Observations

When are the New Atheists going to learn that saying God is immoral or some command of His is immoral is the logical equivalent of saying the 1st Amendment is unConstitutional?

Advertisements

16 Responses to Observations

  1. kenetiks says:

    Hiya Jack. Sorry I haven’t been keeping up. Work is taking up an exceptional amount of time these days. Of course, one could argue that, that’s a good thing during this economy.

    When are the New Atheists going to learn that saying God is immoral or some command of His is immoral is the logical equivalent of saying the 1st Amendment is unConstitutional?

    Apples and oranges I’d say.

    First it’s worth noting that when you replace god in the stories given forth in the bible that people have no problem saying that there either is no moral to the story or that the perpetrator in the story(god) is completely immoral. This fact extends across the spectrum of both the nonreligious and the christians or jewish. I forget the name of the studies done on this but it’s worth looking up and I believe Dawkins has referenced them.

    Questions of morality and ethics are questions of human suffering and happiness. To say that god is immoral is to simply put the text into reasonable human terms. The list of atrocities, genocide and unnecessary human deaths at gods hand are too innumerable to even begin to list. As a christian I would have thought you would have had a better grasp of this. But in typical fashion(for a christian) you seem to completely devoid yourself of the simplest of human ethics. Ignoring the obvious fact we’re not so much calling god immoral, that’s akin to calling a green unicorn named “Bob” a homicidal lunatic. What we’re saying is that the character described in the mythology cannot be moral.

    In other words, the stories are atrocious. Nothing good can be gleaned from any of these acts. If they are allegorical or euphemisms; then euphemisms of what? What could possibly be the moral of these fables? Nothing praiseworthy is the only answer.

  2. jackhudson says:

    Hiya Jack. Sorry I haven’t been keeping up. Work is taking up an exceptional amount of time these days. Of course, one could argue that, that’s a good thing during this economy.

    Hey Kenetics – glad you stopped by. I understand about the work issue, it is a good problem to have.

    Apples and oranges I’d say.
    First it’s worth noting that when you replace god in the stories given forth in the bible that people have no problem saying that there either is no moral to the story or that the perpetrator in the story(god) is completely immoral. This fact extends across the spectrum of both the nonreligious and the christians or jewish. I forget the name of the studies done on this but it’s worth looking up and I believe Dawkins has referenced them.

    I am not quite sure what this means here. The Bible isn’t Aesop’s fables – the events described therein don’t intend to convey a ‘moral’ per se. They are a chronicle of humanity, and what they chronicle is how human evil separated man from God and how God has worked to restore man to a relationship with Him. Saying God is ‘immoral’ is a bit oxymoronic – if God exists He is the source and standard of morality, and if He doesn’t exist then there is no objective standard by which to measure whether His actions are moral or not.

    Questions of morality and ethics are questions of human suffering and happiness. To say that god is immoral is to simply put the text into reasonable human terms. The list of atrocities, genocide and unnecessary human deaths at gods hand are too innumerable to even begin to list. As a christian I would have thought you would have had a better grasp of this. But in typical fashion(for a christian) you seem to completely devoid yourself of the simplest of human ethics. Ignoring the obvious fact we’re not so much calling god immoral, that’s akin to calling a green unicorn named “Bob” a homicidal lunatic. What we’re saying is that the character described in the mythology cannot be moral.

    I disagree that suffering and happiness are the definitions of whether something is immoral. I can suffer because of an earthquake, but that doesn’t make seismic events inherently moral or immoral. Childbirth can be excruciatingly painful (so I have heard :)) but that doesn’t make giving birth immoral.

    And I might derive happiness from shooting up with heroin, but that doesn’t make such an activity particularly moral.

    And it’s not a matter of being ‘devoid of the simplest of human ethics’, it’s a matter realizing that the ethics that are being assumed here are in fact the result of being born into and adopting Western values – which are derived from Christian values. The ‘simplest human ethics’ were quite different in Roman times, or for the Vikings or Mayans.
    In this sense I feel like atheists want it both ways – they want everyone to agree that the values we have in the West are the correct ones, but they don’t want to acknowledge the source of the values we share.

    So to objectively measure morality something must be objectively true about the way we should or shouldn’t act – and this must be derived from how we were designed to act. If there is no Designer, there is no design, and there is no basis by which to measure morality.

    I also think you are trying to introduce such a measure when you say an “unnecessary human deaths” – a death would only be necessary or unnecessary by design. Of course as a Christian I believe all death is the result of sin, or the corruption of human nature from its original design and intention – all death is the consequence of that corruption whether through the overt judgment of God or through the inevitable consequence of some action we take.

    Also, I think this has to do with how we see authority – if God is our Creator He is the standard of what is proper human behavior and He has the authority mete out consequences in accordance with that standard. He isn’t just some creature who has arbitrarily assumed authority over us; we owe our existence to Him and are obligated to act in accordance with the way He designed us. Now one might argue ‘we aren’t the product of design’ but that would be a different argument than ‘God shouldn’t judge us for our choices’, which is what atheists are doing when they say God is acting immorally.

    In other words, the stories are atrocious. Nothing good can be gleaned from any of these acts. If they are allegorical or euphemisms; then euphemisms of what? What could possibly be the moral of these fables? Nothing praiseworthy is the only answer.

    The stories aren’t meant to teach us how to act, the stories are to chronicle how men have acted and why they are worthy of death. God’s judgement is a the consequence of our bad choices. If I venture out in a ship with my family during a hurricane, I can’t then claim that the sinking of my ship and the loss of my loved ones is ‘atrocious’ and unfair. The result is the consequence of my actions – and I and those who were innocently with me suffer.

    Unlike a storm though God doesn’t just go around stomping on people indiscriminately – He methodically lays out the necessary conditions for humans to live healthy whole lives. Before condemning God for His judgment, consider for a moment what the world would be like if humans just consistently followed the Ten Commandments – if there was no more lying, no murder, no unfaithfulness, no rape, no children abandoned by their parents, people kept their promises and they cared for their families. Do you have any doubt human suffering we would immensely alleviated by choosing to do that?

  3. kenetiks says:

    I am not quite sure what this means here. The Bible isn’t Aesop’s fables – the events described therein don’t intend to convey a ‘moral’ per se. They are a chronicle of humanity, and what they chronicle is how human evil separated man from God and how God has worked to restore man to a relationship with Him. Saying God is ‘immoral’ is a bit oxymoronic – if God exists He is the source and standard of morality, and if He doesn’t exist then there is no objective standard by which to measure whether His actions are moral or not.

    This depends entirely on the bible being an accurate depiction of real historical events. If it isn’t then this entire line of reasoning fails.

    I disagree that suffering and happiness are the definitions of whether something is immoral. I can suffer because of an earthquake, but that doesn’t make seismic events inherently moral or immoral. Childbirth can be excruciatingly painful (so I have heard 🙂 ) but that doesn’t make giving birth immoral.

    And I might derive happiness from shooting up with heroin, but that doesn’t make such an activity particularly moral.

    And it’s not a matter of being ‘devoid of the simplest of human ethics’, it’s a matter realizing that the ethics that are being assumed here are in fact the result of being born into and adopting Western values – which are derived from Christian values. The ‘simplest human ethics’ were quite different in Roman times, or for the Vikings or Mayans.
    In this sense I feel like atheists want it both ways – they want everyone to agree that the values we have in the West are the correct ones, but they don’t want to acknowledge the source of the values we share.

    So to objectively measure morality something must be objectively true about the way we should or shouldn’t act – and this must be derived from how we were designed to act. If there is no Designer, there is no design, and there is no basis by which to measure morality.

    I also think you are trying to introduce such a measure when you say an “unnecessary human deaths” – a death would only be necessary or unnecessary by design. Of course as a Christian I believe all death is the result of sin, or the corruption of human nature from its original design and intention – all death is the consequence of that corruption whether through the overt judgment of God or through the inevitable consequence of some action we take.

    Perhaps I should have clarified.

    Morality is a question of happiness and suffering but I should have included that it is so from the perspective of ones own actions upon other living beings. And you are quite right, what was once acceptable is no longer so. That is because our sense of values are continually evolving especially regarding our impact on others, as a whole of course.

    There is a basis of human morality. The fact that it exists is evidence enough. Constantly devolving into word games or semantics get’s us nowhere. We have a western value system in spite of christianity not because of it. Any honest inquiry into the time period during the formation of it clearly shows this obvious fact.

    This requires no designer but a constantly evolving sense of group cohesion. This salient fact is covered in immense detail in volume upon volume of data in several branches of our current sciences. Simply ignoring them doesn’t make your position correct. We know with almost no shadow of any doubt that the entity described as god in the jewish and christian faiths almost certainly doesn’t exist. If this is true then your premise of “If there is no Designer, there is no design, and there is no basis by which to measure morality.” completely absurd. If there is no designer, then there is an alternate cause of the phenomena of morality.

    Also, I think this has to do with how we see authority – if God is our Creator He is the standard of what is proper human behavior and He has the authority mete out consequences in accordance with that standard. He isn’t just some creature who has arbitrarily assumed authority over us; we owe our existence to Him and are obligated to act in accordance with the way He designed us. Now one might argue ‘we aren’t the product of design’ but that would be a different argument than ‘God shouldn’t judge us for our choices’, which is what atheists are doing when they say God is acting immorally.

    Then god should have taken care to invent another species. The natural world attests to what must have been the worst disaster in god’s masterpiece. He is not the model of human behavior and anyone following his lead I would call a lunatic. This is because our system of values have evolved into higher and higher standards through time and we are left with a glimpse into barbarism through several holy books. I would not follow this creature even if he did exist because this would require causing an unfathomable amount of direct suffering and violence that I could not bring myself to be involved in. I would simply refuse any part of it and take my chances in hell.

  4. - says:

    “When are the New Atheists going to learn that saying God is immoral or some command of His is immoral is the logical equivalent of saying the 1st Amendment is unConstitutional?”
    1. though this statement contains the word “logical”, in the realm of logic, the precondition fails because god doesn’t exist.
    2. you might reword the ‘metaphor’: “… saying the concept of God is immoral or the concept of a [specified] command of His is immoral is the logical equivalent of saying the concept of the U.S.1st Amendment is unConstitutional”
    3. “new atheists”?

  5. jackhudson says:

    “When are the New Atheists going to learn that saying God is immoral or some command of His is immoral is the logical equivalent of saying the 1st Amendment is unConstitutional?”

    1. though this statement contains the word “logical”, in the realm of logic, the precondition fails because god doesn’t exist.

    Well the statement assumes for the purpose of the statement that God exists. Although you are right, if He doesn’t exist, the point is rather moot, so I am not sure why atheists pursue it.

    2. you might reword the ‘metaphor’: “… saying the concept of God is immoral or the concept of a [specified] command of His is immoral is the logical equivalent of saying the concept of the U.S.1st Amendment is unConstitutional”

    I am just reiterating the argument as New Atheists state it.

    3. “new atheists”?

    Sure. I didn’t invent the term.

  6. jackhudson says:

    This depends entirely on the bible being an accurate depiction of real historical events. If it isn’t then this entire line of reasoning fails.

    I don’t think this necessarily follows. Obviously I believe the Bible is a record of actual events, but whether or not it’s a series of morality plays doesn’t depend on it being ‘an accurate depiction of real historical events’.

    Morality is a question of happiness and suffering but I should have included that it is so from the perspective of ones own actions upon other living beings. And you are quite right, what was once acceptable is no longer so. That is because our sense of values are continually evolving especially regarding our impact on others, as a whole of course.

    I am not sure what you mean by ‘our’ and ‘evolving’ here. Obviously ideas about how we should treat each other vary by time and place, but there is no reason to believe they are heading in any particular direction. I mean we don’t have legal race based slavery in the US right now but slavery exists in the world in perhaps larger numbers than ever before. And we have thousands of women being bought and sold in the sex trades, something that seems not to have been nearly as prevalent as it is now. We don’t have legal child labor, but we have thousands, perhaps millions of children in our country being raised in broken homes leading to poverty, crime, and lack of an education. So I don’t see on the whole that our morality has ‘evolved’ if by that you mean the way we treat each other better on the whole. In fact the 20th century was the most violent and destructive in the history of humanity – hard to say how the 21st is shaping up yet. I think it would be naïve to claim it is better based on current events.

    There is a basis of human morality. The fact that it exists is evidence enough. Constantly devolving into word games or semantics get’s us nowhere. We have a western value system in spite of christianity not because of it. Any honest inquiry into the time period during the formation of it clearly shows this obvious fact.

    You seem to be begging the question a bit. I am not sure we can simply say that morals simply ‘exist’. In fact some atheists argue specifically that atheism implies amorality, or that morals do not exist. Also the fact that something exists is not the basis for it’s existence or the explanation for why it exists. Obviously if the only things that exist are material objects as atheism implies, then morals can’t exist. Now we might say that certain human behaviors exist, and that preferences for some behaviors over others has shifted in various ways over time but that isn’t the same as saying an objective set of rules concerning what human behavior ought to be exists. That would only be true if there were an objective source from which to derive such rules, i.e. God.

    And I would also say the history of the West and Western values is actually inseparable from the history of Christianity’s influence on the peoples of Europe and America. The values you have adopted are inherited, and they are inherited from your Christian forebears whether you realize it or not.

    This requires no designer but a constantly evolving sense of group cohesion. This salient fact is covered in immense detail in volume upon volume of data in several branches of our current sciences. Simply ignoring them doesn’t make your position correct. We know with almost no shadow of any doubt that the entity described as god in the jewish and christian faiths almost certainly doesn’t exist. If this is true then your premise of “If there is no Designer, there is no design, and there is no basis by which to measure morality.” completely absurd. If there is no designer, then there is an alternate cause of the phenomena of morality.

    That seems to be a misconception about evolution – it doesn’t evolve in a particular direction, it simply propitiates those adaptations which enhance reproduction. If morality is a product of evolution, and it is reproductively advantageous to have a morality that makes a population see it as good to kill a certain number of people then that is the morality that will be adopted. In fact ‘group cohesion’ could certainly advance a ‘morality’ that you and I might find repugnant. I mean the Germans were pretty unified because of Hitler. Ahmadinejad uses the same technique in Iran to keep his people unified behand him. Of course I wouldn’t call that morality (neither would science) but behavior, which doesn’t require a particular morality.

    As far as ‘knowing’ God almost certainly doesn’t exist, as I have noted previously this idea is premised on faulty logic. We ‘know’ no such thing. And there is plenty of evidence to believe God exists which I have detailed elsewhere. So I am not sure where you are getting the ‘we’ from; while you may be almost certain God doesn’t exist, I am absolutely certain that He does – for very good reasons. But I am not sure what that has to do with the topic at hand.

    Then god should have taken care to invent another species. The natural world attests to what must have been the worst disaster in god’s masterpiece. He is not the model of human behavior and anyone following his lead I would call a lunatic. This is because our system of values have evolved into higher and higher standards through time and we are left with a glimpse into barbarism through several holy books. I would not follow this creature even if he did exist because this would require causing an unfathomable amount of direct suffering and violence that I could not bring myself to be involved in. I would simply refuse any part of it and take my chances in hell.

    If you want to see barbarism you don’t have to look into a ‘holy book’ you only need to travel to any part of the world where it is still alive. Or watch a documentary about the genocides of the 20th century, conducted by any number of ‘evolved’ societies. I have said it before, and will say it again – more people were killed in atheistic countries in the 20th century than in any century before that for any religious purpose. There is no evidence that our systems of values are improving – our technology is advancing, but unfortunately that allows us to kill larger number of people more quickly, and often in ways that aren’t as obvious as running them through with a sword. Nonetheless, there is no evidence evolution is improving our values. If there is no god evolution certainly produced our values, but they are what they are for the purposes of survival, it has nothing to do with ‘higher standards’ because there aren’t then any standards.

    And that is what you can’t seem to realize, you keep adopting the language of metaphysics while claiming it doesn’t exist. ‘Standards’ for values would be metaphysical entities – as would ‘values’ themselves incidentally. If you are going to claim some particular set of behaviors is ‘right’ and some is ‘wrong’ apart from God you are going to have to find some basis for it in biology, and I got news for you, there is no such basis because any behavior can and has been justified from that perspective.

    But you didn’t answer my question – if people were to follow the 10 commandments, wouldn’t this alleviate a significant portion of human suffering?

  7. kenetiks says:

    I don’t think this necessarily follows. Obviously I believe the Bible is a record of actual events, but whether or not it’s a series of morality plays doesn’t depend on it being ‘an accurate depiction of real historical events’.

    Then you are in error. The bible is not an accurate record of real historical events.

    I am not sure what you mean by ‘our’ and ‘evolving’ here. Obviously ideas about how we should treat each other vary by time and place, but there is no reason to believe they are heading in any particular direction. I mean we don’t have legal race based slavery in the US right now but slavery exists in the world in perhaps larger numbers than ever before. And we have thousands of women being bought and sold in the sex trades, something that seems not to have been nearly as prevalent as it is now. We don’t have legal child labor, but we have thousands, perhaps millions of children in our country being raised in broken homes leading to poverty, crime, and lack of an education. So I don’t see on the whole that our morality has ‘evolved’ if by that you mean the way we treat each other better on the whole. In fact the 20th century was the most violent and destructive in the history of humanity – hard to say how the 21st is shaping up yet. I think it would be naïve to claim it is better based on current events.

    Our sense of morality is constantly evolving. It may be constrained by the time period or geographical location in which we live but it is an onward progression. It suffers setbacks from time to time and does not mean that individuals do not behave badly.

    You do realize that this is an entire field of scientific study don’t you?

    Yes, large numbers. We had technology at our disposal that previous generations did not have. They may have been worse or better than previous murderers but that could do a lot more with much less.

    I’m not saying we’re perfect, I’m saying we’re going to get better.

    You seem to be begging the question a bit. I am not sure we can simply say that morals simply ‘exist’. In fact some atheists argue specifically that atheism implies amorality, or that morals do not exist. Also the fact that something exists is not the basis for it’s existence or the explanation for why it exists. Obviously if the only things that exist are material objects as atheism implies, then morals can’t exist. Now we might say that certain human behaviors exist, and that preferences for some behaviors over others has shifted in various ways over time but that isn’t the same as saying an objective set of rules concerning what human behavior ought to be exists. That would only be true if there were an objective source from which to derive such rules, i.e. God.

    I do not have to simply state that they exist. You’re simply attempting to wiggle here by replacing “morality” with “human behavior” when you know that one trait of human behavior is what we define as morality. You’re attempting to say the exact same thing I just said and call me wrong at the same time.

    You know what I mean when I speak of morality. I’m using the term as a placeholder for a certain set of human behavioral traits. You’re invoking god when it isn’t even needed and playing semantics.

    I would also venture that you probably understand what even a passing interest in evolutionary psychology will show. What we’re actually talking about is in groups and out groups. Nothing says or demands that individuals or out groups behave with an upward progression towards each other. But those within the group tend to treat each other better. Those on the outside are regarded with hostility and mistrust. This is blatantly apparent or perhaps I’m not the best at explaining what I’m attempting to say.

    And I would also say the history of the West and Western values is actually inseparable from the history of Christianity’s influence on the peoples of Europe and America. The values you have adopted are inherited, and they are inherited from your Christian forebears whether you realize it or not.

    I wholeheartedly disagree. That’s the worst kind of cherry picking. I don’t buy the “the founding fathers were deists!” either. Some of them may have been christian or not recognizable as such but it does not matter to me. What’s apparent here is that both sides are both right and wrong. Some were christians, some expressed one form or another of deism. Some may have been outright unbelievers and it does not matter to me in the least than some where guided by faith and others not. What matters is that for once some people got it right instead of squabbling and burdening us with the repercussions of rampant stupidity.

    That seems to be a misconception about evolution – it doesn’t evolve in a particular direction, it simply propitiates those adaptations which enhance reproduction. If morality is a product of evolution, and it is reproductively advantageous to have a morality that makes a population see it as good to kill a certain number of people then that is the morality that will be adopted. In fact ‘group cohesion’ could certainly advance a ‘morality’ that you and I might find repugnant. I mean the Germans were pretty unified because of Hitler. Ahmadinejad uses the same technique in Iran to keep his people unified behand him. Of course I wouldn’t call that morality (neither would science) but behavior, which doesn’t require a particular morality.

    I’m not saying a constant upward progression. The upward slope isn’t much of a slope at all but we’re making progress.

    I’m not the best at explaining this but I’ll at least try.

    Group cohesion is advantageous in evolutionary terms. We treat those within our group better and view outsiders with mistrust. Those within a group may annihilate those of another group and insure their own survival by removing competition and securing needed resources for our own group. Thus this is advantageous for your own group. There may be subgroups within a group also. For example, christianity is itself made up of splinter groups which are in constant disagreement but will rally when the group as a whole is threatened. Those outside the group will not be treated well but those within the whole are and those within the splinter group will be treated with even more respect and mutual cooperation. The same gos for Iran, the US or other encompassing groups.

    The upward progression comes in when we start to see and extend kindness beyond the limits of our own subgroup or further up the ladder into the largest group, humans.

    As far as ‘knowing’ God almost certainly doesn’t exist, as I have noted previously this idea is premised on faulty logic. We ‘know’ no such thing. And there is plenty of evidence to believe God exists which I have detailed elsewhere. So I am not sure where you are getting the ‘we’ from; while you may be almost certain God doesn’t exist, I am absolutely certain that He does – for very good reasons. But I am not sure what that has to do with the topic at hand.

    I didn’t say we “we know no god exists“; I said we can be fairly certain beyond most doubt that the christian god does not exist as described or the muslim one either. And capitalizing he, him, etc is one of the weirdest things I see christians do.

    If you want to see barbarism you don’t have to look into a ‘holy book’ you only need to travel to any part of the world where it is still alive. Or watch a documentary about the genocides of the 20th century, conducted by any number of ‘evolved’ societies. I have said it before, and will say it again – more people were killed in atheistic countries in the 20th century than in any century before that for any religious purpose. There is no evidence that our systems of values are improving – our technology is advancing, but unfortunately that allows us to kill larger number of people more quickly, and often in ways that aren’t as obvious as running them through with a sword. Nonetheless, there is no evidence evolution is improving our values. If there is no god evolution certainly produced our values, but they are what they are for the purposes of survival, it has nothing to do with ‘higher standards’ because there aren’t then any standards.

    Here we go…

    Fine. Tally the entire murders of every “atheistic” country and regime you can think of, then do the same for the bible. Call me when you’re done with the ratio of God(Direct murders by his own hand, ordered murders and speciacide) vs atheists(Stalin, etc?). Don’t include Hitler either since he was an opportunistic lunatic who didn’t due anything for atheistic or christian reasons.

    There are “higher standards”. Humanity.

    Or perhaps I’m a romantic.

    And that is what you can’t seem to realize, you keep adopting the language of metaphysics while claiming it doesn’t exist. ‘Standards’ for values would be metaphysical entities – as would ‘values’ themselves incidentally. If you are going to claim some particular set of behaviors is ‘right’ and some is ‘wrong’ apart from God you are going to have to find some basis for it in biology, and I got news for you, there is no such basis because any behavior can and has been justified from that perspective.

    There are advantages to certain behavior and disadvantages to others. There are no ultimates unless you’re speaking in strictly biological terms I suppose.

    But you didn’t answer my question – if people were to follow the 10 commandments, wouldn’t this alleviate a significant portion of human suffering?

    No, not the ten. The first four have nothing to do with human suffering. There is also no mention of rape, human solidarity, slavery or equal rights. There are moral teachings that would do a far better job of curbing human suffering than anything that is to be found in the bible.

  8. jackhudson says:

    Then you are in error. The bible is not an accurate record of real historical events.

    The Bible is sufficiently accurate to it’s purposes; it is certainly not intended to be, nor should it be seen as an exhaustive chronicle of history. Obviously we will disagree here, but it’s another subject that would be ridiculous to add to the myriad of subjects already under discussion here. I will have to post about it sometime.

    Our sense of morality is constantly evolving. It may be constrained by the time period or geographical location in which we live but it is an onward progression. It suffers setbacks from time to time and does not mean that individuals do not behave badly.

    I deal with this notion of progression more below, but here I will just say you are misusing the term ‘evolution’. Evolution has to do with our characteristics determined by our genetics – other than those which are harmful to reproduction and those which enhance reproduction; our genes are indifferent towards our behavior as are evolutionary mechanisms.

    You do realize that this is an entire field of scientific study don’t you?

    I realize there is fields of study that claim to have insight into human behavior and morality (often with bizarre results) I am also aware that some have proposed that morality can be approached from a scientific perspective (aka Sam Harris) though there are even skeptics amongst his colleagues. As far as a ‘field’ concerning a scientific study of morality, it is certainly not along the lines of chemistry or physics.

    Yes, large numbers. We had technology at our disposal that previous generations did not have. They may have been worse or better than previous murderers but that could do a lot more with much less.

    I’m not saying we’re perfect, I’m saying we’re going to get better.

    It’s this sort of statement that I find problematic.

    If I am utilizing the temperature of my body to measure my health, then I can base the assessment on the knowledge that my body best operates on or about 98.6° F. If my temperature goes up to 103° then I can say it’s a problem, and if it drops down to 101° then I can say it’s getting better because I have a baseline by which to make that assessment.

    And I don’t think evolution gives you that baseline, or at least not one you would prefer. Evolution selects for those genetically based characteristics that enhance reproduction. If it would be better for a population of humans to kill the old and infirm so they wouldn’t be a resource drain, then that is the behavior that would be selected – I am not sure if you would think that is ‘better’ behavior.

    So I am asking, what is your ‘baseline’ when you say we are getting better morally?

    I do not have to simply state that they exist. You’re simply attempting to wiggle here by replacing “morality” with “human behavior” when you know that one trait of human behavior is what we define as morality. You’re attempting to say the exact same thing I just said and call me wrong at the same time.

    You know what I mean when I speak of morality. I’m using the term as a placeholder for a certain set of human behavioral traits. You’re invoking god when it isn’t even needed and playing semantics.

    Well I think this is where we are missing each other. When I speak of morality I am not thinking of behavior itself, but a set of rules governing human behavior. Animals have no such rules and so we don’t speak of their behavior in term such as of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ or ‘better’ and ‘worse’.

    When a group of chimps kills the males of another troop and eats their young in order to cause the females to be reproductively active, we don’t say the chimps are being ‘bad’ chimps. When a group of male dolphins gang rapes a female dolphin, we don’t say their behavior is ‘worse’ than other dolphins. We only use those terms with humans because we are the only creatures who have a sense that there are rules which govern our behavior, i.e. morality. So I see (and I think there is an argument to see) behavior and morality as different things. If what we exhibit is merely human behavior, then let’s not waste our time talking about what is better or worse – we are what we are.

    I would also venture that you probably understand what even a passing interest in evolutionary psychology will show. What we’re actually talking about is in groups and out groups. Nothing says or demands that individuals or out groups behave with an upward progression towards each other. But those within the group tend to treat each other better. Those on the outside are regarded with hostility and mistrust. This is blatantly apparent or perhaps I’m not the best at explaining what I’m attempting to say.

    Well I don’t think you are bad at saying it, I just think you are conflating two ideas. As I pointed out of above, ‘evolutionary psychology’ is a weak science. It may explain why we do some things, but it doesn’t tell us whether those things are right or wrong. That is morality.

    I wholeheartedly disagree. That’s the worst kind of cherry picking. I don’t buy the “the founding fathers were deists!” either. Some of them may have been christian or not recognizable as such but it does not matter to me. What’s apparent here is that both sides are both right and wrong. Some were christians, some expressed one form or another of deism. Some may have been outright unbelievers and it does not matter to me in the least than some where guided by faith and others not. What matters is that for once some people got it right instead of squabbling and burdening us with the repercussions of rampant stupidity.

    I don’t think the history of the West began with the Founding Fathers – there is a profound difference between the ways people acted in pagan societies previous to the coming of Christianity and the way they acted later. There is a reason we no longer have coliseums where we feed people to animals, and keeping sex slaves, and we don’t toss our children out in the wilderness if they aren’t healthy at birth. The notions of human equality and respect for human conscience and human worth as well as inherent rights are directly traceable to the Renaissance and Reformation, which were the product of Christian movements and societies. In fact there is no material or naturalistic argument for equal rights or inherent human rights. Those require certain metaphysical notions, notions which were grounded in Christianity. I could go on, but again, irrelevant to this topic.

    I’m not saying a constant upward progression. The upward slope isn’t much of a slope at all but we’re making progress.

    I’m not the best at explaining this but I’ll at least try.

    Group cohesion is advantageous in evolutionary terms. We treat those within our group better and view outsiders with mistrust. Those within a group may annihilate those of another group and insure their own survival by removing competition and securing needed resources for our own group. Thus this is advantageous for your own group. There may be subgroups within a group also. For example, christianity is itself made up of splinter groups which are in constant disagreement but will rally when the group as a whole is threatened. Those outside the group will not be treated well but those within the whole are and those within the splinter group will be treated with even more respect and mutual cooperation. The same gos for Iran, the US or other encompassing groups.

    The upward progression comes in when we start to see and extend kindness beyond the limits of our own subgroup or further up the ladder into the largest group, humans.

    Again, I have to say (and I think most biologists would agree) that there is no ‘upward progression’ in biology and evolution. Evolution doesn’t progress anywhere. If a population happens to have the genetics to produce eyes, and having eyes is advantageous then those genes are selected for. If a population ends up in a cave where having eyes is actually detrimental to survival then not having eyes is selected for. There is no ‘upward progression’ to having eyes. You might feel it is immoral to poke someone’s eyes out, but evolution doesn’t care – it only selects those aspects which are reproductively advantageous. If it is reproductively advantageous to kill old people and spare their use of resources for those who can have children, then that is what evolution will incline one to do over the course of generations. It has nothing to do with progression toward a particular goal. Is this clear?

    Thus, there is absolutely no reason to expect evolution to make us consistently ‘kinder’ to the world at large unless it can be shown that this behavior is reproductively advantageous.

    I didn’t say we “we know no god exists“; I said we can be fairly certain beyond most doubt that the christian god does not exist as described or the muslim one either. And capitalizing he, him, etc is one of the weirdest things I see christians do.

    God is capitalized in a setting where the designation stands in for His proper name, like Yaweh or Jesus. It’s the same reason we capitalize Sir or Mr. Obviously it doesn’t make sense to you because you don’t actually think He exists.

    But I am not sure what argument for the non-existence of the ‘Christian or Jewish God’ would uniquely exclude Him from existence, and not other gods.

    Fine. Tally the entire murders of every “atheistic” country and regime you can think of, then do the same for the bible. Call me when you’re done with the ratio of God (Direct murders by his own hand, ordered murders and speciacide) vs atheists(Stalin, etc?). Don’t include Hitler either since he was an opportunistic lunatic who didn’t due anything for atheistic or christian reasons.

    French Revolution – 40,000
    Ethopia under Mengistu – 500,000
    Soviet Union under Stalin – 30,000,000
    China under Mao – 40,000,000
    N. Korea under Communism – 2,000,000
    Camobodia under the Khmer Rouge (doesn’t count deaths because of the Vietnamese war) – 1.5 million
    Afghanistanis killed by Soviets – 1.5 million

    So that is about 80 million – and that doesn’t even really count those who died as a result of the conflicts incited by these regimes elsewhere. My point isn’t to say atheism is the only source of violence in history (as a Christian I chalk that up to sinful human nature) – simply that your notion that irreligious societies are somehow less barbaric now then religious ones previously is absurd.

    There are “higher standards”. Humanity.

    Are you saying that other species are immoral?

    There are advantages to certain behavior and disadvantages to others. There are no ultimates unless you’re speaking in strictly biological terms I suppose.

    Well that is what evolution is – a biological mechanism.

    No, not the ten. The first four have nothing to do with human suffering. There is also no mention of rape, human solidarity, slavery or equal rights. There are moral teachings that would do a far better job of curbing human suffering than anything that is to be found in the bible.

    Well I think it’s fairly clear if one were to commit rape then you would be transgressing the commandments against adultery, coveting; even murder if you accept Jesus’ views of adultery and murder. And I think there are other places in the Bible (that preceded these specific commandments) that would certainly undergird arguments for equal rights and ‘human solidarity’ – in fact a set of laws that apply to everyone is the basis of equal rights!

    Nonetheless we seem to agree if people were honest, didn’t murder, were faithful to their commitments and to their families, weren’t greedy and materialistic, took time from their work to rest and relax and devoted themselves to the pursuit of truth the world would be a better place – right?

    And if we added to that Jesus command (which is rooted in the OT) to love our neighbor as ourselves, then I am not sure how we would achieve ‘better’ morality.

    By the way, I just want to say I appreciate the even tone of your responses; even if we disagree I find the discussion interesting as always.

  9. - says:

    “Well the statement assumes for the purpose of the statement that God exists. Although you are right, if He doesn’t exist, the point is rather moot, so I am not sure why atheists pursue it.”
    if the point is moot, the question is why theists bother considering it.

    i realized by that “some command of His”, you meant a command found in the bible, so there’s a better rephrase to avoid the apples-to-oranges problem.
    “… saying some command in the bible is nonbiblical is the logical equivalent of saying the 1st Amendment is unConstitutional?”

    alternatively, you could try, “saying a biblical command of God’s is immoral is the logical equivalent of saying the 1st Amendment is immoral”

  10. jackhudson says:

    if the point is moot, the question is why theists bother considering it.

    To point out that an oft used canard by atheists is moot?

    i realized by that “some command of His”, you meant a command found in the bible, so there’s a better rephrase to avoid the apples-to-oranges problem.
    “… saying some command in the bible is nonbiblical is the logical equivalent of saying the 1st Amendment is unConstitutional?”

    Well as Christians believe commands in the Bible to be synonymous with God’s commands, and if for the purposes of debate atheists treat them that way, then both statements are equivalent.

    alternatively, you could try, “saying a biblical command of God’s is immoral is the logical equivalent of saying the 1st Amendment is immoral”

    Well no, because the Constitution doesn’t purport to be a document outlining moral precepts, whereas that is at least part of what the Bible does.

    The point of comparison is that God is the source and authority of morality – if morality has any objective meaning, it must emanate from some source outside of human preference. In the same way what we consider to be ‘Constitutional’ is that which emanates from the document we call the Constitution. Saying the source of morality is immoral is like saying the Constitution or some part of it is unConstitutional.

  11. kenetiks says:

    Ok Jack.

    I don’t do this lightly. However I find that you’re simply either grossly misunderstanding what I’m trying to say. I count this as a failure on my part and I’m actually going to paste two excerpts from a pdf file. As I said I don’t do this lightly but I feel that they better convey what I’m actually trying to say better than I evidently am able to express.

    Altruism:
    People sometimes say that without a god there
    would be no altruism, that evolution only rewards selfish
    behavior.
    However, it can be argued that there is no such thing as
    altruism, that people always do what they want to do. If they
    are only faced with bad choices, then people choose the thing
    they hate the least.
    Our choices are based on what gives us (our genes) the
    best advantage for survival, including raising our reputation in
    society.
    “Altruism” towards family members benefits people who
    share our genes. “Altruism” towards friends benefits people
    who may someday return the favor.
    Even “altruism” towards strangers has a basis in
    evolution. This behavior first evolved in small tribes, where
    everyone knew each other and a good reputation enhanced one’s
    survival. It is now hard-wired in our brains as a general mode
    of conduct.

    Morality:
    This is the idea that without a god we’d
    have no basis for morality. However, a secular moral code
    existed before the Bible: the Code of Hammurabi.
    In Plato’s dialogue called Euthyphro, Socrates asks a man
    named Euthyphro whether something is good because God says
    it is, or does God announce something to be good because it
    has intrinsic goodness?
    If something is good because God says it is, then God
    might change his mind about what is good. Thus, there would
    be no absolute morality.
    If God merely announces something to be good because it
    has intrinsic goodness, then we might be able to discover this
    intrinsic goodness ourselves, without the need for god belief.
    Christians can’t even agree among themselves what’s
    moral when it comes to things like masturbation, premarital
    sex, homosexuality, divorce, contraception, abortion, war,
    embryonic stem cell research, euthanasia, and the death penalty.
    Christians reject some of the moral laws found in the
    Bible, such as killing disobedient children or people who work
    on the Sabbath. Therefore, Christians must be applying their
    own ethical standards from outside the Bible to be able to
    recognize that these commandments in the Bible are unethical.
    [Thanks to Dan Barker for this point.]
    In fact, most religious people ignore the bad ethics in
    their holy books and concentrate on the good advice. In other
    words, theists pick and choose their ethics just like atheists do.
    Other animals exhibit kindness toward one another and a
    sense of justice. We have found the part of our brains
    responsible for feelings of sympathy and empathy – “mirror
    neurons” – which serve as the foundation for much of our
    ethics.
    Morality is something that evolved from us being social
    animals. It’s based on the selfish advantage we get from
    cooperation, and on consequences. Helping one another is a
    selfish act that has evolutionary rewards. (See also Argument
    25, against the existence of altruism.)
    We also judge actions by their consequences, through trial
    and error. The best formula we have come up with is to allow
    the maximum amount of freedom that does not harm another
    person or impinge on that person’s freedom. This creates the
    greatest amount of happiness and prosperity in society, which
    benefits the greatest amount of people (the greatest good for the
    greatest number). This view includes the protection of
    minority rights, since in some way we are each a minority.
    Since there is no evidence for any gods, it follows that
    any moral belief can be attributed to a god. So, rather than
    being a certain guide, religion can be used to justify any
    behavior. One simply has to say “God told me to do it.” The
    best way to refute this reasoning is to discard the idea of gods
    altogether.
    Even if a god doesn’t exist, some people think that a
    belief in a god is useful to get people to behave – kind of like
    an invisible policeman, or, in the words of President George
    W. Bush: “(God) is constantly searching our hearts and minds.
    He’s kind of like Santa Claus. He knows if you’ve been good
    or if you’ve been bad.” [April 8, 2007 (Easter), Army post,
    Fort Hood, Texas.] Do we really want to make this the basis
    for our ethics?
    Any decent ethical system does not need the supernatural
    to justify it. However, belief in the supernatural has been used
    to justify many unethical acts, such as the Inquisition, the
    Salem Witch trials, gay-bashing, and 9/11.

  12. kenetiks says:

    @Jack

    Saying the source of morality is immoral is like saying the Constitution or some part of it is unConstitutional.

    The premise hinges entirely on the source of morality being god and the source of knowledge about god’s morals being the bible. If the source of knowledge about the entity is proven unreliable; then the premise fails and likewise this raises the question. If the source of morality is not god then there is invariably another answer to be found.

  13. jackhudson says:

    Hey Kenetics, thanks for the response.

    There are many things to respond to here, some of which I have dealt with before elsewhere (like the Euthyphro dilemma) and for which I think there are sufficient answers. And there is a lot of bad logic sprinkled throughout, as well as a few factual errors which I will also put aside for now. For the moment I just want to concentrate on the notion that:

    Morality is something that evolved from us being social animals. It’s based on the selfish advantage we get from cooperation, and on consequences. Helping one another is a selfish act that has evolutionary rewards.

    Let’s assume for the sake of discussion this is true. Would it not also be true that others forms of behavior like lying, adultery, stealing, etc, also evolved for the very same reasons? And is it also not true that these acts can create some forms of happiness and prosperity? If this is the case, why wouldn’t we consider these acts to be moral as well?

  14. nate says:

    satire indeed, you are correct.

  15. nate says:

    Sorry Kenetiks, I do my responses from the RSS feed in Outlook , all the different posts get mixed up. You can probably draw the line my last comment to the post it belongs on easily enough.

  16. kenetiks says:

    @Jack
    For some reason I missed these two parts of your earlier post entirely for some reason.

    Nonetheless we seem to agree if people were honest, didn’t murder, were faithful to their commitments and to their families, weren’t greedy and materialistic, took time from their work to rest and relax and devoted themselves to the pursuit of truth the world would be a better place – right?

    Sure. =)

    By the way, I just want to say I appreciate the even tone of your responses; even if we disagree I find the discussion interesting as always.

    You’re quite welcome.

    I find that I love the discussions. It’s quite rare that people on opposite sides of such an arena can have civil discussions. I’m not sure why this is and I myself have fallen victim to the fray numerous times as well.

    I chalk my current state of attempting(and sometimes failing) rational and civil discourse to a currently evolving series of somewhat epiphanies. I currently feel(and feel that evidence supports this) that the dogmatism and viscous antagonism from both sides are going nowhere. I think the rational realization that if we are to create a viable future that we must first realize that faith will never be eradicated or given up within our life times. Thus the only means of moving forward with real, tangible problems that we face, is together. But this is going to take an unfathomable amount of discourse and understanding to work together and an immense amount of concessions will have to be made from both sides. Yelling and name calling aren’t going to get us anywhere at all and the dogmatic of both sides are going to have to come to terms with this.

    Don’t misunderstand me. I know and understand that in certain discussions with certain individuals that one must stand his or her ground given the supporting evidence. For example, attempting to have a civil and rational discussion with Glenn Beck isn’t going to get anyone anywhere. Likewise, the same goes for many atheists.

    But all in all I do enjoy the talks and will continue to have them when I can. Work takes up a lot of my time and sometimes I take breaks.

    I’ll respond to your last post when I get some more free time but for now it’s back to work.

    Regards,
    kenetiks

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: