The advertisements above do not necessarily reflect the views of this blog, its authors, or host.

Another Response from Martignoni on Objective Morality

You are currently browsing comments. If you would like to return to the full story, you can read the full entry here: “Another Response from Martignoni on Objective Morality”.

51 comments to Another Response from Martignoni on Objective Morality

  • Thank you so much for taking the time to have this dialogue with Mr. Martignoni. I’m learning alot and thinking alot (and I’m sharing SGU blogs with people).

  • kikyo

    Martignoni says: “Dr. Novella, again, is missing the point that my argument here is based on the fact that valuing human life based on one’s self-interest can lead to situations where one’s self-interest puts zero value on human life.”

    This is irrelevant, since even a religious morality system can lead to situations where putting zero-value on another’s life is allowed in favor of self-interest.

    In the Bible for example, there are many places where killing another is allowed within the moral framework, and most Christians seem to agree that self-defense or defense of your family allows you to put a zero value on the life that is threatening your life or the lives of those you love.

    There are also many Christians who support the death penalty as a punishment for certain crimes, thereby putting zero value on the life of a person who has chosen to commit certain acts.

    These are all aspects of self-interest – you value your life above another’s, and the lives of your loved ones above another’s life, and the lives of potential crime victims (which could include you or your loved ones) above the life of a criminal.

    If all life was valuable to God, then one would never be allowed to value one life over another, even your own life or your child’s life. And if God was the divine authority that meted out punishment and reward, then there would be no need for a human justice system at all, as all sins would be punished in the afterlife.

  • Just a couple of quick comments. Dr. Novella, I don’t think John is the only one who assumed you were an atheist. It seems odd to me that in this discussion you are just now stating that you are an agnostic. I find it odd that nobody on this web site came forward to state that you are not an atheist (“in the hard fashion”).

    This link is from your own site. It links to another skeptic website. Oct 29, 2007: Standard Deviations From the Beaten Path » Blog Archive » Catholic Appologist vs Atheist Neurologist

    Seems to me that some people who frequent this site do indeed associate you with atheism. Either way, this doesn’t change the points John has made in his responses.

    One more thing. John has questioned you on abortion several times now. Thus far, you have not given an answer. In the humanist philosophy, is abortion morally wrong?

  • Steven, do the Rogues have any plans to address what’s become known as ‘Reductio ad Hitlerum’, or ‘Godwin’s Law’?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reductio_ad_Hitlerum
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godwin's_law

  • Aragon

    Mr. Novella:

    You state, “I agree with the first statement – if we live in a purely materialistic uncaring universe then there is no basis for “truly objective” morality – or any value, for that matter”

    And you earn my trust.

    You state, “This is “objective” with a small “o”, meaning that it is not arbitrary or based upon someone’s personal choice. Rather it is held to standards of logic, fairness, and universality. But it is not “truly objective” in the way that Martignoni means – descended from God.”

    And you compromise that trust. Allow me to elaborate by dealing with each sentence as a logical proposition, the issue being, is the proposition logically honest or not.

    1. “This is “objective” with a small “o”, meaning that it is not arbitrary or based upon someone’s personal choice.”

    It is arbitrary to the extent that it is the chosen measure to be used. You chose, what people think. This is arbitrary to the extent that you could have used different criteria when chosing the measure to be used. For instance why not use, what the minority of people think as the measure. Sure it may ruffle you sensibilities but when dealing with ultimate truths and objectivity sensibilities, llogically speaking, play no part. You then go on to state,

    2. “Rather it is held to standards of logic, fairness, and universality.” Logic, what logic do you speak of? You should qualify this statement so as to reference the logic of the construct you have chosen. For instance the game of monopoly has its own logic to it. The game of holdem has its own logic. So, when you speak of logic you necessarily do not speak to its universal translation ala socrates, aristotle…

    You then go on to make other assertions as if though they were truth or abosolute. In this way you approximate the ideological zealot or absolutist. For instance, and I’ll continue numerically so as to facilitate the expected scathing responses:

    3. “It is not possible for humans, trapped in our materialistic existence, to either prove or disprove the existence of a being outside the laws of the universe.” Perhaps, perhaps not. Have you taken a look at quantum mechanics and in particular at its, as Einstein and others have termed, spooky characteristics. If not you should, I’d recommend a look at the double slit and quantum erasure experiments. Just google the terms if interested.

    4. “My position is, regardless of the implications, it is simply a matter of fact that we do not have access to objective morality.” While you qualify the statement with, “My position is”, it is unfair because the reader takes it as your assertion of an objecive fact. This allows you to say that you were merely positing a truth as apposed to asserting it. Treating it is a statement of fact, it is inaccurate, per your earlier statements it is unknown whether the bible does or does not represent God’s reality and morality as the only truths which define the perameters of our reality. Therefore, if we assign any chance say, 1/10 to the power of a billion to the idea the the bible is the ultimate authority on morality then your assertion couched as positing (i.e. “it is simply a matter of fact that we do not have access to objective morality”) is inacurate.

    Do you deal with absolutes or not?

    Sincerely,

    Aragon

  • Clavain

    From http://psalm123.livejournal.com/

    “I am hoping that this discussion has made at least a few atheists see that Christianity is not a “blind faith”. I am also thinking that many of Dr Novella’s fans were probably expecting this discussion/ debate to be a slam dunk in his favor.”

    The length of this, or any debate has no relation to how logical or well reasoned each position in the debate is.

    Slam Dunk?
    Nothing But Net

  • [...] Check it out! While looking through the blogosphere we stumbled on an interesting post today.Here’s a quick excerptWhat this type of response indicates is that Martignoni is interested, no in meaningful discussion, but in fostering class warfare, and that fits with his original article, which was framed as an exercise in bashing non-believers (even … [...]

  • ellazimm

    I’d like to ask Mr Martignoni how it is that objective morality based Christians:

    Lynched many black people in the southern United States in my lifetime.

    Lied under oath with their hands on the Bible in the Dover trial.

    Sanctioned and supported the holocaust. (I’m not talking about Hitler, I’m talking about the camp guards.)

    Persecute other Christians in Northern Ireland.

    Promoted and participated in the Crusades some of which were directed at Europeans and included much persecution of Jews.

    Believe that homosexuals should be lined up against a wall and shot. (This was told to me personally by the father of a good friend of mine.)

    What good is an objective morality if it can harbour behaviour and beliefs like that? If what is written in the Bible can be interpreted to support such behaviour then which parts constitute the core objective morals?

  • Nevar

    In this context, faith does no build on reason, faith comes into play when reason cannot take you further. That makes it irrational by definition. How is faith any different from just making things up? I could say anything and claim it’s real, you just need to have faith. If you believe in something that you cannot experience with any of your senses, then that faith is blind. In fact, how do you know that you’re not just delusional?

    Then there’s this idiotic insistence that atheism is a form of faith/religion. Lack of belief is not the same as belief in lack. Anyway, this is a nice read : http://www.geocities.com/paulntobin/atheistdefine.html

  • Aragon,

    Thanks for sticking to logic in your response. Here is my reply:

    1 – You are equating “objective” with “ultimate” and I specifically distinguished between the two. Yes, choices are made, but we strive to be universal in those choices, meaning we make choices while considering the choices that most people make. We also strive to base those choices on the most fundamental first principles we can come up with. Further, we consider the outcome of those choices – what is the end result for individuals and society. They are not aesthetic choices nor strictly individual. But yes, they are dependent upon what we choose to value.

    2 – The most important logical principle is that of consistency. Once you agree upon an ethical rule you apply it consistently – you can’t arbitrarily decide to not apply it whenever you want. More generally, when devising ethical rules and the manner in which various rules interact you should avoid committing logical fallacies.

    3 – Quantum mechanics? How does quantum mechanics allow you to have knowledge of something outside the laws or confines of our universe? This is a huge non sequitur.

    4 – This is not a matter of probability but of logic. One set cannot contain a larger set. A being trapped within this universe cannot comprehend something which is beyond this universe. When I said “my position is” I meant that this is my premise. My premise is the logical imperative that no one knows if God exists nor can they. One can only have faith in God, and faith cannot be the basis for ultimate objective truth.

    The burden is on Martignoni or his defenders to explain exactly how they can have objective knowledge of God’s existence and will, for that is a prerequisite to having access to objective morality. Without that all they have is faith and authority. No one has yet addressed this issue – Martignoni dodged it with the false premise and non sequitur that I have faith in the non-existence of God.

  • Clavain, the reason I wrote that statement was because I noticed the early comments posted about John’s article were poory thought out. There was a lot of arrogance. Where are those people now? Just an observation. What I saw was people putting “blind faith” in what Dr. Novella was saying without thinking things through by themselves. What I am saying is that I am sure that people who blindly follow Dr. Novella and are ignorant of the other side of the argument have to admit that Mr. Martignoni’s responses have been reasoned and well though out.

    “all net” ? Are we reading the same debate? Not that I am keeping score because what ultimately is important to me is that there is a dialoge going on. However, having said that, what I have seen since the very beginning is Dr. Novella avoiding the main points of the article, making false assertions (which he did retract and I commend him for that), and creating arguments (straw men).
    It hasn’t all been bad, but I had to laugh a little when Dr. Novella said “Martignoni’s argument style. It is an excellent example of how not to have a meaningful discussion. Martignoni is doing what most people do in an argument – defend his position at every turn regardless of how he has to distort what is said, or what logical fallacies he must commit” It seems to me that Dr. Novella has been distorting from the outset. Maybe if he would live by his own stated rules of a “meaningful discussion”…

    Many of the points John made in his last rebuttal have been left untouched by Dr. Novella. The article was about the value of human life and morality (objective vs subjective). That’s it. People want to make this into a debate on arguments that are not within the context of this particular article.

    Also, I am asking once again..Dr Novella, in the tradition of humanist philosophy, is abortion morally wrong?

  • psalm123

    I have not distorted anything Martignoni has said. I may have misunderstood his points – assuming that he is being sincere, something which he has not earned but I am willing, for the sake of debate, to accept. It is completely understandable that I misunderstood some of his points since his writing is terribly misleading. As I pointed out – he says he is being straightforward, then says he is using hyperbole and is “tongue-in-cheek.” His logic is an absolute mess, and I am not trying to distort what he wrote but to clarify it and explore the logical implications of what he wrote.

    The main point is, in fact, what is and what should be the basis of morality. I maintain the best system is one that is universal and based upon first principles and logic. Martignoni says it should be objective, but I have pointed out that we do not have access to any objective morality, only faith and authority.

    Martignoni has completely dodged this point and has not answered it at all. While I have addressed it directly. I have not addressed some of the tangential points that the debate has spread into because I want to focus on this key point.

    Regarding abortion – there is no yes or no answer to this. This is a very complex moral issue, and the answer will be different depending on the details of the situation.

    I will say that my personal ethical philosophy, and humanist morality in general, does value human life. But that value is not absolute – because no ethical principle is absolute. It must be considered in the context of all other relevant ethical principles. Also abortion raises the issue of how to define human life – specifically at what point does it begin. And should the rights and values of human life be complete at the outset? Is a frozen embryo a person? I think these are complex questions and simply saying that all human life has absolute value without limit is not a very useful approach.

    I will also say I think this question is another attempt at dodging the logic of the central question by inserting a highly complex, emotional, and divisive issue.

  • Dr Novella, It seems very clear to me which parts of John’s article were written tongue-in-cheek and which parts weren’t.

    I brought up the issue of abortion for good reasons. Your stance on this issue is just one example of the hypocrisy and contradictory nature of the humanist philosophy you have been preaching on here. I would anticipate more contradictions with other issues….say euthanasia?

    Dr. Novella, you have essentially agreed with the basic premise of John’s article. If there is no God, then all valuation of human life is subjective.

    ” that most people actually inherently value human life because they care about other people” – I guess this statement doesn’t apply to a child in the womb.

    “We all share the common experience of wanting to be alive, which logically translates into the desire not to be killed.”- I’m pretty sure each and every child in the womb would rather not be killed.

    Aparently, the vast tradition of humanist philosophy that supposedly wants everyone involved in the discussion does make an exception in the unborn child.

    “But even if killing is in someone’s self-interest, the whole point is that it comes at a tremendous price – the devaluing of human life. We don’t need God to tell us that this hurts everyone.”

    Need I go on? I would encourage people to go back and reread the entire discussion on this article while keeping in mind that according to Dr Novella, ” I will say that my personal ethical philosophy, and humanist morality in general, does value human life. But that value is not absolute”.

    Well, this has been an entertaining exchange. I appreciate that you took the time to engage in this discussion.

  • There is nothing hypocritical or contradictory in my statements. You are assuming the conclusion you wish to make.

    Any system of ethics must define its terms. What constitutes a living person?

    What you and Martignoni are doing is saying that absolute morality is the only legitimate form of morality because it is the only one that arrives at that conclusions that it does. But how do you know that those are the right conclusions? You are engaging in circular reasoning.

  • Bowdinium

    Dear psalm123,

    It`s fortunate indeed for your position that Christians have such united viewpoints on the issue of abortion. Their Godgiven `objective ` morality has easily equipped them to plow through the morass of subjectivity.

    Oh, wait a minute….. Excuse the anectdotal nature of this but I think I heard once that some Christians have abortions too.

    In fact, here`re some numbers.

    `Women identifying themselves as Protestants obtain 37.4% of all abortions in the U.S.; Catholic women account for 31.3%, Jewish women account for 1.3%, and women with no religious affiliation obtain 23.7% of all abortions. 18% of all abortions are performed on women who identify themselves as “Born-again/Evangelical”.
    http://abortionno.org/abortion_no.html

    (I pulled the statistics from an anti abortion website so I make no gurantees regarding its accuracy – I know how you guys like to bend the truth)

    You argue that Dr Novella`s stance on this is issue `is just one example of the hypocrisy and contradictory nature of the humanist philosophy`. Abortion is an extraordinarily difficult issue to deal with in a moral and humane fashion, perhaps there are contradictions and hypocrisies in the present humanist approach to this, but how can you possibly claim that the same isn`t true of the religious believers as well?

    The indecisiveness on the rationalist side is to be expected on such a complex issue but the lack of unity on the religious side of the fence speaks volumes about any so called `objective` morality. Perhaps you guys should first agree upon what it is before trying to push it upon the rest of it. (And then ponder, if even you guys have to debate what it is, then just how `objective` can it really be?)

  • nfpendleton

    Since this is a public forum, I wanted to address personally a few statements made by the above opposition that have not been touched upon. (Not all quotes are from the same person and I have not noted the individual avatars).

    “It seems odd to me that in this discussion you are just now stating that you are an agnostic. I find it odd that nobody on this web site came forward to state that you are not an atheist (”in the hard fashion”).”

    We don’t have to. We already know Dr. Novella’s position, because it has never wavered. Any errors are due to listener/reader misinterpretation, not a changing viewpoint on the Dr.’s part.

    Also, “atheist” is not a dirty word. Christians do not own the terms in this discussion.

    “What I am saying is that I am sure that people who blindly follow Dr. Novella and are ignorant of the other side of the argument have to admit that Mr. Martignoni’s responses have been reasoned and well though out.”

    No, we don’t have to admit something that’s wrong. And many of us are defectors from your side of the debate, so some of us understand it intimately. Many of us have trouble rationalizing ancient pre-scientific belief systems in an evidence-base, modern scientific world. Christians benefit from science whether they like it or not. On behalf of physics and evolution, You’re Welcome for the technology and medicine you so greedily consume like the rest of us.

    No one I know here blindly follows the good doctor. He has an entire body of spoken and written work to back him up. He’s a trained scientist and scholar speaking on issues of science and scholarship. What does your side have to back up your argument’s claims? A poorly structured collection of Middle Eastern folklore and mythology? What credentials do the champions of your view carry? Completeing seminary or graduating from a bible college? I’ll rest here.

    “If there is no God, then all valuation of human life is subjective.”

    Yes. The message of the Torah/Old Testament and the New Testament Revelations is this very fact: valuation of human life is subjective to both god AND man.

    At least Humanists discard the god part through lack of evidence. This way, man can clean up his act without worrying about yaweh getting angry and killing us all off anyway.

    IMHO.

  • Havermayer

    My only complaint is the terminology used. Calling the ethics that you have put forth as “subjective” leaves the door open to mischaracterization that you are arguing for a morality based on “I think it’s bad based only on my subjective emotional response to it”.

    Theists will frequently claim that humanists/atheists/agnostics really are arguing like that, or that they are extreme cultural relativists or something.

  • nfpendleton,

    “What does your side have to back up your argument’s claims? A poorly structured collection of Middle Eastern folklore and mythology? What credentials do the champions of your view carry? ”
    You’re kidding right? You might want to look into the 2000 year history of the Catholic Church and research its claims for yourself. There are plenty of sources to look into. Plenty of ‘credentials’ to go around. There’s the writings early church fathers,saints, and Doctors of the Church. There’s the catechism of the Catholic Church. There are abundant theologians and Philosophers. Of course there is this guy called Jesus and the things he taught.

    You may also want to look into the contributions the Catholic Church has made in the past 2000 years in the areas of Science, Philosophy, Art…..etc. You get my point. Ahh, you sketpics. You seem to always want to have science and reason compete against faith. My faith is not void of reason… and get this….I have a degree in science! (gasp) :)
    John touches on this a bit(role of science and reason in ones beliefs)towards the end of his last rebuttal of Dr. Novella.

  • Bowdinium

    I only have time for a quick response. Interesting numbers you posted. For the sake of time I will just grant that those numbers are accurate. Whether or not they are indeed accurate is not important. What do those numbers have to do with what the Catholic Church teaches on abortion? Nothing really. So, according to those numbers, 31.3% of abortions are by Catholic women who are not following what the church teaches. The Catholic Church is firm in it’s stance on abortion. The fact that individual people are not living up to those teachings is irrelavant.

  • Clavain

    psalm123, By bringing abortion and euthanasia into this debate, it is essentially trying to debate who’s morality is the best.

    the debate is about Martignoni’s points :

    1) that only God provides objective morality and therefore atheists have no objective basis for their morality

    2) that the American legal system is based upon Christian objective morality and therefore atheists, who reject God, should have no legal rights within this system.

    Who’s interpretation of gods will would we follow under the system Martignoni outlines?

    There are many different views under Christianity, some minorities would disagree with radical anti-abortion laws, as they interpret gods will differently and believe their (heretical) interpretation is the correct one.

    Martignoni states in his article :

    “Hitler was wrong if, and only if, God exists. If God does not exist, then might makes right and Hitler was the mightiest in Germany at the time, so he had every right to do what he did. This causes problems for any self-proclaimed atheists (and those who side with them) who wish to remove God from everything.”

    Even under a Christian based ethical/legal system the interpretation of gods will would need to be enforced.
    The beliefs of the most mightiest force would be deemed “divine law” and all other beliefs would be heretical.

  • ellazimm

    I wonder if Martignoni and psalm123 are aware that one of the inspirations for the Nazi state was a treatise Martin Luther wrote called “On the Jews and their lies”? In the treatise, Luther wrote that the Jews are a “base, whoring people, that is, no people of God, and their boast of lineage, circumcision, and law must be accounted as filth.” They are full of the “devil’s feces … which they wallow in like swine,” and the synagogue is an “incorrigible whore and an evil slut …” He argues that their synagogues and schools should be set on fire, their prayer books destroyed, rabbis forbidden to preach, homes razed, and property and money confiscated. They should be shown no mercy or kindness, afforded no legal protection, and these “poisonous envenomed worms” should be drafted into forced labor or expelled for all time. He also seems to advocate their murder, writing “[w]e are at fault in not slaying them.”

    So I guess not everyone would agree that what Hitler did was evil.

  • 2112

    Thank you, Dr. Novella, for taking the time to deal with this utter nonsense. I have learned a lot from your three posts on morality and look forward to more from you on humanist ethics.

  • Aragon

    Wow, it is refreshing to encounter an atheist, err … agnostic…., who does not have an intellectual axe to grind and who does not have a superiority, or its converse, complex. I’m sold.

    Anyway, you wrote and I respond by way of []:

    “The burden is on Martignoni or his defenders to explain exactly how they can have objective knowledge of God’s existence and will, [they can't per the operating definition of objective knowledge] for that is a prerequisite to having access to objective morality. [for that is prerequisite .. a bit of rhetorical license here]. ….. with the false premise and non sequitur that I have faith in the non-existence of God [honest question, do you have faith in the non-extence of god?].”

    You wrote:
    1 – You are equating “objective” with “ultimate” and I specifically distinguished between the two. Yes, choices are made, but we strive to be universal in those choices, meaning we make choices while considering the choices that most people make. We also strive to base those choices on the most fundamental first principles we can come up with. Further, we consider the outcome of those choices – what is the end result for individuals and society. They are not aesthetic choices nor strictly individual. But yes, they are dependent upon what we choose to value. ”

    I respond: It is difficult to disagree with you. However, that is because I agree with you. Were I an anarchist then we’d have a problem agreeing upon first principles. Further, your bent here is humanist (i.e. how to structure society so as to benefit humans). This is not an objective perspective in the ultimate sense. But you concede as much.

    You wrote:
    2 – The most important logical principle is that of consistency. Once you agree upon an ethical rule you apply it consistently – you can’t arbitrarily decide to not apply it whenever you want. More generally, when devising ethical rules and the manner in which various rules interact you should avoid committing logical fallacies.

    I respond: that is not a logical principal. It is a logical consequence arising out of an agreed upon logical construct … societal harmony/benefit/well being. But again you admit as much when you refer to “devising ethical rule”. But this should be made clear.

    Your wrote: 3 – Quantum mechanics? How does quantum mechanics allow you to have knowledge of something outside the laws or confines of our universe? This is a huge non sequitur.

    I respond. It is not a non sequitur. The experimental results are profound and allow one to intuit the existence of somethng outside the laws or confines of our universe. Of course this is not an argument for God but rather for the extence of something outside which may be governed by laws different or the same as ours. I can’t explain how this is which does not mean it is not so, though in my book, if someone can’t explain something then it means that ‘that something’ is not true or valid. But my book has new chapters now. Think of it this way, the experimental results are the equivalent of Todo pulling back the curtain on the Wizard of Oz. Again if interested check out this site
    “http://www.bottomlayer.com/bottom/reality/RealityFrame1.html” which explains and speculates about the spookier quantum experiments and attendant results. Know that I do not necessarily agree with the author’s speculations but the underlying premise, that all is not as it seems, is hammered home.

    Know that I was an Atheist for 40 years. But then I began to question my own leap of faith, Keirkegard (sp) style, as relates to my unquestioned beleif in the truth of my perceived reality .. or what most people beleive is their objective reality… (e.g. the idea that the keyboard that I type on actually is a keyboard and I am actually typing on it). This beleif, as an honest analysis discloses, is, in fact, no less than a leap of faith.

    You wrote:
    4 – This is not a matter of probability but of logic. One set cannot contain a larger set. A being trapped within this universe cannot comprehend something which is beyond this universe.

    I respond: Being trapped with in this universe you are confined by its logical perameters but as we both agree, there may in fact be a larger universe with different laws which guide it, our universe being but a subset or smaller portion of same. And if this is the case then perhaps (emphasis added) we are not prisoners of this universe but rather, temporally speaking, current sorjournors emersing within this universe for the time being in the way that we emerse ourselves within say a good book at its logical universe (think of books by say Peirce Anthony, Frank Herbert, L. Ron Hubbard, etc.. where the rules are different and we know they are different but we enjoy emersing ourselves in them for purposes of entertainment). In any event, when we put down the book we come back to Earth so to speak. Perhaps we need but to close our current book to come back to Mars if you will :) . Argg, philosophically I’ve gotten way off track here. It’s just that the possibilities abound, anything is possible, anything. I move on.

    Thanks for responding to my earlier post. I find that I am liking this forum lots.

    Aragon

  • Aragon

    Dear Psalm123

    Your attacks upon Novella are just that, attacks. Novella attempts to address your concerns comprehensively and you result to name calling. And you unfairly ascribe motives and positions to Novella which were never taken.

    All told your handle, “Psalm123″, betrays you. Allow me to look at Psalms and use it as a litmus test for your morality.

    You speak of hypocrites and the value of the lives of children and the unborn. You should first look to yourself.

    “To him that smote Egypt in their first born: for his mercy endures forever.” Psalm 136:10. How quaint!

    And since you love children so much.

    Apparently, if you make God angry, he’ll burn you and your children to death. Pslam 21:9-10

    What’s more,

    “Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones.” Psalm 137:9

    So, let’s see. If I am going to chose between Psalms and Novella when it comes to the value of human life…. I am going out on a limb here, but I’d say that Novella values life a tad bit more than you and your Psalms.

  • Aragon

    So, apparently this is where all reasonable discussion ends ey?

    First of all, I have not engaged in name calling of Dr. Novella. This is false. I have said that his humanist philosophy is hypocritical and contradictory. Reread the entire article and rebuttals (not just Dr. Novella’s responses) I think John made clear some glaring flaws in Dr Novella’s position.

    I have not personally attacked Dr. Novella.

    Secondly, are you trying to make some sort of comparison between the name I have chosen as my handle and that of my personal morality? Are you serious?

    “All told your handle, “Psalm123″, betrays you. Allow me to look at Psalms and use it as a litmus test for your morality.

    You speak of hypocrites and the value of the lives of children and the unborn. You should first look to yourself”

    Really now. I’ve read your other posts. They are well written. You can do much at articlating your thoughts than this. I am to look to myself as a hypocrit because of what a few passages of sacred scripture say? Huh?? I am assuming this was written with too much emotion. This happens. No biggie.

    Well, I am not going to clog up Dr. Novella’s site with a lesson in Sacred Scripture so I will keep this short. It’s usually not fruitful to pull out select verses of scripture in order to try and drive home a point. I don’t know your background with reading scripture. Scripture verses must be put into context. Also, you have to know how to interpret different books by different authors (Mattthew, Mark, Psalms etc) Each has their own style which incorporates different literary devices. For Each author/ book, audiences were different, circumstances were different…etc

    How do you know which verses to take literally and which ones you don’t? Well, maybe you have training( authentic) in scripture reading but if you do, you would have known that for example that the psalms have various themes such as thanksgiving, praise, distress, plight etc…For example psalm 137 is about sorrow and hope for those in exile.

    See, when you quote scripture passages and attach your own meaning to it, it shows an ignorance of the very scripture you are quoting. It happens a lot.

    Well, It’s been entertaining but it seems that this thread (the original one dealing with John’s article) has spread well beyond the original focus. I simply don’t have time to sit here and debate issue after issue. Feel free to stop by my LJ with any further questions.

  • nfpendleton

    psalm 123–

    The fact that the Catholic church either did or takes credit for doing your laundry list is almost beside the point. They didn’t do it because they were Catholic, but because those individuals were scientifically (dare I say skeptically?) -minded. There’s a long tradition of advancement in almost all global cultures and religions–Buddism, Islam, Greco-Roman paganism to name just three. Sorry, the Western Christian ideology doesn’t have a monopoly on smarts. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that most advancements in medicine, chemistry, physics, cosmology, etc. were made DESPITE the ruling ideologies of their times. The greats of history–and the scientists stand tall here–are known for their icon smashing. For centuries the church was a tyrannical overlord with the blood of millions of its own followers and foreign peoples on its hands. It can’t take credit even for the men and women under it’s cloth who made these discoveries and advancements. Most atheists and skeptics (and Jews and Wiccans and myriad other traditions and faiths) and whatnot had to operate quietly under the banner of the church or suffer unspeakable consequences. These are known facts of history, not my opinions.

    These days, the majority of those proposing ID and other religious attacks on science and reason are the products of the educational systems I outline above. Yes, some few are lawyers, doctors, scholars of one sort or another–but they often have to push their education aside to make the square peg fit in the round hole of their beliefs.

    I may come off hostile, but really I’m not. Just passionate, as I’m sure you are. I’ve spouted many of the same arguments you now raise. I know I can’t convince you and you cannot convince me. But I beg you at least consider the facts, for what it’s worth. Thanks.

  • Bad

    My position is pretty simple: theism offers nothing over non-theism in the way of justifying morality. Claims to the contrary by and large involve theists granting themselves get-out-of-jail free cards on their own arbitrary unfoundable assumptions that they then refuse to grant to others.

    That is not to say that theism is bad, or doesn’t offer a path to meaning and purpose. It just doesn’t get there any differently than anything else, despite all the hype.

    Of course, I assume that I’m debating with thoughtful proponents of theism. Martignoni doesn’t strike me as being such. His claims about the development of legal systems are so ahistorical and pulled out of thin air that I’m not sure they are worth taking seriously, other than to debunk.

    Frankly, I’ve always thought that the idea that Christianity is the fount of all good legal and moral ideas to be rather demeaning to Christianity: painting it simplistic and lifeless and papering over the fascinating diversity of ideas within it and throughout its history as an ideology and cultural force. This sort of view means that Christianity does not grow or improve: that it can be shaped by cultural changes as much as it plays a part in them. Any study of history shows that Christianity owes a large part of its success to its flexibility and wave after wave of theologic innovation, but in the telling of someone like Martignoni, Christianity is lifeless and without character, conflict, or passion.

  • nfpendleton,

    No worries. I realize that people get passionate.

    As far as Western Christian ideology not having a “monopoly on smarts” I never claimed it did.

    “For centuries the church was a tyrannical overlord with the blood of millions of its own followers and foreign peoples on its hands.”

    That’s pretty loaded statement there. One that would need much expanding upon before I would even consider that statement ‘fact’.

    “and Jews and Wiccans and myriad other traditions and faiths) and whatnot had to operate quietly under the banner of the church or suffer unspeakable consequences. These are known facts of history, not my opinions”

    Don’t take me the wrong way here but I can’t count the number of debates I’ve been led into by people who are going to tell me all about the “facts”. Just one quick example off the top of my head. The crusades:Brutal and unprovoked attacks against a tolerant muslim culture that was simply minding its own business? Were they senseless holy wars waged against Islam icited by power hungry Popes? OR The Crusades: A direct and necessary response to Muslim agression and conquest of Christian lands? You see, many people don’t want to go back in time far enough to seek out the cause. Rather they stick to their “facts” as they have been taught and refuse to learn the entire set of “facts”. Any chance of anti-Catholicism in let’s say…19th Century WASP scholarship? So, yes there was brutal Muslim aggression against Christianity for centuries prior to the Crusades. This aggression resulted in the conquest of 2/3 of the old Christian world. How often do I hear these facts when discussing the Crusades with an anti-Catholic? Almost never.

    Anyway, I went way too long there in illustrating a point.

    Take care.

  • Protesilaus

    I think that this whole response illustrates the very point defined by Christopher Hitchens in the book “God is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything”. Faith in any deity will always result in zealots. Whether this is suicide bomber, killing of abortion doctors, withholding life saving treatment from children, blind faith results in atrocities. As a society I believe we need to transcend any of the problems from any one religion. Now since this has been asked to be placed on the table, I am an atheist. I believe that there is only this natural world and as such, everything has a natural explanation. As such, I do not believe that any authors of the religious texts of the past had any insight beyond one of their day, and when I die then I will simply cease to be.

    My statement about zealots is not meant to define the argument used about violence in media, but I understand how one can see it as such. There are people who use religion as a dagger in order to gain power for themselves. This has been seen many times throughout history. It also leaves the door open for anyone to take the text and take from it whatever they wish “interpreting” it to best fit their own beliefs. It is fortunate that the founders of America, (which I bring as a point based on the nature of the original article) did not believe in a personal god and wanted to make a secular state (as the separation of church and state is the very definition of). I in no way wish any religion to be outlawed (a fatal failing of Communism) but do not believe that keeping a god happy should be the basis of any law.

    Since you don’t condone abortion I will ask you this:

    What of in the case of a fetus attaching in the fallopian tube? Where the woman could end up dead if the fetus is carried to term.
    What of the case of rape? Where a woman could end up having mental trauma of having to relive the worst moments of her life.
    What of debilitating birth defects? Where the child would not live a full and happy life, or possibly ever be able to have a life.

    There are very real instances when it is feasible to make an exception, one which religion does not allow. I live in a country where we can tolerate all faiths, but not have to follow any. Dr. Novella’s argument:

    “Regarding abortion – there is no yes or no answer to this. This is a very complex moral issue, and the answer will be different depending on the details of the situation.”
    is a not a hypocrisy or contradictive of anything. I brought up 3 extreme example of when I believe abortion is justified, and I am sure that there is a middle ground that can be agreed upon, but brining up the abortion I believe is a fallacious argument. You are changing the argument by bringing up that point to something you believe you have a moral high ground on. Reducing a complex issue into a black and white.

    I also want to take up the classification of the anti-Catholic. None of my statements are meant as personal attacks against any religion. I was raised Roman Catholic at my birth and did not leave the church until my teenage years. It was when I first read the bible and saw humanity in the words and not any deity. This is not an us vs. them, but I believe (and also believe that Dr. Novella would agree but I don’t want to talk for him) that the underlying statement is that we all need to get along in the world and a religious basis of society is not the way to do it. There will never be a world of one religion and I don’t believe that there should be. America in particular is a melding of many different faiths and cultures, demonizing one is not a position that one should take. We should not forget that the original article written by Martignoni was that atheists do not believe in god and should have no rights. I can honestly say that that is an anti-atheist statement, while I do not believe the fact that atheism exists should be an anti-catholic statement.

  • Aragon

    Psalm123

    I was unfair in my treatment of your comments. This is a fact.

    By way of mitigation, it was my sense that you were similalry not being fair in your earlier posts. This arises in part out of your use of charged words like “hypocrite” and the like. That said, on a suposed scale of fairness, yours being perhaps a 1, mine was definitely over the top say a 5.

    Yes context is everything. However, sometimes when viewing a forest one loses a tree. And trees sometimes speak for themselves.

    An atheist most of my life, 40 years, I am now a Christian though not in the typical sense. My allegiance is to Jesus and his teachings and more importantly to the Christian community which is what, I beleive, he would really want of us. Where you would say “faith” I would say “allegiance unto”. Know that “allegiance unto”, as upposed to “faith in”, may be an alternate, and I’d argue more accurate, translation of the original texts.

    What’s more I’m not an apologist for Christianity but rather a crusader. Christians have nothing to appologize for and everything to fight for. And yes I know what the definition of apologist is. Nonetheless, its relationship to the verb apologize is to close for my tastes.

    Sincerely,

    Aragon

  • Aragon

    Psalm,

    I tried to visit your site but my work’s filter has it blocked. This could mean of course that your so radical as to be critical of say the BBC or the EU or the UN or Global Warming or Pallywood, etc …. :)

  • I really don’t have the time to get into a lengthy discussion of all the various situations where one would question whether an abortion is moral or not. So, here is my quick reply.

    “What of in the case of a fetus attaching in the fallopian tube? Where the woman could end up dead if the fetus is carried to term.”

    If an abortion results from attempts to save the mothers life in a situation such as an ectopic pregnancy, I believe this is morally ok. The end result (death of the fetus) was not the original intention.

    “What of the case of rape? Where a woman could end up having mental trauma of having to relive the worst moments of her life.”

    Abortion is absolutely not an option in this case. To terminate a human life because of potential or even actual emotional pains of the mother is a horrendous idea. That human life (unborn child) has as much value as you or I.

    “What of debilitating birth defects? Where the child would not live a full and happy life, or possibly ever be able to have a life”

    Abortion is not an option here. You cannot subjectively determine the quality of life for another human being. I don’t think so. Who determines what a “happy” or “full life” is? You? Me?, a group of Physicians? A majority opinion? Abortion in this case? Another horrendous idea.

    I brought up the issue of abortion because it has a lot to do with points made in the original article that spawned this thread. Value of life…remember?

  • nfpendleton

    psalm,

    I will admit to purple prose but not hyperbole. I do not single the church out as a single oppressor with blood on its hands, but I simply say it is not exempt from all other oppressive systems.

    It did hold ironfisted sway over Europe for a very long time, and any system that holds people in this way is based on power. One way power is exercised is to kill, maim, or brutalize those who oppose you. Every large power system has some amount of blood on its hands. US adventurism in Iraq is the example of the month.

    Ignore for a moment all religion, faith, nationality,ethnicity, politics and can we not agree that many thousands of people have been needlessly killed in this current conflict?

    If so, then we are on the same exact moral footing. I do not derive this from the bible or a church or my personal idea of what a creator being expects of me, yet here we are.

    And to prove I’m still on the ultimate point of this entire thread, I think it’s this common ground that we arrive at as humans that grants us our equal protection under the law, not whether we believe that law was derived from a supreme being or not. That is an idea–in the US at least–that cannot legally be imposed on anyone, no matter what side of the issue you take. To say otherwise means you’re itching for a fight.

    And I think in that respect Mr. Martignoni got exactly what he wanted.

  • Protesilaus

    Quoting Psalms:

    I brought up the issue of abortion because it has a lot to do with points made in the original article that spawned this thread. Value of life…remember?

    If by value of life, you mean that Atheists should have no right under American law then, yes I do remember.

  • Imperius Rex

    Psalms:
    You’ve stated the following:
    “You may also want to look into the contributions the Catholic Church has made in the past 2000 years in the areas of Science, Philosophy, Art…..etc.”

    You’ve may also want to look into some other, more recent contributions:
    Pius XII’s seemingly cordial relationships with Franco, Mussolini and Hitler; Mother Theresa traveling to Ireland to campaign against the permitting of divorce (for the common folk) while at the same time wishing her wealthy friend Princess Diana good luck with hers; Catholic Cardinals and Bishops decrying the use of condoms in AIDs ravaged Africa and Brazil (I forget which part of the bible says not to use rubbers), Bernard Law et al, just to name a few.
    I only point these out because you give the impression that the Catholic Church is beyond question or reproach. No organization should be followed without question or a skeptical eye.

  • katsuhiro

    Reading through the comments… oy. I just have to highlight this (from one of psalm123′s earlier comments), because this ‘argument’ and its ilk always blow me away:

    “I’m pretty sure each and every child in the womb would rather not be killed.”

    And how exactly do you know this? How many children in the womb have you asked lately? Or are we resorting to telepathy?

    I’m sure it works as an emotional appeal, but it doesn’t really provide (in my opinion) a compelling argument as to why a ball of cells swimming around in my uterus and leeching nutrients out of my blood ought to have a bigger say in the course of my life and my personal health than I do.

    * * *

    And Dr. Novella, I just wanted to let you know there’s one more person cheering you on. :) Even if at times this sounds a lot more like you beating your head against a brick wall than an actual debate.

  • Protesilaus

    Not just one…

  • Slarty

    After reading all the copious entries and replies it seems that the argument boils down to:

    Theist – Changing morality is bad. We must therefore have definitive “objective” morality. That can’t come from reason alone therefore we will posit it must come from God. Logically therefore unchanging “objective” morality must come from God.

    Non-theist – Society’s changing morality is a fact – good or bad. By the objective standard “most good for the most people” then society constantly refines its rules and proscriptions to achieve this; rules arising from reason and logic. Sometimes successfully sometimes unsuccessfully. Usually history has shown that the unsuccessful ones die out, the trajectory being towards more people on the planet leading happy and fulfilling lives by their own internal subjective standards.

    The non-theist refutes the original premises of the theist, thus the conclusions arising from the premises should not not part of the debate until we have determined whether the premises are true or false.

    I therefore ask the theists:
    1. Are changing moral standards good or bad?
    2. Are we capable of using human intellect and the rules of logic to determine moral behavior?

    And the non-theists:

    1. By allowing moral standards to evolve are we not in danger of coming being too pragmatic in our treatment of issues and of others?

    2. What mechanism can we use to ensure that the will of the majority does not trample on the rights of the minority.

    Hopefully these may get the debate back on some less visceral footing

  • Slarty

    One other question for theists:

    How can we ensure that the subjective belief in a claimed objective moral precept does not become blindly dogmatic in the light of new insights or evidence?

  • Imperius Rex

    Slarty:
    “How can we ensure that the subjective belief in a claimed objective moral precept does not become blindly dogmatic in the light of new insights or evidence?”

    Sadly, I have yet to hear from someone who believes that morality stems from a divine being who would allow for the introduction of any such insights or evidence into the moral equation. If that was a common trait amongst them, there would be decidedly fewer Creationists in the world.

  • Aragon

    Slarty:
    “How can we ensure that the subjective belief in a claimed objective moral precept does not become blindly dogmatic in the light of new insights or evidence?”

    Why should we? If you say blindly dogmatic is bad then you necessarily deviate from objective reality as there is nothing innately wrong with blindly dogmatic. Of course this is not to say that I like blind dogs. Nor is it to say that I personally like the blindly dogmatic. Nor is it to say that i’d not prefer crystal clear non-dogmatics. But these are personal preferences. Are we here merely to spout about are personal preferences?

    Rex: “Sadly, I have yet to hear from someone who believes that morality stems from a divine being who would allow for the introduction of any such insights or evidence into the moral equation. If that was a common trait amongst them, there would be decidedly fewer Creationists in the world.”

    I beleive that morality stems from a divine being who would allow for your comment as set forth above. Is this not enough?

    “If that was a common trait amongst them, there would be decidedly fewer Creationists in the world.” You sure about that? I for one don’t beleive that, let’s take Christianity as an example, has a moral which states one can’t beleive in evolution. This is not to say they don’t object to the idea but this is not a moral issue but a pragmatic one. One can be a Christian and beleive in Darwinism. One can beleive that the bible is in most respects ficitional and still be a Christian. Christianity demands very little. Beleif that Jesus Christ is God on earth and your personal savior eh man. Excuse the abreiviated discription which many a Christian would find distasteful :) .

    The here is that if you’re going to go all existential and hard core skeptic in the purist sense then you necessarily must embrace sophistry. It is the inevitable result. Just because it is not appealing does not make it wrong. In any event, to the so called logical objective realists here, be brave and go all the way with your questions, questioning everything from the existence of God to your own existence. Do this and you’ll find that the true skeptic is in actuallity the greatest of mystics.

    Note my above preface “The [problem] with this forum is that if you’re going to go all existential and hard core skeptic in the purist sense then you necessarily must embrace sophistry.”. While I call it a problem it is one worth dealing with and not running away from.

    Challenge to the so called skeptics. Do you beleive, strike that, do you have evidence that you can point to which definitively shows that we are the product of evolution. Cite me an experiment. Cite me an observation. Cite me anything your read or heard or studied. And, if you are the true skeptic then you’ll admit that you cannot say, with any degree of certitude, that humans are the product of evolution. To say that it is even 25 percent likely given what you know is innacurate and a betrayal of any claim of skepticism.

  • Slarty

    Aragon: If there is an objective morality in the world, the issue surely is how do we work out what it is?

    Many holy books, prophets, lawgivers, etc have claimed to know what these true moral precepts are. The only way to evaluate which one is correct is to see which one has the best outcome. If they cannot be changed or allowed to evolve to a policy which is discovered to have a less harmful outcome then it is in danger of becoming dogmatic; i.e. not open to revision. A bad thing.

    It was once thought by the vast majority (of almost all religions and none) that black people were inferior and enslavement was morally justified. Why do we now almost universally disagree? (I know you will retort that the abolitionist movement arose as a Christian movement but my point is that ideas and opinions change over time and this would indicate a lack of a definitive objectivity).

    Almost all holy books, religious doctrines etc contain rules, precepts, moral obligations and commandments which have been discarded, rejected, re-evaluated or amended over time.

    By what or whose objective standard do you agree to or promulgate these changes?

  • Imperius Rex

    Slarty:
    You beat me to it.

  • Aragon

    Slarty & Rex

    “….but my point is that ideas and opinions change over time and this would indicate a lack of a definitive objectivity).”

    Response: Agreed there is no definitive objectivity!

    Almost all holy books, religious doctrines etc contain rules, precepts, moral obligations and commandments which have been discarded, rejected, re-evaluated or amended over time.

    Response: Agreed, but oddly it is Darwinism which dictates that the major religions are adaptive. Those which lack the ability to adapt, evolve, die off. I generalize but I beleif the two of you will get my drift here.

    “By what or whose objective standard do you agree to or promulgate these changes?”

    Response: As stated there is no objective standard hence i cannot agree to same.

    “Many holy books, prophets, lawgivers, etc have claimed to know what these true moral precepts are. The only way to evaluate which one is correct is to see which one has the best outcome.”

    Response: “The only way to evaluate which one is correct is to see which one has the best outcome”. No offense but this statement reeks of humanism. Nothing wrong with humanism but allow me to point out that it is as subjectively based as any religious dogma. Just becasue something has a bad outcome does not make it not correct. And, what is a bad or incorrect outcome. Again, reference here is impliedly to some subjective human based construct of what is or is not deemed correct.

    My point here is that humanism or its equivalent is no more rational in terms of its approximation of some objective morality than any religion.

    Now, having labelled you all as humanists I’ll note that I am merely interpreting an argument made by you. But it may be that the argument was illustrative or otherwise not to be taken as your given morality, creed, position, what have you. In this regard, perhaps we all agree, any set of standards or morals we chose to identify lack the that characteristic of true objectivity which almost all people seemingly state their particular brand of morals, laws, preferences, ultimate truths, axioms, arise out of. Nothing could be further from the truth.

    Which brings me to my final point. I stated above “I beleive that morality stems from a divine being who would allow for your comment as set forth above. Is this not enough?” Such beleif is not rational and the comment was meant to prod “Is this not enough”.. talk about rhetorical rubbish.

    Aragon

  • Imperius Rex

    Aragon:
    Could you give your definition of “true objectivity” as you see it being applied to morality?

  • Aragon

    Dang! K, straight up answer.

    Objective Morality is: If a higher being defines/dictates what is moral and what is not then said morals arise out of a true assessment of what really is (i.e. true objectivity). However, this would presuppose the ability to ascertain whether such being in fact exists and if same exists what exactly are its moral dictates. This is impossilbe as I see it. Even Christians, who are let us assume correct about their being a God, must still admit that definitive ascertainment of that God’s morals as revealed by the Bible is problematic in as much as depending upon the translation of the bible relied upon you will get a different set of moral teachings (e.g. NIV, KJ, NRKJ, GIDDIONS, etc….. chose your version). This is not to say that consensus cannot be reached, but if you are going consensus and wish to remain true to basic logical principals then you must admit admit that your beleif is a matter of allegiance or faith or convention.

    Ture Objectivity is not: Any agreed upon human values, morals, etc…. Because, said values, morals, etc.. are merely human constructs created by humans according to criteria they decide they like or do not like. For instance, you might say it is wrong to take the life of a child where the child has done nothing, hurt nothing, threatens no one, and there is in your view no compelling reason to do so. However, this is merely your opinion, albeit shared by me and likely 99 percent of people. However, others would say kill the kid b/c he is merely another carbon dioxide output unit which threatens mother earth. Lol, just the other day I was listening to some show talking about a woman who sterilized herself b/c she thought it would be selfish to have kids.

    In any event, in so far as ture objectivity is concerned, the what I call wacko mother earther is no more correct in the absolute sense then you or I regarding the killing of children. I for one, while recognizing the lack of some true objective reality as relates to this moral, we’ll call it the ‘don’t kill kids for no good reason’ (dkkfngr) moral, nonetheless, allign my self with those who have the same morals and in this regard chose a Christian garment when describing my set of morals and to whom and what I would align myself.

  • Slarty

    Aragon – Surely morality IS a human construct? Glaciers do not agonise over scouring rocks and Lions do not grieve over the zebra. Does my dog feel “guilt” as we understand it when he sits on the sofa when I am not there? He soon gets off when I come in the room, aware perhaps that he is doing something his master forbids.

    Interestingly, does my command that he does not sit on the sofa make it a sin?. I am the master here, the higher being if you will. Does my selfish diktat that the dog is not allowed on the sofa make it an objective moral precept? No. It is my selfish desire and my “might makes right” command that creates the rule.

    Similarly by abrogating responsibility to a higher being (a god) to determine what the moral precepts should be, then either the god makes up the rules based on its own whims (which may or may not be what we actually want or need) or it decides based on an external source, in which case why can’t we discover them independently?

    I maintain that any moral or ethical system arises from the evolved sense of empathy and in/out group dynamics. Is a god the objective standard of music or taste or art? What is the value of money? How much is a $ or a £ worth by itself? These are all human concepts for which we have agreed standards in society. adn within a broad range we reach a consensus,just as we have always done with rules and behaviours.

    If there is an objective morality please advise why it is immoral (at least many would say these are) for a woman to display her breasts in the street but not her legs or for a man to stand up in church and use the f-word regularly in conversation?

  • Aragon

    Slarty:

    It is confirmed we agree on most anything. My definition or morality with is truly objective where a God so dictates is merely a function of definition. A moral is objectively based because God defines at so. This of course is circular but in the universe of God like powers is permissible. Beleive me this is all about semantics here. We are agreed upon most everthing which is unfortunate because I was enjoying this discussion. However, I do disagree about some matters. Specifically, you state:

    “If there is an objective morality please advise why it is immoral (at least many would say these are) for a woman to display her breasts in the street but not her legs.” I agree this is absolutely immoral to display her breasts but not her legs. She should in fact display both her breasts and her legs.

    “…or for a man to stand up in church and use the f-word regularly in conversation?” I for one don’t call this immoral but if a God who hasthe power to define all apspects of reality were to define this as immoral then it would be immoral. But this assumes a lot. Further, the idea of immoral cannot be defined outside of context. When we typically think of immoral we think both of the activity so labelled and of the consequences of engaging in such. If somethiing is called immoral so what if it doesn’t result in something negative like going to eternal hell or suffering personal psychological agony etc…. Seriously, if taken outside of the context of a consequence then immorality means little. For instance suppose a God says it is immoral to swear in Church but if you do so you are rewarded with getting to go to some cool level of heaven. The disconnect here and resulting cognitive disssonance by most shows why the definition of immoral necessarly relates to a perceived consequence.

    That said, I’d be happy to engage here forever. But, we are for the most part agreed. And unfortunately my dog, Trampis, God Bless his cannine sole, never did what I told him.

  • MisterMarc

    Slarty said:
    “Interestingly, does my command that [my dog] does not sit on the sofa make it a sin?. I am the master here, the higher being if you will. Does my selfish diktat that the dog is not allowed on the sofa make it an objective moral precept? No. It is my selfish desire and my “might makes right” command that creates the rule.”

    Very interesting point, Slarty. I would also add that bringing a higher being into the picture (rather than assuming the mantle yourself) removes the responsibility for those rules which you impose and indeed create. Instead, you claim only to be enforcing the will of another, whose rule cannot be questioned. A sort of “don’t shoot the messenger” syndrome.

    This itself results in a questionable moral climate, as rules and law become infallable by their nature. And as institutions gain followers, credibility, and power, their doctrine can become more bold. Secular morality and laws change with time. The subjects of law and morality can petition, and those laws can change…the infallable supreme being’s laws cannot. Seems dangerous and prone to abuse to me.

    And frankly, morally speaking, I think it’s unfair (in addition to being futile) to forbid puppies from availing themselves of the couch. :)

Leave a Reply