Moral strawmannery

If you have ever searched the internet for a section of text from Darwin’s writings you will have noticed that most of the links that come up are to creationist websites and blogs. What we are seeing is simple dishonest quote mining. Somebody makes a claim about evolution, Darwin or Darwinism, attaches a mined quote – and the quote then has a life of its own. It gets repeated ad nauseum by the creationist echo chamber – with hardly any of the users bothering to check the quote against the original for accuracy – let alone context.

Mining quotes from Darwin

Here’s one taken from Darwin’s The Descent of Man.  It’s from Chapter IV: Comparison of the mental powers of man and the lower animals. In this Darwin discusses the evolution of a moral sense, sociability, social instincts and virtues, rules of conduct and religious beliefs. After arguing against the idea that a different social animal “if its intellectual faculties were to become as active and as highly developed as in man, would acquire exactly the same moral sense as ours” Darwin wrote:

“If, for instance, to take an extreme case, men were reared under precisely the same conditions as hive-bees, there can hardly be a doubt that our unmarried females would, like the worker-bees, think it a sacred duty to kill their brothers, and mothers would strive to kill their fertile daughters; and no one would think of interfering.” (Bold added)

Recently I have seen the quote reproduced by numerous religious apologists and creationists arguing against “secular morality.” (Almost always the section in bold is omitted – usually evidence that users are just copying and pasting from other apologist posts or articles). And they interpret this to mean that a moral and social code held by a human species that has evolved must be the same as the most basic of animals or insects.

See, for example Flannagan’s When Scientists Make Bad Ethicists and Weikhart’s Can Darwinists Condemn Hitler and Remain Consistent with Their Darwinism?  Flannagan asserts:

“it is unlikely that a loving and just person could command actions such as infanticide or rape whereas, evolution, guided only by the impersonal forces of nature, is not subject to such constraints.”

Weikart has made a reputation of ascribing the morality of Nazism to Darwin (he is the author of From Darwin to Hitler: Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics, and Racism in Germany and Hitler’s Ethic: The Nazi Pursuit of Evolutionary Progress). He says:

“if morality is the product of these mindless evolutionary processes, as Darwin and many other prominent Darwinists maintain, then “I don’t think [they] have any grounds to criticize Hitler.””

And

“To natural selection killing your siblings and offspring is all the same as loving them. Selection only favors what works to enhance survival and reproduction, and it does not matter if it is nice and moral, or harsh and brutal.”

Bait and switch

The dishonest bait and switch should be obvious to someone who is not ideologically confused.  Evolutionary science indicates that human social and moral senses have arisen from evolution of our species and our brain. This means we have been able to develop social arrangements and moral codes. Those will be strongly influenced by our evolved instincts, emotions and social interactions. The process of natural selection is “mindless’, “unguided”, etc. but that does not mean that our human moral and social arrangements are heartless, mindless, emotionless and brutal in the way that Flannagan and Weikart, and their creationist friends, claim.

And these religious apologists would have known that if they had honestly looked at the context of their quote rather than blindly (mindlessly) copying and pasting from other creationist sources.  For example, in the next chapter of The Descent of Man Darwin wrote:

“the enforcement of public opinion depends on our appreciation of the approbation and disapprobation of others; and this appreciation is founded on our sympathy which it can hardly be doubted was originally developed through natural selection as one of the most important elements of the social instincts.”

Natural selection may be mindless but the results certainly aren’t – although the quote mining by these apologists seems pretty mindless to me. As does their attribution of brutal, thoughtless and immoral interactions to a species which has evolved to possess advanced social and moral intuitions.

This crude misrepresentation of an evolutionary understanding of how human moral and social instincts arose is a blatant form of strawmannery – one actively promoted by conservative religious apologists and creationists.

Command ethics inhuman

An evolutionary explanation for the origin of our species, as well as the origin of our moral and social sentiments, does not conflict in any way with the fact that humans can, and most do, adhere to the most humane moral codes.

This makes Flannagan’s support for religious command ethics (“divine commands”) over a scientific understanding of human ethics ridiculous. The “loving and just person” he refers to in the above quote is his god. Now, he claims that god is “unlikely” to “command actions such as infanticide or rape.”  Yet he supports and defends William Lane Craig‘s theological justification for biblical genocide/ethnic cleansing (see Concern over William Lane Craig’s justification of biblical genocide). And, yes, Craig’s justification did include infanticide:

 “I would say that God has the right to give and take life as he sees fit. Children die all the time! If you believe in the salvation, as I do, of children, who die, what that meant is that the death of these children meant their salvation. People look at this [genocide] and think life ends at the grave but in fact this was the salvation of these children, who were far better dead…than being raised in this Canaanite culture. “

What right do these religious apologists and creationists have to defame the humane moral codes held by most of our species just because the facts show we, and our instincts, are a result of natural selection?

Surely it’s their “divine command” ethics which are being used to justify the most brutal inhuman, in fact anti-human, actions.

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35 responses to “Moral strawmannery

  1. What should be obvious is that religions LIE to their followers. They LIE blatantly, continuously, and repeated. It is not as if the lies have not been pointed out, they are made very very clear to the Church leadership. So, the Lying is malicious and deliberate.

    Why is it effective? Because believers refuse to give up the promised reward of an fictional afterlife. Should they admit to themselves that the entire religion is a fraud (which religions obviously are) then the believer can no longer maintain the internal self deluding fiction of an afterlife of bliss.

    The extent of this self deluding stupidity becomes clear when people are willing to swallow the whopper that 99% of people are going to an afterlife of torment, but they are amongst the 1% of lucky guessers that picked the “correct” Church to attend.

    Sadly, the self delusions leave parishioners open to every form of scam and con game going. They will even deny their children proper medical care when told to by religious scam operators.

    There are laws against FRAUD, but add a religious flavor and the entire enterprise becomes quite untouchable by the normal legal protections. This needs to change.

  2. A: I believe that unicorns exist and that special priests can cast down their staffs and create snakes and that fortune tellers can really see the future but it makes invisible people in the sky very angry and that there’s a special, flying horse with a face of a human and…

    B: That’s stupid.

    A: It’s my religion.

    B: ….and I respect it.

  3. Since both Hitler and Mussolini were at least nominal Catholics, and neither was excommunicated, presumably the Roman Catholic Church can explain this nice point of ‘morality’ or ‘ethics’. The 1930s were marked by an unholy alliance between Catholicism and Fascism across Europe, most notably in Spain. Most of us in the 21st century would say that the church, rather than Darwin, needs to justify this when the name of Hitler comes up.

  4. Off-topic, apologies, but does anyone know which NZ charities are secular? Specifically ones that work with children in poverty? After watching the recent documentary concerning child poverty in NZ, I am motivated to do something to help.

  5. Good point, Hannah. I raised a similar question in my post Charity and linked data.

    At this stage I can suggest having a search of the NZ Charities Commission database. This gives you an opportunity of checking each charity out to some extent as it provides copies of rules and financial returns.

    The data is openly available and some bright spark could write a programme to produce summaries for the sort of question you ask.

    meanwhile – it would be great if people with some experience could suggest secular charities. it would be good to post such a list somewhere.

  6. Ken, the only “straw mannery” and quote mining I see here is from you. Because once again you pretty clearly misrepresent me.
    Here is what you say

    Recently I have seen the quote reproduced by numerous religious apologists and creationists arguing against “secular morality.” (Almost always the section in bold is omitted – usually evidence that users are just copying and pasting from other apologist posts or articles). And they interpret this to mean that a moral and social code held by a human species that has evolved must be the same as the most basic of animals or insects. See, for example Flannagan’s When Scientists Make Bad Ethicists (emphasis mine)

    Here you state that I quoted Darwin and that I interpreted him as saying that a moral and social code held by a human species that has evolved must be the same as the most basic of animals or insects. But that is not what I said at all is it Ken?

    This is what I said about Darwin’s quote, which is clear to anyone who reads the link you provide and checks the source.

    Not only does this argument not refute Adams position but precisely analogous reasoning provides a serious challenge to Coyne’s own secular account of morality. After claiming that moral obligations cannot be constituted by God’s commands, Coyne offers an alternative: morality comes from “evolution”, humans evolved a capacity to instinctively feel certain actions are wrong and others are right. But couldn’t evolution have produced rational beings that felt that infanticide and theft were obligatory or that rape was, in certain circumstances, ok? As Darwin himself noted,

    “If men were reared under precisely the same conditions as hive-bees, there can hardly be a doubt that our unmarried females would, like the worker-bees, think it a sacred duty to kill their brothers, and mothers would strive to kill their fertile daughters, and no one would think of interfering.”

    Coyne faces a dilemma. If the fact that it is possible for God to have commanded that infanticide is permissible proves that morality is not based on God’s commands then the fact it is possible for evolution to have produced rational beings who feel infanticide is permissible must prove that morality is not dependent on evolution (emphasis added).

    Here I quite clearly did not claim what you said. I did not say the social code held by a human species that has evolved must be the same as the most basic of animals or insects. Instead I cited Darwin to support the claim that its possible for evolution to have produced rational beings who feel infanticide or rape and theft. I repeat this point on both sides of the quote.

    Now the quotes you provide from Darwin in fact show he did say this here is what you say

    After arguing against the idea that a different social animal “if its intellectual faculties were to become as active and as highly developed as in man, would acquire exactly the same moral sense as ours” Darwin wrote:
    “If, for instance, to take an extreme case, men were reared under precisely the same conditions as hive-bees, there can hardly be a doubt that our unmarried females would, like the worker-bees, think it a sacred duty to kill their brothers, and mothers would strive to kill their fertile daughters; and no one would think of interfering.” (Bold added)

    Here you claim Darwin, (a) denied the idea that evolution must produce animals with the same moral sense as ours and (b) claim that its possible for evolution to produce creatures who believed it was their sacred duty to kill their family members. Both of which entail that it is possible for evolution to produce creatures who have radically different moral sentiments to ours.

    My point then stands, it is possible for evolution to produce creatures whose moral sentiments support infanticide. All your post shows is how those who complain about strawmannery and quote mining are ironically sometimes the ones who do it.

  7. Matt, I think the fact you deleted the same part of the quote from Darwin that Weikart omits, and possibly more to the point that Craig omits, is an indication (but I agree not a proof) of quote mining.

    Anyway, perhaps you could acknowledge where you got the quote from and if you have bothered to read those chapters of the Descent of Man on the origins of human morality? I ask that because you don’t seem to understand the issue. 

    If you has understood what Darwin wrote you would not have used that quote out of context. That was straw mannery on your part.

    I agree that “it is possible for evolution to produce creatures whose moral sentiments support infanticide.” We see that with some other animals, and even sometimes with humans (eg religious sacrifice). And WL Craig also demonstrates such sentiments when he justifies the murder of children in his holy book.

    That is a problem with command ethics. Anything can be justified by claiming a command from your god.

    But, Matt, you were claiming that your “divine command” ethics does not justify rape and infanticide and that secular ethics can. 

    If you had bothered to actually read Darwin, instead of lifting a quote mined by Craig, you would have understood how natural selection does lead to development of higher sentiments in man, including “sympathy” (as he put it). This, together with reason, enables humans to develop a secular ethics which excludes such things as murder, rape and infanticide. Human sentiments are clearly different to those of hive-bees.

    However, Craig has demonstrated that “divine command” ethics enables him to justify such actions.

  8. Richard Christie

    Darwin’s analogy is absurd in any case.
    Raising humans in a hive environment? what, complete with a single dominant female producing thousands of offspring daily? pleese.

  9. Raising humans in a hive environment? what, complete with a single dominant female producing thousands of offspring daily? pleese.

    It’s all become clear.
    Accepting the Theory of Evolution…leads to SIGOURNEY WEAVER!
    (Well,…um…I guess could live with that.)

    ALIEN QUEEN NEW BIRTH

  10. anti_supernaturalist

    ** non-moral yardsticks and necessary intolerance

    Moralities cannot be evaluated by a moral yardstick — that leads nowhere but endless repetitions of assumed (god-given) moral superiority or frank admissions of cultural relativism, two horns of a false dilemma. Nevertheless that does not mean yardsticks for comparing moralities do not exist. Such as the measure Nietzsche called “health”.

    More basic than comparative non-moral measures evaluating moral types are those necessary patterns of behavior — required of any system to be called “moral” at all.

    • Morality is a cultural artifact.
    All moralities are irreducibly social. Yet In any culture, some rules are necessary boundary conditions. Thus murder — the deliberate killing of an in-group member, a person — cannot be generalized (tolerated); otherwise, no culture could exist.

    Cultures of murderers, liars, thieves, rapists, and cannibals do not exist — social instability precludes their formation.

    • No god dictates rules, so-called “laws” — not to nature, not to societies.
    A lesson learned in cosmology, biology, economics and anthropology, but not the Big-3 monster theisms. These employ secular power to immorally impose their authoritarian ideologies, political and sexual. To use immoral means to establish a “morality” demonstrates a failed system. (“God” is not sovereign; the people are. Thank James Madison!)

    Given immanent rules (patterns of innate and trained behavior) complex systems of interaction, order, growth, adaptability arise spontaneously — market capitalism and basic moral networks as examples. Operable in both cases a pattern of human interaction called‘exchange’ in economics and ‘reciprocity’ in moral systems.

    the anti_supernaturalist

  11. Rosmary LYNDALL WEMM

    @Matt Flanagan
    Well, Matt, you neatly supported Ken Parrot’s main contention – that you do not check your sources and, when this finds you out, you see nothing wrong with dishonestly repeating and embroidering the falsified point in an attempt to bolster your religious agenda. Your intellectual integrity obviously cannot be trusted. Shame on you!

  12. Actually Rosemary, I did not “support” Ken’s main contention, perhaps you should read a little clearer.
    Here is what Ken said

    “Recently I have seen the quote reproduced by numerous religious apologists and creationists arguing against “secular morality.” (Almost always the section in bold is omitted – usually evidence that users are just copying and pasting from other apologist posts or articles). And they interpret this to mean that a moral and social code held by a human species that has evolved must be the same as the most basic of animals or insects.
    See, for example Flannagan’s When Scientists Make Bad Ethicists andWeikhart’s Can Darwinists Condemn Hitler and Remain Consistent with Their Darwinism? Flannagan asserts:
    “it is unlikely that a loving and just person could command actions such as infanticide or rape whereas, evolution, guided only by the impersonal forces of nature, is not subject to such constraints.”

    Note what Ken says here, he says I interpret Darwin to mean that “that a moral and social code held by a human species that has evolved must be the same as the most basic of animals or insects”.
    But that is clearly not what I said, here is what I said

    “But couldn’t evolution have produced rational beings that felt that infanticide and theft were obligatory or that rape was, in certain circumstances, ok? As Darwin himself noted,
    “If men were reared under precisely the same conditions as hive-bees, there can hardly be a doubt that our unmarried females would, like the worker-bees, think it a sacred duty to kill their brothers, and mothers would strive to kill their fertile daughters, and no one would think of interfering.”
    Coyne faces a dilemma. If the fact that it is possible for God to have commanded that infanticide is permissible proves that morality is not based on God’s commands then the fact it is possible for evolution to have produced rational beings who feel infanticide is permissible must prove that morality is not dependent on evolution (emphasis added).”

    Here I do not say that that “a moral and social code held by a human species that has evolved must be the same as the most basic of animals or insects” I simply say its possible for evolution to have produced rational beings who feel infanticide is permissible.
    The claim this is possible, is not a misinterpretation.
    Saying its possible for evolution to produce X, is not the same as saying evolution must actually produce X. As for the phrase “in an extreme” case, that actually makes no difference, because if something can happen in an extreme case then that shows its possible. If it were not possible it could not happen at all, in any case.
    I don’t know why some people can’t tell the difference but its actually quite simple.

    So shame on you for repeating Ken’s misrepresentation when the evidence I provide above shows quite clearly its not true.

  13. Ken

    I agree that “it is possible for evolution to produce creatures whose moral sentiments support infanticide.”
    Great so what I said was true then. Glad to have you admit it.

    If you had bothered to actually read Darwin, instead of lifting a quote mined by Craig, you would have understood how natural selection does lead to development of higher sentiments in man, including “sympathy” (as he put it). This, together with reason, enables humans to develop a secular ethics which excludes such things as murder, rape and infanticide. Human sentiments are clearly different to those of hive-bees.

    This response would be relevant if I ( or Craig for that matter) had claimed that natural selection has not lead to development of higher sentiments in man, including “sympathy” (as he put it). This, together with reason, enables humans to develop a secular ethics which excludes such things as murder, rape etc. But I didn’t I said only that it possible for evolution to produce creatures whose moral sentiments support infanticide.
    I pointed this out above when I put the quote you offered from me in context

    I am sure repeating a claim after I have shown its false might somehow count in pontifications about ethics by soil scientists who don’t have a clue what they are on about. But in philosophy you have to accurately present your others opinion and offer actual arguments against it.

  14. Matt, perhaps it’s because this is an old post but I really can’t see what you are rambling on about and wtf it has to do with soils!

    I don’t know what your position is but it seems well accepted scientifically that we and similar species have evolved to have “wired in” instincts that can have both positive and negative consequences morally. The point is that like the movement of the planets and biological evolution this is understood from consideration of facts and observation – no gods are required.

    In fact, introduction of gods can lead to justification of the most awful moral relativism as Craig’s support for genocide, ethnic cleansing and infanticide demonstrates.

    Secular ethics has no problems coming to grips with the contradictory instincts humans have and developing a moral code which is both rational and humanitarian. Which excludes genocide and ethnic cleansing. Nothing to do with soils – although personally I feel we should have an ethical position regarding soils. We should stop treating them like dirt.

  15. Ken,

    Seeing your pretending not to understand I’ll recap for your readers:
    Above you said I quoted Darwin and that I interpret this to mean that a moral and social code held by a human species that has evolved must be the same as the most basic of animals or insects this was the basis of your claim that I was dishonestly misrepresenting Darwin.

    I pointed out that, when you read what I actually said, I did not claim that a moral and social code held by a human species that has evolved must be the same as the most basic of animals or insects. I rather made the different claim that its possible for evolution to produce rational creatures
    So your argument is pretty clearly a misrepresentation.

    When this is documented you pretend to not understand and dismiss it as rambling, that’s convenient but not honest. Time to fess up and stop the dishonesty.

  16. Matt, I realize the “you said I said” game is central to the theological argument as a diversion from reality. I won’t play that game.

    But I think the main point I made is that you had quote mined the Darwin quote and had not actually read what Darwin had written about human morality. The quote mining charge was based on the fact that a phrase was missing from the quote and this was the same as the quote pedalled by Craig, etc. It’s made the creationist rounds in the theological echo chamber many times over.

    But perhaps you could clear this up. Have you read this particular book or the chapters where Darwin discusses the origins of human morality?

  17. Ken, I see change the subject to express something hostile to theology, how predictable.

    In fact it was you who wrote a post on the “they said Darwin said” topic wasn’t it

    Again above you claimed I misrepresented Darwin by claiming he taught that a moral and social code held by a human species that has evolved must be the same as the most basic of animals or insects. You did this by quote mining me out of context. I demonstrate this above.

    Are you going to retract this claim or continue to try and the change the subject.

  18. Matthew, your self-delusion quotient is exceptional! Talking to you is like talking to someone with cerebral blindness who insists (as people with Anton-Babinski syndrome do) that they can really see and everyone else is just manipulating the environment so that it seems to be otherwise.

    The original claim – that you repeated a quote mined passage from Darwin instead of reading and quoting from the original – has been robustly confirmed on these pages. Nothing that you have said here has undermined that conclusion. All you have done is throw a lot of stinking red herrings around.

    The fact remains that to everyone who actually has read the original source it is starkly clear that you have sacrificed intellectual integrity for the sake of promoting a preconceived conclusion. Trying to fit facts to conclusions instead of conclusions to facts is a well documented habit of apologists for all kinds of religions, ideologies and political agendas. There is nothing specifically “anti-theist” about pointing out that you have provided yet another example to bolster the stereotype that Creationists are particularly adept at this type of dishonesty.

    I don’t expect that you have the ability to acknowledge this, any more than I would expect that the cortically blind will ever admit the reason they bump into furniture and walls is that they really cannot see. Sadly, it’s obvious to the un-indoctrinated observer.

  19. Rosemary
    Sorry but that does not really wash.
    To show that someone lied you need to provide “evidence” that means you need to show they said something and what they said was false.

    Your welcome to compare what Ken claimed I attributed to Darwin with what I did attribute to him. I have provided the evidence above that I did not, you have not responded to this.

    Your also welcome to provide textual evidence that Darwin did not claim that its “possible” for evolution to produce rational creatures that support infanticide” seeing that was the only thing I attributed to Darwin the claim that I am distorting Darwin comes to esthablishing this. Again you say nothing to claim otherwise neither does Ken.

    Instead of addressing the issue, you start to talk about how you are unbiased and attribute all sorts of delusional states to me. And make all sorts of character attacks on “apologists” and “creationists”. (The latter is particularly odd, seeing I am not a creationist, and the argument I mention is one that comes from mainstream secular ethics). Unfortunately flattering yourself and appealing to genetic fallacies does not prove anything. Except that some people like to change the subject and engage in really fallacious reasoning.

    If you or Ken can show that (a) I said anything other than that Darwin claimed its possible for evolution to produce rational creatures that support infanticide and (b) Darwin did not say this. Then your claims can be defended. If you can’t esthablish (a) and (b) then admit you were wrong

  20. Matt – Its not about you. People just get switched off by the “you said I said” merry-go-round. Stop trying to justify yourself and engage with the real issues.

    No one denies that as an evolved species humans are capable of infanticide. However, no one in their right mind justifies it by appealing to evolution or science. They do this because of their tribe’s deprived condition or because of their mental problems.

    Then of course there are those who justify infanticide and worse as a result of divine command. That is the position Craig takes. Quoting irrelevantly (and in an amended way) from Darwin is just a diversion. You are clearly ashamed of Craig’s position and wish to divert attention.

    If we want to deal with Darwin’s early contributions to the scientific understanding of morality then don’t use that quote (which you lifted from the creationist/theological echo chamber.). Actually read his book or at least the relevant chapters.

    Better still, read some of the modern scientific writings on morality. They are fascinating.

  21. Ken
    Irrational dishonesty at it again,

    Matt – Craig is unethical. that is clear as he supports, or at least justifies, genocide/ethnic cleansing and infanticide. So I am just stating a fact – nothing ad hominen about that.

    Actually as you know Craig does not “support” ethnic cleansing. He thinks that in rare unuausal circumstances infanticide is permissible and he expresses scepticism that these situations ever actually happen in reality. But that is a distraction anyway, because even if Craig did support all these things, the argument still commits the ad hominen fallacy. Because it attacks the character of the arguer rather than providing reasons for rejecting the argument.
    It’s a basic logical point that you don’t discredit a person’s argument by attacking the character of the arguer, an arguments soundness stands on whether its premises are true and the form logically valid, not on the virtues or vices of the person uttering it.

    Yes, my conclusion about your quote mining is “an argument from silence” – as you say. But despite several requests you refuse to answer. Your silence on this is deafening. I think I am warranted in drawing a provisional conclusion there – and questioning your ethics as a result. If I am wrong (and of course that possibility will always exist, then the easiest way to demonstrate that is to answer the question and say you have read the book. The fact that you continue to refuse that surely just amounts to digging your hole even deeper.

    Actually you are not justified in drawing an affirmative conclusion from silence, even a provisional one. From silence one is justified inferring neither a negative or an affirmative.
    But again you are being dishonest here: you now claim the issue was wether I “ have you read the book of Darwin from which the quote was taken, or even the chapters of the origins of human morality?” But that was not the accusation you made, was it Ken, what you said was.

    Recently I have seen the quote reproduced by numerous religious apologists and creationists arguing against “secular morality.” (Almost always the section in bold is omitted – usually evidence that users are just copying and pasting from other apologist posts or articles). And they interpret this to mean that a moral and social code held by a human species that has evolved must be the same as the most basic of animals or insects.

    The accusation here was, not that I had not read Darwin, it was that I had claimed he said that a moral and social code held by a human species that has evolved must be the same as the most basic of animals or insects. Now I did not say that and I have provided evidence I did not.
    So Ken, are you going to retract the claim you actually made? Changing the subject to ask me other questions in the hope you can find something else to pin on me, does not address this. Similarly demanding I answer these new questions and yet refusing to answer the original does not address it either. Will you retract the false claim you made about me ( and also Craig btw) from your site, or are you going to continue to make claims about theists which you know to be false. The ball in your court. I am not going to play your game of changing the subject to different questions everytime your BS is exposed.

    blockquoteNow Matt – you claim of me that I am “claiming that nothing is something and that contradictions can be true because a scientist decides to say so”. That is silly. I am referring to a book written by a specialist in this area. His contribution to modern cosmology is immense.
    The fact a contradiction is uttered by a leading cosmologist does not make contradictions true. It’s interesting that scientists will accept on authority claims from people that violate logic. What was that about not taking things on faith in authority if it goes against reason
    But he is not the only person to refer to the observed fact that a volume from which everything is removed and therefore is considered “nothing” nevertheless teems with activity. This is hardly “a scientist says so.” Its not theology. Science is derived from observation.
    Actually this is a fallacious inference, if you discover that something which you consider to be nothing, is teeming with activity, then the conclusion to draw is that its not nothing, you obviously did not “draw everything” out of it, or something else you don’t know about has influenced it in some way. Noting is not an existent thing with properties or actions. Ignoring an obvious contradiction by taking ignorant swipes at theology does not show contradictions can be true. It’s a matter of logic not theology or cosmology.

    “. Try and I see no contradiction between describing a volume as “nothing” and acknowledging that it does in fact contain something because at the quantum level nothing and something are not opposites”

    Nothing and something are logical opposites. Nothing is the absence of anything at all. Something is the presence of at least one thing. To claim nothing is something is a contradiction, the fact some scientists believe illogical thinks is rarely nothing in favour of them.

    . That necessity to adjust one’s philosophical understanding as new experience is obtained is hardly new. Consider conservation principles and how they have changed over time.

    Your confusing laws of nature which are based on inductive reasoning with basic principles of logic which are not. Scientific theories have to follow the rules of logic and rational thought.

    I think your naive interpretation of contradiction illustrates the danger of philosophy dictating to science. After all science deals with reality and if something like this is observed philosophy must adjust its interpretation – usually in the direction of better abstraction.

    Sorry you don’t get to dismiss logic by claiming the law of non contradiction is naïve. Interesting how you think that you can justify bad arguments with attacks on peoples pscology, all that shows again is that you are logically illiterate.

  22. Matt – Its not about you. People just get switched off by the “you said I said” merry-go-round. Stop trying to justify yourself and engage with the real issues.

    Ken, what I you said I said is the issue, this post is called Moral Strawmannery. Its topic is how people like myself allegedly say Darwin said this when Darwin did not and hence commit the straw man fallacy. You were quite happy to discuss what I said when you wrote the post, funny how when I point out your lying its no longer the topic.

    No one denies that as an evolved species humans are capable of infanticide. However, no one in their right mind justifies it by appealing to evolution or science. They do this because of their tribe’s deprived condition or because of their mental problems.

    Well if no one denies that evolution can produce rational creatures which support infanticide, then what I said was true. Good we are agreed, so are you going to retract your claims that I was distorting Darwin then?

    This after all was all I said about Darwin no more no less, clearly I was correct so your going to admit this right?

    Then of course there are those who justify infanticide and worse as a result of divine command. That is the position Craig takes. Quoting irrelevantly (and in an amended way) from Darwin is just a diversion. You are clearly ashamed of Craig’s position and wish to divert attention.

    Of course not, How predictable, you try and change the subject to a character attack on Bill Craig.
    The topic of the thread above was not Craig’s view ( which you distort) nor was it about contemporary defenders of infanticide ( who are usually secular ethicists and frequently in fact do cite evolution as a supporting ground) the topic was “Moral Strawmanner” and your outrage that I allegedly wrote something.

    We have esthablished I did not say what you said and we have esthablished that what I did say was correct in what I did say.
    So to recap: basically your response to me showing that it was actually

    you who engaged in straw mannery and you who cherry picked from me to caricature my views. Is to pretend the subject is a different one and engage in further character assanation.
    Stop pretending Ken, you are a liar, and dishonest, a person whose your hatred of theists you distort there views and engage in dishonest evasive tactics and character attacks when people actually informed about the issues point it out.

  23. As I keep telling you Matt – I am not going to play your “he said, you said merry-go-round” game – or respond to ad hominen attacks.

    You need to deal with the real issues – and please, one thread at a time – or at least no duplication across threads.

    Your faulty tags have confused things here too.

  24. The claim was that you repeated a quote from one of Darwin’s works that had been doctored and censored, instead of quoting the original in full. The implication is that you did not bother to read the original and are therefore misleading your readers, as well as yourself, about what Darwin’s message actually was. Nothing you have said proves that you did not do this.

    In any case, Darwin’s theory of evolution has been superceded in response to a lot of additional evidence. Spending time attacking the original theory just shows you up as an scientifically outdated and ill-informed. I wouldn’t be proud of that, if I were you.

  25. Rlwemm

    Rlwen, your comments show write

    ‘the claim was that you repeated a quote from one of Darwin’s works that had been doctored and censored, instead of quoting the original in full. The implication is that you did not bother to read the original and are therefore misleading your readers, as well as yourself, about what Darwin’s message actually was. Nothing you have said proves that you did not do this.’

    Yes I know that the Ken accused me of misrepresenting Darwin. However I posted what I actually said in the original article Ken quoted above. And when you read it it is clear I did not misrepresent Darwin’s message. I provided the quote above, so please stop repeating a claim which I have documented is false.
    If you read what I actually wrote you’ll see I did not “censor Darwin” I quoted a portion of his work where he claimed it was possible for evolution to produce rational creatures that support infanticide. I said no more about Darwin nor did I say less. There is nothing inaccurate her, Ken has repeatedly granted that Darwin did say this and the claim is correct.

    Perhaps seeing you want to publically accuse me of dishonesty you an show either (a) that I said something other than that Darwin believed it was possible for evolution to produce rational creatures that’s support infanticide. Or (b) show that Darwin did not claim that it was possible for evolution to produce rational creatures who support infanticide.
    It’s easy to make assertions about others a lot hard to substantiate it. I note that neither you or Ken have yet to actually do the latter.

    In any case, Darwin’s theory of evolution has been superceded in response to a lot of additional evidence. Spending time attacking the original theory just shows you up as an scientifically outdated and ill-informed. I wouldn’t be proud of that, if I were you

    Well actually this comment shows you are illinformed, because if you read the article Ken quoted from I was not attacking the theory of evolution at all, nor was I attacking Darwin’s original theory. In fact I all I did was quote one comment from Darwin that I agreed with, and Ken has said is true.

    I said nothing else about Darwin or evolution as a scientific theory in the article at all. Zip. The article was not about the merits of evolutionary theory, I was asking rather wether the standard Euthyphro argument used against divine command meta-ethics applied to a particular form of evolutionary ethics.

    It seems quite clear that you have not actually read the article. Of course the fact your claiming I should read Darwin before I quote a sentence from him looks a tad ironic in this context.

    In fact the article was not even about evolution or science it was about meta-ethics. As to me being misinformed, I have a PhD in ethics from the University of Otago, have taught ethics at Waikato and Otago, and have several peer reviewed publications in ethics and several more forthcoming on the very topic I was discussing. I am willing to have my writings on ethics and Ken’s tested in the mainstream peer reviewed literature on ethics any day of the week.

    I did not write on science at all. Ken took a comment I made out of context put it up here and claimed I had said things I had not. The fact you think I was attacking evolutionary theory or commenting on its merits as a scientific theory shows quite persuasively that you have not actually read the article you are talking about.

    Attacking someone, and publically denigrating there character when you have not even read what they wrote is not something I would be proud of. Nor would I publically claim to be an unbiased observer if I had done this.
    Please answer my questions

    (a) Where in the article I said anything other than the claim that Darwin believed it was possible for evolution to produce rational creatures that believe infanticide is a sacred duty infanticide?

    If that’s false, please

    (b) show me the relevant research which shows its logically impossible for evolution to produce rational creatures who think this?

    And given your comments above please
    © show me where in the article I attacked the theory of evolution or Darwin’s original theory?

    If you can do neither, then you and Ken owe me a retraction and apology.

  26. So Ken are you going to
    (a) Provide an in context quotation where I said that Darwin believed that that a moral and social code held by a human species that has evolved must be the same as the most basic of animals or insects
    (b) Retract your claim that in the article in question I said this.

    Or are you going to keep changing the subject so you can get away with dishonest scholarship and slander?

  27. Matt – the quote I gave of your was “it is unlikely that a loving and just person could command actions such as infanticide or rape whereas, evolution, guided only by the impersonal forces of nature, is not subject to such constraints.”

    I also quote your mate Weikart:

    “if morality is the product of these mindless evolutionary processes, as Darwin and many other prominent Darwinists maintain, then “I don’t think [they] have any grounds to criticize Hitler.”

    And

    “To natural selection killing your siblings and offspring is all the same as loving them. Selection only favors what works to enhance survival and reproduction, and it does not matter if it is nice and moral, or harsh and brutal.”

    I then went on to point out that your mate Craig who swears by such command ethics was doing exactly that. Tkae this incredible justification for infanticide by Craig:

    ““I would say that God has the right to give and take life as he sees fit. Children die all the time! If you believe in the salvation, as I do, of children, who die, what that meant is that the death of these children meant their salvation. People look at this [genocide] and think life ends at the grave but in fact this was the salvation of these children, who were far better dead…than being raised in this Canaanite culture. “

    And he has justified biblical ethnic cleansing/genocide. I know that embarrass you but it is a fact.

    Now get a bit of spine and stop the “you said I said” whining. Discuss the issues. (And enough of the personal attacking – it doesn’t work).

    You claim: “I am willing to have my writings on ethics and Ken’s tested in the mainstream peer reviewed literature on ethics any day of the week. “

    Well I am not interested in launching into publication in such journals at this stage of my life – although I am happy to present my ideas here and discuss them. its a learning process for mew.

    I have also agreed to a invitation have a public discussion with you on these issues. So far we seem to waiting for your acceptance of the idea.

    I personally think such a discussion, aimed a lay people and other interested, would be very interesting. (I again see that as a learning process, not a competition). And hopefully it couldn’t be diverted by this “you said, I said” crap.

  28. Ken,
    I don’t know who Weikart is and have never heard of him until you cited him here. So suggesting that what he says has any bearing on what I say has no real relevance.
    That fact that someone else said something does not mean I said something does it.
    The only quote you give from me is the following

    “it is unlikely that a loving and just person could command actions such as infanticide or rape whereas, evolution, guided only by the impersonal forces of nature, is not subject to such constraints.”

    Now nothing in that quote says that moral and social code held by a human species must be the same as the most basic of animals or insects.
    Moreover you have snipped the line just prior to this

    Believers of God can avoid this conclusion for the reasons I pointed to above; it is unlikely that a loving and just person could command actions such as infanticide or rape whereas, evolution, guided only by the impersonal forces of nature, is not subject to such constraints.

    I refered there to “this conclusion” the conclusion of course was the one I made in the previous paragraph.

    Coyne faces a dilemma. If the fact that it is possible for God to have commanded that infanticide is permissible proves that morality is not based on God’s commands then the fact it is possible for evolution to have produced rational beings who feel infanticide is permissible must prove that morality is not dependent on evolution.

    Note what was said here, I said it was “possible” for evolution to produce rational beings who feel infanticide was permissible.
    So nowhere in the quotes provided do I say that moral and social code held by a human species must be the same as the most basic of animals or insects.
    Ken what you have done here is quoted me out of context, placed me next to someone elses quotes Weikart and then attributed to me Weikart’s views. I put to you that this is dishonest to your readers.
    You write

    Now get a bit of spine and stop the “you said I said” whining. Discuss the issues. (And enough of the personal attacking – it doesn’t work)

    It’s hard to take this seriously, the post above is a post about what you think I said and attempts to attack my character on the basis of this. To suggest then that we should not discuss this is disengious. Take responsibility for your actions instead of trying to divert the attention to William Lane Craig. I could just as easily cite Peter Singer’s claim that infants don’t have a right to life and one can kill them if the parents decided they want to replace the child with a better one, or I could cite Dawkins public accalmations that Singer is the most moral man in the world and his view the most logical he has ever heard. But of course it would prove nothing at all.

    I’d happily do a public discussion with you, but if in that discussion you start lying about what other people said or distorting there views I will point it out.

  29. Matt, having denied that command ethics could ever be used to justify “actions such as infanticide or rape” you get upset when I provide you a blatant example of where this has in fact been done. Craig using command ethics to justify infanticide, genocide/ethnic cleansing. I know that embarrasses you hence your diversion. Even Craig was unwilling to take up that debate when it was issued by Dawkins (even gave up on the chance to address a Guardian audience via discussion).

    I see this as just one little bit of evidence for the correctness of my conclusion that divine command ethics can be used to justify the most horrible moral relativism and the worst of humanity. And because it relies on the “sacred”, the “holy” it can’t be questioned!

    Modern secular ethical systems are just so much better than that. And sure as an evolved species we are capable of justifying the most inhuman actions by appealing to divine commands. But we are also capable of relying on the positive side of out nature and developing a far more humanitarian moral code. Evolution didn’t give us morality -it gave us the ability to be moral – or otherwise.

    OK – the ball is your court re a public discussion. Let’s make it happen.

  30. Ken I see again you have changed the subject to draw attention away from your misrepresentations above.
    But once again, you fail to understand the philosophical positions you confidently comment on.
    blockquote > Matt, having denied that command ethics could ever be used to justify “actions such as infanticide or rape” you get upset when I provide you a blatant example of where this has in fact been done. Craig using command ethics to justify infanticide, genocide/ethnic cleansing. I know that embarrasses you hence your diversion.
    This is totally confused and I have pointed it out to you before.
    Second , I did not deny that command ethics could ever be
    used to attempt to justify “actions such as infanticide or rape” . I denied that God actually does command infanticide or rape. There is a difference between something actually being the case and someone else claiming something is the case to justify something.
    Second, Craig does not contest this he does not think God commands infanticide and rape, what he argued is that in rare unusual never to be repeated circumstances in the past God commanded infanticide.
    blockquoteI see this as just one little bit of evidence for the correctness of my conclusion that divine command ethics can be used to justify the most horrible moral relativism and the worst of humanity. And because it relies on the “sacred”, the “holy” it can’t be questioned!
    And I have addressed this before as well, and moral position can be used to justify a horrendous conclusion. Appeal can and do claim that human rights justifies them bombing children. People can and do argue that the greater good justifies horrendous things. People can and do claim that evolution justifies certain horrible things. This is not relativism relativism is the claim that an action in fact is right or wrong if you claim it is. There is a difference between something actually being the case and someone else claiming something is the case to justify something.

    blockquoteModern secular ethical systems are just so much better than that. And sure as an evolved species we are capable of justifying the most inhuman actions by appealing to divine commands. But we are also capable of relying on the positive side of out nature and developing a far more humanitarian moral code. Evolution didn’t give us morality -it gave us the ability to be moral – or otherwise.
    This is a string of assertions not an argument. But it also shows a lack of knowledge of modern secular ethics. In fact a decent number of secular ethicist do currently defend infanticide, and they have good reasons from a secular perspective for doing so. The dominant secular view of Kantianism for example grounds human dignity in rational autonomy infants lack rational autonomy so killing them does not count as homicide on this view. The other major alternative utilitarianism allows people to kill infants if it satisfies enough peoples desires, and seeing infants lack the ability to have a strong future orientated desire to live it’s not hard to justify infanticide. That’s why Peter Singer for example justifies infanticide.

    I’ll see what I can organise when the term starts.

    Now, Back to the topic, are you going to retract the claim that I said that moral and social code held by a human species must be the same as the most basic of animals or insects. Or are you going to try and divert peoples attention for that again with more uninformed comments about ethics.

  31. Again Mattdid you not blush when you wrote:

    “I denied that God actually does command infanticide or rape.”

    Followed by this:

    Craig argued “that in rare unusual never to be repeated circumstances in the past God commanded infanticide. ”

  32. Ken, you should be blushing because that’s not a contradiction and your claiming it is demonstrates either a lack of care to read carefully or sloppiness in reading.
    The claim
    [1]God does not command infanticide
    And
    [2]Craig argued that in rare unusual never to be repeated circumstances in the past God commanded infanticide.
    Are compatible, for at least two reasons, first [1] states something is the case. [2] states that someone argues something is the case. Now granting something is the case does mean its not the case. You accept evolution is the case, some people (creationists ) argue that its not, does that mean you contradict yourself?
    Second, [1] uses a present tense word it says “does not” hence it claims that presently God does not command something. [2] on the other hand says that at one time in the past God did something. So even you ignored my first point the two are not incompatible.
    Third, in ethics there is an important distinction between prima facie and absolute duties, a prima facie duty is one that holds in normal circumstances most of the time. An absolute duty holds all the time in all circumstances. Take for example the duty to not lie, this is holds in normal circumstances, however there might be rare cases such as when I am hiding Jews in my house and the Gestapo knock on the door and ask me if I have seen any Jews, where this duty does not apply or is exempted. So, when someone claims “X is prohibited” it does not necessarily mean that its absolutely prohibited, in normal conversational contexts we often use prima facie language and don’t fill in all the qualifications. So for example you don’t say to your children, “don’t lie except when the gestapo are at the door” or “keep your promises except when it’s a promise to be on time and you encounter an injured person on the side of the road and have to stop to help him” you say “its wrong to break promises” this does not when one understands this commit the speaker to claiming these are absolute duties.
    So even if, you ignore my first two points, the fact someone says its wrong to kill innocent children does not necessarily mean they are commited to saying this is an absolute that holds in all circumstances at all times no matter what.

    I know logic and analytical thinking is something scientists lack behind in but if you want to do competent commentary on philosophy you need to get better at it.

    But if you want contradictions, you could look at Dawkins saying that Peter Singer a defender of infanticide, a man who believes infants have no higher moral status than cows or pigs is the most moral man in the world, and him saying Craig is morally unworthy to debate with because he thinks that infanticide while wrong in all most all circumstances, nether the less at one time deep in the past may have been permissible. That is a contradiction, one I note you and other atheist hypocrites conveniently ignore.

  33. I cant help thinking that when theologians start bring out numbers (usually to prove they can count to 3) that they are on their last legs.

    Your 1 doesn’t state “something that is the case.” No-one has ever put up a structured hypothesis of your god, let alone found evidence for her. And now you are reading her mind as if it is a fact! that she does not command infanticide. (I am always suspicious of people who tell me what their god believes or commands).

    You are confused – or perhaps you confuse yourself with your god – because that statement was one made by you – a belief of yours.There is absolutely no evidence otherwise.

    Just as Craig’s statement is a belief of his (and you I guess).

    And after this you look rather silly to declare: “I know logic and analytical thinking is something scientists lack behind in but if you want to do competent commentary on philosophy you need to get better at it.”

    But then again, perhaps you are still half asleep. I shouldn’t go judging you.

  34. I cant help thinking that when theologians start bring out numbers (usually to prove they can count to 3) that they are on their last legs.

    Theologains don’t typically do this, the use of numbers in this way is the method of analytical philosophy not theology. And insulting someone’s mathematical ability is never a substitute for actually arguing they are mistaken.

    Your 1 doesn’t state “something that is the case.” No-one has ever put up a structured hypothesis of your god, let alone found evidence for her. And now you are reading her mind as if it is a fact! that she does not command infanticide. (I am always suspicious of people who tell me what their god believes or commands).

    Again this shows your inability to grasp basic distinctions, lets assume for the sake of argument that there is no evidence for God’s existence. That does not mean I did not claim that something is the case. The fact you disagree with someones conclusions does not mean they did not state them. The fact was “what I said” wether it true or false was not contradictory.

    And after this you look rather silly to declare: “I know logic and analytical thinking is something scientists lack behind in but if you want to do competent commentary on philosophy you need to get better at it.”

    Actually your confused, the claim that two things I uttered contradict each other is different from the claim that one or either of them are supported by evidence. Once again Ken, in an attempt to be clever you show your inept in philosophical argument.

    But perhaps in the sciences people think that you can demonstrate anothers work is contradictory by claiming with no evidence at all they are asleep. In philosophy we need actual arguments for claims like that.

  35. No Matt. You were simply stating a belief. As was Craig. The fact that these two statements of belief are contradictory only becomes interesting when someone like you attempts to support both at the same time. The fact that you had to resort to a bit of mental gymnastics to assert that your statement of belief was mot that but actually a statement of fact shows the sort of slippery logic theologians seemed to be trained for.

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