Tag Archives: Austin Dacey

Human Morality V: The secular conscience

This is the last in a series of five posts on morality. They are aimed at countering the usual religious claims for a god-given morality with current scientific understanding of how the morality of our species arose. Also, they at tempt to justify a non-theist objective basis for much of the moral decisions we make. The first post (I: Religious confusion) discussed some of the problems religion has in its understanding of morality and the second (II: Objective morality) argues for a non-theist objective basis for morality. The third post (III: Moral intuition) discussed moral intuitions and the fourth (IV: Role of religion) the role of religion. This last post discusses the secular conscience.

moral dummiesI have been arguing for a non-theist understanding of human morality. We can accept moral codes, and an objective basis for moral truths, without resorting to a god hypothesis. Historically religion has served a purpose in codifying and teaching moral law – but it is not the origin of these laws. In a sense, religion is parasitic on secular morality. It claims an authority in the area that it doesn’t deserve. And religious apologists often complete this takeover by claiming that religion itself, or the supernatural beings they promote, are the source of human morality.

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Changing your mind

John Brockman over at the Edge website periodically poses a stimulating question to a whole range of thinkers, some of the worlds finest minds. I’m currently reading the book compiled from responses to the 2006 question: “What is your dangerous idea?” Fascinating.

The 2008 question is; “What have you changed your mind about? Why?”

As the Edge site says:

When thinking changes your mind, that’s philosophy.
When God changes your mind, that’s faith.
When facts change your mind, that’s science.

Science is based on evidence. What happens when the data change? How have scientific findings or arguments changed your mind?”

One hundred and sixty three contributors answered this question with relatively brief statements. They are well worth reading. I have listed extracts from a few of the contributors below. Continue reading