A naturalistic approach to human morality

There has been a bit of discussion about morality lately on several New Zealand blogs (see moral things, What’s So Great About Objective Morality?, My take on morality, Thinking Matters and Where do our morals come from?. This has tended to be centred around a scientific or ‘naturalistic’ understanding human morality and its sources. Participants in this discussion and others interested in the subject might find the Beyond Belief: Candles in the Dark conference videos interesting. The conference included sessions on Human Flourishing/Eudaimonics and Your Brain on Morality.

I have only started watching these videos but have found the talk by Owen Flanagan interesting. A professor of Philosophy at Duke University, he also holds appointments in Psychology and Neurobiology and is a Faculty Fellow in Cognitive Neuroscience. Flanagan has written several books; the most recent is The Really Hard Problem: Meaning in a Material World.

Have a look at the video below of Flanagan’s presentation.

Some of the ideas discussed by Flanagan at this conference are also presented in his article One Enchanted Being: Neuro-existentialism & Meaning.

For example:

Respect for truth

“Meaning, existential meaning, must be conceived naturalistically, because supernaturalism despite whatever consolation it seems to afford, provides answers to questions of meaning that are epistemically irresponsible, that show disrespect for truth.”

“Why do I, as a naturalist, privilege truth over, for example, beauty or consolation or simple happiness, when these conflict? Answer: The evidence is that truth reliably contributes to the production of flourishing. Untruth, even in the form of consoling stories about afterlives, has the effect of encouraging disrespect for the truth and generally low epistemic standards that are considered normal – everybody is entitled to his own opinion – and which have large and deleterious personal and political consequences.”

“Truth respect is basic. Truth disrespect reliably leads to personal and political dysfunction and dis-ease.”

“Furthermore, encouraging non-natural reasons encourages low epistemic standards, which ramify in bad ways across personal and interpersonal space and lead to less eudaimonia.

Theology

“I do not engage academic theology because in my experience when there is talk of theos, as opposed to talk about beliefs about theos, or texts about theos, all good sense and standards leave the room.”

“Regarding ontological commitment to theos, this look to members of my tribe suspiciously like commitment to phlogiston. A course on phlogiston, could be part of a university, or its curriculum, if there were enough interest in people’s beliefs about phlogiston, how that belief had influenced the research of scientists, how the belief affected scientific funding, the status and fate of ‘true’ believers versus non-believers, those heretics who believed in oxygen, and so on. All this is worth studying without being ontologically committed to phlogiston, which would be absurd since there is no such thing. Religion, as a historical, sociological, art historical discipline is intellectually respectable; theology insofar as it claims to study theos, as opposed to belief in theos, is not intellectually respectable.”

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187 responses to “A naturalistic approach to human morality

  1. About five minutes into the talk Mr. Flanagan states that we are just animals no better than any other animal.

    So I guess it is just a matter of preference – do you prefer beef or human flesh…

    That says it all…

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  2. Is that the only thing keeping you from cannibalism? Nothing to do with the suffering you’d cause the person as well as their friends and family? What kind of shallow morality is this?

    This comment of yours (as with many others) either betrays your crippled logic or it is a deliberate troll. You manage to lower the intellect of every conversation here and I think that for the benefit of your own health (get away from your computer for a few minutes a day!) and for the quality of conversation here you’d be better off not posting or, when you do, try it in a spirit of a mutual search for truth.

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  3. Is that the only thing keeping you from cannibalism? Nothing to do with the suffering you’d cause the person as well as their friends and family? What kind of shallow morality is this?

    Well what logically follows from the statement that we are “no better than other animals?” That is shallow moral thinking, that is crippled logic. That lowers the human person. It is deeply offensive to the dignity of man…

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  4. You’re just trolling now. And you’re not worth my time.

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  5. Ok the atheist Owen Flanagan states that human beings are no better than other animals, and I’m the bad guy… go figure…

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  6. Flanagan says,

    “Meaning, existential meaning, must be conceived naturalistically, because supernaturalism despite whatever consolation it seems to afford, provides answers to questions of meaning that are epistemically irresponsible, that show disrespect for truth.”

    Does he assume there are only two options for understanding existential meaning?

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  7. …though he’s right to raise the issue of epistemology – which I think it the proper starting point for such discussions…

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  8. Owen Flanagan states that human beings are no better than other animals. This mindset was used by the Nazis in the propaganda film, “The Eternal Jew.”

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

    one of the shots early in the film shows a pack of rats emerging from a sewer, juxtaposed with a crowd of Jews in a bustling Polish street. Close-ups of individuals show sickly, malformed facial features. The narration explains how as rats are the vermin of the animal kingdom, Jews are the vermin of the human race and similarly spread disease and corruption. Unlike rats, however, the narrator continues, Jews have the uncanny ability to change their appearance and blend into their “human hosts.” A scene depicts four bearded men in traditional Jewish costume, then shows them shaved and in modern business suits, while the narrator explains that only a “trained eye” can distinguish their Jewish features.

    Here the Nazis compared Jewish people to rats, but if Mr. Flanagan is correct then the Jews really were no better than rats. For that matter, neither are any of us…

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  9. “No better than animals” with respect to what? James has put half a sentence out and effectively supplied a completion of his own (cannibalism). Is this what the speaker was referred to? If not, James it just trolling again ;-)

    (I haven’t time to watch the video, so I haven’t time to confirm this for myself.)

    Ken: I agree with the theology study issue Owen raises, and personally think that theology departments should be encouraged to move to be private institutions outside of the universities. They, after all, are really about a private matter (religion).

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  10. James, of course, is just selecting and filtering to misrepresent Flanagan’s arguments. I think this gets back to Flanagan’s point that:
    “supernaturalism despite whatever consolation it seems to afford, provides answers to questions of meaning that are epistemically irresponsible, that show disrespect for truth.”

    James is not actually interested in the truth – so, unfortunately for him, he will not gain anything (except frustration and anger) from watching the Beyond Belief videos, or reading the articles.

    For those of us who are not epistemically challenged in this way I can recommend watching the whole conference. Presentations are, of course, variable but they do give a lot to consider and the subjects are important.

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  11. @ Dale – October 29, 2008 at 10:15 am

    “Does he assume there are only two options for understanding existential meaning?”

    My memory of Flanagan’s talk is that he reviews three historical approach at the beginning.

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  12. James, of course, is just selecting and filtering to misrepresent Flanagan’s arguments. I think this gets back to Flanagan’s point that:
    “supernaturalism despite whatever consolation it seems to afford, provides answers to questions of meaning that are epistemically irresponsible, that show disrespect for truth.”

    James is not actually interested in the truth – so, unfortunately for him, he will not gain anything (except frustration and anger) from watching the Beyond Belief videos, or reading the articles.

    Nonsense Ken,Flanagan was quite clear – human beings are no better than other animals. And he was dealing with the fact that his students objected to that claim (as they should). Don’t try and clean it up – so Ken, do you believe that human beings are NO BETTER than, let’s say, rats? Is that the “truth” you are speaking of Ken?

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  13. No better with respect to what? There are things that humans are worse compared other animals…

    You’re like one of those cheap TV adverts that say “better than” without saying with respect to what :-)

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  14. Thanks Ken, I have been watching these and enjoying them. I am not yet finished, but so far I have especially enjoyed Peter Turchin’s presentation, as this touches on something dear to my heart, and a topic that has cropped up in various threads on your blog in the last month or so. That is; the possibilities for improving our societies (by reducing intra societal violence/war) through the application of scientific knowledge and techniques in the analysis of human nature and history.

    I am going to add one of his books to my next book order, but am not yet sure which one to go for, has anybody read any of them?

    This is a subject of course, that does not benefit from a hands off, human beings are special and/or divine approach. Modern evolutionary theories being especially important here. A pretty obvious consequence of observed evolutionary fact is that humans are animals that are part of nature, however unsettling to peoples self centric world views this is.

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  15. @14 PS. Some of the religious viewers (of different flavours) might even enjoy that presentation, as one open suggestion he made, is that the growth of different religions may have added to the cohesiveness of society.

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  16. This is a subject of course, that does not benefit from a hands off, human beings are special and/or divine approach. Modern evolutionary theories being especially important here. A pretty obvious consequence of observed evolutionary fact is that humans are animals that are part of nature, however unsettling to peoples self centric world views this is.

    Yes, we are no better than any other creature. As Flanagan made clear. So I wonder why some here got so upset when I claimed that in a godless universe we would have more inherent worth than a housefly? And I guess, in the end, the Nazis were not so far off in comparing Jews to rats…I mean a human being is no better than a rat… And you know what we do to rats and houseflies…

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  17. @16 those are some pretty disturbing morals that you are demonstrating there James. These are your conclusions , not mine, I am not going to waste my time arguing against your straw men. Go away and get a life.

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  18. those are some pretty disturbing morals that you are demonstrating there James. These are your conclusions , not mine, I am not going to waste my time arguing against your straw men. Go away and get a life.

    Actually Nick, it’s the logical conclusion of your worldview. If Flanagan is right, that we are no “better” than any other animal. Nick, do you believe that human beings are “no better” than any other animal?

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  19. At what?

    Funny how you ask questions all the time of others, but can’t answer a simple one yourself ;-)

    Troll…

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  20. So Heraclides, do you agree that human beings are no better than rats? Houseflies?

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  21. Ignoring the grunting sounds from under the bridge, another presentation that I really enjoyed was from V.S. Ramachandran. This touched on issues that were discussed in the book that Ken recommended a while back (I have forgotten the title, something to do with brain maps). In particular, the existence of neurons (& regions) in the brain that activate when you see actions performed by yourself, and by others. Very interesting stuff that seems to offer some physiological mechanisms that might be related to, or underly more psychological concepts such as empathy.

    This seems to open up a world of possibilites for the evolution of moral, or altruistic behaviours. For example, given the functioning of these “mirror neurons”, you can quite easily see these, as adaptions that would be selected for to increase the individuals capability of interacting with reality. In other words, these circuits increase the individuals ability to comprehend (unconsciously) the effect of their movements/actions in the real world, thereby providing a direct selection advantage.

    What is more interesting to my mind, is that I could see how the existence of these neurons could lead to the development of empathetic responses as a by product of the original adaption. Of course, I think that there is probably also a case for the further development of empathy directly as a selected for adaptation via iterative prisoners dilemma style interactions. This then would give us at least two separate possibilities for channels in the evolution of empathetic style altruism.

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  22. Nick said…”Very interesting stuff that seems to offer some physiological mechanisms that might be related to, or underly more psychological concepts such as empathy.”

    I’ve been amazed by some of the stories of how doctors and medical researchers discovered some of the various “compartments” of the brain.
    Short-term memory and long term memory, for example.

    People that have survived terrible head injuries have given researchers surprising information about how the brain works.

    The first time I was introduced to the topic was when one of my lecturers told me about a WW2 veteran who was very badly wounded by shrapnel.

    They dug the metal (plus large chunks of his brain) out during surgery and much to everybody’s amazement…he survived.

    One difference though.
    He had a photographic memory.

    He just never forgot trivia.
    After the war, he became a tour guide in St Petersburg. Knew every single famous building and it’s history down to the last detail.
    Plus the history of the famous people who lived there.

    (Anybody even vaguely familiar with the history of that city and it’s architecture will agree that it’s a stunning feat.)

    My lecturer raved about him for half an hour during class one day.
    I only half believed him at the time but later on in life, I read some more about fantastic brain operations and how people could be changed by them.
    Imagine meeting such a person!

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  23. I just watched the best presentation yet. This was Jonathan Haidt.

    I strongly recommend this to everyone, perhaps even particularly to the religious reading here. This contains some very interesting possibilites about where the divisions lie, and why the different sides of some of these debates (not necessarily only, but including religious vs non theist, or creationist vs science) often talk past each other.

    It also continues on the thread that I am interested in, which is possibilites for improving our society through increased knowledge of our nature and history.

    I would be very interested to hear what people think about this one.

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  24. I just watched the best presentation yet. This was Jonathan Haidt.

    I thought it was very good…

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  25. Neural correlates of hate: http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0003556

    Just for fun ;-)

    (Link to PloS ONE article reporting investigations into brain regions activated in the context of hate.)

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  26. @22: There are similar accounts in Alexander Luria’s books and Olivers Sacks. Ramachandran has also written some sort of account of some of his patients, too, although I haven’t read that. (He also has written Phantoms on the Brain, more about the “phantom limb” effect.) I could name a few others… One of Luria’s books in particular includes an account of the now famous case of a man with a railway spike in his head & survived. Don’t ask… :-)

    A scientist I worked with as a student had a photographic memory, at least to some degree. Not the best logical thinker though. He’d literally quote from memory, in order: journal citation, page number, column, paragraph number, then the paragraph, but go on to ask a question that at first I thought was a trick question until I realised that he just wasn’t particularly good at logic, and putting the pieces together, etc.

    One of Sack’s patients had a photographic memory in the visual sense: he could draw large cityscapes from memory in striking detail.

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  27. @ Nick – October 29, 2008 at 7:14 pm

    I am also thinking of getting one of Turchin’s book – most probably his War Peace & War as I think he said the other one was more technical and aimed at specialists. Turchin mentioned David Sloan Wilson’s work. I have read one of his books and while I got much the same message from it as I got from Turchin I just don’t like Wilson’s writings. He gets a bit too polemical at times, trying to discredit his scientific colleagues (which I think is a bit childish) and I actually find him difficult to read.

    Ramachandran is always good and I was familiar with his phantom limbs work but thought the latter part of his talk was fascinating. Haven’t watched Haidt yet but am looking forward to it as have heard/seen some of his other presentations. I must try to get hold of his Happiness Hypothesis but he does have some journal articles available on-line.

    I agree that the scientific investigation of these areas (human happiness, morality and a naturalistic understanding of religion) is fascinating. Partly related to these subjects I routinely download the Brainscience Podcast/ talks and interviews. They are always interesting.

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  28. I am generally posting my impressions as I work my way through the presentations in order. In the case of Sam Harris however, I was conflicted, and it has taken me a little while (now I’m about to start Pat Churchland’s) to understand why.

    He is (so far) I think, the most impressive speaker in technique, well paced, measured, clear etc. I think that he also makes a good case for the existence of scientifically verifiable objective morality, and also for the need to science to come out of the closet on issues of morality, when it has findings.

    But then, in my opinion, he goes on to completely undermine his point with his examples. Burka wearing and suicide bombers etc.. I would offer the following observations:

    1. He declares the badness of Burka wearing (or of suicide bombing) as an obvious conclusion, and not actually requiring research. That’s not science. He might be right, but there is a wealth of examples of the obvious conclusion actually being wrong when examined scientifically. He then tries to cover this by saying that nothing is 100% certain in science. I agree with this, but you still need to have some research to establish a degree of certainty. This smacked of him wanting a scientific rubber stamp for his political opinions. I think if you looked at both of the mentioned issues scientifically, you would probably find some interesting human grounds. On the issue of Islamic religious dress, anecdotally, the prevalence of this has risen with the (perceived or otherwise) attacks on the Islamic world. From memory, at least one study on suicide bombers has undermined the popular conception of these actions as religiously underpinned, instead labelling perceived injustices and powerlessness as key commonalities. Please note, that I don’t personally agree with either activity, and a lot less so with suicide bombing than burka wearing, but this does not stop me from trying to understand these behaviours within the context of human nature.

    2. He then goes on to misrepresent the approach followed by Jonathan Haidt by saying that attempting to understand the basis for non liberal morality is a cop out from criticising it. Jonathan himself said at the beginning of his talk that he was himself classified on the western liberal side of the fence, but that he put that to one side when researching the evolutionary and cultural underpinnings of objective morality. To my mind, this is the scientific approach. Although you could argue against some of these moralities from a consequences point of view, nonetheless, these do have their origins in the same evolutionary and cultural forces as more consequentially positive moralities.

    3. I think that he correctly identifies that science will become involved in increased levels of conflict with religious and political groupings as more research is done and actual findings reported. In my opinion, this is why it is very important to be rigourous in this field (as it is in others), and ensure that any findings being publicised are indeed backed up with research and evidence.

    4. I found it interesting that he drew his examples from outside his own culture (as far as I know). This is risky, as it plays directly into some of the human nature issues that science will hopefully give us insight into. In this case, foreigner fear, us vs them. I think that it is perfectly ok to criticise cultures other than your own when you have clear grounds for doing so, but if he had really understood the message from Jonathan Haidt, he might see that direct full frontal attacks from outside those cultures are perhaps less than productive. Perhaps some messages need to come from inside a culture to avoid setting up for a cultural war (one that can have actual casualties). Perhaps this to some extent also applies to issues such as creationism vs evolution. People have made the point, that the people that really need to fight the fight over this, are the religious people that do accept the evidence for evolution.

    5. If I was him, I would have picked something like anti immigration feeling as an example; As an American (I have assumed this) his country is built on recent immigration, I think he probably could find some research on group identification etc.. to actually underpin his opinion, its a phenomenon that appears to manifest in most if not all cultures-

    I would probably not recommend this one to our religious friends.

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  29. I agree Nick. I don’t know if you have reached the last panel discussion yet but a number of people call Harris out on just these types of points. (I’ve only actually watched three at this stage, in no particular order).

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  30. He is (so far) I think, the most impressive speaker in technique, well paced, measured, clear etc. I think that he also makes a good case for the existence of scientifically verifiable objective morality, and also for the need to science to come out of the closet on issues of morality, when it has findings.

    I would like to see a case for objective morality apart from God i.e. how does science prove that murder is wrong for instance? But it is interesting that Harris feels the need to provide a case for objective morality. Is it that he understands that the subjective morality so intertwined with atheistic thinking is lacking?

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  31. Personally I found Harris’s contribution valuable for the very reason that he did talk about a moral reality, moral truths and imply objective morality. These are the points I have been trying to make here in several articles and comments.

    I think it is necessary for humanists, non-theists, etc., to consider and advance such ideas (as Dacey does in Secular Conscience) as it is fashionable these days for theists to advance religion as having a special (even unique) role in this area. They attempt to claim the area for themselves and even to argue it as proof of their gods. They don’t have a leg to stand on here – and what they must face is that our moral stance is secular – it comes before religion. Religion’s role in the past has been to encode that stance (and often to justify it, or distortions of that moral stance)

    It has also been fashionable in the recent past for some scientific disciplines to argue for a moral relativism and this has also been a common plank in the multiculturalism popular today.

    Harris has a very good point that at the very time that humanity was developing the International Declaration on Human rights there were anthropologists effectively arguing against the possibility of such a consensus.

    Where Harris got really provocative is his presentation of the issue as a scientific issue. To my mind it is a human issue and in fact the Universal declaration was decided by people from all sorts of areas of human life. It will be interesting to see if Harris takes the scientific role further as he is currently researching morality from a neuroscience perspective. He may well have a good point here although I agree his examples were weak.

    I actually find Harris and Haidt to be advancing complementary aspects of morality – objective moral truths on the one hand and evolutionary derived common moral positions on the other. I think we have got to acknowledge both aspects to get a full understanding.

    I find Haidt’s work interesting and it provides some important lessons for political activity. However, there is plenty of scope for subjective interpretation and I think this becomes apparent when political approaches are discussed (This has blown up recently around the issue of framing questions when scientists get involved in politics).

    However, I find it frustrating that Haidt is basically dealing with the surface presentations of moral position. He does at times refer to the underlying intuitions/feelings and their evolutionary origins but I would like to hear more about that aspect and the empirical evidence for our understanding of them.

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  32. Personally I found Harris’s contribution valuable for the very reason that he did talk about a moral reality, moral truths and imply objective morality. These are the points I have been trying to make here in several articles and comments.

    I actually find Harris and Haidt to be advancing complementary aspects of morality – objective moral truths on the one hand and evolutionary derived common moral positions on the other. I think we have got to acknowledge both aspects to get a full understanding.

    Well I watched the panel with Harris, Haidt, Churchland, Iacoboni and Glover – those four pretty much said that Harris’ idea of “objective moral truth” was nonsense. Iacoboni and Glover gave the clearest reasons why. So one wonders Ken, why do you believe something without “evidence?”

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  33. @ James:

    Interesting – it just shows how we interpret things depending on our subjective point of view. I personally didn’t hear anyone on the panel say ‘”objective moral truth” was nonsense’. In fact, my impression is that it was Churchland, not Harris, who used the term ‘moral truth’ and she actually declared herself to probably accepting that major point of Harris.

    There was, of course a debate between the two different trends (and that is healthy). After all, Harris had specifically criticised what he saw as limitations in Haidt’s work.

    My point is that a complete understanding of human morality has got to include the objective (arising from our existence as independent sentient intelligent beings) and moral stances derived from those intuitions/feelings/moral grammar (arising from our evolution as an intelligent, social species). That means we should accept things from the viewpoints of both Harris and Haidt who are, of course, researching separate parts of this area. It’s natural, however, they will debate each other and come from different perspectives during this debate.

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  34. Interesting – it just shows how we interpret things depending on our subjective point of view. I personally didn’t hear anyone on the panel say ‘”objective moral truth” was nonsense’. In fact, my impression is that it was Churchland, not Harris, who used the term ‘moral truth’ and she actually declared herself to probably accepting that major point of Harris.

    I know for certain that Churchland does not, in any sense, hold to objective morality. I can find the quotes if you like. They will run from the idea of objective morality like a vampire runs from a cross. One of the more brillant atheists of the recent past, J.L. Mackie, said that if objective morals exist that would make the existence of God much more likely (I would say certain). This truth is not lost on Churchland and the gang.

    My point is that a complete understanding of human morality has got to include the objective (arising from our existence as independent sentient intelligent beings)

    I’m not sure how this could be considered “objective.” Remember something is objective only if it exists independently of the observer. Objective moral truths would have to exist independently of mankind to be objective to mankind.

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  35. @ James – October 31, 2008 at 1:51 pm

    “our existence as independent sentient intelligent beings” – is surely an objective fact. We can draw conclusions from that. Consequently I say that we have an objective basis for some of our morality.

    Now, you talk about ‘objective morals’ (not an objective basis). Apply the same criteria. Where in the universe can we observe these ‘objective morals’? This should be easy to check if they actually have objective existence.

    Of course “engraved on the human heart’ is not objective existence – so is not an acceptable answer.

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  36. I agree with the approach regarding objective moral values. It seems obvious to me that once you define a level of granularity (the individual, family, society, human race, mammals, sentient life. Whatever your level is) and some measurements, you could feasibly make calculations of the consequences for your chosen level of granularity. As discussed by the panel, there are some measurement difficulties there,do you choose, aggregate, average or something else. Off the top of my head, perhaps an average with perhaps a twin objective of keeping within a normal distribution i.e. 68% within 1 standard deviation, 95 within 2 etc…) I do however, see some significant practical problems agreeing on the level of granularity (subjectivity and opinion might creep in here), and the measures to use. Measurement might be one of the biggest problems here. My experience in the business world of adopting measures to try and improve outcomes is very mixed. Often explicit measurements are very simplistic and don’t really capture the end of objective to such an extent that the outcomes worsen. I like to think of this as Harvard business school “you can’t manage what you can’t measure bollocks”.

    Given the above points, what I missed from Sam’s talk was any clear information about or way through these issues. I probably agree with him that there are some things that could be agreed on pretty easily, without necessarily getting a grant and doing research, but then for me he completely undermined himself with his examples of these. It looked to me as he has decided that the root cause of suicide bombing is the Islamic religion, and science should come out and say the Islamic religion is bad. Maybe I am wrong here, but I remember reading of at least one study on suicide bombing that indicated that the strongest common factor was a response to an oppressive/occupying force from a position of powerlessness. Of course religion could be a power enabling factor here.

    Anyway, in terms of practical utility and information content, I didn’t get much of that in his talk. On the other hand, this is precisely what I found in Jonathan Haidt’s. Perhaps I have misunderstood the depth of his research, but it appeared to me that he was working at (and having some success) with deriving the underlying basis for the variety of instinctive moral values that people hold, primarily through the application of modern evolutionary theory. I find this exciting, and to have strong positive practical application. Surely positive change will require an understanding of the variety of opinions in this field as first principles. I think I agree with you that this is perhaps the more practical side of two complimentary approaches.

    In summary, I think that understanding why we have differing moral values and perhaps finding ways for people with different moral attitude to live more harmoniously together is a much more positive immediate approach than an attempt to “define” objective moral values to any degree of precisions. We are right, you are wrong might be ultimately objectively true, but from an outcomes basis, I don’t see the progress in this approach, as it appears to me that a strong common shared value is resistance to the outsider. Ironic really, as you could look at this approach through the same consequentialist lens as morally wrong because of the resultant polarising outcomes.

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  37. Re-reading it, it just occurred to me, that concept of using normal distributions in terms of behavior or outcomes style social change, could be quite a useful idea. As far as I understand it, the physical characteristics of a population of humans tend to strongly fit normal distributions. Interesting then that outcomes that are often argued as coming from innate human differences, such as salary level being capability based, are not normally distributed at all. Closeness of fit to a normal distribution could be quite a useful health and/or fairness concept for some sociological or economic indicators. I would imagine that this is far from a novel idea, has anybody heard of any research down this avenue?

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  38. our existence as independent sentient intelligent beings” – is surely an objective fact. We can draw conclusions from that. Consequently I say that we have an objective basis for some of our morality.

    I’m not sure how that is a basis for objective moral truth.

    Now, you talk about ‘objective morals’ (not an objective basis). Apply the same criteria. Where in the universe can we observe these ‘objective morals’? This should be easy to check if they actually have objective existence.

    1. But it was Harris that brought up “objective moral truth.” So, I take it that you disagree?

    2. And these morals truths would reside in the same place as the laws of logic or the laws of math. In the mind of God. You can not observe the laws of math or logic, and if they were not universal and immutable then all scienitific conclusions would be suspect.

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  39. I might have to change my impression of the talk from Sam Harris in at least one way. It has certainly made me think about some stuff. Unfortunately this seems to occur most often from 4-7am.

    One of the issues I have been considering, is the practical difficulty in constructing workable and useful models of objective reality. Putting aside the very real difficulty of testing these models, I think that there are some fundamental problems with the currently available techniques.

    One of the main problems I see is complexity. What follows might be a little long winded, but might be essential to get my point.

    It appears to me that we can look at different disciplines in science as a continuum in the following way: Physics==>Chemistry==>Biology==>Social sciences. What I mean here, is we start on the left with fundamental issues and scales and can derive the other disciplines as we move to the right. Chemistry is derived from physics and biology is derived from chemistry. As far as the social sciences are concerned, economics clearly is derivable from psychology etc…

    What also seems to be the case with this is that the power of our current mathematical modeling techniques falls on a continuum also. By and large, our mathematical models seems to gain in power and actually reveal fundamental truths as we move left on the continuum. Even when we need to resort to statistical techniques, such as when dealing with the quantum world, these techniques seem to have an almost complete explanatory power. In other words, given enough information about starting conditions, our models are very successful at calculating the larger outcomes.

    To me however, the reverse seems to be the case when we move to the right on the continuum of disciplines. Our models seem to operate more as simplifications of the underlying reality rather than exposing the fundamental nature of that reality. For example, the concept of the rational economic being, from economics, seems now to clearly be very much an oversimplification of one possible behaviour from a range of behaviours exhibited.

    I think that this attribute of our modeling techniques is intrinsically related to complexity and to the appearance of (everybody rolls their eyes as Nick pulls out his favourite concept) emergent behaviours. It is possible of course that we could develop new techniques to work help with these issues. In fact, in my own experience, I think that deeply experienced people in a particular problem domain can navigate some of this complexity intuitively. This would suggest that there are some workable techniques there.

    And now, onwards to the actual point :-).

    I see nothing intrinsically wrong with the development of models that act as simplifications of reality, but I think we need to be very careful in the usage of these models. When basing decision making largely on a simplified model, there is a large risk of trusting the model too much, and taking on far to much future risk. In other words, people start “betting the farm” on the truth, or explanatory power of their model and stop testing back to reality until it comes up and bites them on the arse. From what people who work in science have said, this seems to be a common thing to watch for in all sciences anyway, but I would posit that the problem gets worse as you move deeper into the social sciences or into discussions on objective morality.

    I have an example here. One way to look at the current financial crisis, is as a problem with its root (at least from a regulatory point of view) in the increased integration of the financial markets. This integration came about for the purposes of maximum efficiency, and is to some extent predicated upon some very simple (and I think, almost certainly wrong) economic theories about rational economic actors and suchlike. Unfortunately, when the true oversimplification of the model becomes apparent, we have already to some extent “bet the farm”. Our global economy is now so integrated and codependent that the breakdown of rationality in one area has the potential of bringing the whole thing down, by rapidly spreading to other areas. Perhaps, if we were slightly more skeptical of the explanatory power of the underlying economic theory, we would have been a bit more hesitant to allows the growth of all of these inter dependancies .

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  40. I agree with you about models, Nick. I’ve certainly experienced the problem in the agricultural area and have been surprised at the way some people seem to accept models as reality – even questioning empirical data when it conflicts with results from the model!

    It’s actually difficult (or very expensive) to check models where biological systems are involved because of inherent variability, hence the need for proper replication to achieve any accuracy. I think models get used often without proper validation. I guess this must also be a big problem in the financial market sectors. (There was an interesting comment from some who works in stock trading in the Beyond Belief panel session on the Brian and Money. I just wasn’t aware of the extent to which computer algorithms are being used in trading today).

    I certainly wouldn’t want to suggest that modelling be used to determine moral positions. I think we can get by with a basic moral logic and this should be accessible to most people. Of course modelling will be useful in trying to tease out factors in the way that Haidt has done. But, as with agricultural models, I would argue that these can only serve as decision support systems rather than a substitute for personal experience and observing real situations.

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  41. @ James – October 31, 2008 at 11:42 pm

    “morals truths would reside in the same place as the laws of logic or the laws of math.” – Well – this seems to indicate agreement with all I have been saying. You and I derive our morality ion the same way – from our objective existence as sentient being and through moral grammar and logic. We do this in the same way despite different religious beliefs and consequently we can agree on common approaches such as the Universal Declaration on Human rights.

    Then you have to ruin it by adding: “In the mind of God!”

    Although, it probably makes no difference unless you claim a privileged access to the “mind of god” and therefore a privileged access to morality.

    Do you claim that you know, or can read, “the mind of god”?

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  42. morals truths would reside in the same place as the laws of logic or the laws of math.” – Well – this seems to indicate agreement with all I have been saying. You and I derive our morality ion the same way – from our objective existence as sentient being and through moral grammar and logic. We do this in the same way despite different religious beliefs and consequently we can agree on common approaches such as the Universal Declaration on Human rights.

    I think I kind of agreed with that a while back. Since I believe that all men are created in the image of God and have moral sense. But you position would not allow for moral themselves to be objective. But Harris was speaking of objective moral truth, that there was a moral truth out there, independent of humankind that humankind can discover. I take it you disagree.

    Do you claim that you know, or can read, “the mind of god”?

    Well of course I believe I know the mind of God, at least in part. I’m a Christian, we believe that God communicated to men. Through the Old Testament prophets and especially through Christ Jesus. Actually, we believe that Christ was God walking on earth, God incarnate.

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  43. We do this in the same way despite different religious beliefs and consequently we can agree on common approaches such as the Universal Declaration on Human rights.

    This has always seemed quite strange to me. Why an atheist would support such a declaration. Does the atheist believe, some socities, as they now generally stand, are morally deficent? But on what basis would he conculde such a thing? How would one know that a stick is crooked unless he had some idea of what a straight stick looked like? Where does the atheist get this idea of a straight stick?

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  44. After finishing the “candles in the dark” presentations, I am now working my way through the “Enlightenment 2.0″ presentations.

    I have just watched the presentation from Stuart Kaufman. Interestingly he was talking about the deep complexity in emergent behaviours being worthy of the title god, in a non supernatural way. Something that chimes with exactly what I have been banging on about.

    I found his presentation very interesting, but found he was not necessarily the clearest of speakers due to his tendency to wander across disciplines (perhaps a bit of intellectual showoffery, or maybe not?) and topics.

    Has anybody read any of his books? I am thinking of ordering “Reinventing the Sacred: Finding God in Complexity” I find it a little spooky how close that title is to some of my recent comments on Ken’s blog, so of course I want to read it :-)

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  45. The deep complexity thing takes a bit to wrap your head around if you’re new to it, I think. I suspect that’s the case for many people the first time they encounter it. I don’t think I’d be unusual in saying (as a scientist) that it took quite a while to genuinely get a feel for the power of emergent behaviour and the ability of tremendous complexity to arise from simple systems given time. You can get it on one level relatively quickly if you’re open to the concepts, but it takes working through an area in detail to start to appreciate the power of it in a deeper way, I think.

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  46. Probably not exactly the right thread but anyway – those who feel that religion provides a sense of morality that the rest of us are denied should read this post & some of its links: http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2008/11/god_and_sex_two_potent_ideas_t.php

    This story is sick/sad/horrifying all at once. It’s just as well I sit back from my keyboard because otherwise the tears would have shorted it out :-(

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  47. Probably not exactly the right thread but anyway – those who feel that religion provides a sense of morality that the rest of us are denied should read this post & some of its links

    Can we talk about the millions that the atheists killed and tortured in the former Soviet Union? Or Mao’s China?

    And no one, at least not me, ever suggested that a atheist could not live good moral lives. It’s just that atheism reduces morality to mere preference – there is no objective ground for ethics and no ultimate justice. I mean you believe that what happen to this girl was horrible, as do I, but why is our moral opinion more correct or valid than theirs…

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  48. James, you miss the point entirely – the people that did this horrible thing believed that it was sanctioned by their religion! My bitterness is because people like yourself try to tell me that faith is the only thing that can provide a true guideline to how to behave in an ethical/moral manner. Well, no, it isn’t.

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  49. James, you miss the point entirely – the people that did this horrible thing believed that it was sanctioned by their religion! My bitterness is because people like yourself try to tell me that faith is the only thing that can provide a true guideline to how to behave in an ethical/moral manner. Well, no, it isn’t.

    Yes and the Stalinists did horrible things because they were sanctioned by the atheist state. So? And I do say that if God does not exist there is no objective moral standard and no ultimate justice. And our moral opinion is no more valid than these religionists. Besides Alison, they are only doing what the evolutionary process created them to do. Do you get so outraged when when a lion kills and eats a deer? It’s all a part of nature – right?

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  50. Well, weren’t the Stalinists and Maoists using the same “revelation-based” world view in their activity as these religious extremists. With God on your side – claiming to know the mind of god – you can mobilise people to war, inquisition, torture and evil. The same revelationary approach – having the truth of Marxism-Leninism-stalinism-Mao Tse Tung Thought on your side and claiming to be the true disciple of that world view – was used to justify war, inquisition (remember the Red Guards of the Cultural revolution) torture and evil.

    There is no one so dangerous as he/she who believes they are absolutely right. And those who claim revelationary knowledge, to know the mind of god, are dangerous and usually evil.

    Such revelation-based world views are not a path to humane morality.

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  51. The same revelationary approach – having the truth of Marxism-Leninism-stalinism-Mao Tse Tung Thought on your side and claiming to be the true disciple of that world view – was used to justify war, inquisition (remember the Red Guards of the Cultural revolution) torture and evil.

    Ken, Marxism is an atheistic social theory, it does not qualify as revelation:

    Revelation, Websters:

    an act of revealing or communicating divine truth b: something that is revealed by God to humans

    There is no one so dangerous as he/she who believes they are absolutely right. And those who claim revelationary knowledge, to know the mind of god, are dangerous and usually evil.

    Are you absolutely sure that the killing of this girl was wrong? Yes or no?

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  52. James – a lion killing & eating a gazelle is not by any stretch of the imagination the same thing as a mob of people stoning an innocent girl to death. The lion kills to eat & no more than that. Those people are not doing what the evolutionary process created them to do – there is a very strong evolutionary argument for the development of a sense of what is morally right & wrong (as others here have pointed out to you before). They do it because their religion tells them it’s OK.

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  53. James – a lion killing & eating a gazelle is not by any stretch of the imagination the same thing as a mob of people stoning an innocent girl to death. The lion kills to eat & no more than that. Those people are not doing what the evolutionary process created them to do – there is a very strong evolutionary argument for the development of a sense of what is morally right & wrong (as others here have pointed out to you before). They do it because their religion tells them it’s OK.

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  54. Mao and Stalin were treated like gods. Their pronouncements were considered “divine” by their disciples – and sufficient justification for everything from the most mundane to the most evil. (Don’t you remember the hoards of red Guards waving Mao’s “little red book” as they went about their persecutions – that was religious fervour, not a “social theory.”)

    Exactly the same as religionists who use their god, and the special communication they have with this god, to justify activity from the most mundane to the most evil.

    I have no problem with finding the treatment of women in most religions wrong and the treatment in cases like this evil. Most people do as evidenced by the broad acceptance of the universal declaration on human rights. You must have problems with your memory to even ask this as we have been into this many times.

    But, the very fact that you keep asking this sort of questions does invite the assessment that you, yourself, have problems making such ethical judgements.

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  55. James – a lion killing & eating a gazelle is not by any stretch of the imagination the same thing as a mob of people stoning an innocent girl to death. The lion kills to eat & no more than that. Those people are not doing what the evolutionary process created them to do – there is a very strong evolutionary argument for the development of a sense of what is morally right & wrong (as others here have pointed out to you before). They do it because their religion tells them it’s OK.

    I’m sorry Alison, you don’t get to jump out of the evolution matrix. Do I have to re-quote Dawkins’ faulty car analogy? But doesn’t a truly scientific, mechanistic view of the nervous system make nonsense of the very idea of responsibility, whether diminished or not? Any crime, however heinous, is in principle to be blamed on antecedent conditions acting through the accused’s physiology, heredity and environment.

    http://www.edge.org/q2006/q06_9.html

    We are only what the natural processes created us to be – nothing more or nothing less. War, murder, torture are quite natural to the human species. You can’t have it both ways and remain rational Alison. If there is no God, all that happened was that one (or a few) bags of chemicals killed another bag of chemicals. In the end – what does it matter?

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  56. Mao and Stalin were treated like gods. Their pronouncements were considered “divine” by their disciples – and sufficient justification for everything from the most mundane to the most evil. (Don’t you remember the hoards of red Guards waving Mao’s “little red book” as they went about their persecutions – that was religious fervour, not a “social theory.”)

    Exactly the same as religionists who use their god, and the special communication they have with this god, to justify activity from the most mundane to the most evil.

    I have no problem with finding the treatment of women in most religions wrong and the treatment in cases like this evil. Most people do as evidenced by the broad acceptance of the universal declaration on human rights. You must have problems with your memory to even ask this as we have been into this many times.

    But, the very fact that you keep asking this sort of questions does invite the assessment that you, yourself, have problems making such ethical judgements.

    Ken, I asked you a question – was the killing of that young girl absolutely wrong? Yes or no?

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  57. @ James – November 7, 2008 at 4:09 pm

    For you to consider the girl being stoned as nothing more than a “bags of chemicals” is inhuman. It’s pathologically inhuman to look on other humans that way. I certainly don’t and I don’t personally know anyone else who does -whatever their religious beliefs.

    Humanity, whatever their political and religious beliefs, has made itself clear on such matters. Those stoners were acting in an inhuman way. And they no doubt used their god and their holy scriptures to justify this inhumanity. Their god and scriptures, their revelations, enabled them to determine that it was absolutely right to stone the innocent girl. So don’t talk to me about your revelations and “absolute morality” which is used to justify such evil.

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  58. James, cut the crap with the Dawkins quote-mining – it’s not an accurate reflection of Dawkins’ attitude & more than one person here has pointed this out to you.

    I notice you’ve ignored my point that there is a good evolutionary basis to the development of a moral sense, just as there is for the development of some sort of faith. Unfortunately, as we see here & Ken’s emphasised above, it’s religous belief that led to this particularly hideous crime.

    And I second Ken’s statement on pathologically inhumane attitudes – if you’re floating a straw man it’s a thoroughly nasty one & reflects very poorly on you.

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  59. For you to consider the girl being stoned as nothing more than a “bags of chemicals” is inhuman. It’s pathologically inhuman to look on other humans that way. I certainly don’t and I don’t personally know anyone else who does -whatever their religious beliefs.

    Humanity, whatever their political and religious beliefs, has made itself clear on such matters. Those stoners were acting in an inhuman way. And they no doubt used their god and their holy scriptures to justify this inhumanity. Their god and scriptures, their revelations, enabled them to determine that it was absolutely right to stone the innocent girl. So don’t talk to me about your revelations and “absolute morality” which is used to justify such evil.

    Ken, stop avoiding the question: was the killing of that young girl absolutely wrong? Yes or no?

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  60. @ James:

    Your friends who did the stoning think it was “absolutely right” – because of their revelations and scriptures. These are the same sources you use – so do you agree with them that the stoning was absolutely right and absolutely justified?

    I think it was absolutely wrong – and I don’t use such faulty logic to justify my position. That should be absolutely clear from the articles and comments I have posted in the past.

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  61. James, cut the crap with the Dawkins quote-mining – it’s not an accurate reflection of Dawkins’ attitude & more than one person here has pointed this out to you.

    It’s not quote mining Alsion. Read the link. Why can’t you people face up to the logical consequences your worldview?

    I notice you’ve ignored my point that there is a good evolutionary basis to the development of a moral sense, just as there is for the development of some sort of faith. Unfortunately, as we see here & Ken’s emphasised above, it’s religous belief that led to this particularly hideous crime.

    No, the point is that it was the evolutionary process that created us to act this way. Take it up with mother nature…

    And I second Ken’s statement on pathologically inhumane attitudes – if you’re floating a straw man it’s a thoroughly nasty one & reflects very poorly on you.

    Inhuman according to whom Alison? Why is your opinion more valid or correct than theirs? You have yet to answer that question…

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  62. “If there is no God, all that happened was that one (or a few) bags of chemicals killed another bag of chemicals. In the end – what does it matter?”

    No. 353 ARGUMENT FROM DOSTOEVSKY, a.k.a. ARGUMENT FROM RIGHT AND WRONG (II)
    (1) If God does not exist, everything is permitted.
    (2) I can’t accept that.
    (3) Therefore, God exists

    http://www.godlessgeeks.com/LINKS/GodProof.htm

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  63. I think it was absolutely wrong – and I don’t use such faulty logic to justify my position. That should be absolutely clear from the articles and comments I have posted in the past.

    And you said:

    There is no one so dangerous as he/she who believes they are absolutely right

    So by your own definition you are dangerous…

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  64. @ James:

    Yes – stories like this certainly make me angry – they make me dangerous. But that anger, danger, would be directed at the inhuman religious fanatics – not at the defenceless and innocent young woman.

    And don’t you think it is obscene to discuss this stoning in the unprincipled and childish way you do without expressing some anger towards these religious fanatics?

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  65. James, you’re not engaging with anything I’ve said & your attitude, frankly, is petty, offensive & obscene. Do you really genuinely think this way about others or do you take some childish delight in trying to give the impression that you do? Either way you’re simply not worth my time.

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  66. 65: I prefer to view him as a troll ;-) He’s got all the traits of one after all…! :-)

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  67. Yes – stories like this certainly make me angry – they make me dangerous. But that anger, danger, would be directed at the inhuman religious fanatics – not at the defenceless and innocent young woman.

    You are still an absolutist… No matter who your anger is focused at… So I guess absolutism is not always a bad thing. It’s ok when you do it.

    And don’t you think it is obscene to discuss this stoning in the unprincipled and childish way you do without expressing some anger towards these religious fanatics?

    I just find it strange when atheists get so upset with nature…

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  68. James, you’re not engaging with anything I’ve said & your attitude, frankly, is petty, offensive & obscene. Do you really genuinely think this way about others or do you take some childish delight in trying to give the impression that you do? Either way you’re simply not worth my time.

    Alsion, of course I have engaged you – you just don’t like what I’m saying. I just find it rather strange that you materialists get so upset with nature…

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  69. Alison said…”James, you’re not engaging with anything I’ve said & your attitude, frankly, is petty, offensive & obscene.”

    Way to go, James.
    You’ve even managed to provoke Alison.

    You must be so very proud of yourself.
    Go give yourself a “high-five”.

    Is your behaviour on this site praise-worthy?
    Do you think that your behavior here is that of a real Christian?

    Do you honestly get satisfaction from all this?
    Are you that small?

    Troll (Internet)

    An Internet troll, or simply troll in Internet slang, is someone who posts controversial, inflammatory, irrelevant or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum or chat room, with the intention of provoking other users into an emotional response or to generally disrupt normal on-topic discussion.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Troll_(Internet)

    Play nice. Get a life.

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  70. No. 353 ARGUMENT FROM DOSTOEVSKY, a.k.a. ARGUMENT FROM RIGHT AND WRONG (II)
    (1) If God does not exist, everything is permitted.
    (2) I can’t accept that.
    (3) Therefore, God exists

    Dostoevsky is right. If there is no God then everything is permitted. In reality everything is quite natural. The religious and non-religious alike kill, murder and torture – this is quite natural for human beings. My only question is why do materialist get so upset with nature? Why the moral outrage over what the evolutionary process produced?

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  71. Is your behaviour on this site praise-worthy?Do you think that your behavior here is that of a real Christian?

    How was my behavior untoward? I just find it interesting that atheists can get so upset over nature…

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  72. “Is your behaviour on this site praise-worthy?”

    Well, do you?

    “Do you think that your behavior here is that of a real Christian?”

    Any chance of an answer?

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  73. “Dostoevsky is right.”

    Except for the small matter that Dostoevsky didn’t actually say that.

    http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/features/2000/cortesi1.html

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  74. Sure Cedric, I believe that truth-telling is praise-worthy. Don’t you? Why don’t you embrace the logical conclusions of your worldview? That young girl had no inherent worth. There are no objective moral truths. No final justice. Nature is all there is… And what happened to her was quite natural.

    Don’t be shy Cedric, say it loud and proud… Claim your moral nihilism!

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

    Of course as a Christian I do believe that young lady had inherent worth, that moral truths are objective and binding, and that final justice will prevail.

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  75. James, focus.

    “Sure Cedric, I believe that truth-telling is praise-worthy.”

    I didn’t ask you if you thought that truth-telling is praiseworthy.
    Why are you so slow?
    Do you have problems with basic English comprehension?

    My question is..”“Is your behaviour on this site praise-worthy?”

    Read it.
    Carefully.
    Answer it honestly if you dare.

    “Do you think that your behavior here is that of a real Christian?”

    Is this question also too hard for you?

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  76. “I just find it strange when atheists get so upset with nature…”

    “I just find it rather strange that you materialists get so upset with nature…”

    “My only question is why do materialist get so upset with nature?”

    “Don’t you? Why don’t you embrace the logical conclusions of your worldview? That young girl had no inherent worth. There are no objective moral truths. No final justice. Nature is all there is… And what happened to her was quite natural.”

    Yawn. Nothing new to see here, move along…

    I commend your efforts to teach James basic civility, Cedric, although I have little hope that you will achieve anything.

    My impression is that this is not something which can be addressed by mere rational arguments, since it involves a mindset which has a deep emotional investment to a certain worldview and considers any alternative as utterly unacceptable. From what I have seen I would say that, despite his bluster to the contrary, James is not really certain about the truth of his position and thus positively afraid of the possibility that his god might not exist.

    Consequently, he lashes out at whatever he perceives as a threat. Amicable, rational discourse is not the reason why he comes here. It is more an act of trying to reassure himself and shore up his beliefs by trying to undermine the “hostile” counterposition. Whether it has the desired effect or achieves the opposite, only he can tell.

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  77. From what I have seen I would say that, despite his bluster to the contrary, James is not really certain about the truth of his position and thus positively afraid of the possibility that his god might not exist.

    FYI Iapetus, sure I’m human and I have my doubts. But there are logical consequenses to both worldviews. I can understand that atheists have an emotional response to this stoning – but it is not a rational response. After all this young lady’s life has no ultimate meaning, she and the killers will soon be forgotten, lost to history. Nothing is finally set straight. And the fact that if there is no God then what has taken place is completely natural. Natural to the human condition – one wonders why the atheist gets so upset with nature – it just isn’t logical.

    My impression is that this is not something which can be addressed by mere rational arguments, since it involves a mindset which has a deep emotional investment to a certain worldview and considers any alternative as utterly unacceptable. From what I have seen I would say that, despite his bluster to the contrary, James is not really certain about the truth of his position and thus positively afraid of the possibility that his god might not exist.

    Interesting Iapetus, if my memory serves, you yourself agreed with moral nihilism (correct me if I am wrong). So when I apply it to this real life situation, I am somehow uncivil? You guys are amazing…

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  78. “James is not really certain about the truth of his position and thus positively afraid of the possibility that his god might not exist.”

    People like James are common enough, of course.
    I admit to a certain morbid curiosity as to why he feels so compelled to endlessly post the same silly stuff again and again.

    No. It’s not just silly.
    It’s unbalanced.

    What drives him to provoke people over the Internet?
    Insecurity? Certainly.

    However, my bet is that it’s loneliness.
    Perhaps compounded by grief.
    James did mentioned that he lost his wife a couple of years ago.

    Perhaps his trolling is a way of coping with loss?
    Not having any friends in real life, he turns his sense of isolation to cyberspace.
    Lucky us. :(

    James, did you start trolling before or after your wife died?
    Would she have approved of your behaviour here?

    If you are a guest at somebody’s home, would you behave the same way as you do around here?

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  79. My question is..”“Is your behaviour on this site praise-worthy?”

    Of course my behavior it is praise-worthy, because my behavior is causing me to highlight the logical conclusions of atheism. I mean you can pretend that this girl had inherent worth, or that her life had ultimate significance, or that her murder was “absolutley” wrong, that’s fine – but in a godless universe it is only pretend.

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  80. James, did you start trolling before or after your wife died?Would she have approved of your behaviour here?

    I have been in these discussions on the net since 96. And I have a very nice, attractive and accomplished girlfriend. And a number of life long friends (I mean friends that have been close for 40-45 years). Now what?

    I admit to a certain morbid curiosity as to why he feels so compelled to endlessly post the same silly stuff again and again.

    See I don’t believe these discussion are silly. I believe they are very important. We are dealing with the most weighty issues of life. Now claim your moral nihilism Cedric!

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  81. “Of course my behavior it is praise-worthy, because my behavior is causing me to highlight the logical conclusions of atheism.”

    So as long as you’re “fighting the good fight”, it’s ok to troll?
    The ends justify the means?
    Do you think that your behavior here is that of a real Christian?

    “I have been in these discussions on the net since 96.”

    That’s very sad.
    Have you ever been accused of being a troll before?
    Have strangers over the Internet ever asked you conduct yourself in a more civil manner?
    Repeatedly?

    “And I have a very nice, attractive and accomplished girlfriend.”

    Well, if you say so.
    Does she approve of you trolling? Are you like this in real life?

    “And a number of life long friends (I mean friends that have been close for 40-45 years).”

    Have you ever thought about spending some more time with them?

    “We are dealing with the most weighty issues of life.”

    Who is “we”?

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  82. ““Of course my behavior it is praise-worthy, because my behavior is causing me to highlight the logical conclusions of atheism.”

    So as long as you’re “fighting the good fight”, it’s ok to troll?
    The ends justify the means?”

    I think this is how he perceives it.

    My impression is that he has convinced himself to see the world like this:

    “if my god does not exist and thus can not magically infuse dignity, worth etc. into human beings and provide objective morality, we are merely meaningless balls of chemicals who wink in and out of existence with no purpose whatsoever. Everyone does whatever he wants to and grabs as much as he can while alive (although I wonder what the purpose of this would be when you believe that your life is meaningless anyway and you can take nothing with you after your death) without fear of retribution.

    I find this prospect psychologically unbearable. Thus, every means is justified in fighting and bringing down atheism/materialism, which supports such a worldview.”

    Now, what can you do with somebody who has such a position? I repeatedly tried to show him the glaring mistakes and misunderstandings in this, but to no avail. As I said, his worldview (as well as the caricature of its opposite he has constructed) fulfills deep-seated, urgent emotional needs and consequently is more or less immune, at least in the short term, to alteration by rational arguments.

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  83. Further on the “Beyond belief 2.0″ presentations, I would recommend the Sean Carroll one also. I think that this is a good counterpoint to the Stuart Kaufman one, and much clearer also. I find myself agreeing with them both, but don’t really find the god terminology that Kaufman was suggesting useful. I doubt that many of the currently religious would find a god constructed from emergent behaviour satisfying, so using the term as a conciliatory gesture is unlikely to be successful.

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  84. Iapetus, instead of personal attacks show me where my reasoning was off in this thread. Show me where or how Mackie’s moral nihilism is wrong – after all you spent enough time defending his position on Bnonn’s blog.

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  85. So as long as you’re “fighting the good fight”, it’s ok to troll? The ends justify the means?Do you think that your behavior here is that of a real Christian?

    Cedric, you have to be specific – how exactly has my behavior been unchristian? And remember, it was not me who brought up the moral question in this thread – it was Alison, who brought religion into the picture in a negative way. But when I point out the logical consequences of atheism, I’m the bad guy. A mere troll…

    Like

  86. if my god does not exist and thus can not magically infuse dignity, worth etc. into human beings and provide objective morality, we are merely meaningless balls of chemicals who wink in and out of existence with no purpose whatsoever. Everyone does whatever he wants to and grabs as much as he can while alive (although I wonder what the purpose of this would be when you believe that your life is meaningless anyway and you can take nothing with you after your death) without fear of retribution.

    Tell me Iapetus, what significance or meaning did that young woman’s life have? Will anyone even care or remember her 30 years from now? The truth is, if the atheists are correct, we really are “meaningless balls of chemicals who wink in and out of existence…” You are free of course to pretend otherwise…

    Like

  87. “And remember, it was not me who brought up the moral question in this thread – it was Alison, who brought religion into the picture in a negative way.”

    No. Stop it.
    STOP IT!!!
    I don’t care. Nobody does.
    We’re talking about you and your behaviour.

    LOOK AT THE WAY YOU TREAT PEOPLE ON THIS SITE.
    YOU ARE THE BAD GUY HERE!!!

    I’m talking about your uncivil behaviour on this site for the last couple of months.

    You troll.

    The wikipedia definition of an Internet troll fits you perfectly.
    That’s why everybody here says that you are a troll.

    “But when I point out the logical consequences of atheism, I’m the bad guy. A mere troll…”

    No. It’s not just that.
    If you got petty and confused and directed a conversation down the drain once or twice, then people would just put it down to a bad encounter and move on.

    You, however, have firmly established an unhealthy pattern.

    You hi-jack threads.
    Again and again and again and again.

    Your questions are not real questions.
    They’re just a shameful endlessly repeated tactic to derail honest conversation.
    You never genuinely engage.

    Other people, Christian or not, seem to manage to state their case without using your anti-social methods.

    (Even DBT, resident daft twit, isn’t as painfully tedious and as destructive as you. And that is saying a great deal.)

    :O

    It’s not clever. It’s not decent.
    It’s doesn’t promote meaningful dialogue in any way.
    You stifle good conversation.
    You deliberately set out to aggravate people for your own juvenile pleasure.
    You troll.

    I asked you a question: Do you think that your behavior here is that of a real Christian?

    You weaseled away with asking a question of your own…

    ” Cedric, you have to be specific – how exactly has my behavior been unchristian?”

    This question does not answer my question.

    I’ll ask it again.

    Do you think that your behavior here is that of a real Christian?

    Do you think that “Trolling for Christ” is the best way of going about things?
    Can you understand that you are simply alienating people?

    If you can’t understand that your behaviour is anti-social then get your pastor/minister/whatever to give this thread (and all your others) a look-over.

    If he/she is a halfway decent person, they’ll tell you that your behaviour here is unworthy and that you should maybe put yourself on probation for a very long time.

    Do as you would have others do unto you.

    Stop trolling. It sucks.

    Like

  88. Thanks for your opinion Cedric… Of course my opinion of my behavior is quite different… BTW Christ often alienated people, refering to men as vipers, liars, hypocrites, God-deniers, and children of satan – this is one of the reasons they nailed Him to a cross…And I did say that my behavior was praise-worthy, and I will add – quite Christian in character. I’m not nearly as harsh as Christ was…

    And I would add Cedric, not once that I can remember, have I used a personal attack on this blog – I have focused on people’s beliefs and worldviews. All the personal attacks have been directed at me. You being one of the chief offenders. So spare me your subjective moral outrage… It’s meaningless…

    Like

  89. “Thanks for your opinion Cedric”

    It’s not my opinion.
    It a cold-blooded fact that you are a troll.
    People have noticed.

    “And I did say that my behavior was praise-worthy, and I will add – quite Christian in character.”

    Yuck.
    Trolling for Christ. How shameful.

    “I have focused on people’s beliefs and worldviews.”

    No. You have derailed threads.
    That’s why people call you a troll.

    Do as you would have others do unto you.

    Stop trolling. It sucks.

    Like

  90. @ James – November 8, 2008 at 12:18 am

    “I just find it strange when atheists”
    – well, if you were honest you would recognise that this feeling is a result of your lack of understanding. You are trying to fit the comments of people here into your own pre-conceived model of “atheist.” This feeling should tell you that your model is wrong. You need to change your model so that it corresponds more with reality.

    Alternatively, you could stick with the model, use it as a crutch and just become more and more out of touch with reality. In the meantime this enables you to give tacit support to evil actions like the stoning of young women.

    Like

  91. “I just find it strange when atheists” – well, if you were honest you would recognise that this feeling is a result of your lack of understanding. You are trying to fit the comments of people here into your own pre-conceived model of “atheist.” This feeling should tell you that your model is wrong. You need to change your model so that it corresponds more with reality.

    No Ken, you need to change your view to correspond with reality – that what happen to that young girl was simply natural. And you have to ask yourself why nature so upsets you…

    Like

  92. @ Nick – November 8, 2008 at 6:03 am

    I also find Sean Carroll good. He writes on the blog Cosmic Variance and there are links to some of his lectures on his home page. I wonder about Stuart Kaufman. I was attracted to his latest book but saw his earlier one on complexity in the local library and thought it might be too complex for me.

    Like

  93. “No Ken, you need to change your view to correspond with reality…”

    That would be funny if it wasn’t so sad.
    James, you’re the only one here that has issues with reality.
    You’re pitiful.

    Like

  94. That would be funny if it wasn’t so sad.
    James, you’re the only one here that has issues with reality.
    You’re pitiful.

    Really Cedric? Then why get so upset with a completely natural act? Do you get that upset when a lizard eats a fly? The responses here are way disproportional to the act. The fact is Ken and others here know that that young girl had inherent worth, that her murder was objectively wrong – it was actually something more than a few bags of chemicals killing another bag of chemicals. Their responses here give lie to their atheistic worldview – alas though, you/they will never admit this, even in the face of evil…

    Like

  95. Dang, James beat me to it! I had his response almost verbatim already typed. Not that this would be a difficult feat, since it is just the same four or five fragments arranged in varying order.

    James, I got two questions for you:

    1. As you are intimately familiar with moral philosophy (cough), can you name me one non-theistic moral theory (objectivist or subjectivist), that would endorse the stoning of a 13-year old rape victim as morally acceptable or would at least not consider it morally objectionable?

    2. Those meting out this sentence, the guys who carried out the stoning as well as the scores of onlookers to this little spectacle were theists who are moral objectivists. What conclusions do you draw from this?

    Like

  96. I just listened to Sean Carroll’s talk. I found it interesting, first he seemed to discount the prime mover model, or the need for a prime mover. But this seemed like a mere assertion – something must have set the universe (planet/stars) into motion. But then Sean poses his own prime mover – a parent universe that gave birth to our universe. Of course there is no evidence for this parent universe, and if there was a parent universe what set its matter into motion? I also watched one of the panels – and Dennett is still as bias and bigoted as ever – even Shermer and Wilson took him to task.

    Like

  97. 1. As you are intimately familiar with moral philosophy (cough), can you name me one non-theistic moral theory (objectivist or subjectivist), that would endorse the stoning of a 13-year old rape victim as morally acceptable or would at least not consider it morally objectionable?

    1. Why restrict me to the stoning of this little girl?

    2. Am I allowed to mention the moral theories of Stalinists? Maoists? Leninists? Where individuals (young and old) are slaughtered by the millions for the sake of the State and civil order?

    3. Can you show me one non-theistic moral theory that can make an objective rather than subjective argument against this stoning? Or can objectively ground her worth?

    2. Those meting out this sentence, the guys who carried out the stoning as well as the scores of onlookers to this little spectacle were theists who are moral objectivists. What conclusions do you draw from this?

    That both religious and non-relgious people do evil things. Agreed?

    Like

  98. @post no. 97:

    So we are in the obligatory first round of obfuscation. In case you missed the question, here it is again:

    As you are intimately familiar with moral philosophy (cough), can you name me one non-theistic moral theory (objectivist or subjectivist), that would endorse the stoning of a 13-year old rape victim as morally acceptable or would at least not consider it morally objectionable?

    Hint: communism is not a moral theory.

    “That both religious and non-relgious people do evil things.”

    According to their theistic, objectivist moral theory, said act was not evil.

    What conclusions do you draw from this?

    Like

  99. “In case you missed the question, here it is again..”

    Dodge it, James.
    Dodge it.

    It’s the only card you can play.
    :)

    Like

  100. As you are intimately familiar with moral philosophy (cough), can you name me one non-theistic moral theory (objectivist or subjectivist), that would endorse the stoning of a 13-year old rape victim as morally acceptable or would at least not consider it morally objectionable?

    Hint: communism is not a moral theory.

    First Iapetus, communism does containg a very important moral belief or theory. That the State is supreme and that the individual is expendable and serves the needs of the state. If you don’t understand that Marx and Lenin had very defined moral ideals then you are simply not aware of history. One could argue that the Communist Manifesto (with the ideas of the struggling classes and the belief that capitalism was unjust) was a moral theory from beginning to end.

    Second, ok on what basis would Mackie’s moral nihilism object to the stoning of this girl? I need a rational, deductive argument.

    According to their theistic, objectivist moral theory, said act was not evil.

    And?

    What conclusions do you draw from this?

    That even objectivists can be wrong. But some people subtract wrong – so?

    Like

  101. Ipetus said….”Hint: communism is not a moral theory.”

    However James is in his usual state of confusion…

    “First Iapetus, communism does containg a very important moral belief or theory.”

    Poor James.
    If somebody gives you a hint, take it.

    Like

  102. And Iapetus, you ignored my question, which came before yours:

    Tell me Iapetus, what significance or meaning did that young woman’s life have? Will anyone even care or remember her 30 years from now?

    Like

  103. “And Iapetus, you ignored my question, which came before yours…”

    Dodge it, James.
    Dodge it.

    It’s the only card you can play.
    :) :)

    Like

  104. Cedric if you had a clue you would know that the Communist Manifesto was based on the MORAL IDEA that capitalism was UNJUST…Justice is a moral concept Homer…

    Like

  105. Dodge it, James.
    Dodge it.

    It’s the only card you can play.

    Look again Homer, I answered Iapetus in post @100. Now he can answer my question…

    Like

  106. James said…”Cedric if you had a clue you would know that the Communist Manifesto was based on the MORAL IDEA that capitalism was UNJUST”

    If you could read basic English, you’d understand that you’re not actually saying anything useful to the conversation.

    Look back at what Iapetus said….

    “Hint: communism is not a moral theory.”

    Your non-answer?

    “First Iapetus, communism does containg a very important moral belief or theory.”

    Communism contains blah, blah, blah?
    It “contains”?
    Nope.
    That’s not what he said.
    Din’t mention anything about communism “containing” anything.

    So James takes another stab at it…
    “Communist Manifesto was based on blah, blah, blah…”
    Based? Based?
    Who said anything about Communism being “based” on anything?
    Only you.
    Not Iapetus.

    Try reading what he said….

    Iapetus said…””Hint: communism is not a moral theory.”

    Wriggle and squirm. Wave your hands in desperation.
    Dodge, baby!
    Dodge!
    It’s the only thing you can do, (and have been doing).
    ;)

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  107. James, you are obviously confused.

    First of all, communism is not a moral theory, it is a political/sociological/economic ideology that was influenced by the dialectic of Hegel. The fact that one of Marx´ goals was to change the situation of the working class, whose situation he perceived as unjust and in need of a change, does not make it into a moral theory.

    Second, it does not answer my question, which was the following:

    As you are intimately familiar with moral philosophy (cough), can you name me one non-theistic moral theory (objectivist or subjectivist), that would endorse the stoning of a 13-year old rape victim as morally acceptable or would at least not consider it morally objectionable?

    “That even objectivists can be wrong.”

    Do you include yourself here?

    Furthermore, who is to say that they are wrong? How do you determine this? After all, these people were acting according to their theistic, objectivist moral theory based on revelation, just like you.

    Like

  108. Second, it does not answer my question, which was the following:

    As you are intimately familiar with moral philosophy (cough), can you name me one non-theistic moral theory (objectivist or subjectivist), that would endorse the stoning of a 13-year old rape victim as morally acceptable or would at least not consider it morally objectionable?

    I already did Iapetus in post @100: On what basis would Mackie’s moral nihilism object to the stoning of this girl? I need a rational, deductive argument.

    Like

  109. Iapetus said…”James, you are obviously confused.

    First of all, communism is not a moral theory”

    Oops. Told ya.
    Iapetus gave you a hint and everything.
    :)

    I love it when a plan comes together.

    (Nukes a fresh bag of popcorn. Starts munching happily)

    Like

  110. James said…”I need a rational, deductive argument.”

    Damn straight.
    Have you ever succeded in making one?

    Like

  111. Furthermore, who is to say that they are wrong? How do you determine this? After all, these people were acting according to their theistic, objectivist moral theory based on revelation, just like you.

    I deteminid this by the moral teachings of Christ and the New Testament in general.

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  112. “I deteminid this by the moral teachings of Christ and the New Testament in general.”

    Kewl.

    “I deteminid this by the moral teachings of the Flying Spaghetti Monster and the The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.”

    Like

  113. First of all, communism is not a moral theory, it is a political/sociological/economic ideology that was influenced by the dialectic of Hegel. The fact that one of Marx´ goals was to change the situation of the working class, whose situation he perceived as unjust and in need of a change, does not make it into a moral theory.

    The whole thing is based on a moral theory Iapetus, that capitalism was unjust. You are not allowed to arbitrarily decide what is considred a moral theory and what isn’t.

    Like

  114. “I already did Iapetus in post @100″

    No, all you did was to erroneously claim that communism is a moral theory.

    So, here the question is again:

    As you are intimately familiar with moral philosophy (cough), can you name me one non-theistic moral theory (objectivist or subjectivist), that would endorse the stoning of a 13-year old rape victim as morally acceptable or would at least not consider it morally objectionable?

    “I deteminid this by the moral teachings of Christ and the New Testament in general.”

    Are you sure you are not mistaken? I thought that even objectivists can be wrong?

    Furthermore, why is their determination based on the moral teachings of Muhammad and the Koran in general wrong? After all, they use the same, revelation-based approach.

    Like

  115. “You are not allowed to arbitrarily decide what is considred a moral theory and what isn’t.”

    And neither are you. Thus, communism is out, I´m afraid.

    Like

  116. No, all you did was to erroneously claim that communism is a moral theory.

    As you are intimately familiar with moral philosophy (cough), can you name me one non-theistic moral theory (objectivist or subjectivist), that would endorse the stoning of a 13-year old rape victim as morally acceptable or would at least not consider it morally objectionable?

    Are you BLIND man? I have put it out there twice already: What objection would the theory of moral nihilism have to the stoning of this girl? I need a rational, deductive argument.

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

    Moral nihilism, also known as ethical nihilism, is the meta-ethical view that objective morality does not exist; therefore no action is preferable to any other. For example, a moral nihilist would say that killing someone, for whatever reason, is not inherently right or wrong.

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  117. I deteminid this by the moral teachings of Christ and the New Testament in general.”

    Are you sure you are not mistaken? I thought that even objectivists can be wrong?

    I could very well be mistaken. Christ and the New Testament writers could have all been liars.

    Furthermore, why is their determination based on the moral teachings of Muhammad and the Koran in general wrong? After all, they use the same, revelation-based approach.

    Just because one revelation-based approach is wrong doesn’t mean they all are. Or that one is not correct.

    Like

  118. “Are you BLIND man? I have put it out there twice already: What objection would the theory of moral nihilism have to the stoning of this girl? I need a rational, deductive argument.”

    You seem to get a little agitated…

    In case you have forgotten the question, here it is again:

    As you are intimately familiar with moral philosophy (cough), can you name me one non-theistic moral theory (objectivist or subjectivist), that would endorse the stoning of a 13-year old rape victim as morally acceptable or would at least not consider it morally objectionable?

    Just say it when you can not think of any.

    “I could very well be mistaken. Christ and the New Testament writers could have all been liars.”

    Interesting. So on what possible basis to you declare your worldview and morality to be superior to everyone else´s?

    “Just because one revelation-based approach is wrong doesn’t mean they all are. Or that one is not correct.”

    Great. There is just one little problem: we do not know which one, if any, is correct. And as you have just conceded, yours might just be the wrong one.

    Like

  119. As you are intimately familiar with moral philosophy (cough), can you name me one non-theistic moral theory (objectivist or subjectivist), that would endorse the stoning of a 13-year old rape victim as morally acceptable or would at least not consider it morally objectionable?

    YES, MORAL NIHILISM. Why would the theory of MORAL NIHILISM hold an objection to the stoning of the girl? Based on what?

    Great. There is just one little problem: we do not know which one, if any, is correct. And as you have just conceded, yours might just be the wrong one.

    Correct, it may be wrong, but it may be right.

    Now I asked you a question before you brought up these questions. So it’s time you stop avoiding mine: Tell me Iapetus, what significance or meaning did that young woman’s life have? Will anyone even care or remember her 30 years from now?

    Like

  120. Interesting. So on what possible basis to you declare your worldview and morality to be superior to everyone else´s?

    Because I believe that Christ was a truth-teller – not a liar. That He was the Son of God, and spoke for God on these moral issues.

    Like

  121. James said…”Correct, it may be wrong, but it may be right.”

    Yeah, but you seem to forget that it may be right but it may be wrong.
    Toss a coin.

    “Because I believe that Christ was a truth-teller – not a liar. That He was the Son of God, and spoke for God on these moral issues.”

    “I believe that The Flying Spaghetti Monster was a truth-teller – not a liar. That He is of the Pasta and the Meatsauce, and spoke for good dining on these moral issues.”

    The depth of James’ reasoning is so…special. :)

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  122. “YES, MORAL NIHILISM. Why would the theory of MORAL NIHILISM hold an objection to the stoning of the girl? Based on what?”

    Moral nihilism is a meta-ethical stance concerning the nature of moral judgements, not a moral theory.

    Try again. Give me a concrete, non-theistic moral theory that would see the stoning of a 13-year old rape victim as morally acceptable.

    “Correct, it may be wrong, but it may be right.”

    So you have no idea whether your “objectivist” morality is valid, yet nonetheless feel in a position to label your stance rational and to declare non-theistic moral theories incapable of providing a basis for morality. Go figure.

    “Because I believe that Christ was a truth-teller – not a liar. That He was the Son of God, and spoke for God on these moral issues.”

    The people who engaged in this little stoning fun believe that Muhammad was a truth-teller. That He was the Prophet of Allah and spoke for Allah on these moral issues.

    Why are they wrong?

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  123. So James, what about this Communism thing?

    You agree now that it’s not a moral theory, yeah?
    Bit of a boo-boo on your part.

    (Not that that would be anything new coming from you.)

    Or perhaps you have some “special” argument to show that Communism really is a moral theory?

    Go for it James.
    Go for it.

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  124. Moral nihilism is a meta-ethical stance concerning the nature of moral judgements, not a moral theory.

    Absoulte nonsense Iapetus, you have been backed into a corner and now you try to escape by redefining a moral theory. You are playing word games because you lost the point. How about Moral Skepticism? If that not a moral theory? How about Moral Anti-Realism? Is that also not a moral theory? One form of the Moral Nihilism theory is call the Moral Error Theory. Of course that is not a moral theory either.

    And this theory is what your buddy Mackie held to, the guy you spent so mch time defending on Bnonn’s blog.

    Global falsity

    The first, which one might call the global falsity form of moral nihilism, claims that moral beliefs and assertions are false in that they claim that certain moral facts exist that do not exist. J. L. Mackie (1977) argues for this form of moral nihilism. Mackie, for example, argues that moral assertions are only true if there are moral properties that are intrinsically motivating, but there is good reason to believe that there are no such intrinsically motivating properties (see the argument from queerness and motivational internalism).

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moral_nihilism#Error_theory

    So yes Iapetus: Moral Skepticism, Moral Anti-Realism, Moral Nihilism and the Moral Error Theory are all non-theistic moral theories that would have no inherent objection to stoning that young girl. Be a man Iapetus and cede the point.

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  125. And Iapetus, I asked this question first, so unless you are completely unfair, instead of just partly unfair, you will answer this before asking me another question:

    What significance or meaning did that young woman’s life have? Will anyone even care or remember her 30 years from now?

    Like

  126. Still feeding a troll whose one-and-only approach to things is to avoid facing anything presented and “ask a question” :-/

    Oh, I should be fair. He sometimes quote-mines or twists others’ words around as well. But then, trolls do that…

    Like

  127. Still feeding a troll whose one-and-only approach to things is to avoid facing anything presented and “ask a question”

    Heraclides your ignorance is showing again. I asked Iapetus a question long before he asked his, back in post #86. I have answered his, he has avoided mine all the way through… Now run along…

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  128. So you have no idea whether your “objectivist” morality is valid, yet nonetheless feel in a position to label your stance rational and to declare non-theistic moral theories incapable of providing a basis for morality. Go figure.

    If there is no Moral Law Giver then all morality is subjective, mere preference. So no, you can not have a non-subjective basis for morality apart from God. Ontologically this is so, regardless of the epistemological questions.

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  129. Now run along…

    I think that this and the tone of your post shows rather well that my point stands. If you want to be perceived as other than as a troll, act other than as a troll ;-)

    Like

  130. I think that this and the tone of your post shows rather well that my point stands.

    No your point does not stand because I did answer Iapetus, and he has refused to answer me, even though my question was asked first and repeately..

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  131. Your question in post 86 is a good example of the very thing I (and others) have repeated pointed out to you. (I believe I have also mentioned this earlier in this thread.) Thus, not only does your latest reply leave my point standing, it re-enforces it.

    Whether you recognise it or not, the nature and tone of post 127 is that of a troll, complete with ad hominen smears and ending a tart “now run along”. If you don’t want people to judge you as troll, don’t act like one ;-)

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  132. James, this whole ‘I asked first, & I’m not going to answer you until you answer me’ thing is all a bit childish, isn’t it? Why not act like a grown-up & just answer anyway? That is, if you’re not simply here for some arcane point-scoring purpose…

    (I know, Heraclides, DFTT ;-) )

    Like

  133. Iapetus said…”Can you name me one non-theistic moral theory (objectivist or subjectivist), that would endorse the stoning of a 13-year old rape victim as morally acceptable or would at least not consider it morally objectionable?”

    James babbles despreately…”Absoulte nonsense Iapetus, you have been backed into a corner and now you try to escape by redefining a moral theory. You are playing word games because you lost the point.”

    No answer? How sad. Why do you have problems with basic English?

    But wait.. we also have this gem.

    “So yes Iapetus: Moral Skepticism, Moral Anti-Realism, Moral Nihilism and the Moral Error Theory are all non-theistic moral theories that would have no inherent objection to stoning that young girl.”

    (…awkward silence…)

    James, do you ever think before you post? :)

    Since you seem to be so sure of what a moral theory is, why is it that you haven’t tried to talk about Communism as being a moral theory anymore?

    Could it be that Communism…isn’t really a moral theory?
    And…well…you’re just hoping everybody will forget about your mess.
    Trust me, we will all remember.
    (He he he.)

    If you can’t understand that Communism isn’t a moral theory, then that casts serious doubt on your claims about anything else being a moral theory.

    Do you agree now that Communism is not a moral theory?
    Is this question too hard for you?

    ……………………………………………..

    James decides to be dismissive to Heraclides…

    “… Now run along…”

    Heraclides, please don’t run along.
    In fact, I respectfully request you stay.
    Stay here and enjoy the show.

    (Nukes another bag of popcorn. Hands it to Heraclides)

    ………………………………………………

    James said…”If there is no Moral Law Giver then all morality is subjective, mere preference.”

    James, we’ve been here before.

    No. 353.
    ARGUMENT FROM DOSTOEVSKY, a.k.a. ARGUMENT FROM RIGHT AND WRONG (II) (see Dostoevsky Didn’t Say It)
    (1) If God does not exist, everything is permitted.
    (2) I can’t accept that.
    (3) Therefore, God exists

    http://www.godlessgeeks.com/LINKS/GodProof.htm

    Hasn’t worked as a good argument before. What makes you think that it will start working now?

    (There’s a reason why people have put this argument in with all the others at the web-site cited.)

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  134. James, this whole ‘I asked first, & I’m not going to answer you until you answer me’ thing is all a bit childish, isn’t it? Why not act like a grown-up & just answer anyway? That is, if you’re not simply here for some arcane point-scoring purpose…

    I did answer Alison… More than once.

    Like

  135. “So yes Iapetus: Moral Skepticism, Moral Anti-Realism, Moral Nihilism and the Moral Error Theory are all non-theistic moral theories that would have no inherent objection to stoning that young girl.”

    (…awkward silence…)

    James, do you ever think before you post?

    Since you seem to be so sure of what a moral theory is, why is it that you haven’t tried to talk about Communism as being a moral theory anymore?

    First Cedric, Communism is primarily base on a moral consideration, which I explained. Iapetus did not agree so I did not belabor the point. So I offered a number of non-theistic moral theories that would not have an inherent objection with the stoning of the young girl. BTW Cedric, Moral Skepticism, Moral Anti-Realism, Moral Nihilism and the Moral Error Theory are all moral theories – you may not know that but we all know that you are rather weak in this area. Heck I know I’m a layman when it comes to philosophy, but you know way less than I.

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  136. “So yes Iapetus: Moral Skepticism, Moral Anti-Realism, Moral Nihilism and the Moral Error Theory are all non-theistic moral theories that would have no inherent objection to stoning that young girl. Be a man Iapetus and cede the point.”

    You are still confused.

    Moral scepticism, anti-realism and nihilism are meta-ethical or second-order moral stances. They are concerned with the status of moral propositions, e.g. whether they express an objective fact about reality, personal preferences, societal conventions etc.

    In contrast, a first-order moral theory is concerned with the moral correctness or incorrectness of single actions and/or certain general kinds of actions as well as the formulation of general principles which can be used to derive more specific decisions, e.g. that we should always strive to achieve the greatest good for the greatest number of people, that the well-being of the individual is the ultimate goal or that we should put ourselves into the service of a god.

    I should have taken into account that you are not familiar with this.

    So what I am asking for is a first-order moral theory (objectivist or subjectivist) that would endorse the stoning of a 13-year old rape victim as morally acceptable or would at least not consider it morally objectionable.

    “If there is no Moral Law Giver then all morality is subjective, mere preference” (emphasis mine)

    If someone “gives” you morality, it is the personal morality of the giver. Hence it is subjective.

    Furthermore, it is practically useless since you conceded that you may be totally mistaken about its tenets. So it may be that, contrary to what you would like to be true, god does not give a damn about human beings and thus does not magically infuse them with “dignity” or “worth”. What then?

    Incidentally, you did not answer this question from my last post:

    the people who engaged in this little stoning fun believe that Muhammad was a truth-teller. That He was the Prophet of Allah and spoke for Allah on these moral issues.

    Why are they wrong?

    However, I do not see how you could possibly say they are wrong when you have no idea whether your own morality is valid or not…

    “First Cedric, Communism is primarily base on a moral consideration, which I explained. Iapetus did not agree so I did not belabor the point.”

    You would do well not to belabour this point, since you are flat wrong. Communism is not a moral theory, neither first nor second order.

    “BTW Cedric, Moral Skepticism, Moral Anti-Realism, Moral Nihilism and the Moral Error Theory are all moral theories – you may not know that but we all know that you are rather weak in this area. (emphasis mine)

    I would be careful with such statements if I were you…

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  137. James sweats thusly…”Communism is primarily base on blah, blah, blah…”

    Based? BASED?
    Who asked you what Communism is “based” upon?
    What you think Communism is based upon is perhaps the start of a new and fascinating discussion…best left for another time.

    Right now, we’re trying to get you to smell the coffee on something rather different.

    Communism is not a moral theory.

    No “based” mentioned, needed or required.
    No “contained” either.

    So, do you now conceed that Communism is not a moral theory?

    (Considering the thousands of people have written weighty tomes discussing Communnism over the last century, from political scientists to historians to philosophers, one would imagine that supporting the phrase “Communism IS a moral theory” would be easily resolved by referring to solid reference material. Yet James prefers his own unique vision of things.)

    So, Communism is not a moral theory.
    Right?
    :)

    Like

  138. In contrast, a first-order moral theory is concerned with the moral correctness or incorrectness of single actions and/or certain general kinds of actions as well as the formulation of general principles which can be used to derive more specific decisions, e.g. that we should always strive to achieve the greatest good for the greatest number of people, that the well-being of the individual is the ultimate goal or that we should put ourselves into the service of a god.

    Good grief Iapetus, even in my link referenced the moral error theory, which was Mackie’s position. And now you are moving the goal posts. Please have the decency to admit that you were wrong.

    So what I am asking for is a first-order moral theory (objectivist or subjectivist) that would endorse the stoning of a 13-year old rape victim as morally acceptable or would at least not consider it morally objectionable.

    Are you looking for utilitarianism, relativism? What? Give me an example. And if the atheist invents a moral theory that objects to the death penalty for adultery – so what? Why is that invented moral theory valid? Why are we obligated to follow it?

    And before I move to your other questions I think it is about time you answered my question, try and be fair: What significance or meaning did that young woman’s life have? Will anyone even care or remember her 30 years from now?,/i>

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  139. “Good grief Iapetus, even in my link referenced the moral error theory, which was Mackie’s position. And now you are moving the goal posts.”

    How is he moving the goal posts?
    You don’t even understand what a moral theory is.

    That’s why you’ve had to drop the “Communism is a moral theory” thingy like a hot potato.

    Iapetus gave you a hint and everything at the very beginning and yet still you managed to make an ass of yourself.

    You need to ask yourself what a moral theory is.
    Maybe you could read up on it?

    Like

  140. “Good grief Iapetus, even in my link referenced the moral error theory, which was Mackie’s position. And now you are moving the goal posts. Please have the decency to admit that you were wrong.”

    Moral error theory is a second order moral stance which holds that moral statements erroneously purport to refer to independently existing moral facts, like the statement “There is a chair in the room.” refers to an independently existing fact.

    Of course, that does not mean that moral nihilists can not develop first order moral theories, which is what Mackie does in his book. You would know this if you had read it, as I invited you to do. Naturally, you did not do that.

    “Are you looking for utilitarianism, relativism? What? Give me an example.”

    So are you prepared to concede that you can not think of a non-theistic moral theory (objectivist or subjectivist) that would endorse the stoning of a 13-year old rape victim as morally acceptable or would at least not consider it morally objectionable?

    Tell you what: I can not, either. Why is that? Because moral theories are intended to capture our innate moral intuitions and mold them into a coherent framework. We both intuitively recognize the stoning of a 13-year old rape victim as morally repugnant (and do not try to tell me that you had to look that up in your special book first).

    However, a revelation-based, objectivist, theistic morality managed to justify it. It is a prime example (along with countless others we find throughout history) of why claims to the effect that only theism offers a secure base for morality deserve no credit whatsoever anymore.

    “And if the atheist invents a moral theory that objects to the death penalty for adultery – so what? Why is that invented moral theory valid? Why are we obligated to follow it?”

    First of all, it seems that you are in no better position, since you already conceded that your biblical morality might be a mistake and/or a deliberate lie. So we are in the same boat here.

    It goes without saying that nobody can be forced to accept a certain moral framework and to adhere to it all the time. However, we can give very good reasons for doing so:

    An objectivist like Kant would say that our a priori certain moral sense is best served by adhering to his categorical imperative.

    A subjectivist can, e.g., appeal to the self-interest of the individual and make the case that his own well-being is best served and insured by adhering to a certain moral framework (contractarianism). Ironically, Christian morality with its concept of divine retribution for misdeeds is a good example of an appeal to human self-interest. As Walter Kaufmann says:”The New Testament does not know the good deed that carries its worth in itself. Jesus is preaching to those who want to enter the Kingdom of Heaven and tells them how to achieve this.”.

    Another possibility is the premise that all rational persons have the same moral status courtesy of their capacity for autonomous agency and thus have to negotiate binding agreements between them which take this into account (contractualism).

    “And before I move to your other questions I think it is about time you answered my question, try and be fair: What significance or meaning did that young woman’s life have? Will anyone even care or remember her 30 years from now?”

    It had significance and meaning to herself as well as to those who knew and loved her and who will remember her.

    Incidentally, I do not see what this has to do with the question whether her killing was morally justified or not. As I said, any non-theistic moral theory I can think of would deny this, while a revelation-based, objectivist, theistic morality provided a justification for it.

    What conclusions do you draw from this, especially in light of your similar approach?

    And in case you forgot the outstanding question, here it is again:

    the people who engaged in this little stoning fun believe that Muhammad was a truth-teller. That He was the Prophet of Allah and spoke for Allah on these moral issues.

    Why are they wrong?

    Like

  141. “…the people who engaged in this little stoning fun believe that Muhammad was a truth-teller. That He was the Prophet of Allah and spoke for Allah on these moral issues.”

    Just in case we forget that we’re not just engaging in polite after dinner conversation, let’s have a look at a video to remind us of the reality of stoning.

    When was the last time you watched a video of somebody getting stoned to death?

    Got the stomach for it?
    Then…here it is.

    (Warning: This is the real stuff. It’s horrifying to watch. James will no doubt find that a good joke. After all, only he can possibly be horrified. The rest of us are only “feigning” being horrified.)

    http://www.apostatesofislam.com/media/stoning.htm

    Like

  142. Moral error theory is a second order moral stance which holds that moral statements erroneously purport to refer to independently existing moral facts, like the statement “There is a chair in the room.” refers to an independently existing fact.

    Of course, that does not mean that moral nihilists can not develop first order moral theories, which is what Mackie does in his book. You would know this if you had read it, as I invited you to do. Naturally, you did not do that.

    But it is a moral theory! Sheesh! Listen Iapetus, it wasn’t that I was mistaken, it was that you were unclear…

    Tell you what: I can not, either. Why is that? Because moral theories are intended to capture our innate moral intuitions and mold them into a coherent framework. We both intuitively recognize the stoning of a 13-year old rape victim as morally repugnant (and do not try to tell me that you had to look that up in your special book first).

    Well we agree that it is intuitive. But where did that intuition come from? As a Christian I believe all men have a God given moral sense. In other words, how does one know that a stick is crooked unless he first has some idea of what a straight stick looks like? How does the evolutionary process give us the idea of a straight stick?

    It had significance and meaning to herself as well as to those who knew and loved her and who will remember her.

    And who will remember her or them in a hundred years? The sad fact is, that in a godless universe a few bags of chemicals killed another bag of chemicals. Nothing more and nothing lees.

    Incidentally, I do not see what this has to do with the question whether her killing was morally justified or not. As I said, any non-theistic moral theory I can think of would deny this, while a revelation-based, objectivist, theistic morality provided a justification for it.

    What conclusions do you draw from this, especially in light of your similar approach?

    Are you suggesting that atheists, who hold to moral relativism, are not capable of such horrors?

    And why would a non-theistic moral theory object to this, and why should one care? Why should I follow a moral theory you invent. What authority does this have over me? Why am I obligated?

    the people who engaged in this little stoning fun believe that Muhammad was a truth-teller. That He was the Prophet of Allah and spoke for Allah on these moral issues.

    Why are they wrong?

    Who said it was for fun? And they are wrong because they violated the teachings and example of Christ. Who was the Son of God…

    And why is your opinion of it’s wrongness more vaild or correct that theirs?

    Like

  143. James squirmed entertainingly thus…”Listen Iapetus, it wasn’t that I was mistaken, it was that you were unclear…”

    Nah, you just screwed up.
    Remember the Communism thingy?
    It’s not a moral theory.
    Really.
    Read a book.

    Iapetus tried to help you out. You blew it.

    So, do you still think that Communism is a moral theory?
    Or are you going to remain confused?

    “As a Christian I believe all men have a God given moral sense.”

    As a Pastafarian I believe all men have a Pasta-centred given moral sense.

    “And they are wrong because they violated the teachings and example of Christ. Who was the Son of God…”

    Actually, they are wrong because they violated the teachings and example of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Who was, and is, of pasta and cheese sauce…

    …………………………………………….

    However, while we’re on the subject of stoning…

    http://www.thebricktestament.com/the_law/when_to_stone_your_children/dt21_18a.html

    Like

  144. “But it is a moral theory! Sheesh! Listen Iapetus, it wasn’t that I was mistaken, it was that you were unclear…”

    No, the fact of the matter is that due to your insufficient knowledge of moral philosophy you confounded first and second order moral theories. The question I asked can not be addressed by a second order theory.

    It is equivalent to saying: “The theory of evolution by natural selection can not give an account of the motion of the planets.”. It is not even in the same ballpark.

    “Well we agree that it is intuitive. But where did that intuition come from? As a Christian I believe all men have a God given moral sense. In other words, how does one know that a stick is crooked unless he first has some idea of what a straight stick looks like? How does the evolutionary process give us the idea of a straight stick?”

    You have access to the internet. Do some research. Start with “evolution of morality” or “evolutionary account of altruism” or “kin selection” or….

    “And who will remember her or them in a hundred years? The sad fact is, that in a godless universe a few bags of chemicals killed another bag of chemicals. Nothing more and nothing lees.”

    Incredible.

    Thusfar you conceded that

    1. you have no idea whether your biblical morality is valid or just an error and/or a lie; and

    2. you can not name one single non-theistic moral theory that would condone this murder;

    yet post the same drivel again as if nothing was said.

    Hello? Any moral theory the non-theist will choose to adhere to labels the stoning of a 13-year old rape victim as morally objectionable, i.e. “evil”. He/she does not need a theistic morality for that. In fact, as we have seen a theistic morality was used to justify the deed.

    “Are you suggesting that atheists, who hold to moral relativism, are not capable of such horrors?”

    No, what I am suggesting is that a non-theistic morality will not see the stoning of a 13-year old rape victim as morally acceptable, while a revelation-based, objectivist, theistic morality does.

    “And why would a non-theistic moral theory object to this, and why should one care? Why should I follow a moral theory you invent. What authority does this have over me? Why am I obligated?”

    It seems this specific paragraph in my last post has escaped your attention (must be the first time this happened…). So here it is again:

    First of all, it seems that you are in no better position, since you already conceded that your biblical morality might be a mistake and/or a deliberate lie. So we are in the same boat here.

    It goes without saying that nobody can be forced to accept a certain moral framework and to adhere to it all the time. However, we can give very good reasons for doing so:

    An objectivist like Kant would say that our a priori certain moral sense is best served by adhering to his categorical imperative.

    A subjectivist can, e.g., appeal to the self-interest of the individual and make the case that his own well-being is best served and insured by adhering to a certain moral framework (contractarianism). Ironically, Christian morality with its concept of divine retribution for misdeeds is a good example of an appeal to human self-interest. As Walter Kaufmann says:”The New Testament does not know the good deed that carries its worth in itself. Jesus is preaching to those who want to enter the Kingdom of Heaven and tells them how to achieve this.”.

    Another possibility is the premise that all rational persons have the same moral status courtesy of their capacity for autonomous agency and thus have to negotiate binding agreements between them which take this into account (contractualism).

    “Who said it was for fun?”

    Are you insinuating that you find their “justification” as having even the barest amount of validity? If so, I will terminate this exchange immediately.

    “And they are wrong because they violated the teachings and example of Christ. Who was the Son of God…”

    To which they will reply that Muhammad´s teachings and example trump those of Christ, who was not the son of god. Furthermore, as you conceded you can not rule out that Christ was mistaken and/or a liar. What then?

    “And why is your opinion of it’s wrongness more vaild or correct that theirs?”

    Ask this question to yourself with respect to your own moral theory.

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  145. No, the fact of the matter is that due to your insufficient knowledge of moral philosophy you confounded first and second order moral theories. The question I asked can not be addressed by a second order theory.

    Stop trying to cover for yourself. When Mackie, with his moral error theory, concludes that all moral claims are false, that certainly bears directly on your question. Give it up…

    You have access to the internet. Do some research. Start with “evolution of morality” or “evolutionary account of altruism” or “kin selection” or….

    Then expain why others don’t have this same moral sense. And if there moral sense can also be explained by evolution then which group has the right sense of things. Which group sees the stick as straight?

    No, what I am suggesting is that a non-theistic morality will not see the stoning of a 13-year old rape victim as morally acceptable, while a revelation-based, objectivist, theistic morality does.

    Whose non-theistic morality? Stalin’s? Mao’s? And what is to prevent one from inventing a non-theistic morality that doesn’t object to such an act? That is the point, so what if you invent a non-theistic moral system that doesn’t condone stoning – it meaningless.

    First of all, it seems that you are in no better position, since you already conceded that your biblical morality might be a mistake and/or a deliberate lie. So we are in the same boat here.

    First, no I don’t believe that Christ lied (you are free to claim that, I won’t). But of course ontologically we are on completely different ground. If I’m right, there is unltimate justice. What we do really does echo in eternity. Kant knew this, that God was necessary for justice to be an ultimate reality. If you are right a Mother Teresa and a Hitler share the same end – dust. Nothing we do, in the end, matters, all we do, all of humanity, will come to nothing…

    Are you insinuating that you find their “justification” as having even the barest amount of validity? If so, I will terminate this exchange immediately.

    You are joking right? On what possible, logical grounds, would you end this discussion? On what possible rational grounds could you offer a superior moral opinion on this subject?

    Like

  146. @post no. 145:

    “Stop trying to cover for yourself. When Mackie, with his moral error theory, concludes that all moral claims are false, that certainly bears directly on your question. Give it up…”

    For goodness’ sake, if you are too lazy to even read an introductory book on moral philosophy, how about at least having a look at your own wikipedia links?

    Mackie’s error theory holds that moral claims are wrong if they purport to relate to independently existing moral facts, like the statement “There is a chair in the room.” refers to an independently existing fact. It is a second-order moral stance about the nature of moral propositions.

    Of course, that does not mean that moral nihilists can not develop first order moral theories, which is what Mackie does. Are you really so naive to believe that Mackie wrote a book that stated: “There are no objective moral facts. Thus, there can be no morality, so everyone go out and loot, kill and rape!”? Come to think of it, this is probably exactly what you believe…

    When in a hole, stop digging. You are just making a fool of yourself here.

    “Then expain why others don’t have this same moral sense. And if there moral sense can also be explained by evolution then which group has the right sense of things. Which group sees the stick as straight?”

    You have access to the internet. Do some research. Start with “evolution of morality” or “evolutionary account of altruism” or “kin selection” or….

    “Whose non-theistic morality? Stalin’s? Mao’s?”

    Do you want to embarrass yourself again with this “Communism is a moral theory” guff? If I were you, I would quietly drop it.

    “And what is to prevent one from inventing a non-theistic morality that doesn’t object to such an act?”

    I would like to see a non-theistic moral theory that rationally makes the case for the moral acceptability of stoning a 13-year old rape victim. Strange that you could not come up with one.

    No buddy, it takes a revelation-based, objectivist, theistic morality to do that, since it can override our intuitive morality by appealing to the will of a being which religious adherents have been conditioned to obey unquestioningly. Nothing beats “It is the will of Allah/Yahwe/Vishnu etc.”.

    “That is the point, so what if you invent a non-theistic moral system that doesn’t condone stoning – it meaningless.”

    Not to the person who chooses to adhere to this non-theistic moral system.

    Besides, you are in the same boat here. You may choose to adhere to biblical morality, but more than 60% of humanity adheres to a different system and sees yours as meaningless.

    And why should they adopt it, since you conceded that you have no idea whether it is based on a mistake and/or a lie?

    The point here is that your assertion that a non-theist can look upon this murder only with a shrug while saying “That’s life.” is utter drivel. It can only be made in total ignorance of moral philosophy in general and non-theistic moral theories in particular.

    As I said, any moral theory I can think of that the non-theist will choose to adhere to labels the stoning of a 13-year old rape victim as morally objectionable, i.e. “evil”. He/she does not need a theistic morality for that. In fact, as we have seen a theistic morality was used to justify the deed.

    “First, no I don’t believe that Christ lied (you are free to claim that, I won’t).”

    You conceded that you have no idea whether Jesus and/or the NT writers were mistaken and/or deliberately lying. I understand that you prefer this not to be the case, but you can not rule it out. So why should one choose a morality that rests on such a shaky foundation?

    “But of course ontologically we are on completely different ground. If I’m right, there is unltimate justice. What we do really does echo in eternity. Kant knew this, that God was necessary for justice to be an ultimate reality. If you are right a Mother Teresa and a Hitler share the same end – dust. Nothing we do, in the end, matters, all we do, all of humanity, will come to nothing…”

    First of all, the above has nothing whatsoever to do with your assertion that non-theists have no reason to condemn the stoning of a 13-year old rape victim. As we have seen, this assertion is untenable.

    Second, it is a typical example of a fallacious appeal to consequences. The fact that you find the conclusions that follow from a proposition emotionally unsatisfying has no bearing on its truth or falsity.

    Furthermore, the argument works both ways. Personally, I find this theistic concept of divine retribution, i.e. the thought that doing evil to the evil-doer will somehow generate a cosmic good vs. evil balance, primitive and morally repulsive. As I said before, Christian morality is an appeal to the self-interest of the individual: Behave, or else…
    It does not know the good deed that carries its worth in itself. I would definitely not want this to be true.

    “You are joking right? On what possible, logical grounds, would you end this discussion? On what possible rational grounds could you offer a superior moral opinion on this subject?”

    Are you in any way condoning this murder or trying to justify it? Yes or No?

    Like

  147. Of course, that does not mean that moral nihilists can not develop first order moral theories, which is what Mackie does. Are you really so naive to believe that Mackie wrote a book that stated: “There are no objective moral facts. Thus, there can be no morality, so everyone go out and loot, kill and rape!”? Come to think of it, this is probably exactly what you believe…

    Well no, I would want to know on what basis he would call rape and murder “wrong” since he says that all moral language (like right and wrong) is false. And this theory certainly does bear on the question at hand. If this is how we think about morality it will have an effect on practical application. Why you would try and deny this is beyond me…

    You have access to the internet. Do some research. Start with “evolution of morality” or “evolutionary account of altruism” or “kin selection” or….

    You avoided the question Iapetus. If you are correct the evolutionary process, in this case, produced two different results. Us who find this stoning morally unjust, and those who did the stoning – who thought it was a just act. So which group is correct?

    Not to the person who chooses to adhere to this non-theistic moral system.

    Yes, but like I asked above – what makes this this person’s system any more correct or valid than the next?

    You conceded that you have no idea whether Jesus and/or the NT writers were mistaken and/or deliberately lying. I understand that you prefer this not to be the case, but you can not rule it out. So why should one choose a morality that rests on such a shaky foundation?

    No, that is not what I said. I certainly don’t think they were mistaken or lying. If you have evidence to the contrary please present it.

    First of all, the above has nothing whatsoever to do with your assertion that non-theists have no reason to condemn the stoning of a 13-year old rape victim. As we have seen, this assertion is untenable.

    Very good Iapetus. I did say that I could understand the atheist’s emotional response, but not their rational response. This is simply a part of nature. Man kills, murders and tortures – that is our nature. Yes, I find their objection to this natural act quite strange. Are you really saying that you invent a moral theory, then get upset when another violates it? That my friend is irrational…

    Second, it is a typical example of a fallacious appeal to consequences. The fact that you find the conclusions that follow from a proposition emotionally unsatisfying has no bearing on its truth or falsity.

    No, there is a real ontological difference. As Kant, who you quoted point out, states. That there must be ultimate justice or its all pretty meaningless. The fact is there is a real ontological difference in our positions even if there are gray areas in our epistemology (and there are).

    Furthermore, the argument works both ways. Personally, I find this theistic concept of divine retribution, i.e. the thought that doing evil to the evil-doer will somehow generate a cosmic good vs. evil balance, primitive and morally repulsive. As I said before, Christian morality is an appeal to the self-interest of the individual: Behave, or else…
    It does not know the good deed that carries its worth in itself. I would definitely not want this to be true.

    Well not quite, you know that Christian theology teaching that salvation is by grace, a gift of God, by faith? But certainly, we want to please God by our works, but works don’t save us. And there will not be a good vs. evil balance – evil will be destroyed, removed from the universe.

    Are you in any way condoning this murder or trying to justify it? Yes or No?

    Of course not, I already made that clear. My question from the beginning has been – why are atheists getting so upset with this natural act? Do you get as upset when a lizard eats a fly? What’s the difference?

    Like

  148. Iapetus said…”You conceded that you have no idea whether Jesus and/or the NT writers were mistaken and/or deliberately lying.”

    James dithers thusly…”No, that is not what I said.”

    However previously James said…”I could very well be mistaken. Christ and the New Testament writers could have all been liars.”

    Oops. :)

    But wait, there’s more.
    James offers up “I certainly don’t think they were mistaken or lying.”

    You what? :)

    You “think”?
    Some anonymous guy over the Internet doesn’t “think” they were mistaken or lying?

    (Quick! Alert the media. The people have a right to know.)

    LOL.

    ………………………………………….

    “My question from the beginning has been – why are atheists getting so upset with this natural act? Do you get as upset when a lizard eats a fly? What’s the difference?”

    James, we’ve been here before.

    No. 353.
    ARGUMENT FROM DOSTOEVSKY, a.k.a. ARGUMENT FROM RIGHT AND WRONG (II)
    (1) If God does not exist, everything is permitted.
    (2) I can’t accept that.
    (3) Therefore, God exists

    http://www.godlessgeeks.com

    Hasn’t worked as a good argument before. What makes you think that it will start working now?

    (There’s a reason why people have put this argument in with all the others at the web-site cited.)

    P.S.
    Still no luck with the “Communism being a moral theory” stuff, huh?
    Can’t find anything to support your postion, huh?
    Too bad.
    Try harder, James. Much harder.

    (Giggle.)

    Like

  149. @post no. 147:

    “Well no, I would want to know on what basis he would call rape and murder “wrong” since he says that all moral language (like right and wrong) is false.”

    Yes, you “would want to know” many things, but are too lazy to engage in the intellectual effort to find out for yourself and instead wait open-mouthed to have everything spoon-fed to you. I have a radical idea: why not go and read his book?

    “And this theory certainly does bear on the question at hand. If this is how we think about morality it will have an effect on practical application. Why you would try and deny this is beyond me…”

    I can see why, because you still do not comprehend the difference between first- and second-order moral theories.

    I will say it for the last time: moral error theory holds that moral propositions can not be seen as true or false if they purport to refer to independent moral facts, since it holds that these do not exist.

    It does not claim that moral theories which are developed and constructed by humans and do not claim to refer to some objective truth are meaningless. Which is why Mackie develops such a first-order moral theory in this book that you are never going to touch since your automatic defense mechanisms will not allow it.

    “Yes, but like I asked above – what makes this this person’s system any more correct or valid than the next?”

    The issue here is your inane assertion that non-theists have no basis on which to label the stoning of a 13-year old rape victim morally objectionable. You could neither show a non-theistic moral theory that would endorse this nor why said moral theory should be incapable of condemning such a deed. Thus, your assertion is refuted.

    As to who is “correct”, ask yourself: why is your moral opinion on this any more valid or correct than the next?

    “No, that is not what I said. I certainly don’t think they were mistaken or lying. If you have evidence to the contrary please present it.”

    post no. 117: I could very well be mistaken. Christ and the New Testament writers could have all been liars.

    post no. 119: Correct, it [Christian revelation-based morality] may be wrong, but it may be right.

    “Very good Iapetus. I did say that I could understand the atheist’s emotional response, but not their rational response. This is simply a part of nature. Man kills, murders and tortures – that is our nature. Yes, I find their objection to this natural act quite strange. Are you really saying that you invent a moral theory, then get upset when another violates it? That my friend is irrational…”

    Aha, so if I hold to a moral theory which condemns the stoning of a 13-year old rape victim as evil, it is irrational.

    However, if your moral theory, which according to your own words might be a mistake and/or a lie, comes to the same conclusion, it is rational.

    Sometimes the only appropriate reaction to your inanities is the Picard face-palm:

    Picard Facepalm

    “No, there is a real ontological difference. As Kant, who you quoted point out, states. That there must be ultimate justice or its all pretty meaningless. The fact is there is a real ontological difference in our positions even if there are gray areas in our epistemology (and there are).” (emphasis mine)

    Thank you for affirming my point. You find it emotionally unsatisfying if there is no “ultimate justice”, so your position must be true. It is an appeal to consequences and nothing else.

    “Well not quite, you know that Christian theology teaching that salvation is by grace, a gift of God, by faith?”

    Only according to your particular doctrine. Other Christian denominations see it differently. Oh, I forgot: they are not “real” Christians, right?

    “But certainly, we want to please God by our works, but works don’t save us.”

    So the motivation to act morally is that it pleases your god?

    “And there will not be a good vs. evil balance – evil will be destroyed, removed from the universe.”

    Huh? I thought there is this charming place called “Hell” where sinners are getting punished in atonement for their sins. Are you telling me that they are merely blasted into oblivion there?

    Like

  150. Iapetus said…”Sometimes the only appropriate reaction to your inanities is the Picard face-palm.”

    The Picard face-palm?
    OUCH.
    Now that’s a new one!

    Incisive, witty, and magnificently devastating.

    I bow to the Master.
    May you live long and prosper.

    (insert extended round of applause here)

    Like

  151. “Very good Iapetus. I did say that I could understand the atheist’s emotional response, but not their rational response. This is simply a part of nature. Man kills, murders and tortures – that is our nature. Yes, I find their objection to this natural act quite strange. Are you really saying that you invent a moral theory, then get upset when another violates it? That my friend is irrational…”

    Aha, so if I hold to a moral theory which condemns the stoning of a 13-year old rape victim as evil, it is irrational.

    However, if your moral theory, which according to your own words might be a mistake and/or a lie, comes to the same conclusion, it is rational.

    Exactly. I believe that moral truth is objective and that nature is not “everything.” And that this objective moral truth is being violated. So yes, I think it is irrational to get so upset with nature as it is. So tell me – why are you so upset with a act of nature? I would like a clear reason…

    Like

  152. @ James – November 11, 2008 at 12:21 am

    “My question from the beginning has been – why are atheists getting so upset with this natural act? Do you get as upset when a lizard eats a fly? What’s the difference?”

    When I am confronted by questions like that – when I recognise my knowledge, theories, and prejudices mean I can’t answer the questions. Then I start to look at those models, theories and prejudices. I find that helps me to come to a better understanding.

    One thing I have learned – sticking with the prejudice and outmoded model/theory never helps my understanding.

    Like

  153. @post no. 151:

    “Exactly. I believe that moral truth is objective and that nature is not “everything.” And that this objective moral truth is being violated.”

    Yes, this is what you believe and want to be true. Unfortunately it might just as well be a mistake and/or a lie, as you have stated yourself.

    And despite the fact that your morality rests on such flimsy ground, you nevertheless have the temerity to turn around and accuse non-theistic moral systems of being irrational?

    Ridiculous.

    Maybe it has not yet penetrated into your bubble, but the situation is this:

    if you get all worked up about a certain deed and proclaim that it is morally objectionable based on the supreme teachings of Jesus Christ Superstar, King of Kings and Redeemer of Humanity, the majority of people on this planet will coolly inform you that this morality has as much authority over them as a dish washer manual. What are you going to do then? Stomp your feet and shout “But it is true!!”?

    The fact of the matter is that different people the world over choose different moral systems to adhere to. Stating that your particular system is “true” while all others are “false” is simply delusional.

    However, that does not mean that we can not try to work out certain general principles which can be accepted by people from different cultural backgrounds and moralities. Which is why declarations like those pertaining to human rights can be negotiated and accepted by Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Atheists etc.

    “So yes, I think it is irrational to get so upset with nature as it is. So tell me – why are you so upset with a act of nature? I would like a clear reason…”

    It depends on the moral system one chooses to adhere to. But I will not indulge your intellectual laziness any longer. The information is out there.

    So tell me: why would a Kantian objectivist morally object to the stoning of a 13-year old rape victim?

    Why would a contractualist morally object to the stoning of a 13-year old rape victim?

    Like

  154. Iapetus, this is the bottom line. I really do believe that moral truth is objective, God given and morally binding. Even if I can not convince you of Christ’s authority. I believe that young girl had inherent worth, a value that transcends her temporal existence. I don’t believe these things are “made up,” I believe they are truths communicated to man by their Creator. This is the ground of my objection to what was done to this young lady…

    But why would Kantian or Contractualist object to this act? Do they not know that their moral theories are “made up?” Why, logically, would they consider their moral opinion any more vaild or correct than a opposite moral opinion? Because they hold it? Anyone can invent a moral theory and then condemn those who do not follow it – but so what? Where is the moral authority or the moral obligation? BTW – like I said, Kant knew if there was not a final judgement, ultimate justice (i.e.God) that his moral theory was pretty much useless. He knew that his theory of “duty” had no inherent authority nor compelled moral obligation.

    So yes Iapetus, I do wonder why atheists get so upset with nature, with natural acts done by minds created by the evolutionary process. Especially since they know that their moral theories are “made up” and are not objectively better or more correct than the moral theories of those they condemn.

    Now the atheist here will not like this. The reason Ken, Alison and others had such a viseral reaction to this act (Ken even called it absolutely wrong) is because they are made in God’s image and in their heart of hearts they knew this act was unjust: objectively, universally, absolutely, unjust. Not merely because it violated their personal preference – we don’t get that upset when another man prefers steak while we prefer lobster…

    Like

  155. James drones out…“Iapetus, this is the bottom line. I really do believe that moral truth is objective, God given and morally binding. Even if I can not convince you of Christ’s authority. I believe that young girl had inherent worth, a value that transcends her temporal existence. I don’t believe these things are “made up,” I believe they are truths communicated to man by their Creator. This is the ground of my objection to what was done to this young lady…”

    Chorus: I really do believe…. I believe…. I don’t believe that they are made up…. I believe they are truths…. This is the ground of my objections.

    Second verse:
    “I really do believe that moral truth is objective, Flying Spaghetti Monster given and morally binding. Even if I can not convince you of The Noodly One’s authority. I believe… I don’t believe these things are “made up,” I believe they are truths communicated to man by their Creator. This is the ground of my objection to what was done to this young lady…”

    Third Verse:
    “I really do believe that moral truth is objective, Allah given and morally binding. Even if I can not convince you of his authority….etc”

    Fourth Verse:
    “I really do believe that moral truth is objective, Vishnu give given and morally binding. Even if I can not convince you of the divine one’s authority….etc”

    Fifth Verse:
    “I really do believe that moral truth is objective, Buddha given and morally binding. Even if I can not convince you of the Enlightened one’s authority….etc”

    Chorus: I really do believe…. I believe…. I don’t believe that they are made up…. I believe they are truths…. This is the ground of my objections.

    (yawn)

    James hits the re-set button with…“I do wonder why atheists get so upset with nature, with natural acts done by minds created by the evolutionary process. Especially since they know that their moral theories are “made up” and are not objectively better or more correct than the moral theories of those they condemn.”

    No. 353.
    ARGUMENT FROM DOSTOEVSKY, a.k.a. ARGUMENT FROM RIGHT AND WRONG (II)
    (1) If God does not exist, everything is permitted.
    (2) I can’t accept that.
    (3) Therefore, God exists

    James decides to go once more around on the merry-go-round…“The reason Ken, Alison and others had such a viseral reaction to this act (Ken even called it absolutely wrong) is because they are made in God’s image and in their heart of hearts they knew this act was unjust: objectively, universally, absolutely, unjust. Not merely because it violated their personal preference – we don’t get that upset when another man prefers steak while we prefer lobster…”

    No. 387
    ARGUMENT FROM SON
    (1) God made me do it.
    (2) Therefore, God exists

    http://www.godlessgeeks.com/LINKS/GodProof.htm

    ………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

    So there we have it. James and his belief.
    Sappy. Purile. Hollow.
    Available from any religious group from any time in human history anywhere. Nothing new here.
    Just change the labels, rinse and repeat.

    This is why he always stays out of sight and just snipes away with dead-end questions.
    Once you get him to expound on what HE thinks, then he reveals his emptiness.

    (One more time with feeling, everybody)

    Chorus: I really do believe…. I believe…. I don’t believe that they are made up…. I believe they are truths…. This is the ground of my objections.

    Like

  156. Cedric, it must be terribly difficut being you. I’ll keep you in my prayers bro…

    Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. jesus…

    Like

  157. James said…”Cedric, it must be terribly difficut being you. I’ll keep you in my prayers bro…”

    No. 100
    ARGUMENT FROM PRAYER
    (1) God exists.
    (2) [Atheist makes counterarguments.]
    (3) You have my prayers.

    http://www.godlessgeeks.com/LINKS/GodProof.htm

    ………………………………………………..

    Chorus: I really do believe…. I believe…. I don’t believe that they are made up…. I believe they are truths…. This is the ground of my objections.

    Like

  158. (2) [Atheist makes counterarguments.]

    How about the atheist makes no argument since he can not even know if he is arguing rationally since he has no choice in what he believes or concludes. He just spits out what the underlying non-rational physical processes cause him to spit out… Yeah, that sounds better…

    Like

  159. James said…”He just spits out what the underlying non-rational physical processes cause him to spit out… Yeah, that sounds better…”

    Now, now, James.
    No more bitterness.
    Back to your prayers.
    Peace, bro. :)

    ………………………………………..

    James’ bottom line:
    I really do believe…. I believe…. I don’t believe that they are made up…. I believe they are truths…. This is the ground of my objections.

    Like

  160. @post no. 154:

    “Iapetus, this is the bottom line. I really do believe that moral truth is objective, God given and morally binding. Even if I can not convince you of Christ’s authority. I believe that young girl had inherent worth, a value that transcends her temporal existence. I don’t believe these things are “made up,” I believe they are truths communicated to man by their Creator. This is the ground of my objection to what was done to this young lady…” (emphasis mine)

    Yes, you believe all those things. However, these beliefs are all you have, and when asked to defend them rationally, there is nothing but deafening silence, an appeal to consequences or quotations from your special book. Yet people like you go around making claims to be in possession of a superior morality and looking down on non-theistic moral systems or even denying that any such systems could exist at all. The arrogance and ignorance in this is sickening.

    Time and again throughout history up to this very day barbaric excesses of the worst kind were justified by revelation-based, objectivist theistic moralities like yours, precisely because people believed to be in possession of “truths communicated to man by their creator”.

    “But why would Kantian or Contractualist object to this act? Do they not know that their moral theories are “made up?” Why, logically, would they consider their moral opinion any more vaild or correct than a opposite moral opinion? Because they hold it? Anyone can invent a moral theory and then condemn those who do not follow it – but so what? Where is the moral authority or the moral obligation?”

    Look in the mirror, buddy. Ask these questions to yourself. I hate to break it to you, but your “moral opinion” means diddly squat to a non-Christian. To such a person your “objective morality” looks just as made up as you consider other moral theories to be. He/she feels no authority whatsoever regarding your god and your morality. And why should he/she? After all, according to your own statement, it may be a mistake and/or a lie.

    Why would a Kantian or a contractualist object to the stoning of a 13-year old rape victim? Well, if you would leave your mental bunker for a minute to actually engage with intellectual positions outside of your faith bubble, you might find an answer.

    “So yes Iapetus, I do wonder why atheists get so upset with nature, with natural acts done by minds created by the evolutionary process. Especially since they know that their moral theories are “made up” and are not objectively better or more correct than the moral theories of those they condemn.”

    So you post the same drivel yet again. So I need to hammer the message home once more:

    Your “objective morality” is based on nothing but your belief and wishful thinking. To an outsider it looks just as “made up” as you consider other moral theories to be. Furthermore, according to your own words it might be nothing but a mistake and/or a lie. You have no basis whatsoever to claim that your morality is “true” while non-theistic moral systems are “false” apart from your fervent wish that it please, please, please be so.

    Now, regarding the content of this “superior” moral theory, I have noted before that I find its primitive and repulsive main tenet of divine retribution for misdeeds hardly impressive. The Buddha developed an ethical system more than half a millennium before Jesus that was miles ahead of such a crude principle with regard to analysis of the human condition, recognition of a deed as worthy in itself and overall guiding principles.

    The same holds for contemporary non-theistic moral theories. To pick just one example, contractualism is grounded on the equal moral status of persons based on their capacity for rational autonomous agency. According to this view, morality consists in what would result if we were to make binding agreements from a point of view that respects our equal moral importance as rational autonomous agents. In other words, following in the tradition of Kant, every single human being is seen as an end in itself, not because the Big Boss has arbitrarily decreed thusly as in your moral theory, but because rationality and morality are perceived as two sides of the same coin.

    Another example would be Albert Schweitzer´s humanism, which he developed to correct the obvious shortcomings of Christian morality. I would wager that you have no idea about this, either.

    So to close, my sincere advice to you is to overcome your fear, to leave your little bubble and to try and engage the intellectual world outside of it. You do not even have to give up your faith here. I have talked to many thoughtful and intelligent Christians, and while we have disagreed on certain issues, we have respected each other´s stance. Frankly, they would be embarrassed to see your inane “arguments” and anti-intellectual attitude.

    Like

  161. Yes, you believe all those things. However, these beliefs are all you have, and when asked to defend them rationally, there is nothing but deafening silence, an appeal to consequences or quotations from your special book. Yet people like you go around making claims to be in possession of a superior morality and looking down on non-theistic moral systems or even denying that any such systems could exist at all. The arrogance and ignorance in this is sickening.

    That’s fine Iapetus, I pointed you to the historic claims and teachings of Christ. Do what you will with them, but your rejection tells me nothing about those claims and teachings. And I see no reason not to take those claims and teachings at face value. And yes there are real consequenses for our views and real ontological differences – one being the inherent worth of that young girl and the ultimate justice for those murderers. If you are correct, again, Mother Teresa and Hitler share the same fate – dust… Nothing we do, in the end, matters. Humans really are just bags of chemicals that “wink” in and out of existence…

    Look in the mirror, buddy. Ask these questions to yourself. I hate to break it to you, but your “moral opinion” means diddly squat to a non-Christian. To such a person your “objective morality” looks just as made up as you consider other moral theories to be. He/she feels no authority whatsoever regarding your god and your morality. And why should he/she? After all, according to your own statement, it may be a mistake and/or a lie.

    Again, that’s fine. That doesn’t change the fact that a just God will judge the world – the living and the dead. All men, including you, will stand at the bar. Then my trust in the Creator and His Son, The Lord Christ Jesus, will be vindicated. Iapetus, you really should take Christ’s admonition to heart: What does it profit a man if he gain the whole world yet lose his very soul…

    And again, yes you can pose any number of moral theories. And they may even be useful, for those who choose to follow them. But there is nothing inherently binding about them. On the other hand, we are morally obligated to keep God’s moral law. If we don’t, God, who is supremely powerful, will eventually remove these recalcitrants from civil society. And Kant knew this, that ultimate, perfect justice must exist or it’s all pretty much meaningless in the end…

    Time and again throughout history up to this very day barbaric excesses of the worst kind were justified by revelation-based, objectivist theistic moralities like yours, precisely because people believed to be in possession of “truths communicated to man by their creator”.

    How about the millions and millions killed by the moral relativists, and atheists, of the last century? I will put those atrocities against Christian atrocities, in sheer numbers, any day of the week. I guess that’s what happens when you don’t believe that men have inherent worth…

    Like

  162. So to close, my sincere advice to you is to overcome your fear, to leave your little bubble and to try and engage the intellectual world outside of it. You do not even have to give up your faith here. I have talked to many thoughtful and intelligent Christians, and while we have disagreed on certain issues, we have respected each other´s stance. Frankly, they would be embarrassed to see your inane “arguments” and anti-intellectual attitude.

    FYI Iapetus, I took and passed my first and last college course in Philosophy in the fall of 73. Since we spoke last I finished a book about the history Philosophy – going from Thales to Derrida. good chuncks of Hume and Russell. In the last year I have read three books by Plantinga and two by Swinburne, and good chuncks of Hume and Russell. And I have two more, more secular works, coming in the mail. And since we last talked I read more Kant (and to be honest, I find him difficult). And since you mentioned contractualism I looked it up and read a bit about it. I have read Locke, and on first blush this sounds a lot like Locke’s social contract. But I’m not sure yet…

    My point? I’m not uninterested in these things. And from my first course in Philosophy I learned a couple of things – basically no one agrees with anyone else. I mean about the most basic things. This has been confirmed over the years. And moral theories come and go. Some good some not so good. And that in the end, they are merely opinions of men. Because, when it comes down to it – if there is no God, there is no ultimate legal authority in the universe. No objective rule to mitigate between opposing moral theories, no ultimate justice. It’s all a crap shoot… And Iapetus, we really are – just dust in the wind… Along with all the moral theories we invent – good and bad… I’m a 56 year old man, and I know this for sure – you have nothing to offer…

    Like

  163. James said…“I pointed you to the historic claims and teachings of Christ. Do what you will with them, but your rejection tells me nothing about those claims and teachings. And I see no reason not to take those claims and teachings at face value.”

    Let’s change the labels, rinse and repeat…

    “I pointed you to the historic claims and teachings of The Flying Spaghetti Monster/Zeus/Sky Woman/Bosatsu. Do what you will with them, but your rejection tells me nothing about those claims and teachings. And I see no reason not to take those claims and teachings at face value.”

    James forges on with…“If you are correct, again, Mother Teresa and Hitler share the same fate – dust… Nothing we do, in the end, matters. Humans really are just bags of chemicals that “wink” in and out of existence…”

    No. 354: ARGUMENT FROM DESTINY
    (1) Without God, there is no ultimate destiny and my destiny is dust.
    (2) I can’t accept that because I want more.
    (3) Therefore, God exists.

    James continues… “That doesn’t change the fact that a just God will judge the world – the living and the dead. All men, including you, will stand at the bar. Then my trust in the Creator and His Son, The Lord Christ Jesus, will be vindicated.”

    No.46: CALVINIST ARGUMENT, a.k.a. TERTULLIAN’S ARGUMENT
    (1) If God exists, then he will let me watch you be tortured forever.
    (2) I rather like that idea.
    (3) Therefore, God exists.

    James continues further…“And again, yes you can pose any number of moral theories. And they may even be useful, for those who choose to follow them. But there is nothing inherently binding about them.”

    No.352: ARGUMENT FROM RIGHT AND WRONG (I)
    (1) Without God, there is no ultimate right and wrong.
    (2) I want there to be ultimate right and wrong, so I don’t have to decide.
    (3) Therefore, God exists.

    James said…“On the other hand, we are morally obligated to keep God’s moral law. If we don’t, God, who is supremely powerful, will eventually remove these recalcitrants from civil society.”

    Lets’ change the labels, rinse and repeat…

    “On the other hand, we are morally obligated to keep The Flying Spaghetti Monster’s moral law. If we don’t, the FSM, who is supremely powerful, will eventually remove these recalcitrants from civil society.”

    James said…“How about the millions and millions killed by the moral relativists, and atheists, of the last century? I will put those atrocities against Christian atrocities, in sheer numbers, any day of the week. I guess that’s what happens when you don’t believe that men have inherent worth…”

    No.144: ARGUMENT FROM MASS MURDER
    (1) Stalin was an atheist.
    (2) He murdered millions of people.
    (3) Therefore, God exists.

    James tells us about his education with…“And from my first course in Philosophy I learned a couple of things – basically no one agrees with anyone else. I mean about the most basic things. This has been confirmed over the years.”

    No.187: METACROCK’S ARGUMENT FOR GOD (I)
    (1) I Have a philosophy degree.
    (2) Your knowledge in philosophy is paltry in comparison to mine.
    (3) Therefore you are unable to comprehend my intense philosophical proofs of God’s existence.
    (4) Therefore, God exists.

    James tells us about his age with…“I’m a 56 year old man, and I know this for sure – you have nothing to offer…”

    No.417: ARGUMENT FROM EXPERIENCE
    (1) You’re too young.
    (2) You haven’t yet experienced life’s absurdity.
    (3) You’ll grow up.
    (4) Therefore, God exists.

    James, thank you.
    Thank you for being our local version of “Brother Micah”.

    http://kr.youtube.com/watch?v=EdPaouPz2yY

    This is a wonderful moment for me.
    I also would like to take this opportunity to thank all of the contributors at godlessgeeks.com and the orginal posters at Intenet Infidels who made this all possible.

    …………………………………………………

    I have never made but one prayer to God, a very short one: “O Lord make my enemies ridiculous.” And God granted it.

    Voltaire

    Like

  164. 1.I want to sleep with as many co-eds as possible – therefore God does not exist.

    2.I want to feel superior to Christians – therefore God does not exist.

    3.I want to smoke refer when I please – therefore God does not exist.

    4.I don’t want to be accountable to a Holy God – I don’t want the universe to be like that – therefore God does not exist.

    5.I want to be the arbitrator of truth, and I don’t “believe” in God – therefore God does not exist.

    6.God never has personally spoken to me – therefore God certainly does not exist.

    7.My limited experience defines all of reality, and I haven’t experienced God – therefore God does not exist.

    8.I “believe” I know what I’m talking about, and I say that God does not exist – therefore God does not exist.

    9.I “believe” that I’m rational, and I rationally conclude that God does not exist – therefore God does not exist.

    10.I want to invent and follow my own ethical system – therefore God does not exist…

    Like

  165. No. 354: ARGUMENT FROM DESTINY
    (1) Without God, there is no ultimate destiny and my destiny is dust.
    (2) I can’t accept that because I want more.
    (3) Therefore, God exists.

    I’m glad you agree that that young girl, like you, are just bags of chemicals that “wink” in and out of existence. No ultimate meaning for her life or yours. Her murder was as meaningless as her life. The only logical question left is why you atheists got so upset over this death? Over this completely natural act? That my friend is a rational disconnect.

    Like

  166. (too easy)
    :)

    Lets’ change the labels, rinse and repeat…

    1.I want to sleep with as many co-eds as possible – therefore Ishtar does not exist.

    2.I want to feel superior to Phoenicians – therefore Astarte does not exist.

    3.I want to smoke refer when I please – therefore Isis does not exist.

    4.I don’t want to be accountable to a Holy God – I don’t want the universe to be like that – therefore Tamuz does not exist.

    5.I want to be the arbitrator of truth, and I don’t “believe” in Baal – therefore Baal does not exist.

    6. Adremelech never has personally spoken to me – therefore Adremelech certainly does not exist.

    7. My limited experience defines all of reality, and I haven’t experienced Anat – therefore Anat does not exist.

    8. I “believe” I know what I’m talking about, and I say that Molech does not exist – therefore Molech does not exist.

    9. I “believe” that I’m rational, and I rationally conclude that Artemis does not exist – therefore Artemis does not exist.

    10. I want to invent and follow my own ethical system – Huitzilopochtli therefore does not exist…

    ……………………………………………………

    (For the people at home.)
    Why not insert your own favourite brand-name god?
    Theres’s thousands to choose from.

    MEGA LIST OF GODS! Find yours

    http://kr.youtube.com/watch?v=b6nHDHMjVGg

    Like

  167. No. 354: ARGUMENT FROM DESTINY
    (1) Without God, there is no ultimate destiny and my destiny is dust.
    (2) I can’t accept that because I want more.
    (3) Therefore, God exists.

    I’m glad you agree that that young girl, like you, are just bags of chemicals that “wink” in and out of existence. No ultimate meaning for her life or yours. Her murder was as meaningless as her life. The only logical question left is why you atheists got so upset over this death? Over this completely natural act? That my friend is a rational disconnect.

    Like

  168. James raves…“I’m glad you agree that that young girl, like you, are just bags of chemicals that “wink” in and out of existence. No ultimate meaning for her life or yours. Her murder was as meaningless as her life.”

    No.546: ARGUMENT FROM POSITIVE DIVINE JUSTICE, a.k.a. ARGUMENT FROM NECESSARY FAIRNESS
    (1) If there is no God, then the death of a little girl would be unfair.
    (2) It’s also just not fair that so many millions of people suffer every day of their lives.
    (3) There’s got to be more to life than the veil of tears we experience.
    (4) Our sense of justice demands that these wrongs be righted.
    (5) Only God could do that.
    (6) Therefore, God exists.

    James continues with…”The only logical question left is why you atheists got so upset over this death? Over this completely natural act? That my friend is a rational disconnect.”

    Ah, what a terrible rational disconnect.
    Whatever shall we do?
    James, help me. Get me out of this quandary with your divinely inspired wisdom.

    Generously, James has already given the answer previously here.

    (Insert drumroll here)

    James declared…”The reason Ken, Alison and others had such a viseral reaction to this act (Ken even called it absolutely wrong) is because they are made in God’s image and in their heart of hearts they knew this act was unjust: objectively, universally, absolutely, unjust. Not merely because it violated their personal preference – we don’t get that upset when another man prefers steak while we prefer lobster…”

    No. 199: ARGUMENT FROM INSTRUMENTATION
    (1) You are an atheist.
    (2) You did something kind.
    (3) You are an instrument of God.
    (4) Therefore, God exists.

    http://www.godlessgeeks.com/LINKS/GodProof.htm

    Like

  169. James continues with…”The only logical question left is why you atheists got so upset over this death? Over this completely natural act? That my friend is a rational disconnect.”

    Well then Cedric, answer the question. Give us a logical, not emotional, reason why this particular act of nature upset you. Why this particluar act, would upset you more, let’s say, than a lizard eating a fly?

    Like

  170. James said…”Give us a logical, not emotional, reason why this particular act of nature upset you.”

    Cause the Flying Spaghetti Monster made me?

    Like

  171. Cause the Flying Spaghetti Monster made me?

    No, the logical reason why a materialist would get upset by a simple act of nature. Would you get just as upset when a lizard eats a fly? Yes? No? Why?

    Like

  172. “No, the logical reason why a materialist…”

    Wait a second…
    Are you saying that it’s illogical to claim that The Flying Spaghetti Monster made me in His own image and so in my heart of hearts I know that stoning somebody to death is wrong?

    Like

  173. No answer eh? I guess you are waiting for uncle Iapetus to come home from work…

    Like

  174. But I did answer.
    I copied you exactly.

    All I did was just change the names.

    Where did I go wrong?

    Like

  175. That is no answer Cedric, again: What is the logical reason why a materialist would get upset by a simple act of nature. Would you get just as upset when a lizard eats a fly? Yes? No? Why?

    Like

  176. “Would you get just as upset when a lizard eats a fly? Yes? No? Why?”

    I suppose it’s because I am a product of my society.
    My parenting, environment, social conditioning, philosophy etc?

    In nature, animals regularly form social groups and follow rules and bonds. They compete but they also co-operate.
    Why do they groom and care for each other?
    Why are there homosexual animals?
    Territorial disputes, duels, showy mating rituals, responses to certain colours and gestures, life-long pair bonding etc.
    Why do they establish leaders and a pecking order?

    Perhaps human behaviour, both good and bad, can traced back to our biological ancestors?

    However, let’s suppose I’m way off base.
    Totally wrong. Totally.
    Ok, I give up.

    (shrug)

    We are still left with the problem of why I disappove of the stoning of thirteen year old girls.
    (Not to mention vast numbers of people who are not even part of my society that also strongly disapprove.)

    Well, what about the Flying Spaghetti Monster?
    Maybe, just maybe, I am made in the FSM’s image and in my heart of hearts I know this act is unjust: objectively, universally, absolutely, unjust.

    That at least give me a clear-cut answer.
    Sounds reasonable enough.
    It’s logical, yeah?

    Like

  177. I suppose it’s because I am a product of my society.
    My parenting, environment, social conditioning, philosophy etc?

    In nature, animals regularly form social groups and follow rules and bonds. They compete but they also co-operate.
    Why do they groom and care for each other?
    Why are there homosexual animals?
    Territorial disputes, duels, showy mating rituals, responses to certain colours and gestures, life-long pair bonding etc.
    Why do they establish leaders and a pecking order?

    Perhaps human behaviour, both good and bad, can traced back to our biological ancestors?

    However, let’s suppose I’m way off base.
    Totally wrong. Totally.
    Ok, I give up.

    (shrug)

    We are still left with the problem of why I disappove of the stoning of thirteen year old girls.
    (Not to mention vast numbers of people who are not even part of my society that also strongly disapprove.)

    Well if materialism is true then yes our moral sense is merely socially conditioned. But so was theirs – who is to say our moral opinion is anymore correct or valid than theirs. And I can understand the emotional response, but not the rational response. After all Cedric, it’s all a part of nature…

    Well, what about the Flying Spaghetti Monster?
    Maybe, just maybe, I am made in the FSM’s image and in my heart of hearts I know this act is unjust: objectively, universally, absolutely, unjust.

    Perhaps our moral outrage does point to an objective moral rule, an objective moral Lawgiver. Ken did say that the stoning was “absolutely” wrong – moral absolutes can’t exist apart from God. And you know the FSM is sounding more and more like the Christian God – perhaps God showed up using a different name?

    Like

  178. “Perhaps our moral outrage does point to an objective moral rule, an objective moral Lawgiver.”

    Perhaps their moral outrage (the stoners) points to an objective moral rule, an objective moral Lawgiver?
    A lawgiver that approves of adulterers/homosexuals/transvestites/insolent children being stoned.
    Especially at city gates in front of the Elders.
    Perhaps.

    Perhaps the reason why you and I reject such a possibility is because ,clearly, it is WE who are in denial.
    We reject the REAL one true god because we want to wallow in our filthly and abominable decadent Western lifestyle.
    Perhaps.

    James said…”Moral absolutes can’t exist apart from God.”

    (Oh joy)

    Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more…

    No.62: ARGUMENT FROM ABSOLUTE MORAL STANDARDS
    (1) If there are absolute moral standards, then God exists.
    (2) Atheists say that there are no absolute moral standards.
    (3) But that’s because they don’t want to admit to being sinners.
    (4) Therefore, there are absolute moral standards.
    (5) Therefore, God exists.

    http://www.godlessgeeks.com/LINKS/GodProof.htm

    “And you know the FSM is sounding more and more like the Christian God – perhaps God showed up using a different name?”

    The Flying Spaghetti Monster moves in mysterious ways.
    (shrug)

    Like

  179. Ok Cedric, whatever you say…peace…

    Like

  180. Peace?
    That would be nice.

    Yet it’s probably too much to hope for.
    You’re not going to change anytime soon.

    Go ahead and continue trolling.
    We cannot stop you.
    You know it. I know it.

    We’ve tried to reason with you.
    You trolled.
    We’ve explained what a troll was.
    You trolled.
    We tried being polite to you.
    You still trolled.
    In the end we just gave up, becoming hostile and alienated by you.
    So, of course, that justified your troll-style “victory”.

    Only you have the power to stop yourself.
    The rest of us just have to put up with it.

    Again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again….
    :(

    Peace? That’ll be the day.

    Like

  181. Of course Cedric, you have your opinion of me, not one that I share or one that I consider rational. And yes I will keep posting here. But this is Ken’s site, and I am his guest – if he asked me to leave I would. Until then…

    Like

  182. @ James – November 13, 2008 at 8:29 am

    “if he asked me to leave I would.”

    Don’t tempt me. James.

    I’m all in favour of keeping things open – especially as stupid creationist comments can provide an opportunity for replies which provide real information and reasoning. Excluding people doesn’t help that.

    However, I notice a lot of these discussions are deteriorating into pissing competitions, putting words into others’ mouths, childishly wanting the “last word” etc. At that stage the discussion becomes useless.

    I might experiment with the idea of closing off a discussion on a specific post when it reaches that pointless state (if and when I work out how to do it on wordpress). Of course discussion can then move on to a different or new post but hopefully it can be “rebooted” and start dealing with real facts again.

    Like

  183. Ken I’m not trying to tempt you. But I am your guest and would leave if you asked… Until then, I don’t see me changing my style much – after all the evolutionary process determined me to act this way – so it really isn’t my fault… ; )

    Like

  184. @ James – November 13, 2008 at 9:47 am

    Of course there is a big fallacy in attributing everything to evolution. Our species did evolve and one of the products of this evolution is intelligence. This means we are no longer bound by thoughtless reaction to our environment. We don’t have to get into a silly fight. We don’t have to mindlessly follow our natural or emotional urges. We can stop and think about it – apply reason and consider the consequences.

    People who blame “evolution” for their silly actions are not being honest.

    It might appear “natural” to want the final word, to put down a discussion opponent or to dogmatically and pointlessly reiterate a religious prejudice. But if we apply a bit of intelligence we can see the futility of such actions. They might provide a bit of hormonal, chemical (emotional) satisfaction but they don’t really improve understanding – or even bring respectability to one’s dogma.

    It’s amazing what a bit of sophistication can do in these sort of discussions.

    Like

  185. Of course there is a big fallacy in attributing everything to evolution. Our species did evolve and one of the products of this evolution is intelligence. This means we are no longer bound by thoughtless reaction to our environment. We don’t have to get into a silly fight. We don’t have to mindlessly follow our natural or emotional urges. We can stop and think about it – apply reason and consider the consequences.

    Well Ken, as a theist who believes in a degree of libertarian free will and that immaterial thoughts can influence the thinking process I believe we can apply reason. Of course both would be impossible, or at least highly unlikely, if materialism was true…

    People who blame “evolution” for their silly actions are not being honest.

    But it was Dawkins who blames evolution, no free will here, again:

    As scientists, we believe that human brains, though they may not work in the same way as man-made computers, are as surely governed by the laws of physics…..

    …doesn’t a truly scientific, mechanistic view of the nervous system make nonsense of the very idea of responsibility, whether diminished or not? Any crime, however heinous, is in principle to be blamed on antecedent conditions acting through the accused’s physiology, heredity and environment.

    Please read it in context:

    http://www.edge.org/q2006/q06_9.html

    Like

  186. Pingback: » Humanist Symposium #28 Disillusioned Words: atheism, art and politics

  187. Pingback: Pinker on morality « Open Parachute

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