objective ‘B’) and the rest of the spectrum about morality you describe as ‘A’ (really = Not-B)

    You stated”

    “Either
    A. morality is not objective
    Or
    B. morality is objective.”

    You think that if you eliminate A, you are left with B, but keep in mind that A = NotB. SInce you have taken the most extreme position of a possible spectrum, the only way to demonstrate this extreme is that you must bring forth evidence, because you are otherwise left ruling out potentially an unlimited number of alternatives. It is Russell’s teapot, Unless you comb through the entire solar system and show me the teapot (the absolute objective morality), I have no reason to believe it exists.

    But back to the point of why your argument is circular:
    Whenever someone provides a basis for morality that is not absolutely objective your argument against that view is that their basis for morality is flawed because it’s not based upon anything absolutely objective. Well duh, thats the point, it doesn’t have to be absolutely objective. You then reject this as not really being morality (No True Scotsman fallacy)

    In other words you are asserting your conclusion as true right off the bat without demonstrating that it is so, and you then reject alternative explanations because they don’t match your stance that morality is absolute and objective. That is circular reasoning if I have ever seen it

  306. BillyJoe7on 09 Jan 2013 at 9:27 pm

    Zach,

    The is a difference between believing morals are relative and being a moral relativist. Believing morals are relative means that you believe morals can change according to circumstances. Being a moral relativist means you believe no moral system is any better or worse than any other moral system. The later is a post-modernist view, the prior is not.
    I think that is correct, in which case you are incorrect to use the terms interchangeably, as you seem to have done, thereby possibly misunderstanding what others are saying.

  307. BillyJoe7on 09 Jan 2013 at 9:40 pm

    Zach,

    I don’t think your colour analogy works.
    Would you paint you living room black. If you would you would be in an aesthetic minority.
    Would you paint your private theatre black. You might for the logical reason that it most effectively eliminates light.
    It has also been shown that pills of certain colour seem to have a better placebo effect; that blue makes you feel calmer; that red makes you feel unsettled.
    My favourite colour is green, my sister red, my brother blue. Why? Those were the colours chosen by our parents when they bought us the are things which we needed nevertheless to able to identify as our own.

    In other words, no pun intended, everything is not black and white.

  308. autumnmonkeyon 09 Jan 2013 at 10:57 pm

    Me:

    “Go read a dictionary. And maybe think before writing drivel and hitting the submit button for a change.”

    Zach:

    You will probably respond with, “I don’t care,” but this is a civil conversation. Keep it civil unless you want to be ignored like rezistnzistfutl.

    I have no idea what you’re saying. Sounds like you’re at happy hour.

    Me:

    “What’s your objective standard for your objective morality?”

    Zach:

    That’s another conversation I’m not having with a person who doesn’t believe in objective morality. It’s pointless to talk about it with you.

    What I believe is irrelevant to the question. (Sound familiar?) I’m asking your question back to you on your grounds. The fact that you won’t answer it, along with my other points, is an admission of defeat. So tell me, what’s the objective standard of your objective morality?

    Zach:

    Imagine arguing over the flight pattern of fairy herds when I don’t even accept the notion of fairies. What’s the point? It’s a red herring to this conversation.

    What’s your objective standard of a fairy? This game can be played both ways, Zacho. You ask people questions about things that are unproven to exist, but when it’s asked of you, you throw your food on the floor. An objective morality is as real as an objective love. You have to establish such a thing exists before asking us to conform our beliefs to it. It would certainly go a long way if you provided a convincing case for something rather than playing this charade of asking us to prove the opposite. That you won’t/can’t do such shows that you know you’re full of crap.

  309. autumnmonkeyon 09 Jan 2013 at 11:10 pm

    Zach:

    Objective is only 100% true or 100% false.

    It’s a damn adjective is what it is. You’re referring to it like a thing with properties. That’s like saying fast is 100% true or 100% false.

    Zach:

    And don’t expect me to accept any naked assertions off of good will or blind faith.

    Only your church would expect that of you.

  310. JJ Borgmanon 09 Jan 2013 at 11:13 pm

    I have found it interesting that the law of excluded middle is derived from the law of non-contradiction and that it’s use, under some circumstances, is controversial, such as in Bertrand Russels King of France example. Another possible conclusion of the law of the excluded middle is a non-contradictory, though none-the-less, reductio ad absurdum. Additionally, some arguments in questioning metaphysical or transcendental postures are considered beyond the scope of the law of excluded middle. Some argue that a disproof of an object (or a “not p) of an argument under this law does not negate the requirement for, at least, a model for construction of the proved but immaterial object.

    Fascinating!

  311. rezistnzisfutlon 09 Jan 2013 at 11:21 pm

    autumnmonkey:

    “What’s your objective standard for your objective morality?”

    Zach:

    That’s another conversation I’m not having with a person who doesn’t believe in objective morality. It’s pointless to talk about it with you.

    You have to establish such a thing exists before asking us to conform our beliefs to it. It would certainly go a long way if you provided a convincing case for something rather than playing this charade of asking us to prove the opposite. That you won’t/can’t do such shows that you know you’re full of crap.

    That is exactly true, and exactly what is going on here. Zach is refusing to satisfy his burden of proof by using many logical fallacies, playing semantic games, dodging, and attempting to shift the burden of proof, all because he’s got nothing and he knows it.

    I honestly think this conversation has run its course. Not only does he not understand, he doesn’t want to understand and is trying his very hardest not to.

  312. Steven Novellaon 09 Jan 2013 at 11:24 pm

    Zach – you are repeating errors I have corrected numerous times, rendering further discussion pointless. I think I understand all I need to about your position. You don’t need to repeat it any further.

    I explained to you that logic applies to the philosophy of morality, you were just misapplying logical fallacies that refer to empirical claims to non-empirical claims. That does not mean that logic does not apply to a system of logic (philosophy of ethics), it just means you don’t understand logic.

    Values are subjective. You can not simply wish them to be objective. There is no morality without values. Your argument is entirely circular because you define morality as completely objective and then conclude if it’s not objective it doesn’t exist. You simply deny by definition a workable philosophy of morality based upon subjective values but then proceeding from their with logic and evidence.

    I understand the law of the excluded middle – it just doesn’t apply the way you think it does. You fail to understand the context, because you are rigging the framing of the question to suit your pre-determined conclusion. Morality is multifaceted. You are treating it as if it is one simple thing.

  313. nybgruson 09 Jan 2013 at 11:35 pm

    @rezistnftl:

    When you say “amoral”, do you actually mean amoral, or are you meaning immoral?

    Yes, you are correct. I was typing very quickly trying toget in one last post before a friend came over for dinner.

    As for the rest of the discussion, I agree, of course. I just wanted to challenge you a bit on what I thought was a little bit of lax thinking and not quite congruent with reality. I figured you would appreciate that.

    Of course, the interesting thing is that rape has always (or at least for the most part, to the best of my knowledge) been considered wrong in every society. But the definition of what actually constitutes rape has varied and still does. In Islam for example, it is impossible for a husband to rape a wife. Any sexual congress he wishes with her is, by definition, not rape no matter her consent or what sort of force is used to coerce it.

    From a strictly biological sense, rape is the basest manner of procreation. It gets the job done and nothing more. For an r selected species rape is usually quite sufficient for sustaining the species. However we find higher order species, in particular mammals, are K-selected and thus rape loses utility and becomes the least useful manner of flourishing.

    If you look at the history of humanity, our population only recently exploded. Rape, as we see it now, was also quite common. Correlation does not equal causation, and certainly this is far from a complete picture, but we can see how a stable K-selected species would benefit from abandoning rape style procreation in favor of a better way of doing things.

    As I said, not a fully picture or fully fleshed out, but a means of looking at what evolutionary theory actually tells us about where our morals may come from, at least in part. Also do not neglect the fact that we are still evolving as a human species in a literal physical sense on both a genotypic and phenotypic level. So necessarily will our morals and priorities evolve to reflect this.

    In the time of Australopithecus rape-type procreation may have still held an evolutionary advantage. Today it does not. And the rest of what we think and feel about it is built on that, adds to it, and the totality of it all explains our repugnance to it.

    All I was really trying to say, rezistftl, was that the statement of “Clearly, rape as a means of procreation isn’t viable and is detrimental to our survival as a species” is actually empirically false. But for our species, at our stage of evolution, it is at least partially true and most definitely not the best way of going about things.

  314. nybgruson 09 Jan 2013 at 11:41 pm

    Sorry I messed up the tags. There is only one link that I have there, so hopefully it is still manageable.

    I’d like to hear Zach on the phone with Matt Dillahunty for about thirty minutes.

    After saying I basically don’t watch Dillahunty I came across a great segment from his show just last night. In it Tracie (Tracy?) zinged the theist caller a big one. You can look it up since it is getting big attention but the gist was this.

    The caller was claiming perfect morality from his god (sound familiar?). Tracie said that his god’s morality was piss poor if it even existed. She posed the hypothetical of a child being raped. If she had omnipotence she would stop it. But what god does is he watches it happen, lets it happen, and then says “I’m gonna make you pay after you die buddy boy!” She is already more moral than god because she would stop the rape instead of letting it happen and then punishing later. The caller, confronted with this unsurmountable point, then chimes in and says something to the effect that they are assuming the girl is innocent herself. Tracie begins to respong when Matt just instantly hangs up the call, and (correctly) calls the guy a piece of $hit and says he was a better Christian when he was a Christian and still is.

    There’s yer theistic morality for you. The girl had it coming. How incredibly repugnant. In fact, that’s not even a strong enough word for it.

  315. nybgruson 10 Jan 2013 at 12:06 am

    lol. I only skim his posts at this point, but this one got me:

    I can’t believe no skeptic here is understanding me, maybe one of them can point this out to you.

    You can’t believe it, eh? Maybe there’s a reason.

    Gee. I can’t believe nobody in this room is understanding that the moon is made of cheese. There must be something wrong with all these idiots.

    Objective has nothing to do or say along the lines of “closer to being true” or “farther from being true”.
    You clearly don’t understand the terms. Please look them up.

    “ob·jec·tive (b-jktv)
    adj.
    1. Of or having to do with a material object.
    2. Having actual existence or reality.
    3.
    a. Uninfluenced by emotions or personal prejudices: an objective critic. See Synonyms at fair1.
    b. Based on observable phenomena; presented factually: an objective appraisal.”

    I give you a question with 10 parts. To get the final answer 100% correct you need to get all 10 parts right. You get 7 right, I get 8, and Dr. Novella gets 9. Who is closer to being correct? Is it somehow not objective to say that Dr. Novella is the most correct and you are the least?

    Really Zach, this isn’t complicated. You’re just twisting in the wind of your own ridiculous ideology and the logical trap you’ve cornered yourself in.

    This is a red herring, but I’ll bite. Last time I checked I didn’t create this child from nothing… I don’t own this stuff, I have it on loan

    You have it on loan? From whom? Did you borrow my sperm to make your child?

    Oh right, back to the nessity of your sky fairy to exist in order to even support the premise. You haven’t proven that, so you can’t say you have it on loan. Until you can prove from whom the material is on loan from, you own it bucko.

    Not if matter belongs to God since He made it.

    Hey, he admits it. And no here is where your complete, utter, and shameless intellectual dishonesty comes to light. Your entire argument falls apart if god doesn’t exist. You haven’t proven that, so why are you having this conversation? Until you prove to me that god exists you can’t even begin to have any of the conversation you have been trying to have. Which is why you have tried so hard to have the converstaion steer away from any mention of god and just prove this one little point… because you can’t prove god exists and without that you have nothing. Which means, you have nothing.

    I really want to know how this is not equivocating on the word objective to get the results you desire.

    [cough]bull$hit[cough]

    Now if you charge me that it is close to being right (which is true), objective doesn’t care. It doesn’t entertain the notion of “sort of true” and “sort of false”

    I copied the defintion above. Can you explain to me how objective has anything to do with how correct something is? Nowhere, in any definition, in any dictionary does that appear. It just means “without bias or emotion or prejudice.” It can be stated, without bias, emotion, or prejudice, that a sphere is a closer approximation of the shape of the earth than a cube. That is a perfectly objective statement. It is absolutely objective to state that something is more right than something else. Seriously. Get that through your head.

    It is you who doesn’t have the foggiest what objective means. Seriously. Find me a link that supports your definition. Anywhere.

    I can’t understand why you can’t see this, you are clearly an educated man, who I would bet has higher IQ than I do

    Then maybe you should listen to him.

    If you are a man of faith and accept certain claims by blind faith then I can agree to disagree, because I can’t appeal then to logic or reason in order to persuade you.

    This absolutely kills me every time he says it. It is like he is trying to ape sounding skeptical and rational and has absolutely no introspective ability to realize how incredibly bankrupt he is for saying it. Mind boggling, really.

    I still want to hear your defense of that with the definitions of the word objective and explaining it in light of the law of the excluded middle.

    I’ve stated it. The word objective has nothing to do with anything you are talking about. It is now YOUR onus to demonstrate any definition that fits what you are saying. Find it, copy it, paste it. Otherwise STFU.

    A statement can only be objective true or objectively false

    Nope. Once again, find me the definition that says that. It can also be objectively mostly true. Objective only means without prejudice, bias, or emotion. It does NOT in any way, shape, or form mean that only 100% true or 100% false are the only options, otherwise it is not objective. That is patently absurd and you really need to learn some English.

    o, not unless you can demonstrate objectively what is beneficial and what is not beneficial.

    I think I am finally understanding. We are demonstrating objective benefits. He just doesn’t have a clue what the word objective means.

    Steven, I am reading your posts and spending time thinking your points over.

    If that is true, then it is truly sad how low your ability to comprehend is.

  316. nybgruson 10 Jan 2013 at 12:18 am

    t’s not matter about what I wish to do, look up the definition of the world and then apply the law of the excluded middle

    You are applying the law of the excluded middle to something it does not apply to. There are rules for where you can apply this. This conversation does not meet those rules.

    Also, you are conflating “objective” with the principle of bivalence.

    You can’t even get your terms straight, let alone apply them correctly.

    I’m out of my depth in discussing philosophy and formal logic, but compared to you I am Socrates himself.

  317. rezistnzisfutlon 10 Jan 2013 at 12:19 am

    @nygbrus,

    Unfortunately, we are seeing similar kinds of thinking now with republicans saying that either rape doesn’t exist, or that it’s impossible for a rape victim to become pregnant if she really was a rape victim because the body would (somehow) know to stop it, so if she became pregnant, she must have really wanted it. I’m sure the intent was to illustrate his belief that abortion is never warranted, even in circumstances of rape.

    I’ve had some unbelievable conversations with theists who, when confronted with having to justify the horrific stories in the OT, flat out told me that if it’s god’s will, then it must be the good and right thing to do. Some even went as far as trying to justify it, as if they had it coming and truly deserved whatever was happening to them (I can’t imagine infants and young children deserving death for the imagined slights their parent may have committed, but facts and logic elude them). Heck, a simple google search on “killing old testament” will yield numerous results of bloggers defending the OT and what they consider the righteousness of it.

    Basically, the theistic morality is “whatever god tells me to do”. Of course, that comes either directly from the bible, which is completely open to interpretation, or from religious leaders claiming to speak for god. Some folks even claim to have communicated directly with god (Andrea Yates is a famous example, but she’s by no means alone in this).

    So, what I maintain now is, even IF someone were to convince me that god exists and it’s any of the abrahamic gods, I wouldn’t worship him for moral and ethical reasons. So much for his “authority”!

    Yea, Matt’s pretty sharp, and at times downright brilliant. I also like his no nonsense attitude. I don’t always agree with him, and sometimes I think he can get a little testy (as can I), but overall I like Matt and enjoy his shows and debates.

    Are you at all familiar with AronRa? How about potholer54, or Thunderf00t? Actually, there are quite a few biological scientist vloggers who have created some brilliant videos I think you’d appreciate (I’m sure you’ve already seen many already), many of them that include a lot of evolutionary biology used to debunk creationist crap.

  318. nybgruson 10 Jan 2013 at 12:20 am

    There is no percentage of objective or not objective… please please please go look up this word and then look up the law of the excluded middle.

    What a broken record!

    You are right that there is no percenatge of objective or not objective… but one can objectively say that something is partly correct. This is basic English language here, not even formal logical discourse or philosophy!

  319. nybgruson 10 Jan 2013 at 12:21 am

    Alright, now this is true. If that is your view of morality then that’s fine, but you must say that it is equally valid to conclude that the first principles are cruelty, hatred, etc.

    This is absolutely absurd.

    Cruelty and hatred are just as subjective as kindness and love, so they are equal? Wow your mind is warped.

  320. rezistnzisfutlon 10 Jan 2013 at 12:32 am

    I appreciate keeping me honest and sharp – I really was being intellectually lazy, and honestly speaking out of my ass as I had no evidence to back up what I was saying, just what little I remember about evolutionary biology and a LOT of opinion. Thanks for explaining some of the science to me, it’s fascinating stuff! It would be an interesting study to look further into the evolutionary, cultural, and psychological aspects of human rape in prehistorical, historical, and modern societies. Or has that already been done? Seems like there is some knowledge there already. (It should be obvious that I’m not a biologist. I’m a geosciences grad student).

    Though the definition of rape definitely varies from culture to culture, it exists in some form or another in pretty much every culture, as far as I’m aware (like you said above). I think this is a great example of subjective morals being derived from axiomatic principles that can be (at least partially) informed by empirical scientific evidence. At least nowadays we can apply a greater moral standard using scientific evidence that benefits individuals and society than ever before in history (that is unless the religious class has their way). It can certainly be used to debunk that truly vile and absurd unscientific claims we see the religious right spewing, especially when they claim science is what supports their assertions.

  321. nybgruson 10 Jan 2013 at 12:34 am

    @rezinstftl:

    I’ve had some unbelievable conversations with theists who, when confronted with having to justify the horrific stories in the OT, flat out told me that if it’s god’s will, then it must be the good and right thing to do.

    That is William Lane Craig’s position. If you pay attention you will also notice that it is also Zach’s. For him, “creating” something gives you “authority” over it. That “authority” means you get to decide exactly what it is for and how it must be. You can do whatever you like to it in order to force it to do these things, but since you have “authority” it is not actually force or a “might makes right” situation. These are remnants of our ancient tribal ancestors and the social hierarchy they enforced. It is a remnant of the primitive morality bronze aged goat herders used. It has no place in a modern society.

    Are you at all familiar with AronRa? How about potholer54, or Thunderf00t? Actually, there are quite a few biological scientist vloggers who have created some brilliant videos I think you’d appreciate (I’m sure you’ve already seen many already), many of them that include a lot of evolutionary biology used to debunk creationist crap.

    I actually started out on YouTube. I know all of those and have watched many of their videos. AronRa is still awesome. Potholer is a true gentleman and scholar. Thunderf00t has lost some respect from me because of his anti-feminist BS.

    One you would really like if you haven’t seen him is QualiaSoup. He explains the logical fallacies of theism extraordinaly well and with great graphics.

    In terms of science c0nc0rdance is one of my favorites and cdk007 does an excellent job of showing how incredibly simple it is to completely destroy creationist claims, all from a very scientific and academic perspective with plenty of references.

  322. nybgruson 10 Jan 2013 at 12:45 am

    I appreciate keeping me honest and sharp – I really was being intellectually lazy, and honestly speaking out of my ass as I had no evidence to back up what I was saying, just what little I remember about evolutionary biology and a LOT of opinion

    No worries. That’s what we skeptics do. Being wrong is not bad. Continuing to be wrong when presented with evidence is. You are definitely not the latter.

    It is a bit easier for me since one of my undergrad degrees is in evolutionary bio. The other is in medical anthro. My post-grad research was in molecular pharmacology (specifically anti-aging pharmacognosy). And in case it wasn’t obvious my graduate training is in medicine. I graduate this year (what a thought! Dr. Nybgrus.) and then 6 more years of training after that. Then I’ll start feeling somewhat educated. LOL.

    It would be an interesting study to look further into the evolutionary, cultural, and psychological aspects of human rape in prehistorical, historical, and modern societies. Or has that already been done?

    I’m sure somebody has done something about it. The closest I have come to that topic was in my undergrad anthro degree in a course on marriage and bridewealth. It would probably make the average US Christian just as mad as evolutionary biology, since they tend to think they have this monopoly on a marriage based on love between one mand and one woman and that marriage has always been just that and nothing else. Their hair would curl learning the truth about the evolution of marriage practices throughout cultures and time.

    It is very tough to judge over the internets and in this context, but it seems like you are a relatively recent de-convert. Am I off base in that assumption?

    In any event, your dedication to getting it right and learning from your mistakes is truly admirable. Keep up the good work and strong effort. It is totally worth it in the end.

    As for a geosci post-grad… that is pretty awesome. I’ve always loved the gems, crystals, stones, etc in the MONH.

  323. nybgruson 10 Jan 2013 at 12:46 am

    ack. getting really tired. can’t keep my tags straight. i reckon it is time for bed.

  324. rezistnzisfutlon 10 Jan 2013 at 12:54 am

    Ah, so you’re probably familiar with all of the ones I’m familiar with as well. My subscription list is in the hundreds, so it’s hard for me to list them all. It’s amazing some of the great videos people have made.

    Yea, the drama around PZ Myers, tf00t, and Matt is a little off-putting. I think tf00t just put his foot in his mouth and kept digging his hole deeper and deeper – I’m not convinced tf00t is really that misogynistic, he just got himself into trouble with how he was trying to deal with certain situations. He’s since released a couple of videos on that that have vindicated him somewhat, though there’s no way for me to know the entire story. Anyway, that’s neither here nor there.

    I still have great respect for those guys and I think they have a lot to offer, even if I don’t subscribe to the whole A+ thing.

    QualiaSoup is great, and I REALLY like c0nc0rdance (you know you’re doing something right when you’re dealing with false DMCAs all the time). The first c0nc0rdance video I saw was his video on artificial sweeteners, and I was immediately impressed with the long list of peer-reviewed scientific articles in the video description. That’s how he approaches all his videos, and you don’t typically see that level of due diligence and preparation in videos purporting opposing claims (anti-fluoride, for instance).

    Yea, YT is a goldmine. I’m really glad there are so many atheists, skeptics, and scientists on there.

  325. rezistnzisfutlon 10 Jan 2013 at 1:10 am

    No, not really a recent convert, but I suppose it depends on what is considered recent. It’s been four years since I outwardly declared that I’m an atheist. I was actually an atheist a lot longer than that, having abandoned religion and theistic beliefs, I just didn’t realize it (it took a few YT videos to come to that conclusion). Certainly, the age of my atheism can’t compare to a lifelong atheist close to my age (assuming you are – I mentioned before I’m a non-traditional student who had a 10 year career as an IT professional, and 4 years in the Navy before that).

    I started becoming an active anti-theist when I started seeing some major shredding of science, which I’m VERY protective of, seeing how maligned atheists are compared to practically every other group, and seeing the special privilege religion enjoys (in this country, that’s christianity).

    That soon led to other forms of defense against pseudoscientific fallacious thinking with things like woo, CAM, anti-vax, anti-GMO, conspiracy theorizing, and the like. Being a center left guy, I was pretty surprised to find that the left is every bit as egregiously anti-science as the right, just about different things (for the most part). Sometimes, I feel like scientifically minded skeptics are a small and dwindling minority – I really hope I’m wrong in that.

    When it comes to biology, I’m a rank amateur, though I could probably be considered Gould in the presence of some creationists. As with most other sciences, it utterly fascinates me. Unfortunately, I just don’t have time to pursue it all, wish I did, I had to pick.

    So, my goal is to know as many true things as possible and as few false things as possible (the skeptics mantra), and science and logic are the only ways to date to achieve that. I’d like to think I hold myself to that more than anyone else.

    Thanks for the encouragement, hopefully we all strive to be better. IMO, science, logic, reason, and skepticism should steer us right in nearly all situations.

  326. rezistnzisfutlon 10 Jan 2013 at 1:19 am

    So, what field of medicine are you going into? Or are you going to pursue pure research? It’s encouraging to see science-based medical professionals going through the system. Today my girlfriend told me her vet prescribed to her dog chondroitin for her joints (she’s an old dog), and last week I got into some heated discussions on Facebook with a handful of nurses who refuse to get any vaccinations because they’re “pure poison”. I’m afraid that as religion fades, it will be replaced with other forms of nonsense like we see in places such as Australia and New Zealand.

  327. nybgruson 10 Jan 2013 at 1:25 am

    YT is a goldmine. Except for the comments. Those are a cesspool of horror and despair.

    As for the tfoot thing… yeah. I think the same. He said something stupid, probably holds a few mildly mysogynistic ideas, and then just kept doubling down when confronted. It doesn’t detract from his other work though – that stuff is and always will be top notch.

    I stopped watching YT so much for two reasons – I read much faster than I can watch, so my consumption has increased (I read transcripts of YT videos that I find compelling, if possible) and after my first year of med school my then GF was able to come over and move in with me, so I spent more time with her than with YT.

    The first c0nc0rdance video I saw was his Naturalistic fallacy one and I was hooked from then on.

    Certainly, the age of my atheism can’t compare to a lifelong atheist close to my age (assuming you are

    I turn 30 in April. And it isn’t so far off. I’ve been atheist my whole life, but I hadn’t really considered the deeper implications, been a skeptic, a humanist, a feminist, a gay-straight ally, etc for terribly long. It started in the year or two before med school and then really ramped up that first year. I think I mentioned I was living alone at the time… well, I also had no TV and no internet at home. So I read a lot of books. I mean a LOT. So I guess I would really call myself a true scientist and skeptic for around 3-4 years now.

    I started becoming an active anti-theist when I started seeing some major shredding of science, which I’m VERY protective of, seeing how maligned atheists are compared to practically every other group, and seeing the special privilege religion enjoys (in this country, that’s christianity).

    Same. Which fits in with that same time frame as above.

    Being a center left guy, I was pretty surprised to find that the left is every bit as egregiously anti-science as the right, just about different things (for the most part).

    I don’t think I agree. The left is definitely anti-science and democratics are definitely a bunch of illiterate scumbags (the politicians, not people at large). But I think the repubs are far, far worse. I don’t idolize Chris Mooney or anything, but he has a few great articles on it and a well referenced book you might be interested in (The Republican Brain, IIRC. I read so much I can barely keep it straight these days, LOL).

    However, I am definitely left of center and it is common for certain folks to somewhat condescingly ask if I voted for Obama and watch MSNBC. I say no (not the first time anyways), and that MSNBC is a left wing propagandist joke just like Faux News is to the right (though once again, I think FN is worse and Rachel Maddow alone is redeeming enough to account for that).

    When it comes to biology, I’m a rank amateur, though I could probably be considered Gould in the presence of some creationists. As with most other sciences, it utterly fascinates me. Unfortunately, I just don’t have time to pursue it all, wish I did, I had to pick.

    We are all rank amateurs in fields outside our expertise. I like squishy science so I certainly feel very comfortable talking about evolution (as you may have noticed, lol).

    And yes. I wish I could live 100 lifetimes and do a different education and career in each one. Or just plug a USB cable into my brain and download all the information directly into it.

    Thanks for the encouragement, hopefully we all strive to be better. IMO, science, logic, reason, and skepticism should steer us right in nearly all situations.

    There are a couple of great sayings in medicine. A diagnosis can be wrong, but a good differential diagnosis can’t. In other words, if you put all your eggs in one basket your confidence can be your undoing. But if you acknowledge and prepare to explore other possibilities, you will have a vastly better chance of coming to the right conclusion.

    The other is that perfect is the enemy of good. A very important lesson for just about anyone.

  328. rezistnzisfutlon 10 Jan 2013 at 2:40 am

    Just to clarify, when I was referring to the left being just as anti-scientific, that’s all I meant. I didn’t go into what they were being anti-scientific about or the different levels of nasty they could get. From my perspective, however, I don’t see much difference in the level of anti-science between a rabid anti-vaxxer and an AGW denier. They are both denying science and inserting their ideology. How vile either gets is certainly different.

    I, for one, see the great levels of potential harm coming from the resurgence of disease in populations because of anti-vaxxers as well as the hampering of science by a member of the Committee for Science and Technology in Congress saying that Big Bang and evolution are “lies straight from the pit of hell”. They may cause harm in different ways, but their absence of science is close to the same, as far as I can tell.

  329. Steven Novellaon 10 Jan 2013 at 7:14 am

    Zach – Let’s talk about your moral system now.

    From what you have said it seems you hold to a moral seem you claim is objective, based upon MMITS (magic man in the sky), we can call him Yahweh if you prefer, and you hold is superior to other similar-based moral systems.

    So:

    1 – how do you know Yahweh exists?
    2 – how do you know what his moral code is?
    3 – how do you account for the numerous interpretations of his alleged moral code?
    4 – isn’t a moral code based upon divine commandments just the ultimate argument from authority?
    5 – how could you possibly resolve any difference between your system and another faith-based moral system when by your own premise there is no way to demonstrate the superiority of one moral position over another by appealing to anything other than your chosen authority?

  330. ccbowerson 10 Jan 2013 at 9:01 am

    Steve says “Your argument is entirely circular because you define morality as completely objective and then conclude if it’s not objective it doesn’t exist.”

    That is what I’ve been trying to point out several times here, but perhaps I haven’t been as clear. Zach even takes this one step further… he thinks this argument is proof that morality is completely objective, but the entire argument is based upon his assertion that morality can only be completely objective. Round and round we go.

  331. ccbowerson 10 Jan 2013 at 9:04 am

    “Zach – Let’s talk about your moral system now.”

    I think we know that he will not go there, because he has dodged every attempt to actually put forth his view for everyone to see. He would rather attempt to poke holes in the alternatives with his own system of logic, unconnected to reality, and misapply science and philosophy to do so.

  332. ccbowerson 10 Jan 2013 at 9:26 am

    “From my perspective, however, I don’t see much difference in the level of anti-science between a rabid anti-vaxxer and an AGW denier. They are both denying science and inserting their ideology. How vile either gets is certainly different.”

    True, but I think the question being brought up is is there asymmetry in how antiscience the right and left are in this country, and it appears at least currently in the US there is not. There may be a small correlation between the left and antivaccination, but there is a very strong correlation between AGW and evolution denial and being on the right. This may be due to the fact that the left is more ideologically diverse, but that would just be a reason why there is this assymmetry.

    Anyways, this is a separate topic, perhaps we don’t need to go there right now

  333. JJ Borgmanon 10 Jan 2013 at 10:13 am

    I wonder if there is a frontal assault on skeptic sites by creationists under way. A Zach-esque poster nym-ed murk is going on with Deacon Duncan (Alethian Worldview @ FTB and Evangelical Realism@ wordpress) right now, too. Plus there is the recent caller at The Atheist Experience referred to above. The arguments are similar in content and style. There are probably others. I only mention because the uptick in activity and perseverance is notable to me who monitors those sites regularly.

  334. nybgruson 10 Jan 2013 at 11:21 am

    @rezisnftl:

    Sorry, I missed one of your posts:

    what field of medicine are you going into? Or are you going to pursue pure research?

    Critical Care Pulmonology fellowship after Internal Medicine residency is my goal. Always a chance they may change, but I doubt it. I would like to do some academics, but I don’t want to be a pure academician. I like talking to my patients too much to give that up. Also a single genuinely heart felt thank you from a patient is the only true panacea we have in all of medicine. Petri dishes and excel spreadsheets don’t give me that same feeling.

    However, I do like research and would like to incorporate that into my career as well. I specifically do sepsis research currently as well as comparative effectiveness research (basically how do we apply what we already know works better in order to save more lives). The former because it is interesting and a wide open field, the latter because I see it as the easiest way to do the most good in a short amount of time. Eventually I would like to transition into more specific sepsis research and specifically nitric oxide physiology and then bridge that into space medicine research.

    I’m afraid that as religion fades, it will be replaced with other forms of nonsense like we see in places such as Australia and New Zealand.

    My father once quit smoking cigarettes and started smoking cigars. One addiction for another.

    That is why I, like PZ Myers and many others, advocate doing more with one’s atheism than merely not believing in gods. That is easy – any child not indoctrinated has already accomplished this step. Hence the focus on critical thinking and rationality. In other words, targeting the root cause of the problem rather than the symptom of it (religion). In the meantime, just like in any good medicine, we should help with symptoms whilst we work at the root cause.

    I don’t see much difference in the level of anti-science between a rabid anti-vaxxer and an AGW denier. They are both denying science and inserting their ideology. How vile either gets is certainly different.

    I see the right denying more science in an absolute sense as well as more vehemently and stridently. Sadly, all that leaves us with is the lesser of two evils when making a choice, or as PZ puts it “picking the shinier turd.”

    as well as the hampering of science by a member of the Committee for Science and Technology in Congress saying that Big Bang and evolution are “lies straight from the pit of hell”. They may cause harm in different ways, but their absence of science is close to the same, as far as I can tell.

    I’ve actually met in person Sen. Mike Pallazzo who sits on the committee and heads the aerospace sub-committee. And yes, it is mind boggling how little science knowledge and actual science advisors are part of the science committee. That certainly needs to change at some point.

    And as I said, give Chris Mooney a read – even just his article – and see where you stand on it. I think he makes a compelling case that while yes, the dems are quite anti-science as well, they are overall more scientific than the repubs and their particular mindset is more conducive to being receptive to science and changing their mind than the repubs.

  335. nybgruson 10 Jan 2013 at 11:25 am

    “Zach – Let’s talk about your moral system now.”

    I think we know that he will not go there, because he has dodged every attempt to actually put forth his view for everyone to see. He would rather attempt to poke holes in the alternatives with his own system of logic, unconnected to reality, and misapply science and philosophy to do so.

    I agree. He is attempting a “wedge strategy” wherein he tries mightily to hold back the necessarily theistic underpinning to his arguments so that we might accept them and then attempt to use that toehold to argue in Yawheh. It is nearly identical to the ID concept that the designer somehow might not be god. He (and they) know that one you invoke theism as the basis of the argument all is lost, so the wedge is their only strategy. This often works against the unitiated, but we here are far from unitiated and can smell a “cdesign propensitist” from a mile away.

    And I have called him out on this numerous times when his argument necessarily must include a theistic first principle, which he then either wholly ignores or merely handwaves as being irrelevant to the current topic. It is nothing more than a desperate scrabbling for any tiny finger or toe hold he can manage.

  336. nybgruson 10 Jan 2013 at 11:27 am

    True, but I think the question being brought up is is there asymmetry in how antiscience the right and left are in this country, and it appears at least currently in the US there is not. There may be a small correlation between the left and antivaccination, but there is a very strong correlation between AGW and evolution denial and being on the right. This may be due to the fact that the left is more ideologically diverse, but that would just be a reason why there is this assymmetry.

    Anyways, this is a separate topic, perhaps we don’t need to go there right now

    I agree with you ccbowers. As for the separate topic.. yeah, I agree as well. Though having a pleasant and rational side discussion was certainly a nice respite from the Gish Gallop of apologia from Zach channeling his inner Bill Craig at us.

  337. nybgruson 10 Jan 2013 at 11:30 am

    I wonder if there is a frontal assault on skeptic sites by creationists under way. A Zach-esque poster nym-ed murk is going on with Deacon Duncan (Alethian Worldview @ FTB and Evangelical Realism@ wordpress) right now, too. Plus there is the recent caller at The Atheist Experience referred to above. The arguments are similar in content and style. There are probably others. I only mention because the uptick in activity and perseverance is notable to me who monitors those sites regularly.

    I’ll take it as a sign of the death throes of religion. :-D

    Anything cornered and threatened will lash out. With the internet allowing good ideas to flow freely, religion no longer has a monopoly on knowledge (ahem, propaganda) and is on the defensive and the run. It’s just a matter of time, and Zach will get to see first hand how societal contracts can and do dictate morality. The most delicious part for me is that it is a perfect example of evolution by natural selection. Better ideas are replacing the garbage ones of theology and the “allele” is spreading like wildfire.

  338. ccbowerson 10 Jan 2013 at 11:57 am

    nybgrus-

    I keep meaning to, but forgetting, to congratulate you on your engagement (I intended to do that a month ago but failed to remember). Although its not always easy, its a wonderful thing to find someone you intend to spend your life with, and I think it should be congratulated. Your excitement is apparent from your writings and I am happy for you.

  339. Zachon 10 Jan 2013 at 11:59 am

    Hey guys,

    So I was thinking this over and trying to get better at explaining myself so there is less confusion, and then I came up with the idea of listing the definitions so there is no confusing on what they mean, and then creating a simple diagram chart to help visualize where I believe Steven’s argument goes wrong.

    Again, this chart assumes that human’s indeed make choices – that we can derive an “ought” from an “is”.

    I am pulling exact dictionary terms in order to show that I am not making this stuff up. The proper terms are defined as follows. If you wish to equivocate these terms – I will not recognize your equivocation as valid. We are speaking of the terms as they are, not as you wish them to be.

    Moral Relativism: In philosophy moral relativism is the position that moral or ethical propositions do not reflect objective and/or universal moral truths, but instead make claims relative to social, cultural, historical or personal circumstances. Moral relativists hold that no universal standard exists by which to assess an ethical proposition’s truth; moral subjectivism is thus the opposite of moral absolutism. Relativistic positions often see moral values as applicable only within certain cultural boundaries (cultural relativism) or in the context of individual preferences ( moral subjectivism).

    Objective: not influenced by personal feelings, interpretations, or prejudice; based on facts; unbiased: an objective opinion.

    (comment: you might feel that your answer is closer to being objectively right because it holds an idea that is similar, though still wrong,

    Subjective: 1. existing in the mind; belonging to the thinking subject rather than to the object of thought (opposed to objective). 2. Pertaining to or characteristic of an individual; personal; individual: a subjective evaluation. 3. Placing excessive emphasis on one’s own moods, attitudes, opinions, etc.; unduly egocentric.

    Standard: a rule or principle that is used as a basis for judgment: They tried to establish standards for a new philosophical approach.

    Morality: conformity to the rules of right conduct; moral or virtuous conduct.

    Values: relative worth, merit, or importance.

    First Principles: Ideas that are true without evidence – they are assumed to be self-evident.

    Empirical: provable or verifiable by experience or experiment.

    Law of the excluded middle: The Law of Excluded Middle (LEM) is one of the three basic laws in classical logic. It says “Statements are either true or false.” Or as have some put it, “A statement is true or its negation is true.” Some reject this law and assert that there is a third option; namely, that the truth or falsity of the statement can be unknown. But, it would seem that being unknown does not negate the proposition that the statement is either true or false. It just means its truth or falseness is not known.

    As my chart and definitions demonstrates, values cannot be tied to logical evaluation since values are based on personal tastes. How can one use logic/reason to assert that blue is the best color and those who like red are wrong? You can’t. So once you confirm that morality is equal to values and not objective you must leave logic behind – it cannot help you.

    If you embrace logic and a moral standard – which one?
    If you embrace logic as subjective are you ready to be a moral relativist – or admit you derive your values from blind faith?

    I assert that to embrace logic when attempting to discover the basis for morality one must conclude that morality is not based on values and is based on an objective standard, for values are not applicable to the rules of logic (i.e. lggic cannot demonstrate that blue is better than red) only empirical claims are (as Steven agreed with).

    Steven, if you would, please tell me where I went wrong.

    Thanks,

    Respectfully,
    Zach

    Chart –

    http://i45.tinypic.com/20abe6p.jpg

  340. nybgruson 10 Jan 2013 at 12:09 pm

    @ccbowers:

    Hey thanks! That is very kind of you to say. And yeah, I am pretty excited. She is quite an amazing person and since I like amazing people and pretty blondes it worked out pretty well.

    Of course it isn’t easy, but when you are partnered with someone who values evidence and logic (oh and actually knows how to use them unlike some who shall remained unnamed here) working through problems becomes much easier.

    Plus we know how to have a good time and nerd out together :-D

  341. Steven Novellaon 10 Jan 2013 at 12:15 pm

    Zach – it is generally considered to be naive to rely upon dictionary definitions in a technical philosophical discussion. Dictionary definition are often inadequate, not technical enough, and not nuanced enough to be used as premises in an argument. So your efforts are doomed to failure from the start.

    Further – as we have already pointed out, even if you are using sufficient definitions, you are applying them in the wrong context. Retreating to the dictionary is therefore a way of evading our deeper criticisms of your logic.

    In any case, if I did not make it clear, I think we have done this particular dance long enough. I am now interested in hearing you defend your alternate moral system. It’s only fair. Please answer the questions in my previous comment.

  342. nybgruson 10 Jan 2013 at 12:35 pm

    First off I too will give credit where it is due. Despite not being quite there, your most recent post is, IMO, an example of a genuine attempt at civil and rational discourse. Kudos to you.

    I also agree with Dr. Novella. We here have vested significant amount of time laying out our position from multiple vantage points even repeatedly where necessary.

    Your diagram is an excellent start, but so overly simplistic as to only be that – a start. As Dr. Novella stated, reverting to dictionary definitions is great for chatting with school children but in sophisticated conversations on complex topics is insufficient.

    I’ll add that the middle option, on the right side (not the might makes right section) is a somewhat passable approximation of where our positions starts from. However, we link to the left side of your chart to help inform our position in a complex interplay that your chart simply cannot adequately describe.

    Lastly, I’ll comment briefly on your red v blue question.

    Yes, this is exactly how we go about things. We start with an opinion and then begin to derive the implications of it.

    If people accept red as better, what societal implications will that have? Will people be harmed by accepting blue as better? How many? What kind of harm? Do we have any empirical data to support the notion that acceptance of red as better will actually yield the results we think it will? How important a consideration is this (i.e. what kind of harm will be caused by acceptance or rejection of this idea). Is there any empirical data to support the importance of it?

    Often extremes can be used to illustrate an idea. If we completely remove red from society, what will be the positive implications and the negative? Will one outweigh the other? In the absence of complete evidence do we have a solid chain of logic to support our claim?

    And after all of this we can then ask how much popular support do we have for this idea? If it is self evident (such as harm is bad) it will take little effort to convince people. If not (such a gay marriage will not be a detriment to society and in fact be a benefit) then we may have to work harder to convince people our ideas are good.

    Lastly we can ask for any objections and weigh the implications of it – if gay people marry I will have to explain to my daughter why John and Phil are living like mommy and daddy and that makes me uncomfortable. Does your uncomfortableness in explaining outweigh the negatives of preventing John and Phil from marrying?

    And so on. This is how a moral system is both objective and subjective and requires logic and reasoning in addition to empirical data to make the best possible – not perfect – decisions. And yes, as humans evolve as both a species and a culture, many of the factors will change necessitating an update of our morality. This flexibility is an asset not a detriment.

    We go on to add that an inflexible purely objective morality derived from any source means that society cannot progress or change at all. If it is truly inflexible, we are stuck to be exactly as we are for all eternity. Especially when that morality stems from pre-scientific societies some 2000 years ago, it seems patently absurd to say that we would want to revert to that society.

    Lastly, we can pick and choose the best parts of everything in our system – you are forced to be inflexible. I can look at the teachings of Jesus, Mohammad, Buddha, and anyone else to see if there are good ideas there and accept and use those without the necessity of taking up the rest of the negatives. I can separate the wheat from the chaff.

    Hopefully that gives you a better idea of what we are trying to say. Nobody can say that “harm is bad” is an empirical or even objective statement. It isn’t. But subjectively, most people agree they don’t want to be harmed and that is a great starting point to go from. And of course, it is not sufficient. The masochist may like to be harmed by the sadist. It’s not my kinky cup of tea, but who am I to say it is “wrong” or “worse” or “bad” for two consenting adults to engage in that activity? I can’t – which is exactly what you have been saying all along. So unless I can come up with a compelling reason why they shouldn’t be allowed to do so, I should allow it. My own distaste for bondage and S&M is not sufficient. So we discover that “harm is bad” is a good start, but not sufficient, and not all inclusive. This allows the most people the most freedom whilst protecting the most people from what they individually and subjectively do not like.

    Now I’ll leave you to try and defend your system and all its implications.

  343. autumnmonkeyon 10 Jan 2013 at 12:53 pm

    nybgrus:

    You are applying the law of the excluded middle to something it does not apply to. There are rules for where you can apply this. This conversation does not meet those rules.

    I noticed this as well. The law of the excluded middle applies to propositions, not a single adjective as he frequently does. The rule itself is even rejected by many of today’s logicians.

    ccbowers:

    There may be a small correlation between the left and antivaccination, but there is a very strong correlation between AGW and evolution denial and being on the right.

    I’ve found it interesting the left is generally associated with the anti-vaxxer movement since most of the anti-vaxxers I’ve come across have been from the hard religious right (many who inappropriately call themselves libertarians). They’ve bought into stories that vaccines contain aborted fetal remains.

  344. Steven Novellaon 10 Jan 2013 at 12:58 pm

    There are different flavors of anti-vaccinationists. Those on the left tend to be environmentalists and anti-corporate types. Those on the right tend to be anti-government libertarians or are responding to a specific sub-issue, like fetal tissue or Gardisil promoting promiscuity.

  345. Zachon 10 Jan 2013 at 1:39 pm

    Zach – it is generally considered to be naive to rely upon dictionary definitions in a technical philosophical discussion. Dictionary definition are often inadequate, not technical enough, and not nuanced enough to be used as premises in an argument. So your efforts are doomed to failure from the start.

    I have concluded you are a post-modern and a moral relativist. But then again, I am going by the dictionary definition – not whatever definition you have arbitrarily decided to assign to those terms.

    You have your own definition of words, which I don’t have access to, which allows you to equivocate on them whenever you feel trapped or the need. There is no conversation to be had if the meaning of words are not agreed upon, and I suggest we go with the agreed upon meaning of what science has demonstrated to us, what logic has demonstrated to us, and the definition of what words actually mean.

    This is nothing more than a cop-out response which tells me my arguments are more powerful that you are willing to admit. The crowds here who look up to you might not be able to tell the difference, and it is sad because you know better than this – you are an educated man and to claim such a notion is dishonest.

    I am disappointed.

    Further – as we have already pointed out, even if you are using sufficient definitions, you are applying them in the wrong context. Retreating to the dictionary is therefore a way of evading our deeper criticisms of your logic.

    You have no criticisms that are based in logic as I have demonstrated. Respond to the chart and definitions, tell me exactly where I am wrong and how with evidence supporting it. I have done this for you in a very condensed and easy to follow manner. Simply asserting that I am cheating is nonsensical unless you have demonstrated it.

    Evidence, not naked assertions please. You don’t even accept the dictionary definition of a word. What am I supposed do? work with your ever changing subjective meaning of words. I cannot.

    In any case, if I did not make it clear, I think we have done this particular dance long enough. I am now interested in hearing you defend your alternate moral system. It’s only fair. Please answer the questions in my previous comment.

    Fair? Do you have an objective standard for fair? =)

    In all seriousness, this would be fruitless for two reasons.

    1. We don’t agree on the notion that morality must be rooted in an objective standard – therefore arguing about what that standard is would be completely pointless. Imagine arguing about the flight pattern of fairies with someone who doesn’t believe in fairies – what’s the point?

    2. You refuse to accept even basic definitions of words provided from a neutral dictionary definition. Instead you claim that I am playing word games and tricks on you. If you don’t count dictionary definitions of words as legitimate source for which how to use them, I can’t even have a conversation with you that is logical. How am I to know that if I use the word “cat”, you will agree that a cat is an animal, etc. etc.

    I cannot.

    To the rest of you, I suggest you find another leader for arguing your morality. Steven’s views are nonsensical post-modern relativism.

    You say I am wrong? Prove it. Tell me what definition is wrong and where exactly in my chart I am mistaken. I will fix the chart and the definition and re-examine your claim.

  346. ccbowerson 10 Jan 2013 at 1:42 pm

    “There are different flavors of anti-vaccinationists.”

    Agreed.

  347. ccbowerson 10 Jan 2013 at 1:47 pm

    “You say I am wrong? Prove it.”

    We have done so convincingly, but you fail to acknowledge your own very basic errors. You have put forth no absolutely objective morality for others to analyze, despite having many many many opportunities to do so. You know your position is weak, so you hide them from the light of day.

    If you had anything but a fragile argument propped up by logical errors you would allow them to be scrutinized openly, but you do not.

  348. Steven Novellaon 10 Jan 2013 at 2:16 pm

    Nice dodge, Zach. Wow – you will not defend your moral philosophy. That speaks volumes. After we accommodated you for over 300 posts, you won’t even attempt to defend your morality. You would rather endlessly play your word game than actually defend a position.

    I accept basic definitions, and agree that agreed upon definitions is necessary for discussion. The dictionary is simply not the proper reference.

    For your cat example – it is as if we are having a taxonomical discussion about which species to include in the Felis genus, and you are resorting to the dictionary definition of “cat.”

    I will give you one example of where I have already pointed out that you are misusing definitions and refusing to even acknowledge my many corrections – saying (as you do again in your chart) that logic cannot be used to test values.

    Values themselves are not derived from logic or evidence, but that does not mean they cannot be evaluated using logic or evidence. We can ask empirical questions about how universal certain values are, and the consequences of applying those values in a moral system. You are misapplying the context of deriving values with the context of evaluating those values or their implications. Evidence does not determine our values, but it can inform them. In this way we can apply some objective criteria to our moral system, but it still must involve some subjective values.

    This is all apparently too nuanced for your black and white dictionary definition thinking.

    Regarding moral relativist – again, you get this completely wrong, and I have already explained it, but you appear to be immune to such explanations. And again, it seems you cannot deal with any concepts that are not black and white – either you have 100% objective morals, or you are a relativist and all morals are equal. Wrong. See above.

    After the patience we have demonstrated with you, your personal attacks reflect especially poorly on you, as does your lack of courage to actually defend your position. You are trying to pull the creationist tactic of setting up a false dichotomy (A vs B) then attacking B and concluding A wins by default, but you never want to defend A because it’s absurd. The false dichotomy is wrong, your attacks against B are wrong, and your claim of victory for A is wrong.

  349. Zachon 10 Jan 2013 at 2:22 pm

    The position I have postulated is that morality must be derived from an objective standard – coming from either supernatural or naturalistic laws.

    Again, where in my chart am I wrong ccbowers? Simply repeating that I am wrong doesn’t make me wrong.

    Unless you are willing to agree with Steven who says that my definitions are wrong because the meaning of words is relative.

    Good luck selling that one.

    “However, we link to the left side of your chart to help inform our position in a complex interplay that your chart simply cannot adequately describe.
    If people accept red as better, what societal implications will that have? Will people be harmed by accepting blue as better? How many? What kind of harm?”

    Exactly the question I have, what do you constitute as harm and how you conclude it is harm? Why do you say harm is bad? You say it is bad because you don’t like it, just like the person who likes blue doesn’t like red that much. You might dislike it, but who cares about what you like or dislike – society doesn’t agree on it, so you then must conclude that if society decides rape is the best action for reproduction then it is. Just like if everyone decided that if blue was the best color then by your logic it is.

    “Do we have any empirical data to support the notion that acceptance of red as better will actually yield the results we think it will? How important a consideration is this (i.e. what kind of harm will be caused by acceptance or rejection of this idea). Is there any empirical data to support the importance of it?”

    No, because empirical data can only be addressed objective matters, not values like which colors you like the most. Again, read the definitions of the words, I won’t agree with your equivocation.

    “And after all of this we can then ask how much popular support do we have for this idea? If it is self evident (such as harm is bad) it will take little effort to convince people.”

    If harm is bad is a self-evident property of human relationship then why does not everyone naturally do this? If liking blue was a natural property of humanity then people would like blue. You wouldn’t have to get them to agree that blue is better because blue would be self-evidently better.

    You are accepting the notion that harm is better based off the same notion that blue is better than red (only a value you have assigned to it). So what do you do when society decides that red is actually better than blue and decides to kill all those off who don’t like red? Nothing, you are left without any ground upon to assert that they are wrong for doing so. For wrong is whatever the majority opinion is.

    Appealing to logic will not help you, for logic only deals with the empirical – it will never tell you that blue is the best color because people all say it is, it will actually tell you the opposite because if you assume that color preference is actually an objective or empirical claim, it will tell you that you are wrong because of ad populum fallacy.

    “Lastly, we can pick and choose the best parts of everything in our system – you are forced to be inflexible. I can look at the teachings of Jesus, Mohammad, Buddha, and anyone else to see if there are good ideas there and accept and use those without the necessity of taking up the rest of the negatives. I can separate the wheat from the chaff.Nobody can say that “harm is bad” is an empirical or even objective statement. It isn’t. But subjectively, most people agree they don’t want to be harmed and that is a great starting point to go from.”

    How do you know what the good ideas are?

  350. Steven Novellaon 10 Jan 2013 at 2:41 pm

    “Unless you are willing to agree with Steven who says that my definitions are wrong because the meaning of words is relative.”

    Nice straw man. You are getting more and more pathetic with each post.

    There are colloquial definitions (dictionary), technical definitions, and operational definitions. Sometimes definitions are not adequate to capture the needed nuance, and experts will invent new terms to be more precise and unambiguous.

    I am not saying definitions are relative. I am saying you are using colloquial definitions as if they are technical or operational when they aren’t. This is contributing to your arguments missing all the nuance of our position, and partly why you are locked in a simplistic logical loop (you even diagrammed it).

    Norman coordinate.

  351. bgoudieon 10 Jan 2013 at 2:56 pm

    I’m curious about Zach’s use of the terms “post-modernist” and “moral relativist” as though they are sufficient to dismiss a position.

    My first thought was to just ascribe this to his constant failure to notice his own habit of committing the logical fallacies he accuses everyone else of. (again due to a cargo cult like imitation without understanding of actual logic and reason).

    But the more I read his posts I realize that isn’t it at all. Zach abhors the idea that we as humans are indeed responsible for our morals and values. The weight is on our shoulders to decide that which is correct and that which isn’t. Like most of those who subscribed the magic sky father view of the universe, he thinks that anything that implies that human’s are capable of making something good by their own efforts to be anathema. Mankind must be a flawed thing forever trapped in an infantile state for his God to have use. He has to declare the existence of a 100% pre-existing morality, as though it were one of the fundamental forces of universe or he can’t maintain part of his house of faith.

    It’s all based on fear. Fear that he can’t just look to God for answers.

    We’ve made the mistake of trying to debate him as though he has a rational mind, capable of weighing evidence and forming arguments. But he’s not. He’s unwilling to peek beyond the fairy tales that bring him comfort.

    There’s value in this conversation, but none in having it with him.

  352. Zachon 10 Jan 2013 at 3:02 pm

    “You would rather endlessly play your word game than actually defend a position.
    I accept basic definitions, and agree that agreed upon definitions is necessary for discussion. The dictionary is simply not the proper reference.”

    Using the dictionary for a proper foundation from which to understand what a word means is a word game? No. You are wrong.

    “I will give you one example of where I have already pointed out that you are misusing definitions and refusing to even acknowledge my many corrections – saying (as you do again in your chart) that logic cannot be used to test values.”

    Yes Steven, you have given soooooo many corrections that it is unbelievable, etc. etc…..
    This is an emotional ploy to avoid my points. It might work on the others, but it won’t work with me.

    “Values themselves are not derived from logic or evidence, but that does not mean they cannot be evaluated using logic or evidence. We can ask empirical questions about how universal certain values are, and the consequences of applying those values in a moral system.

    “Evidence does not determine our values, but it can inform them.”

    Steven, can you honestly not see that YOU are the one assuming your conclusion.

    First you set out to decide what morality is. You cannot draw any conclusions subjectively since you equate morality with values and then must then invoke first principles in order to even get started… just what are these first principles?
    The very thing you set out to answer in the first place! And yet I am the one who is putting my conclusion first and assuming it? You can’t be serious can you?

    Steven, you still are relying on blind faith and your notion that there are certain moral axioms that will tell how the rest of morality is to function cannot be demonstrated empirically– this is circular reasoning founded in blind faith.

    If one assumes that your axioms are self-evident – harm is bad, then you can test the results objectively with logic since those results are empirical, only though because you assumed certain improvable axioms.

    But here’s the funny part, these first principles ARE morality, the very question we are seeking to discover, so you essentially are saying, “how do we determine morality, well… FROM MORALITY! DUH!”

    Circular to the core.

    Steven, you claim I am sticking to a black and white dictionary definition by your example of the earth being a sphere or not. I will demonstrate you to be wrong.

    Objective and subjective ARE different.

    IF I say that the earth is objectively a sphere, that is false. You then complain that I am too rigid since it is like a sphere and less like a square. But I am not being rigid, I am being objective for to say that the earth is a sphere and that is pretty much true is not an objective claim but a subjective claim, since it is based on opinion. I think it is close enough to a sphere so I can call it a sphere. A child might think it is close enough to a square so he might say it is a square. We both don’t mean it is literally a sphere or square, because we are speaking subjectively not objectively.

    You need to learn the difference between objective and subjective. Something can’t be partially objectively true or not since the law of the excluded middle and the very definition of the world objective makes that impossible.

    “Regarding moral relativist – again, you get this completely wrong, and I have already explained it, but you appear to be immune to such explanations. And again, it seems you cannot deal with any concepts that are not black and white – either you have 100% objective morals, or you are a relativist and all morals are equal. Wrong. See above.”

    Only because you refuse to acknowledge terms for what they mean, and assign subjective meaning to them – aka you can say they mean whatever you want whenever you want. I have no time for such word games.

    “After the patience we have demonstrated with you, your personal attacks reflect especially poorly on you, as does your lack of courage to actually defend your position.”

    Personal attacks? When did I do that?

    Quote please?

    “You are trying to pull the creationist tactic of setting up a false dichotomy (A vs B) then attacking B and concluding A wins by default, but you never want to defend A because it’s absurd. The false dichotomy is wrong, your attacks against B are wrong, and your claim of victory for A is wrong.”

    Pontification arrived by making up whatever arbitrary meaning you want for a word so it suits you.

    And what does creationism have to do with anything? Seems like a red herring to try to save your defeated argument. Not only that, but I haven’t defended my position to you. We are talking about your position, and the failures of it.

    Counter my points stop merely asserting you have.

  353. Zachon 10 Jan 2013 at 3:09 pm

    “Nice straw man. You are getting more and more pathetic with each post.”

    “There are colloquial definitions (dictionary), technical definitions, and operational definitions. Sometimes definitions are not adequate to capture the needed nuance, and experts will invent new terms to be more precise and unambiguous.”

    I have asked you how my definitions are unfair or not accurate. You can’t demonstrate it to be. So this is just a rant.

    “I am not saying definitions are relative. I am saying you are using colloquial definitions as if they are technical or operational when they aren’t. This is contributing to your arguments missing all the nuance of our position, and partly why you are locked in a simplistic logical loop (you even diagrammed it).”

    Again, what definition is wrong, where in my chart am I mistaken?

    You claim I have made a false dichotomy with my chart. Provide another option? But whatever other options are, yours is defeated because it relies on believing that values can be objective on their own. No they can’t, unless you want to demonstrate that blue is objectively better than red. Or that one can use logic to show that blue is better than red.

    Simply saying that we can test the different effects imperically of liking blue and red doesn’t fix your problem either, because that notion completely relies on the premise that a color is better than another color.

    You say we can test to see that certain acts are more harmful than others – I agree this would be a test that one could apply logic to since it is dealing with the imperical. But that doesn’t matter, because that will never tell you if your first principles are correct, it assumes them. And what are your first principles that you are assuming? MORALITY ITSELF. You are assuming the solution to the answer you are asking.

    Circular to the core.

  354. Steven Novellaon 10 Jan 2013 at 3:18 pm

    Morality does not equal values. Morality is values put into action. Moral philosophy is a system for deciding on specific behaviors. There is a process that starts with values, but ends with behaviors. These are not the same.

    Zach – I am truly done with this dance now. It is your turn to defend your moral system. If you cannot or are unwilling, then that is all anyone else here needs to see.

  355. rezistnzisfutlon 10 Jan 2013 at 3:28 pm

    It’s really amazing the amount of dodging Zach has done when asked to defend his claim that not only does absolute objective morality exist, but it is the only morality that can possibly exist, and that necessitates a law bringer (which, of course, is his god, which is really what he’s trying to prove). He simply will not go there.

    None of us here would ever hold to that level of intellectual dishonesty by dodging our necessary burden of proof when we make claims.

  356. ccbowerson 10 Jan 2013 at 3:33 pm

    “Again, where in my chart am I wrong ccbowers? Simply repeating that I am wrong doesn’t make me wrong.”

    There are hundreds of comments above which point this out, you fail to see the obvious because you don’t want to.

    Keep hiding your view about the subject it speaks volumes. Like I said above:

    “If you had anything but a fragile argument propped up by logical errors you would allow them to be scrutinized openly, but you do not.”

    In more crude words: put up or shut up. You have contributed very little content of your own perspective. There is no point in continuing this charade.

  357. Zachon 10 Jan 2013 at 3:35 pm

    “Morality does not equal values. Morality is values put into action.”

    But you say morals are different from values. But they are based on values, and then proceed with logic and evidence.

    Morality is more typically defined (as I am using it) as a system or code of behavior. All I am defending is the notion that you can have a worthwhile, practical code of behavior based upon philosophy with any lawgiver. No such system is 100% objective, it is, by necessity, based upon value judgments.

    As a society we can come to a consensus about what moral values and rules to codify in our laws. This is an ongoing conversation, and hopefully we progress to ever more enlightened and nuanced laws.

    Alright Steven,
    You are not evening answer my most basic questions, like where did I insult you?

    Since this blog post was about your position of morality, and since you now refuse to respond to my questions, and since your view has been shown to be fallacious, this conversation appears to be at an end, unless of course willing to try to defend your position and answer the questions I have provided – like which definitions are used incorrectly.

    Asserting that you want me to defend my position is a red herring and is only an attempt to distract from the gaping holes in your position. I am willing to defend my position, but not until you answer for the problems in yours.

    I see no point in arguing about the flight pattern of ducks with someone who refuses to acknowledge the existence of ducks. That is an absurd waste of my time.

  358. rezistnzisfutlon 10 Jan 2013 at 3:36 pm

    @bgoudie

    Zach abhors the idea that we as humans are indeed responsible for our morals and values.

    I think there is definitely something to this. It’s a reasonable argument that many theists defer to authority because it gives them comfort and alleviates responsibility and consideration (even if that authority is purely fictitious).

    Though what I’ve seen here with Zach is that mostly it’s to prove that a divine authority exists, and if he can demonstrate that absolute authority exists and subjective authority does not, then that facilitates the necessity of a law bringer, and that, of course would be his god. To him it’s a proof of his god’s existence. Black and white thinking is something we see a lot of with religious fundamentalists.

  359. Zachon 10 Jan 2013 at 3:38 pm

    “Again, where in my chart am I wrong ccbowers? Simply repeating that I am wrong doesn’t make me wrong.”
    There are hundreds of comments above which point this out, you fail to see the obvious because you don’t want to.

    If there are hundreds please provide one. Shouldn’t be so hard.

    You, like Steven, keep hiding behind this emotional out cry of “We have already showed you to be wrong! Stop asking us to defend this point!”

    Defense mechanism.

  360. Zachon 10 Jan 2013 at 3:39 pm

    My position has never been defended claiming that I believe some sky daddy gave us the morality.

    Straw man.

    You are assuming my position without having heard it.

  361. rezistnzisfutlon 10 Jan 2013 at 3:48 pm

    I didn’t mean to imply that anti-vax was SOLELY a left issue. Furthermore, I was simply using it as an example that most everyone here is very familiar with. Unfortunately, there are no real metrics that I’m aware of to bring to the table here, but mostly perception.

    There is a bevy of other issues that, in my opinion, are left issues. Anti-GMO is a great example, and that really came to light with the failure of prop 37 in California. I’ve seen how extremely anti-science and pro-conspiracy theory the left can get when getting into it with them myself (just check out places like naturalnews, motherjones, Huffington Post, etc, to see where their anti-science lies. Sorry, I just don’t see analogs to them on the right).

    My only point is, the left can be just as anti-science as the right, just about different things.

    I also didn’t mean to clog up this comments section with it as it was intended as a side-conversation.

    If anyone has any evidence to bring to bear on this subject, I’d love to see it. I haven’t seen any myself, so as far as I’m concerned at this moment, it’s a matter of opinion and perception.

  362. Steven Novellaon 10 Jan 2013 at 3:49 pm

    Your definition of objective is misapplied – you have failed to answer to the point that a system with multiple components can have some components that are objective and other that are subjective.

    Just above I pointed out that your equating morals to values is wrong. Morals is based on values. Can you not see this difference?

    You have misapplied the law of the excluded middle and have not answered for it (it does not apply to a complex systems either).

    You called me intellectually dishonest. In my world (perhaps not in yours) that’s an insult. Your accusation was further based upon your own inability or unwillingness to follow the conversation in any coherent fashion.

    Zach- we have shown incredible patience with you here. I have done it to see if I can honestly understand your position, to give you a chance to make any legitimate points, and to see if I can manage to explain to you where you go wrong. That experiment is now over, with a pretty clear result, thanks.

    Yet – you do not have the courtesy to indulge us by defending your position. Of course I don’t accept your premises, as I already stated. What I am asking you to do is, given those premises, how do you defend a moral system based upon them?

    I claim that your moral system, even if we grant you some basic premises, will collapse like a house of cards under even the most casual scrutiny and further reveal your position to be supremely hypocritical. But please – prove me wrong.

  363. rezistnzisfutlon 10 Jan 2013 at 3:55 pm

    I see no point in arguing about the flight pattern of ducks with someone who refuses to acknowledge the existence of ducks.

    THAT is the issue right there. YOU have to be the person to demonstrate the pattern of ducks exists first before going on to explain anything else about it. You made the claim that they exist, we don’t believe you, so now it’s up to you to provide evidence for your claim.

    You claim absolute objective morality exists, that it’s the only morality that exists, and that it necessarily requires a law giver. You have to demonstrate to us that objective morality exists and why it necessarily requires a law giver. That is not done by proving that it doesn’t not exist.

    That is a typical theistic strategy we see so often when they claim that their supernatural deity exists.

  364. Zachon 10 Jan 2013 at 4:04 pm

    Your definition of objective is misapplied – you have failed to answer to the point that a system with multiple components can have some components that are objective and other that are subjective.

    Now wait a minute Steven, I agreed with this already.

    I said, your point logic can be applied to situations to see if they cause more harm than bad true, since that is dealing with the objective claims.

    What I said was, is that this is irrelevant since it relies on your first principles. You are testing your first principles in action – which is applicable to logic since it is empirical.

    You have misapplied the law of the excluded middle and have not answered for it (it does not apply to a complex systems either).

    No, I reject your system Steve, it is based in circular logic.

    And I understand the difference you are making between morality and values, but I think it’s an arbitrary distinction (by your standards not mine, as someone who believe morality is rooted in an objective standard I believe values are not morality).

    Steven your argument boils down to this.

    Step 1. How do we determine morality?
    Step 2. First by values.
    Step 3. What values? Well by applying first principles
    Pause: What are first principles? I.E. harm is bad.
    Step 4. We can then test empirically and objectively with logic and reason how certain actions will effect people for harm or good, etc. etc.

    Now Steven, you said before that you can’t prove these first principles, and assume them, and you got frustrated that I wouldn’t grant you any axioms of morality.

    READ THIS CAREFULLY: Your argument essentially goes,
    How do we determine moral truth? Well by assuming first principles (which ARE moral truths) – i.e. harm is bad.

    It’s circular.

    Again, I do not find it beneficial to defend the flight pattern of ducks with someone who does not acknowledge the existence of ducks. I will only discuss and try to convince them that ducks do exist. Then, and only then, will I discuss the flight pattern of ducks with them.

  365. ccbowerson 10 Jan 2013 at 4:16 pm

    “You are assuming my position without having heard it.”

    No one is stopping you so you only have yourself to blame for this. Its pretty bovious why that is

  366. Steven Novellaon 10 Jan 2013 at 4:24 pm

    Zach – I and others have already pointed this out, ad nauseum, but I will try – again. The philosophy of morality is a logical system. In that, like all logical systems, it is a closed construct. It is like math. Math is a logical system, and in fact some have argued that ultimately it’s all teleological – 2+2=4.

    But it is useful as a logical system. It can be held to objective criteria, like internal consistency.

    A moral philosophical system is similar. You have to grant certain premises, values that are taken as first principle. NO ONE here has ever denied that. But then, GIVEN those first principle, you can work out a logical system, test its implications, and evaluate it for internal consistency.

    This is no more circular reasoning than math – it is a logical system based on first principles. Why is that so hard for you to understand?

    No – I can’t prove my first principles – that’s why they are first principles. We can examine where they come from, how universal they are, what’s happening in the brain when we think about them, how they might have emerged from selective pressures. But in the end – we choose our values. Yes, this means we create our own meaning – because there is no objective meaning or objective value in the universe. We have no choice but to choose values from our human perspective. I can give you reasons why I have my values, why you should share them – but I cannot prove them objectively.

    You can also say that a moral philosophy that is internally consistent is better than one that is self-contradictory, or one that doesn’t even consider the implications of its rules or values.

    Ultimately all I can say is that one set of values and a moral system that uses them results in a world that I would rather live in, and that most people would rather live in. I think that is sufficient justification, given the purpose of a moral system in the first place. You try to trivialize this as an argument from popularity – but that misses the point (what morals are for), and again assumes that your goal is 100% objective truth, which is not the goal (it is YOUR premise).

    To further clarify (although this is all things we have already said multiple times) – to get a philosophy-based moral system going, all you need are very basic first principles that are not controversial – like harm is bad. Is your position really based on the scathing criticism that I have to have “blind faith” in the notion that harm is bad? Is that ultimately the best criticism you have? I have to assume harm is bad and cannot objectively prove it? Wow – that’s really devastating.

    Did I leave anything out?

    Now – you can start by trying to prove that objective morality exists. Start wherever you feel you need to. Let’s have it. How do you get to your system of morals? I’m all ears.

  367. ccbowerson 10 Jan 2013 at 4:25 pm

    “Anti-GMO is a great example, and that really came to light with the failure of prop 37 in California.”

    Anti GMO is probably one of the better examples, but all of the examples on the left are relatively small pockets of the left, at least in the US. Keep in mind these are not as mainstream left views, or as tied to the political left, as AGW or evolution is to the right. I think the GMO is a bigger left issue in Europe, though. Another good counter-example is hydrofracking.
    Again, I think this is at least partly circumstancial – the left is made up of more diverse smaller groups whose interest don’t align as well. In the end, it doesn’t matter much to me since I don’t identify with ideology, but want intellectual honesty all around.

  368. ccbowerson 10 Jan 2013 at 4:32 pm

    “Again, I do not find it beneficial to defend the flight pattern of ducks with someone who does not acknowledge the existence of ducks.”

    How about a person who doesn’t acknowledge that ducks exist unless there is an authority that says so?

    I have asked you repeated to put forth your moral system, but you just have excuses of why you can’t. Still waiting…

  369. autumnmonkeyon 10 Jan 2013 at 4:37 pm

    rezistnzisfutl:

    If anyone has any evidence to bring to bear on this subject, I’d love to see it. I haven’t seen any myself, so as far as I’m concerned at this moment, it’s a matter of opinion and perception.

    I hope I didn’t come off as minimizing the left’s anti-science tendencies. People living on the west coast and readers of left leaning web sites will certainly encounter more of this from the left. I used to be more of a libertarian and, having lived my life in the midwest, I’ve had more contact with the wingnuts on the right. Michelle Bachmann expressed her ignorance about vaccines back during the primaries. You can do a search on “fetal tissue vaccines” and you’ll turn up a host of anti-vaxxer religious and right to life sites. It usually doesn’t stop just there; they think fetal tissue is used by makers of popular processed foods like Kraft. A bill was introduced in the Oklahoma legislature last year to ban the use of aborted fetuses in food. (I haven’t checked if it actually passed.)

  370. Steven Novellaon 10 Jan 2013 at 4:39 pm

    I want to clarify one other point, since I cannot assume anything will be interpreted properly.

    The context of morality to begin with – morals only matter because we have values, because we have feelings and care about stuff.

    If humans had no feelings, values, or cares – none – then we would not need morals. They would be irrelevant. There would be no harm, because nothing would be better or worse than anything else. We could not suffer, because suffering implies feeling.

    Is this reasonable?

    But – we do have feelings and we do care about stuff, and that is why we need morals. Therefore, the same premises that make morals necessary are also the first principles for the moral system itself. We need morals because we feel that harm is bad, and therefore starting with the premise that harm is bad makes sense.

    In other words – if harm is not bad, then we don’t even need morals, so it’s not much of a stretch to grant harm is bad as a first principle for a moral system.

  371. autumnmonkeyon 10 Jan 2013 at 4:48 pm

    Me:

    “What’s your objective standard for your objective morality?”

    Zach:

    That’s another conversation I’m not having with a person who doesn’t believe in objective morality.

    That says it all. You won’t attempt to prove objective morality with folks that don’t believe in it. You won’t explain how you arrived at a conclusion unless we agree with the conclusion. Brilliant.

    Hey Zach, are you Matt from Oslo?

  372. autumnmonkeyon 10 Jan 2013 at 4:56 pm

    Steven Novella:

    If humans had no feelings, values, or cares – none – then we would not need morals. They would be irrelevant. There would be no harm, because nothing would be better or worse than anything else. We could not suffer, because suffering implies feeling.

    That’s a point I made earlier and he came back with a “prove it” retort and danced away. If he could name one moral scenario that didn’t involve humans he could at least put one point on the board for his team.

  373. rezistnzisfutlon 10 Jan 2013 at 5:19 pm

    @ccbowers

    “In the end, it doesn’t matter much to me since I don’t identify with ideology, but want intellectual honesty all around”

    THAT is something we can agree on, and exactly where I stand within ideologies.

    While it’s true that certain anti-science stances may not be as universal in the left as in the right, I’m simply not convinced that the left is any more or less scientific than the right. I think it’s the left being more scientific is an erroneous illusion many lefties have propped themselves up on, perhaps because you don’t see such anti-science insanity in the news from the left as much (contraception, rape, reproductive rights, same-sex marriage, etc).

    Going from a perception issue, what I’ve seen is getting hundreds of downvotes and dozens of people calling me a Monsanto shill who wants to poison everyone with GMOs on blogs or YT when I go to defend the science from the rhetoric and explain that GMOs are and how they have the potential for good OR bad, just like any other technology.

    My point is, PEOPLE are prone to anti-science, left or right. I used Australia as an example. They laugh at Americans on our high propensity for religious fundamentalism, yet anti-vax and anti-GMO are huge issues down there.

    Unfortunately, I’m not aware of any data that points one way or another specifically, so it’s just my opinion.

    I do agree that the left does seem to be less unified on anti-science issues.

  374. rezistnzisfutlon 10 Jan 2013 at 5:27 pm

    If I have never seen a duck in my life and never seen any evidence of one for myself, then why should I accept the claim that they exist, much less that they fly in formation, without the claimant providing evidence for both?

    The same goes for absolute objective morality. Why should we accept it when we’ve never seen evidence for it, and nothing but evidence to the contrary? Human history has nothing BUT example of subjective morality.

    It’s like the creationist who claims that the proof of God is staring back in the mirror, or in the trees and wind and sky. “Just look around, that’s proof of God.” is a VERY common theme and rather difficult to counter. It becomes a semantic game of ,”That tree proves God” and “Simply looking at a tree proves nothing”.

    That’s precicely what’s happening here. Zach thinks it’s just obvious absolute objective morality exists and it requires a law giver, just as obvious as ducks existing and that they fly in formation. For him, it’s enough to just look at something and formulate deep and complex conclusions about it without testing it first. This, I suspect, comes from his indoctrination as well as lack of formal training in the rigors of science, logic, and critical thinking. What’s making it worse is that he has an implacable preconception, that god exists and it’s the christian god of the bible – for him, there simply is no scenario where that cannot be a possible.

  375. Zachon 10 Jan 2013 at 5:31 pm

    Oh shoot, I messed that post up badly with the quotes!!!! Sorry!

    Steven can you delete it for me? Reposting below

    _

    Steven, first, thank you for responding to me. I know you are frustrated that we are not agreeing and I can’t seem to get it, but I appreciate you actually responding to my questions instead of dismissing them with a hand wave.

    “A moral philosophical system is similar. You have to grant certain premises, values that are taken as first principle. NO ONE here has ever denied that. But then, GIVEN those first principle, you can work out a logical system, test its implications, and evaluate it for internal consistency.”

    Steven. I understand this I do. But I am asking HOW you determine which moral choices are the correct ones. Where your view is at heads is clearly with “first principles”. Why? Because the first principles are what we are trying to figure out to begin with, how you determine morality. So you are essentially saying, “Morality is determined by morality.”

    First principles are assumptions you can’t prove, that’s fine, but these first principles in this conversation are the very thing we are talking about – moral standards.
    Your premises you grant are the question itself, what determines moral standards, your answer is, well of course it’s moral standards (my first premises I chose but cannot demonstrate to be true).

    “This is no more circular reasoning than math – it is a logical system based on first principles. Why is that so hard for you to understand?”

    Because math is completely rooted in an objective standard and empirical claims. If you get your math wrong, the satellite burns up. We can test to see that math works or does not work empirically. But with your moral system, you assume the very thing you are trying to prove.

    “No – I can’t prove my first principles – that’s why they are first principles. We can examine where they come from, how universal they are, what’s happening in the brain when we think about them, how they might have emerged from selective pressures. But in the end – we choose our values. Yes, this means we create our own meaning – because there is no objective meaning or objective value in the universe. We have no choice but to choose values from our human perspective. I can give you reasons why I have my values, why you should share them – but I cannot prove them objectively.”

    Steven, this is exactly why I have been such a pain in your butt about your view. This is VERY, very different, than what you were saying from the start. I will grant that maybe you articulated it poorly, hence the confusion, but this is moral relativism. I’m sorry it took so long and was so painful to get you here, but it was good for you (I don’t mean this smugly, I really don’t). Now you are left to reconcile how you can live in a world where meaning is what we make it, and rape can be just as valuable and concensual love depending on your human perspective.

    Again, if me calling you a moral relativist bothers you, just go read the definition – unless you have another definition this is what you are.

    “You can also say that a moral philosophy that is internally consistent is better than one that is self-contradictory, or one that doesn’t even consider the implications of its rules or values.”

    I think I would agree with you here. But what you must understand, is that if the first principles are not agreed upon, one could easily devise another system that is internally consistent that is based on the opposite first principles. And then what happens if group B with their first principles decide to exterminate you in group A with your first principles. That would be just as right from an internally consistent understanding.

    Does that make sense? Are you willing to admit that?

    “Ultimately all I can say is that one set of values and a moral system that uses them results in a world that I would rather live in, and that most people would rather live in. “

    First part is true, second part depends – we would have to flesh out your world view more and do some study on that.

    “You try to trivialize this as an argument from popularity – but that misses the point (what morals are for), and again assumes that your goal is 100% objective truth, which is not the goal (it is YOUR premise).”

    Steven, you were doing so well with this post, I really mean that! Now you have gone back on something once again.

    I only assert that for something to be objectively true it must be either true or false. There is no “sort of true” or “sort of false” or “partly true” or “partly false”. For that would not be objective it would be subjective – subjectively true.

    Does that make sense?

    Secondly, I’m not trying to be mean or trivialize arguments of popularity, I am just not willing to admit that if Group B who believes rape and child sacrifice is right based of their first principles decide to exterminate group A who disagrees with this from their first principles, that that would be right depending on your human perspective of what first principles you happen to like.

    “To further clarify (although this is all things we have already said multiple times) – to get a philosophy-based moral system going, all you need are very basic first principles that are not controversial – like harm is bad. “

    Yes, you have said it multiple times you are right, and I understand your view, I don’t agree with it, there is a difference.

    I don’t agree with your un-provable premise that to get a moral system going you must assume the morals (first principles) you like are true. That is circular reasoning and assuming the answer to the question you are asking.

    “Is your position really based on the scathing criticism that I have to have “blind faith” in the notion that harm is bad? Is that ultimately the best criticism you have? I have to assume harm is bad and cannot objectively prove it? Wow – that’s really devastating.”

    Yes. It’s a pretty valid criticism, since the person who believes that harm is good just because they hold it as a first principle, could ask the same thing to you in reverse. That doesn’t prove anything, it’s just a debate tactic to try to assert something that is self-evident when it’s not.

    I agree, it is pretty devastating.

    “Did I leave anything out?’

    No, you answered my questions and even though I don’t agree with you and think your view is wrong I really do respect you for it. Thank you Steven.

    “How about a person who doesn’t acknowledge that ducks exist unless there is an authority that says so?”

    I think you are confused by my analogy.

    Ducks = objective moral standard.

    Flight patterns of ducks = the internal workings and how we know what moral standard is the right one OR if we can even figure out the moral standard – check out my chart again.

    Hi again Steven,

    “morals only matter because we have values, because we have feelings and care about stuff. If humans had no feelings, values, or cares – none – then we would not need morals. They would be irrelevant. There would be no harm, because nothing would be better or worse than anything else. We could not suffer, because suffering implies feeling.
    Is this reasonable?”

    I don’t think so.

    What about the notion that morality would not exist or matter if humans did not have the freedom of moral choice? For then we would be the same as lions – lions do what they do (the “is”). There would be no “ought”.

    I’m interesting in this a lot, because I still need to do more deep thinking on the choice factor of all of this and how no choice and choice effects the conversation – since this entire conversation assumes humans do have to make moral choices.

    “We need morals because we feel that harm is bad, and therefore starting with the premise that harm is bad makes sense.”

    How do you explain the problem then that not all humans agree that harm to others I bad – hence the harm humans do to others?

    I like where you are going with this, you are showing me that you are starting to think through things harder, I respect that.

  376. rezistnzisfutlon 10 Jan 2013 at 5:32 pm

    Zach said:

    I like where you are going with this, you are showing me that you are starting to think through things and able to re-examine your ideas, I respect that.

    Ooooh, the monumental arrogance, as if Dr. Novella has never considered things before and is JUST NOW starting to really think. Perhaps it’s time to realize, Zach, that it is you who are needing to think things through and consider cracking open a book once in a while, something other than William Lane Craig or Lee Strobel.

    A fine example of Dunning-Kruger.

    What’s up with the formatting?

  377. JJ Borgmanon 10 Jan 2013 at 5:36 pm

    From a welder,

    Zach, you are plainly full of shkit. I can tell it AND the brainiacs can tell it.

    You couldn’t sell me bottled water in the middle of a drought! I don’t trust you AND you won’t let me sample your “water” prior to purchase. Prove it will quench my thirst and provide the essential hydration needed during a drought…or most any other time.

    But you want to argue with me that I should accept all your explanations about the properties of your water, the definitions of water and hydration, the dire situation I am in due to lack of having water and the possibility of having no other source of water.

    Zach, for the sake of the sale, give me a bottle of your water. Because if my situation is as bad as you say it is, water might not be my only problem. I might have to eat you if you can’t help solve my thirst problem.

  378. RickKon 10 Jan 2013 at 5:47 pm

    Zach,

    A thought experiment to attempt to break through the objective/relativist definitional logjam:

    Can you imagine an alien intelligence? For example, can you imagine an intelligent, tool-using colony species like ants or bees?

    Would the same objective (by your definition) moral principles apply to them as apply to humanity?

  379. rezistnzisfutlon 10 Jan 2013 at 5:53 pm

    @JJ Borgman

    Not only is he selling water, it’s invisible magic water that you can only see once you truly believe it’s there.

  380. JJ Borgmanon 10 Jan 2013 at 6:02 pm

    @rezistnzisfutl

    I have no problem with that, well, maybe some, but if I could sample the water and know it quenches my thirst and hydrates me, I might not have to kill him and eat him. In fact, I might not want to kill him and eat him if he can solve a serious problem for me.

    But the longer he dances around, the leaner he gets and the less well he serves my other needs. Nutrition, labor, entertainment, information, defense…

  381. rezistnzisfutlon 10 Jan 2013 at 6:30 pm

    Very true, but that unfortunately is not how his religion works. Being a faith-based system, and I’ve heard this claim MANY times, you have to believe first before the “truth” is revealed to you. It’s viciously circular and requires no evidence. For people like us, it’s absurd to the extreme, but that is what they go by.

    As I’ve often said, I would respect them, if not agree, that if they’d just admit that what they believe is based entirely on faith and that they have no evidence for their belief, at least evidence they could present another person. Some theists have the honesty to admit that. Unfortunately, what we have here is someone who insists that there IS physical, verifiable evidence for his god, and not only that, that science and logic support the notion of his god’s existence and corresponding religion.

    What’s worse, it’s not enough that THEY believe this is true, but that demand others believe it’s true. That’s why I’m an anti-theist, because their beliefs inform their actions on any number of issues that directly affect me and society.

  382. tmac57on 10 Jan 2013 at 6:37 pm

    Way up thread,Zach could not understand how anyone could recognize harm as being bad without some objective source dictating it as so. His reasoning was that because some people cause harm,it must not be self evident that it is bad. To that I say fine,to that individual,it is not obvious (yet),but that does not negate the fact that the vast majority of us learn through experience that harm done to us is bad,and as we mature,natural empathy,and theory of mind combine to help us realize that the ethic of reciprocity makes for an easier and safer life and productive social structure.
    The ‘might makes right’ world is a much more dangerous,uncomfortable,and has proven to be the more unstable and unsustainable social structure.
    All of this is empirically observed.

  383. chrisjon 10 Jan 2013 at 6:42 pm

    Steve, the third type of ethical theory is not “value theory” it is “virtue ethics.” There is deontology, consequentialism, and virtue ethics.

  384. JJ Borgmanon 10 Jan 2013 at 6:46 pm

    So, I should eat him before he loses fat on the bone?

    I don’t want to be angry at him for being unnecessarily lean while trying, simultaneously, to enjoy pulling the fatty flesh off the bone. A good BBQ is to be savored (barring a home recipe, I suggest KC Masterpiece Original or Sweet Baby Rays).

    Zach, this, objectively with nuance, will end so much better for you if you simply capitulate.

    Either way, we subjective moralists will be just fine. Or Moral Relativists or whatever you want to call us.

    We do like mayo and onion with our “sandwich”.

  385. rezistnzisfutlon 10 Jan 2013 at 6:55 pm

    JJ, if you’re bigger and stronger than he is, then by all means, eat him. Since we’re subjective moralists, which actually means we have no morals at all, the clearly might makes right and strong eats the weak (that is what Theory of Evolution says and where we derive our impulses).

    Watch out, though, because it’s possible he could be a big bada$$. However, perhaps we could count on him not fighting back since he is an objective moralist who gets his morals from a divine authority telling him not to kill and to turn the other cheek. Oh, wait, that’s never stopped them before, so nevermind…

  386. JJ Borgmanon 10 Jan 2013 at 7:11 pm

    Might is seldom about size or strength. Behold the virus.

  387. rezistnzisfutlon 10 Jan 2013 at 7:36 pm

    “Might is seldom about size or strength. Behold the virus.”

    WE know that, but according to our friend Zach, that’s not what it means. To him, survival of the fittest means whoever is the biggest and the strongest. We are, afterall, going by his definitions.

  388. Steven Novellaon 10 Jan 2013 at 7:36 pm

    Zach – You are helping me. You are helping me to figure out how to identify and explain the basis of my position. That is mostly why I spend time debating with people like you. It’s a good exercise. I am also open to the possibility that my view is flawed or incomplete, and there is no better way to demonstrate this than to have to convince someone else of it, especially if they are hostile to your view.

    I think what I mostly got out of this exchange is a more efficient and clear way to explain the following, building on my last comment.

    You must first ask – why do we even need morals? Why do morals matter? Regardless of the source of the morals, why do they even exist in the first place?

    I think this question is informed by the notion that a species without any feelings, likes, dislikes, concerns, emotion at all would not need morals. They cannot be harmed, they cannot suffer, they don’t even care if they live. It’s all the same to them. Morals would serve no purpose to such a species.

    Humans, however, have feelings. We have an innate feeling that some things are good and other things are bad. These are not necessarily universal – that is a separate question. But all people have preferences – things that give them positive feelings and other things that give them negative feelings. We can even visualize this in the brain.

    To this we can add that humans share this planet with each other to some extent. In a world with a single being, morals would also be irrelevant.

    So now we have two empirical premises – people have feelings, and we have to share this planet with each other to some extent.

    That is really all you need, in my opinion, as core premises to get a moral system going. Everything else can be derived to some degree from that.

    Your example that not everyone thinks harm is bad is not valid, I think, because your assumption of why they do harm is not justified. You assume that someone who causes harm to someone else does not have any understanding that harm is bad. This may be true for some people, like true psychopaths, but not for most people (and yes, this is demonstrated by psychological studies). People who think that harm is bad may still do harm to others if they think that other principles take precedence – like their personal desires. Also, what psychological studies have shown is that in some cases we come to believe that other people are less than human and not deserving of rights, and so we are free to violate them for our own purposes (in-group, out-group thinking).

    In short – not everyone is consciously following a moral system, and people can rationalize their behavior even against morals they believe. So it does not follow that people who do harm do not accept “harm is bad” as a premise.

    But in any case – once we agree that
    1 – people have feelings
    2 – we share this planet

    We can reasonably justify other basic principles from which a philosophy of morals can flow.

    It is a separate philosophical question as to whether a moral principle has to be universal in order to be valid. I have implied, and will say now explicitly, that the more universal a principle the greater moral weight is has. Some moral principles are so close to being universal that we can take them as imperatives, while others are culturally dependent and it’s fine that they vary from society to society.

    This is not the position of cultural relativism, which states that all moral values are culturally relative. I hold the position that some are so basic they transcend culture. (You cannot resolve this with a dictionary – you have to read moral philosophy.)

    We can extend the analogy to other alien technological species, as someone has suggested. We will then have to figure out which moral principles are cross-species, and which species relative. Perhaps they have no concept of property, and therefore no morals relating to ownership, for example.

    Now – are you willing to subject your own moral system to the same scrutiny? So far you have dodged this, which is to your discredit, but there is always the opportunity for redemption.

  389. Zachon 10 Jan 2013 at 8:12 pm

    Hey Steven.

    I think you should write a new blog post on this, since what you are putting forth now is, from what it sounds, different enough from your first post and what you originally asserted. With a new post you could flesh some of these ideas about a bit more too, and we could see how you apply certain moral issues, historically and in the present through this moral system.

    But I have to ask, not because I want to gloat or rub anything in or anything immature like that, but do you agree this view has changed from what you were arguing, at least in the foundational premise?
    Do you now see the holes in your original argument and that I was not just being a illogical creationists?

    With a new posts we can discuss your new view of morality since this one has gotten pretty long.
    I mean don’t get me wrong, it still has some similarities to your old view for sure, but it is now rooted in a new foundation – since before your foundation led to illogical/incorrect claims or moral relativism.

    I still want to discuss your new view and think it over, and provide some critique if necessary (unless you have had enough of my nonsense) but I think you should do a new post. Whatcha think?

    Also, I am more than willing to discuss my view of morality, the reason I wouldn’t do it before is because that was not the focus of the conversation, your original view of morality was and me stopping to explain my view would only be a distraction from that and the foundation of your moral system which I asserted to be wrong. But anyways, I’ll try to write up a well put together argument soon, but I’m working on launching my own blog right now, just gotta think of a name that isn’t terrible. I’ll probably write it up there since it’s not really a subset of your posts, etc.

    How about http://www.AllAtheistAreEvilAndTheWorldWasMadeInSixDaysByASkyFairy.com

    =)

    Respectfully,
    Zach

  390. jwalms2on 10 Jan 2013 at 8:33 pm

    Not to gloat or rub it in or anything, but to ask a question of someone and then posit the answer is an immature tactic.

    And yes, you are still being an illogical creationist.

  391. Zachon 10 Jan 2013 at 8:36 pm

    What?

    I got raked over the coals over not agreeing with Steven’s original view, and after all that it seems that he’s changed it based on critiques I gave. If that’s not actually what Steven has done I wanna know

    =(

  392. autumnmonkeyon 10 Jan 2013 at 8:47 pm

    tmac57:

    The ‘might makes right’ world is a much more dangerous,uncomfortable,and has proven to be the more unstable and unsustainable social structure.

    Zacho will ask for your objective standard. For the sake of argument it can be said, “Ok, might-makes-right is reality.” He’s tried to argue that’s the natural state of affairs without his objective whatever. How does that prove Zach’s argument that NOT might-makes-right is correct? He keeps telling us might-makes-right is what happens without objective morality, but he fails to show how might-makes-right is objectively wrong. Is it wrong because people get hurt? But he’s made clear people being harmed is irrelevant to what’s objectively moral, as we point out that Yahweh is a murderous concept creature. He asks for proof of non-objective morals, but then he makes the case for non-objective morals by saying all we have is might-makes-right without objective morals. That’s clearly an admission that objective morality isn’t the only option.

  393. autumnmonkeyon 10 Jan 2013 at 8:52 pm

    Zach, you were raked over the coals for being wrong at every turn and being a d1ck about it. No one cares if you agree with anyone.

  394. jwalms2on 10 Jan 2013 at 8:54 pm

    Changing the delivery of an argument to communicate with a specific person is different than changing the substance of an argument.

  395. Zachon 10 Jan 2013 at 8:57 pm

    “Zach, you were raked over the coals for being wrong at every turn and being a d1ck about it. No one cares if you agree with anyone.”

    Then why argue with me?

    Obviously someone cares.

  396. rezistnzisfutlon 10 Jan 2013 at 9:03 pm

    Then why argue with me?

    To correct you on some egregious factual and logical errors in hopes to educate you a little. It’s unfortunate that your religion has taught you to be so close-minded that very little was absorbed other than a little aping of what you’ve been exposed to.

  397. rezistnzisfutlon 10 Jan 2013 at 9:04 pm

    Also, as Dr. Novella mentioned above, it’s always too to allow ourselves to be challenged because doing so refines our understanding of things we do know and exposes to use what we don’t, perhaps changing some misconceptions we ourselves may have.

  398. Steven Novellaon 10 Jan 2013 at 9:08 pm

    Zach – I have not changed my position. I have just explained it differently. You are still missing the major point that you are trying to understand things as black and white, when there are shades of gray. That is why you keeping equating anything less than 100% objective as moral relativism. There are degrees of relativism. Real moral relativism says that no moral system is better than any other. I think some systems are better than others, as I have explained.

    In any case, it’s still your turn. Go.

  399. nybgruson 10 Jan 2013 at 9:10 pm

    Zach,

    Dr. Novella – nor any of us – had changed anything fundamental about our views. We have actually all been quite in sync. We have certainly refined a few details. But mostly we have worked hard to explain what we already had been saying in more clear and varied ways.

    But one thing from you is quite telling:

    First principles are assumptions you can’t prove, that’s fine, but these first principles in this conversation are the very thing we are talking about – moral standards.

    Maybe that is what you are talking about. But not what we are. First principles are NOT morals. They are the FOUNDATION of morals. Many morals together in a system makes a morality.

    You also make a very fundamental error:

    Because math is completely rooted in an objective standard and empirical claims. If you get your math wrong, the satellite burns up. We can test to see that math works or does not work empirically. But with your moral system, you assume the very thing you are trying to prove.

    No, math itself is not rooted in an objective standard in empirical claims. We use math to make objective and empirical claims.

    You say 1 is a number. Why? Why should I believe you. You say that 2 is bigger than one. Why? Who said that? What if I say that 3 is the largest number possible?

    You do realize that we commonly deal in base 10 number systems, but there are so many more – base 2, hex, base 8, are all commonly used. And all of them have different “numbers” but so long as they are internally consistent you can still have a valid system based on each one to describe everything.

    What if I told you that 11011 is 27. Would you believe me?

    What if you needed $27 dollars to pay your bills but I only offered you 11011 dollars? Would you be happy?

    So you have to ASSUME that 1 is a number smaller than 2 and give it a definition. And then when I take an apple and give it to you, you can AGREE you have 1 apple. And when I give you 26 more apples you can AGREE that you have 27 apples. Or 11011 apples.

    Do you see how math requires a “blind faith” acceptance of a first principle and then you use THAT to build a system to THEN test empirically and verify it works?

    This is exactly the same thing that we have been saying about morality.

    How do you test a moral principle? Depends on which one you are testing. How do you test if your car has gas? Is there only one way? Is is the exact same as how you would test if your fridge had food in it? Is there more than one way to determine if your fridge has food in it?

    This is all the same as the moral system. There are often multiple ways to test for the same thing, and different things need different tests.

    So no, we cannot possibly test “harm is bad” to be absolutely and universally true. But once we accept it as such, just like how we accept that 1 is a number and agree on what it describes, we can then build a logically consistent system from it. Once we have done that we can then test it in various ways to see if it has the desired outcomes.

    In the same way that we can have multiple number systems that each describe reality (but are themselves not absolute and objective) so we can have moral systems. Some number systems work better for different applications – base 10 for us in regular life, base 2 for computer systems, etc. So can different moral systems. Note that the way in which we derive and apply number systems is always the same – just the actual system is different. Also the same for moral systems – the way we derive and apply are the same, but the system is different (remember moral system is the complicated interplay of all the aspects of morality, not just a single first principle). And just like there are moral philosophers and theorists, there are also number theorists who come up with new systems to describe more and more complex and specialized things.

    So just like morality is derived and evolved, so is math. The invention of the number zero was actually a pretty big deal!. And BOTH require acceptance of first principles to then build on. The same way you can be incredibly contrarian and deny my first principle that “harm is bad” I can also deny your first principle that “2 is larger than 1.”

    Does this help clarify anything at all? I’m genuinely trying hard to give you more insight into the topic. I am starting to feel that if we had the chance to sit down as a group, with a beer, and actually draw and write these out in front of you it would click for you.

    In any event, this has been useful for me as well. I have learned a lot from it, and it is especially apropos because the hospital administration has asked me to include a section on medical ethics in my part of the new med student orientation tomorrow. Obviously we won’t be covering these sorts of details, but knowing as much as I do now will certainly allow me to make the talk more powerful.

  400. rezistnzisfutlon 10 Jan 2013 at 9:11 pm

    He keeps telling us might-makes-right is what happens without objective morality, but he fails to show how might-makes-right is objectively wrong

    He doesn’t even demonstrate that objective morality exists, must less that in the absence of objective morality might makes right is what happens.

    His “might makes right” and “strong eats weak” assertions are his erroneous derogatory interpretations of what Theory of Evolution is. So, his bases for these are false to begin with.

    From what I can see, there is very little Zach has gotten right from the beginning.

    At this point, all Zach is really good for is as a sociological representation of logical fallacies, magical thinking, motivated reasoning, and cognitive dissonance. In other word, how NOT to be.

  401. Zachon 10 Jan 2013 at 9:23 pm

    Steven,

    I am dissapointed. It appears the others here don’t know any better, you should.

    If you honestly think you are merely changing how you are saying your view, then I cannot appeal to logic or reason with you.

    I will say you have helped me understand your position greatly and where I believe it wrong, so thanks for making things clearer.

    At this point, we shall agree to disagree.

    Respectfully,
    Zach

  402. rezistnzisfutlon 10 Jan 2013 at 9:30 pm

    @nybgrus

    Math is a great example to use here. Zach, as do many people who haven’t had great exposure to it, often assume the universe is made up of math and it just exists. Math is a purely human concept used to model the universe and use as a tool. It may reflect realities about the universe, but just like language, it’s merely a tool, a human made construct.

    Once again, the only thing he has demonstrated is his deep-seated misunderstanding of something. Judging by has last post, I think he’s intractable and everyone is wasting their time with him (other than what they can get for their own edification).

  403. rezistnzisfutlon 10 Jan 2013 at 9:34 pm

    Nybgrus, is your youtube handle the same as your handle here?

  404. ccbowerson 10 Jan 2013 at 9:43 pm

    “If you honestly think you are merely changing how you are saying your view, then I cannot appeal to logic or reason with you.”

    Yes, you do have difficulty with logic and reason. But you are persistent and I hope your hard work pays off one day, and you figure it all out. Try to seek out books that challenge your views and really attempt to understand what those writers are saying. Read honest critics of the writers you look up to and try to understand their perspective and arguments. Good luck Zach.

  405. nybgruson 10 Jan 2013 at 10:07 pm

    @Zach:

    Try and understand why math is not absolute or objective in and of itself. Learn about how number systems are derived and how their validity is verified. I assure you it is completely analagous to morality.

    I also assure you that Dr. Novella has not changed his position. The rest of us here have followed him (and each other) quite well. There is an old saying – “when everyone in the room is crazy except for you, maybe you are the one that is crazy.” We are not uneducated folk here. Have at least a little humility and try and figure out why you might be wrong, rather than trying to prove us wrong as a way to prove yourself right. Honestly you will go a lot farther in every endeavor you undertake if you make that your guiding principle. Anytime you need to prove someone/something else wrong in order to justify your stance, you are already in a weak position. Your stance/ideas should always be able to stand on their own and if you can’t verbalize why then you’ve already failed. That is why Dr. Novella asked you to explain your system and how you decide it is correct. But you can’t. That’s pretty telling.

  406. bgoudieon 10 Jan 2013 at 10:08 pm

    Zach please leave the terms logic reason and science alone. They grow tarnished when your smug and utterly uneducated little mitts get on them.

  407. nybgruson 10 Jan 2013 at 10:11 pm

    @rezistnftl:

    Yep!

  408. JJ Borgmanon 10 Jan 2013 at 10:16 pm

    Zach,

    “I am dissapointed (sic). It appears the others here don’t know any better, you should.”

    Your tone of condescension is upsetting. I might deserve that kind of pejorative, but most of the other posters here don’t. I’m trying to understand all of it, but from my reading of the arguments (and follow up research about those arguments) you are the one who has been a verbose disappointment. In fact, you might actually be an objective disappointment.

    I thought they’d bail on you long ago, but I’m glad to see it’s you who is bidding “fare well”. And I have no doubt I’ll see you pop up again on some other forum with much the same result. Adieu! (Literally)

  409. rezistnzisfutlon 10 Jan 2013 at 10:43 pm

    Zach please leave the terms logic reason and science alone.

    No kidding. I suppose we shouldn’t expect any more from a guy who thinks logic equal common sense and science equals test tubes and beakers. Puerile and willfully ignorant.

  410. Zachon 10 Jan 2013 at 10:51 pm

    I am disappointed, not insulting him, I don’t agree with him. There is a difference.

    To the rest of you, is I still can’t figure out why you care so deeply about this and get so upset.
    It’s a conversation, people don’t agree, why so angry?

    To me that is very revealing.

  411. BillyJoe7on 10 Jan 2013 at 11:37 pm

    Zach,

    I have not contributed much because I am learning, but I have followed this discussion from the start including the previous related threads. I had a pretty good idea of what Steven was saying right from the start and I can tell you that his position hasn’t changed. He started with a skeleton and now that skeleton has flesh, that’s all. I guess he thought the skeletal outline would be sufficient. He will probably not make that mistake again. He has gained by being able to more effectively put his view in future encounters. Hopefully, so has everyone else here who has made contributions, otherwise they have not gained.

    But have you gained from the experience? I hope you have. Hopefully you now realise that your mastery of evolution and logical fallacy needs a lot of work. I hope you also realise that you can’t base your argument in these type of discussions on dictionary definitions. That really was a bad move. I hope you also now understand the difference between “morals are relative” and “moral relativism” (actually wiki calls them “descriptive moral relativism” and “meta-ethical moral relativism, and adds a third category – you can look it up).

    But your basic error was in not understanding that a moral system consists of many parts, some of which are objective and some of which are subjective. This exposes your A/not A dichotomy as false. And, of course, the “excluded middle” applies to propositions, not complex systems, and moral systems are complex systems. So, Zach, what can I say other than that you have been defeated. But being defeated means that you actually have the potential to win – by understanding what you did not understand before. Unfortunately that means reassessing what you have taken as gospel, so to speak, up till now. Many of us here have been through this process and found it to be a liberating experience.

    Best of luck.

  412. rezistnzisfutlon 10 Jan 2013 at 11:42 pm

    Your concern about our being upset is overblown. While it’s frustrating to deal with someone who not only is factually incorrect about, well, everything, it’s your pigheaded ignorance that is keeping people here. That and their own curiosity.

    Many of us are concerned that you represent a large portion of the population that is fervently anti-science and willfully ignorant. We recognize the harm that comes from ignorance. It’s because of your (perceived) absolute morality that same-sex marriage is illegal in most US States, and homosexuality carries the death penalty in some countries. It’s because of your absolute morality that women have to fight for their reproductive rights, that contraception is under attack, and teen pregnancy is at an all time high in some areas. It’s because of your religion that science and science education is undermined. It’s largely because of your religion that the US is flagging in STEM education and innovation.

    See, your “absolute morality” carries consequences, mostly because of the ignorance it requires.

  413. ccbowerson 10 Jan 2013 at 11:45 pm

    “It’s a conversation, people don’t agree, why so angry?
    To me that is very revealing.”

    I can’t speak for everyone, but its not anger as much as frustration. Its not an attachment to an ideology for me like it is for you, but its an attachment to rational discourse. It is the smug responses from someone who is not in a position to be smug. Its talking to someone willing to criticize other’s good ideas with faulty logic, but too scared to put his own ideas out there. But at least it’s a real time example of motivated reasoning for all to see and perhaps the smugness is an example of the Dunning Kruger effect.

    Or less cynically, it is likely that you’ve come here to see how well you can defend your position, because you realize (even if you don’t admit it) that your position is flawed, but you are attached to it. You think ‘duking it out’ in a hostile crowd (although we are not really hostile) and standing your ground will help you feel justified in holding onto that belief. You tell me.

    Alright, I’m really done here for now. G’night folks

  414. BillyJoe7on 10 Jan 2013 at 11:47 pm

    Zach,

    ” why so angry?”

    Good question. The answer is frustration. Despite numerous attempts by several posters, you did not shift your position as they expected. After a while frustration sets in and the result is anger. It is understandable but certainly not helpful. Despite that, Steven and I think one other poster (who will remain un-named, because he already has a big enough head!) eventually got there and explained it as clearly as is humanly possible. It’s certainly a whole lot clearer for me. If you still don’t understand, then I think you have lost twice – the argument and new understanding. That would be sad.

  415. nybgruson 11 Jan 2013 at 12:22 am

    “why so angry?”

    I’m not angry. OK, I was once. In a post that Dr. Novella did not release from moderation. (which is fine by me, it probably wasn’t worth posting, though I do think I had a few good points, albeit tainted by my anger).

    The reason I got angry on that one is when you indirectly compared homosexuality to pedophilia. That absolutely infuriates me. I have some very good friends who are homosexual and the bigotry and oppression that they face – at the hands of absolute objective moralists – is something I absolutely loathe. It makes it incredibly easy to just offload the responsibility of one’s bigotry onto an imaginary sky fairy and its “objective morality.”

    But yes, frustration does end up bleeding through. We are, after all, human animals and quite imperfect (as if “perfect” even actually means anything, but that is another conversation).

    I’ll echo the sentiment of a few others before me – if you really do care (and you seem to by hanging in this long) you will try and learn from this encounter. If you do, you will undoubtedly be better off for it.

    The awesome thing about this sort of forum is you can go back an re-read what we all wrote here. We each offered different ideas and perspectives, refined our language, fleshed out our ideas. Come back to it all some time in the future – in a few weeks time or even longer – with fresh eyes. See if you can’t try and understand what we have been trying to explain. Just remember we were not attempted to describe an entire moral system, but merely how one derives a moral system. There are many, but the fundamental process of figuring them out is the same. And the beauty of our process is that IF there is actually an absolute objective morality it will be found using this method as well.

  416. Zachon 11 Jan 2013 at 8:56 am

    “You must first ask – why do we even need morals? Why do morals matter? Regardless of the source of the morals, why do they even exist in the first place?”

    I believe the first question to ask is, “Does mankind make moral decisions?”
    Answer: Yes – otherwise the conversation is pointless and we are only doing what we are programmed to do anyways. How would consciousness work if this was no?

    Also, I would argue that lions do not and simply do what their instincts, genetics, etc. direct them to do.

    The next question is, “Why do human’s need a moral system?”
    Answer: We need a basic foundation to determine that (insert bad action here) “ought” not be done, regardless of if the person thinks it is ok.

    “I think this question is informed by the notion that a species without any feelings, likes, dislikes, concerns, emotion at all would not need morals. They cannot be harmed, they cannot suffer, they don’t even care if they live. It’s all the same to them. Morals would serve no purpose to such a species.
    Humans, however, have feelings. We have an innate feeling that some things are good and other things are bad. These are not necessarily universal – that is a separate question. But all people have preferences – things that give them positive feelings and other things that give them negative feelings. We can even visualize this in the brain.”

    Even animals can suffer, but do you assert that animals have a moral system? How do you differentiate between animal suffering and human suffering?

    “To this we can add that humans share this planet with each other to some extent. In a world with a single being, morals would also be irrelevant.”

    If the goal of morality is to reduce suffering (which you need to provide evidence for), how would suicide play into a world with only one moral being?

    So now we have two empirical premises – people have feelings, and we have to share this planet with each other to some extent.

    Yes people have feelings, but so do animals? What does this matter?
    Why does sharing the planet matter?

    That is really all you need, in my opinion, as core premises to get a moral system going. Everything else can be derived to some degree from that.

    This is a logical leap. You moved way to quickly and need to demonstrate that this statement is true, not just assert that it is.

    Your example that not everyone thinks harm is bad is not valid, I think, because your assumption of why they do harm is not justified. You assume that someone who causes harm to someone else does not have any understanding that harm is bad. This may be true for some people, like true psychopaths, but not for most people (and yes, this is demonstrated by psychological studies). People who think that harm is bad may still do harm to others if they think that other principles take precedence – like their personal desires. Also, what psychological studies have shown is that in some cases we come to believe that other people are less than human and not deserving of rights, and so we are free to violate them for our own purposes (in-group, out-group thinking).

    Do you believe anyone ever does anything wrong that they believe is right? Or do you think that people all understand that harm is bad always? I don’t think you can demonstrate this, and again, you are building off your premise again that harm is bad without having demonstrated that to be the case.

    “In short – not everyone is consciously following a moral system, and people can rationalize their behavior even against morals they believe. So it does not follow that people who do harm do not accept “harm is bad” as a premise.”

    1. You must prove that not everyone is consciously following a moral system. I don’t know why you concluded this or how even. It’s just asserted to be true.

    2. Yes, people can rationalize their behavior even against morals they believe, I agree with completely. But what does that matter? We are talking about how to determine a moral system, now how people interact with a moral system once it is underway.

    3. Some people will accept that harm to them is bad, or maybe even harm to others is bad, but this has not been demonstrated to be universal nor true. It’s a naked assertion.

    “But in any case – once we agree that
    1 – people have feelings
    2 – we share this planet
    We can reasonably justify other basic principles from which a philosophy of morals can flow.”

    Steven, even if people have feelings, that does not prove that the feelings that result from harm are to be avoided. Why not the feelings that cause pleasure? Or sadness? Or empathy? Or fear? Etc. etc. Again, you are appealing to first principles without demonstrating them.

    Before your argument had two major problems.
    First principles are nothing more than a few moral statements, so asking the question “How does one determine morality, is essentially answered by the assuming the answer to the question – Morality is Morality (first principles).
    Logic and reason can be applied to determining a moral system. If morality is based on values (stuff we like), then you can’t apply logic and reason to determine which stuff is the better stuff to like (like color preferences). Now, you (and many others) think I am being unfair by stating this, but I am not, here is why.
    Steven you pointed out that logic and reason only apply to empirical claims (objective claims).
    You did not like that I said that you could not determine a moral system which is determined first-most by values (stuff we like) off objective and subjective principles, it must be either or, and if objective morality is not determined by values, and you claimed your view was a complex system so that it could.

    The reason you cannot say that part of your moral system is empirical is because how to determine a system and comparing actions with an already determined system are DIFFERENT

    I agree, once you have a system of determing morality PUT INTO PLACE, you can then test actions with logic, reason, since that is objective and empirical, but that skips right over the problem – you are again assuming the answer to your question and then answering your question by that.

    Here is why.
    Question: how does one determine moral principles
    Answer: By applying reason and logic to first principles – but what are first principles? Nothing more that a few moral principles that you then use as a standard from which to examine with reason and logic other moral principles. This is completely circular.
    How does one determine more principles? Steven’s answer is, by moral principles. This is nonsensical.

    “I have implied, and will say now explicitly, that the more universal a principle the greater moral weight is has. Some moral principles are so close to being universal that we can take them as imperatives, while others are culturally dependent and it’s fine that they vary from society to society.”

    Why? Can you tell us some moral principles that are universal or so close to being universal that we can add them to the list of “harm is bad”? Also, you need to provide evidence that “harm is bad” is applied to choices which make up a moral system.

    “I hold the position that some are so basic they transcend culture.”

    Why? On what basis do you make this claim? See above.

    “I hold the position that some are so basic they transcend culture. (You cannot resolve this with a dictionary – you have to read moral philosophy.)”

    This anti-dictionary rebuttal needs to end. If we cannot agree upon words meaning, I suggested a dictionary from which to appeal to for the definition. I agree some words have a wide case of meanings (hence why a dictionary puts 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. etc.), but if you would like to use a word in a different way, tell me exactly which word and how/why you believe it should be used in a way different from common understanding (A.K.A the dictionary definition).

    “We can extend the analogy to other alien technological species, as someone has suggested. We will then have to figure out which moral principles are cross-species, and which species relative. Perhaps they have no concept of property, and therefore no morals relating to ownership, for example.”

    …..
    http://empireminecraft.com/attachments/image-jpg.8325/

    =)

    “There are degrees of relativism. Real moral relativism says that no moral system is better than any other. I think some systems are better than others, as I have explained.”

    This is true, but as I suggested before, I think you are going to end up here once we work through some of the points in your argument that I think are false.

    “First principles are NOT morals. They are the FOUNDATION of morals. Many morals together in a system makes a morality.”

    Incorrect. In order to make a morality you must know how to determine morality, just just lay a foundation of first principles which are moral statements and then assume it all builds off those un-provable assumptions.

    I agree that these first principles are the real foundation of your morals, but what are your first principles? One that has been repeatedly provided is “harm is bad”.
    But what is the notion that “harm is bad”? A moral statement on right and wrong – and answering the question “how does one determine moral principles?” with a foundational premise that is itself a moral principle is circular.

    “No, math itself is not rooted in an objective standard in empirical claims. We use math to make objective and empirical claims.”

    Steven care to comment on this? I argue that the laws of mathematics exist and we did not create them – we discovered them. Sure we assigned names to it’s different properties, but that doesn’t mean we created it.

    Calling the moon “the moon” as opposed to “Chippacondra” doesn’t mean we created the moon, we discovered it.

    “He doesn’t even demonstrate that objective morality exists, must less that in the absence of objective morality might makes right is what happens.”

    If morality is not subjective it is therefore by default objective – unless someone wants to pick up the claim that there is no morality and rape is no different than consensual love.

    “It is the smug responses from someone who is not in a position to be smug.”

    I don’t believe I have been smug, but if I have come off that way I apologize and will try harder to not do that and only deal with the issues.

    “Or less cynically, it is likely that you’ve come here to see how well you can defend your position, because you realize (even if you don’t admit it) that your position is flawed, but you are attached to it. You think ‘duking it out’ in a hostile crowd (although we are not really hostile) and standing your ground will help you feel justified in holding onto that belief. You tell me.”

    First, everyone is attached to their views to various degrees- it is what it is.
    Second, I am not here to defend my position with the purpose of feeling better about my position, I legitimately would like to find another moral system that is rooted in something logical. So far, for reasons I have stated, I don’t believe this view of morality changes that. We’ll see though, I am open to new possibilities, whether you think so or not.

    “The answer is frustration. Despite numerous attempts by several posters, you did not shift your position as they expected. After a while frustration sets in and the result is anger. It is understandable but certainly not helpful.”

    Frustration is understandable. I myself am frustrated, but belittling people for not being smart enough to get it is a defense mechanism to hide our own insecurities, that and it’s just immature.

    Instead, if someone doesn’t agree with me, I try to mull it over and over and over to find the exact spot I think we part ways. I think I have found it, and I am trying to show Steven and the rest of you why and where. I have narrowed down to two exact spots. Now, if Steven simply refuses to accept my points as valid I am at a draw and must agree to disagree. If Steven counters my critique with more explanation that discredits my critique I must either agree with him, or examine further to see if his views can hold up. So far I am legitimately unconvinced. You all seem to assume it’s because I am a religious nut job who believes in a sky daddy who gives us morality so I can’t allow myself to consider an alternative.

    Because you assume this, there is nothing I could do to demonstrate my critiques being un-rooted in that. You are putting up mental road blocks because you don’t trust my motives since I am a Christian. It’s understandable to a degree, but do try to look past that and just at the basic critiques I am stating. Forget that I am a Christian, for it doesn’t matter what I am!

    If the critiques are valid they are valid. It matters little if I believe in sky fairies and pixie dust, etc. etc. for then that would just mean BOTH of us are wrong.

    Respectfully,
    Zach

  417. ccbowerson 11 Jan 2013 at 8:58 am

    “Despite that, Steven and I think one other poster (who will remain un-named, because he already has a big enough head!) eventually got there and explained it as clearly as is humanly possible.”

    You have me really wondering who comes across as having a big head here. I can’t think of who that is, but maybe its obvious? I think most of the commenters have a reasonable level of humility.

  418. ccbowerson 11 Jan 2013 at 9:03 am

    “Frustration is understandable. I myself am frustrated, but belittling people for not being smart enough to get it is a defense mechanism to hide our own insecurities, that and it’s just immature.”

    I don’t think that is an accurate description for the most part. I think that there have been times in which people question your intellectual honesty at times on this topic, which is entirely separate from your intelligence

    “Forget that I am a Christian, for it doesn’t matter what I am!”

    I have not brought up Christianity in this discussion, but it clearly matters in how you are willing to think about the issue

  419. Zachon 11 Jan 2013 at 9:10 am

    <blockquote?“Forget that I am a Christian, for it doesn’t matter what I am!”

    I have not brought up Christianity in this discussion, but it clearly matters in how you are willing to think about the issue

    It matters for me, not for your view withstanding the critique. If my critiques are valid, that is all that matters. If I believe that there is a man on the moon, that doesn’t effect my other critiques being valid or not. They are valid, or are not.

  420. Zachon 11 Jan 2013 at 9:10 am

    Whups, missed that > on the quote.

    Sorry about that.

  421. Zachon 11 Jan 2013 at 9:12 am

    Here’s a good analogy. Isaac Newton believed in a sky daddy. Does that mean we shouldn’t contemplate his other views gravity?

    No, a view stands and falls on it’s own.

  422. nybgruson 11 Jan 2013 at 10:35 am

    You are making my head hurt Zach. It really is almost painful to watch you willfully ignore, discard, and twist everything we are saying to just continue on with your predetermined conclusion. That is intellectually dishonest.

    Even animals can suffer, but do you assert that animals have a moral system

    Yes, I would assert they do. It is certainly quite rudimentary and they don’t sit around much and talk about it in great detail, but you can see it progress through higher order animals.

    You take a dog or a cat and depending on how you treat it, it will either hate you or love you. Adult animals will sometimes take in baby animals of another species and care for it. Your dog will appear obviously ashamed when caught doing something bad and try and reconcile later.

    These are the very rudimentary beginnings of living beings creating a moral system.

    If the goal of morality is to reduce suffering (which you need to provide evidence for

    No, for the millionth time no. We do not need to provide evidence that the goal of morality is to provide suffering. We offer that as a premise and then extrapolate from there. If you don’t like where the extrapoloation goes, then you can say it is a bad moral system and you reject it. If you like it, than you accept it.

    Yes people have feelings, but so do animals? What does this matter?
    Why does sharing the planet matter?

    I honestly can’t believe you don’t realize how insanely absurd this sort of questioning is. This is not a critique of our stance – it is a childish game of “nuh uh!” as if it makes a point.

    Do you believe anyone ever does anything wrong that they believe is right?

    Yes, and as Steven Weinberg put it so well it is the religious who do so. Flying a plane into a building to kill yourself and others is about as wrong as it gets, yet thanks to Allah that has happened.

    That’s what an absolute and objective morality will get you.

    Or do you think that people all understand that harm is bad always?

    Further betrays your intellectual dishonesty. We’ve said about a thousand times now that no, not everyone thinks anything always.

    you are building off your premise again that harm is bad without having demonstrated that to be the case.

    And again with this dishonesty. We’ve stated quite clearly you can’t prove a first premise. You build off of it, and if the system works that establishes it as a reasonable first premise.

    You must prove that not everyone is consciously following a moral system.

    Absurdity and standard creationists/religionist apologist tactics. Do you honestly think everyone is consciously following a moral system? Do you REALLY? If so, then wow. If not, then why would you bother trying to make that a talking point?

    First principles are nothing more than a few moral statements, so asking the question “How does one determine morality, is essentially answered by the assuming the answer to the question – Morality is Morality (first principles).

    No. This is so incredibly wrong I don’t even know where to begin. Morality is a large and complex thing. First principles are a simple and small thing. How does one determine morality is by starting from first principles and working from there. It is not circular since we are not asserting that first principles ARE morality. That is what YOU are trying to do, to discredit our argument, BUT THAT IS NOT OUR ARGUMENT.

    Do you see our frustration now? You aren’t even arguing against our argument.

    If morality is based on values (stuff we like), then you can’t apply logic and reason to determine which stuff is the better stuff to like (like color preferences)

    I’ve already explained exactly how you can. You just choose to ignore it.

    Steven you pointed out that logic and reason only apply to empirical claims (objective claims).

    I wish I could make this font in 10 inch letters:

    NO WE DID NOT EVER SAY SUCH A RIDICULOUS THING

    Logic and reason apply to EVERYTHING. Many of the logical fallacies you use only apply to empirical claims but you mis-apply them to subjective claims.

    See how you continue to be dishonest and ignore our arguments? And wonder why we are frustrated…

    Question: how does one determine moral principles
    Answer: By applying reason and logic to first principles – but what are first principles? Nothing more that a few moral principles that you then use as a standard from which to examine with reason and logic other moral principles. This is completely circular.
    How does one determine more principles? Steven’s answer is, by moral principles. This is nonsensical.

    And again, this is not what we said. Yes, what you said IS nonsensical. Which is why we would never say such drivel.

    You got it part right – apply logic and reason to first principles.

    We do not use moral principles as a standard we use them as an assumption. We use the standards of logic and reason to THEN determine if that ASSUMPTION is reasonable and logical!.

    So we do not use one moral principle as a standard to compare to other moral principles. They are stand alone entities. If a moral principle FITS WELL IN THE MORAL SYSTEM and it LOGICALLY and REASONABLY flows then it stands. If it doesn’t, it is discarded as a moral principle!

    So, we do not determine more principles by moral principles!. We never said this. Each moral principle is offered as an assumption, and then logica and reason applied to see if it is reasonable to accept the assumption, and then more logic and reason applied to see if it fits well within the overall moral system and what its limitations are.

    And you wonder why we keep accusing you of straw men?

    Why? Can you tell us some moral principles that are universal or so close to being universal that we can add them to the list of “harm is bad”?

    Why is a more universal principle more powerful? How incredibly disingenous can you be. If you can’t answer that yourself you are either lying or so willfully ignorant it boggles the mind.

    Steven care to comment on this? I argue that the laws of mathematics exist and we did not create them – we discovered them. Sure we assigned names to it’s different properties, but that doesn’t mean we created it.

    You really should learn about number theory. Read about mathematics:

    “Mathematics is the abstract study of topics encompassing quantity,[2] structure,[3] space,[2] change,[4][5] and other properties;[6] it has no generally accepted definition.”

    “Mathematicians seek out patterns[9][10] and formulate new conjectures. Mathematicians resolve the truth or falsity of conjectures by mathematical proof.”

    Wait a second.. mathematicians resolve the truth of a mathematical claim by mathematical proof? Isn’t that circular? Did we just invalidate all of mathematics???

    “The research required to solve mathematical problems can take years or even centuries of sustained inquiry. Since the pioneering work of Giuseppe Peano (1858–1932), David Hilbert (1862–1943), and others on axiomatic systems in the late 19th century, it has become customary to view mathematical research as establishing truth by rigorous deduction from appropriately chosen axioms and definitions.

    “When those mathematical structures are good models of real phenomena, then mathematical reasoning can provide insight or predictions about nature”

    I mean really, do you not see how this is exactly like how we are saying to derive morality? We establish the truth of a moral first principle by rigorous deduction from appropriately CHOSEN axioms and definitions. Then IF the moral system is a good model of real phenomena we accept it.

    “Albert Einstein (1879–1955) stated that “as far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.”[16]”

    You should also read about the foundations of mathematics.

    “The search for foundations of mathematics is a central question of the philosophy of mathematics; the abstract nature of mathematical objects presents special philosophical challenges.”

    So if it is there, objective, and we “just discovered it” like we discovered the moon, these mathematical philosophers sure are wasting their time, aren’t they? And math is so abstract it presents special challenges, but clearly it is just an obvious thing that is already there and all we did is assign names to things, right?

    “But the foundations of mathematics as a whole does not aim to contain the foundations of every mathematical topic. ”

    Just. Like. Moral. Systems.

    So you see again why we get frustrated Zach. You make assertions about science and mathematics that are demonstrably wrong to try and prove your points. You take insanely simplistic views of things (math is just 2 apples plus 2 apples is 4 apples, duh!) and try and have a very high level sophisticated conversation. You do realize that there are imaginary numbers too, right? And that they only exist as constructs to give us placeholders in order to describe phenomena and complex equations. We literally made them up and even CALLED them imaginary in order to do more with math than we had been able to do before.

    Calling the moon “the moon” as opposed to “Chippacondra” doesn’t mean we created the moon, we discovered it.

    Please actually READ something and educate yourself. This is NOT the same as just calling the moon something different.

  423. tmac57on 11 Jan 2013 at 11:01 am

    Zach-
    1.Can you prove that there is a god?
    2.Can you prove that the bible is the word of god?
    3.Can you prove that all christians are moral?
    4.Can you prove that all christians believe the exact same things are wrong?
    5.Can you prove that all atheists are without morals?
    6.Can you prove that all things believed to be the word of god are moral?
    7.Are there any passages in the old or new testament that are, by your standards, immoral?
    8.Why do some christians do immoral things?
    9.Why would god not unambiguously reveal himself to ALL of the world,if he wants us all to believe in him and do good?
    10.Can you prove that all other religious beliefs are wrong?
    11.Can you prove that there is only one god.
    12.Can you prove that if there ever was a god,that there still is one?

    You have repeatedly asked of us to prove a number of absolutes (most of which we never asserted in the first place) ,now it is time for you to prove your absolutes. If you can’t,then I assert that yours morals are also derived from your subjective belief in the word of god.
    And that is fine with me.

  424. Zachon 11 Jan 2013 at 11:34 am

    “Yes, I would assert they do. It is certainly quite rudimentary and they don’t sit around much and talk about it in great detail, but you can see it progress through higher order animals.
    You take a dog or a cat and depending on how you treat it, it will either hate you or love you. Adult animals will sometimes take in baby animals of another species and care for it. Your dog will appear obviously ashamed when caught doing something bad and try and reconcile later.
    These are the very rudimentary beginnings of living beings creating a moral system.”

    So? You still didn’t explain why you chose some feelings as your standard from which to base morality over others. Animals and humans feel pain, why not have morality based on whatever causes the most pain?

    You are simply asserting that out of all the emotions and feelings humans have, one of them is the best – why? What we want is not an answer either. All humans WANT to be rich, so therefore why not build your morality around whatever causes humans to get the most money?

    This doesn’t work, not in the way you or Steven have explained it. You are again assuming your morality not showing evidence for it.

    “No, for the millionth time no. We do not need to provide evidence that the goal of morality is to provide suffering. We offer that as a premise and then extrapolate from there. If you don’t like where the extrapoloation goes, then you can say it is a bad moral system and you reject it. If you like it, than you accept it.”

    And for the millionth time, I understand this point. However, you don’t get to then claim your view is also objective and empirical. You can say that how you examine actions from your premise is using objective and empirical methods, but that’s irrelevant since that’s not what we are asking, we are asking “how does one determine moral actions.”

    They are different. You are essentially answering the question,
    “how does one determine moral actions with moral actions.”

    That IS circular. You can call it a premise or axiom or presupposition, but then logically all that means is, “How does one determine moral actions = with what I say it is.”

    Ok… so why should I care about what you say over the next guy? And if you assert that logic and reason can demonstrate your view to be correct, you are mistaken, for logic and reason can ONLY demonstrate how your moral system interacts with human choice.

    We are talking about one determines a moral system to begin with, and your answer boils down to we assume the one I came up with – why yours? Because you said so?
    No thanks.

    “Yes people have feelings, but so do animals? What does this matter?
    Why does sharing the planet matter?

    I honestly can’t believe you don’t realize how insanely absurd this sort of questioning is. This is not a critique of our stance – it is a childish game of “nuh uh!” as if it makes a point.”

    Why is it insane? Why is this a “nuh uh” answer? My point is clear, you need to refute it. Why are feelings what matters? And how do you decide what feelings are the ones that we should encourage?

    Stop making naked assertions and expecting me to go with it. I have no time for such silly notions.

    “Yes, and as Steven Weinberg put it so well it is the religious who do so. Flying a plane into a building to kill yourself and others is about as wrong as it gets, yet thanks to Allah that has happened.
    That’s what an absolute and objective morality will get you.”

    So ONLY religious people do this?

    Evidence please, not naked assertions.

    “Further betrays your intellectual dishonesty. We’ve said about a thousand times now that no, not everyone thinks anything always.”

    How is question intellectually dishonest? You seem to be making emotional arguments, not rational ones. Try to relax a bit, this is only a question, I didn’t break into your house and kick your dog.

    “And again with this dishonesty. We’ve stated quite clearly you can’t prove a first premise. You build off of it, and if the system works that establishes it as a reasonable first premise.”

    This is not dishonesty, I know this is your view. I reject it because it is nothing more than “I said so.”

    I don’t care about what your opinion of how to determine right and wrong, I care about facts.

    Would you accept my claim if I stated that there is a supernatural world and a God who made everything and you can’t test this notion by logic, reason, or empirical evidences you can only do that after it is assumed to be true?

    I doubt it, so why the double standard?

    “Absurdity and standard creationists/religionist apologist tactics. Do you honestly think everyone is consciously following a moral system? Do you REALLY? If so, then wow. If not, then why would you bother trying to make that a talking point?”

    Appeal to emotion, seems like a rant.

    Anyone else want to actually engage my points take a stab at my question? Instead of just complaining that I am not accepting it by blind faith?

    “First principles are nothing more than a few moral statements, so asking the question “How does one determine morality, is essentially answered by the assuming the answer to the question – Morality is Morality (first principles).”

    “No. This is so incredibly wrong I don’t even know where to begin. Morality is a large and complex thing. First principles are a simple and small thing. How does one determine morality is by starting from first principles and working from there. It is not circular since we are not asserting that first principles ARE morality. That is what YOU are trying to do, to discredit our argument, BUT THAT IS NOT OUR ARGUMENT.”

    So what if it is complex? That doesn’t get you out of the question… and you then go on to say the same thing I just said you said.

    Let’s take one of your first principles – “Harm is bad.” That is a moral statement. To harm is bad. Or to not harm is bad. It’s a general moral principle but it’s still a moral statement.

    Now, I asked the question, “how does one determine morality”? You say, by assuming first principles (axioms). And first principles ARE nothing more than general moral statements – the very thing we are trying to figure out how to know!

    If that isn’t circular I don’t know what is.

    “Do you see our frustration now? You aren’t even arguing against our argument.”

    No, you are confused because you don’t understand that the statement, “harm is bad” is a moral statement. You can call it a first principle or axiom or whatever you want, but this still means you are answering the question, “How does one determine morality’ with “by assuming a moral statement.” It’s circular reasoning. That is why you are confused.

    “If morality is based on values (stuff we like), then you can’t apply logic and reason to determine which stuff is the better stuff to like (like color preferences)
    I’ve already explained exactly how you can. You just choose to ignore it.”

    Where, that appeal to emotion/rant above? I think not.

    “Steven you pointed out that logic and reason only apply to empirical claims (objective claims).”

    “I wish I could make this font in 10 inch letters:
    NO WE DID NOT EVER SAY SUCH A RIDICULOUS THING”

    “Logic and reason apply to EVERYTHING. Many of the logical fallacies you use only apply to empirical claims but you mis-apply them to subjective claims.”

    See below quote. You did. If fallacies don’t apply to subjective claims neither can logic or reason since fallacies are demonstrations of logic and reason used wrongly.
    How could you argue from logic that Blue is the bestest of colors? You can’t, it’s a value that we assign, not an objective fact that can be demonstrated empirically.

    “The ad populum fallacy only applies when you are making an appeal to an empirically verifiable fact.
    For example, if you were to say that 99% of the population believes that the moon is made of cheese, therefore it must be made of cheese. That is an ad populum fallacy.
    But if you say that 99% of Californians agree that surfing is awesome, therefore Californians think surfing is awesome, that is not and ad populum fallacy.
    In the context of the philosophy of morality, since there is no empiric fact to test for the axiomatic principles on which to base morality, when 99% of people agree that enhancing the flourishing of humanity is a good thing, that establishes the axiomatic principle.”

    “See how you continue to be dishonest and ignore our arguments? And wonder why we are frustrated…”

    I know understand why you are frustrated, but it is largely from your own mistakes and illogical claims that I refuse to accept, sorry.

    “You got it part right – apply logic and reason to first principles.”

    I can agree with this if by it you mean you can apply logic and reason to the effects and specific situations/actions of first principles since you can objectively test if “John stabbed Bill.”. If you mean that logic and reason can provide your first principles no, because you assume them to be true without evidence.

    “Why is a more universal principle more powerful? How incredibly disingenous can you be. If you can’t answer that yourself you are either lying or so willfully ignorant it boggles the mind.”

    Translation: “I don’t know and instead of admitted it I’m going to act like it’s obvious and insult you that you don’t accept something so obvious because I’m upset about it.”

    Not affective.

    “You really should learn about number theory. Read about mathematics:”

    One question,

    Are the laws of mathematics discovered or created?

    “Please actually READ something and educate yourself. This is NOT the same as just calling the moon something different.”

    Steven? Care to weigh on whether math is objective or subjective?

    Can 2+2= 7 if we decide it is 7?

    Or is it 4 because we discovered the laws of math and didn’t create them.

    _

    _

    tmac57

    If I answered your questions with, “No I cannot prove there is a God, but I assume it and thefore and only then can test how things work in light of that assumption.”

    Would that be ok with you? Probably not huh.

    Seems like a double standard.

    Respectfully,

    Zach

  425. tmac57on 11 Jan 2013 at 11:53 am

    Zach-Making progress.

    Now replace ‘God’ with ‘harm is bad,so how can we reduce harm’,and reason from there.

    Not a double standard.The same standard but different 1st assumptions/principles.

  426. Steven Novellaon 11 Jan 2013 at 11:57 am

    I recommend moving this over to the new thread, if for no other reason than it is really slow loading all these comments.

    Also – Zach – I am still waiting for you to present a cogent description and defense of your moral system.

  427. Zachon 11 Jan 2013 at 12:18 pm

    Just saw the new post, and I was just about to move it over there.

    I’ll really try to get you my defense of my system, but that might take a few days, I still can’t think of a blog name.

    Just remember, your view stands alone.

    Respectfully,
    Zach

  428. nybgruson 11 Jan 2013 at 1:32 pm

    why yours? Because you said so?

    Nope, because it makes logical sense and has empirical data to back up some of its claims. You are free to reject it. I am free to reject yours. Others watch and listen, and then decide whose moral system is better suited. Yours will be weeded out by the evolution of humanity and human culture. Simple as that.

    So ONLY religious people do this?

    Nope. Never said that. You asked for an example. I gave one. You need to insert extra qualifiers in order to make my statement wrong. That is dishonest.

    I reject it because it is nothing more than “I said so.”

    Fine. That is perfectly reasonable. It is because I said so. But so is your absolute and objective morality, your assertion of god, and everything that entails. I reject that. Once again, others listen and decide what makes more sense. Your stance is nonsensical. Mine is. If enough people agree, then you are left holding the bag, because I can still somehow manage to convince more people than you.

    “How does one determine morality’ with “by assuming a moral statement.” It’s circular reasoning. That is why you are confused.

    Nope. You are still stuck at the beginning as if it weren’t answered. How do we determine is to start with an assumed axiomatic principle and see if it holds. I don’t just assume the entirety of it. Only the first principle.

    How could you argue from logic that Blue is the bestest of colors? You can’t, it’s a value that we assign, not an objective fact that can be demonstrated empirically.

    How can you argue that homosexuality is bad?

    I can argue that blue is the best colors. But no reasonable argument would stand up, hence we decide it is nothing more than a personal preference. But I could argue that blue is the best color for roadsigns, because it is more easily seen by people and then test that. Now I have established blue is the best color for a specific situation.

    So, how can you argue that homosexuality is bad? (or good, if you think it is).

    I personally argue it is completely neutral and on the same moral ground as the color blue. I could argue that it is bad in a specific context – for people who want biological children, homosexuality would be bad. However, even that changes, since we now have means and ways to get around that and now it no longer is “bad” in that regard. But for a couple who doesn’t even want children, homosexuality is not “bad” for them even in that specific context.

    I’ll ask on more time because I know you won’t answer – give me the argument for why homosexuality is bad.

    If you mean that logic and reason can provide your first principles no, because you assume them to be true without evidence.

    I never said logic and reason can provide first principles. Nobody here has. I only said that logic and reason, combined with empirical data, can provide evidence in support of first principles.

    You seem completely hung up on this notion that we simply must have evidence for first principles otherwise the whole thing falls apart. Yet you can’t even provide evidence for your first principles!

    Are the laws of mathematics discovered or created?

    Created and discovered. Kind of how morality is subjective AND objective. Here, let me google that for you

    “Before deciding whether mathematics was invented or discovered, we must clarify terminology. Discovered: The thing always existed. Someone found it. Invented: The thing did not previously exist. Someone created it.

    Then we must clarify what mathematics is. Mathematics is a tool, a model. It is something that we can use to describe or model parts of reality, or any other system based on quantifiable things. Mathematics can be used to model finance, logic, even color. Mathematics itself did not exist before the first mathematicians. What was discovered was how to mold the model to fit reality. What was invented was the model itself. Mathematics was invented. How to use mathematics was discovered.

    Dr. Ken Mellendorf”

  429. BillyJoe7on 11 Jan 2013 at 3:08 pm

    ccbowers,

    “You have me really wondering who comes across as having a big head here. I can’t think of who that is, but maybe its obvious? I think most of the commenters have a reasonable level of humility.”

    Sorry, I forgot the smily :)
    It was a friendly gesture towards someone for whom I have a lot of respect.
    And all I meant is that he has a big head, not that it is not justified (ie no false humility)

  430. madmidgitzon 20 Feb 2013 at 1:22 pm

    Zach says: “Well, I am not trying to be stubborn headed, I am convinced on what I am convinced on and so are you. We are in the process of dialog and trying to convince each other of our own views. If this isn’t your thing you don’t have to jump in, but I for one REALLY enjoy it. If it wasn’t for my skeptic/agnostic friend, I would not have the interest in these conversations I do today. Iron sharpness iron and all that sort of thing. So I enjoy these conversations – they can get a bit heated, but it’s a discipline to not confuse disagreement with stupidity and get frustrated over the fact that someone doesn’t agree with you. If someone doesn’t at least understand my point of view I strive to not get frustrated with them, but work at being a better communicator. Now if someone understands my view and disagrees, well that is what it is and is still usually profitable conversation.
    The best conversations are ones that are actual conversations – as opposed to games of “Gotcha”, which usually is what internet conversations turn into – hence why I am trying to shy away from commentators here who simply just want to argue and not have a friendly conversation.”

    You filthy,intellectually dishonest , Gish galloping, nit picking , horrible hypocrite ( that was an intentional ad hominem , I hate your guts)

    You want no part in proper discussions,all you care about is games of GOTCHA.
    All you do is nit pick people’s arguments
    For statements you can use your circular,irrational , broken logic on.
    And then Gish gallop like a jockey chased by wolves.
    You sir are a yellow belly and I hope you burn in the hell you believe in because my hell is to nice for you

  431. madmidgitzon 20 Feb 2013 at 2:54 pm

    Zach also says:
    “. The issue is where do you get off telling another human their morality that is different that yours is wrong. As I said, I have no problem telling another human being this, because I believe my foundation (which is logically sound) allows me to fight for human rights regardless of whether the nazi’s agree with me or not. If you believe morals stem from logic and basically comes from a consensus (as Steven does), how do you logically justify that? I don’t see how you can.”

    The nazis also had a “logically” sound foundation : the big G.O.D the one and only Yahweh.
    Thier iteration of god ( not dissimilar from William lane Craig’s one) told them to kill the jews because the jews killed Jesus ,thier god told them “the Germans are the chosen people who must inherit the earth from the lesser races”

    Therefore I want no part in your ” logically ” sound foundation ( the foundation in question is STILL unproven to be in anyway logicall)

    You are a morally and intelectually corrupt individual

    And my personal preferences are obviously a better way to live my life than your “logicall” foundation

    Or we could have a god to base a morality from
    But it would have to be a updatable one a tolerant one, a god that would change its mind with the times.
    One with meatballs and noodles. A Flying Spaghetti Monster if you will, what there already is one and he hates zach.

    Well what the hell are we all doing here, lets go eat some holy noodles

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